Their ages ranged from 7 to 70, and their other demographics also were diverse, but the half dozen folks who gathered in a meeting room last Saturday at the Mildred L. Terry Public Library found common reasons to attend this session of the crochet club.
Whether they were beginners or experts, they appreciated the chance to learn or teach this useful craft while making friends as well as holiday gifts for those less fortunate.
The members say their crochet club doesn’t have a name, although the library promotes it with a memorable pun: Get Hooked.
And that’s what happened to Amy Wilson and her 7-year-old daughter, Sumayyah Ibrahim. They usually go to the Columbus Public Library, the main branch in the Chattahoochee Valley Libraries system. But this Saturday, they ventured downtown and checked out the Mildred Terry branch.
That’s when they heard the crochet club was meeting, Wilson said, “and I always wanted to learn.”
So as one of the club’s leaders, Loretta Maehr, guided Wilson's first stitches, the newcomer said, “I am hooked. It’s a wonderful challenge. It’s always good to learn something new, especially a skill that could be used to help other people and your family.”
Fatimah Abdallah, 14, a student at Jordan Vocational High School, came to the library this day to accompany her brother. He wanted to use one of the computers; she was curious about the crochet club.
“It’s good for me to learn so I can make some items and maybe make some money from it,” Fatimah said she realized as the club’s founder, Gaby Azhar, taught her.
Azhar lives in the Columbus Historic District on Broadway, four blocks from the Mildred Terry library. Four years ago, she told library manager Silvia Bunn she would like to teach crocheting in the library to help keep the art alive and give back to the community.
“Gaby thought mothers and children might want to learn to crochet as a way to spend time together and learn a skill that could be both a joy and perhaps even be of economic value,” Bunn said.
Azhar was amazed that a half dozen folks attended the first session. “They put up a sign,” she said, “and people came.”
They’ve been coming every other Saturday since then. They meet in the Mildred Terry library on the second and fourth Saturday of each month, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.
“A few males have visited too,” Bunn noted. “… Some staff resurrected their own hooks on account of the club, and a few have learned the basics in order to co-facilitate the club.”
Club members do service projects, making items for charity. This year, they worked on two projects for Christmas: more than 50 skullcaps for children being treated at the John B. Amos Cancer Center, and nine blankets, five for Damascus Way and four for the Lutheran Services of Georgia’s foster care program.
The blankets are a mix of 35 colorful seven-inch squares, each one crocheted by a member. The squares are attached together, seven squares long and five squares wide, to form the blankets.
“There’s a need,” Maehr said. “There’s always a need, so we’re trying to fill that need.”
The club also enables other needs to be filled on a more personal level. Bunn recalled a pregnant woman from Pakistan came to the club and learned to crochet a blanket for the baby she was expecting.
“She came back to show the blanket and baby,” Bunn said.
Some club members like the group projects, others prefer to do their own thing. “But if you have a problem,” Maehr said, “we’ll help you with your project.”
Maehr taught her friend of 40 years, Carola Hart, how to crochet.
“It’s fun to sit and do this and actually finish it,” Hart said. “You’ve made something. It’s just a good feeling, especially if you’re doing it to give something away.”
Crocheting lowers blood pressure, Maehr said. “You can tell by your stitches,” she said. “If they’re real tight, you’re nervous. As you go along, you loosen up. It eases you.”
Maehr added with a laugh, “That’s why I crochet a lot.”
Hart agreed. “Whatever’s in your head goes away,” she said, “because you’re concentrating on what you’re making.”
Through donations, the club provides the yarn and the hooks; participants must bring their own fingers.
“For the library," Bunn said, "the club meets the goal of being a gathering place and an avenue for healthy, social interaction and community building. People discover new interests and continue to be amazed at the variety of programs offered at the library.”