NORTH OGDEN — Archie and Irene Kelly don't like sitting around, and when they do, they definitely don't like twiddling their thumbs. The retired couple has filled their home with various crafts they work on together, and not only do they love doing it, but they win prizes for it too.
The two just recently received a first-place award for their long-stitch creation of swinging bears at the Utah State Fair, and they also won a "Best of Show" award for the same piece at the Weber County Fair. Their walls are filled with many other long-stitch creations, many of which have won various state and county fair awards.
But the two don't stop there. Irene has stacks of knitted quilts for which she has won awards, not to mention all the knitted quilts she gives away to friends, family and neighbors when they have babies or just need a little something special. She and Archie also started making holiday wreaths and have won several state and county awards for those as well. They also sell the wreaths at boutiques.
Irene has a story for each of her long-stitch creations that adorn her upstairs walls. She started several years ago doing the craft, which is a cross between knitting and stitching that's done to make a portrait. Archie's job is to frame the finished product.
"I'm the behind-the-scenes man," Archie said with his thick Scottish accent. A couple years ago Archie noticed that many of his long-stitch competitors were also adding borders to their pieces that brought out the colors in the long stitch, so he does that now too. He also does a little long-stitching himself.
"I mostly do the smaller things," Archie said.
The two are originally from Glasgow, Scotland. Work brought them and their three children many years ago to the United States, where they lived in the Bay area of California until he was laid off from his machinery job. They moved to Utah about six years ago to be close to their daughter.
They have loved all the places they have lived, they say as they sit close on the couch in their Ogden home.
Irene says she enjoys all of her many hobbies, but admits she enjoys the long stitch the most. She likes to keep her favorite and prize-winning pieces out in her craft room. She recently has been working on some knitted baby booties and scarves.
"I really love these," she said as she picked up a tiny pair of white baby booties.
Irene enjoys the challenge of the long stitch, especially when she gets a daunting pattern.
"I look it at and say I'm not going to do it — and then I say to myself I am going to do it," she said with a laugh. She pointed to several of the more difficult pieces she completed and talked of the details and the struggles to finish them. She has given only one or two of her long-stitch portraits away, because they are all so near and dear to her heart.
"I will give some of them away, but some of them I will keep because they mean so much to me," she said.
Their daughter orders the long-stitch patterns online because they are nearly impossible to find in craft stores anymore, Irene said. She is glad for whatever her daughter can find.
"She does nice work," Archie said, motioning to his wife. They love that they share hobbies, and they feel the secret to their happiness is that they have always done things together.
"We had a friend that said, 'You never see Archie without Irene or Irene without Archie.' I guess we are just together," he said with a warm smile towards his wife.
The two don't just spend time working with their hands either. They keep a rigorous exercise schedule, swimming at least three times a week at the Marshall White Center and attending Zumba classes twice a week. They both laugh when they talk about their first experiences with Zumba, which is a high-rhythm dance exercise, but they both love it. They also walk with a senior walking club at the Ogden Athletic Club.
"I am a diabetic, and I need to keep my blood pressure down, so I try to keep myself a wee bit more balanced," Archie said of their busy exercise schedules.
Neither plans to slow down on their craft work or anything else they do anytime soon, and they definitely don't just sit around
"No, no, that's not for us," they said in unison with big smiles.