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Monday, March 24, 2008

It would be sew easy to help these quilters


Quilters find themselves in a bind

By Pamela McLoughlin
Register Staff
NEW HAVEN
— If it’s true that a stitch in time saves nine, then members of the West River Senior Center Stitching Club could save hours if they had a few donated sewing machines.
The group of about eight seniors has met since autumn to create quilts under the guidance of fashion designer Ruth Herring, owner of Chez’ Li’tle Designs. The quilters have been hand stitching their quilt squares and eventually will get fill and backing before their handiwork is sent off to a charitable organization serving children or other seniors.
But despite the advantage of years of combined sewing practice, the handwork takes a long, long time, especially with arthritic fingers, although some say the hand stitching has been like physical therapy for their arthritis.
The group of mostly women — there is one man — want to produce more items so they can give away more quilts and said with three machines they’d be cranking.
There’s one broken sewing machine at the center, but it’s so old, no one can fix it, clients said. They hope for donations of used sewing machines, as are a similar group that meets with Herring Thursdays at the Dixwell/Newhallvile Senior Center.
For now, production is slow at the West River sewing table Tuesday afternoons, but everyone is in stitches while they sew, because friendship and camaraderie abound.
“This is my outlet,” Delois Conley said. “I can kick up my heels and pick on myself and other people. If you can laugh at yourself and others, it’s better than money.”
Conley said that as a retired nursing assistant, she also has a knack for knowing if someone is troubled and she isn’t shy about offering help.
“I like the sociability of getting together; the friendship,” said Francine Reid, who said hand stitching has improved the flexibility of her arthritic fingers.
Annie Hall, dubbed the comedian of the group, but whose wisecracks were deemed by friends not fit for a family newspaper, said she used to sew all her clothes back in the day and likes the idea that through the stitching group she’ll be helping others.
Patricia DeVore, a seamstress, said they could get a real assembly line going with machines.
Another member, Mary Jane Simmons, said she began sewing in the pre-electric days on a pedal sewing machine, then an electric. She loves the group, but would love to go back to a machine in 2008.
“It’s a nice group and we have fun,” she said.
Senior center Director Michelle Clary-Butler works on a quilt project at the table between phone calls and her other duties, smiling at the obvious contentment of the group.
“Look at them, they’re enjoying it; I think it’s wonderful,” she said.
Herring said anyone who wants to donate a used sewing machine may call the West River Senior Center at 946-8543. The group could also use colorful fabric, scissors, an ironing board and a few irons.

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