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Fabric of the fair: Crafters share handmade creations

Quilting, knitting, crocheting and other crafting projects fill the fine arts building at the Crow Wing County Fair.

Woman spins wool into yarn with wheel, others knit and crochet in the background.
Liz Holt spins wool into yarn Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Fair. Holt is the fair's superintendent of fine arts this year and got a group of friends from The Center to knit and crochet in the Fine Arts Building Wednesday.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Quilts of all sizes and colors line the walls of the Fine Arts Building at the Crow Wing County Fair, while handmade hats, socks, shawls and other garments and trinkets sit in display cases, meeting the eyes of fairgoers who admire their neighbors’ handiwork.

The clicking of needles could be heard throughout the building Wednesday morning, Aug. 3, while members of The Center set up shop and worked on their various knitting and crocheting projects as they greeted visitors.

Liz Holt sat in the middle of the group, spinning raw wool into yarn that she’ll later use in knitting projects. After working in the Fine Arts Building for the past eight or nine years, Holt enjoyed taking her fair involvement up a notch this year as the superintendent of fine arts.

“I like to be involved with community stuff,” she said of her years of work at the fair.

And her penchant for knitting makes the work even more enjoyable.

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“I can’t just sit, so I have to do something with my hands,” Holt said.

That something is usually knitting, which she learned about 30 years ago from a great aunt who lived to be 106. And those skills earned her ribbons at this year’s fair, including a second place for a shawl and a first place and grand champion award for a hat, which she said someone already asked if they could buy.

Holt started out her crafting career with crocheting and embroidering as a teenager before working her way up to knitting and the more recent hobbies of spinning yarn and quilting.

“I knit probably every day,” she said. “Then I started to sew — I started to quilt. Then I was quilting during the day and knitting at night.”

Spinning her own yarn started back in April, when she decided to buy a wheel while on a knitting and fiber retreat at Deep Portage Learning Center in Hackensack.

“There were a lot of spinners there, and we just sat around this giant circle while knitting and spinning,” Holt said. “It was kind of fascinating to me.”

Next thing she knew, she bought a wheel that was for sale and started learning how to use it. It took her until about June to really get the hang of it.

“You have to be treadling with your foot, feeding it in and pulling it out, so you’re doing three things at once,” she said.

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As she spun her yarn Wednesday, Holt sat among other crafters, like Darlene Stone, who was knitting a pair of socks to wear with her Birkenstocks while reveling in the ribbons she won as a first-time fair entrant.

“My wool socks down there got a blue (ribbon). I was shocked because I’ve never done this,” Stone said between stitches.

Woman points to a pair of wool socks in a display case
Darlene Stone points out a pair of socks she knitted that are on display at the Crow Wing County Fair's Fine Arts Building. The wool socks won a blue ribbon.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

It was Holt who talked her into entering crafts this year, but Stone never thought her creations would win any awards.

“I was absolutely blown away,” she said, joking that the judges must have been too kind.

Along with her first-place wool socks, Stone had a rug that earned a second place and a doll with wooden shoes that won a first place and a reserve champion award.

Next to Stone sat Debra Max, who crocheted a sparkly red scarf she intended for use during the Christmas season. On Max’s other side was Shirley Hauck, knitting a hat she plans to donate to the homeless and those in need this winter.

Three women knit and crochet
Darlene Stone, left, Debra Max and Shirley Hauck knit and crochet Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022, in the Fine Arts Building at the Crow Wing County Fair.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

The women admired each other’s projects and praised one another’s skills as they crafted.

“It’s just fun to get together, and everybody helps one another,” Holt said.

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Right behind the crafters hung handmade quilts entered in the fair, including one bearing apple trees and both blue and purple ribbons, deeming it a first-place and grand-champion creation. Garrison quilter Sandra Ash stared proudly at her work.

Woman points at quilt with cardinals on it
Sandra Ash points out the work on one of her quilts that is on display in the Fine Arts Building at the Crow Wing County Fair Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

“I’m thrilled,” she exclaimed after not only seeing the ribbons but hearing other fairgoers praise her artistry.

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Ash started quilting during the Bicentennial in 1976, and now at 78, she decided it was time to enter something in the fair for the second time, and her decision clearly paid off.

For many of the crafters at the fair Wednesday, their hobby is not just about making things. It’s a cathartic activity, allowing them to distance their minds from the stresses of everyday life as their hands — and feet, in Holt’s case — stay busy creating art.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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