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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sewing (02/22/07)

TITLE: The Art of the Needle
By Catrina Bradley


Sunlight glinted off the needle as her nimble fingers flew. Her hand moved swiftly in the dance of her art. That’s how she thought of her creations – as art. No female in the county could match her skill at stitching; that’s why they came to her. The affluent, pompous ladies of Clarke County proudly strutted through her hand-carved oak double doors, eager to flaunt their wealth by purchasing the finest garments gold could buy. It made quite a statement to be seen strolling downtown or dining at Chester’s wearing an Annabeth original.

Not all of her customers entered through the front door. The sly, crafty wives who scrimped and saved snuck down the alley and through the back door. In the boutique’s storeroom, Annabeth whispered with women who would prefer their husbands didn’t know they couldn’t sew. These proud ladies exchanged their precious coins for darned socks and mended shirts they could slip into their husbands bureaus, never claiming credit, but not denying it either.

Annabeth made a knot and neatly bit off the thread. She poked the needle into her pincushion, and stretched. The December sun was now shining full-on through the window, warming the already cozy room. Annabeth shook the wrinkles out of the burgundy damask and admired the tiny stitches again. The bodice was ready to be attached to the skirt now, just in time for the fitting appointment with her client this evening. This dress was for a first-time customer. The job was another a first for Annabeth – she would not be charging a fee for her services.

The lady who would be wearing her latest creation was the new reverend’s wife; the dress would be her welcome present. Annabeth had a bit of a guilt complex when it came to church. It’s not that she didn’t believe in God, but going to church was such a bother. She could get so much work done on Sunday when the boutique was closed. Still, something had been nagging at her heart. That’s precisely why she began her “alley-door business.” By keeping their secret and doing a bit of mending at a reduced rate, she felt like she was helping women in need. If a smidgen of deception was involved, well, what some people don’t know certainly won’t hurt them.

Promptly at 5:00, the bell over the front doors rang. Annabeth came downstairs from her living quarters and found a smiling Mrs. Patterson in the foyer.

“Let’s get right to work, if you’re ready, Mrs. Patterson. I’m sure the good reverend is expecting his supper at 6:00. This won’t take but a few minutes.” Annabeth led the way to the fitting room.

As she pinned and measured, Annabeth had a mind to tell Mrs. Patterson about her alley-door business. The reverend’s wife could surely use a hand in that department as busy as she must be. However, the more she tried to explain, the more concerned Mrs. Patterson appeared.

“So…you see…I can…I help people with my talent…and they get..” She faltered as she saw Mrs. Patterson’s growing unease.

“Dear, don’t you see? You may think you are helping the wives, but you are actually harming their marriage.” Mrs. Patterson’s correction was given gently.

“How so? The men’s worn pants are patched; the wives’ secrets are secure; I make a few extra coins to buy a pretty bauble or two. Everyone is happy.”

“Where do you suppose the women reduce their expenses to pay you? Maybe a smaller roast for dinner? Less expensive, lower quality produce? You are taking food out of her family’s mouth.

Annabeth’s eyes grew wide and her hand covered her open mouth. “Oh, I never thought about…”

“But more importantly, you are hindering the marriage by aiding a wife’s deception of her husband.” Mrs. Patterson’s voice remained kind. “Trust, honesty, acknowledgement and acceptance of faults, are building blocks of a healthy, and Godly, marriage. I’m sorry, dear, but you are a stumbling block.”

“I was only trying to help, but I see it differently now. What can I do? I don’t feel that I can just abandon the women who depend on me.” Annabeth was in a muddle now.

Mrs. Patterson’s eyes twinkled and a smile grew on her previously worried face. “I do have a suggestion, if you are open to it.”

The next Saturday, Annabeth stood proudly, if a bit apprehensively, Mrs. Patterson at her side, as Reverend Patterson straightened the new sign above her back door.

“Annabeth’s Academy of Fine Needle Arts”

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This article has been read 1421 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Allison Egley 03/03/07
Hehe I absolutely love the last line. This was a great story. I'd like to see a sequel about her teaching the women to sew. Great job.
Julie Arduini03/04/07
I loved this. This would have made a great episode of Little House on the Prairie. Yes that last line was the best. Great job!
Joanne Sher 03/05/07
Great description and detail, and such a lovely story overall. I also loved that last line.
Leigh MacKelvey03/05/07
This waa really well written!
the story was creative and I believed it!.Your descriptions were apt. I loved it.
Jacquelyn Horne03/05/07
Loved the twist in the end. It completely surprised me. Good job.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/07/07
The description in the story was excellent. It was well plotted with a very satisfying ending and a good lesson presented.
Marty Wellington 03/07/07
Very nicely done . . . I thoroughly enjoyed the characters, the lesson learned, and the ending. Great job!
Donna Powers 03/07/07
A very nice story and I could easily imagine her. Thanks for sharing it
Betty Castleberry03/07/07
This was a great read. You made the time and place come to life. I have to admit, I liked the idea of the ladies sneaking in through the back door. ;0)
Seema Bagai 06/25/08
Great story. I could picture the shop and the characters. I think there is more you could write about this lady.
Betty Castleberry06/25/08
I enjoyed this the first time I read it, and I enjoyed it just as much this time. Loved the time period, and I could clearly see the setting. Well done.
Loren T. Lowery06/25/08
For whatever reason, this was one of my favorite lines, "Annabeth shook the wrinkles out of the burgundy damask and admired the tiny stitches again." Maybe because it speaks to the depth of Annabeth's character and how she was able to take the gentle "chastisement" in that she understood how it is that sometimes the little things responsbile for the most damage or good. And, it looks as if their will be rewards for her having this gift in her character. I also really liked the time/place setting - all so very real.
Sherry Castelluccio 06/25/08
There is something so comforting and down to earth about this story. You see real flaws and real redemption. As I was reading this, I felt like I was on a porch swing with a really good book. Southern comfort, perhaps? Well done, Cat. I really, really enjoyed this story.
Pat Guy 06/25/08
You certainly carried me all the way till the end. I wondered how it was going to end and what a perfect solution! Great one Cat!
Cassie Memmer06/25/08
This is a great story! You've shown us the era without telling us. Showed us conscience, and gentle rebuking. What a marvelous way to resolve the issue! Now just to get her saved! LOL! A very enjoyable read!