I met Marlene Hoopingarner through the volunteer group Stitches of Hope. She is a fantastic knitter. She excels at other crafts too . I’ve appreciated her talent for producing quality caps that are given to cancer patients and other people who lose hair from cancer. It was a joy writing about her for Senior Living Magazine.
Marlene Hoopingarner of Bluffton
The hands of Marlene Hoopingarner, 75, are never still. Her Bluffton home is adorned with several large, complex-looking cross-stitch, needlework, knitting, and other projects she has made. All are finely done and belie the intensity and time demanded of them.
Throughout most of her life, Hoopingarner has shared her projects with relatives and friends. “I was one of a group of seven walkers when we lived in Markle,” she said. “They chose favorite cross stitch projects for me to make for each of their birthdays and I did them.”
Hoopingarner has also given her time and talents to people she will never meet. In between her cross stitch projects Hoopingarner has knit– another favorite craft of hers– 250 caps for the local volunteer group called Stitches of Hope (www.stitchesofhope1.blogspot.com). She joined the group when it began in 2008. “I thought I could knit a cap to help someone with cancer,” she said. “I also thought it would be a good way to meet people in the community and it has been.”
Besides all of her crafts that she shares with others, Marlene has also volunteered as church pianist and organist for 50 years. Growing up in Zanesville, she took piano lessons from Lorin Schwartz.
After graduating from East Union High School, Hoopingarner worked as a secretary for the Nipsco Company. During high school she worked at Richardson’s Grocery in Zanesville and continued working there after marrying Don Hoopingarner in 1955. The couple has two daughters, Shari and Pamela.
During the next several decades, Marlene worked at a succession of secretarial jobs, including Franke Park Elementary School in Fort Wayne (1967-1979) and Markle Medical Center (1979-1996). She retired in 1996.
Though busy as a mother and working, Marlene found time to work on crafts. “I made all of our children’s clothing and my own out of necessity,” she said. Later, she taught herself to quilt and estimates she has completed 20 projects by machine and hand stitching.
In the 1980s a co-worker introduced Hoopingarner to cross stitching. She fell in love with the intricate craft and tackles new projects to this day. In recent years she has delved into more complex projects. Her “Tulips in a Vase” cross stitch pattern used 90 colors of floss stitched on 14 count aida cloth. The rosy design hangs above the fireplace in her current home in Bluffton (the couple moved from Markle in 2007). Matted and framed, it measures 26 inches by 31 inches. It took her seven months to complete. A similar-sized spotted leopard cross stitch design took her six months to complete
Some of Hoopingarner’s other cross-stitch projects have included drawings by the artist Thomas Kincaid and Georgia O’Keefe. “At this point I cannot do any craft that seems easy to me,” she said. “It has to be a challenge requiring time and patience.”
With little access to stores that carry cross stitch patterns and supplies, Hoopingarner orders patterns online from England. Hoopingarner has completed 110 cross stitch projects.
Hoopingarner’s two newest crafts she has taught herself are needlework—using long and short stitches to create a picture – and card embroidery. “I love doing both of them,” she said. “I have made 40 cards and want to do more some day, but knitting and cross stitching takes most of my time.”
One craft Hoopingarner admitted she can not seem to master is crochet. “I tried it once and could not get the hang of it,” she said. “I like the way knitting looks so I’m content sticking with it.”
When she and Don head to Florida each winter, Marlene packs her knitting and cross stitch supplies to take with her. “A Michael’s Craft Store is located close to us so if I run out of something, I can purchase more,” she said.
Today, Hoopingarner looks at everything she does as a chance to give to others. “This is my way of sharing my talents,” she said. “Doing crafts and giving them away is a good way to use up spare time and it is great knowing you’re doing it for someone who needs them.”