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Elkhorn woman is hooked on needlework

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Shelly Birkelo
April 15, 2013

— Laura Peplin is still hooked on the cross-stitch hobby she learned in high school.

Judges at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2012 recognized the 52-year-old Elkhorn woman's work with seven ribbons for seven entries plus Best of Show. Her needlework was on display in March at the government center in Elkhorn as part of a Walworth County Arts Council exhibit—her first.

Peplin estimates she has created 150 needlework projects, and she keeps a photo journal of her works.

“It's to remember what I've done,” she said.

Peplin has given away a number of her pieces as gifts, but most adorn the walls of her Pleasant Lake Road house. They include a framed 15-by-15-inch, black-and-white cross-stitch snow leopard that hangs above the fireplace in the living room.

The leopard is a favorite of Peplin's, who has a passion for cats, including kittens, lions and tigers. It took her nearly 200 hours to complete.

Peplin said she is obsessed with cross-stitching. In the winter, she sits and stitches up to eight hours on weekends. She works on projects under natural light from a large window in her home's front room. A magnifying glass helps her make the fine stitches.

“You start with a blank piece of fabric, and when it's done, you've created something beautiful,” she said.

She finds it relaxing and enjoys the challenge of carefully counting hundreds or thousands of stitches needed to transform a pattern into her own creation.

For example, her current project is cross-stitching on a table runner from a pattern that was the size of a placemat.

“I use a graph-color coded pattern like that and turn it into this,” Peplin said, holding up the pattern and table runner.

Because she changed the size of her project, she had to carefully count stitches.

“I counted them five times before I started stitching the 500 stitches across the length of the runner,” she said.

The craft is a perfect fit for Peplin, who describes herself as a detailed-oriented person. She works as an administrative assistant for Aurora Health Care, Oconomowoc.

Peplin and a group of her friends with an interest in stitching created Stitch-N-Bitch, and have been meeting monthly for 15 years to share ideas.

“I've learned a lot just talking to them and by listening to comments of the judges at the state fair,” she said.

Meanwhile, Peplin already has four cross-stitch pieces done and hopes to complete one or two more for this year's state fair. She's also been asked to participate in the visiting artist program during a show- and-tell at Williams Bay Elementary School.

Both of Peplin's grandmothers did stitching, and her older sister enjoyed embroidery.

“I think maybe it's in my blood,” she said.



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