Sewing classes foster patience, friendship

 

Volunteer Carolyn Denning, right, laughed with Ashely Gaines, a resident of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities' maternity home in New Albany, Ind. The two worked on a baby blanket Sept. 3 during a weekly sewing class. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Volunteer Carolyn Denning, right, laughed with Ashely Gaines, a resident of St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ maternity home in New Albany, Ind. The two worked on a baby blanket Sept. 3 during a weekly sewing class. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor

Expectant mothers living at a maternity home in New Albany, Ind., are learning a new skill — and all about patience — as they wait for their bundles of joy to arrive.

Fran Brown, standing, helped Joshlyn Wickliffe sew a baby blanket Sept. 3 at St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities' maternity home in New Albany, Ind. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)
Fran Brown, standing, helped Joshlyn Wickliffe sew a baby blanket Sept. 3 at St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities’ maternity home in New Albany, Ind. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Members of St. Aloysius Church in Pewee Valley, Ky., have donated five sewing machines to the home operated by St. Elizabeth Catholic Charities, an agency of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

St. Aloysius parishioner Fran Brown and Carolyn Denning, a member of Good Shepherd Church, teach weekly sewing classes at the maternity home.

Last week, they taught the young mothers how to thread the machines and helped them sew baby blankets.

“Everything in our age is quick, quick, quick,” Brown told the young women as she threaded a machine. “This takes a little more time; you’ve got to slow down.”

Joshlyn Wickliffe, who is about four months along in her pregnancy, followed Brown’s advice. She very slowly and flawlessly stitched straight lines around the sides of a square baby blanket with a Winnie-the-Pooh pattern.

“I love Winnie-the-Pooh,” she said as she lightly pressed her foot on the machine’s pedal. When an observer noted that Wickliffe already seemed to understand the patience it takes to sew, she explained that she developed that virtue when she learned to crochet a few years ago.

“My grandmother taught me,” she said. “When I left home, I left all of my stuff (for crocheting). I really like sewing. It’s easier.”

Wickliffe also noted that both sewing and crocheting are calming.

“This could be a coping skill,” she said. “If you get mad about something, you can go and sew something for your baby instead of getting angry.”

Ashely Gaines, who is expecting a son in a couple of months, sees the practical side of sewing, too.

“I thought, instead of going out to buy something, I could make something,” she said.

Gaines has become the star pupil, her instructors said. So far she’s made a fabric baby book, a baby blanket and a tote bag. The challenge for Brown and Denning is finding a new project for Gaines.

Brown noted that patterns and fabric are expensive, so they have to keep the projects simple. St. Aloysius parishioners donated the fabric and tools for sewing.

Other volunteers have provided behind-the-scenes support, Brown said. Her neighbor helped her cut out the material for tote bags. Youth from various parishes in Louisville cut the fabric for the cloth books. Valerie Gratzer, also of St. Aloysius, prepared the baby blankets for the women to sew.

While sewing is the focus of the classes, Brown said, it takes a backseat to the real aim: Supporting young women in challenging circumstances.

“Carolyn and I try to listen ‘with the ears of our heart,’ as St. Benedict says. We both feel very blessed by the women residents and staff whom we have met over time,” Brown said.

She also noted, “Simple presence builds the trust that has often been destroyed in the lives of  the women. We are privileged to walk together as sisters and this is a true blessing.”

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