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It's not your mother's knitting group, but some things remain the same

Left to right: Carol Walker, who started the knitting group, and Mia and Laura Letourneau, mother and daughter. Photo by Debra Thornblad. (click for larger version)
March 12, 2014
BERLIN One woman was making clothes for a doll sent to her from a New Jersey woman who lost much of her doll collection in Hurricane Sandy, another was making a quilt that matched the drawing on a baby shower invitation, another was spinning yarn from a clump of wool and several were knitting, or un-knitting in one case.

No, it's definitely not your mother's knitting group, which happens to be the name of the group of women who get together at the WREN building in Berlin (formerly the Congregational Church) the first Wednesday of the month.

But they probably get together for the same reasons women have for generations, to socialize with women with the same interests and to learn from each other.

The group was started by Carol Walker, the one making clothes to replace those lost in a hurricane.

Carol is a doll artist. She makes dolls using various pieces of cloth, metal, clay, really any material she can pull out of a scrap bag. They are meant to be seen, not played with, but they don't have to be serious, she said.

She will be holding a doll artist workshop on March 21. Further information is available on WREN (Women's Rural Entrepreneurial Network) Berlin's website.

Carol said she has always loved dolls, in fact she said she has a little over 1,000 of them. When she started making doll clothes, her husband suggested perhaps she should try selling some of them.

Then one day she saw the WREN sign in Bethlehem and inquired into what it was.

She said she initially tried to make play dolls, but couldn't compete with the china ones and now concentrated on doll clothes and custom repairs, which is how the woman from New Jersey found her.

Louise Lacasse, of Berlin, was at the meeting for the first time.

"I wanted to see what it was all about, instead of just sitting at home and knitting," she said.

Louise said she has knitted most of her life, since high school, and was making a zig zag scarf that night that just used knitting (no purling) with adding and subtracting stitches.

In addition to knitting, she said she does scrapbooking. She added that knitting kept her hands busy and helped with arthritis.

Regina Turner, from Randolph, was the one making the quilt that matched the print on the baby shower invitation.

"This is not my favorite craft," she said, letting a visitor know, that was rug braiding, something she's been doing since 1977.

Regina used to live in Turner, Maine, and rug braiding was something a lot of women around there did. There were once many mills in that area and wool could be had cheap. Wool is much more expensive today, but it can sometimes be found when an older woman dies and her estate is sold.

"Rug braiding is a dying art, but I refuse to let it go," she said.

Regina is also planning on holding a rug braiding class through WREN at some time in the future.

She said rug braiding can be done with other material, but it won't have the elasticity wool does.

She said a friend got her into quilting when she inherited five unfinished quilts.

Regina said she also likes to participate in 1750 re-enactments, and makes the clothes for everyone.

Paula Benski was knitting mittens, or actually un-knitting them that night. She was just learning knitting and they had come out looking funny.

Taking them apart didn't bother her, she said. That's how you learn. She'll now get a chance to re-knit them using the same yarn.

Paula said she's been sewing since she was a kid and also does cross stitch. For her this group was just for fun.

"Why sit at home, why not come down here and knit with a group of like-minded women," she said.

Kris Davis felt the same way.

"I came here to socialize, especially this time of year, it's good to get out of the house," she said.

Cross-stitching is her favorite craft, and making baby quilts, she said, but she's been working at knitting as well. An employee of the city, Davis said she's been working on making fingerless gloves for all the women at city hall.

Mia Letourneau, 10, came to the meeting with her mother Laura, who was finishing a Norwegian style scarf she had started long ago and forgot how to do.

Mia was working on a scarf, too, or maybe it might become a doll blanket, that was still undecided.

Mia said she already knew how to sew and was already making doll clothes. She had taken a knitting class last fall and found knitting to be calming, good for when you're bored or stressed.

She is hoping to take more classes.

Robin Henne, a Shelburne resident and owner of Wandering Woolies, was spinning, something she's been doing to 25 years.

"I started knitting at 8 and would watch people spin and thought "wouldn't that be neat to do'," she said.

So she borrowed a spinning wheel and found she liked it.

Robin said the hardest thing to learn with spinning is matching the rhythm of your foot with the wheel spinning. Because she started sewing with a treadle machine, she got that easier than some might.

Robin said she has been a member of WREN since it started. It is celebrating 20 years this year.

Anyone is welcome to the group regardless of craft or skill level. The group meets the first Wednesday of April. The next meeting is April 2 at 6 p.m.

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