Crafting friendships

By Stacey Hewitt Orobona | | No Comments »

Back in 1954 when a group of Hudson women got together under the Ohio State Extension Service to educate each other about childcare, nutrition, and sewing, no one could foresee that a craft extension of that group would still be meeting 57 years later.

While that news may come as a surprise to some locals, the Hudson Handicrafters want to change that.

“It has been an institution in the town for so long and no one knows it exists,” said Meg Bartman, the group’s current president.

During a typical monthly meeting in the Flood Room at the Hudson Library and Historical Society, members make craft projects and socialize. Snacks are provided, along with coffee or tea.

“The focus of the club is to learn something new, make friends, and just have a good time. We meet from 10 a.m. to about 1 p.m. It depends on the craft,” said Bartman, adding with a laugh, “and how much we’re talking.”

The group has done many different types of projects over the years, including needlework, basket weaving, painting, card making, sewing, and jewelry making. A woman from Japan even taught them a type of Japanese embroidery called “sashiko.”

“Each project is designed to be completed within that day, so it’s not really difficult,” Bartman said.

Members are encouraged to participate in the craft selection process. At a potluck each May, they bring craft ideas, many of which are found in magazines or online, that they think the group might enjoy. The potential choices are placed on a table for the women to peruse and then vote on by ballot. Seven crafts are then chosen for the following year by a vote tally, along with two alternates.

Crafts are often seasonal and October’s meeting was no exception. The group made Halloween wine glass candle holders by turning the glass upside down and painting the inside with either orange for a jack-o-lantern or white for a ghost. Each member then drew a face of her choosing on the outside with a paint marker prior to the finishing touch — gluing a glass votive holder on top and placing a tea light inside.

Joining the group doesn’t require a large expenditure on craft materials since many items, such as paint, sewing machines, etc. are provided by the club.

At the October meeting, the women only had to bring three wine glasses. Most picked them up at dollar stores; however, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Michaels, Hobby Lobby and Pat Catan’s are popular sources for many projects.

Donna Bendycki, who taught the craft at the October meeting, is also the current vice president and craft chairperson. The members whose crafts are chosen are responsible for gathering the materials and leading the project. Bendycki keeps them on task.

“I’ll find out who’s in charge of the craft that month and make sure that everything is prepared. I’ll get stuff together and then tell the members what else they need to bring,” she said.

An avid crafter, Bendycki joined the group in 2002. One of her favorite crafts is a jointed woodcraft snowman that was painted and which she describes as “antique-ish looking.” Another preferred project based on its functionality is a fabric casserole carrier, designed to keep the casserole warm. That project required sewing, but Bendycki stressed that should not deter women from joining since the members assist each other.

The same sentiment was echoed by Shirley Rosa. A member since 1977, she emphasized that artistic ability is not necessary.

“People are so helpful,” Rosa said. “If you can’t do something, someone will help.”

Of the many projects completed over the years, her favorite is a “cute Christmas tree” that she made by pinning squares of folded fabric stuffed with cotton batting to a Styrofoam base. She also recalled making pillows for sick children at Akron’s Children Hospital.

Along with the social aspect, the Hudson Handicrafters have a service component.

“We try to do one service project a year around the holidays. We have collected items for a family in need, for the USO to send overseas, and for Newborns in Need,” said Bartman, citing a few examples.

The group will cover a wide variety of crafts in the upcoming months. In January, member Anne DiGiacomo will teach the women how to make a heart pendant necklace.

Member Marilyn Pearce will share her card making expertise in February. It has become a yearly tradition due to its popularity. The cards are often seasonal in nature; however, the group has also created cards for women dealing with breast cancer.

March’s craft, a domino necklace and a trivet decorated with alcohol ink, will be taught by Bartman who learned the technique at a library program. In April, member Faye Duber will help the women create decorative fabric balls.

“If members are not interested in a craft that’s being made, I tell them to come anyway and work on their own project,” Bartman said, “or just come and socialize.”

While crafts are an important component of the group, the main focus is on friendship, so the group gets together on a purely social basis a few times during the year. Each December, they hold a Christmas party at a member’s home. Lynn Schmidt has been the hostess for the past few years. She provides the main course, usually ham, while the rest of the women bring a side dish or dessert.

It’s the relationships among the women that keep many coming back year after year.

“I like to go because the ladies are ones I’d choose for friends. Once you join, you’re in,” said Rosa, “unless you move.”

The Hudson Handicrafters hope that more women will come and check them out. At the very least, they’ll come away with a finished craft project or — even better — some new friends.

Those interested in joining should contact Bendycki at 330-650-4225 or Bartman at 330-603-8452.

The group meets the third Wednesday of the month for 10 months of the year. Annual dues are $12 for members and $6 for associate members.


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