Challenge accepted: Annual snowflake event before Heikinpäivä

Zack Osborne, left, Enid Partika and Rena Goldman work on their projects for the annual Snowflake Challenge and learn how to use the pre-20th century technology of hand-cranked sewing machines Friday. Ginger Alberti stands by to offer instructions or help if needed.

HANCOCK — For those who need a reminder, Heikinpäivä, the annual celebration of mid-winter, is scheduled to kick off later this month. Along with the annual celebration will be Sew Cranky’s annual Snowflake Challenge.

Ginger Alberti, who owns Sew Cranky with her husband, Michael, is also a member of the Heikinpäivä planning committee, said the Snowflake Challenge is a celebration of snowflakes.

The Snowflake Challenge, which Ginger Alberti said is an opportunity for people to use an antique, hand-crank sewing machine, which is very easy to operate, and design a snowflake pattern from their own imagination.

For $3, the cost of materials, people can come into the shop which has dozens of antique sewing machines available to use, Alberti said. The materials include an eight-inch-square of black felt. The felt has markings on it for six points and a center point.

“From there, you dream up your snowflake,” she said, “imaginary or as real as you imagine you can be.”

The snowflakes will then be judged, she said, after Valentine’s Day, in mid-February.

They are judged on authenticity and accuracy which, she said, is one category, the other being creativity. Four winners will be chosen.

They are very difficult things to judge, said Alberti. Will Cantrell, associate provost and Dean of the Graduate School and professor, Physics. Graduate School, Michigan Tech, does the judging.

Creating the snowflakes is a drop-in project, said Alberti, and people are welcome any time during business hours, 1 to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday. If a group of people is planning to come in, she requests a phone call in advance.

“It doesn’t hurt to give me a call ahead,” she said, “and give me a heads-up.”

Three people worked on snowflakes Friday afternoon. Rena Goldman, of Houghton, said she is learning how to sew and just enjoying the project, but she is already quite skilled.

Alberti said that Goldman sews skirts, aprons, and also makes doll clothing.

Enid Partika, a doctoral student at Michigan Technological University, was also busy making a snowflake.

“I don’t really know how to sew,” she said with a chuckle, “so, I’m here just learning how to sew.”

Partika is an accomplished, formally trained classical violinist, and anyone who visited the Cold Season Farmer’s Market at the Orpheum Theater on Thursday heard her perform on stage.

Zack Osborne, educator, local business owner and organizer of the Cold Season Farmer’s Market, where he is a vendor, was also working on a snowflake.

Osborne said he learned of the challenge at the market, where Alberti is also a vendor.

“That’s one of the fringe benefits of the Farmer’s Market,” he said. “It’s not just in what people are selling, but also in the services that they offer, and that’s kind of what these connections do.”


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