Lifelong seamstress, 92, keeps busy, turns her focus to wreath-making
SCHENECTADY The entryway to Margaret Rufer 's home is overflowing with silken colors, displaying flower arrangements and fabic-woven wreaths.
Her entire home is an image of more than 80 years of crafting expertise.
At one point in her life, the 92-year-old Rufer was sewing near daily. She made every drape, tablecloth and article of clothing she ever wore, as well as her daughter's and granddaughters' formal dresses.
"For her senior ball, my daughter said to me, 'Mother, I'd like to go shopping for my ball dress.' So I told her we could, and we must have gone looking for a day or maybe two until she finally said, 'Okay, I guess you'll have to make it,' " Rufer joked.
Her last big project was her granddaughter Heather's wedding dress: "It was a beautiful, big dress. Margaret was quite the seamstress. She taught me everything I know," Heather said.
Rufer went to grade school in Schenectady but her desire for a deeper education led her to vocational high school.
"I knew all along my mother couldn't afford to send us to college. But I went there feeling I could come out with something to work with," she said.
And she did. Because of her mathematics education, Rufer was able to keep the books for her husband Robert's business, Delta Rufer Heating Service, for more than 30 years.
Rufer draws her strength from her mother, who left her husband in Sioux City, Iowa, and came to Schenectady, where she raised her three daughters on her own.
"She always told us we wouldn't have a stepfather until the youngest of us was married," Rufer said.
Her passion for crafts was handed down by her mother as well. Rufer 's mother taught her how to sew, which was Rufer 's greatest passion until she lost part of her eyesight a few years ago.
Rufer also knitted and crocheted, but her limited eyesight made small crafts nearly impossible. She discovered the art of wreath-making, a craft she could still see well enough to complete. Soon, Rufer was selling her creations to neighbors and staff at Schaffer Heights in Schenectady, where she has lived for nearly 15 years.
Her first wreaths are displayed around her home and she has since moved on to silk flower displays. In June, Rufer taught her first arrangement class as part of the "Tapping into the Arts Program" offered at the Schenectady Light Opera Company. She will teach a second workshop on wreath-making on Aug. 10.
"It was nice to teach someone else to do crafts. It was quite an experience and I did as much as I could to help everyone," she said.
Profits from most of her sales go to the youth group at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Schenectady. Rufer has been a member of their choir since she was "knee high to a grasshopper," and sang there until she lost her sight a few years ago.
"I love to do what I do; I always have. Even when I was little, I loved making things. My hands have never been idle," she said as a half-finished wreath lay on her kitchen table, and it's pretty clear that nothing's going to stop her crafty hands until she's ready to rest them.