Joanie Hemm, leader of a volunteer sewing program
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Joanie Hemm, volunteer support specialist for Providence Hospice & Home Care of Snohomish County, runs the sewing program that gives out handmade pillows and blankets to people using the agency's services.
Joanie Hemm also sews historical costumes, such as this one she made for a La Conner event.
A: I don't think it did. My maiden name was not Hemm, and I've been sewing forever.
I started dressing Barbies. I wanted them in historical costumes and those are hard to find, so I had to make my own. I once made a hoop skirt for Halloween when I was 10, and people who saw it said, "You didn't make; that your mom did," and I said, "My mom can't sew on a button." I had just read "Gone With the Wind" and I actually did use curtain material.
I'm still really into repurposing fabrics. I'm proud of that because any fool can buy any fabric they need, but I work with what's there.
I once made a bustle gown out of a tablecloth, chair cover and a pair of drapes.
I am a history buff and a theater buff so with those two things together, sewing was a no-brainer. And then I married Tom Hemm, and I've never heard the end of it.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A: I would not. I have finally got here, and now I have a perfect fit.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A: I have always dreamed of being a costume designer, but being raised in Iowa, I knew I'd have to go to one coast or the other and that kind of scared of me. But sewing had its hooks in me, and I've never given up.
I owned my own theater company when I lived in Colorado so I could create my own costumes, and my group is still going. I'm also part of the Seattle group called "Somewhere in Time, Unlimited" a costuming group.
I had run my theater group for 13 years and I loved working with volunteers, who are very special people. So when I got here I was working with a temp company who sent me to the Providence Hospice volunteer program, and they hired me into the position.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A: They say "Oh Hemm, isn't that funny?" And sometimes I don't even know what they are talking about, and then they say, "And you sew," and I say, "Yes, that part is right."
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A: The only thing I will tell you is sometimes I will say to my husband, 'I've got to put a hem in this dress,' and he'll say, 'She's already in it.' And he never gets tired of saying that.
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