South Charlotte

They stitch things together to help others

There's nothing so-so about the Sew 'N Sews, a group of women dedicated to harnessing their sewing skills to stitch together dignity and hope for others.

In 2010, the group accumulated 2,587 volunteer hours and created 1,167 items for charity.

Members, approximately a dozen women representing several of south Charlotte churches, meet regularly 9 a.m.-noon Monday and Tuesday mornings in their sewing room - a donated workspace on the second floor of Trinity Presbyterian Church on Providence Road.

The group splits sup and meets over two days to fit the space and equipment at the site.

Their room offers the appearance of a tiny, bustling fabric shop. Remnants of material provided by individuals and businesses are stacked on shelves, and there's a cutting table in the middle of the room.

A plaque and photograph hang on the wall in memory of the Sew s'N Sews late founder, Betty Fledderman, who established the sewing group about 1976. The groups met at Trinity Presbyterian for many of those years.

A portion of current members have been around since the early days.

Group members make plus-size clothing for women, children's clothes, and knitwear like winter hats and scarves. The group gives most finished items to Crisis Assistance Ministry, a nonprofit agency serving low-income residents in Mecklenburg County.

If the group has a specialty, it's the plus-size women's garments they create. Thoughtful attention is important in designing those clothes.

Member Ulla Junge, 91, says some recipients of those clothes might have health problems, like diabetes, which can cause a sloss of sensation in the fingers; that's why it's best to avoid zippers or buttons that could be difficult to manipulate.

Sew 'N Sews members cite various reasons for their involvement.

"I lived in the Depression, so using up goods makes me feel good," said Peggy Crowley, 89, who graduated in 1944 with a major in home economics from what then was Queens College, now Queens University of Charlotte.

"It gives you a satisfying feeling that you've done something to help somebody that's in need," said Edith Hairston, 79.

Junge says "the companionship of like-minded people" is rewarding. "That is difficult to find at our age," she said.

Membership in the group isn't all work and no play, either. "We talk about politics and religion and people," said Crowley.

They also occasionally enjoy a lunch outing or visit in each other's homes, she said. "It's a wonderful group of women, believe me," Crowley said.

Elastic and thread are constant expenses. Sewing-machine repair is a fairly regular expense, too.

In addition to the donated workroom at the church, Trinity Presbyterian also helps provide a small budget for the group through its outreach committee.

The Sew 'N Sews aren't the only south Charlotte seamstresses of their kind; Crowley says the group partners with another sewing group meeting at nearby St. Gabriel Catholic Church.