Craig resident rediscovers crocheting despite blindness
Marie Switzer is blind. Life, however, hasn’t always been in darkness for the 87-year-old Craig resident.
About 10 years ago, when macular degeneration and glaucoma started to take hold, progressively limiting Marie’s sight, she had to give up much of what she once loved.
“She used to do all kinds of crafts,” said Cathy Rogers, a Craig resident and Switzer’s former caretaker. “We had all kinds of different things that she made — Christmas ornaments and earrings and tons of crafting stuff.
“She was kind of sad to get rid of that stuff because she couldn’t really use it any more.”
But, that all changed for Marie one day at her apartment in Sunset Meadows II.
Marie found she could manage to do one thing she truly loved — a lifelong hobby she had once dismissed as impossible by her condition.
While she concedes it is a relatively ordinary craft for most, to her, it is a saving grace.
“I can’t read, I can’t watch TV, I can’t do the things that ordinary people do without thinking anything of it,” she said.
It was several years after going blind that Marie decided on a whim to pick up her yarn and hook again.
“She didn’t let it down,” the 47-year-old Cathy said. “We had to put Band-Aids on her fingers because she was crocheting so much that her fingers were getting blisters.”
Marie said she is extremely grateful to have rediscovered the hobby.
“I wanted to do something and I finally decided I would try crocheting,” she said. “That is a real simple stitch that I can do. I can count the stitches — it is what they call the granny squares.”
However, Cathy shares a different sentiment.
“She says it is simple, but for someone like me who can see, it is not simple,” she said. “She knows what she is doing so she just whips right through it.”
Marie was born in 1923 in Aberdeen, S.D., and moved to Craig in 1949.
“I have done a little bit of everything, really,” she said. “I worked in the dime store, I worked in a clothing store, I tended bar, I worked at the power plant in the office in the warehouse.”
Marie said one of the more memorable times in her life was while working as a pipe welder stationed in Portland during World War II.
Marie was once married, but after 10 years her husband died of a heart attack.
She started crocheting in her 20s, and at the time, she didn’t realize it would be a lifelong hobby.
Her mother, who went blind in her 70s, crocheted but didn’t teach her daughter. Marie didn’t pick up the yarn and hook until she left home. Until then, she was simply uninterested.
But, that changed.
“I saw somebody doing it and it was so pretty, and I decided I wanted to,” she said.
Now, her drive to create ornate and intricate afghans has been replaced by the simple joy of continuing the hobby.
“I can’t do anything intricate anymore, it is just really simple,” she said. “It is a really simple thing to do, but for me, I have got to really concentrate. I can’t sit and talk and do it.”
When Marie crochets, she is able to create a mental picture of the project through feeling the yarn with the tips of her fingers.
“She has to be able to feel where the holes are to be able to attach everything,” Cathy said. “I think they are just awesome.”
Marie said she has made several afghans for friends and family, each one a little different from the other. She also hopes to start making blankets for those in need.
“I decided I better get my family crocheted for first and then when I get them finished I am going to go back and do some for the disabled veterans,” she said.
Despite crocheting and crafting for more than 60 years, Marie’s experience in teaching the art is more limited. Much like she once was, her daughters and granddaughters haven’t yet been interested in picking up the hobby.
There were times when she would visit her mother when she was blind, and the two would sit together while Marie crocheted.
She didn’t think to reach over and place a hook and yarn in her mother’s hand. She wishes she would have, though.
“But, she is going to teach me,” Cathy said with a smile.
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