By David Chircop Herald Writer
EVERETT — A frantic blend of sewing, tears and laughter is stitching a tale of hope in Cindy Windecker’s garage.
Friends there are coming together in an effort to save the seamstress’ home.
Windecker, 51, is one of millions of Americans mired in the subprime mortgage mess that is leading to a record number of people losing their homes to foreclosure.
After years of cramming her business into tiny apartments, she finally found a two- bedroom, ranch-style house on Third Avenue SE in Everett four years ago. Now, a mortgage that’s about to increase for the second time in a year could force Windecker out of her home.
“When I found this house, I thought I was set for life,” Windecker said of the home she shares with Velvet, a sociable black cat with long wispy hair. “When I got this, it was like, ‘Wow this is cool.’ “
She said she has never missed a monthly mortgage payment, but if she can’t earn enough money to refinance her adjustable-rate mortgage, she fears she will soon lose her house along with her sewing business.
In a last ditch effort to stave off foreclosure, Windecker and friends from her Bible study class and neighbors are working in shifts, spending 16 hours a day sewing quilts and other handmade goods to sell at a silent auction planned for 12:30 p.m. Saturday at the community room of the New Life Center Church, 6830 Highland Drive, Everett.
The goal is to earn $18,000, enough money for a down payment and a financial cushion to allow her to refinance and get a traditional 30-year fixed rate loan.
The biggest item is a 10-foot-by-10-foot American-themed quilt with images of eagles, the Statue of Liberty and the Liberty Bell that took eight months to make. Smaller items for bid include several baby blankets crocheted by an elderly neighbor.
“She has everything to lose, her home, her livelihood, everything is at risk and she’s really fighting to survive,” friend Suzanne Klaas said.
Windecker has a lot of company.
In June, foreclosure filings in Snohomish County were up 39 percent from a year ago, according to RealtyTrac Inc., a national foreclosure database. Foreclosure filings were issued for 280 properties in the county or a rate of one for every 984 households last month.
Windecker is single, twice divorced and has never had children.
Her sewing career started in a rustic cabin on Lake Newman near the Washington-Idaho state line nearly three decades ago. She began with draperies and clothing and has since fixed a grizzly bear skin rug, made canvas sailboat sail covers and a Volkswagen bus canopy, and taken on thousands of other custom sewing jobs.
When Klass told Windecker about a co-worker suffering with terminal cancer, without prompting, the seamstress made a quilt for the dying stranger. She told Klass that she hoped it would keep her co-worker warm in her final days.
She’s made similar blankets for sick children and single teen moms.
Mariah Miller tears up when she recalls Windecker’s kindness. A decade ago, Windecker made her wedding dress, along with 10 bridesmaid dresses and eight flower girl dresses.
She stayed in touch with Miller’s mother, Darlene Fox, who died of breast cancer earlier this year. Before she died, Windecker made her a quilt and had members of Fox’s church and volunteers with her favorite charity sign it.
“She’s not just a seamstress,” Miller said. “She truly cares about people.”
In 2004, Windecker bought her house for $200,000. The house and its furnishings are modest. The living room couch is a $25 yard sale score. The workshop garage, Windecker calls it her “patchwork place,” was built with remnant flooring and scrap wood from her attic.
It’s a no-frills abode, but it has ample room for her nine sewing machines, big tables and seemingly infinite selection of thread.
She once squeezed it all into a one-bedroom apartment in north Everett. Space was so tight her canopy bed doubled as a clothes rack. She parted wedding dresses and suits to reach the mattress.
Business boomed and she decided to find a bigger place.
With good credit, a steady stream of income, and a favorable lending environment, Windecker had no problem qualifying for a loan.
She got into the house with no down payment. The mortgage started with a low interest rate of 6.35 percent for the first three years. Then the rate was scheduled to adjust in regular intervals for the remaining 27 years.
Her mortgage broker at the time told her she’d be able to refinance before the mortgage reset, but then the rules changed.
Tightening lending standards left Windecker unable to qualify when she applied to refinance in February. Her loan was officially rejected on Valentine’s Day.
Meanwhile, her monthly mortgage bill increased by $250 a month. She fears another adjustment scheduled to take place in the fall will end her American dream.
“I believe so firmly that what happened to Cindy was wrong on so many levels,” said Anne Ramsey, a mortgage broker who learned about Windecker’s woes through the pair’s Bible study group.
Ramsey hatched up a plan for an auction after Windecker’s ninth loan rejection.
The two sat together. They cried and prayed for a solution. An auction seemed like their best option.
Nancy Christiansen, Windecker’s friend who is driving from Eastern Washington to help her two days a week, says she hopes their fundraising effort will serve as an inspiration for others facing foreclosure.
“Communities need to help each other,” she said. “We’ve got to go back to that old way of helping each other.”
Jeanette Ayres, a client who had a wedding dress altered this spring, said she felt compelled to help when she learned about Windecker’s fight.
“It’s not like she’s asking for something for nothing,” Ayres said. “When you see somebody working so hard to save themselves, you really want to help out.”
Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or firstname.lastname@example.org.