Needleworkers Unite!

Karen Benetello, Karyn Lord, Paula Pitts, Charlotte Merrill, Merrilyn Tatarczuch-Koff

The temperature had been below zero for a week, and many people thought it was perfect weather for staying home. But one group of intrepid souls turned out in force on Tuesday night: Needleworkers Unite met at the Quechee Library as usual at 6:30pm. They were confident that the library would be welcoming – it always is – and warm.

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The library’s role as the host site is much appreciated. “This library solves everything,” says Paula Pitts, with a big smile. Paula is currently a point person for the group. She’s participated since the group began in its current form about five years ago. “It started as a way to get knitters together in the winter,” says Paula, “and then last year we went through the summer.” Her needles bulge with an almost-finished baby blanket in a delicate pink, done in an unusual stitch that creates a high-loft fabric. The soft yarn makes a welcoming nest for a tiny person.

Women filter in; it’s almost always women who participate. Karen Benetello establishes herself in an armchair and pulls out her current project, a hat for her mother-in-law, who asked for it for a demonstration she aims to attend. Karen herself is wearing a similar hat, in bright colors with perky ears. “There’s a social aspect to the group,” says Karen, who has two small children. “I do it for the adult time.”

Merrilyn Tatarczuch-Koff (she spells out her name with a laugh, knowing no one will guess the spelling) says she sneaks out of the house so her 17-year-old daughter won’t ask for an invitation to join her. She’d be welcome, the group agrees, but sometimes it’s fun to have just the grown-ups. The women trade book recommendations and talk about jobs and even politics. “And children!” Paula adds. The group also serves as a consulting resource for people who need technical help. “Some drop in with projects,” says Merrilyn. “It’s OK not to come back.”

Recently Sharon Cheeseman donated 60 knitting books. They will rotate between a browsing shelf upstairs in the Quechee library, the main floor, and shelves at both Wilder Library and Bugbee Senior Center. All are being cataloged for the library collection.

Charlotte Merrill, another original member, and Karyn Lord are not knitting. Charlotte is stitching an elaborate white applique onto a gray background for a table runner. She works quickly and with a justified assurance: the work comes out flat and even. Charlotte is a mainstay of the St. Anthony’s Christmas Bazaar in White River Junction, Vermont, working through the year to create a large supply of items for sale or for decorating trees in “top-secret” themes. “I can’t stand not to have something to do,” she says.

Karyn is engaged in hooking a wall hanging with a house among trees, stars and flowers. It proclaims “Welcome.” She loves the Early American Folk Art style of the piece. “That’s what sends me to the moon,” she says, and she spares no effort to achieve the look she wants. She makes a quick, rueful reference to a 36x50-inch piece that she “reverse hooked” – removing and replacing the background because it wasn’t the right color and didn’t look antique enough. She’s lived in the area for about two-and-a-half-years, and smiles as she comments, “These women of Vermont are hardy, resilient, and resourceful. I had to toughen up if I was going to make it in Vermont,” Karyn says.

Karyn is also a quilter and a folk art painter. She does punch needle embroidery, which she describes as “mini hooked rugs.” Sometimes she sells her work, but mostly she gives it as gifts, or keeps it at home. She has hooked rugs all over her floors. “Karyn could fill this library,” says Charlotte, and indeed she did organize a show of her work, with a demonstration of techniques. As a place to meet the library gets high marks. “Especially in winter, it’s worth coming out because of the good lighting,” says Karyn, and the others chime in with comments about the library’s hospitality and the great conversations that grow in its welcoming atmosphere. “Sometimes we’ve been asked to hush,” laughs Charlotte. “It’s a wonderful place to meet.”

Needleworkers Unite meets every Tuesday at 6:30pm. All needleworkers are welcome. Check the Quechee Library website for information about schedule changes or weather cancelation.

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