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Local artist discusses needlework craft at SAIL lunch

By Staff | May 27, 2016

The intricacies of Kris MacNichols’ precise needlework art seem like it would have taken a lifetime to perfect, but she actually didn’t learn how to do it until after retirement.

MacNichols was the guest speaker Friday for the Shepherdstown Area Independent Living (SAIL) brown bag lunch that is held monthly.

“I moved to Shepherdstown with my husband when we retired in 1992. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven,” said MacNichols. I soon realized I was standing in the middle of a small art colony.”

MacNichols said she would walk through town and see artists with work on display. Her curious nature drew her to the art and artists so much that she began to wonder if she could make art herself in her free time.

She took a watercolor class to learn the craft and how to mix colors, and then would pour over art magazines, absorbing tips for finesse and different styles of painting.

“I didn’t know that I could even draw,” said MacNichols. “I could sketch a little bit, but that’s all I could do.”

MacNichols would go out with her camera and take pictures of things that inspired her, come home and sketch the photo, or she would find pictures in magazines that appealed to her to use for watercolor creations.

MacNichols worked on her watercolors for several years, and then in 2007 was invited by the late Sarah Drennan to attend a sewing group at Trinity Episcopal church. MacNichols admitted she didn’t know much about sewing, but joined the group.

She approached learning needlework the same way she approached everything else-with a hunger to learn and the tenacity to get projects completed. Her abilities with embroidery and quilting took off.

“I got interested in this work with the needle and thread because it dawned on me that I don’t like to wash the (paint) brushes,” quipped MacNichols. “I thought, ‘why don’t I use needle and thread to try to make these pictures.'”

Preferring landscape scenery to portrait work, MacNichols started with fabric that had a background color she needed, such as a light blue fabric to show the sky. She then used watercolor pencils to embellish clouds or mountains. Embroidery stitches filled in details of trees, flowers, water, or whatever the piece calls for, paying attention to highlights and shadows. She also would use other bits of fabric and applique to accent her work and provide more texture.

While in the sewing group, MacNichols worked on the quilt that is hanging at Town Hall, and contributed to much of the linen embroidery that is used at the Trinity Episcopal church.

MacNichols said anyone can do what she does. “All you need is material-paying attention to your background fabric, a small embroidery hoop, different colored embroidery floss and a needle. You just never know what you’ll be able to do until you try it.”

“Just because we retire, doesn’t mean we are through learning, said MacNichols. “You must always be aware if you’re being drawn to something, showing interest in something you never thought you’d be interested in. Give it thought. That may the open door to a latent taent you didn’t know you had. “

For more information about SAIL, call 304-870-7245, or visit their website: sail.clubexpress.com.