Artisan 'Mrs. Crafty' has a world of skills in her hands

December 08, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

When you've earned the nickname Mrs. Crafty, you'll go pretty far to hone your skills. Even to the point of standing knee-deep in sheep.

Friends and students of Evelyn Garbe weren't surprised when the 79-year-old Odenton resident moved to her Vermont farm for 10 summers to raise the fuzzy animals just to find out how "all that weaving wool was made," she said.

Mrs. Garbe, who teaches weaving, quilting and lacing to area seniors at the O'Malley Senior Center, said she wanted to learn the entire process of making a wool sweater -- from raising the animal to sewing on the last button.

"It's a full-time job for me," she said. "I operate on the theory that there's nothing I can't do and nothing I won't try -- especially if it's challenging."

Ann Remillard, director of the Odenton senior facility, hired Mrs. Garbe five years ago to be the center's first weaving teacher. "She looks like Grandma Moses and has the spirit of a 16-year-old," said Mrs. Remillard. "She's one of the most gifted needle-crafters I've ever met. And the seniors here love her."

Judges at the county and Maryland State Fair also enjoy her work. Not only has she won several first place awards for her weaving since her introduction into the fairs in the mid-'70s, but she's also been asked to demonstrate her techniques to hundreds of onlookers.

She uses her 45-inch loom to demonstrate sweater and rug crafting and her hands to demonstrate basket and chair weaving.

In addition to weaving, she has been recognized for her outstanding quilting technique. In 1976, she lent her talents to help create a bicentennial quilt, which hangs in the state Treasury Building in Annapolis.

But her incredible crafting talents don't stop there; she also does lacing. In 1986, "The Today Show" on NBC spotlighted her intricately weaved lace ornaments that were on display and being sold at the National Council on Aging's Art Gallery.

Mrs. Garbe's motto has helped make her art unique and recognized: "Use it, wear it, make it do or simply do without it." She saves every piece of old cloth, string or material she finds. One of her favorite objects is a rug she made out of rags she found in the attic after they'd sat in a box for years.

Mrs. Garbe, a member of ARACHNE Spinners Group and the Chesapeake Region Lace Guild, has conducted several workshops for weaving groups at her own home and has taught rug-making at the county's University of Maryland Extension Service site.

Like all artists, she says she has different periods of crafting. The 1960s she calls the Leatherworks Period, when she worked and created with leather. In the '70s she went through the Crewel Embroidery Stage and the '80s were devoted to the Lace Stage.

After almost 50 years of weaving, lacing and crafting, Mrs. Garbe has finally reached The Finishing Stage -- the period of wrapping up everything she's started, including a leather pocketbook she began in 1963.

"I just have to finish all the things I began. I don't want everything I know to die with me," she said. "And until I have used all that I know, I'll never go to another workshop again."

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