June 13, 2014 at 1:00 am

Handmade

Retired trucker driven to crochet for less fortunate

George Fleishans, 75, who suffers with arthritis, shows off some of the lap blankets, afghans, and scarves that he has crocheted at his home in Warren. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

Back when George Fleishans worked 70 hours a week as a local truck driver, hauling sewer and water pipes over 400-500 miles a day, he says he was “just too busy” to crochet. He was forced to give up his pastime for more than 15 years, but since retiring five years ago at age 70, he finds himself hooked once again and able to spend several hours a day crocheting lap throws, scarves, afghans and other useful items that he donates to those in need.

Ironically, it was truck driving that first led Fleishans to learn how to crochet 35 years ago. “I got hurt at work. I slipped off a truck and hurt my back. I didn’t have anything to do. I was just bored, so my wife showed me how to do it,” explains the Warren resident.

Fleishans makes everything with the shell stitch — and the help of his wife, Pat, who crochets the beginning chain stitch row and the first row of the stitch pattern. “I got arthritis in my fingers and hands. My fingers are too big to go into the chain stitches,” he says.

“I did 250 scarves and 150 lap blankets or throws for people in the hospital. I’ve donated all kinds of things,” Fleishans says. “My wife goes to PK (Yarn Over) Knit in Clawson and they have places they give them to, and a lot of times they’re for homeless people. I’ve been making donations for almost five years.”

Though he doesn’t know of any other male friends or relatives who crochet, Fleishans feels, “It’s not just a woman’s thing.” And, while he’s “not trying to hide” the fact that he crochets, he says, “I know if I took it deer hunting, they might say something. I don’t want four or five guys making fun of me, and, anyway, there’s other things to do at a deer camp. Men look down on other men who do it, but you can turn out some beautiful things.”

Proud of the work her husband does, Pat boasts, “He’s done 12 lap throws and 12 scarves since January, and whenever he does a scarf, someone will knit a hat to match it. I love the fact that he crochets because it keeps him busy and helps his hands.”

Married 54 years, the couple used to walk in the winter, but now that they’re older and concerned about falling, they spend more of the cold season indoors. “I do a lot more crocheting in the winter,” remarks Fleishans, who’s made afghans and scarves for each of their nine grandchildren.

George's Lap Throw

Level: Intermediate

Estimated time: 5 hours

Tools: Size I crochet hook, scissors

Supplies: 1 16-ounce skein of worsted weight yarn

Abbreviations: st(s) stitch(es), sl st slip stitch, ch chain, dc double crochet, rep repeat

Finished size: 23˝ by 27 inches

Stitch: Shell (ch 2 and make 4 dc sts in same space)

Instructions

Chain 70 sts. Make 4 dc sts in second ch.

Skip 2 ch sts and, sl st in next ch.

Now, ch 2, 4 dc in same chain (shell made). Rep to end of ch sts. Turn work.

Sl st down shell to ch 2 space. Then, sl st in ch 2 space and ch 2 and 4 dc in same ch.

Continue in pattern for 38 rows.

To make ends match, make 1 row of shell sts along beginning ch st row. Starting where first ch and shell were made, sl st in ch space. Ch 2 and make 4 dc sts. Rep shell sts to end.

Work in all loose ends.

Other projects using same yarn weight and hook:

Afghan: Chain 169 sts (70 ounces of yarn)

Scarf: Chain 125 sts (7 ounces of yarn)

Contact George Fleishans at pfleishans@gmail .com

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts.