Founding fiber: Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase at Clermont

Clermont's Robert Livingston is credited with changing the American wool industry. (Friends of Clermont)

Clermont’s Robert Livingston is credited with changing the American wool industry. (Friends of Clermont)

It’s time to make your way to the modest mansion above the Hudson River in Germantown for a spring family festival celebrating historic fiber arts, culture and craft – and the fluffy animals that make it all possible, too. The Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase at the Clermont State Historic Site is the perfect way to usher in spring with a great lawn party replete with kids’ crafts and activities, demonstrations by skilled artisans and craftspeople, two dozen local vendors of handmade goods, lots of food and live traditional music.

Eighteenth-century life becomes a little more imaginable with costumed reenactors wandering around the grounds, showing visitors what it was like back when Chancellor Livingston inhabited the mansion. After helping to draft the Declaration of Independence and serving his new country as foreign minister and negotiating the Louisiana Purchase and developing steamboat technology with the other “Bob” (Robert Fulton), Robert Livingston came home to farm. He especially liked animal husbandry, they say. Raising Merino sheep, a breed that he supported by mixing with his domestic stock, Livingston is credited with changing the American wool industry.

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Colorful examples of this most versatile material will be on display and on sale, such as brilliantly colored yarns, handwoven scarves and items of clothing. Volunteer demonstrators will show visitors how to card and spin the wool and turn it into beautiful and practical products. There will be demos of sheep-herding and -shearing, weaving, rug-hooking and lots of other textile arts. Meanwhile, the outdoor shopping course will give visitors the opportunity to support local small businesses. The Chancellor would be happy to know that his pastoral estate plays host to the annual event.

Exhibitors and vendors include Blackberry Hill Farm in Hudson, Cat’s View Farm in Germantown, the Columbia/Greene 4-H Clubs, Dashing Star Farm in Millerton, East Knoll of Torrington, Connecticut, Hahn Farm of Salt Point, Hand to Mouth Weavers in Red Hook, the Hudson Valley Sheep & Wool Company in Red Hook, Huzzah! Unique Handmade Wearables in Salisbury Mills, In a Spin Fiber Arts in Olivebridge, June Pryce Fiber Arts in West Chester, Karen Lloyd of Olivebridge, Mother Frogging Yarns in Poughkeepsie, On the Bend in Hannacroix, Pandia’s Jewels in Salt Point, Perry Hill Farm in Millbrook, Raisin’ Cane at Mt. Rutsen Studio in Rhinebeck, Sadie’s Suitcase in Grunville, Stitched by Jessalu in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Simple Creations in Wappingers Falls, Virginia Piazza Pottery in Beacon, Wooly Spruce Farmstead in Chatham and many more.

The visitor center and gift shop will be open, and tours of the mansion cost $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and students, Friends of Clermont members and children under age 12 get in free. As always, the nature trails, gardens and grounds are open until 8 p.m.

 

Chancellor’s Sheep & Wool Showcase, Saturday, April 23, 11a.m.-4 p.m., $8/$6, Clermont State Historic Site, 87 Clermont Avenue, Germantown; (518) 537-6622, www.friendsofclermont.org/the-chancellors-sheep-wool-showcase-2.

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