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Crafting in quarantine can help yourself and others

One retired teacher has rediscovered coloring books for adults. An online magazine publisher has pulled out and completed an old art project. A grounded flight attendant is quilting and knitting.

Besides spring cleaning and organizing everything in sight (well, maybe not everything), some Western New Yorkers are spending some of their time at home tackling DIY projects and, as some call it, crafting in quarantine.

Projects include:

Furniture refinishing: “I revived a strange old table I picked up six months ago by painting it using chalk paints,” Joanne Dobies Tanner said.

Organizing: “I’ve been organizing every closet and drawer,” Molly Sanders Clauss said.

And coloring: “I had a book I found in a cupboard with some pencils from about two years ago. It wasn’t something I went out and bought. It’s something I rediscovered,” Robert J. Kochanski said.

He finds coloring very relaxing as he listens to music or audio books.

“It occupies the mind and hand,” said Kochanski, a retired Buffalo English teacher and guidance counselor.

Joanne Dobies Tanner found some extra time to spruce up an old table with chalk paint. Shown: the table before, left, and after its transformation. (Photos courtesy Joanne Dobies Tanner)

Some people are making face masks at home to donate.  Some are helping in other ways.

"I have been making baskets of items I've collected for fundraisers for not-for-profits. Many of them are struggling and will need support when this is over," said Susan Grelick, legislative director and counsel to the New York State Senate and former Amherst town supervisor.

Buffalo resident Leslie Charlier, a flight attendant currently grounded, has been working on a “Quarantine Quilt” as a baby gift. Usually she knits either a pumpkin or strawberry hat as baby gifts, but finds herself with much more time on her hands.

She also has had more time to knit hats to donate to various organizations.

A "Quarantine Quilt" in the works. (Photo courtesy Leslie Charlier).

Molly Sanders Clauss, of Eggertsville, came up with an idea for reaching out to others:  She has been taking long walks and photographing the exteriors of her childhood friends’ homes.

Then she has been "reconnecting with those friends, who have long since moved away, by sending them the photo and sharing stories of what we remember about childhood sleepovers there,” she wrote on Facebook.

Of course those spending time primarily at home these days have varying degrees of free time for projects.

Many are now working from home.  Some of them – along with many others – also are helping their children with their online schooling.

Even those who have long worked at home are adapting and using newly found time for creative endeavors.

“Since I work from home, it’s mostly been business as usual for me. But in my free time, so many things I love to do, like comedy improv, have been canceled," said Connie Oswald Stofko, editor and publisher of Buffalo-Niagara Gardening, an online magazine for gardeners.

"So I did finish a craft project that I had set aside for months – a year, two years?" she said.

Stofko, an Amherst resident, described the project in an email: “It started out as a watercolor painting on canvas (I actually had some successes with that technique). When I started working on it again last week it was going to be a collage made with a rigid arrangement of blocks of paper and old Christmas cards and paint.

"It ended up very different. The old watercolor background shows faintly through red acrylic paint. Very free designs with bright red, black, white and gold acrylic paint are accented with a few bits of paper.

"I enjoyed working on it, and I liked it when it was done, too,” she wrote.

Connie Oswald Stofko's new red collage, left, is displayed with other past art projects. (Photo courtesy Connie Oswald Stofko)

Not feeling crafty?

Local interior designer Erin Kent came up with a few ideas for making use of extra time at home:

•  Declutter. "It's freeing, energizing, and can make you feel more calm in the space/home, especially during this stressful time," she said. (*See note below.)

Reorganize. "With so many of us working from home, why not organize the home office or work space? Bring in a pretty plant, flowers, art or family photos, items from travel," she said.

"Especially now, people are working virtually, having Zoom meetings, etc. Consider changing the back drop/surroundings that others will see behind you, during video meetings. Maybe it's rearranging a book case, or hanging a piece of artwork," Kent said.

Freshen up: "Rearrange current furniture layout – or change out pillows and accessories," she said.

"Little things without a large price tag can be done to improve our environment and functioning, and make us feel calmer in our homes," Kent said.

* Final note: While many people are finding time to clean out and organize their closets, basements and cabinets, here is a reminder to hold onto your castoffs, rather than leaving them outside collection bins and donation centers. Please read Samantha Christmann's story here.

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Do you have a photo of one of your own recent DIY home or craft projects? Please email it to Susan Martin at

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