By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect Beth Notaro did not work at Delphi and is not retired.
Instead of going to a mall or clothing store to buy that special sweater, rug or afghan, there is still a large group of people who choose to make those items themselves by hand like their ancestors once did.
There are called artisans.
Each year, artisans from all over gather some 500 strong at the Seiberling Mansion to share their talents and showcase their handwork at the Winter Woolen Workshop.
Led by Beth Notaro of Beth’s Main Street Folk Art, a number of clubs, groups and guilds, some with colorful names such as Twisters, Sisters & Misters, Granny Bees, Kokomo Sewing Guild, Knit Wits and Embroidery Guild of America set up shop at the mansion and Elliott House for some good old-fashioned handwork.
“We wanted people to be able to work with their hands,” said Notaro of starting the event eight years ago.
“We’re called artisans, not artists,” she said. “The difference is artisans make things people use.”
“We’ve grown tremendously over the years,” she said of the event, which benefits the Howard County Historical Society. “We first started out on the first floor of the Elliott House. Now, we have the first two floors of the mansion and Elliott House.”
The annual event features vendors, all-day workshops and demonstrations for techniques like colonial painting, punch needle, embroidery, rug hooking, spinning, weaving, hand-quilting, knitting, crocheting and more.
The two-day workshop, Notaro said, is a wonderful way for the groups to get new members and also show off what they do.
“I love the Elliott House and the Seiberling Mansion,” Notaro said. “It’s the perfect atmosphere for this event with the historical aspect.”
Born in Toledo, Ohio, Notaro always had a knack for making things with her hands.
That age-old art of hand working prompted her to open her own business and share her joy of knitting, spinning, weaving, hand-quilting and crocheting.
Notaro met others with the same interest and started going to classes and workshops around the area.
When the economy goes south, people tend to make more things by hand than running to a store plus it’s therapy, she said.
“Their doing something with their hands and it keep their minds off their problems,” she said.
Cleo Metcalf, a member of the Twisters, Sisters & Misters, brings his old wooden Ashford Joy spinning wheel to the event each year to show off his spinning talents.
“I’m always glad to help out the mansion,” he said. “ I’ve lived 5 or 6 miles from Kokomo all my life. This place is amazing with all the history and the woodwork.”
All of his life, Metcalf wondered how wool sweaters, gloves and other clothes were made.
That curiosity drove him to learn how to spin wool and make garments for himself.
“I’ve been doing this for 15 years,” he said. “I go to the Howard County Fair every year. I used to go to Connor Prairie, but I’m getting to old to travel. I still spin around here on different occasions.
‘You can make about anything — sweaters, socks, gloves,” he said. “I’m making an afghan.”
Metcalf is one of about 30 to 35 members of the club that meets from 7 to 9 p.m., the third Tuesday of each month from September to May at the Galveston Community Center.
Patty Callahan of Kokomo Knit Wits said the best part about the workshop is people can sit in on the demonstrations at the mansion, then walk over to the Elliott House and buy a kit to take home and do it yourself.
“My mother taught me to knit when I was 8 years old and I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said of her experience in the art.
“I love it. I’ve been coming to the workshops for three years. I was taking crocheting classes and a lady ask me if there is a knit club in Kokomo. I said no. But, I told her if she organized one, I would come. And that’s how the Kokomo Knit Wits were born.”
Lynn Celarek of Double Spin Handwork Artisans, teaches people the art of needle punch on the second floor of the mansion.
“It’s an old art. It was used in the early days to embellish the collars and cuffs on clothes,” said Celarek.
Celarek got involved with a local group called the Granny Bees and began teaching the craft out of her house.
“I liked the way it flows,” she said, of the needle work. “It’s like coloring and I always liked coloring as a kid.”