Making cards and memories with friends
November 1, 2023 | View PDF
"Oh!" I said looking around at the ladies. "Did I tell you that I'm going to be a grandma?" A jumble of congratulatory words followed as well as comments and stories about grandmas and grandchildren. We were a group of ten women sitting around tables having a "card party" at our little local church in Slana back in November 2005. Conversation flowed freely at these once-a-month, all day affairs. We weren't playing pinochle or poker-we were making greeting cards.
I had attended my first session a year earlier just out of curiosity, and then watched with interest as the ladies cut and folded paper, pressed stamps into ink pads, and designed, cut and glued a variety of greeting cards, each one as different as the creator. One lady used an embossing gun while another used a moose punch to make cute cut-outs for an Alaskan themed card. I fell in love with the moose punch and spent the rest of the evening punching out moose of all colors.
What a pleasant surprise a month later for Christmas, when my future daughter-in-law gave me a few card-making supplies, including an embossing gun. But since my husband and I had become "snowbirds", I had to wait months for our return to Slana to learn how to use them.
Once home, I learned the evening parties had changed to daytime affairs including lunch. At the next session I had high hopes for great results, but it took me all day to make two cards. The following month's get together I managed to finish four. After that I quickly adopted the Henry Ford assembly line style and jumped my production to ten cards all of the same design.
At the time, I was sending around 100 cards a year to parents, children, siblings and extended family including nieces, nephews and their spouses, and great nieces and nephews. Mostly birthday and anniversary, but other occasions as well. Since the closest grocery stores that sold greeting cards were more than an hour away, either north in Tok or south in Glennallen, making cards was not only economical, but convenient as well.
Some ladies created one-of-a-kind masterpieces, while others used samples for models and copied each other's ideas. We all agreed that copying was perfectly acceptable and a form of appreciation for the talent of others.
At the beginning of most card parties ,a new design, piece of equipment or technique was shown and explained. Then everyone worked on their own projects, but with lots of help and conversation from friends. Comments and questions about colors, design and technique mingled in with catching up on community news. Newcomers were always welcome and many were "hooked" during their very first session.
At every card party, there was a wonderful selection of stamps-birthday, anniversary, thank you, thinking-of-you, baby, Alaskan-and all colors of ink, as well as numerous "punch" shapes, ribbons and other embellishments. Many supplies were given to the church and some were garage sale finds. Our pastor's sister, a Stamping Up instructor in Connecticut, donated some of her line of products and shared techniques with us during her occasional visits to Slana. During the early years, we each contributed $5 a month to buy more glue, paper and envelopes.
Every party began with setting two 6-foot tables end to end for work space at the back of the church, and turning the last row of "pew" chairs around to hold all the boxes of supplies. We'd start around 10 a.m., but ladies came and went all day long as their schedules allowed. In the summer, it was surprising how fast I could get my bed and breakfast responsibilities accomplished in order not to miss out on the fun.
At noon, we'd take a break and have soup, bread and dessert. Then we'd work until 3:30 p.m. By that time we'd created quite a mess, so it took about half an hour to pack up the supply boxes, vacuum, and put the tables and chairs back in order. Before going our separate ways, we'd choose a date for the next party and decide who would bring food.
I've only read about old fashioned quilting bees, of course, but in my mind, when the Slana ladies gathered for card making, our parties seemed similar -six to ten women getting together to talk, eat and create with our hands.
I enjoyed my new hobby so much that I bought basic equipment so I could work at home, too. In 2005 and 2009 our family and friends received handmade Christmas cards, but I have no desire to repeat that. One hundred cards of the same design makes for quite an assembly line production and lots of work. Also, I reluctantly downsized my card recipient list by 75% over a decade ago and send only to immediate family now. For several years, my extra cards could be found for sale at the Palmer Senior Center gift shop.
Card making parties opened a whole new world for me, one that I enjoy as much as gardening and sewing. I miss the fun monthly get-togethers with my Slana friends, but the wonderful memories endure.
Maraley McMichael is a lifelong Alaskan currently residing in Palmer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.