Point Pleasantries

Point Pleasantries

Nelly’s Needlers help explore the art of stitching at Woodlawn.

Woodlawn Plantation is filled with timeless works of patience and passion this month: needlework that trancends time and travels through generations.

Kay McQuie said her mother helped develop her affinity for stitching, which blossomed years later through classes and organizations like Nelly’s Needlers.

Yet, for whatever reason, that passion didn't carry on to the next generation. “I have four daughters and none of them is remotely interested in doing any form of needlework,” said McQuie, who lives in Mount Vernon.

Luckily, McQuie was finally able to locate a pupil: Her oldest granddaughter, who by age nine was attending the summer workshop held by Nelly’s Needlers every year and showing some promising potential in needlework.

For McQuie and the other needleworkers who will converge on the 44th Annual Needlework Exhibition at Woodlawn Plantation this month, the ability to continue this carry this tradition through the generations is a source of pride. “I think much needlework is a form of art. Some of the simpler things could be consider a craft, but much of it is true art,” she said. “I find that doing needlework is both relaxing and creative. It gives great pleasure to see your project grow and, hopefully, reach fruition.”

The exhibition is billed as the largest in the U.S., and it’s a prime fundraiser for the plantation, located at 9000 Richmond Highway. One of the annual projects for the all-volunteer Nelly’s Needlers is running the tearoom at Woodlawn during the duration of the show. “I am in charge of getting the volunteer staffing of at least seven people per day to work in the kitchen and the serving of the lunch,” said McQuie, who also has a piece in the exhibit. “I spend a lot of time on the telephone. A number of those days I also volunteer to serve as a waitress.”

ANITA RUBERRY will also split time between the exhibition and food service, working in the kitchen to help prepare lunch during the month. “My favorite part of participating is definitely not working in the kitchen but I do feel that everyone should do their part and take a day in the kitchen if at all possible,” said Ruberry, the corresponding secretary for Nelly’s this year who lives in Alexandria. “When we have this needlework show we are also introducing many people to the history and beauty of Woodlawn Plantation.”

Ruberry was introduced to stitching at around 5 years old by her mother, who was “an excellent needlewoman” who learned her craft in the convent. Today, Ruberry does needlepoint, counted crossstitch and crewel. She also does some beading, some of which is sold in the Woodlawn museum shop.

She said it’s a time-consuming passion. For example, a recent crossstitch Christmas stocking she created was fun and easy through the basic needlework, but much more difficult when it came to the details. “I had to use gold thread that was as fine as a human hair but when it is finished it will be worth all the work,” she said. “I did count how many hours it took me to do a bib and the hour count was about 20. That's from the time I choose a design to the time I take to finish the bib by washing it, ironing it and putting a fusible backing on it to make it look more finished and secure.”

Ruberry said the end results are something to behold, and are what keeps the Woodlawn Needlework Exhibition one of the most popular in the nation.

“I do believe that this show is so popular year after year because people love to see beauty,” she said. “Even if they don't fully understand how it was made and most people don't appreciate how much work and time have gone into making the piece they enjoy seeing the colors, designs and admiring the beauty and variety of the exhibitions.”

The show runs through March 31 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, with lunch available 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. Visit www.woodlawn1805.org for more information.