Renae Stassen often sees her handiwork hanging on someone's shoulder or wrapped around a little one.
"It's rewarding to see someone out and about with one of my blankets," Stassen said, adding she thinks, "'Yes! Someone's using it.'"
There's a lot of Stassen's work around because the compulsive crafter gives away the things she sews and crochets to good causes, like Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center, hospice and Power of the Purse.
Renae Stassen doesn’t just sew to sew — she donates a lot of her creations as her way to give to the community.
"I like giving back a little," she said.
It's her way of honoring the ones who taught her the skills: her mother, Joyce Sorbel; aunt, Lucille Wendorf; and grandmother, Mamie Saxton.
"Most of it, I do it in memory of all them for teaching me all this cool stuff," Stassen said. "My mom, my aunt and my grandma encouraged me and pretty much taught me."
Stassen remembers her mother sewing all her clothes until "I learned how to sew in home-ec class, probably around seventh grade," she said. "Growing up, I remember her sewing a lot.
"I was giving blankets to the hospice house," Stassen added. "My mom was on hospice care and I did it every year in memory of her."
Memories are powerful things for Stassen.
"I have the box where Grandma saved all her apron and dress scraps," said Stassen, who is making the scraps into a quilt in the "Grandma's Flower Garden" pattern. "My grandma taught me a lot about gardening and my mom gave me (grandma's) gardening hat.
"As often as I can, I sneak into my sewing room," she said. "I don't do as much in the summer because I have my garden and that's my other therapy."
Her aunt taught her to crochet a ripple pattern when she was in high school "and if I didn't do it right, she'd rip it out," Stassen said.
She learned well and now can't put it down.
"I can't just sit," she admitted. "I've tried, it just doesn't work."
She crochets while she watches TV, she crochets in the pick-up "when we're delivering cattle for hours on end," said Stassen, who runs Stassen's Angus Farm with her husband, Dan.
Plenty of people benefit from Stassen's creativity.
"I didn't realize the hospital was giving a blanket and hat to every newborn. It's hard to comprehend some people had nothing to take the baby home in other than the diaper," said Stassen, who remembers what a big deal it was to pick out a fancy outfit for her children to wear home.
"At church, I do the baptism blankets," she said. "Every baby at our church that's baptized gets a patchwork blanket.
"I'm on the quilt committee at church, too," said Stassen who attends St. Stephen Lutheran. The projects are donated to missions, families in need and wherever else they can be used.
When Fabrics Plus sponsored a pillow case challenge to benefit Western Community Action, Stassen contributed her talent so the kids would have a distinctive pillow case of their own and because she'd heard some foster kids use pillow cases to carry their belongings from one place to another.
Her concern for children extends to supporting their education.
Her grommet bags were featured in the spring Power of the Purse event sponsored by the Women United for Early Childhood to benefit Imagination Library, which gives free books to children ages birth to five years.
"Power of the Purse is one thing I really believe in," she said. "I already picked out a purse pattern for next year. It's cute."
Her grandsons are in the program. "They love getting the books every month. James, 3, has his own little bookshelf."
Xavier is only six months old, but "he likes to sit by big brother" and listen to the books being read, Stassen said. Their father is Stassen's son Ben, who is grateful to get new reading material.
"My son said it's nice you don't have to read the same story the next month," Stassen said.
Her children picked up the reading habit from her.
"My kids still talk about the books I read to them," she said. "I got them at the grocery store and I still have them; some of their favorites.
"Reading is really important," Stassen said. "I think young children do better in school if they learn how to read at a young age."
She would like to see more kids get into craftwork and pointed out Fabrics Plus has classes.
"The interest is coming back in making things. It's not a lost art yet," Stassen said. "Anything we can do to encourage them, instead of being in front of the TV."
Her oldest grandson, Dylan, now 13, showed an interest in the past and asked her to teach him to crochet. "That was when he lived closer. He lives by Lake Benton now, so I don't see him often enough."
Stassen would like to see more people take up needles and crochet hooks.
"Maybe people would slow down," she said. "have a more saner community."