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Stitching each SEWin’ Day to its fullest!

August 29, 2015

The perfect combination!

IMG_0117What happens when you combine  volunteerism, friendship, and a love of vintage sewing machines with a whole lot of stitching? You have the perfect recipe for satisfaction and fun! This is exactly how our guest poster, Catherine R. Voegtlin, lives her life. She is a long-time stitcher and quilter who loves to bring other stitchers together to create quilts for charity. She invites other volunteers to join her in stitching charity quilts with her growing collection of vintage sewing machines. This creates a wonderful quilting experience that appeals to stitchers of all skill levels.

I’ve known Catherine on Facebook for a short while and her love of vintage sewing machines, her quilting talents, her giving nature, and her kindness inspire me each and every time we connect in the Vintage Sewing Machine Facebook group. I am grateful I’ve come to know Catherine and am privileged call her friend. It is my honour to introduce her to you. She is truly inspirational!

This is her story…

Who is Catherine R. Voegtlin?

IMG_5612Catherine fell in love with stitching 47 years ago. She started quilting in the mid 1980s and participated in her first quilting retreat in 2010: She “…stood in that room and was transfixed by the sight and sounds of women doing the same thing [she] loves to do – quilting.” Catherine found per people and never wanted to leave. She calls many quilters and seamstresses friend and invites them into her home for SEWin’ Days.

Stitching each SEWin’ Day to its fullest!

I belong to a small church congregation and its Hope Fellowship Ladies Bible Study Group. We have prayed and explored our faith together for more than a dozen years. The bible study group members are my friends. We know each others’ tastes. We share each others’ passions.

Quilting is one of those passions. Faith is another. I’ve been known to bring a quilt to a meeting. My friends appreciate the effort involved in creating a quilt, but most of them are not sewing maniacs. I confess that I may be a sewing maniac and I embrace it!  

Hearts filled with the giving spirit

My group of friends and I welcome new members. My friend, Laura, welcomed me and together we welcomed Maggie Hubbard to our group. Both ladies sewed and their hearts were filled with giving spirits.

Maggie volunteered in a big way with the Olive Tree Children’s Ministry Oregon, headed by Pastor Francisco Camacho. Maggie joined as many volunteers as she could muster, including doctors, dentists and carpenters, on a yearly trek to Mexico. Maggie filled her motor home with medicines, quilts, food, and crocheted hats, which she drove from Portland, Oregon, to Ensenada, Mexico, each year. Our congregation prayed that Maggie and this team of volunteers made it across the border with as little trouble as possible.

SEWin’ Days

The more we prayed and thought about Maggie’s kind heart and her mission, the more we wanted to put our own quilting and stitching skills to work to help with her ministry. I was thrilled when Maggie and Laura organized several SEWin’ Days where stitchers brought their own machines to church. We stitched together and we created items to add to Maggie’s inventory. Everyone wanted to contribute. Some stitched quilt blocks, some quilted them, and others tied quilts. We all worked to create items filled with love that we hoped would provide comfort to people in need.

A Quilters’ Love

Laura started to love quilting. I loved that I had two new stitching friends that enjoyed stitching as much as I did. I had sewing buddies! We worked together to produce quilted items filled with love. We wondered how we could share the joy of stitching, the thrill of quilting, and the beauty of friendships that develops over stitches.

We “hounded” the ladies in our small, loving congregation to join the fun. We tried meeting right after the close of our regular bible study meetings. We invited ladies to join us, but very few did. We tried setting up SEWin’ Day sessions at our church. Our fellow congregates weren’t fooled. We ended up sewing by ourselves with the occasional interested soul stopping in to help tie a quilt. This didn’t dampen our spirits. We knew that a quilters’ love always finds a way!

SEWin’ Heartbreak

Maggie, Laura, and I had hopes and dreams for our congregation. We prayed that our love of stitching was infectious and more ladies would join us for SEWin’ Days. We were getting more than 30 quilts ready for Maggie’s next trip to Mexico. We were up for sewing with anyone anywhere. We even sewed with residents and campers at one of Maggie’s favourite RV parks. We needed stitcherly help to finish off those 30 quilts.

Maggie became ill during this SEWin’ weekend and she passed away the following week. She left a very big void in the lives of everyone she touched. Laura and I pledged to continue Maggie’s good works in whatever small way we could.

The Stash

IMG_6891Quilters love fabric. We collect it. We care for it. We keep a lot of it on hand. Each piece of fabric in a quilter’s stash is meaningful. A quilter’s stash is like a carefully curated library, where a librarian lovingly selects volumes to fill out her shelves. The quilter selects each piece of stash fabric carefully and deliberately. It joins other fabrics on a her shelves. The quilter is a committed stitcher and will eventually bring each piece together to form patterns that both entice and delight – no matter how long a piece spends in the stash. The stash is one with the quilter and tells her story.

Quilters are as careful and deliberate as librarians when it comes to curating the perfect collection of texture and colour. The quilter uses her stash, just as the librarian uses her books, to tell a larger story. Each piece of fabric works in harmony with each other just as each book in a librarian’s collection works to provide a broad selection of knowledge.

Maggie’s Legacy – The Stash

Laura and I were invited to care for some of Maggie’s large fabric stash. We washed, sorted, and folded fabric. We organized the stash into a coherent library of colour and texture, which was carefully placed on shelves at our local church. Our fellow congregants began to appreciate this wall of coloured inspiration. Just as Maggie inspired the many lives she touched, this wall of colour is now inspiring the creative spirits of my fellow congregates.

As we admired our work, we wondered where our sewing journey would take us next. We were now in the driver’s seat and Maggie is our passenger. How would we carry on and do her memory the justice it deserves? What would we sew next? Who would we sew for?

Enter Vintage Sewing Machines

IMG_5676While pondering these questions, I had been bitten by the vintage sewing machine (VSM) bug. I had been acquiring VSMs – one here, two there – you know how it goes. My 14 VSMs live well with my husband and I and my three modern machines. I tinker with them. I enjoy them. VSMs give me a thrill when I restore them to working order. Although people often stare at me when I reveal that I live with 14 VSMs, other quilters and stitchers completely understand their powerful draw.

IMG_5912I am not as much of a VSM purist as others are, but I fully enjoy their beauty and sense their magical essence whenever I sit in front of a VSM. These old machines carry history and stories. I can’t help but hear the whispers of the past or imagine a stitcher of long ago mending or dressmaking on these lovely machines. The more time Laura and I spent together, the more she began to love VSMs too. Their magic was working on her with each and every stitch. We formed the perfect stitcherly collaboration of history, love, friendship, and joy. We wanted to share it.

We decided to include my VSM collection in our efforts to honour Maggie’s life and work.

Maggie’s spirit lives on

We continued to think about Maggie, her stash, and how we could transform that stash into a legacy that was worthy of representing Maggie’s life’s work. Laura suggested that we begin to sew for a local ministry, the Hope 360* Pregnancy Care Centre (directed by Joanne Eggimann). They needed baby quilts. We found our project! We began to get excited about the possibility of giving Maggie’s spirit new life.

This might provide the octogenarians and other members of our church the inspiration they needed to embrace the love of sewing. Who doesn’t love babies? Who could refuse the chance to wrap a baby in love? But, we knew, no one wanted to drag their sewing machine around to accomplish the work. We had to make it easy, enticing, and convenient for these novice stitchers to participate.

SEWin’ Days – take two!

IMG_6890The answer was staring me in the face. I had at least 14 machines that needed love. They wanted to be used! I had a husband who loved to cook. He wanted to entertain. I had the room to accommodate the stitching process, from stitching and pressing to connecting quilt blocks into a baby quilt. I wanted to share my joy, my love, and my knowledge with anyone who wanted to stitch. Sew…

IMG_6862My first SEWin’ Day was born! I started to think about the fact that I now had more machines than ladies in my bible study group. I set the machines up and asked my husband to create something delicious to feed 15 hungry stitchers. I prepped and cut and stitched. I wanted to eliminate any frustration in the stitching process and create an enjoyable experience that people loved.

Simplicity is the key to success!

IMG_5955Making the quilting process easy and frustration free was key to spreading my passion. I cut all the fabric strips. I started the blocks and kept them simple. Stitchers needed to stitch in straight lines only. Vintage sewing machines, ready to stitch, occupied my dining room. This included two Singer Featherweights, a Singer 128, two Singer 401s, a Singer 403, two Singer Rocketeers, a Kenmore 148,  and two treadles (Singer 15-88 and a Singer class 66). A table covered with brightly coloured fabric strips ready to be stitched greeted stitchers as they walked in. There was a cutting table and pressing stations. It was the perfect setup for stitchers to stitch and get to know one another while enjoying the magic of vintage machines.

I got the word out to my friends and my bible study group. The women came ready to stitch. They loved the experience and are anxious to do it again. These ladies filled my house and heart with love and friendship, which we translated into enough blocks to create two baby quilts.

More SEWin’ Days to come…

IMG_6861We will be doing this again! My lovely VSMs got a work out, which is very good for them. My friends got to experience the joy that comes with stitching on a VSM. Some of my friends came to quilt and are now hooked on quilting. Others came to visit and be a part of something greater. We all agreed that being with each other was the best part.

The delicious lunch, the VSMs, and the easy drop-in-and-sew format of this SEWin’ Day pleased everyone. I will do it again and next time I’m going to leave it up for three days and have drop in hours for each day. We worked with Maggie’s fabrics to create baby quilts for the Hope 360* Pregnancy Care Centre. We plan to continue to play together, pray together, eat together, and sew together.

Hooray! You read the whole post! Wanna hang out more? Check out the best stitching pins with me on Pinterest, join our lively Facebook discussions, enjoy some stitcherly eye candy on Instagram, connect with me on Twitter, and stay up-to-date on all things stitching through our newsletter

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