WHEN Norma Shaw was younger she used to make wooden chairs and tables for dolls but they would never balance out.
Now at 67, Mrs Shaw is learning how to get her woodwork right while taking a much-earned break from caring for her 90-year-old mother.
Mrs Shaw is one of many women attending weekly sessions at the Villa Maria ladies' shed program at the White Road activity and respite centre in Wantirna.
It's a place for women to learn some new skills, particularly if their partner has died and they need to fix things around the home. It is also a great way to spend time with women in similar situations.
Mrs Shaw regularly drops her mother off at day care and then heads down to the ladies' shed for a couple of hours. "It's really good because mum is in day care and you can go and it's your time," she said. "I don't have to worry and I'm home by the time the bus drops her home."
The group has already learnt how to make some basics together, including a tool box and a planter, and now Mrs Shaw is building a letterbox for her home. "Our flap on the letterbox isn't even big enough to get the letters out," she said.
Villa Maria carer support worker Ray Alexander runs the ladies' shed, as well as the longer-running Men's Shed. He knew many of the women from a horticultural therapy group he also runs.
"A lot of the people they're caring for were the ones who did all the handy bits and pieces around the house, which unfortunately they're no longer able to do," Mr Alexander said.
Croydon resident Dorothy attends the ladies' shed for that very reason. "When you don't understand things when tradies come around, you can feel very vulnerable," she said.
Dorothy can now use a variety of power tools and is building a storage box for her tools and outdoor entertainment cushions. "Now I've got the confidence to use the tools at home. And we've learnt tricks of the trade when we're working by ourselves, like [using] clamps," she said.
The women agreed the group was a wonderful support base, though they don't necessarily spend time talking about situations at home. "Carers need time for themselves sometimes," Mrs Shaw said.