It Takes a Crew

Each week, it takes a crew of dedicated volunteers to set up and run our Make Welcome sewing class and associated activities.  We are so thankful for each of our volunteers; thankful for their love for our students and their families, thankful for their smiles and creativity, thankful for their willingness to pitch in and do whatever needs to be done each week.

Each class morning starts with loading and unloading. Sewing machines are stored off-site, so we pack them in the car and bring them. We usually also have bins of fabric and totes of other supplies. We do store some of our tools, fabric, and supplies on-site and this is a big help, but we typically have a car full to bring on class days.  

Once we arrive at our location, we unload and set up. The room is being spruced up and will be painted soon, so furniture is a bit helter skelter right now. After arranging the room, we set up our sewing machines on the tables. Extension cords and power strips are plugged in, ironing boards set up, and cutting mats and fabric set out on another table.

This week, two of our high school volunteers got the room ready quickly so turned their attention to sorting and organizing donated thread supplies.

Each week, before we get down to sewing, we show our latest sewing samples and product ideas. This week, Lisa had finished a nifty picnic set, complete with button closing carrying case, tablecloth, napkins, and all the items needed for a picnic for a twosome. The students were delighted with her work and who knows, this may be one of our spring sewing projects!

Next comes our community time, usually led by Julia. This is a time for announcements, a short devotion from the Bible, talking about needs (jobs, sickness, family issues, and more), and prayer together. We have delighted to see the women sharing their concerns and reaching out and caring for one another. And we've rejoiced together as jobs have been found, sickness abated, and babies born! (Remember last week's post??? Since then, our two pregnant students have given birth to healthy babies, one girl and one boy).

After we pray, it's time to sew!

This week, we talked a bit about quality control and the importance of accuracy in our sewing. We marked all the sewing machines with blue painters tape down the front of the machine from the 4/8 mark on the needle plate to ensure ease in sewing perfect half inch seams. Then everyone practiced! Next we learned how to attach a zipper foot, and began practicing inserting zippers the way we will do it in the wrist clutches and zipper pouches we plan to sew.

Next, each student chose fabric to make a zipper pouch. I love it when our students choose fabric. There is great deliberation over color and pattern and a lot of comparing, and asking for opinions and confirmation. We really want them to grow more comfortable in figuring out what they like, what they think is pretty, what colors and patterns appeal to them. We don't want it to be about our choices and our sensibilities, but want them to play with fabric, to handle it and enjoy it, to delight in the intricacies of design and the variety of colors and become more confident in their creative choices.

After fabric selections were complete, we worked for the last bit of class cutting out zipper pouch fabrics with the rotary cutters and rulers on self healing mats. These are relatively new tools for most of our students and they are still getting the hang of using the rotary cutters. We worked on measuring and cutting skills and again stressed accuracy in our work.

After all the pouches were cut and labeled for next class, we packed up, put away, cleaned up, and loaded up. We've been doing this for a while now, so everyone knows how to put away the machines, what gets stored in the closet, and what gets reloaded in the car. Everyone pitches in cheerfully and the job goes quickly.

See what I mean about cheerful! We're a group that loves to laugh together, even lugging sewing machines up and down stairs and in and out of the car.


While we are at work in the sewing room, another very important aspect of Make Welcome days happens in the room next door ... and in nice weather, outside in the fresh air. We decided from the get-go that providing child care was a necessity for our classes. It would not happen without a dedicated crew of volunteers. Each week, Jennifer plans stories and activities, and brings toys and games. She and our other child care volunteers keep our growing bunch of kiddos happy and busy. Well, mostly busy. Sometimes babies nap in loving arms.

As I said in the beginning, it takes a crew. We have a loving dedicated group of volunteers, but we could use more! With the number of students we have now, we're fine. But we are constantly asked if we can add students. So many of our friends in the refugee community have heard about the sewing classes and are eager to join. In order to accommodate more students, we will need more drivers, more child care helpers, and more sewing instructors. If you are interested in volunteering, please read the Get Involved page on our website, take a look at the Volunteer Application, and contact us! We'd love to hear from you.