Knitting a new life

The Baltimore Sun

When the daily grind of a busy career got in the way of Susan Wolcott's dream, it was time to make a decision.

Five years ago, she left her Fairfax, Va., job in corporate health care and headed for the hills of Washington County in Western Maryland.

"I took a total risk," said Wolcott, 56, "but for me, it was not about the money."

It was about pursuing, along with her sister, a viable knitting business that includes organized stitching getaways, an online pattern company and a retail store in the front two rooms of her 18th-century house in Funkstown.

Situated at a not-so-busy intersection on Funkstown's main street, the rambling wood-planked home is eye-catching with its light plum exterior, beige trim and steep, sloping roof.

Wolcott paid $159,000 for the one-time farmhouse in 2003. The home has two rooms up and two rooms down, plus a four-room, two-story addition that was built in the mid-1800s.

A second, contemporary addition gave the home another large room, which is where Wolcott added a kitchen. Wolcott's home had previously been used as an antique shop and had no kitchen.

She spent another $50,000 adding the kitchen, updating two bathrooms, replacing the roof, refinishing the floors and putting in a new stone sidewalk on the side of the house that leads to a parking pad for customers.

The many windows provided plenty of natural light, but Wolcott found the interior a bit dingy. She immediately got to work painting the plaster walls bright cheerful colors.

The two front rooms now serve as her yarn shop while the back addition serves as a gathering area where Wolcott convenes knitting classes around an oak table. Antique framed samplers hang on buttercup yellow walls.

A back staircase leads to the second level and Wolcott's living space.

"This back staircase works for me," Wolcott said. "I can close off the shop and use these to get to the kitchen."

A quaint, side entrance hall, at one time the home's summer kitchen, provides passage to the kitchen. A fireplace dominates one wall of the foyer, its brick hearth contrasting with the variegated pine planks of the floor. Hand-hooked rugs, Kelly green wainscoting, an old wooden chair by the side door and a large needlepoint picture over the mantel exude character and country charm.

In contrast, the large, modern kitchen in the contemporary addition boasts a 20-foot-high cathedral ceiling. The soft pink walls are embellished with colorful wicker basket lids collected from Sudan. White laminate cabinets feature Corian countertops laden with handmade pottery. A sitting area is decorated with wicker furniture.

A loft overlooking the kitchen was once an exterior balcony. Now it serves as a hallway leading to the master bedroom, a sitting room, workroom, bathroom and guest bedroom. The floorboards on this second level not only creak with age but dip and rise.

The home's original windows, wavy with age, look out over a small garden where Wolcott grows flowers and vegetables in her spare time.

"I took a chance when I moved here," she said. "But I have no regrets. This house is like my own little village."

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