Women Transcending Boundaries Bringing Women of Faith Together after 9/11

March 1, 2017

Sewing Classes

Filed under: — bcfought @ 2:00 pm

WTB volunteers have been meeting with refugee women since 2004, and the sewing classes for new Americans began in 2010. Our sewing program at the Northside Learning Center is so popular that as many as 54 people have been on the waiting list!  This program, led by a small group of WTB volunteers, is one of our most successful programs and makes a big difference for the persons who attend. Students have come from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam. While almost all students are women, a few men have also taken the class.

Sewing classes are going well, now in the fourth and final session of the 2016-17 year with nine students from Burma, Nepal, and Iraq. This session will end on May 25, and then we will break until September. As always, the last class will be the big giveaway, with students receiving a donated sewing machine, a bag of essential sewing supplies worth about $50.00, fabric to choose from, and miscellaneous trims and other items that have been donated. At this time I have plenty of machines, and will be servicing them over the summer. My guest room is overflowing with wonderful fabrics used to restock the fabric bins that we use in class. This must be pared down to make room for summer guests! So, at this time, I have no room to accept additional donations, but would gladly reconsider in the fall. If potential donors could hold on to items until then, it would be much appreciated. As always, we love to have visitors to our class, Thursdays from 12:15 to 2:45 when the city schools are in session (no class April 20 during vacation week). We’re at 501 Park Street, a former parochial school. The doors are locked for security, so call my cell at 315-633-2817 and I will run up and let you in.

Students meet one day a week for eight weeks, 12:15 to 2:45 pm, in the basement of the Northside Learning Center, 501 Park St., which is in the heart of the refugee community on Syracuse’s north side. The space is bright, with large windows for natural light and large tables for sewing machines and fabric layout.  The students begin by learning to sew a small pillow stuffed with fiberfil, and then they progress in steps making a potholder, apron,  shoulder bag, and elastic-waist pants. They conclude with a final project of a tunic or blouse pattern of their own choice.  Each of these projects  is designed to introduce a new technique, from straight stitching, to curves, to using a pattern, to fitting the pattern to the individual body.

Students who complete the sessions get a donated sewing machine, so they can use their new skills at home and make items for their family or to sell. Each student receives a lesson on the use of the machine, either in the last class or at the student’s home. They also get some basic materials (scissors, thread, pins, needles and bobbins) to start them off.

The schedule follows the city school district calendar. Supplies and volunteers are always needed. Many of those who’ve been doing this for several years are retired and travel, so they need substitutes. Contact Jennifer Crittenden at 633-2817 if you’re interested in donating a machine, fabric or notions, or in volunteering in the program. Visitors to the class are always welcome but need to arrive by 12:15, since the doors are locked for safety as soon as everyone is in.

This class does not prepare the students for sewing employment, but the job placement experts say that having experience with a sewing machine on their resumes is a plus when seeking other kinds of jobs.

The program’s initial funding came from grants from Lutheran and Presbyterian organizations. A grant from a Lutheran organization enables it to continue. Our program has received valuable donations from Feminine Touch Fabrics, Singer Service Center, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and many individuals who have donated fabric, notions, and sewing machines.

Click here for an article in the Post Standard in February, 2012, about our work with these refugee women (scroll to the middle).

For information and photos of other activities with new Americans, click here; to learn about the Tapestry Community Garden established for new Americans, click here.

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