By Dale McGarrigle
Special to The Weekly
Crafts have long been an escape for Cristina Anderson.
For more than five decades, the Bangor woman has made the time to create.
“Doing this is the most relaxing thing,” she explained. “I really, really enjoy it.”
The latest love of Anderson, who is a teacher in the Bangor school system, is crocheted, felted baskets.
Anderson designs largely by whim. “I love to work with color. I don’t follow any patterns; I follow by instincts as I’m doing it. I find this very liberating. Working in an environment without a lot of rules … this is complete freedom and I love it.”
She starts by crocheting the basket out of yarn which is largely wool, and that can take two to three hours. When she has stockpiled several baskets, she will felt them, putting them in very hot water in the washing machine, along with other items, such as old sneakers or jeans, or place them inside a pillowcase, to create friction.
Next she rinses the baskets and wrings out the excess water, then begins to shape them. When she’s content with a basket, she will place a plastic bag stuffed with paper inside it to keep its shape and let it dry. At some point, she will turn over the basket so the bottom can dry as well.
Anderson enjoys making sets of baskets in complementary colors. She also creates crocheted and felted hats and felted handbags and wallets.
Although the felted pieces are something that Anderson only began doing about five years ago, she has been crocheting since the age of 7.
“I enjoy working with colors, touching the yarn, looking at fabric and seeing the potential,” she said. “I love that.”
While Anderson has been crocheting since her childhood, sewing couture handbags happened by chance about 25 years ago.
“I had a piece of fabric that I had no use for, and I thought, ‘This will look great as a handbag,’“ she recalled.
Anderson doesn’t know how to use a sewing machine, so all her handbags are stitched by hand.
“I like the old-fashioned way, the stitching, the precision,” she said.
To better learn the craft, Anderson has bought and taken apart several old purses, and incorporates vintage fabrics into her new evening bags.
Anderson couldn’t even estimate how many hours it takes for her to produce a handbag. She mostly gives them away as gifts for special occasions.
“I want to create a product that is well done and lasting, so I put lots of stitches in them,” she said.
Anderson is just beginning to market her wares more seriously through her Pelican House Crafts
business in the last couple of years.
“I’ve always liked to attend craft fairs, and now I think there would be a niche for me,” she said.
On Dec. 7, she will bring her felted creations, along with a few handbags, to the Page Farm and Home Museum on the University of Maine campus in Orono, her last craft show of the holiday season.
Anderson largely is focusing on the felted baskets these days, because “the reward is more
instantaneous. Also crocheting is more portable when I go places.”
For more information, visit etsy.com/shop/PelicanHouse or email PelicanHouseCrafts@gmail.com.