Donated bookmarks blossom into crochet group

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
From left, Janis Hinde, Kathleen McCoy, Silva Blankenship and Sharon Hayworth focus on their crochet projects, but also focus on visiting and enjoying each others’ company during a crochet group that was established more than a year ago at the Cassville Branch Library. The group meets every Friday morning at 10:30 a.m., and is open to anyone. Julia Kilmer

Member: 'This is a very therapeutic group'

Everyone enjoys receiving a homemade gift because of the time, love and craft that goes into making it — they are just extra special.

A group of ladies who meet every Friday at the Cassville Branch Library do just that — crochet homemade items to give to friends and loved ones, just for the fun and fellowship.

Crochet group member Sandy Hammond, left, works on perfecting her chain, the foundation and starting point for most crocheted projects, while group founder Kathy Ray, middle, shows member Mary Fielding how to crochet a bookmark. Julia Kilmer

What's even more special is how one act of generosity developed into an established group that more than a year later is about 20 members strong and continues to offer multiple benefits.

Kathy Ray, the founding member, was crocheting and donating bookmarks to the library to sell to benefit their general operations. People began to notice the bookmarks, like visitors and Library Assistant Angie Judd, and an idea for a crocheting group to share the art with others was born.

"Someone was asking crocheting, and I thought, 'It would be fun to learn this,'" Judd said. "Then, I talked to Kathy and we set it up."

Crochet group founder Kathy Ray shows some of the bookmarks she crocheted, which she donates to the library to sell to benefit their general operations. Little did she know, the bookmarks would be the catalyst for starting a crochet group at the Cassville Branch Library, which began more than a year ago after visitors took an interest in the bookmarks and crocheting. Ray said the group is in honor of her mother, who loved to read and loved to crochet. Julia Kilmer

"And, here we are all these months later," Ray said. "I do the group in honor of my mom. She crocheted, loved to read and loved the library. I taught myself when I was 18 when I first got married."

Any skill level is welcome, and for those who have no clue how to crochet, there are plenty of mentors in the room to teach. Members can crochet with yarn or thread, of which the latter can be used to make more intricate items like bookmarks, doilies and doll clothes.

"We have advance ladies and beginners, and those who learned as a child that want to learn again," Ray said.

Member Sandy Hammond, a fifth-year bus driver for the Cassville school district, is just learning.

She wants to make a baby blanket.

Janis Hinde, who joined the group in October 2016, gets motivation from attending.

"I get inspiration and work more when I'm here," she said. "When you're at home, a lot of times I don't get my crocheting out. But you get new ideas here and can help people who are trying to learn. As a beginner, you have to practice your chain because the rest of your work will be easier. Beginners can also watch YouTube videos to help them learn."

Silva Blankenship also started coming in October.

"I come for the support and fellowship," she said. "It's good to get out and visit."

She's working on a baby blanket, as well.

"Sharon Hayworth is also just learning the art, starting in January, and within a few days' time, has already crocheted some impressive-looking pot holders," Ray said. "A doll blanket is her next goal."

The group is open to anyone, including men, Ray said.

"When some of us go shopping at Walmart for our yarn, we've been known to tell people, 'Come to our group at the library,'" she said. "Or, members will talk to their friends at church and tell others. Anyone is welcome. We have a lot of fun."

Judd has taken up the art and is working on a blanket for her daughter's doll.

"I have Barbie clothes Kathy made," she said. "Every time my daughter sees the bookmarks [Kathy makes], she wants them. We have about seven at home."

Member Mary Fielding is already an experienced crocheter, but joined the group to learn how to crochet with thread.

"Kathy said, 'Why don't you try thread?'" Fielding said. "It's just using a different type of material."

Like the crocheted chain that many projects begin with, the group has a long list of benefits beside the obvious of teaching an art form.

For one, in a digital world where some rarely connect except on Facebook or Twitter, the group seems to fill a void — meeting social needs, sharing common experiences and encouraging each other. Like the individual crocheted loops that become strong chains then develop into beautiful, practical gifts, bonds of friendships are spun.

"I think it meets a need for fellowship," Judd said. "It's a good time for people to get together. These ladies are really supportive."

"This is a very therapeutic group," said member Susan Douglas. "Whether you get anything done or not."

"We talk and crochet at the same time," Ray said. "Anytime we've been sick, we've shared prayer requests with each other. Or, if it's a bad day, we help each other. Everyone steps in to help the beginners. I'm very pleased with the group. My mother would be very pleased with it. This is a really good group of friends."

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