University City

Guild helps to make sewing popular

The mission of the American Sewing Guild is to advance sewing as an art and life skill.

The first two chapters of ASG, in Denver and Indianapolis, were established in 1978. The national nonprofit organization is now headquartered in Houston.

The organization’s Charlotte Metrolina Chapter – one of 135 chapters nationwide – launched 19 years ago. Members meet at locations in the SouthPark area and Matthews to learn new skills, network and do community service.

Diane Burleson, chapter advisory board president, joined that first year and has served on the board for most of the time since.

You could say Burleson, 58, wears her interests in sewing and needle arts on her sleeve. She made the colorful spring blouse she wore on a recent day. Burleson’s fingertips also were temporarily stained a faint green because she had been dying yarn.

The local chapter has 54 members from Charlotte and the surrounding area, Burleson said.

“There are a number of benefits to joining the Guild, including some discounts at major stores,” she said.

The group takes an occasional field trip, like last year’s excursion to a Rock Hill thread manufacturer, where they saw vintage equipment and watched thread being prepped for sale.

Several members attribute an increase in sewing’s popularity to the success of a reality TV series. Marcia Kephart, 49, Reita Fisher, 37, and Wendy Arend, 52, all say via email that they credit “Project Runway” with demonstrating the need to know how to sew.

“There also is the environmental mindset of so many people that see ‘upcycling’ as a cool hobby. They use either their own outdated garments or things from Salvation Army or Goodwill and remake them,” wrote Arend, chapter treasurer.

Mary Ann Evanoff, chapter secretary, has a different theory.

“The increase in the popularity is due to the availability of simple, affordable machines, beautiful fabrics, and a desire to create a unique outlet for your individual apparel needs,” wrote Evanoff, who has sewn for about 50 years.

Charitable projects of the group have included constructing breast cancer pillows for the American Cancer Society and costumes for children with disabilities for the Allegro Foundation.

Members received a donation of 400 pounds of cotton fabric, some of which was used to create travel jewelry sacks recently for the Autism Society of North Carolina to sell as a fundraiser. Proceeds assist individuals and families impacted by autism.

Friendships are a common strand binding members. Judy Harkey, 60, has been a member since 1995.

“Without a doubt the best part has been the friendships that I’ve developed,” she wrote.

For some Guild members, a highlight is the national organization’s annual conference. Classes typically are scheduled on topics such as quilting, garment techniques, drafting patterns and choosing colors. Vendors also offer items for purchase.

Burleson says she enjoyed the 2011 conference in Los Angeles and a tour of the downtown Garment District.

The 2012 ASG annual conference will be in Houston in August. Chapter membership is $50 for one year for new members. All skill levels are welcome.