Hooked on fiber arts and friendship

For Linda Seaman of Effingham, New Hampshire, there is no doubt which day she looks forward to the most.

“Wednesday is my favorite day of the week,” she says.

That is because Wednesday is the day that Seaman and other women get together at St. Matthew Church in Limerick to participate in a fiber arts group.

“I’m very active in a lot of things, but this is my favorite thing to come to every week,” she says. “I look forward to it. We all do.”

“I’m telling you, there is nothing like it,” says Selena Scott of Limerick.

“It’s been the biggest blessing I could have received,” says Dorothy Mahoney, also of Limerick.

The women say the group has given them an avenue to express their creativity, but perhaps more importantly, it has also provided them with a loving, supportive community.

“It keeps your mind busy. You can be a little creative, but I just enjoy being here with the girls. That is the best part,” says Seaman. “The people here are just wonderful.”

“Everybody is warm and welcoming and friendly and willing to help whenever I need help,” says Dori McLean of West Newfield.

“This is the best group of people. If I miss a week or two, I just have to get back there,” says Paula Williams of Hollis.

“They’re all kind people. They are the best people around. They really are,” says Barbara Caputo of Limerick.

The group was started more than 15 years ago by Patricia “Pat” Lissandrello. Prior to moving to Limerick, Lissandrello worked at an elementary school in Vermont, where one of the teachers introduced her and other faculty and staff to rug hooking using the Oxford Punch Needle. The needle, which was designed by a Vermonter, Amy Oxford, is used to push yarn through monk’s cloth that has been securely attached to a frame. When you bring the needle back up, it forms a continuous loop stitch, securing the yarn in place.

Lissandrello says she fell in love with it.

“It’s very satisfying because after you do the hard work of the design and picking the colors and that physical stuff, your mind goes somewhere else when you’re punching, in and out, in and out. It’s very relaxing,” she says.

When Lissandrello’s husband, Paul, a permanent deacon, accepted a position at St. Matthew Parish, and the couple moved to Maine, she decided to start a group here.

“I live in a mobile home park, and there are mostly older people and quite a few widows, and they were alone on Sundays. Well, I was alone on Sundays, too, because Paul was usually involved with something for religious education for kids, and he was out all the time. So, I started the group on Sunday afternoons, and it just took off,” she says.

That was more than 15 years ago, and the group has remained active ever since. Some members, like Caputo, have been participating since the beginning.

“Since day one,” she says. “It was something to do to keep me busy, and most of my friends were joining, too.”

“It’s a very special activity because we learn, we make things, and then we give them away,” says Sandra Snyder of Limerick, also one of the original members. “It’s a great learning experience, and the best thing of all is that you meet new friends.”

“It’s the camaraderie and just getting out of the house and seeing what everybody else is doing and being able to work on a project without interruptions at home,” says Sharon New of Limerick.

Lissandrello became a certified instructor but doesn’t charge for lessons. She just wants to share the craft she loves. She starts each new member off by making a pine tree for which they can choose their own colors and add their own touches.

“I did the tree, and then I put it on top of this material, which was my husband’s old kilt,” says Mahoney. “It was pretty simple with the help of Pat. Sometimes you would do the hooking and not quite be doing it right, and she would help you do it right.”

“Pat is a very good teacher. She has a lot of patience,” says Caputo. “Most of us picked up on it right away.”

Joanne Bargioni of Shapleigh, who joined about three years ago, remembers the first time she gave it a try.

“I wasn’t interested in rug punching. I just wanted to do my knitting and crocheting and to be able to ask somebody for advice if I needed it, but when I got here and Pat gave me the initial tree that we all had to do, I was hooked on it. I just love it. And the thing I love about it really is the fact that I can express myself any way I want to. I do my own designs. I draw it and then I punch it. Other people do use printed designs, but I like the ability to be able to just go ahead and make my own,” she says.

“That is what appeals to a lot of people, that ability to create and see your own design grow into something lovely. That really appealed to me,” Lissandrello says.

Kathy Harriman, for example, created a Maine-themed rug at her daughter’s request, and although it turned out well, it was never used for its intended purpose.

“There is a lobster, her favorite lighthouse, and a loon. It took me about six months to do it, and she said, ‘Mom, I can’t stand on that one. I need one I can stand on.’ So, in two weeks, I whipped up another one. It was just an oval,” says Harriman, who is from Hollis.

With the help of the women in the group, Kate Howard, who is from Limerick, found a fox design she is using to create a wall hanging.

“I picked out my colors and adjusted the colors. This looks harsh compared to the picture, so I’m trying to figure out how I can mix it. What I do is pull strands apart. Something might be three-ply, so I’ll take one strip and mix it with something else and then run it through the needle. So, you see, this is green and blue mixed,” she says. “I’m trying to catch the feeling coming out of that fox and put it into this fox.”

While Lissandrello still teaches rug hooking to all new members, the group now embraces all forms of fiber arts. Karen Miliano of Cornish, for instance, likes making cards and crafts out of paper.

“I have a self-created card ministry. I send cards to different people for different reasons,” she says. “Sometimes people have cancer or are fighting a terminal illness, so I just send them a card every week.”

“I love doing penny rugs. They’re done with wool and stitching,” says Caputo. “I’m doing a table runner with poinsettias for Christmas.”

“I taught myself to crochet, so I just putter around with it,” says Kathy Wright of Limerick, who just joined the group a couple months ago. “I’m working on making some star ornaments.”

While the group has lost members and welcomed new ones over the years, the friendship and support among the participants has remained strong.

“You can’t be depressed when you come to be around people and you share things,” says Mary Dexter of Hollis.

“It’s a very congenial group. I was kidding around when we first started, and I said that I have just two rules — no politics, no baseball, but that stuck,” says Lissandrello. “It’s just a very, very up group."

“The group is great because it is so upbuilding. You’ll bring something in, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, that’s so wonderful. That looks so good.’ It makes you feel good and so you want to do more,” says Bargioni.

“There is no pressure. If you want to try something new, you can copy somebody’s. We’re really good at sharing ideas and sharing techniques or designs,” says Harriman.

“We all fit in,” says Snyder. “We’re all like jigsaw pieces of a puzzle. Somehow, we all fit in together.”


Rug featuring teacups.
Rug with images from Maine including a lobster and a loon
A rug, a pillow, and a Queen Elizabeth doll
A woman crochets.
A pillow with a pine tree and a pillow with a dove
Two women discuss craft projects.
A woman crochets.
A woman works on a project.
A floral quilt
Pat Lissandrello