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Donated sewing machines keep craft alive at Fox Chapel

Economic shortfalls hit just about everywhere, and so it is in Amy Deschweinitz's Fox Chapel Middle School family consumer science class.

The biggest problem has been a lack of sewing machines.

That is not nearly the problem it used to be, though. Learning about her need, the community has stepped in, mainly through the generosity of Phyllis Kent.

Last spring, Kent noticed a news story about the sewing class' quilt-making project for hospitalized children. She read how Deschweinitz needed supplies.

Kent lives in Spring Hill's High Point community. She has been sewing since she was 4 and likes to find sewing machines and give them away. She wants people to sew.

Also living in High Point is George Cote, retired from a New Hampshire sewing machine company. He was a repairman and now repairs machines as needed. Kent considers herself to be his best customer.

Kent donated one of her used machines to the Fox Chapel class. She happened to mention that to Cote, who decided to give one, too.

Kent left for the summer and when she returned, she felt that she needed to do more. By now she has donated seven machines to Deschweinitz's class. She also gives fabric.

Kent is a member of the High Point Quilters, and she told the members about her donations. The group likes to adopt causes and donated enough money to buy four used machines and get them repaired as needed.

They have donated three and are looking for the fourth. Cote is good at that. "George has found some wonderful machines," Kent said.

The school has another source of machines. Patti Van Matre, president of the Central West Coast Florida Chapter of the American Sewing Guild, and her group have given the class a brand new Babylock sewing machine.

"Amy is doing such a wonderful job teaching the next generation to sew and we heard that she needed machines," she said. "We're just encouraged that there are people like Amy teaching young people to sew, because it's an art and a skill and we'd like to see that continued."

Meanwhile, the 120 students in Deschweinitz's classes are sewing. The family and science classes are 18 weeks long, with six weeks focused on cooking and family finance. The other weeks are spent sewing.

The students begin the sewing class by learning to do hand sewing. They make sock monkeys. Then they move on to string bags. After that they make boxer shorts, then stuffed animals and then quilts. The quilts are donated to St. Joseph's Children's Hospital.

Deschweinitz makes the patterns the students use to make sure they are at the appropriate level. "I design all the patterns to make them kid-friendly so it's an attainable goal for the kids," she said.

Deschweinitz's family consumer science class is the only one at the middle school level in Hernando County. She appreciates everything the community does for her students.

"I want to say 'thank you' because their generosity is helping a new generation," she said. "Without them, we wouldn't have had enough machines to keep the kids sewing.

Donated sewing machines keep craft alive at Fox Chapel 11/25/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2009 5:31pm]
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