The Sewing Machine Project started when Margaret heard an Indonesian woman lament the loss of her sewing machine in the 2005 tsunami. Margaret, a lifelong sewer and sewing educator, could identify with a love of a sewing machine, but realized that for the Indonesian woman it also meant the loss of her livelihood. The loss so moved Margaret that she started gathering used machines in good condition to send to Indonesia. She quickly gathered 75 machines, but realized she had no idea how to transport them. Through a variety of connections she found someone to help, and the machines were sent to those who needed them. Since then she’s sent machines to people in need around the world, asking only that the recipients “pay it forward” by teaching someone else to sew or sewing for others in need. After Hurricane Katrina her efforts focused on New Orleans, and to date she’s created a partnership with AllBrands and has distributed more than 650 machines in that area. This is the story I wrote for Stitch (it’s in the fall issue).
When the Gulf Oil spill occurred, Margaret again wanted to help. She formed SeaHope Partners, and I was able to share that story on an Etsy post that went up yesterday. Check out the bags that Margaret is creating, including the line she’s creating with artists (and if you’re interested in helping, you can get in contact with her through the Sewing Machine Project site). Margaret’s efforts are full time and unpaid, but she’s completely committed to doing the work she’s begun and she’s got more projects on the horizon (see the Etsy story for word on her upcoming efforts).
I love that Margaret has found sewing to be the means to reach out and help. Sewing is pleasurable: it brings feelings of mastery (learning new skills and techniques), of inspiration (working with all those colors and patterns), of comfort (sewing for family and friends), of practicality and self-reliance (making something you could buy, and making it your own). But for most of us it’s a hobby or at least a pursuit that we don’t depend on to put food on the table. Margaret understood that sewing continues to put a roof over the heads of people around the world and has made it her mission to keep those folks stitching.
If you’re puzzling over a great birthday present for a sewing friend, or even a way to honor a stitching friend who has died, consider a monetary gift to the Sewing Machine Project. It will help Margaret get donated sewing machines to areas of greatest need, to people who will love, use, and appreciate them.
(Photos courtesy of Margaret Jankowski)