Stitching Stories

At the Camas library, a weekly crochet club bridges generational gaps

Debika Finucane, of Washougal, uses a hook and yarn to create blanket squares while attending Crochet Club at the Camas Public Library.

Cheryl Lawson, of Camas, makes a prayer shawl Jan. 17, during Crochet Club at the Camas Public Library. All ages are welcome to attend the club, but elementary school students are asked to bring an adult.

Dispel any preconceived notions you might have about what type — and age — of person might be interested in crocheting.

At a weekly gathering inside the Camas Public Library, crochet enthusiasts from teens to seniors spend time together, working their hooks and telling their stories.

Cheryl Lawson, of Camas, said her mother taught her to crochet and knit when she was 10.

Lawson, 70, discovered the weekly, Camas-based Crochet Club after talking to the group’s founder and organizer, Laurinda Reddig, and said she has been participating for several months.

In addition to attending the Crochet Club at the Camas library, Lawson enjoys other “social crocheting” opportunities, including a Crochet Guild that meets from 2 to 4 p.m., on the third Saturday of the month, at Blizzard Yarn and Fiber in Vancouver.

“It’s always fun to crochet with other people at the library, because there are always people who can help you with a problem,” Lawson said.

One of the projects that stands out in Lawson’s mind is a prayer shawl that she made for a friend’s 90th birthday a few years ago.

“We all learn from each other and get ideas and motivation from what other crocheters are working on,” she said.

Those with more experience often help teach crochet newbies or younger members of the group. Some members have even reached out to local schools.

Keira Lana, of Camas, learned to crochet in the sixth grade when Reddig, the Crochet Club founder, organized a Crochet Club for Liberty Middle School students.

Lana, 14, said she enjoys crocheting with others because group members often share patterns, tell stories and it’s not as boring as crocheting on her own. The group has helped the teen craft several gifts for her loved ones. She has surprised her mother with a crocheted hat, scarf and fingerless gloves for her birthday, and she once crocheted a “Hatchimal” for her sister’s birthday.

Lana, who makes her own patterns, recommends beginning crocheters make scarves with acrylic yarn and a 5.5-6 mm crochet hook.

Reddig said she enjoys seeing so many people from different generations share the craft of crocheting.

“I (wanted) to schedule the times so that the middle schoolers could come down the hill when they get out of school to join us, and so that younger kids could be brought by their parents after school,” Reddig said.

The group founder said the Crochet Club has attracted younger boys but, so far, no adult males.

Crocheting for a chihuahua

Athena McElrath, of Camas, learned to crochet when she was about 11 years old, but said she didn’t stick with it.

She learned to crochet again last year — getting some yarn, a hook and a pattern and using “how to” videos on YouTube as her guide.

Joining the Crochet Club, where Reddig and other experienced crocheters could answer her many questions, has helped her craft, McElrath said.

“It’s great being at the library, because people will discover us working on our projects and sometimes join us the next week,” she added. “All ages and skill levels are welcome, and it’s a super way to learn how to crochet.”

When McElrath crochets by herself, she usually listens to music, an audiobook or movie because she enjoys having the background noise.

“At the library, I can chat as I work, and I’ve met several interesting people who have subsequently become friends,” she said.

McElrath joined the Crochet Club to create clothing and accessories for her chihuahua-mix dog, Lobo, because she couldn’t find any doggie clothes in his size that she liked. She has since crocheted more than a dozen different colors and styles of scarves, decorative collars, hats and sweaters for Lobo.

McElrath sells her decorative, crocheted pet collars and scarves at Naturally Healthy Pets in downtown Camas.

“I created an extensive holiday and Christmas line of collars and scarves, and I am preparing some for Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras,” she said. “They can be worn by any pet with a neck, so they can work for dogs, cats, goats, rabbits, chickens, pot-bellied pigs and donkeys. I can make them in custom sizes and colors.”

McElrath also sews custom dog coats for Lobo, which, she admits, makes him “a pretty pampered and well-dressed dog.” She also has crocheted scarves and fingerless gloves for herself, and often color-coordinates them to match the ones she’s crafted for Lobo.

McElrath said Reddig, a nationally recognized crochet expert, has a great deal of helpful information on her blog, ReCrochetions.com, and in her crochet books.

“My best advice is pick a yarn color or colors that you love, and a hook that feels good in your hand,” McElrath said. “Make sure you have a few stitch-markers, a yarn needle and some sharp scissors.

A crocheted career

Reddig, 47, of Camas, learned to crochet from her Campfire leader when she was 12 and in junior high school.

“From there, I was mostly self taught from books — back before the internet made it so easy,” she said.

Reddig started teaching crochet in her 20s and publishing patterns just before she turned 40.

Some of the pieces that stand out in her mind include the wedding dress she made for her sister and a reversible vest made in memory of her daughter, Rowan, who died one day after she was born in August 2008.

“She never breathed on her own, but spent her one day in the (neonatal intensive care unit) NICU where we were given a crocheted blanket and handmade quilt for her,” Reddig said. “That is what inspired me to start teaching crochet again — teaching at least two dozen moms in the Camas MOMS Club to crochet and make blankets to donate to local NICUs, in her memory.”

Both of those crochet projects made a difference in Reddig’s career.

“The dress was trying a technique I had not tried before, inspired by very traditional Irish lace crochet,” Reddig said. “The vest helped develop the technique that really got me started as a designer, because no one else had done this technique and I ended up writing a book on it.”

Reddig won the grand prize in the Crochet Guild of America’s annual design competition for the vest in 2012.

She has written several books on the subject of crocheting, including, “The Secret Stitch A Crochet Companion,” “Reversible Color Crochet, A NEW Technique” and “ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan.”

Reddig encourages all ages to come to the weekly Camas Crochet Club, and said the group has members that range in age from 6 to 92.

“The 9- to 11-year old kids are the most likely to come back and learn more,” she said. “The younger kids are happy to walk away with a chained bracelet or necklace.”

Reddig said she looks forward to Crochet Club each week.

“If we have new people, I get to share my passion for crochet. If it is just our regulars, I get to spend time just working on my own stuff,” Reddig said. “I really enjoy seeing the connections and friendships that have formed between the regular attendees who actually met there at the club.”

The Crochet Club meets from 3:30 to 5 p.m., each Thursday, in the teen room of the library, at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., in downtown Camas.

Want to try your hand at crochet? Reddig recommends that beginning crocheters have any smooth yarn and a hook.

Locally, Wooly Wooly Wagtails Yarn shop, 982 “E” St., Washougal, and Bi-Mart, 3003 Addy St., Washougal, have crochet supplies.

Red Heart Yarns has donated large skeins of worsted weight yarn for Crochet Club attendees. Each participant can have two skeins, to make a striped scarf, with instructional handouts provided. The scarf, which teaches chains, single crochet, double crochet and changing colors, includes photo tutorials from Reddig’s book, “ReCrochetions Presents: Rowan’s Learn to Crochet Sampler Afghan.”

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