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Welcome to ‘Boutiques of House Tour’

Event occurs during annual Potomac Country House Tour.

— Hold onto your hat, grab your pocketbook and let’s go shopping in Potomac. It will all be for a good cause.

The “Boutiques of House Tour” will take place in conjunction with the St. Francis annual Potomac Country House Tour, Oct. 13 and 14. Vendors with a variety of wares will be located in the church parish hall where all are invited to visit from 10-5 p.m., Saturday and 10-3 p.m., Sunday. There will also be an Oct. 12, Friday evening preview party.

In its 57th year, the St. Francis Country House Tour attracts huge crowds. “Last year we had our house on the tour. Over 600 people came,” Linda Hobbins said. This year, she will be among the nearly 20 vendors at St. Francis Hall. She will have a large display of wreathes, basket arrangements, wall hangings, centerpieces and whatever she can get her hands on to create eye-catching splendor.

“I never knew you could love your profession so much,” she said. Hobbins spends up to four hours most days making arrangements “and just thinking what I will do next,” she said. In fact, she thought so much that her husband, Jim, donated his work space in the lower part of their guest cottage to accommodate her designs. He then built her a work sink complete with an old maple board back splash she requested.

Her interest in plant and floral arranging grew from her experience working on the Altar Guild at The Washington National Cathedral. “I took the flower course in 2000 at the cathedral, a pre requisite to be chosen to do the altar arrangements there,” she said.

Her good works at the cathedral led to days of wreath making, drying flowers, and filling baskets and centerpieces with displays of pods, berries, leaves of all sorts and just about anything she can find, from fruit to nuts, as long as it fulfills her imagination. Lining the walls of her three work rooms, plus the show room, are antique doors collected from an old hayloft and decorated with wreathes. She insists, there will be wreaths for all seasons.

While Hobbins creates for all seasons, the “Boutiques Of House Tour” have chosen vendors for many reasons including “Original Designs by Sharon Fabio Nowell.” Nowell, a former elementary school art teacher, does pen and ink house drawings, including the one she is presently doing for a Potomac home owner. Only, it doesn’t stop with just one house. “There are five drawings, including one of each of the homes the owner and her family lived in prior to their move to Potomac.”

“All home drawings are quite labor intensive. I do them for a while and then branch out to do jewelry and hand bags, “ Nowell said. Her handbags, which she has dubbed, “Posh Bags,” are made with leather or suede pelt. She also uses faux suede and/or leather for all purpose bags. “They are used for dress up or dress down,” she added.

In addition, for the younger shopper, Nowell will have her own line of jewelry. “I like to have an assortment for all ages at all prices, she said. And, special for the house tour boutique, she will introduce embellished Jean Jackets. “They are really pretty,” she said, and just in time for fall weather.

Not all of the vendors are presently from the Potomac area. Sara Shankland a former Potomac resident now living in Vero Beach, Fla., will come back to her old stomping ground to participate in the boutique. Her exquisitely designed and personally created jewelry has been extremely popular in Vero Beach where she was selected last spring to participate in the highly regarded “Under The Oaks” event.

Jeff Lia Braaten of Annandale, Va. will bring 200 pillow covers from which to choose, and if you can’t find the absolutely perfect combination for what you need he will make it for you. “If you bring your own color samples I will gladly match them,” he offered. This year Jeff has added tote bags created from “high-end” decorative fabrics to his inventory. However, going farther afield, he is also introducing vintage home accessories and small furniture.

“We have strived to assemble a wide variety of vendors who will appeal to many, in the community,” boutique chairman Gaines Hurdle said. She will also be there representing “The Surrey Two,” featuring gifts and accessories for all occasions, from elegant to casual.

Vendors at the “Boutique Of House Tour” donate a percentage of all sales to over 35 outreach programs of St. Francis Episcopal Church. Shopping at this event serves a dual purpose — a contribution to much needed programs and, again, a marvelous reason to shop in Potomac Village.