By Lucy M. Pritchett

Little did Lydia P. Allen know when she named her textile arts business Peace Works just how much peace her stitching would bring her. You might say her Turning Point came on the tip of a needle.

It was 2009 and upon the urging of friends, Lydia started her business taken from her creative hobby of using new and recycled wool from clothing and blankets to fashion decorative table mats, runners, ornaments, and bookmarks — one hand-stitch at a time.

(clockwise from top left):  Tree ornaments; Lydia’s grandchildren enjoy playing with her wool scraps; She keeps her wool supply on this bookcase. Photos by Patti Hartog 
“I have long been fascinated with the creative handwork of early Americans and wanted to keep it alive and inspire others to appreciate their needlework,” Lydia says.

Before her business barely got going, though, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had surgery in January 2010.

“While I was at home recovering from surgery I got the idea to document my journey with a wall hanging created from wool appliques and stitching. I filled it with images — angels, balloons, flowers — and stitched words of encouragement that people said to me or wrote to me. I included Bible verses and reminders of big events along my journey such as when I went hiking at Big Clifty Falls in April after my surgery and in Pisgah Forest the next month in North Carolina.

“I call it Lydia’s Journey Mat. After it was complete, I thought I wanted to put it away. To make it part of my past not to be revisited. But I decided to hang it up in the house and now I walk by it and touch it and realize how far I have come.”

Lydia says that fashioning that wall hanging inspired her creativity, changed the way she sees the world, and increased her appreciation for each day.

“So many avenues opened up for me. I remember how people loved on me — brought food or sent a note. How that helped me along my journey and made me smile or brought some relief. I want to pay that forward.”

But it isn’t just her stitching that has been an inspiration. This summer, she put together a book of words of hope and encouragement to share with others. It contains her own poems, stories, photos, and even a recipe for banana bread that she gives to others who may be having a difficult time in life.

“This has turned into a ministry for me,” Lydia says. “The book contains entries from the journal that I kept during that time and poems about how people touched me through my journey.”

The small white hands on this table mat were used as a pattern that was traced from the hands of
her infant granddaughter who is now 7 years old. 

Her stitching and design work over the years, she says, has gotten more polished and more detailed. She gets ideas for her designs from Early American samplers, nature, historical events, and paintings. Her items are for sale at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea and have been sold at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill. She has taken part in 12 to 15 art shows and she has been selected as a featured artisan in Early American Life’s textiles directory for the past five years and is in its 2016 holiday directory.

What has she learned along the way?

“You don’t have to travel any journey alone. God holds you in the palm of his hands. People are put in your path at just the right time or you are put in someone else’s path to offer them encouragement and hope. You don’t have to carry the burden alone.”