Linda Lambert (left), of Everett, and Vickie Sawade, of Snohomish, sew tote bags with other members of the Snohomish County Sewing and Textile Advisors at McCollum Park in Everett on March 17. The completed bags all went to Safe Place, an Everett shelter for homeless children. (Ian Terry / The Herald)

Volunteers gather to sew projects for various groups

EVERETT — About 20 people came together at McCollum Park recently to sew tote bags.

Instead of a social get-together, this sew-in was all business.

It was a meeting of Snohomish County Clothing and Textile Advisors, a group that meets monthly for charity.

“Sew Thoughtful is our charity sew, and we do it once a month, and we have several different groups that we sew for,” said Arlene Harris, who is the membership chairwoman.

This month’s benefactor was Safe Place, an Everett shelter for homeless children age 12 and younger that is a program of Hand in Hand.

Harris and the others sewed 37 tote bags for kids staying in the shelter.

The totes were sturdy. Harris and the others used fairly heavy corduroy or denim fabric, with a pocket of some sort of printed fabric.

“It’s so they have something that will put a smile on their face,” Harris said. “When they go out they’ll have a bag that is colorful and durable that they can put their items in that is not a garbage bag.”

In April, the group will meet to sew walker bags for patients in physical rehab at Group Health (now Kaiser Permanente) Everett Medical Center.

In May, the recipients will be Navy moms reached through the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society.

“They call them Junior Sea Bags, for babies of Navy personnel who are out to sea,” Harris said. “They put together the needs for the mom and the baby and we make a 36-by-36-inch quilt for the babies.”

The program started years ago as a Washington State University Extension program that went independent.

“In 1996, there were a few gals who realized this opportunity was available in Pierce County, where it started,” Harris said.

It later spread up to Snohomish County, one of four chapters in the state now.

The active membership is about 50 volunteers, Harris said. At McCollum Park, 21 people came, but a few took part remotely sewing at home. Typically about 15 people show up at the monthly sessions.

“It’s sort of potluck. I set up and prepare and people come,” Harris said. “I have standards so they have to measure up to that.”

Other Sew Together sessions produce knit hats for the teens using Cocoon House’s U-Turn drop-in center, flannel pajamas for children at Safe Place, and hygiene products for girls in developing countries.

To raise money for supplies, the group holds sewing classes for children and adults at the Rosehill Community Center in Mukilteo, and in the summer hosts Camp Stitch-a-Lot for kids age 8-17.

The group also awards a $1,500 scholarship annually to a second-year student in Seattle Central College’s Applied Apparel and Design program.

Harris emphasized that she and the other members take their sewing seriously. It’s not a social club, and even when nonmembers come by, she expects a high quality of work.

“We have a lot of needs, so if you join, this is our mission statement: taking sewing to the community,” Harris said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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