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Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending Hardcover – August 19, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1 edition (August 19, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565123409
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565123403
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.8 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,088,834 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ray Materson, a good student who wanted to be a priest when he grew up, began doing drugs in college and got into trouble with the law. He was sent to jail for a car-jacking (in which he used a toy gun), and while there, learned how to embroider. Sewing with the threads of unraveled socks, Materson made intricate works that depicted everything from his favorite football team to the confinement he felt in prison. Along with his wife, Melanie Materson, he tells the story of how he found hope and salvation through art in Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending. The book includes illustrations of 50 pieces of Materson's needlework.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ray Materson was, he says, "a good boy gone bad." He had been an A student, even class president once (in sixth grade), and had hoped to become a priest. But dysfunctional family life and an increasingly troubled, aimless adolescence led to alcohol and drug addiction, a failed marriage, petty crime, and a 25-year sentence for carjacking with a toy gun. He started turning around irrevocably, though, during the 1988 Christmas season. The University of Michigan was in the Rose Bowl, and to cheer the team on and bolster his sagging spirits, he stitched an M out of thread from his maize-and-blue socks. Soon he was embroidering flags and emblems for fellow inmates. As his work became more sophisticated, he got media attention. Other changes coincided. From prison, he corresponded with, met, and eventually married Melanie, a writer who proceeded to promote his needle-artwork and has helped him tell, compellingly and with winning simplicity, an inspiring and touching story of the transformative power of art and the resiliency of the human spirit. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Richard M. Berlin on January 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
A classic story of suffering and redemption, Sins and Needles offers a clear look at the tragedies of drug abuse and prision, and also gives a message of hope. The writing is direct and straightforward, driving the plot in a way that kept me turning the pages. In addition to a very moving story, many of the events are illustrated with the author's beautiful artwork to drive home the message. And the book has a great ending. I devoured the book in a day, and my wife did, too after I gave it to her. Bittersweet, uplifting, hopeful, and completely real. It will convince you that art and love can heal.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Ellen D. Stern on July 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ray Materson was born with the gift of being an artist- a person highly sensitive to pain and to pleasure who could convey these feelings to others. Even when locked up in a jail cell, with nothing to work with, he created his own materials- ironically one of them being a needle (a paraphernalia of the drug trade) and sock threads to create incredible stunning detailed works of depth and beauty of a definite style, snapshots of memory overflowing with feeling. Fortunately an appreciator, who was to become his soulmate and wife, came along and tells his life story with its suffering and its pleasures.
The glossy pages show the embroideries at their very best. This book is a MUST read for all interested in art as a whole, particularly in embroidery, "Outsider Art", "Raw Art", in teaching, and in realizing how important artistic expression is and how important it is to be there for others as an Appreciator.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Tim on December 16, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I thought that this book was very well written and quite captivating in that I never put it down until all was read. A peek into a personal life can be very educational and enlightening and I truly believe that this book has helped me to better understand lifes many possible ups and downs and just how important both freedom and love are in a persons life. I very much look forward to the next book by the Matersons and hope that it is soon! I wish them the best in their new life and a hearty pat on the back is in order!
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By Jecogi on October 22, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this book because it is a story about real life. It is an unexpected and very atypical story about a person whose life is, for some time, dictated by the disease of addiction. It was a difficult book to put down because the story is compelling and so human.

It is likely that the negative reviews of this book stem from an inability of the reviewer to appreciate the struggle of addicts and the people in their lives and/or an intolerance for folks who write that aren't "writers". Materson is an outsider artist and this book, like his art, lack pretense. It's a great story.
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By Keri Lawson on February 17, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a great read and I enjoyed the art. Great talent!
A good testimony of the power of God in a life!
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By pfv on November 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Sins and Needles tells an increible story of having it all,losing it all, then finding something entirely new. Ray Materson's story could apply to so many of the lost if it ended with his imprisonment. How many times have we seen a promising life destroyed with drugs, alcohol, violence? This guy was a good kid from a dysfunctional family, who, despite his efforts, became just the man he despised in his father.
But the story does not end in prison, although only in the last sentence does the prison term end. Through a "fluke" of beginning to embroider, Materson reaches beyond the physical walls of the prison, journeying through a world of endless possibilities. With the help of a woman who sounds as if she does not know the meaning of the 'surrender", a trapped man becomes an accomplished artist. As h8is story unfolds, and as maturity blossoms, Materson makes the faith of his fathers his own, tested in the refiner's fire, and emerging like the phoenix out of its pyre. In this world of pain, loss and death, it is refreshing to read of one who triumphed in the face of overwhelming odds. Redemption can work in and through even through the otherwise sin sick soul.
Sins and Needles is a small book with a big message: grace in indeed amazing.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By "krahm" on November 5, 2002
Format: Hardcover
What is most amazing is that anyone can achieve such detail in any medium. His artwork speaks for itself, each piece selling for thousands of dollars. Sins and Needles is the first complete look at this man's turn from drugs to helping others. I first saw some of Ray's work years ago and have seen him since on television and in newspaper and magazine articles. Ray and Melanie's story is very enjoyable and uplifting. I only hope someone picks the movie rights up and we get to see the story on-screen! He continues "redeeming himself" working with trouble youth at a residential treatment center in Upstate New York with his artwork, his story and his passion to keep others from travelling the road that he travellled.
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5 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In "Sins and Needles" Ray and Melanie Materson share a message of hope, that people can and do change. The prison experience is often so damaging that it serves to derail those who truly are committed to improving their lives. Ray's story is unique in its journey, but not in its message. As a reader I found genuine insight to the cost of addiction, both to its victims and to society at large. I've already shared my copy with friends and will continue to do so. Keep up the good work, Ray!
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