Area sewing clubs needle away

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  • Photos by Judy Spinney A wine bag project.

  • A cute dog pattern.

  • An embroidered blanket.

Creative sparks are flying as groups of knitters, needlers and embroidery-makers gather around Sussex County.

The Newton Needlers are one such neighborhood group in the North Jersey chapter of the American Sewing Guild. Judy Spinney has been the group leader for the past three years and after 47-years of sewing, she says there are many benefits besides the finished product.

“Research shows that doing things with your hands actually wards off depression," Spinney said. "So it isn’t just sewing, cooking, gardening, anything where you’re coordinating your hands. It’s especially rewarding with the needlework because you have something to show off at the end.”

Learning to sew

Spinney said that she really didn’t like sewing when she first began as a young girl in seventh grade. She made a skirt and it turned out so horribly that her mother made her redo it, but now there are so many tools out there to help people sew better.

Spinney explains that there are ways to cut and piece things more accurately.

“My bindings are always a problem, but I actually found a tool to help me with that,” she adds.

Now she tells the story of how she threw out her seventh grade sewing box to encourage people to not get discouraged.

Spinney’s sewing group which meets on the fourth Monday of the month from 7 to 9 p.m. at Liberty Towers is currently composed of about 10 members. They meet to talk about sewing, share products and teach each other new techniques.

Needle members

Member Denise Missall from Andover says it’s wonderful camaraderie with members of all levels who come together because they love sewing. Missall is a retired teacher who taught sewing in Andover for the past 24 years.

The best thing about being a member for her was getting new ideas to learn and share. It’s also exciting for Missall to see the different directions that people will take an idea. She describes how these snap bags that the group made over a year ago took off.

“One women made 40 of the bags for charity while another made one to match an outfit in a wedding — that was kind of fun to share the knowledge and watch it go off in different directions,” she said.

The August meeting’s project was to use an embroidery hoop as a frame with clothe pockets to store sewing tools. The members vote on the projects and some also bring along whatever they have been working on at home.

The group was actually larger but then it broke up into smaller specialized groups including the Afternoon Skylands Sewing group, which focuses on garment sewing. Another group called the Sew Techies focuses on doing machine embroidery and attracts followers from several of the other neighborhood groups including Spinney. She explains that many sewing machines are now computerized.

“The designs that you can get off the internet are absolutely amazing,” she gushes.

Spinney plans to make her grandson a prayer shawl for his upcoming bar mitzvah using a prayer that she uploaded from the internet, digitized and sent to her sewing machine.

“You can edit a design and make it bigger, backwards, you can use a thumb drive or do it wirelessly.”

Spinney explains that a special embroidery hoop allows you to thread up the machine and press go to embroider a beautiful design. The prayer shawl that Spinney is making for her grandson is the project that she plans to show off at the North Jersey Chapter’s annual meeting at the Clifton Barn, a senior center in Clifton.

Sew Techies

Carlyn Hudak of Branchville runs the Sew Techies and she has been described by Spinney as one of the most energetic American Sewing Guild members in Sussex County. Hudak says she has always loved sewing, so much so that when she grew up she became a home economics teacher. Eventually she ventured into freelance and adult education sewing classes.

“Nowadays, I still like to sew my own clothes, but sewing has changed so much because of the industry,” Hudak said.

Hudak explains that there are so many tools at your fingertips that allow you to do so much more with your sewing machine whether it’s making home décor like pillows, drapes or valances.

Once you are a member of the American Sewing Guild, your membership allows you to go to any meeting around the country. Members like Hudak even go to meetings while they are on vacation. “People think it’s an art that’s disappearing, but I don’t think it is, because people want to personalize things,” she says, whether it’s their own clothes or things in their homes. “You can buy a blouse and put your initials on it — you can embroider. It’s time consuming, but if you enjoy it, it’s a hobby that you can benefit from.”

At Hudak’s Sew Techies meetings, she says people come and do what they want.

“Some of the ladies like to come socialize and some people like to do projects. We might have a fitting expo or a demonstration of a handbag," Hudak said.

The meetings run from October to June and October is the time that they decide the year’s projects.

“We always have a sewing machine on hand." Hudak said. "We’ll go over a design and talk about what kinds of stitches we will do."

Teaching younger students

Hudak attends many of the neighborhood meetings in addition to the Sew Techies and she will soon be starting another group called Teach Another Generation. The TAG group will be geared toward younger students, ages 10 to 17, who have an interest in sewing and making garments.

“We will start by showing them how to use their own machines," Hudak said. "Then we’ll begin making skirts, and we’ll start doing patterns."

Meetings will be on the first Wednesday of the month at the Wantage Library from 4 to 6 p.m. The cost is $25 for the TAG group and that includes membership in the American Sewing Guild. For adults who are interested in joining a sewing group, the cost is $50 for a membership with the American Sewing Guild. Members also get various discounts at area sewing stores.

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