Artist of the Needle

This story is dedicated to my mother and all those who are artist of the needle. We so enjoy your wonderful talent and applaud you.

Hettie Ruby grew up in the lean years of this country, right after the Great Depression.
When she was little, her mother dressed her in long brown dresses, brown stockings, and a bonnet. She hated her look so much that as soon as she lost sight of home, she’d roll down the stockings and get rid of the bonnet.

Dsc00708Dsc00710 (made by my Mother)
She was a child laborer at the age of six. She pulled cotton all day long. She had six other brothers and sisters and they would pick along side of her. Poor Hettie Ruby.

She lived in a very sparsely furnished house Her parents had one bedroom and the only other bedroom was for the seven children. Instead of glass, the windows were covered with oilpaper. Rats were seen running askance.

Hettie Ruby went to school and studied hard. She became the valedictorian of her class. She went west and became a nurse’s aid and cared for many in the burn center. During the war, she became known as Ruby the Riveter. She was one among women who became known as Rosie the Riveters to help the war effort.

She met a man on a trolley car in California who was to take her to the hills of Virginia, which was far, far from home.

Hettie Ruby became adept with the needle which she had learned at her mother’s knee so many years before. She took pieces of cloth and turned them into masterpieces. Each piece became more beautiful than the last. She made baby clothes. She made dolls (Indian, Cabbage Patch, dolls of every nation), and a baby to place in the crib at Christmas time to represent Jesus.

She made quilts of every hue and design. She fashioned her patterns from newspaper and then proceeded to use every scrap of cloth and every worn out dress or shirt to create her masterpieces. She made Shooting Star Quilts, Double Wedding Ring Quilts, Duck Quilts, Car Quilts, Baby Quilts.

People far and wide knew her as the artist of the needle, and they were ever so desirous of her talent or the objects she created.
As Hettie Ruby grew older, she reached out to the children and taught them the art of the needle.

Dsc00715(Hettie Ruby)
You can hear it echoed throughout the Shenandoah Valley: Hettie Ruby, you touch the cloth and create a smile. You touch a child, and they are blessed with a little of God’s creativity – the art of the needle.

Dsc00709-1 (made by my Mother)


Author: rko777

I am a novice writer and painter who loves to be creative. I love singing but can't sing without a hymnal, except for children's songs. I love to make up my own songs and love the old hymns. I love to garden and got that love from my Mom and Dad who taught be everything I know from planting to harvesting to canning. I'm happy gardening, walking with my pug, JD Sir Winston Churchill, painting, and crafting. I love to spend Saturday's sitting in my rocker going through a bible study. I love working with elementary school aged children and seeing them use their creative gifts. I have taught Sunday school for a number of years and taught in the public schools for 18 years. I might say I'm retired but I spend most of my time subbing and enjoy it immensely. The kids spark my own creativeness.

17 thoughts on “Artist of the Needle”

  1. This morning I read a book entitled “Riding Freedom” by Pam Munoz Ryan. This novel is based on the true story of Charlotte Darkey Parkhurt who was known as 0ne-eyed Charley. In order to persue a desire to be a stagecoach driver she had to dress as a man. By the 1860’s she or rather he at the time was known as the ‘jehu’ (Biblical term for chariteer) of the time. Her name (Charles Darkey Parkhurst) is listed in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on October 17, 1868. Historians think that Charlotte first voted on November 3, 1868, After Charley’s death, it was discovered that she was a woman. She voted fifty-two years before any woman would be allowed to vote in federal elections in the United States. Woman like Charlotte Parkhurst paved the road for women of today. Thanks to all the women of yesterday that worked hard for what they believed in so that we of today could walk in freedom.

  2. Rena that was a nice article you wrote on mom. I know she made us all some very nice things to treasure over the years. I know I also have one of her duck quilts along with a wedding band quilt I will always treasurer. I know she could make just about anything.

  3. Rena & Connie,
    Your Mother truly sounds like a “national treasure”. What a pioneer woman! I have heard you tell anecdotes about your mom and her unwavering faith in God and her solid Rock motivation that spurred her on to excellence.
    Even now her story is a role model for the modern American girl, “a woman for all seasons”!

  4. What an honor to have had a mother like Hettie Ruby. She reminds me of Dorcas in the Bible who was known for her sewing and who was full of “good works and charitable deeds.”(Acts 9:36)Thanks for sharing the photos of her beautiful handiwork…outstanding!

  5. God gives us gifts and passions that we are to use and build for Him. “Do not neglect the gift of God within you…” (I Timothy 4:14). It sure seems like ‘Hettie Ruby’ put her needle to work for The Kingdom of God. Out of her passions ‘Hettie’ blessed the now generation and generations to come.

    We are created and designed for a specific purpose. God has placed gifts inside of us to equip us to fulfill our Life’s purpose. Hettie Ruby and other ‘artist of the needle ‘are a challenge for all of us to be busy with our gifting(s) so our legacy will remain.

  6. Rena and Connie are so blessed to have their mother’s beautiful needle work. From the looks of the above pictures, Hettie Ruby, was certainly busy about her wonderful gift of needle work. Seeing these beautiful quilts, reminds me of my own grandmother’s quilting. It is amazing to see how a little piece of thread can become a huge piece of artwork! However, that piece of thread only becomes a quilt, when the person who possesses the ability to change it…….. does it! Thanks for sharing Mrs. Hettie’s beautiful artwork!

  7. Rena I love this story….and the pictures of the fine needlework….this was so interesting to me as I love to sew and create things too..this story is so encouraging because it is true and Hettie Ruby still lives on in the lives of her children and those to who she touched with such a lovely gift……she wove together her love and life sewing each piece and then passed it on…beautiful….dj

  8. Needles, do you have any of your grandmother’s quilts or other needlework? If so, we would love to see some pictures and the years she made them, if you know.

    I know firsthand that your Grandmother was an artist of the needle. I believe, Thursday, Nov 15, would be her birthday.

  9. Yes, Sara, I do have a quilt she made for me. Please see the newest blog I have. I don’t know when she made this quilt or the name of the design it has. I would love to know the name of the design. Maybe Rena, Connie, or Dorothy would know?
    Yes, my grandmother was an artist when it came to a needle. She crocheted, quilted, and reupholstered furniture. Now I get to use the nickname “Needle”…and I can’t even hardly sew a button on!!!

    Yes, her birthday will be Nov. 15th and if she was still living on earth today, she would be 92, I believe.

  10. Needles I have seen your newest blog on your grandmothers quilt….the name of the pattern design is double wrench….also a variation of it is called walls of Jericho….but this particular pattern is called Double Wrench…..its beautiful…dj

  11. Rena and Connie,
    Your mother sounds wonderful. What a beatuiful woman God created. This story sounds so much like my Grandmother’s life. She would talk to me for hours about how she picked cotton all day and how hard they had to work. She made beatuiful quilts as well. These were special women. Your mother was a talented women. I love these wonderful stories. They can teach us so much. Thank you for sharing your family blessings with us.

  12. The car quilt above is very special in our family as my mother and my husband’s mother embroidered the squares, each taking half. My mother then put the quilts togethers. My sons have quilts made by both grandmothers. What a wonderful heirloom for each of them.

  13. Rena, I loved your story about your grandmother. Now I understand how you are able to accomplish so many amazing things. I think Dar Barke from Hosanna would love to read all of this. I am going to try to get her to log on. Miss you! Beverly said the Cov. craft fair is this weekend. Seven years you have done it together. She was sad you wouldn’t be able to do it again. carla

  14. Thank you Carla. The arts are so stimulating and the quilts surely warm people twice – physical warmth and the warmth of the heart. The latter is brought about by knowing that someone cared enough to spend hours cutting, sewing, designing, and quilting to bring forth an end product that is so pleasing to the heart and soul of a person. I again thank God who pours through all a special talent to touch others.
    May yours shine forth for Jesus this season of our savior’s birth.

  15. What a great story Rena. Your mom really was a great person and I loved her. I had to share, since you mentioned Grandma teaching her how to quilt, our cousin Mark brought a quilt to me last year that was Grandma’s. I had mentioned to him that I did not have anything that belonged to our grandparents and he thought I’d enjoy it. The back of the quilt was made with flour sacks. You can still see the imprint of “flour” on some of it. It’s a little tattered but not in bad shape considering how old it must be.

  16. Hi Cindy, what an interesting quilt you have. Do you have a picture of it? We would love to see the flour sacks? With it being tattered it must have been used for what they are made for, keeping families warm.

  17. Dear Cindy,
    Thank you for sharing. I do have a quilt that Mom and Grandma Horton I believe made which is a shooting star. How I treasure it. I believe Grandma started it and Mom finished it and did the quilting. Some of the pieces need to be sewn back in place. Thanks for sharing.

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