Some of the members of The Crafters at Riverbend Woods include, clockwise, from left -- Janice Morrow, Sheila Fiffy, Sharlene Baker, Pat Simkewicz, Betty Lilley, Edith Roy, Shirley Lacombe, Sharon McLean. The women have been working on hand crafted items in a variety of mediums at their weekly gatherings.Photo by Deborrah PorterThis is a partial display of items created by the women in The Crafters group at the Riverbend Woods community in Athol. These and other items will be available at their craft fair Saturday. Photo by Deborrah Porter

Tight knit group creates unique items to donate to charity

ATHOL — “The Crafters,” as they like to call themselves, have created a community within a community. This core group of 15 ladies (members come and go) at Riverbend Woods meets once a week in the recreation hall to sew, knit, crochet, quilt and do other crafts they enjoy — much to the benefit of others.

All year long, and at their own expense, they gather to make a variety of beautifully crafted items: dozens of chemo caps have been donated to Athol Hospital and Burbank Hospital in Fitchburg; and scores of scarves, hats and mittens are whipped up for the holiday season, which are donated to the Salvation Army and other outlets, to be distributed, free of charge, where they are most needed. 

On Saturday, Nov. 7, the ladies are holding their first craft fair in the recreation hall at Riverbend Woods, and there are a variety of unique items to tempt holiday shoppers. The money raised will benefit the Salvation Army, veterans services, “or if we need to send flowers to someone in the park,” said one member. The fair will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and will also offer coffee and doughnuts, as well as lunch time fare such as finger rolls.

“We are very busy making more items so we can give to needy organizations,” said member Elizabeth “Betty” Lilley at a recent meeting. Items for the craft fair include shawls, Swedish woven blankets and other items, afghans, crocheted newborn sets, quilted table mats, table runners, felt hats, scarves, mittens, infinity scarves, potholders, Christmas logs, theme baskets, and other items.

The Crafters say they truly enjoy their weekly gatherings, and it was evident on a recent visit. What was also evident was that, while there may be a casual, friendly atmosphere, peppered with a lot of laughter, these women mean business. These are quality items churned out by the group.

Sharon McLean, affectionately nicknamed “the knitting machine” is constantly working on something for either The Crafters, her family or her church, such as afghans, baby robes, Santa pins, trivets, wash cloths, potholders, doilies. She even took her knitting along on a recent bus trip.

Janice Morrow doesn’t sew, but attends because she simply enjoys the camaraderie. She brings along paints and board and sets up at a spot at one of the long tables, arranged in a square so the crafters can chat among themselves while they work. 

“We talk about the news of the day and share opinions,” said Lilley, “the group is open to anyone in the park, we are happy to have them.” They meet year ‘round, every Tuesday, from 1 to 3 p.m. Once a month the group goes to breakfast together and at Christmas time they have a party, with dinner, and the exchange of gifts.

In various stages of completion, a quick look around the tables reveals a variety of items; from baby sweaters and hats, to table runners, Swedish weaving, baby blankets, hats, mittens, dishcloths, potholders, many of the items which were being made for the craft fair.

Shirley Lacombe took up Swedish weaving some time ago and creates striking table runners, blankets, and other items. The Swedish weaving method was said to have been brought into the park by Dottie Truckey from Florida. Its popularity grew quickly. 

Sharlene Baker and Lacombe took to it quickly after being introduced to the craft. “It was just a fun thing to do,” said Lacombe.

In between creating pieces for charity, the women work on personal items. Lilley had just finished crocheting a baby blanket for a great-great-grandchild and was working on a fancy dishcloth.

It was noted that one member, who used to quilt, was taught how to knit by the other ladies and now creates many knitted items. Anyone interested in learning is invited to join. 

All the items are expertly made and have interesting touches, such as chemo caps with delicate scalloped edges. Among the items on display collected for the craft fair were a latch hook wall hanging of an owl, by Mary Strong; gold edged potholders, table runners by Betty Lilley;  Santa pins, trivets, doilies, by Sharon McLean; a cross stitch of flowers and fence, which at first glance, looks like a painting, curtains, dishcloths, curtains, valances.

 Members include: Janice Morrow, Sheila Fiffy, Sharlene Baker, Pat Simkewicz, Betty Lilley, Edith Roy, Shirley Lacombe, Sharon McLean, Helene Mello, Barbara Freemyer, Claudette LeBlanc, Mary Anne Linton, Mary Strojni, Sheila St. Laurent, Pat Hemlin.

Riverbend Woods is located at 739 Daniel Shays Highway. The recreation center is located in the building near the clubhouse/pool.

Athol Daily News

PO Box 1000
225 Exchange Street
Athol, MA 01331
Phone: (978) 249-3535


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