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Nurse's crafts help W.Va. children's hospital

By Beth Hendricks

The Herald-DispatchHUNTINGTON -- When NICU nurse Vicki Boster isn't tending to the fragile and delicate newborns at Cabell Huntington Hospital, she's creating fragile and delicate works of art at home.

Boster, 55, uses her knack for knitting to craft handmade nests, woven together with bits of yarn, fabric flowers, quilt pieces, metal leaves and other special elements from fellow Appalachian artists. Though she creates her signature Woodland Nests year-round for fans and blog followers, her latest limited-edition creation, The Children's Nest, has special meaning.

"Once we decided on this project, it took on a life of its own. This isn't something I planned; it's something God had planned," Boster said. "I always knew I wanted to do something for the children's hospital. I just didn't know what."

Thus, the idea of The Children's Nest was born. Boster created 10 of the designer series nests and donated them to the hospital. Eight of the 10 handcrafted nests remain for donors of $2,500 or more to the Hoops Family Children's Hospital.

Boster's nest journey began at the age of 9, when she first learned to knit for a school project.

"I thought for certain that I'd pick knitting and my mom, who could knit, would do my project for me, but she didn't and I had to learn to knit. It was the ugliest scarf you ever saw," Boster reminisced.

She started on the nests themselves about eight years ago, inspired by a similar product she had seen, and after a knitting lesson at her mother's death bed finally stuck.

"I saw a nest made out of yarn and, honestly, I thought I could do it better," Boster said. "I have a great passion for knitting and yarn. I have more yarn than anyone you know. The person who dies with the most yarn wins."

Boster gave her earliest creations away to friends and family and started a blog, where she sold a few of the first nests. The Woodland Nests are her year-round creation, along with Christmas, Harvest and baby blue and pink versions, but she soon branched out to create an annual designer series and link them to a charities, including an area church, a shorebird sanctuary near the Gulf Coast, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Hoops Family Children's Hospital. Her nests -- nearly 1,000 in the past eight years -- have found homes across the United States, Canada, Russia and Europe.

Though every nest is different, the elements of The Children's Nest remain similar: hand-tied yarns in bright child-friendly colors, a handmade quilt piece, a hand-pieced, hand-felted bear from France and individually beaded seed beads and Swarovski crystals. Each nest, suitable for display in a home or office, to hand down through generations or appropriate to hold small mementos, requires 20 to 30 hours of craftsmanship from start to finish. A recent request for a commissioned piece from the London Symphony Orchestra had to be declined, much to Boster's dismay.

"They wanted nests themed to Swan's Lake for this Christmas," Boster said. "I just didn't have the time."

One of Boster's collaborating artists, Mary Scott, is responsible for the beading on The Children's Nest. Her daughter's battle with Crohn's disease prompted her own involvement.

"Vicki is my best friend so I'll do whatever she tells me, but to participate in this nest to honor this facility for their drive to help children is what motivated me," Scott said. "When my daughter started college, she was diagnosed with Crohn's out of the blue and the doctors here changed what could've been a very dark path for her."

"I've worked with some great folks here who are tenured and are going to leave a tremendous legacy with all the children's' lives they've touched," Boster said. "I want to encourage people to use their talents to do anything they can for the children's hospital.

"If you put your heart into it, you don't have to make something big or extravagant. Anything you do can be a gift."

To inquire about making a donation to the Hoops Family Children's Hospital, call 304-526-6314.


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