REIDSVILLE — When Carolyn Hearp first saw a monogramming machine running at a festival about 20 years go, she said she was “fascinated.”
“I just stood there and watched,” Hearp said. “Even though the machine runs itself after you get it programmed, it is just fascinating to watch.”
She talked about it so much, her husband, Alfred, bought her a single-needle machine about 10 years ago.
And although Carolyn enjoyed it, there was a lot she couldn’t do with the single-needle machine. One Christmas, Alfred surprised her with a six-needle machine. However, all those needles “intimated me. I had a friend who had one and told me about running those needles though her fingers, and it scared me to death,” Carolyn said.
Not to be outdone with his $12,000 investment in the machine, Alfred sat down at it one day and soon, he was doing all kinds of monograms on a variety of fabrics and objects, ranging from leather boots to leather golf bags.
“If it can be hooped, he can monogram it,” Carolyn said. “It is just a hobby with him.”
That hobby has become more prevalent since Alfred retired five years ago after 42 years from Commonwealth Tobacco. Alfred gets really busy around the holidays as people bring all kinds of items to him to be monogrammed as Christmas gifts, Carolyn said.
“I still don’t use it,” she admitted. “He does too good of a job.”
Carolyn still uses a one-needle machine, but not the original one.
“He upgraded me again,” she said, adding that the new one has a larger screen and hoops. Hoops are like embroidery hoops, but these are specialized for use with monogram machines.
Because of the popularity of monogrammed items, Carolyn has expanded her business and offers it at the annual Extension Volunteers Fair. The next one will take place Saturday at the Cooperative Extension Building, 525 N.C. 65 in Reidsville.
Carolyn said she will have a variety of items for sale, such as towels, cross-over purses, bath wraps and Christmas stockings, that she can monogram on the spot. Most of these can be done at the fair but, sometimes, depending on the type monogram the buyer chooses, an item will need to be completed at home to complete. Turnaround time usually is about 48 hours, she said.
In the past, Alfred has been at the show to help Carolyn man the table and take orders. He does not bring his machine to the show because it is too big and heavy to move. But this year, Alfred has stepped into a new role for the show.
“He will be the big man in the red suit and beard,” Carolyn said. As Santa Claus, Alfred will be taking Christmas list orders and giving out treats. Parents also can take their children’s pictures with Santa at no charge.
Santa is a new addition to this year’s program. A special children’s section this year will also feature face painting for little ones and anybody else who wants it.
Both Hearps were born in Danville, Va., but he moved to Rockingham County before he started school. He and Carolyn met in Danville during high school. He graduated from Reidsville Senior High in 1970 the same year she graduated from George Washington High School in Danville. They will celebrate their 46th anniversary Nov. 20.
After graduating, Alfred enrolled in an electrician program at Rockingham Community College, but before finishing the course, he was offered a job in the electrical department at American Tobacco. Carolyn worked at Rose’s and McCrory’s before their first child, Melanie, was born. She stayed home with the children but kept other children in her home to earn extra money. After her children were in college, Carolyn got bored and took a job at Farmer’s Table in Reidsville.
“I was a happy helper” throughout the next 20 years, she said. “I never saw that as work. I enjoyed the people.”
Since the owners, Brent and Janet Barber, decided to not serve dinner several months ago, Carolyn now only works on occasion.
She enjoys having the time to spend with her grandchildren. Melanie, who is in the mortgage industry, and her husband, John Morrison, live in Reidsville and have two children, Brenna, 12, and Maddie, 7. Matthew, a doctor, and his wife, the former Cathy Dickinson, have Morgan, 7, and Marlowe, 4, and live in Blacksburg, Va. Mark, an attorney, is married to Mine Spencer, a native of Turkey, and they live in Fayetteville with their daughter, Ruby, 3.
“We are blessed,” Carolyn said.