A lifelong passion for crafts


Walking into Ida Seltzer’s apartment is like entering a store specializing in handcrafted items. Every wall and horizontal surface is filled with craft projects created by Seltzer. The many objects adorning her apartment are just a drop in the bucket compared to the number of things she has donated and given away over the years. And the stack of crocheted squares sitting on the hassock waiting to be made into an afghan is evidence that the 94-year old Seltzer is still keeping very busy with her craft creations.

“Crafts are something I have always loved to do,” Seltzer said. “My mother taught me to knit and crochet and my father did embroidery work at a factory. I made my first sweater when I was nine-years-old.”

Seltzer was the first child in her family to be born in the United States after her family emigrated from Russia. She spent a short time as a dancer at age 17 thanks to her brother who taught children how to dance at the St. Louis Jewish Orphans’ Home. Seltzer went along with him and learned to dance, too. She and her younger sister Esther were invited to tour the United States for five months to entertain and raise money for the home.

“Our father made our costumes,” Seltzer said. “It was wonderful. To this day I can’t believe our parents allowed us to go.”

Over the years Seltzer has been busy with her own family: three children, four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She has been long time member of B’nai Amoona and worked in the synagogue office for 13 years. She could always be seen working on one craft project or another.

“I made something for every rabbi,” Seltzer said. “I also made lots of things which were sold or donated, with the money going to the synagogue sisterhood.”

This year before the winter holidays she was very busy crocheting tops on dishtowels so they could be hung on door knobs. She estimated she must have made 100 of them to give as gifts to friends, family and various people she sees throughout the year. She calls the crafted towels her “thank you notes.”

Seltzer said she started doing most of her craft work after her husband William died. She has done everything from making flowers out of small beads, tiling a coffee table, creating needlepoint and embroidered pictures and so many other things. However, she is especially known in her family and the St. Louis Jewish community for her crocheted afghans.

“I used to make large ones, big enough for a king size bed,” Seltzer said. “Now that large a size is a bit cumbersome for me to handle so I make lap robes and baby blankets. I must have made 100 of them.”

She gives the afghans away as gifts or donates them to help organizations raise funds, like the Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC), which is near and dear to her heart. Seltzer said she attends their exercise classes twice a week as well as other programs. She and Bess Garland head up a knit and crochet group for the organization.

“Ida teaches the crocheting and Bess teaches the knitting,” NORC activities coordinator Laura Press Millner said. “The group meets twice a month at the Gathering Place.'”

One of Seltzer’s neighbors, Ann Richards, who also participates in the NORC, is spearheading a project to knit dolls to be included in the bags for Project Backpack. She has a set of goal of 100 dolls and asked for assistance from the knit and crochet group. Seltzer has added creating the dolls to her repertoire.

“Working with the colorful yarn and constantly creating keeps me young,” Seltzer said. “It gives me so much pleasure to give them away or donate them and know other people love having them.”