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Wednesday, Sep 20, 2017
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Fiber art brings women's group together

LUTZ - Every Tuesday morning, a dozen women rendezvous in rural Lutz for their fiber fix. It's not dietary needs that lure them, unless you count homemade goat cheese and other snacks prepared by hostess Pat Riesenburger. Women who were strangers before Riesenburger founded the North Tampa Fiber Arts Guild in the fall surround a large table and create fiber art projects – including knitting, crocheting, weaving and making felt. In Riesenburger's Urban Stitch Studio fronting her home, the slow process of doing embroidery or crocheting afghans sometimes takes a back seat to camaraderie, conversation and recipe swapping.
A modern electronic bulletin board united the women who practice the ancient arts. "It's matchmaking for friends," Riesenburger said of the Meetup website used to announce her interest group. "Within hours of posting this group, we started getting members," she said. "I looked for a group I could join, and there wasn't one," said Riesenburger, a Philadelphia native who grew up in Sarasota and moved here in 1985. She was a divorce lawyer for six years. "That was enough," she said. Now she works daily in her studio creating art, including her specialty, fiber jewelry with Swarovski Crystal. Other times she is an instructor, traveling to fiber and bead shows throughout the country. Members range in age from their 20s to 70s and come from near and far, for different reasons. "All women have a need to create," said Donna Marousis of Odessa. "What suits me and quiets my mind is knitting," she said as she made stocking caps for homeless people. "I come here just because it's a fun group," said Peggy Bamford of Lutz. "For me it's fellowship with people that have like interests," added Lynn Geng of Wesley Chapel. That's why Meryl Bohlin of Valrico joined. "It's very stimulating to your creativity to see other people doing things you're interested in or things that spark something in you, even though not everyone is doing the same thing," she said as she crocheted an afghan destined to be a wedding present. "It's also a relaxed atmosphere," said the former Northdale resident who, like Marousis, brought a lap dog to the meeting. "I've made good friends here," said Bobbe Alden of Carrollwood. On this day she is accompanied by daughter Victoria, visiting from Boston to assist mom, who "stepped off a ladder the wrong way," breaking her left leg in two places. A wheelchair and the immovable brace she will need for 12 weeks have not deterred her attendance. Marsha Fisher admires the studio's ambiance and the woodsy environment outside its windows. "I think there's a relaxation here that takes over," said the Carrollwood resident. "You can come here all stressed, but when you leave, you feel relaxed; you feel like you've been in therapy." Kay Spence of Carrollwood jokes that she comes only for the cheese Riesenburger puts out, made of milk from three goats penned at the rear of the large property, which also has chickens and four big dogs. In addition to the four-hour Tuesday sessions beginning at 10 a.m., an evening session is held from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the second Wednesday of each month to accommodate working women. Membership is free, but the group provides non-monetary benefits to Riesenburger who founded the guild after changes in the direction of her business reduced access to fellow fabric artists. "I was having a lot less interaction with creative people, and working in very solitary fashion in my studio every day," she said. Now, every week she is guaranteed a roomful of artists – who have become new-found friends. "I've been astounded how well it's worked out, and all of the wonderful women I've met through the group," Riesenburger said. "It's getting to know each other beyond the superficial level. We share the stories of our lives." IF YOU GO WHAT: North Tampa Fiber Arts Guild WHEN: Meets 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays; 6:30 to 9 p.m., second Wednesday of each month WHERE: Lutz (residence address provided to members) COST: Free membership INFORMATION: www.urbanstitchstudio.com

gwilkens@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7124

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