Henry and Clayton residents learn to count stitches

Photo by Jeylin White                               
Dot Darby is making a muffler for her granddaughter who is heading off to college.

Photo by Jeylin White Dot Darby is making a muffler for her granddaughter who is heading off to college.

Crocheting is a pastime enjoyed by a large number of Henry and Clayton County residents who not only found a relaxing way to pass the time and a social activity to enjoy with friends, but also create a few heirlooms along the way.

Seniors in Henry County get together and enjoy one another’s company while creating their crochet masterpieces and a few are even finding younger generations eager to learn their artistry.

Whether in homes, at senior citizens centers or church gatherings, the art of crocheting is resurfacing.

It was three years ago when Cookie Blankship walked into the Clayton County Public Libraries Headquarters, in Jonesboro and volunteered to offer free crochet lessons to community members.

“Crocheting was a dying art,” explained the 77-year-old. For that reason, she said her goal was to create a crochet club. “I wanted to bring it back to life,” said Blankship.

And the rest is history. The “Crochet Club,” meets every Tuesday and the first and fourth Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. until noon, at the library headquarters located at 865 Battle Creek Road.

Those who love the art of crocheting are hoping to help incubate a similar club in Henry County.

“Crocheting is a good way to relieve stress,” said Dot Dorsey, whose been teaching the class for a year. “Once you get a hold of it that is.”

Blankship said after two years of teaching the class herself she became weary. “I have arthritis in my hands,” she said. “But, I said if you’re going to hurt, I’m still going to keep right on crocheting. But, I didn’t want to teach anymore.”

She said that’s when she called her good friend and protégé Dorsey to take over teaching the class. “She’s a good teacher and people like listen to her,” said Blankship.

Dorsey said the class averages 12 members during the school year. In the summer she said membership increases. “It so rewarding to for me to see the look on people’s faces when they finish a project,” said Dorsey. “You can just see the joy in their faces.”

While knitting and crocheting seems fairly popular in Clayton County however; in Henry County it’s hard to come by. Fortson Pubic Library offered a crochet and knitting class. Due the low attendance, the program was put on hold, according to Tara Kiogo, young adult coordinator. Kiogo said she’s hoping that Henry county residents will show more interest in crocheting, so they can revitalize the program. “If more people start asking about [the crochet program] we might bring it back this fall,” she said.

In Clayton County word travels fast. Tuesday’s class was filled with scores of residents, young and old, skilled and unskilled, who were relieving some stress.

New comer, Dart Darby, of Jonesboro, said she heard about the club through a member at her church. “I became interested in the program because I wanted to make prayer shawls for my church,” said Darby. “All the ladies in my church knew how to crochet but, I didn’t know how. So, I thought I would learn.”

Darby said that before May 15 she never stitched a needle or crocheted in her life. “The biggest challenge was learning how to count the stitches,” she said jovially.

However, Dorsey said crochet is easy to learn. The first rule of thumb in crocheting she said is learning the H-hook stitch, which is essential to making all garments. “Everything you make starts with a H-hook no matter what you’re garment is,” she said. She added once you master the H-hook stitch, you can begin constructing your own designs.

Darby and Dorsey agreed that scarves are the easiest items to make. “It’s a pretty simple pattern,” said Darby. In fact, during Tuesday’s class, Darby was making a muffler for her granddaughter whose heading off to college. “I like to make things that are useful,” she said.

Ninety-one-year old, Sieda White, hands spoke from themselves Tuesday morning. White was constructing a poncho, that she had half way finished before the two- hour class was over. “I have been doing this for many, many, many years.” White told the Clayton News Daily.

White, who is originally from Trinidad, said her favorite items to make are baby’s clothes. “I have two grandchildren who live in California and I make a lot of clothes for them,” she said. She also tries to sell her baby clothing. “I’ve been showing them but, I haven’t been able to sell them,” she said. “I show them at church and everywhere I go.”

While crocheting may be a stress reliever for most, it has kept the passion alive in Doretta and Tom Lester’s marriage.

“We do everything together,” said Tom. Tom said he met Doretta 13 years ago in a bank, and found out they had a common interest—that was crocheting.

Doretta said she has been crocheting since she was 9 -years-old, a skill taught to her by her late grandmother. Tom said he learned how to crochet from his mother. Since Tom has been on disability and unable to work, the pair decided to start a small business selling crochet items. Doretta designs and makes garments, hats, scarves, and purses. Tom does all of the alterations. “I’m proud of my projects,” Doretta said. “I wear them myself too.” “Yeah— we match up pretty good,” added Tom, with a broad smile.