Coraopolis Memorial Library program attracts knitters young and old

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

When the Coraopolis Memorial Library was looking for someone to run a knitting group, board member Mark Strub knew who to call.

Marge Connelly had given private lessons to borough residents, including Strub's children, for decades.

In its fourth year, the weekly Knit and Crochet with Miss Marge program is a big draw, library director Susan McClellan said.

With Connelly volunteering her time to the library to provide free instruction and materials, adults and children meet for 90 minutes on Saturday mornings to work on projects they choose. Anyone can participate.

Crafts are available for children too young to knit.

Members, who range from beginners to previous crafters who want to refresh their skills, make socks, scarves and other items.

Deb Shaffer and her daughter, Sara Ilnicki, 4, of Coraopolis are among the six to 18 people who participate regularly. Shaffer said Connelly is “very understanding. She'll fix everything you screw up.”

“Marge is patient and kind,” McClellan said.

Connelly, 58, encourages knitters to work at their own pace during the sessions, which start at 10 a.m. on Saturdays in the library on School Street.

“I tell them if they're working on something at home and don't know what to do, put it back in the bag and bring it back to me,” said Connelly, who is self taught. She started knitting in her 20s, when her grandmother gave her an instruction book, and made hundreds of wash cloths before advancing to a five-color Nordic sweater.

Sara Ilnicki, the youngest participant in her group, enjoyed making a potholder with a loom, as well as a bracelet for a friend and necklaces for her grandmother.

“Miss Marge is sweet,” Sara said.

Mike Ilnicki, Sara's father, also participates.

“Deb does embroidery and Mike, latch hooking,” Connelly said. “Everybody's doing something different.”

Tess Strub, 13, of Coraopolis likes picking up tips from fellow members.

“It's nice learning new things and seeing what other people are doing,” said Tess Strub, who has received in-home instruction from Connelly, as well.

Members also enjoy socializing.

“Someone asked a question (about a personal matter), and everybody had input,” said Connelly, who works full time as a pharmacist for a mail-order drug company. “Someone else had a plumbing problem, and suggestions were offered about that.”

Connelly said she wants to teach children how to give to others by making their own gifts, an experience that becomes more meaningful than buying items. For her sessions, she uses coupons to buy supplies at low cost.

Connelly's niece, Chris Napolitano, 31, of Coraopolis assists at the group meetings. “I'm very proud of my aunt,” Napolitano said. “She has a wonderful, giving heart.”

Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.

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