Crafts of crocheting, knitting and quilting passed down or self-taught

Family traditions can take many forms. It can be the handing down of recipes or gatherings for graduations or weddings.

For some, the tradition can be teaching the next generation how to create needle arts. Many local residents learned from a family member how to create decorative quilts, blankets or wearable items.

“I made my first quilt square when I was 6 years old,” Sylvia Boros of Western Reserve Quilters in Cortland said. “My grandma quilted and my mom sewed.”

Esther Newell of Howland SCOPE’s Ohio Star Quilters guild also learned quilting from an older relative.

“My grandma taught me when I was 14. I made my first quilt when I was 15 years old,” she said.

The use of needles, hooks or a sewing machine to create decorative textile handicrafts is called needle arts. Needles or hooks are used in crocheting, knitting, quilting, embroidery and needlepoint.

Quilting is the process of sewing layers of material usually in a square shape with a layer of batting in the middle as an insulation layer. The squares are sewn together to create what can be used as a bed comfort or blanket. Originally, the material was acquired from scraps left over from sewing projects.

Crocheting uses yarn and the process of interlocking loops with a curved needle to create such items as afghan blankets, hats, scarves, vests and slippers.

“As a kid, my neighbor taught her four daughters how to crochet and knit, and she asked if I wanted to learn to do so,” said Margie Szakacs, a member of Howland SCOPE’s Needle Arts-Crocheting and Knitting group.

Other members of the guilds and groups were adults when they learned to create textile handicrafts. Donna Leet said she worked at General Electric Lamp Division Plant in Niles when she learned how to crochet.

“My co-worker was crocheting an afghan. I wanted it. She told me that she wouldn’t give it to me, but she would show me how to make one,” she said.

Some participants learned needle crafts by attending classes at a craft store or quilt shop.

“When my children were young, I took a class and I learned how to make handkerchiefs. Then a friend taught me how to braid rugs,” said Roni Brosze of the Hubbard Library’s Sit N’ Stitch group. Today, she creates crocheted items.

Now that their children are grown and they have retired, many of these women have the time to learn a needle craft.

“I taught myself how to crochet and knit,” said Mary Merlo at Niles SCOPE.

Dolores Esposito, secretary of Ohio Star Quilters, also is self-taught. “I like to sew and I heard about this group, so I taught myself to quilt. I look at magazines to see what to do.”

Judy Bodkin of Howland SCOPE Needle Arts Group suggested YouTube instructional crochet videos as a way to learn new techniques.

The handicrafts are often produced for family members or friends.

“I made my first quilt for my oldest son for his bed,” said Missy Shaffer of Ohio Star Quilters and their former vice president.

Frances Tock of Niles SCOPE Quilting, Sewing and Crocheting group had a specific color palette in mind when she created a quilt for a family member.

“I made my grandson a black-and-white quilt for his bed. He is colorblind,” she said.

Charitable projects are on the agenda for all of the local needle arts groups.

Western Reserve Quilt group, which meets at the community room at Ohio Living Lake Vista in Cortland, consider their location when making donation items.

“We make fidget blankets for the dementia and Alzheimer residents,” said Eileen Dyett, a founding member of the guild. “It gives them something to do with their hands.”

The Hubbard Sit N’ Stitch group creates items with a military focus.

“We make afghans for veterans living permanently at Washington Square in Warren,” said Pam Loree, group organizer.

Niles SCOPE members also created items for veterans there.

“We made 19 red, white and blue quilts for veterans. We also crocheted and knitted hats and scarves for the Niles elementary and middle school students,” said Maryann Meola Gianetti, creator and organizer of the group.

Howland SCOPE’s Needle Arts group and the Ohio Star Quilters have created items for babies and women at Bella Women’s Center in Warren. They have also crocheted baby hats for St. Joseph Hospital.

After achieving the satisfaction of completing a project, individuals and groups can enter their quilts in exhibits and contests.

“Ohio Star Quilters received a second place ribbon at the Canfield Fair,” Shaffer said.

Tock has won Best in Show for her quilt work.

Receiving accolades through awards and having the satisfaction of helping someone with their charitable needle arts creations are not the only things that the members of the guilds and groups enjoy. Socializing, creating friendships, giving tips and helping each other with their projects are also aspects of their gatherings.

“My husband passed away and I needed to get out and be in contact with people again,” Bodkin said.

Judy Shaffer, also a member of the Howland SCOPE group, recently returned to the gatherings after shoulder surgery with the goal of returning to her friends and creating needle arts.

Continuing the tradition, these needle arts enthusiasts are passing down their knowledge to younger generations.

“I taught my sons to sew and my granddaughter wants to learn to do what grandma does,” Dyett said.

As long as the ways to create textile items with needles, yarn or other material is taught to interested individuals, the custom of needle arts will continue to be passed down and create gathering places as a means of helping others with their needlework, crafters said.