Woman with MS pursues passion thanks to forehead-operated sewing machine

With the help of a local inventor and the Tetra Society, a non-profit organization that aims to increase independence for people with disabilities, people Like Judy Winship can continue thriving at activities they love.

Tetra Society paired Regina woman with local inventor

Judy Winship has multiple sclerosis and had a specialized sewing machine created in order for her to continue her passion. (CBC NEWS)

Sewing by machine typically requires the use of your arms and legs, but a Regina woman refused to let multiple sclerosis stop her from enjoying her decades-long passion.

"It's freedom. It's being able to do what I want to do. I'm able to sew my granddaughters some things that they've wanted," said Judy Winship. "It's a great thing."

Winship benefited from an invention made locally: an electric sewing machine not unlike one you're accustomed to seeing, except for a pedal-like extension where you would normally place a spool of thread. Winship powers the machine by pressing her forehead against the pedal.

The modified sewing machine was the brainchild of Gerry Wurtak, a Regina-based heavy duty journeyman mechanic and teacher by trade.

"It was a bit of a challenge, being that you don't know anything about a sewing a machine other than how to run it," he said.

Winship demonstrates how the sewing machine works. (CBC News)

Wurtak is a volunteer with the Tetra Society, a non-profit organization that aims to increase independence for people with disabilities.

The Tetra Society also works with Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan to help develop projects for their clients. 

"Anything that's going to help gain independence is huge benefit to anybody," said Lynn Bortis, a client services specialist at Spinal Cord Injury Saskatchewan.

"The fact that (these people) do this for no pay, out of the goodness of their hearts, I think that's an absolutely wonderful thing, because a lot of people don't have the resources to do this themselves."

Gerry Wurtak, left, and Judy Winship, right, admire a garment she made with the specialized electric sewing machine Wurtak created. (CBC News)

The Tetra Society was founded in 1987 in Vancouver and operates 45 chapters across North America.

Based on an application process, indicating a member's challenge, Tetra links volunteers to people who desire a better quality of life. Each month, volunteers attend a brainstorming meeting and create blueprints for potential projects. If an invention hasn't already been copyrighted or the blueprint can be modified, the project receives a green light.

Wurtak has finished nearly two dozen projects through the society to date.

"This happened and it was just meant to be," said Winship.