Tuesday, December 28, 2010

SeaHope Partners

Thanks to an assignment from Stitch, I had the good fortune to come into contact with Margaret Jankowski, the founder of the Sewing Machine Project. Margaret is an amazing woman, someone who absolutely doesn't let adversity (or even her own self-admitted naivete) get in her way.

The Sewing Machine Project started when Margaret heard an Indonesian woman lament the loss of her sewing machine in the 2005 tsunami. Margaret, a lifelong sewer and sewing educator, could identify with a love of a sewing machine, but realized that for the Indonesian woman it also meant the loss of her livelihood. The loss so moved Margaret that she started gathering used machines in good condition to send to Indonesia. She quickly gathered 75 machines, but realized she had no idea how to transport them. Through a variety of connections she found someone to help, and the machines were sent to those who needed them. Since then she's sent machines to people in need around the world, asking only that the recipients "pay it forward" by teaching someone else to sew or sewing for others in need. After Hurricane Katrina her efforts focused on New Orleans, and to date she's created a partnership with AllBrands and has distributed more than 650 machines in that area. This is the story I wrote for Stitch (it's in the fall issue).

When the Gulf Oil spill occurred, Margaret again wanted to help. She formed SeaHope Partners, and I was able to share that story on an Etsy post that went up yesterday. Check out the bags that Margaret is creating, including the line she's creating with artists (and if you're interested in helping, you can get in contact with her through the Sewing Machine Project site). Margaret's efforts are full time and unpaid, but she's completely committed to doing the work she's begun and she's got more projects on the horizon (see the Etsy story for word on her upcoming efforts). 

I love that Margaret has found sewing to be the means to reach out and help. Sewing is pleasurable: it brings feelings of mastery (learning new skills and techniques), of inspiration (working with all those colors and patterns), of comfort (sewing for family and friends), of practicality and self-reliance (making something you could buy, and making it your own). But for most of us it's a hobby or at least a pursuit that we don't depend on to put food on the table. Margaret understood that sewing continues to put a roof over the heads of people around the world and has made it her mission to keep those folks stitching.

If you're puzzling over a great birthday present for a sewing friend, or even a way to honor a stitching friend who has died, consider a monetary gift to the Sewing Machine Project. It will help Margaret get donated sewing machines to areas of greatest need, to people who will love, use, and appreciate them.

(Photos courtesy of Margaret Jankowski)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!

(I don't know about you, but I think these birds actually look a as though they're set on committing mob violence, rather than espousing cheerful holiday greetings.)

Many thanks for all your kind words and thoughts about our accident. Life is getting back to normal. I did finally buy a new (used) car and have even taken a road trip to Minnesota...a five hour drive for which I had to muster a little bit of courage. Fortunately all went well.

It's been a busy few weeks, between the car and the holidays. I've created a few things, but unfortunately none could be shown before Christmas and some have been mailed away without photos. I've also had a few assignments to complete and then there were those cookies to bake and a tree to decorate. I'm going to take the week off after Christmas and do some things around the house...including locating my cutting table under the mounds of fabric. We've had cold and snow and I'm feeling a real itch to quilt!

I hope you all have a restful holiday, with time for fun, friends, and family. Peace and love to you all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Seeing the world while hanging from the ceiling...

A week ago today my husband and I had a car accident on our way to visit our daughter and her husband in Austin. It's a long story, but suffice it to say that I saw Oklahoma upside down. My husband avoided a car spinning out of control in front of us, but in doing so was forced to drive off the shoulder of I-35 and down into a ditch. We were doing pretty well until the wheel of the car hit a concrete culvert at the bottom of the ditch, the axle bent, the car spun around and rolled upside down. When we stopped moving we were hanging from our seat belts, completely unharmed. (If you want to read this as a testimonial for my 1999 Saab wagon and Thule car top carrier, go right ahead.) People were on the scene immediately and helped us out of the car. We stayed amazingly calm and I even made sure I had my purse before clambering out.

Which brings me to the point of this post—contemplating the importance of "things." As we stood by the car, waiting for EMTs, state troopers, and a wrecker to arrive, it dawned on me that the many things we had in the car were likely ruined—my daughter's childhood Eastlake dresser and her wedding dress, my sewing machine, our computers, a baby quilt I'd raced to finish so that I could stitch down the binding on vacation. The only injury occurred when Paul reached through the broken glass at the rear of the car to rescue his mandolin and cut his finger. I asked the firefighters if I could climb back into the wreck to retrieve the hat I'd been knitting at the time of the accident. (The firefighter understood my request completely. "My wife knits and quilts and all...she'd do the same.")

Our overwhelming reaction to the accident is to be so grateful for escaping intact that nothing else matters. And that's probably the most obvious lesson—everything else was replaceable, or not so very important in relation to what could have been lost. Still, there was a sick feeling as we watched the wrecker flip the car upright, hearing the crunch of objects inside as they shifted from ceiling to floor. And the stench of gasoline that filled the car made it obvious that even if things weren't broken, they smelled like a Mobil station.

I spend my days writing about people who create objects—fantastic quilts, quirky embroidered bags, needle-felted creatures—and it would be easy to feel that it's rather pointless, that losing one of those items would be nothing in the face of losing a limb or a life. But the accident reminded me too that objects are imbued with a past (the wedding dress) or a future (the stash of fabric I'd brought to stitch holiday gifts), a memory (my daughters' childhood obsession with the Roald Dahl books we had stuffed in the car top carrier), a connection (that baby quilt I wanted to finish and pass along to a newborn).

As we sorted through the mess at my daughter's house in Austin, where I was preparing to pitch the gas-fumed cover of what for years we've called "the car pillow," my daughter balked. "Couldn't you try washing it?" she asked. The terra cotta corduroy cover has been worn smooth by the heads of our family members' during countless naps taken over the years—trips to my aunt and uncle's farm, to the cabin at the lake, to college dorm rooms. Yes, objects can be replaced, but they also remind us of our time together, of who we were, of what we long to accomplish, of our place in the world.

We chose to fly home, rather than retrace our steps (and have to drive past the place where we'd veered off the road). My sewing machine, miraculously unharmed, rode under the seat on the plane. We shipped several boxes of clothing and fabric that had been aired out, washed and dried. My daughter's wedding dress is hanging in her closet and her dresser, piled with her childhood books stands in her garage. I'm writing on the same computer that rode in the car top carrier, on which the weight of the car rolled and came to rest. And today I gave baby Jack Henry the quilt I'd finally finished binding.

We have much for which to be grateful.