Behind the noise of The Sampson Independent’s newsroom, the soft hum of sewing machines can be detected. Under the sounds of ringing phones and fingers clicking away on keyboards, gentle laughs and warm conversations can be heard. Every Tuesday, around 12 ladies gather in the back of the newspaper building to sew and fellowship together. While the two are not typical neighbors, The Sampson Independent is happy to accommodate these special ladies and the sewing group is grateful to have a place to belong.
The sewing group originally started as a class at Sampson Community College and later moved to the old putt putt building at Royal Lane Park.
However, the building eventually needed be torn down. “It fell into a state of disrepair and became a health and safety hazard,” said Clinton city manager John Connet.
Suddenly, the sewing group had no where to go.“We were on our own but didn’t want to give up, so we went to the City Council,” said Phyllis McKee of the group’s reaction.
The ladies presented their concerns to the Council and asked for help in finding a new meeting place. While talking with Sherry Matthews, editor and general manager of The Sampson Independent, Connet learned that the newspaper had room available that just might work for the ladies’ sewing group.
“John came to me and asked if we had some space available,” recalled Matthews. “We had moved our ad department up in the building, so there was open space in the back room. We met with the ladies and felt it was a good thing to do. We’re thrilled to give them space to do their sewing.”
The sewing group is very thankful that these community leaders cared about their situation and worked together to help them. “We really appreciate The Sampson Independent, the City Council, and Mr. Connet for working this all out for us,” said McKee.
Now that they are settled in their new home, the group, unofficially named The Remnants Sewing Group, can do what they so love to do.
“We meet once a week and we each have our own little projects that we work on,” explained Doris Coldwell.
“We sew anything and everything,” added Velva Lindsay as the ladies started naming off all the items they have made including place mats, curtains, purses, quilts and comforters, and various pieces of clothing.
Between all the ladies, the group produces numerous handmade items, and thanks to generous individuals, often doesn’t have to pay for much of their materials. “We seldom have to buy cloth,” explained McKee. “People donate a lot to us.”
Coldwell added that when the local sewing factories closed down, the group received quite a few supplies from them. “These big spools of thread came from them and some buttons too,” said Coldwell as she motioned toward a bookshelf filled with brightly colored spools. “This lace trim was some I had. I didn’t need all of it so I brought here. We often share with each other. If someone needs something, they are welcome to it.”
While the group is thankful for the generosity of others and their abundance of material, they acknowledge that many of their sewing machines are in need of repair.
“Our biggest problem is getting our sewing machines fixed,” said McKee, noting that eight are not in working order. “We love the Serger sewing machines but we only have four or five that actually work. If someone knows how to fix sewing machines, we’d appreciate their help.”
Despite this obstacle, the ladies don’t let a few broken sewing machines stop them from doing what they enjoy.
On this day, a beautiful comforter was spread across one of their big work tables. “This comforter is going to Velva’s granddaughter and grandson-in-law who live in New York,” said McKee as she trimmed away excess material. “He’s sick with cancer.”
“I only had to buy this little bit of lining,” shared Lindsay, fingering the edge of the comforter. “Everything else was donated which makes it all the more special.”
These are the kinds of projects that the ladies love to do. “None of us sell anything we make,” said Lindsay. “Of course, it would be all right if someone wanted to do that but we just like making things for our family and friends.”
For many in the group, their sewing started with their families. As she continued working, McKee remembered her mother’s pedal sewing machine. “I told my mom I wanted to make doll clothes. She told me I had to learn how to pedal the machine first, so for a while, I just practiced pedaling until I was able to do it.”
Once McKee got the hang of pedaling, there was no stopping her. “When I was 9 years old, I made a dress and wore it to school. I remember I wore a leather belt with it, and I had a tooled leather pocketbook too.”
Lindsay also learned sewing from her mother. “I remember seeing my mother letting out the hems on some of my clothing. I eventually told her that I could do that.”
Some of the other ladies learned in school. “I took sewing in high school but went for years and didn’t sew,” noted Teresa Evans. “It’s been nice to start back.”
“I learned in 4-H at the age of 10,” shared Coldwell. “We had a good instructor. For six months she’d teach us sewing, and for the other six months she’d teach us cooking or baking.”
Rose Smith took the road less traveled and taught herself how to sew back in 1954. “It was after my son was born and I made him six pairs of pajamas. It wasn’t long before he asked me not to make anymore. I guess he thought six was enough,” said Smith with a laugh.
Now Smith enjoys sewing all kinds of items as well as knitting and crocheting. “I like to make scarves, gloves, and socks. Nothing that takes too long.”
Despite the ladies’ experience, don’t think you have to know how to sew to join the group. Interest and a willingness to learn are all that is required. “Anybody is welcome,” said McKee.
The group’s newest member, Brenda Woodall, said she didn’t know anything about sewing when she started meeting with the ladies.
“I’ve been here about three or four weeks now, and I’ve already made a pocketbook, with help of course,” said Woodall, pointing over at a black bag covered colorful butterflies. “I want to make some summer dresses for my granddaughters soon.”
The group is always thrilled when people want to learn how to sew and make or mend their own things.
“I think people want handmade stuff but they don’t want to take the time to do it themselves,” explained Smith.
“It’s kind of a dying art. There are people who don’t even know how to sew on a button,” remarked McKee. “I think everyone should know how to at least do that.”
As important as sewing is to these ladies, what they really treasure is their time together.
“The camaraderie of all the ladies is the best part to me,” noted Coldwell.
“This is better than a camp meeting,” Marie Stowers said with a laugh. “Better than going to confession.”
“Gathering together like this, it’s good therapy,” agreed Gurley Quinn.
“We talk about our families, our churches, our lives,” shared Smith. “You know it would be lonesome without special people to talk to. I just love being with these women.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 123 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.