NEIGHBORHOOD NOTES | Get a warm cinnamon roll for breakfast at St. Helena’s Christmas Boutique Nov. 12

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Head over to the St. Helena Craft Fair, Bake Sale and Christmas Boutique on Saturday, Nov. 12 for a warm cinnamon roll before venturing out to the rest of the Nokomis Craft Crawl.

“Relax close to home, see what is out there, meet your neighbors, hang out, and maybe get some ideas yourself for future projects,” encourages Lisa Gonzalez, who will be selling her hand-crocheted hats, funky fingerless mitts and more.

“It is a great way to get your Christmas shopping done in one swoop with original and unique gifts. This is our 29th year and each year there are returning favorites and some new crafters and artisans. We also will have awesome food available.”

This is one of the school’s major fundraisers. It is hosted by the school’s eighth grade students, who have a table and sell items they make, pointed out Gonzalez. They also retain the proceeds from the food sales; homemade cinnamon rolls, continental breakfast and lunch that will be served all day. The students keep a portion of the proceeds to pay for a year-end trip, often to a place like Valleyfair. The rest they donate to the school’s general fund.

What makes St. Helena School different?
Lisa: We are a very small, K-8 neighborhood school and most of our student population is very diverse –  culturally, socially, and economically. There is one classroom for each grade and the students are more like an extended family than a student body. I grew up in a small rural community and even my elementary school was not as connected as the children and families at St. Helena. All the kids know each other, regardless of what grade they are in. Right now, we are struggling, along with many of the families who send their children to the school. St. Helena Church and School helps out people people facing difficult times. Approximately 43% of the school families are receiving some financial assistance so their children can continue to attend school there. It is my understanding that about one third of the families who send their children to St. Helena are having employment and/or financial issues due to this economy. My family is one of those – I was laid off in January and have been looking for a full time position ever since! The Principal and Staff at St. Helena have been very supportive and the school has been one steadfast element of my kids’ lives for which I am very grateful. It has always been part of the Catholic tradition to help out every one and to make it better for everybody one at a time; this is a real world example of applying that philosophy.

Why are you participating in the Christmas Boutique?
Lisa: This is my first year as a crafter at the Christmas Boutique and Craft Fair. While I have been wanting to participate for a long time, this is the first time I have had the opportunity to crochet enough items at once to present at the Fair. I donated some items to our Autumn Daze Festival and they sold very well, so that encouraged me to participate in this event. I am a freelance crochet and knit designer and in the past I only sold original patterns. This is my first experience selling actual handmade items. I also teach crochet and knit, offer original design services, and have an Etsy shop and blog. I’m hoping to bring a little attention to those services through the Christmas Boutique. My neighbor and I will be sharing a table. She knits and I crochet so we are hoping to compliment each other.

What sorts of item will you have for sale?
Lisa: I’m focusing on accessories for now – hats, scarfs, a couple purses, and fingerless mitts, which seem popular with young-at-hearts. I have only one-of-a-kind items and consider each item to be “artwear” instead of ” a hat” or “a scarf.” I make what I feel like making and my pieces often possess a more rustic or dramatic feel. I very much like to use bulky yarns and unusual color combinations. Because of the time commitment and creative process, hand made items need to be priced higher than mass market, machine made pieces from overseas. I know that people don’t usually want to spend several hundred dollars for a sweater, so I will offer them a unique hat for $35, or a pair of funky fingerless mitts for $15.

Why do you crochet?
Lisa: My mom, an avid knitter, taught me to crochet when I was 11 (I think). My sister is also a crocheter. My 11 year old daughter prefers to knit. I knit also, but not to the extent I crochet. I very much enjoy teaching it also as a way to decompress and to bring out creativity in people who don’t consider themselves creative. Even if you only have one small ball of leftover yarn, you can make something useful out of it and feel good about the fact that you turned string into a cozy or a potholder. Handmade encompasses more than just the pragmatism of the thing it is – it is the embodiment of effort, creativity, and a little piece of the people who make it and receive it. When I make a gift for some one, I think of that person whenever I am working on their gift and it gives me a chance to consider how I appreciate them and what is special about them.

St. Helena School is located at 3200 East 44th Street in Minneapolis. The craft fair will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Crafters who wish to participate should call Sheila at 612-729-9301.

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