Edmonton

'Made from the heart': Volunteer sewing group stitches for those in need 

A group of sewing volunteers has been helping women and children at an emergency shelter with donations of handmade garments and quilts.

Edmonton group sewing since 1997 regularly donates clothing to WIN House

Volunteers at Central Sewing Machines stitch their quilts that will be end up at WIN House. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

The slow hum of sewing machines fills the air at Central Sewing Machine on Argyll Road in south Edmonton.

In the back of the store, a team of volunteers work at their sewing machines, stitching hundreds of items for WIN House — a shelter for women and children fleeing domestic abuse. 

Volunteers started sewing items at the back of the business in 1997. Every two weeks they would meet and sew items for WIN House. Slowly, word got out and the group grew. 

"When we bought this store three years ago, we went, 'We have to keep this going,'" said Muriel Jensen, who owns Central Sewing Machine with her brother, Keith MacMillan. 

"It migrated to every week and it went from five to [where] they have over 40 ladies and men that come in and sew and quilt the most wonderful things."

Volunteers at Central Sewing Machine load up quilts into plastic bags for donation. (Min Dhariwal/CBC)

Over the years it's added up to thousands of items being donated. At Christmas, along with the hundreds of quilts, there are teddy bears and Christmas stockings to help people through the holiday season. 

"It just sends shivers down my spine when you think there's so much richness here that it's so nice to share," Jensen said.

Thousands of items 

After 40 years of working as a nurse, Carol Iseke needed to find something to keep her busy during retirement. She heard about the volunteer sewing group and hasn't looked back.

"I've made over 5,300 things in the last 16 years," said Iseke, who started sewing with the group in 2003. "I keep track of the jackets because they take quite a bit of time, and I've made over 1,100."
   
Christine Kuebler started with the group 19 years ago. 

"It's actually the hardest time for WIN House, it's that Christmas season," said Kueble. "Whatever we can do for the families, for the mothers we don't mind doing it at all, it comes from our heart."

'It's amazing' 

The Christmas pick-up happens on the first Monday in December with enough items to fill a pickup truck and two SUVs. 

"It's amazing what these ladies can do here," said Wendy Brouse, a coordinator with WIN House who has been coming to Central Sewing since Day 1.

"Sometimes a client will come in and they fall in love with the quilt that's on their bed, they want to take it with them, of course we let them," she said. 

Most of the volunteers come to the group knowing how to sew, but there are a couple of rookies. Retiree Richard Killips is one of only two men in the group of 40 sewers. The former television repairman got into sewing thanks to his daughter. Now he calls it his hobby.

"I'm still learning stuff every day," the 66-year-old said.  

 "It can be quite intimidating at times, it's not that easy, you've got to just keep on going and not give up."
 
"It's so nice to share," said Jensen. "It's so nice to be able to give someone something that really is made from the heart."