All sewn up: Group filling needs with needlework

Jan. 7—ASHLAND — Artists whose work can be seen around the world are considered successful.

If that standard applies to needlework, Ashland has its share of stars.

Sew Blessed, a sewing group that meets at First Presbyterian Church in Ashland, has taken on several projects, including Dress a Girl Around the World, which does just what is claims: it encourages seamstresses to make clothing to be distributed to girls in need across the globe.

Geri Willis is the founder and facilitator of the group. She saw the need first hand.

"Years ago, I was resource center director at Crabbe (Elementary School), working with an after-school sewing program and had people at church asking, 'Can you hem these pants?' or do this or that, and I said, 'How about we start our own group?'" Willis said. "We had a few (seamstresses) in church, three or four getting started. Over the years, we have extended it to include anyone in the community and we are at 12 right now. You don't even have to know how to sew. You can just come for fellowswhip and cut out patterns or iron for us."

The group did work for Dress a Girl Around the World after the pastor's wife, Nannette Pollock, told them about the need.

"We set a goal of doing 30 dresses by September this year and we made 37 dresses," Willis said. "We have what is called an ambassador on the East coast and we mailed them to her and she sends them to foreign countries to girls who are in need. Many went to Haiti last year following the hurricane."

Dress a Girl Around the World is a program of Hope 4 Women International, an organization aimed at helping disadvantaged women.

There are guidelines for dresses, Willis said, including materials.

"They have to be 100% premium cotton. No buttons or zippers, you have to make ties instead," Willis explained. "I'm told that's because some of the kids live in conditions where the laundering is harsh, maybe even a creek bed, so you can't have buttons or anything that could get damaged."

She said each must contain a Women's International label on a visible pocket, which lets any predators know the girl is being watching, reducing her chances of being abducted.

Members of Sew Blessed work on individual projects as well as group projects, which have included Quilts of Valor and Hospice quilts.

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