Just before Christmas I was able to squeeze in a few minutes to visit and catch up with my friend Beth. She was just home from teaching sewing classes at Make Welcome and was beginning to prepare food for all of her children and grandchildren who were soon arriving for the holidays. Beth greeted me at the door fresh from the kitchen with the smell of stir frying veggies. And though were both feeling the busyness of the holidays at Beth's there is always time for a cup of tea. We chatted and sipped while she stirred up more delicious smells from the large cast iron pan simmering on the stove.
When we had finished our tea and were done chatting about skinny Christmas trees and setting up a playroom for the grandchildren who were going to be visiting, we headed in Beth's studio for a quick look at some of the projects she's been working on. Beth has dubbed her studio her 'Sew and Row' room since she recently rearranged to make room for her new rowing machine. I love that because it encapsulates so many things about Beth - her creativity, work ethic, perseverance and good humor. She modeled her new cross back apron for me and showed me the little wool vest that she just finished up for her grandson Levi.
Then she quickly rearranged her quilt wall so I could get a good look at the back of the most recent wedding quilt. Her youngest of six children was recently married and she gave them the quilt top as a wedding gift. During the wedding weekend she set up a table for all of the guests to personalize a quilt square that she's sewing together for the back of the quilt.
Her son Joel is an avid reader and a writer so if you look closely you can see a library card print fabric. And of course there was a special spot for Clara and Levi's drawings for Uncle Joel and Aunt Louise.
Now that Beth's days are not filled with schooling all of her children she has not been content to stay at home and be a 'retired' home school mom. She leads an organization called Make Welcome Refugee Sewing School which she helped found. Make Welcome is a unique refugee artist's cooperative that brings together women from many different cultural backgrounds helping them build community and friendships across language barriers - smiles are universal.
There are several different levels of opportunities at Make Welcome - some classes are a bit more social and for fun and fellowship while others are more serious and entrepreneurial providing students with the skills they need to learn small scale production sewing. All students are provided the opportunity to complete a sewing skill course at the end of which they earn their very own sewing machine.
Over the past year or so Beth has cultivated a partnership with an organization in Charlotte, Project 658, which has provided this group with a much larger and a permanent space to work in. (No more driving around with sewing machines and totes of fabric anymore!) This partnership also brings together other services like counseling, childcare, job skills programs and ESL classes to the same location which simplifies serving her students.
If you would like to contribute to Make Welcome Refugee Sewing School you can do so through the Project 658 website. Click this link and in the designation drop down menu choose Project Support. Then choose Make Welcome Sewing for the project you would like to support. All donations are tax deductible.
Make Welcome Sewing School is a Christian organization whose students come from many different religious backgrounds and traditions but all are Made Welcome!