Hidden Gems Of Chenango County: Guernsey’s Craft Workshops
Published: February 10th, 2022
By: Sarah Genter

Hidden Gems of Chenango County: Guernsey’s Craft Workshops

A few months ago, I wrote an article about the Guernsey Memorial Library and the many activities they offer. One of the coolest programs, in my opinion, is their free adult craft workshops. Offered twice a month, the crafts range from practical items, home decor, and even things like cursive handwriting.

Back in November, I began teaching myself how to crochet. So, when I sat down with Guernsey’s Director Connie Dalrymple and spoke to her about the workshops at the library, the handful of crochet crafts immediately piqued my interest. As luck would have it, a crocheted craft was being offered in both January and February of this year.

The two workshops were for a hooded scarf, taught by local crafter Pat Horton. While I missed the January event due to my annual bout of the flu, I made sure my schedule would be clear for the February class.

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I made it to the library a little before 6 p.m., the scheduled start time, and was greeted with so much excitement and enthusiasm from the staff. You could tell immediately that everyone there loved the workshops, and were happy that others were there to enjoy them. One staff member was even working on the project while she manned the front desk!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from the class as far as setup and instruction. This was also “Part Two” of the workshop, and I was a little worried I needed to have gone to the first one to be able to do the second. But, when I walked in I was cheerfully greeted by the teacher and a few others who were already there. I signed in, and Pat began walking me through the process.

Her first question, of course, was if I had any experience crocheting. Since I did, I wasn't in need of a tutorial, although I did later see her patiently explaining how to do the stitches to a new crocheter. Next, she led me over to the table of supplies, where around twenty skeins of yarn of all different colors were laid out. There were so many options it was hard to choose! I ended up going with a nice, deep red (it gave me Little Red Riding Hood vibes. I couldn't resist!). I was also given a crochet hook, and the pattern for my very own hooded scarf.

Pat showed me where to start with the pattern, but since I already knew how to work the stitches, I was left to my own devices while she assisted others that were arriving. Now, I know I have a little experience with crochet, but the pattern was so simple a beginner could definitely figure it out with some guidance.

Even better, I caught a conversation between Pat and another crafter who had somehow ended up with a much shorter scarf than the pattern described. However, they were discussing how she could add a button to make a cute little cowl instead of the long wraparound scarf in the photos. I myself am not a huge fan of standard scarves, but altering the length was not something I ever would have thought about on my own (thank you, creative stranger!).

I took another look at the pattern to see if it would be relatively simple to adjust, and let me tell you, I have never seen a pattern so easy to alter to my liking. For reference, I spent nearly an hour before the class working out the math to add an extra two inches of room to a hat pattern, so it would fit my husband. Generally, altering a pattern takes some effort! But for this one, it was as simple as adding chain stitches until I had a length I was happy with. So easy!

While I got settled in and got to work, more people arrived, and pretty soon we had a nearly full room of crafters, all at varying stages in the process.

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The next hour or so was probably the most relaxing hour I’ve had in weeks! Crocheters chatted while they worked on their projects, I heard lots of cute stories about people’s pets (easily one of my favorite parts of the night), and there were plenty of laughs. The whole atmosphere was incredibly positive, but easygoing. It was a much needed de-stresser for me!

While we worked, Pat made her rounds to check in and see if anyone needed help. I heard her chat with others about their projects and ideas, and she walked a novice crocheter through the first steps of the pattern. It was the perfect balance, because I always knew there was someone nearby if I needed help, but I also had the freedom to work through the pattern on my own.

I had wondered about this in the days leading up to the class. I imagined a more formal setting, where as a group we would all be walked through the steps and how to create the stitches. For a complete beginner, this may have been useful. But for someone who had the basics down, and it seemed like I wasn't the only one who did, going through each step may have been a bit tedious.

So, I was really happy with how Pat decided to run things. It kept the mood light, but also fulfilled the needs of crocheters of every skill level.

About halfway through the workshop, she announced there would be a special giveaway as well! On my way in I saw an already completed hooded scarf on display at the front desk, and it turned out we’d all have a chance to win it for ourselves. While my name wasn’t drawn for the scarf, it was still a fun and unexpected addition to the night.

Things began to wrap up around 7 p.m., although I did end up staying a bit later than that! I checked with Pat, and everything at the workshop really is free - the yarn, hook, and pattern all came home with me (I’ll admit, I only got about three rows done on my scarf!). I thought it was amazing that they were able to provide all the needed materials for everyone there, and it was great that although I didn't even come close to finishing my scarf, I had everything I needed to finish it at home.

Another cool thing Pat pointed out: every single hooded scarf came out differently. Thanks to the simple pattern, it was super easy to adjust, and that allowed for everyone's creativity to show. Even "mistakes" people had made lent well to the uniqueness of each scarf.

The crafter I mentioned earlier, who gave me the idea to shorten the length of my scarf, had somehow managed to create a cute ruffle along the bottom edge. While she said it was a mistake and she didn't know how she did it, it added such a nice element to her finished piece. I'm already brainstorming ideas on how to get a similar effect on mine!

A really great thing about the class that I hadn't anticipated was that I got to spend some time with other people who enjoy crochet as much as I do. While my husband will listen to me prattle on about project ideas or what I'm working on, or what I'm struggling with (bless his heart!), it was so cool to chat with people who understand the craft. Best of all, everyone was so welcoming, too. I didn't really know anyone there, and I can get a bit shy in large groups. But, very quickly I felt like one of the gang!

I made a new friend, and after the class we talked for a bit about things we had made, and swapped some ideas and patterns. When I was heading out I stopped at the front desk again to say goodbye to the staff, and I think I ended up staying another half hour just chatting with them. But, I mean, can you blame me? The staff at Guernsey are always so friendly and kind every time I stop by, it's hard not to get caught up in conversation!

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One staff member told me some stories about her time, and her grandmother's time, at the Historical Society here in town, and it has me thinking that may need to be my next adventure to another of Chenango County's hidden gems. Admittedly, I've only been to the CCHS museum once, in elementary school, and I'd love to revisit it and learn more about our area's history.

My time at the Guernsey Memorial Library free adult craft workshop was awesome from start to finish, and I'm already marking a spot on my calendar for their next crochet workshop: Easter bunnies on March 23. Pat will be teaching that class as well, and she also teaches knitting and plastic canvas embroidery. There's a corner to corner afghan workshop she's leading in September, and I already can't wait!

If crochet isn't your thing, there's still over a dozen other crafts to choose from throughout the year. The next workshop will be held on Tuesday, February 22, where crafters will learn how to make their own teabags. Honestly, I might have to try that one too. I was once a tea fanatic, and even used to grow it myself!

Other scheduled crafts include melted crayon art, beaded trees, recycled paper making, spring wreaths and candy cane wreaths, and more! If crafting isn't your thing, Guernsey offers plenty of other programs too. Just this past weekend, they held a writer's workshop (I'm kicking myself for missing it!), and they also offer kid's story times, a book club, a graphic novel club, a LEGO club, and they're in the process of bringing back their board game nights.

Be sure to keep an eye on the Guernsey Memorial Library Facebook page, and guernseymemoriallibrary.org, for information and updates on the plethora of programs and activities for both adults and children. I know I will!