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Saturday, Aug. 1, 2015

Surgeon's fingers find outlet in crocheting

Friday, April 4, 2014

(Sentinel Photos by Amy Erickson) Dr. Mark Stelzer enjoys crocheting afghans, which he generally gives to family members. He donated this afghan to the Floyd Valley Hospital Auxiliary for a raffle item. Stelzer also likes tatting -- a technique using a series of knots and loops to make decorative pieces (inset) -- in his free time. To purchase this photo, log on to www.lemarssentinel.com.
LE MARS -- Dr. Mark Stelzer's grandmother taught him to crochet.

The Le Mars man was in high school at the time.

"I wasn't very good at it," Stelzer said with a grin.

He has perfected his art for most of the last 40 years, Stelzer said.

During that time, he has made afghans for family members including baby blankets for his grandchildren.

"It's something their grandpa made," Stelzer said. "I think that's pretty special."

He's also made larger afghans for his wife, his daughter and his daughters-in-law.

"It's a warm blanket and they use them," Stelzer said.

He's never sold his afghans, but he recently donated one to the Floyd Valley Hospital Auxiliary.

The auxiliary is using it as a raffle item to raise dollars for its projects.

Stelzer's interest in crocheting led to other crafty hobbies such as cross-stitch and tatting.

Tatting is using a series of knots and loops around a core string to make decorative pieces.

"Tatting is really rare," Stelzer said. "It's not quite a lost art, but it's pretty rare."

He learned how to do tatting in the mid-1980s under the tutelage of the late Margaret Peters, Stelzer said.

He shared a memory from those lessons.

"She was showing me these knots and said 'You catch on pretty quickly,'" Stelzer recalled. "I laughed and said 'Margaret I tie knots for a living.'"

Stelzer is a surgeon at Floyd Valley Hospital and other area facilities.

He thinks his work as a surgeon helped him catch on to tatting more easily than others.

"As a surgeon I know how to toss knots and I know what they do," Stelzer said.

Even with that advantage, he said tatting is a challenge to master.

"It's easy to make a mistake and it's so unforgiving," Stelzer said. "If you do it wrong, you might as well start over."

He's created everything from simple designs to complicated ones through the years.

"I have made Christmas ornaments," Stelzer said. "We have one whole tree that is pretty much all tatted stuff."

He agreed that males like himself who do crochet or tatting are rare.

However, there are other men locally such as Byron Bulthuis who crochet.

"He does all kinds of beautiful things," Stelzer said.

Some have asked Stelzer if tying all those knots helps keep his fingers nimble for surgery.

"Yeah, maybe but so does everything else," he said.

For him, crocheting and tatting are simply hobbies he enjoys.

"I think mostly I like that it looks nice and I get a positive response when I do it," Stelzer said.

He doesn't plan to stop anytime soon.

"I will probably keep making them as long as I can," Stelzer said. "It's fun."

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