Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saint Helen, we miss you

Yesterday I was forcibly reminded that life goes on.  Things change.  Helen, who started working for Needle Nicely in 1989 (I think--she says hesitantly), decided to retire as of June 1, 2012.  What?  I knew Helen before I met my husband Arthur.  In fact she was working the day I left to meet him for a first date lunch that lasted 3 hours and I don't remember how many glasses of wine.  I think she knew before I did that he was finally the one!  But Helen is now 80 years old and she started having a terrible back ache the evening and night after she had worked.  

Many people might remark--so what?  Helen was a part-timer.  Over the years it varied from 2 to 5 days per week.  But Helen was a versatile employee.  She could do everything.  She is wonderful with color.  One time someone came in on one of Helen's days off and she wanted to match a color of DMC perle cotton without a label.  Whoever was working couldn't find a match.  Two days later, the customer came in when Helen was working and she immediately found a match.  The customer was ecstatic.  We in the shop just named her Saint Helen because she could change the perle colors to suit the circumstance!
Helen always blocked the belts before we sent them to any of the 3 finishers we ordinarily use.  They say they block, but trust me, they don't to our standards.  I've had to block belts twice since Helen retired.  My arthritic fingers are not thrilled with the whole process, but I think I have managed a credible job.  FYI our blocking board is 3 pieces of pine board attached to the back of our "powder room" door.  There are nasty knots in the boards which do not assist in the blocking process (thank you Paul, the handyman who didn't listen when I told him what I wanted on the door--I think of you, and curse you, often).  

Helen's the one we used to have embroider the faces on canvases where the mesh is too gross to allow for nice facial features.  She does the hair more beautifully than it is painted.  Now I guess I have to do both of these things.  Sigh!  I can do it, but it was so much easier to have Helen do it.  She seemed to do it so effortlessly and so well.
Three years ago when I came back from 3 weeks in Paris and London, and my Liz Claiborne lawn dress had developed a hole under my right arm--it was saved by Helen.  She sewed a patch from the hem so perfectly that no one can tell it is there.  And the dress may live on for another 20 years (that perhaps is too optimistic). Of course, I used to tease Helen that the nuns taught her how to stitch so beautifully.  She quickly denied that!

Yesterday a customer brought in a rug for finishing.  Hooray!  This is the summer, it's deathly quiet, and I'm thrilled to have something to send to the finisher.  EXCEPT, Helen always made the yarn cording that we send to the rug finisher when we send a rug for finishing.  I do that because I like my color sense of what color looks best on the edge of the rug rather than that of someone else whose color sense is suspect.  And now I get to do the cording.  Whoopee!  Later--well, I did it and if I must say it looks pretty good.  Of course, it took me about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.  The majority of that time was spent maneuvering the twist to make it consistent the entire length of the cording (for a 3'x4' rug). 

She didn't get a gold watch or a pension, but she does have my heartfelt appreciation for what she has contributed to Needle Nicely over the past 23 (or 24?) years.  And may she have many years of retirement ahead of her.

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