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Cancer survivor starts Christmas Crafts for Cure

Recorder/Paul Franz
Jennie Markens and Maryellen Cranston with hand made ornaments at the Cranston’s Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield that will be sold to raise money for cancer research.

Recorder/Paul Franz Jennie Markens and Maryellen Cranston with hand made ornaments at the Cranston’s Christmas Tree Farm in Ashfield that will be sold to raise money for cancer research. Purchase photo reprints »

ASHFIELD — A week before Thanksgiving, the Cranston Christmas Tree Farm already has its “state champion” Christmas tree ensconsed in the tree farm gift shop. But this year’s tree is filled with handmade ornaments that will be sold to raise money to fight cancer.

“Christmas Crafts for the Cure” is a new fundraiser started by Maryellen Cranston and artist Jennie Markens to raise money to fight cancer by selling handmade ornaments.

Most of the crocheted snowflakes, knitted wreaths and beribboned globes will be made by a group of women — the “ANTS” — which is short for “Ashfield Needles and Threads.”

Ashfield Needles and Threads was formed to teach, learn and enjoy handcrafts “involving the creation or repair of household goods and clothing,” according to member Irene Branson.

“We aim to increase local autonomy, sustainability, creativity and redistribution of materials, clothes and have fun,” she said.

In the past, the group has made cloth grocery bags for use and reuse at Elmer’s Store. They have also hosted clothing swaps so that someone’s unwanted used clothing could go to someone who could use it.

Markens has been making felted, embroidered ornaments since childhood, and her Christmas tree is entirely decorated with hand-made ornaments.

Cranston says she got the idea for an ornament fundraiser when she and her husband, Seth, first saw Markens’ decorated tree last Christmas.

“Seth always says he never gets to see the finished product,” Cranston explained, because they don’t see the Christmas trees they sell done up in lights and tinsel.

Cranston said she had just passed her three-year anniversary since her cancer diagnosis and wanted to celebrate her good outcome by giving back to others.

When she saw Markens’ decorated tree, she thought of an ornament fundraiser. “When I shared my vision, (Markens) and I were able to get it off the ground,” said Cranston.

The tree on which the ornaments are displayed won the state championship award at the Big E this year, and came in as a “reserve champion” — or second place among all the trees ranked for New England.

This year’s ornaments will be sold at the Cranston Tree Farm at a price range of between $3 to 12. Cranston says 100 percent of the proceeds will go to a local organization, such as Rays of Hope or the Cancer Connection. The goal is to raise $1,000.

But next year, Markens is planning to offer ornament-making classes, teaching the crafters patterns that she has designed and copywrited. She also plans to teach them how to design their own ornaments.

On Sunday, at 2:30 p.m. Ashfield Needles and Threads will be meeting at the First Congregational Church on Main Street to bring in finished ornaments and to work on new ones.

So far, said Cranston, she has sold $90 worth of ornaments to the “taggers” who have come to the tree farm early to pick out their Christmas trees on the farm.

For more information, call 413- 628-0090.

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
dbronc@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261, ext. 277

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