May 20, 2018
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Serving others with needle and thread

By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

Every day, women go about the world armed with sharp pointy objects. They take up embroidery needles, sewing machine needles, knitting needles, crochet hooks and rug hooks, and go off to do battle. They are in service to causes that have nothing to do with destruction. They employ their weapons for good causes.

For centuries women have sewn clothing for infants born into poverty, knit or woven blankets for the ill and aged, and crafted gloves and socks for those serving in the military. These days, they have added prayer shawls to their arsenal of good deeds.

Some of the deeds are legendary — Civil War era women, North and South, organized needlework fairs that raised funds to equip and supply the hospitals that cared for the thousands of casualties that resulted from that conflict.

Women also sold handmade items at fairs to raise cash for the construction of the Bunker Hill Monument that marks a Revolutionary War battlefield.

Among the women who wield fabric and needle to make life more comfortable for others are Sue McIver and her mother, Mary Ann O’Brien, of Baileyville. Last fall they organized Project Pillowcase for the Troops. The idea was to provide Maine Army National Guard soldiers of the 1136th Transportation Unit with a bit of home to take with them when they deployed overseas in March. A call went out to those who sew and the results were wonderful, according to McIver:

“Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the response,” she wrote in an e-mail recently. “The total number of pillowcases was 1,345. They came from Philadelphia, Pa.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Salem, S.C.; Morgantown, Pa.; Pleasanton, Calif.; and Utica, N.Y., as well as from 63 towns in Maine. Without you ladies, this would not have been possible. I would never have imagined how grateful people were to our military. My mom and I thank you from the bottom of out hearts.”

McIver and O’Brien also had this to pass on: Sami Ireland of Enfield lost her dad to illness in December. She is going to participate in Relay for Life and wants to be able to light 200 luminaries in memory of her dad. To assist with the project, call Sami’s mom, Becky Ireland, at 732-5486.


Several weeks ago I wrote about a vintage indigo blue and white coverlet that was passed down in my family to me, and that I did not know the name of the pattern it was woven in. A reader from Columbia Falls, who has an interest in weaving, did some sleuthing in “The Shuttle-Craft Book of American Hand-Weaving,” published in 1928, by Mary Meigs Atwater and came up with a pattern that is very similar to the one in my coverlet. Its name is Indian War. She also delved into “Early Handweaving in Eastern Canada,” first published in 1972, by Harold Burnham and Dorothy Burnham and found a photo of a similar coverlet that had been woven circa 1860-1880. That coverlet is housed at the York-Sunbury Museum in Fredericton, N.B.

Thank you, kind reader, for your effort and interest.

I also queried the Mannings Handweaving School & Supply Center in East Berlin, Pa., and received this e-mail reply: “I did some looking and found your coverlet pattern in the book ‘American Woven Coverlets’ by Carol Stricker. It is out of print, but was published by Interweave Press. The pattern appears to be ‘butternut’ and was woven on a 4 shaft loom.”


It’s never too early to plan ahead for the summer events:

The Fiber Frolic will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. The event will take place 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6, at Windsor Fairgrounds in Windsor.

Attendees in past years know this to be a family-oriented celebration of fiber animals — sheep, alpacas, goats and rabbits — and the fiber arts, including spinning, weaving, dyeing, felting and rug hooking.

The weekend is filled with hundreds of animals, workshops, demonstrations, free lectures and products for all ages.

Special events include herding dog demonstrations, shearing demonstrations, activities for children, the legendary Maine Llama Drill Team parade, youth goat, llama and sheep shows, and the fleece show.

Fiber Frolic is produced by the Maine Alpaca Association, Maine Llama Association, Maine Sheep Breeders Association and Eastern Maine Rabbit Breeders Association. Admission is $4, $2 seniors, children under 12 free. Visit, or call 688-4208 for more information.

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