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Md. Woman Meets Demand For Her Homemade Ornaments

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HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Regular customers at the City Farmers Market know Margaret Pheil for her homemade ornaments and crafts. This time of year, she works hard to keep up with the demand for her beaded satin ball and shaped ornaments.

Her thumbs have the calluses to prove it.

Pheil, 88, has been “going to market” for at least 30 years to the City Farmers Market at 25 W. Church St. in Hagerstown. Prior to that, she went with her mother, who used to sell vegetables and Christmas wreaths.

Now, Pheil loads up her 1989 Ford station wagon on Saturdays for the weekly trip to town. The market is open from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., which means starting long before the sun is up.

If the weather cooperates, Pheil also sells bunches of pine cut fresh from the trees at her Jefferson Boulevard home.

She apologizes for her messy house, but said she “despises housework,” and would rather be crafting or outside mowing or working in the garden, when she had one.

Pheil, whose maiden name is Huntsberry, grew up in Smithsburg and attended Smithsburg schools, although she didn’t go to high school. She was one of five children and all were expected to go to work when they were old enough, she said.

She married John Pheil, who is now deceased, and they had two sons. Margaret stayed home to raise their boys, although she continued to go to market. For a hobby, she started making crafts using kits, but found the kits were expensive.

Pheil still uses some of the directions from those craft kits, but has come up with her own patterns, as well. She pins sequins, pearls, beads and trim onto satin balls, as well as Styrofoam forms in shapes such as stars, Santa boots, bells, drums and candles.

“I’m very proud of these,” Pheil said. “I put my own different pattern on it. I hold it back and think ‘My, isn’t that pretty?'”

Year-round crafts sold by Pheil include refrigerator magnets and door pieces, she said.

Pheil, who doesn’t watch TV during the day, does her crafting at her kitchen table, with the sound of the police scanner as background noise. She said she works until she gets tired and has never figured out how much time it takes to make an ornament.

The ornaments are labor-intensive and Pheil said if she did the math, she’d probably make about 5 cents an hour. For her, it’s not about the money, since her time is her own.

“Just because I like crafts,” said Pheil, who is one of the oldest vendors, when asked about her longevity at the market. “It gets me out, to talk to people.”

Her stall at the market is in the open market house, in the corner facing the door as customers come in.

“I know all the vendors. We’re like a big family,” Pheil said.

She said she looks for the regular customers and misses them when they don’t come in.

Pheil said the economy has hurt business, but she understands the need to pay for necessities before purchasing the extras, like craft items. That won’t keep her from her crafting, though.

“I can’t sit down and not have something to do…I’m my own boss. I don’t have to answer to anybody. I stop when I get tired,” Pheil said.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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