Used clothing alchemist since 1987


Northeast Poultry Congress ~

Chickens first became part of my ‘household’ when Ben was about 6 I think.  We ordered them from Murray McMurray.  They arrived on Easter Sunday via US mail, which was so surprising, hand delivered on a Sunday.  The chicks were tiny, just a couple days old, all in a little odd-shaped box with enclosed directions and a handful of feed.  The peeping was audible through several small air holes in the carton.

If my calculations are right, that was 15 years, and a whole lotta chickens ago!

Lucy, Violet and I got up early this Saturday morning and rode over the mountain to the Northeast Poultry Congress.  50,000 birds (Can that be right?) and a whole bunch of bird keeping people under one roof!  Our time there was limited by a birthday party Lucy was really excited to attend providing parameters that helped keep overwhelm at bay.   The place was a sea of all sorts of mostly chickens.  We saw ducks, geese, doves, lots and lots of chickens, and bunnies(?).  Every size, color, shape, chicken I had ever laid eyes on was there and a lot I had never seen before.  After taking in the enormity of the venue we bee-lined it to the Sale Bird area.

By the end of the hour we had spent $200 and loaded 6 standard sized birds and 4, month old chicks into the back of my trusty 1990 Volvo 240 wagon.  Away we went, a box of chicks on each lap behind me, and a brooder full of big fat hens, with one very handsome rooster in the way back. When we got home we added our new charges to the coop full of our mixed flock.  Alexander, our little Barred Rock Bantam rooster is really not so sure about his new roommate Biggie, the giant sized standard Silver Laced Wyandotte rooster but I think they are going to work it out.  When I went to check on them and lock the coop for the night I caught Alexander ‘sucker pecking’ Biggie on the back of the wing.  I’m not sure Biggie noticed.  I think he is a lot like my husband, very large, strong as an ox, and sweet as the day is long. Our tally of new charges includes a trio of Silver Laced Wyandottes, Biggie, Betty and Carol.  They came from north of Toronto from Gardsmere Farm.  (Those guys were SERIOUS about their chickens.) We are the proud owners of the BEST Silver Laced Wyandottes in all the land, “from here to Australia”.  We might separate them out and breed them.  Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath.

A sweet woman named Linda from VT who attends poultry shows with her son Ryan (super cute and 32) sold me three of the biggest fattest Black Langshan hens you have ever seen!  These ladies are yet to be named.  I have some ideas – and would love to hear yours.  Are there are trio of sisters you can think of who we might name these three beauties in their honor?   Leave your ideas in the comments below.

Lucy and Violet talked me into letting them get some straight run silkie chicks – two each, not sure if they are hens or roosters but we did brake the Christmas wish bone and both had the same wish – that we have one silkie rooster and three little hens.  We got these little babies from a cute smurf-like lady in a bright green sweatshirt.  They are in a plastic blue tub the garage right now.  A big bright light is keeping them warm and the girls ‘checked’ on them every 20 minutes since we got back from the birthday party and woke up first thing wanting to go see them.  Hope they don’t loose interest.  They want horses.

heading to their new home
settling in

Sunday Night Soup

Getting ready for what promises to be an exciting new week with, a big pot of fresh soup, a renewed sense of routine, and a packed schedule emphasizing Mid-Winter Sampler workshop marketing and Love Bombing  – More on both of those subjects coming in a future post (or series).

To get through this busy week we need a healthy meal option for lunches and dinner tomorrow night. The girls and I made a big pot of Fragrant Vegetable Stew with Corn Dumplings.  The original recipe is from Jeanne Lemlin’s, Vegetarian Pleasures.  I tweaked it to be sweetener and gluten free.  As it cools, dumpling batter is chilling in the fridge, and my night is winding down after a truly wonderful weekend.

Here’s my version:

Fragrant Vegetable Stew with Corn Dumplings


2c. dried garbanzos

6 T butter

3 T olive oil

3 medium sized onions, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 bay leaves

6 cloves

1 t paprika

2 t turmeric

½ t black pepper

5 c bone broth

5 c water

1 t salt

28oz can organic diced tomatoes

4 carrots, sliced into rounds

½ rutabaga, diced

3 medium sized potatoes diced

3 c frozen corn

4-6 leaves kale, finely chopped


Heat olive oil and 3 T butter on medium heat.

Sautee onions and garlic with salt over medium heat for 5 minutes.

Add bay leaves, cloves, paprika, turmeric, black pepper.

Cook another minute.

Add tomatoes, broth, and water

Add chopped carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes and simmer 30 minutes.

Add 2c corn and chopped kale, stir and turn off heat.



2c corn flour

4 T cornmeal

4 t baking powder

1 t salt

2 T chilled butter

1 c thawed corn

11/3  c cold milk


Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in medium sized bowl.

Cut butter into little bits and add to dry mixture, lightly mixing and smushing with back of spoon.

Add corn and milk with twenty strokes of spoon.


Tomorrow night I will:

Reheat stew to boiling and keep at a simmer.

Drop tablespoons of Dumpling Batter to cover top of pot.

Simmer 15 – 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted to a dumpling comes out clean.


Here’s to a productive week!


pure Creative Joy

The best gift I can imagine is an uninterrupted day in the studio.  One single day of pure creating time.  No kids home from school, no phone calls, no visitors, no contractors making messy noises, no questions, no meetings, just joy in making.  It’s coming soon!  I can feel it.

The seemingly endless construction/renovation of the church my hubby and I own, started in March 2012 will wind up tomorrow.  (Can that really be TRUE?!)  Once I see that last fire door completely installed hardware and all, once that is visable with my own two eyes, Jim Harwood, our trusty architect, will come over for a final walk-through.  He’ll check to be sure that every last detail of our plan has been carried out to his specifications.  Then he’ll draft a letter to The City of Pittsfield stating that the work is complete.  The buiding and fire departments will collaborate (highly unusual in our fair city) and draft us up a bonifide Certificate of Occupancy.  I think it might go in the church entryway on display with a 24kt gold frame!  Holy SHIT!  Never did I expect this project to be so consuming for such a very long time!  Wowsers!  I can’t say WE DID IT! yet, but I do think that by the end of the month that is what I’ll be singing, no, BELLOWING from our rooftop!  Three cheers for progress!

Once we have that blessed little bit of Occupancy Permit Paper in our hot little fist, the party planning begins!  We will certainly keep all of you, out there in cyber land, in the loop and hope that many of you join us to celebrate the awesomeness of our church on Melville right in the heart of Pittsfield.  (I prefer to call our city Field – seems like a real positive spin on what is generally construed as a downtrodden Western MA city.  So come to Field, MA and party down with us this Spring.  Prolly going to be somewhere around Spring Equinox – stay tuned.



We are off to The Northeast Poultry Congress later this month at The Big E Fairgrounds in Springfield, MA.  There will be 50,000 birds there.  Does that even sound possible??  I think it might just be the first time the girls get to show our chickens.  We have a dozen hens and one little bantam rooster named Alex.  Lucy wants to show him and our little black hen named Bloom.  Violet will show Stella Sundale.  Stella is a big Buff Orpington with a sunny disposition just like Violet displays (most of the time).  X-rays taken yesterday of Violet’s spine are back and are showing something weird enough to have to go for an MRI in Boston.  I hope we will be at the Northeast Poultry Congress on the 18th.  Send a prayer.

The state ‘chicken tester’ came out today despite the frigid morning temperatures to take blood samples from our little flock.  Even with the thermometer reading 1 degree F, the girls opted to don lots of layers topped with snow pants, mittens, hats, and hoods, miss the first 90 minutes of school, and help.  Maybe this means I can relinquish chicken care to my able cohorts?

Day in the Life – January 6, 2014

This is Violet, my youngest kid.  She is six and full of all sorts of ethereal magic. One morning at the bus stop she quietly divulged to me that she had collected 31 leprechauns in her pockets along the way.  Hummmm,  .  .     .     . I was not sure how to respond.  She presents me with such insights on a pretty regular basis.  Spends a lot of time with my dad in her dreams – and tells me all about their adventures – he died before she was three.

Violet is very tall for 6. I mean VERY tall!  She is 4 inches taller at 54 ¼” than her older sister Lucy, and weighs in at 80lbs.  She loves to sing and go to ballet and has zero interest in basketball or team sports.

Lately Violet has been experiencing pretty chronic back pain.  We have been to the Chiropractor who is awesome and provides short-lived relief. Today we went to see Dr. Melanie – X-rays, an Osteopath, and Physical Therapy, coming up!

Oh and did I tell you about our health insurance?  New, with the new year, from the company who bought my hubby’s business (and who he has contracted employment with for 12 months) $3600 out of pocket ANNUALLY-  then they cover 90%.  Details on that for another post.

Looking forward to eliminating Violet’s all day long pain.  Seems to stem from a combination of fast growth, her ‘low muscle tone’ and lack of core strength.  I’m thinking weekly yoga class together would be good for both of us.

For immediate relief the doctor gave us homeopathic Silicea 30 – 3pills 3x/day, advised three doses of Kids Advil/day and hot Epsom salts baths every evening for three days.  Seems to be doing the trick.  Relieving for both of us.  So hard to watch your kid in pain – prolly a lot harder to BE a kid in pain.

Day in the Life ~ January 5

Going to start this year off with a personal blog twist,

I was a runner, but now I walk.  Lexie, Sadie, our Goldendoodle rescue sisters, and I need to be outside everyday for more than a minute.  Today is Sunday so I get to enjoy the amazing sunshine on a fresh blanket of twinkling snow.  My walks are normally shrouded in the peaceful predawn dark down the mile long hill and all the way back up.  Today was sunny and bright crunchy underfoot.

Last July I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis.  Seems to be similar to, the maybe more familiar, Crohn’s Disease.  Upon diagnosis, I was prescribed three strong types of medication which proved to be quickly effective.  Pretty immediately my intake was reduced to two meds and my desire grew to wean myself from both prescriptions by changing my diet and lifestyle to heal myself.  A very helpful nutritionist has advised be to eat gluten-free and I just know how much better I feel without sugar or any kind of sweeteners.  So here my year starts.  My daughters are back to first and second grade, tomorrow, after an extended Holiday Break.  Lunchboxes are on my mind.  Got some sweet treats baked with the girls for the freezer.  Here is my recipe – its based on the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe from my grand-mother’s copy of The Joy Of Cooking.  I changed it to make it gluten free and added kisses.

Chocolate Kissed Peanut Butter Cookies (gluten free)

Preheat your oven to 375°


1 bag milk chocolate Hershey Kisses

1 c brown sugar

1 c white sugar

1 c butter

2 eggs

2 c peanut butter

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking soda

3 c oat flour

1 tsp vanilla

cream butter and sugar together til light and fluffy

add peanut butter and eggs mix til smooth

add vanilla, salt and soda

mix in flour one cup at a time.


Roll into 1½ balls, flatten on an ungreased cookie sheet, bake at 375° for about 10 minutes, til golden topped.  Press one unwrapped Kiss into the middle of each baked cookie and let cool.  (It takes a while.)  Then slide off pan and store.


In light of the fact that I have sworn off sweets and gluten, the temptation of having a fresh batch of these in the freezer for the girls’ lunchboxes lessens.

Free Give-Away ~ $100

There is a wonderful FREE GIVE-AWAY going on right now! The prize is a $100 gift certificate for anything in my shop! You can enter as many times as you like and the lucky winner will be drawn on December 15 at 5pm, the close of Crispina’s Holiday Shindy 2013 – which you can learn all about here.

#HolidayShindy2013Details on entering:
Post an image of one of our HOLIDAY SHINDY 2013 billboards, postcards, or posters on Instagram with #HolidayShindy2013 in the text and you will be entered. Each photo you post will count as an entry so, enter as many times as you want!  Each entry has to be a different image. Images will post to your instagram feed and to this website.  Click that link, or the CRISPINA’S 2013 HOLIDAY SHINDY button up at the top of the page.  Scroll down a little, when you get there, and look to the right sidebar to see what others are adding to the loop. Spread it around!! And then come shopping!!  MAYBE YOU WILL WIN!!

WIN a Potholder Rug!

The first week of most months you will find a FREE GIVE AWAY right here!  This month the featured products are my well known and loved Pothholder Rugs!

First there were Ragamuffins, followed by blankets, mittens, and sweaters.  .  .  and my raw material sweater sources were drying up.  Then, in 1988, I bought my first 1000 lb bale of used wool sweaters.


I know, I’ll buy in bulk, with the goal being to turn the whole bale into something of added value.  Once accomplished, I could consider myself to be doing my part to bring awareness to cultural excessive consumption and inspire others to think creatively about textile waste.

The part of the puzzle that enabled me to realize my goal were (and are) Potholder Rugs.  They can literally be made from any sort of stretchy waste fabric.  In 1988 they were the product that consumed the lesser grade used wool sweaters and turned that, real trash, “The bottom of the Bale” into something that still startles me with simple function and rich aesthetic.

This month I am giving any 2.5×3.5ft potholder rug shown in my shop – away to the lucky winner drawn from all those who answer the questions below.

( A winner will be randomly selected on Wednesday 8/14 around noon.  Entrants should only comment once, must have not won anything from me in the last 12 months, and, they must have a US address for shipping, or agree to pay shipping costs.)

To Enter:  Answer these three questions in the comment box below:

Do you celebrate a giving holiday at the end of the year?

If so:

Which one?

Can you commit to giving at least 50% handmade gifts this year?


Oh, and if you are interested in gifting Potholder Rugs for your Giving Holiday, consider taking my full day, no secrets Potholder Rug Weaving Workshop on September 28.  $195 covers the use of all tools and materials for the day.  Looms are available too.  Register by phone or email.  413-236-9600 or

Weekly Treasury – Best of Show

‘Best In Show’ by  Becca Strout for Crispina ffrench

Now is the season for celebrating agriculture and whole food production~ Warm end of summer sun mixed with farm animals, fair food smells, and a good tractor pull at the County Fair. Wonderful Weekend.

Rooster Art on Reclaimed Pic…


Sheep Farm Animal Art Print …


antique bull farm animal ci…


Rustic Rusty Rusted Recycled…


Llama Birthday Card. Happy …


Large Wood Nubian goat sign,…


Gold Pig, Goat & Ram – Magne…


Multicolored Farm Animal Fel…


Farm Animal Set Wooden Block…


chicken egg cosy – set of tw…


Grey Wool Donkey Soft Toy


Butcher Cow – upcycled kitch…


Farm Animals – Fine Art Not…


Custom Farm Sign // Ranch Si…


Goat Farm Animal Black and W…


Crochet Coasters – The Farm …


Every week we gather a handful of treasures around a theme, from Etsy - an online marketplace featuring handmade wares, vintage items, and supplies for making. Weekly treasuries are normally featured here on Mondays.  You can click on the images above and be taken to a place on Etsy where there is more information about and pictures of that item. Crispina’s online shop is located on Etsy along with a whole ton (like over 800,000) of other handmakers, vintage resellers and material retailers. If you have a minute, leave a comment we love your input – it is always so nice to hear from you and build community right here in cyberspace!  Join us in supporting Handmade, Recycled, Organic, and Locally Produced wares for living.

Sponsored by send bulk email from excel.

Sunday Morning