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Pandemic projects: Family finds joy in crafting together

Caryn Alley, center, and her daughters, Andrea Alley, back, and Alison Sok, right, are shown Dec. 29 with some of the many art projects they completed in 2020 at Caryn’s home in Spokane.  (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Caryn Alley, center, and her daughters, Andrea Alley, back, and Alison Sok, right, are shown Dec. 29 with some of the many art projects they completed in 2020 at Caryn’s home in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Cindy Hval For The Spokesman-Review

When the mask mandate began, Caryn Alley got busy.

“I’ve sewn all my life, and I had a closet full of fabric, so I started making masks,” she said. “Elastic was the hard thing to find.”

She’s sewn and given away untold numbers of masks and she’s still making them, however, mask-making didn’t put much of a dent in her fabric stash, so she started making blankets. And lap quilts. And table runners.

Her daughter Andrea Alley lives with her, and had earned a master’s degree in education in January. She’d just started subbing when schools closed.

“Mom was in her sewing room all day,” Andrea said.

So, Andrea decided to use her unexpected free time to get crafty. A Facebook group: DIY Dollar Tree sparked ideas. Lots of ideas.

The group is all about turning inexpensive finds into home décor and gift items. She made clothespins wreaths in three sizes, for every season. Placemats turned into throw pillows. Cookie sheets and pizza pans were transformed into wall art.

“I spent a lot of money at the Dollar Store,” Andrea said, laughing.

When the weather warmed, she kept her three kids busy collecting and painting rocks. The brightly-colored whimsical stones, now line the driveway of her mother’s home.

“I also spent a lot of money on spray paint,” she said. “But I loved having the time to do this. As a single working mom I’m usually too busy to have time for my hobbies.”

Meanwhile, Caryn began making yarn-on-plastic Christmas tree ornaments. She has a TV in her sewing room, so she kept her hands busy while she watched Hallmark channel movies.

“It takes a whole Hallmark movie to make one ornament,” she said. “I made a lot of them, so you know I watched a lot of Hallmarks!”

The crafting gene didn’t skip her daughter Allison Sok, who lives just two houses away. Allison created Nativity sets made of sea shells.

“I lived in the Marshall Islands for six years and learned to make them there,” she said.

Though some shells can’t be taken from the islands, Allison still amassed quite a collection, and made dozens of the delicate Nativities.

“I love doing crafts with my mom and sister,” she said. “When we’re together we get a lot more done. We motivate each other. It’s good to keep your hands busy.”

When Andrea began making T-shirts and decorative wood blocks, they soon had more crafts than they could give away.

“So many people love to go to craft fairs, and there were none,” Caryn said.

That’s when they decided to host a small neighborhood craft fair with appropriate social distancing rules in place for friends and family in early November.

They were delighted to share their crafts with others, but even more glad to have had this time of creativity together.

“It was fun to see my daughters get excited about crafts and hobbies,” said Caryn. “It gave us something to focus on besides negativity.”

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