Lake Norman & Mooresville

Friends sewn together by needlecraft

To a needlecrafter, finding just the right thread can be daunting. There may be 40 shades of green in a craft store bin, and still not the right hue among them.

Most crafters will tell you it's a feeling they get when they find just the right color. It's the one that fits right in and works in perfect harmony with the others in the needle-art piece; it just belongs.

Bev Archie and Marilyn Helms can describe their friendship the same way. Watching them together, most probably would assume they were lifelong friends. But the two met later in life - just eight years ago - and it was because of a love of thread.

Needlecrafters are a tight-knit bunch. Travel to any embroidery club, like the Lake Norman Needlepoint Guild, where Archie and Helms first met, and you'll find a strong bond among mostly women sharing threads, ideas and close friendships.

"I've never met a stitcher I didn't like," said Laura Smith, a member of Golden Needles, an embroidery club in Concord, where Archie is president and Helms is a member. "There's a bond that crosses cultures, economic backgrounds, young, old."

At the last meeting, the women sat around a table chatting while they worked on their latest projects. They talk about their families, passed a card to sign for a member who wasn't feeling well and described what it is they like so much about needlepoint.

"I like to hear the little sound of the needle when it punches through the fabric," said Smith. "There's a little punch and then there's a little zip."

"You have something to show for your time," adds Helms, 73.

"I like the friends we've made," said Cindy Jones of Mooresville.

That must be why members of Golden Needles have traveled from distant towns like Albemarle and Woodleaf to gather once a month in Concord for the last 29 years.

Like Helms and Archie, who make the trek from Mooresville, most of the others spend the rest of the day noshing and shopping on Concord's Union Street.

Archie would love to see more people pick up the hobby. Every Wednesday afternoon, she and Helms sit in the Mooresville Senior Citizen Center for their weekly stitch-in, surrounded by beads, needles and skeins of thread, their projects on their laps.

Sometimes they are the only two in the room, each wearing magnifying-glass headgear to see the minuscule intricate work. At other times, seven or eight more needlecrafters show up. Their voices are as busy as their hands, catching up on news and events.

In the eight years they've known each other, Helms and Archie can't possibly count how many art festivals, garden tours or shopping trips they've taken together. Their weakness is bead shops, and they can tell you how many are in any nearby town.

"Asheville is a good place to go because they have three bead shops there," said Helms.

After eight years of friendship, when asked how far apart they live from each other, Helms answered without hesitation: "12 miles." Archie lives on Fieldstone Road. Helms lives on Marietta Road.

In the summer the two will travel to Helms' mountain home in Tennessee, where they spend their days peeling pears for chutney and their evenings outside with a needle and thread.

"It's cooler there, so we sit out on the deck and bead and watch the birds," said Helms.

Realizing the two are dressed similarly in black, each with a hand-crafted beaded necklace, Archie tells her friend, "We do have a lot of similarities."