BOTKINS — There are fish hooks, coat hooks, grappling hooks and meat hooks but the Happy Hookers, who gather in Botkins twice weekly, don’t concern themselves with any of those.
It’s crochet hooks that gave them their name, but any one of them is as likely to be holding knitting needles or a tatting shuttle as the small metal implement used to make afghans, sweaters and stocking caps.
As many as 20 people show up for sessions in the Botkins Library, Tuesday mornings at 9, or in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Tuesday evenings at 6:30. They take along needles and yarn and talk about everything from world news to local problems as they craft items with each other for an hour and half.
Saturday, they will sponsor a visit to Botkins by YarnByrds, a Columbus-based traveling yarn shop, which will be at the church, 301 E. State St., from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The shop sells American-made or -dyed yarn, needles, notions, patterns and other items for fiber-lovers.
Members of the Happy Hookers will be inside the church hall to answer questions or help people with their fiber projects. Food will be available to purchase and a door prize will be awarded.
The Happy Hookers have been meeting for about two years. The group formed after Nancy Gutman, of Botkins, posted a photo to Facebook of herself with some friends, sitting around her kitchen table, crocheting.
“My phone started ringing,” Gutman said. “People started asking me to teach them crocheting.” They soon outgrew the Gutman kitchen.
“When I started, I only knew how to crochet. I wanted to learn how to knit,” she said. They found a knitting teacher and more people joined the “club.” Word of mouth spread.
Laurie Gerstner, of Botkins, was selling knitted items at the Botkins farmers market when Judy Seitz, of Botkins, suggested Gerstner attend the sessions. It wasn’t long before Laurie’s mother, Linda Gerstner, got involved, too.
“I (crocheted) 30 years ago, but I dropped it. When I saw this, I thought I’d pick it up again,” said Mary Jo Raberding, of Botkins.
People from 8 to 80 participate during the meetings and another woman who is 99 makes items at home and sends them to the Hooker sessions with a friend.
“Whoever wanted to do it (joined in). There’s advanced and beginners,” Bambi Maurer, of Botkins, said.
“It’s great to see a new person embrace the craft and go with it,” Gutman added. Now, there are many teachers among them. Everyone seems to help each other and some of them have taken up tatting, the making of lace.
“That’s a lost art,” said Judy Seitz, of Botkins. Doris Naseman conducts classes on Thursdays in her home.
All the Happy Hooker sessions are free and open to anyone who wants to join in. The members refer to Gutman as Capt. Hook.
While they sometimes work on personal, individual projects, the Hookers spend as much time or more crafting items for charity use. They make prayer shawls and prayer squares, hats for newborns and Agape Distribution’s hat drive for Mexicans, blankets for children with HIV, scarves and hats for an American Legion drive, squares to be sent to Africa for sewing into afghans, potholders, bookmarks and burial buntings for stillborns.
“That’s a bittersweet project,” Seitz said. “The majority of what we do is for others.”
Area residents have donated boxes of yarn to the group for the charity projects. The Hookers are looking forward to the opportunity to buy fine yarn on the YarnByrds truck. It usually takes out-of-town trips to find good skeins.
“When I first started this, I thought yarn was yarn,” Raberding said. “I had no idea that there were all different types, weights, prices.”
The Gerstners have participated in a yarn crawl along I-75, traveling as far as Michigan and Tennessee to get just the right fiber for any particular project.
“Some of us are yarn snobs and proud of it,” Laurie laughed.
The Hookers share yarns — the sewing kind and tall tales — with each other in an easy camaraderie of friendship. Although some of the members had known each other before the Happy Hookers formed, making new friends, as well as learning new crafts, are what keeps them going back.
“I’ve been in Botkins 50-some years, but I’ve met people I’ve never known,” Raberding said.
“We come here to get advice and help and we give it freely,” said Virginia Burden, of Botkins. No one is afraid to admit a mistake or to start over.
“You get a master’s degree in tearing out,” Laurie said.
“They say it’s a poor seamstress that can’t cover up her own mistakes,” Raberding added.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.