By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
A needle may be pulling thread, but the term is not always 'sew.'
'It's stitch, not sew,' said several members of the Heart of Texas Needlework Guild.
None of the seamsters would comment about their craft until that was understood.
'Stitching is what we do,' said Betty Bunker of Temple.
To sew is to link pieces of material together with needle and thread, she said, whereas to stitch is to adorn and decorate.
Embroidery is an example of stitch work.
'Some of us sew, too,' Mrs. Bunker said. 'But stitching is what we're about.' The H.O.T. Needlework Guild got its start in 1982. A small group of stitching enthusiasts wanted to formalize their hobby, so they launched a Central Texas chapter of the Embroiders' Guild of America.
Mrs. Bunker is a founding member who continues to participate in the guild's activities. Two other senior members of the group, B.J. Finch and Bonnie Moeller, said they joined before the guild had its fifth anniversary.
It now boasts a membership of 25. Some travel 30 miles or more to attend the monthly meetings at Temple's Ronald McDonald House, said member Melody Ivy of Temple.
All of the members are women, except one.
Bob Alexander is the guild's main man.
At November's meeting, he sat in his spot at the table, quiet and unassuming. Until his deep voice carried across the room, Alexander blended in with the big bunch of women he calls his girlfriends.
Dressed in brown corduroy pants and a rose-colored shirt, the 79-year-old gentleman looked like real-life's version of a storybook garden gnome. His cheeks were reddened from laughter, and his pierced ears sparkled with two tiny diamond studs.
'I'm a hooker,' Alexander said. 'Have been for years.'
After an awkward silence, he giggled, grinned and said, 'A rughooker.'
Rug hooking uses a hand hook, similar in shape to a crochet hook, to form a looped pile of fabric strips or yarn into an even-weave base fabric.
Pleased with his joke, he ignored the eye rolls from Mrs. Finch and Mrs. Ivy.
'He's a character,' Mrs. Ivy said. 'But we love him.'
Alexander has been a member of Temple's needlework guild for about four years. He commutes from his Waco residence.
'I've been into rughooking for six years,' Alexander said. 'I like it because it's relaxing.'
It's his character, not his gender that makes Alexander unique.
'It's not unusual to have men stitchers,' Mrs. Bunker said. 'There are hundreds and hundreds of them in embroiders' guilds across America. They're talented and do lovely work.'
The 77-year-old Mrs. Bunker is a stitcher for life.
She said she was 5 when her grandmother taught her the art.
'She always told me God had something for me to do in life - and stitching was it,' Mrs. Bunker said. 'Designing and stitching is my way of showing faith.'
Ecclesiastical embroidery, therefore, is her specialty.
She does beading and stitching for kneelers, banners and altar stoles and paraments. Her work adorns churches in Midland, Austin, California, Temple, Belton and Killeen.
'President Bush has been to two of the churches where my pieces are,' Mrs. Bunker said.
Not all of the guild's members are long-time stitchers and sewers.
Some, like Sue Dixon of Temple, are just starting out.
'I was interested in it,' Mrs. Dixon said. 'There's a lot of good people to learn from here. You make good friends and have a weekly chance to practice.'
Mrs. Dixon was referring to the guilds' 'stitch-in' days that take place each Tuesday at the Citizens Exchange Building in Troy.
'There's always something new to learn,' Mrs. Dixon said.
But that's true for the long-timers as well, Mrs. Moeller said.
'It's not like it used to be,' Mrs. Moeller said. 'There's so much more to stitching now. There's new techniques and new materials.'
But it's still stitching - and to the H.O.T. guild, it's still fun.