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Museum features lifetime passion of needlework

Posted on Wednesday, August 21, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Jean Fisher with some of her needlework that will be featured at this month’s Westmoreland County Museum Art and Wine show.

Jean Fisher has been connecting threads for nearly three quarters of a century, since the age of 12 when her dad taught her, a sister and a few friends how to crochet.

Her skills grew to include sewing, embroidering and quilting. Last year she won a blue ribbon at the Chesterfield County Fair for one of her masterfully crocheted quilts. Examples of her work – embroidered and pieced quilts, theme bears, pocket books, pillows, and more – will be the featured art at this month’s Westmoreland County Museum Art and Wine show, starting Aug 21.

Fisher will be present at the opening reception that starts at 5 p.m. at the museum, and a few quilts will also be on display next door at the Inn at Montross, which will be open for refreshments.

How did a father who was a steel mill worker in Baltimore in the 1940s, come to teach his daughters to crochet? Fisher explained that although he worked in a steel mill, on Saturdays her dad helped a friend who owned a yarn shop. He was able to bring home cones of yarn, and with a family of 14 children, he couldn’t see wasting that resource, “so he taught himself to crochet just so he could teach us,” Fisher recalled with a smile.

She next learned to sew in junior high school, then practiced at home on a peddle driven machine where she had to learn to rock the peddle with her foot at just the right speed while guiding the fabric under the needle on the platform above. That skill came in handy later when, as a young mother, she could make most of her two daughters’ clothes.

Seven years ago Fisher moved to Nomini Bay Farms to live near her daughter and son-in-law, Missey and Tom Collins, and right away she found a sewing group to join — the No Needlers, which meets on Thursdays at the Art of Coffee, where members can work on any kind of needlework they enjoy and all are welcome, she said. Someone from that group introduced her to a quilting guild in Warsaw, then she went on to host a group  called Connecting Threads in her home.

Fisher is passing her love and expertise of needlework on to her daughter, Donna Thomas. The two estimate Fisher has made hundreds of quilts over the years, many given away as gifts to relatives, or as donations to the Haven, here in the Northern Neck, and the House of Ruth in Baltimore. She also creates and donates about 10 children’s quilts a month for Project Linus, a national organization that provides new handmade blankets to children who need a warm loving hug in the form of a quilt. From time-to-time patients at the Rappahannock Infusion Center are the happy recipients of her quilts, and she also sells some of her handiwork at the Art of Coffee in Montross.

Asked if among all the quilts she has made, she has a favorite, there was no hesitation when she replied, “Yes, the first quilt I made when I moved here. It has hundreds and hundreds of little pieces of fabric and is called the Blooming Nine Patch.”

It will be at Westmoreland County Museum. Come see it.