May 25, 2018
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Perhaps this is the year you should learn the needle arts

Ardeana Hamlin
By Ardeana Hamlin, BDN Staff

Here it is — the last week in December, the end of the eighth year I have been writing the By Hand column. That’s more than 400 columns containing news of quilting, sewing, knitting, crocheting, applique, fiber-related books and business. It’s a vast subject filled with ordinary people knitting hats, mittens and blankets for good causes; extraordinary artists taking knitting, felting and quilting to new heights; and people who know how to have fun with a skein of yarn — yarn bombers and knit hackers.

And then there are those who use the skills of their creative hands to raise funds for worthy causes or who “knit their bit” for children in crisis, for premature babies, for World War II veterans, for cats and dogs at animal shelters, for residents of nursing homes — the list is a long one. When I think of all the goodwill and kindness knitted, crocheted and sewn into items donated to a good cause, it makes me proud to be numbered among you doing my part through the written word.

Every year when January rolls around, I experience a slight state of panic and I think, ‘How will I ever find 52 more topics to write about?’ but I always do. By Hand readers are generous in sharing ideas and the doings of their needlework groups. The Internet teems with sources of needlework information from so many websites it would take years and years to view them all. Knowledgeable people involved in Maine’s fiber industry share information. New yarn shops and new fabric shops open and become successful. The thread, be it cotton, angora, wool, alpaca, embroidery floss or Fun Fur, has no beginning and apparently no end.

The needle arts are not exclusive. Anyone can learn to knit, sew, crochet, tat or quilt. All it takes is a small investment in the tools and materials of the trade — or not, if someone you know has extra to share — and someone to teach you how. Soon you will have acquired a skill, a hobby, a pastime, an art, a craft, whatever your want to make of it, that will give you a lifetime of pleasure in the doing and a great deal of satisfaction in knowing that you belong to this vast society of men and women who know how to make things

Practicing the needle arts also is a way to put what you believe into practice — clothing the needy or the distressed with the work of your hands; going “green” by opting for natural and pesticide-free fibers; supporting local farms by choosing locally grown and spun wool; using only yarn, tools and patterns that come from thrift shops — the recycling ethic, or keeping it local by shopping at independently owned yarn and fabric shops. Or not. Whatever your heart desires. That’s the beauty of needlework. You make of it what you wish, as you wish.

Learning to knit or sew is an entry into a world of information and education. Not content with the basics? Check local adult education schedules for classes in the needle arts. Stop by local shops to find out what classes are offered. Attend retreats and conferences on quilting and knitting and learn from the masters. Visit your local libraries and bookstores to find a wealth of publications that will feed your interest. Troll the Internet. The process of learning is endless and learning about what you love is a never-ending source of joy.

If you love the needle arts enough and feel you have something to share, you can teach what you know. Or you can open a shop, establish a gallery to showcase the work you admire, blog, put up a Facebook page, start your own website, write a column for a newspaper or a magazine, write a book — a real yarn.

What thready paths there be! I’m so glad we’re all tangled up in it.


The Piecework magazine 2012 Pincushion Contest is back by popular demand. Deadline for contest entry photos is Monday, April 2. Winners will be announced in the September-October issue of the magazine. For information and to enter the contest, visit

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or email

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