Crafting keeps fingers and minds active at Carter-May

CHARLESTON — The Diocese of Charleston’s Carter-May Home appears quiet, even sleepy, from the outside.

But come Monday and Friday mornings, it is anything but sleepy, at least in the craft room. This is where the Carter-May Crafters gather to work on projects and socialize for a couple of hours twice a week.

Nancy Moss, activities director, said the home has 16 residents and the craft table is usually filled with about eight ladies, depending on what they are making and how people are feeling.

On a recent Friday, the crafters were putting the finishing touches on a brooch with a pansy in the middle.

Elsie DeRain, who along with Louise Hill appears to be one of the comics of the group, said she has no plans to give her brooch to anyone or even to wear it herself. “I’m just making it because we’re making it,” said the self-proclaimed Geechi with a chuckle.

Moss said DeRain has a theory on crafting that all the ladies support: “It keeps you out of mischief,” DeRain cracks as the women chuckle. OK, seriously, she said her philosophy is that keeping their fingers going keeps their brain going, too.

Alene Canaday takes this theory to heart and said when she isn’t crafting she’s crocheting scarves and Afghans for her grandchildren. She points out the blue and white knit hat on her head as one of her creations.

The Carter-May Crafters started about three years ago when Kay Bennett moved into the residence and her artist daughter, Bonnie Campbell, volunteered to provide monthly art projects, Moss said.

Then the ladies decided it would be fun to participate in Blessed Sacrament School’s annual fair, and the meetings increased to twice weekly. Moss said they didn’t make any money at the event, but had so much fun making crafts they decided to maintain the busy schedule.

“They get impatient if they sit too long with nothing to do,” she said, making a small circle with her finger to include everyone at the table.

As the crafters put the finishing touches on their brooches, they poked good-natured fun at each other, themselves and life in general.

“You have to laugh,” said Sheryl McMillian, who majored in art “a long time ago” and helps the group with color coordination.

McMillian is the newest resident and one of the “babies” of the group. All but two of the women at the table are over 90.

Hill, who is 93, said her brooch is going in the casket with her, if she can get it to look right, that is. “This one has to go back to the jeweler,” she declared as Campbell moved around the table to help her.

She received some friendly advice from Mary Gauer as the two women compared ages.

“I can tell you’re younger than me. You don’t have any wrinkles,” Hill said as she cracked up laughing.

Gauer just smiled serenely and patted her cheek. “Oh, thank you,” she said.

Gauer was one of the ladies sitting around the table who said they came down to see what was being made and decided to stay and socialize for awhile even though they weren’t interested in making the brooch.

She said the beads were too small for her to handle because her fingers are always so cold. But she wasn’t complaining. “I can get around with my walker, so I’m fine,” she said.

Campbell said they do a lot of “recyclable” art. “We don’t have any money for supplies, so we make use of whatever’s around. We get a lot of magazines donated and we try to put those to use,” she said.

Creations from magazines are one of their specialties. In fact, the crafters won a blue ribbon at the Coastal Carolina Fair for a paper quilt made entirely of squares cut from a magazine. Campbell said the project required over 2,000 squares.

The ladies are working on a new craft for the fair and Campbell said it will probably be a paper tile.

“It’s a work in progress right now,” she said. “They’ll decide what it’s going to be as we go. They’re very good at expressing their opinion.”

Anna Margaret Martin said it is her opinion that the best crafts they make are the special cards made from — you guessed it — recycled magazines. The crafters will create and send thank you cards to recent volunteers and their magazine donors.

As for Miriam Bernstein, she said she doesn’t care what they make as long as she has something to do. Moss said Bernstein had never crafted before, but hasn’t missed a day since they started.

The crafters also make candles, soap, straw hats, magnets, Christmas trees and whatever else they can think of.

“These ‘babies’ will be very talented by the time they get to be our age,” DeRain joked.