Laura Dean Bennett
Cheryl Cain, one of the newest members of the Pocahontas County Artisans Cooperative, has a well-known Pocahontas County pedigree.
Everyone in Pocahontas County probably knows Cheryl Cain and her family.
Cain retired in April 2020 as Radiology Supervisor at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, where she had worked as a radiologist for more than 30 years.
She’d actually been working at the hospital for longer than that.
When she was 15 years old, she started working in the hospital business office on Christmas and summer breaks.
Cain said she always knew she wanted to work at the hospital, and she made up her mind to go into radiology pretty early on.
“The hospital is where I decided on my career,” she said. “I got a radiologic degree from Alleghany Regional Hospital and started as a radiology technologist at Pocahontas Memorial Hospital Radiology Department in 1980.”
After Cain retired, she brought her handwork to the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op last October and was invited to become a member.
I caught up with her at the 4th Avenue Gallery to ask her about her artistic side.
“I’ve always been crafty – I guess you’d call it,” Cain said with a smile. “I’ve always loved sewing and handwork, probably because my grandmothers started teaching me when I was a little girl.
“My grandmother, Flossie Campbell, started me in embroidery when I was about seven or eight years old.
“She lived in the Brush Country, and I went to her house quite often. She had a drawer in her treadle sewing machine that was all mine,” she said, proudly.
“I wasn’t allowed to bring my projects home with me – probably because she wanted me to have something to keep me busy when I was at her house,” Cain laughed.
Cain’s mother, Barbara Campbell, is a very talented seamstress.
“When I was four or five years old, my mom made the most perfect black and purple plaid skirt for me.
“I wore it with a white blouse, black suspenders – to keep the skirt up – and black patent leather shows. I just thought I looked so cute in that outfit!
“My mom’s mother, Lucy Jackson, taught me how to use a sewing machine, when I was ten or twelve.
“Back in those days, we couldn’t afford to buy sewing patterns, so I learned how to make patterns from newspaper,” she explained. “I made a lot of doll clothes.
“I made Christmas ornaments and, one year, when she was eight years old, I remember making my sister Connie (Burns) a Wonder Woman Halloween costume.
“When I was in high school, I made my junior prom dress, and I made several long velveteen skirts for the winter formals,” Cain recalled.
“Over the years I’ve taken classes in basket weaving, tatting and ceramics. I’ve even dabbled in painting.
“And I enjoy knitting and crocheting, as well. I’m actually crocheting scarves now.”
As she talks, her hands are busy on the underside of a beautiful piece of pale pink silk, which she is smocking for a pillow top.
Cain’s creativity extends far beyond the needle and thread, and now that she’s retired, she has more time to devote to her many interests.
She gardens, cans and enjoys perfecting new – and old – recipes.
“I’ve finally gotten my grandmother’s mince meat cookies about right,” she said. “These are the ones with real meat in them. It’s nice to make them at Christmastime.
“Being retired means I have more time to just be creative.
“I enjoy doing a lot of different things, but I think I like sewing the best,” Cain declared.
Right now, Cain has a collection of her fabric baskets, coasters and hot pads on display at the gallery.
It’s a vibrant and cheerful collection.
“I took an interest in these kinds of baskets when I first saw some at the Christmas craft show at the Opera House one December,” Cain said. “I took a class at Deb Ann’s [Fabrics in Hillsboro] to learn how to make them.
“I love doing these baskets. I made some as gifts and sold some at the Christmas show in the Opera House.
“I like the bright colors – the reds, and pinks and oranges,” she added.
And the baskets are durable and useful.
“They’re made with clothesline rope,” she explained.
“You wrap cotton fabric around it and glue it on, then use a zigzag stitch to attach the lines together.
“While you’re sewing the zigzag stitch, your hands are forming the size and shape of the basket,” she said.
Her laundry line baskets come in any color, any shape and any size.
“And if a customer doesn’t see exactly what they would like, I can make them whatever color or shape they need,” she adds.
“Naturally, during the years when our children were young, I didn’t have as much time for sewing and crafts. I always kept my hand in, but we were so busy doing things with the kids, some things had to take a back seat.
“It’s nice to be able to take my time and enjoy doing it now.”
Cain and her husband, Danny – a contractor – both retired last year.
They have been married nearly 40 years.
Interestingly, the crafty gene is something of a family affair. Danny just became a member of the Pocahontas County Artisans Co-op this month.
“Danny’s always loved fishing,” Cain said.
“This year, for Christmas, I gave him some supplies, and he started making beautiful spinner flies.”
A collection of Danny’s colorful spinner flies for trout fishing are on display at the 4th Avenue Gallery now.
They’re enjoyable for humans to look at – just imagine how alluring they must be to a trout.
Cain said that, for many years, she did all of her sewing on an old Brother sewing machine, but she’s now using a wonderful Singer – one that Danny gave her a few years ago.
“I didn’t take it out of the box until I really had the time to work with it – but when I started using it, I just loved it.
“My mom and I were talking about this just the other day. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been curious, and I always needed something to do – to stay busy. I just always wanted to be doing something.”
Cain is also a quilter.
“I’ve made several quilts over the years,” she said. “I piece the tops and send them away to have them finished.
“Choosing the types of fabrics and the colors and putting together the designs is such a creative process. Sewing is a wonderful creative outlet. I enjoy the sense of fulfillment I get from finishing a project.
When asked if we’ll one day see other forms of Cain’s creativity on display at the gallery – perhaps a quilt or two hanging on the wall – Cain shrugged and smiled.
“You never know,” she said.
“Sewing and handwork and doing crafts are great ways to keep one’s hands and mind occupied.
“I guess you could say it’s good for the soul.”