The rigid heddle loom is a relatively simple machine. Jennifer Baum, The Weaving Shed's owner and a juried fiber artist, likes it because a beginning student can set it up and start a scarf within 45 minutes. Along with the loom's simplicity, Jen appreciates the therapeutic value of its rhythmic, back-and-forth cadence. As students work the loom to steadily pull fiber threads into a hand-woven item, they also shed the stress of their day. Jen sees these transformations—both in the progress of the project and the demeanor of the student—as she guides the technique and lends tips to the up to eight students that attend each class in the newly-expanded studio.
Along with classes, The Weaving Shed also spearheads a Farm to Yarn program with local farms. The natural or hand-dyed sheep's wool or alpaca fleece becomes a sustainable, specialty fiber for weaving, knitting, felting, crotchet, and spinning projects. This interest in cultivating local fibers hits especially close to Jen's home, AKA Sunny Knoll Farm, where, with her husband and children, she helps raise an ever-growing alpaca herd. She describes the alpaca as a very "zen-lifestyle animal," even though scientific journals refer to them as "respiring shag carpets." Along with laughing at the "fun family adventure" that the experience has been, she also praises the hypoallergenic qualities of the fleece and its 22 naturally occurring colors.
Inspired by her passion for creating decadent treats for her friends and family, baker Gloria Casta?o opened Sweet Creations by Gloria as a way to share her signature desserts with others. From these modest beginnings, her bakery has risen in popularity and earned local renown for its made-from-scratch cakes and pastries. Though Gloria?s specialty lies in traditional Hispanic confections, she can just as easily recreate recipes from other cultures or accommodate dietary restrictions with vegan and gluten-free ingredients. A frequent shopper at the local farmers' market, Gloria fills her customizable cakes, cupcakes, and cake pops with fresh fruit whenever possible and slathers buttercream icing on bland stalks of broccoli.
With more than 70 years of color combination experience, Economy Paint Supply distributes liquid chromatics and provides custom stain matching, in-home consultations, and equipment rentals. The paint shop furnishes a host of habitat enhancements including Benjamin Moore paints ($27.99+ per gallon), wallpaper ($16.99+ per roll), single-roll carpets ($12.99+ per square yard), and window treatments ($200+ per window). Flinging a can of reddish royal flush or lagoon-like Lucerne at a living room’s backdrop can give walls a sense of newfound pride and astonish nearby floors and ceilings. Customers can also peruse a free in-store copy of Envision Color 2011, which highlights the palettes—soulful, spirited, dreamy, and phantasmagoric—comprising Benjamin Moore’s annual paint trends.
Nestled in a spacious corner of the historic Sterling Cider Mill, The Clay Dog Studio inspires and equips all levels of artists to mold and polish self-made and artist-produced masterpieces. Paint your own original classmates can work solo, painting large detailed creations ($30) or invite friends to colorize intermediate ($15) figurines. Pieces are forged from clay that, like Saint Helen's childhood sandbox, consists primarily of volcanic ash. Mini Project classes instruct artistic twosomes in crafting take-home projects including holiday napkin rings or ornaments. During four-session classes, instructors oversee projects from concept to completion, covering basics such as sculpting form, overlays, paint finishing, and tasteful ways to fill end tables with something other than a series of smaller and smaller end tables.
Wireless Store is Boston's first T-Mobile limited retailer, offering a sizable selection of wireless phones and accessories. Conversations can be held hands free while driving down the highway or riding on horseback with advanced Bluetooth headsets made by Jabra, Plantronics, Motorola, and BlueAnt. Other wireless accessories, such as chargers, cases, screen protectors, and batteries, keep phones clean, shiny, and fully charged. Though it wears the T-Mobile logo as proudly as a rebellious teenager in a Cramps T-shirt, Wireless Store is a locally owned and operated establishment.
For the cooks at Mezcal Tequila Cantina, guacamole means more than just avocados given a firm, loving hug. Half a dozen different varieties mix in inventive fixings such as toasted coconut and smoked almonds. That deft blending of traditional dishes with unconventional flavors extends past the appetizer round. Classic burritos and quesadillas arrive heaped with everything from asian beef to barbecue-duck confit. Even familiar ingredients are used in surprising ways, as with the chorizo and sweet corn stirred into risotto.
But food is only half the menu at Mezcal. The other half is dedicated to more than 100 tequilas, a selection that Worcester Magazine calls “by far the best list in Worcester, and undoubtedly in Central Massachusetts.” Aside from pouring smooth and smoky liquors, Mezcal’s bartenders mix margaritas from real fruit purees and house-made syrups.