By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
Just give her a hook and some yarn, and she's set.
'I love to crochet,' said Ethel Slusher of Belton. 'I've done it all. You name it, I've crocheted it.'
Her list of accomplishments includes a crocheted christening gown for her great-grandson and a crocheted version of the nativity scene.
But this month it's the American flag that has her attention. For the last few weeks, she's been creating a full-length afghan that sports all the beauty and grandeur of Old Glory.
'Red, white and blue, it's all there,' Ms. Slusher said. It's complete with 50 stars.
'Each of those are crocheted too,' she said. 'I have to use a smaller needle to do it, but it turns out fine.'
Her afghan will be on display 9-11 a.m. Feb. 1 at Grace Presbyterian Church. It's her entry in the Bell County Extension Education Cultural Arts Exhibition.
It will join 50 other craft entries from the area's extension clubs of LeeDale, Midway, Tanglefoot and Tejas.
'Judging will be done by out-of-town folks from other extension clubs,' said Imo Brockett, president of the Tejas club.
The top two winners from the Feb. 1 event will advance to the district competition, and the top winner from that will go on to compete at state.
'So all of our fingers here at Tejas are keeping our fingers crossed for Ethel,' Ms. Brockett said.
This afghan is not Ms. Slusher's first attempt at crocheting the American flag. It's her 20th.
'I really enjoy making them,' Ms. Slusher said. 'And people seem to like them. I'm always getting compliments on it.'
Most of the flags she's made have been smaller versions of the afghan.
'People like me to stitch their name on it, so they can hang it on the wall,' Ms. Slusher said.
Her inspiration to crochet the U.S. flag was born in 1975, but it didn't take life until 2001.
'In the '70s, I used to get a little thing in the mail called the 'Work Bucket,'' Ms. Slusher said. 'The July 1975 cover had a picture of a crocheted flag afghan on it. I saw it, thought it was neat and figured I could do it.'
So she clipped the cover picture and the accompanying story and filed them away in her to-do file.
'Crocheting was in my family. My mother did it,' she said. 'She could look at something and copy it, but I couldn't. I had to get a book and learn how to do it.'
After she mastered the skill, she undertook small projects - and after a few years, she was tackling tablecloths and vests.
'Then 9/11 happened,' Ms. Slusher said. 'That reminded me about the flag afghan, and I decided that was the best time to make it.'
So she made a few for her friends and family.
'And they loved it,' Ms. Slusher said. 'And then it seemed like everyone I knew wanted one.'
So she kept on making them.
'It turned into a nightly hobby,' she said. 'I settle into my recliner, put my feet up and crochet while the TV's on.'
And before she knew it, she had a couple to sell.
'It's at least $50 they go for,' Ms. Slusher said. 'All I really ask for is the cost of materials.'
Though it takes close to 70 hours to make a flag afghan, charging by the hour isn't necessary.
'I don't mind making them,' she said. ' I enjoy the work.'
The last four flags she's made she's given to retiring service men.
'They had their name, rank and retiring date on them,' she said. 'The gentlemen seemed real appreciative. Not bad for a good hobby.'