is the grass any bluer...

is the grass any bluer...
on the other side?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Stitch In Time

"We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things, with great love."  Mother Teresa
It is hard to imagine a more profound way to put Mother Teresa's words of compassion into action than those of two Lexington business owners, Cora Mossbrook and Laura Schneider who truly do think globally, but act locally.  The co-owners of Q - first in Quilting (located on Old Harrodsburg Road) are offering the use of their sewing machines in an effort to make 1000 dresses for the girls of Haiti by June. In doing so, they provide a hands-on opportunity to create something immediately useful and send it directly into the hands of a child. For many of the Haitian girls who receive the dresses, it will be their first dress; for most of them, it will be their first new dress.  The goal: 1000 dresses by June and the good news is: you can help!

Q's first effort created several hundred dresses sent to Haiti in March, just months after the January 12 earthquake described by some experts as the deadliest natural disaster in modern history.

Mossbrook's sister, Carolyn
Wyckoff states that she has been involved with Mission Support International (MSI) for "several years and many of my closest friends are the volunteers who go to Haiti four times a year to conduct health clinics. We managed to have 300 dresses for them to take during their recent trip and they gave them to the most needy - the girls that showed up in rags - but the need is so great. Therefore, we are trying to make even more for June." 


Mission Support International is an economically and socially responsible ministry in Haiti. MSI sends teams of volunteers and medical professionals to Haiti to offer medical services and security.  The organization operates through donations and have no salaries, their people volunteer their services and pay for their own way.  All donations go to the Haitian people.

How you can help
According to Schneider, "We need sewing help, and really anyone over 13 can help at one of our sessions.  We have three more scheduled before the June deadline. Even if people don't feel that they can sew, there is plenty they can do -- we can put them to work with ironing, cutting, casing elastic, running -- there are several steps in every finished dress and someone has to do all of them.  Of course, we would be happy to accept donations of pre-made or home-sewn dresses in any size.  We also are planning to make some shorts -- we are all mothers of boys in our shop, and we want the little boys to have new things also -- and those could be donated as well. The children in Haiti are of all ages; our focus is mostly on toddler to young adult."

They also have the pattern and fabric available, and you may also donate double-sided bias tape to reinforce the seams of the dresses, or the elastic that allows for comfort and, hopefully, for growth.  Perhaps the saddest truth about the need was a statement made by Cora when asked about the dress sizes needed: "The girls are all ages, but are all very thin, so we only have to adjust the length."

Stop in and Sew-In
"Are you here to shop, or are you here to dress Haiti?" Schneider says whenever a customer enters the cheerful shop, which is like walking into a living kaleidoscope of fabric and vibrant activity. Not a seamstress myself -- in fact, I must confess that my gingham apron from 8th Home Economics is still sitting in a trunk, abandoned long ago in its unfinished state -- I was a bit overwhelmed at the thought of visiting a quilting store, but I was instantly comforted by the air of hospitality within. The owners were eager to show me the way, their altruistic spirit being almost as contagious as the enthusiasm of their customers whose eyes shine as they speak fondly of quilt-making. One patron, there to purchase material to take home so she could transform it into a quilt chose a bolt of vermilion silk that she was convinced was already beginning to tell its own story. She then told me how a quilt will take on a life of its own and sometimes will create itself, just as many works of art do.

A visit to Q on a "Sew-In" day found stations strategically set up for each stage of dressmaking, beginning with the cutting table, where the selected fabric begins its journey handled by loving hands who cut, serge, sew, iron, hem and finish the cloth into beautiful but durable clothing for children. These dresses will make their way to a child who will not only be receiving necessary medical attention, but will also be provided a new, clean dress to wear.

Mossbrook emphasizes that the need was great before the earthquake but is even greater now. "We will continue to have Sew-In shop time to meet our goal. The dresses are very simple, and we can show anyone how to make them. If anyone wants to donate 3/4" elastic or double fold bias tape, they can bring that in. The fabric must be good quality, 100% medium weight cotton. Many people have been coming in, choosing fabric and leaving their purchase for volunteers to sew up for them.  We are giving a discount on the fabric and we also have a sale table to choose from."

Schneider and Mossbrook, both master sewing instructors, opened their quilting store last year after the Quilting Bee on Richmond Road closed.  Mossbrook admits, "I wanted to get back into a quilt shop and felt there was plenty of room for a great quilting and sewing center, centrally located not only for Lexington, but all of the surrounding counties as well.  We are for-profit, even though we know it will take a long time to get there.  Laura and I both feel strongly about giving back, and will have at least two of these projects a year."

Q’s owners are finding that everyone can play a role in this worthy cause. Recently, the shop was the site of an international Sew-In when two exchange students from Russia and Norway visited.  Each made two dresses and were very quick to learn to use the machines, according to Mossbrook, who laughs, "the young lady from Russia said she had thought quilting to be boring until she came to our shop!  Another sewing student brought her husband who had never used a serger or sewing machine, but managed quite well. A young woman serving in Afghanistan later this summer also came in and made dresses."

Laura states that she Cora "have both been quilting for a long time. I started in 1989 - and we both just love to quilt. I love fabric and Bernina sewing machines and getting people and fabric together - it's really fulfilling to help someone find just the right fabric for the project they are excited to do.  We are complete opposites in our fabric choices and approaches - Cora likes to take her time, work by hand and make an heirloom, while I like to fly along on the sewing machine and start fifty projects at once! - but that makes us good partners because one is strong where the other is weak."

"One thousand dresses is a lot for us, but the 300 that have already gone over were given out in one day.  So hopefully this will encourage others to get on board with the project. We have about 20 sewing machines set up ready to sew around our shop and Laura and I are usually always here. If you visit the store, we can quickly show you what to do. Our regular hours are 9:30 to 5 Monday through Saturday, but we have some nights we are staying until 9."

What you can do to help:

  • Donate an hour of your time (any time the shop is open).

  • Donate a yard of fabric (100% medium weight cotton).

  • Donate a 3/4" elastic, or double-fold bias tape.

  • Buy all materials for a dress and leave for someone else to make and finish.

  • Bring a friend or your young adult (13+) in and have them take part in the project, too.

To a little girl, a new dress is always special.  To children dressed in rags, the gift a new dress can become a significant healing gesture. That such a small and subtle action on our part can impact so many lives in a meaningful and enduring way is remarkable.  For those who are moved when they see the faces of the impoverished children of the world and want to make a difference, these folks will sew you the way.

Event :  1,000 dresses for Haiti  - Sew-In
When :  May 12, May 21 and May 25 from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Where : Q - first in Quilting  - South Elkhorn Shopping Center off Harrodsburg Road
Contact:  Cora or Laura   (859)  554.5800

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