For Island artisans, winter often means solitary time to work at their craft.

And finally, eventually, most of the visitors are gone from the streets and the galleries and the bed-and-breakfasts. For most Islanders, that means a return to the essential, ordinary lives of work, family and school.

That's also true for Island craftspeople. But the people who make pots and quilts, rugs and jewelry and other handmade crafts often spend the warm months selling their work or their services to summer visitors. For them, the colder months are a time to get back to their craft.

There is, for example, Rosalie Powell. Her summer is filled with guests at her Bayberry Inn, a comfortable, leafy bed-and-breakfast off State road in West Tisbury. She loves entertaining. She also loves getting back to seriously hooking rugs – and teaching other rug-hookers, male and female – when the summer guests are gone.

She loves working with the thin, cut strips of woven wool, hooking them into a pattern of swirls and flowers. "When you work with this, you get the satisfaction of working with color," she says, "of making something useful."

And because the wool in her rugs comes from worn clothing, Powell can weave lives together as she works. There is a piece of the life of Bernice Mayhew Humphreys, her mother, in one of Powell's latest rugs. And a piece of the life of her aunt, Marjorie Mayhew Pease. And a little bit of Powell's sister Joyce, and of Powell herself.

The rug – blues and heathers and pinks in flowers and swirls against an ivory background – was made from strips of wool clothing worn by herself and three of the important women in her life. Her mother's skirt is there, her aunt's heather jumper, her own plaid jumper and a white blanket she and her sister used when they were girls.

The big room off the kitchen where Powell teaches rug-hooking is draped with fine, colorful rugs in various states of completion. She is very good at what she does, and the work is all lovely. But the rug made from her family's clothing makes her smile.

"I really enjoyed this one," she says, as she lifts it up and points to the variegated blues of the plaid strips, the off-white made by the blanket wool. "It's your own thing. You are creating that rug for the feeling you get when you're using it. To me, it was the fact that it was family, someone you knew wore that clothing."

Bill O'Callaghan works with his hand for a living. You can see the hand work in the fireplace of beach stones he built for himself and his wife, Kim, at their Vineyard Haven home off State road near Morrice Florist, owned by his mother in law. And the hands of the native of Ireland's County Cork are visible in the brick shed next to his shingled house, the shed that houses his kiln.

When he's not building fireplaces and chimneys, O'Callaghan is "The Mad Potter," making useful things of clay in his basement studio. "I always wanted to do something with my hands," he says. "I get most of my work done in the winter. In the winter, if the temperature drops below 28 degrees, I can't work."

So on cold days he goes to the studio and makes a variety of pots, many with a Celtic theme that reflects his Irish origins. O'Callaghan's English gives away his birthplace, which no doubt charms some of his buyers at the twice-weekly summer artisans' fairs at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury. Until two years ago, his work was available at his small place near Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown. Then he and his family moved to Vineyard Haven and he now sells his work in an airy space behind Morrice Florist, where his wife works with her mother.

But he's also found the artisans' fairs a congenial place, in quieter moments, to meet other Island craftspeople. And, perhaps just as important, to understand what the buying public is seeking.

"I think I sold one mug this year," he says. "Right now it's birdhouses, garden sculpture and figures in a bowl." People, he says, seem to be looking more for expensive work to decorate their yards than for bowls for their morning cereal. So on the shelves in his studio this fall are the beginnings of a winter's worth of sculptural work, destined for his booth at the 2002 summer's artisans' fairs.

Glenn Jackson never expected to spend part of his Island winters spinning wool. He worked construction for a living, but since he was a boy he had been around animals. "Bud Bailey at Takemmy Farm gave me a llama in 1995," he says, laughing about the incongruity of this native South American animal living in the scrub oak of Edgartown. "I always worked with animals and always lived around them. My dad always had animals.

"So this one was just going to be a pet. But seven months after we got her, she had a baby. Then we had two. Now we had a herd, right? So why not have five? They're very addictive." They're addictive to the point that eight llamas now live (with a couple of sheep) on the two acres of land owned by Jackson and his wife, Rosemary, not far from the Triangle in Edgartown. He describes the animals as "friendly and usable."

"Usable" means, besides fertilizer, that the Jacksons get wool from their llamas, about 10 pounds every spring. Which led them to spinning it into yarn, which led them to weaving and knitting, which led to selling shawls and blankets made from llama wool. It also led to weekly winter gatherings of fiber craftspeople at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury and demonstration appearances at area agricultural fairs.

This llama addiction has also led the Jacksons to confront a hard fact of life on today's Island. As much as they might like to expand their herd, they can't afford the kind of farmland here that they would need.

"I see a lot of property on the Vineyard that's getting used up that should just stay farms," Glenn Jackson says. "It's real frustrating to see properties that could be used for alternative lifestyle farming [disappear]."

Judy Worthington makes pies. Day and night, it sometimes seems, in the summertime, she's making blueberry and apple and peach pies and a variety of others that have become a staple of many seasonal visitors' dinner tables. Come September, she says, enough already with the pies.

The home in the Chilmark woods off Tea Lane that she shares with her husband, painter Jules Worthington, then becomes her cool weather sanctuary and quilting studio.

"I have basically no time in the summer," she says. "I do the farmers' market, I bake pies. After July Fourth, the weeds in the garden just keep coming in."

Then, in winter, "those cold night when you're sitting in front of the videos that you're trying to catch up with, you sit in front of those and you start quilting."

She's been quilting, she says, since she was 25 or 26, about 25 years ago. "I think I saw some quilts and I loved them, but they were too expensive to afford. So I thought I would try making them."

She has succeeded. And her enthusiasm for quilting has grown to the point that she now has more fabric than she can reasonably use in a winter. Or several winters. "By every January I've got this project I vow to finish before starting anything else. I usually do."

But she still buys fabric. "I hope to sew it all before I die," she says with a laugh. "You feel so guilty. I walk into a fabric store and I have fabric-holism. ‘Look at this ... this would be so lovely.' "

In the end, what she loves about quilting is the sense that the people who have her quilts actually use them, actually sleep under them. And that the craft connects her to the past. "I've refinished other people's quilts," she says. "I've mended some old ones. There's a feeling of something bigger than me, something older than time.

"I wish winter was longer. You don't have enough time to catch up with everybody ... to get all your sewing done."