May 07, 2021

Talented cousins express selves through variety of arts, crafts

There’s nothing like having a cousin near your own age – someone who laughs at your jokes, celebrates the good times with you and commiserates during the not so good times – someone who shares your interests. I am lucky enough to have not one, but two, such cousins, Phyllis and Paula. They are, of course, not my only well-loved cousins, but they are the two with whom I have much in common.

Phyllis and Paula are women of intelligence and wit. They are kind, compassionate, insightful, good-natured and fun to be with. They possess many artistic gifts, are free-spirited and generous with what they know, feel and sense.

Collectively, we remember when we played with paper dolls and when we learned to knit and embroider. We recall what we were like in the 1960s when we embraced the feminist revolution. We recall how we looked as young mothers clad in miniskirts or granny dresses we had stitched on our sewing machines. We recall singing carols at family Christmas gatherings and spitting watermelon seeds at one another at Fourth of July family picnics. We also remember the years when we drifted apart and settled into our grownup lives. Yet, we kept the embers of cousinhood alive.

Phyllis is a Maine historian with a particular interest in the contributions women made to the state. She established the Augusta Maine Women’s History Trail, a senior project she completed in 2002, the year she graduated as a nontraditional student from the University of Maine.

Recently, Phyllis gave me a gift wrapped in one of her other creations, a fabric bag made of a bright, bold plaid in red and blue. A length of 1/2-inch dark red grosgrain ribbon served to tie the bag closed. Three translucent pony beads embellished the ends of the ribbon. She whips up the gift bags on her sewing machine in her “spare” time, which these days is spare, indeed, given the fact that she works full time, serves on various Augusta city committees and actively pursues her interest in women’s history, presenting research papers at various conferences.

Paula recently retired from a 30-year career as a middle school teacher. Since then, she has unleashed other aspects of her creative spirit. She carries her camera everywhere, takes photographs wherever she goes, then makes greeting cards from the photographs.

On her travels, be it to Quebec, Arizona or small towns in Maine, Paula knits scarves from novelty yarns while en route. When she’s not traveling, she makes jewelry from found objects. She is experimenting with necklaces made of magnetic hematite beads, which require no clasps. Currently she is designing and making fabric belts. She also conducts yoga-dance classes. She has established a home-based business to sell her designs.

Phyllis and Paula possess an energy and verve that is ageless. They possess vast stores of curiosity, an endless thirst to learn new things and a deep capacity to tolerate and initiate change. They know how to adapt, adjust and accept. They know how to laugh, usually at themselves.

When we three – “those three,” as one of our aunts, with humor, affection and pride, sometimes refers to us – are together, our collective energy percolates and bubbles more strongly than ever. We are well-seasoned by creative impulse and permanently shaped by it. By allowing what we love to spangle our days – be it stitching, dancing, writing or establishing a history trail – we become everyone we are.

Access the Maine History Trail at


. Calling all knitters. The Thursday morning knitting group meets at 9:30 a.m. each week at Cityside Yarn Co. on Outer Hammond Street. The group offers coffee, tea and knitting help. For those who can’t drive, and because BAT service is not available in that part of the city, Cityside will provide a free ride, leaving at 9 a.m. from the Pickering Square parking garage in Bangor. Return trips will be made as needed. Call Kathy at 990-1455 to arrange a ride or to obtain more information.

. The Bangor Area Sewing Guild is offering a class on making fleece hats and mittens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 15. The cost is $10 for members, $15 for others. Call 941-8815 to register or to obtain more information.

Ardeana Hamlin may be reached at 990-8153, or e-mail

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