“Burly motorcyclist? Yes. But I also stitch.”
Father Robert L. Ruskamp, parochial vicar of St. Andrew the
Apostle Church in Clifton, wants people to know about his main hobby —
motorcycling — before he admits to doing counted cross-stitch.
He had the audience of nearly 50 parishioners in stitches April
18 as he shared the stories behind his 11 cross-stitch icons on display in
Msgr. Hannan Hall. They will be displayed April 23.
A friend introduced him to cross-stitch more than 10 years
ago when he was looking for a winter hobby. Father Ruskamp didn’t want to
stitch teddy bears, so he found patterns for icons on the websites Cross Stitch
Collectibles (xs-collectibles.com) and Solaria Gallery (solaria-gallery.com).
He compared gazing at an icon to looking at stained glass
windows. He works on each piece a couple of hours at a time. Some icons are 200
by 300 stitches and the needle goes through the material four times for every
stitch. Some have at least 50 different colors of thread. Every time he
finishes one he decides not to do it again, but then finds a new pattern he
likes and changes his mind.
Father Ruskamp said cross-stitch can be meditative.
“As you’re stitching, you’re seeing the face of Mary or the
Lord emerge out of the little squares,” he said. “All of a sudden it’s like
you’re looking at the face of Jesus. You can’t help but think here’s the divine
Father Ruskamp has never sold his needlework, but some have
been auctioned off for groups such as the Little Sisters of the Poor or for
parish events. He has given some to his family as wedding or retirement gifts.
Stitched by Fr. Robert L. Ruskamp, an icon, Christ, Pantocrator, hangs on the wall in Msgr. Hannan Hall April 18 at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Clifton.
“If you get canonized, I’ll make an icon of you,” Father
Ruskamp joked with the parishioners. “Hand me a nice picture of you now so I’ll
The Pietà, the largest icon in the display, took more than a
year to complete. Others take six months or so depending on his pace. His
current project is an icon of the Holy Family that he hopes to complete by the
end of the year.
His hobby is an inspiration for Sherry Murphy, a parishioner
of St. Andrew.
“I’m completely blown away by his ability to fill an entire
piece of fabric,” she said. “They look like paintings.”
Father Ruskamp said it can be difficult for us to pray
“The great benefit of images is that we can focus on and
contemplate something that’s beyond our world and yet was of this world,” he
said. “There’s only a small space between you and the image.”