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Sabadosa: Embroiderers Guild keeps Oak Lawn in stitches

Jeanne McDonald (left) Jean Smoots are active members Beverly Hills Embroiderers’ Guild which meets Oak View Center Oak Lawn. |

Jeanne McDonald (left) and Jean Smoots are active members of the Beverly Hills Embroiderers’ Guild, which meets at the Oak View Center in Oak Lawn. | Supplied Photo

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Updated: October 10, 2012 6:10AM



Do you have a favorite pastime to help you relax? Do you enjoy meeting with others who share your passion? What do you do to keep your mind sharp?

For 31 ladies ages 40 to 90, the answers to these questions are found in the Beverly Hills Embroiderers’ Guild.

For those not familiar with the term, an embroiderer is one who does decorative needlework.

Embroidery often is considered something of a lost art these days. Hand-stitching was replaced by sewing machines long ago. However, elaborate “surface stitching” is thriving thanks to the women of the guild.

Recently I met with guild members Dana Pyzik, Jean Smoots and Jeanne McDonald. It was a thrill to meet those responsible for the outstanding museum-quality items displayed in the showcases at the Oak View Community Center. They even brought several of their masterpieces for me to see up-close.

For years I have been drawn to the tiny pleated and smocked dresses and bonnets; the needlepoint and cross-stitched pillows; and the embroidered quilts which have adorned those cases.

The guild formed at the Beverly Arts Center in 1972 and eventually relocated to Oak View Center in 1993. Members gather monthly there to share ideas and explore various stitching styles and techniques.

Janice Conta, the president of the guild, has been a member since October 1997.

“Members of the guild have taught me the basics of hardanger, needlepoint, white work and some of the techniques of pulled and drawn work,” Conta said. “The ladies always have encouraging words and helpful tips. Many friendships have been made during this time, also.”

Pyzik is one of the younger members and was invited to attend a class on silk ribbon embroidery that her friend Kathy Saving was teaching in 2006. Before that class she never really sewed much of anything. She said it was really no surprise when she poked herself with a needle and left the class bleeding.

“It was at that moment that stitching got into my blood,” Pyzik said.

Pyzik joined the guild that month.

Smoots, who joined the group in 1987, described one of the different themes showcased in their 1994 exhibit. It involved a 5-by-8-inch “golden mean” piece which was patterned after the Fibonacci Series. She said she really enjoys the guild’s side benefit of “keeping your brain working.”

Be careful not to even hint about using one of those fancy sewing machines to do any stitching.

“Everything is done by hand, with a needle and eye,” Smoots said.

Jennifer Rodriguez became a member in 2005 and learned to cross-stitch as a pre-teenager. She now dabbles in punch needle and counted canvas. She has even been successful in starting her own needlework design business as a way to stay home and take care of her son.

McDonald, a guild member since 1978, said her house is “full of my work.” She said she especially enjoys needlepoint, crewel and cross-stitch. She makes a lot of decorated pillows and gives many away as gifts.

McDonald recently completed a quilt made from 32 vintage handkerchiefs.

Recent guild addition Diann Bak came aboard in 2010. She was encouraged by a member to attend a meeting to see if it was something she would like.

Bak said she joined because, “I felt the guild could help me to develop my current skills and to expose me to other crafts that I might like.”

The guild always is seeking new members. According to Pyzik, decreased interest in this type of handiwork has a lot to do with the “change in women’s lifestyle.” Most women these days work outside of the home and feel they have little time for hobbies or crafts.

This year’s free biennial exhibit marking the guild’s 40th anniversary will be Oct. 6 and 7 at Oak View Community Center, 4625 W. 110th St., Oak Lawn.

Call (708) 857-2200 for more information about the exhibit or if you are interested in attending one of the guild’s upcoming meetings. All are welcome.

News from our neighbors

The Rev. Nancy Goede, pastor of Mt. Zion Lutheran Church of Oak Lawn, extends an invitation to all for the third “One Community” dinner at 6 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Oak Lawn Park District Menard Center, 90th Street and Menard Avenue.

This free dinner is being sponsored by the Bridgeview Mosque Foundation along with the Oak Lawn Clergy and Religious Workers’ Association.

All are invited to share a meal and to be a part of building bridges between people of different races, religions and cultures in our area.

For more information, call Goede at (708)423-6554.



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