Today was the first Make Welcome class of 2015. After a lengthy holiday break, we were glad to welcome our students back! We never know til the class begins just how many students will come. Today was no different. We had three students, but those that didn't make it had very good reasons! Just before class, we got a text from one student's husband saying that Th. Th. was in labor and they were on their way to the hospital. Another student was babysitting their son. A third student, who is expecting her third child any day now, didn't feel up to going out in the cold and rain. A fourth has a new job. So we were a small, but eager and engaged group!
Though we've haven't had class for a while, we've been far from idle. We've been brainstorming, "pinning" ideas, and sourcing supplies. Julia has been working hard on logistics and marketing and sales ideas and tools. I (Beth) have been designing prototypes and sewing samples: rice bag clutches and totes, napkins, table runners, and scarves. Lisa, who is usually a beehive a creative ideas, has been battling illness for several weeks. She was thankful for Burmese chicken soup, delivered one day by our student, M. I guess chicken soup means love and comfort in many cultures and cuisines.
The first order of business in class today was looking at the samples and seeking suggestions from the women about how to make them better. What would they change? What do they like? What do they most want to learn to sew? They had great ideas, of course. "Make outside pockets." Make the bottom of the tote wider." "Combine these colors." We are so eager for our Make Welcome class to be a time for our students to express their creativity and try new ideas in an atmosphere of encouragement and support. We also want them to see the creative work of others, so after discussing the samples, we looked at an antique quilt and talked about how quilts are constructed. We have had an inquiry about a quilt commission, so that may be another avenue of creative endeavor and hopefully, in the not too distant future, income generation for the women.
Next we turned to sewing machine care and maintenance. We decided to teach the students how to do the routine servicing on our Baby Lock BL9 machines. We learned to remove and clean the hook race and feed dogs, how to oil the machine, and how to change the needles. Several of our students have purchased their own machines through our Sewing Machine Sponsorship program, so today's lesson was useful to them in learning how to care for their machines.
Bursting with ideas for spring and Mother's Day gift giving (which will be sold through Journey Home Crafts and the Journey Home Crafts etsy shop) and with our machines now in tip-top shape, clean and oiled and ready to sew, we are excited about the upcoming weeks in the Make Welcome sewing class. We look forward to seeing the students that didn't make it today and we can't wait to meet those new babies! It's not just a class. It's a growing community of learning together, developing deeper friendships, serving one another, empowering our refugee artisans women, and sharing the love of Christ.
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It's been a busy fall in the sewing class as we have tried out several new designs and worked hard to make items to sell in a local craft fair. We've worked on placemats and napkins, pillow covers, table runners, and three color infinity scarves.
The Make Welcome students sell the items they sew through Journey Home Crafts, which operates an etsy shop and occasionally participates in local craft fairs. Early in November, we had a booth in a local fair, and the hard work of the women's hands resulted in a fair number of sales, lots of exposure, and a few custom orders! Sewing instructor, Lisa, designed our booth and we received lots of compliments on the display of our beautiful handmade items. We were glad for the opportunity to participate and will be looking for another craft fair/sale to participate in this spring.
The most popular item in our booth at the craft sale was our three fabric infinity scarf, so last week in class, we made sure that all of the women knew how to make them. Each of the women chose a trio of fabrics that she liked and with help from instructors, Beth and Lisa and the other students who had already learned to make the scarves, each student made her own scarf. There was so much laughter and good-natured teasing, sustained concentration, and a baby on the back of one of our students while she sewed away.
When everyone was finished, we managed to get a photo with all the women wearing their newly sewn scarves.
When finished with their own scarves, some of the women set to work on a custom order. We've had several other requests for scarves so we'll be sewing more in class this week.[. . .]