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Voorheesville knitting group still stitching

Betty Smith remembers knitting wristlets for World War I soldiers when she was a little girl. She remembers learning needlepoint and cross stitch and making her own clothes.

We grew up behind the sewing machine, said Smith, 97, of Voorheesville, who is now knitting a dishcloth for the church bazaar.

Smith is one of about 20 women who make up the Nimblefingers group, which meets at the Voorheesville Public Library on Tuesdays to knit, quilt, crochet, embroider and work on other crafts, and to teach a new generation of girls the secrets of needlework.

"It's a wonderful group," said Alberta Pahl, 74, of Guilderland, who learned how to quilt when she joined Nimblefingers. "They're always helpful."

Pahl and her sister, Nancy Hopper, 61, are now working on paper embroidery, a Dutch craft they've introduced to the club. The women sew designs on cardstock, which they later turn into greeting cards.

"I don't know any other library that has a program like this," said Julie Stump, a librarian who joined Nimblefingers in 1995 and became the group's coordinator a year later.

What began as a five-week needlework course in 1992 has since become an organized club, allowing members to share their crafts, learn new techniques and socialize.

Last summer the library expanded the project, adding a Junior Nimblefingers group. Over the next two months, school-age children will return to work with the older women and learn how to use sewing machines.

Nimblefingers members come mostly to share advice and improve their own pieces, but they also work on collective projects, such as the quilt and craft show they put together every February. Their quilts have been raffled off at Friends of the Library fundraisers and donated to community members who have fallen ill.

On occasion, Stump invites local experts to teach the group new crafts.

"They're mostly older women, and I feel it's very important to keep active mentally, socially, physically," said Stump.

Men are welcome, but thus far none have joined, Stump said.

Group members said they enjoy one another's company. Getting away from household distractions, they said, helps them accomplish more, and with so many talents to share, the women frequently pick up new skills.

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