Herald Journal, June 6, 2005
Retired lumberyard worker becomes ribbon-winning needlepoint artist
By Liz Hellmann
When retired lumberyard worker Alvin Mucha decided to help his daughter, Monica, finish her needlepoint, he wasn’t expecting to stumble onto a long-term hobby.
Now, 15 years later and at the age of 80, Mucha has won more than 200 ribbons at county fairs, including a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair, for his needlepoint.
“I finished a pumpkin for my daughter one year, and then I got to thinking about how many different colors you could use,” Mucha said.
Mucha wasn’t shy about trying different colors and variations, and about 500 crafts later, he’s still going.
Tissue box covers were his first projects, but he also makes a variety of boxes, baskets, piggy banks, window decorations, car decorations, and more.
To Mucha, boxes aren’t just boxes, but can be turned into anything from fish to railroad cars.
Mucha’s daughter, Addie, who works as a seventh and eighth grade math teacher at the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted middle school, started entering her dad in the fairs.
“I helped my friend take her gladiolus to the fair every year. I saw some of the crafts, and thought my dad could do those,” Addie said.
Winning a ribbon with his first entry, Mucha was soon entering 20 to 50 pieces in each fair.
Mucha and his wife, Sylvia, live in Montgomery, and their house is located 15 miles away from three fairs Scott, Rice, and LeSueur counties. Mucha shows off his needlepoint in all three.
Addie also takes his work to the Wright County Fair.
“I’ve got a big pail in the garage full of ribbons,” Mucha said. “Some of the fairs have called me to see if I want to give them back to be recycled.”
Mucha is proudest of his blue ribbon in the Minnesota State Fair. He won it with a needlepoint of a Christmas manger scene. The scene is also Addie’s favorite in Mucha’s collection.
Most amazing to Addie is not all the ribbons, but the fact that her father can do it at all, and pay such close attention to detail.
“He worked at a lumber yard and concrete plant for 40 years, and his hands aren’t that small,” Addie said.
Mucha usually works from a pattern, but likes to deviate, and also create completely original designs. It can take him three to four weeks to finish a project.
Each one is a labor of love. Mucha doesn’t sell his crafts. Instead, he donates them, gives them as gifts, and uses them as decorations.
“He would give them to the church for donations in its festivals,” Sylvia said. Addie saves a board in her classroom for her dad’s work, and her students are curious to know what her dad is working on next.
Among his gifts, Mucha has made heart-shaped Valentine’s Day boxes filled with chocolates, and a white anniversary cake for his wife on their 57th anniversary.
The crafts also keep Mucha’s house festive all year round. “Every time the season changes, he decorates the whole house,” Sylvia said. Mucha creates Easter bunnies, Thanksgiving pilgrims, and Santa Clauses for Christmas.
Mucha isn’t the only crafty one in the family; his wife also does embroidery. She makes pillowcases, scarves for dressers, table runners, and animal characters. Her designs have also won ribbons in the fairs they attend.
“There is a little healthy competition between the two of them, but it’s not to see who will win the most ribbons,” Addie said.
After 57 years of marriage, they have learned how to make it work. “I work in the kitchen, and she works in the living room,” Mucha said.