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Curious boys find creativity in crochet

Sunday, March 17, 2002

By Mary Klaus, The Associated Press

HARRISBURG -- With crochet hooks in their hands, yarn on their laps and smiles on their faces, the nine pupils surrounding "Aunt Betty" worked on their afghans with the dedication of artists striving to create masterpieces.

Using plastic crochet hooks, they gently pulled the colorful yarn through chain stitches over and over again. As their afghans grew, their teacher, Betty Himes, beamed in approval.

The nine "Super Loopers," three sets of brothers and one friend, fashion potholders and pencil holders, covers and caps as easily as they hit a baseball, kick a soccer ball or dribble a basketball.

"I've been knitting and crocheting most of my life," said Himes of Lower Paxton. "I taught myself how to do it and have been at it ever since. Now, I'm teaching these boys."

The Super Loopers, ranging from 8 to 13, all live in Lower Paxton. Most are home-schooled.

Himes said she never planned to sponsor an all-boys crocheting club.

"When I was making a large afghan last summer, one of my neighbors, Travis Gelbaugh, would stop in every day to see how big it was," she said, adding that the 9-year-old boy became so interested he asked her to teach him how to crochet.

"So I gave him blue and white yarn and a crochet hook, then showed him what to do," she said. "Within an hour's time, he had picked it up."

Travis said crocheting seemed difficult at first, then he mastered the skill.

"I decided to make an afghan for my parents," he said. "So I got red, green and beige yarn, and Aunt Betty showed me how to make a ripple afghan. I started it on Oct. 15 and finished it by Dec. 1."

He said he couldn't wait to give the afghan to his parents for Christmas.

"I sneaked it into the house through my window," he said. "Then I hid it. I was so anxious for them to see it that I gave it to them Christmas Eve after Mass. They were very surprised and liked it."

His 12-year-old brother, Todd, was the next boy bitten with the crocheting bug.

He said that Aunt Betty taught him how to crochet a peach and lavender ripple afghan.

"Now, I have two other afghans in the works," he said. "I've also made baby caps. I've tried knitting, but like crocheting better because it's easier and goes faster."

Anthony Gelbaugh, their 8-year-old brother, likes doing chain stitches to decorate items, while Taren Gelbaugh, their 13-year-old brother, started with potholders then graduated to crocheting an afghan.

"Our dad teased us that this is for girls," Taren said. "But Aunt Betsy told us about Rosey Grier, a football player who did needlepoint. Even our grandpa is going to learn to crochet."

Cousins of the Gelbaugh boys --Richard "Roo" Szeles, 9, and Kevin Szeles, 8 -- soon joined the Super Loopers.

"Here's my first afghan," said Richard, showing a pretty afghan in purple, blue and white. "I wasn't sure I wanted to do this, but it's fun. Everyone teases me because sometimes I drop the crochet hook between the sofa cushions and lose it!" His brother, Kevin, the newest member of the group, said he was having fun learning, as were Christyan DeVan; 10; his brother, Aaron DeVan, 8; and friend, Seth Bird, 12, Betty Himes' godchild.

"I often work with just one or two of the boys at a time," Himes said. "This gives the boys quiet time. While they're here, we talk about everything from families to growing up."

Himes, who estimates that she has made at least 40 afghans in her life, laughed when asked if her own two grown sons crochet.

"No, they don't," she said. "But crocheting and knitting aren't just limited to women."

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