Holding an armful of colorful textiles, Highland Park resident Gina Gary enters the Vickery Meadow Food Pantry. More women quickly follow. Arriving in pairs and trios, they begin to set up their work and select fabrics. A mechanical hum fills the room.
Gary thought her skills as a seamstress would lead to a job. Instead, they led to Sew Sincerely, a group of women that meets twice a month to learn how to sew.
She got the idea when her friend Terri Heard invited her to a sewing event through Park Cities Baptist Church in January 2015. Gary, who had been collecting sewing machines at garage sales over the years, showed up with enough for everyone there.
When she met women who wanted to learn how to sew, Gary saw a chance to give back instead of a job opportunity.
“There are people around the world who live in poverty,” she says. “Then you realize it’s actually at your back door. We’re so close to it. I don’t think people realize that about the Vickery area.”
Since then, the group has grown to about ten women. Gary’s belief in Sew Sincerely is rooted in the value of learning a skill. It is empowering, she says, to have the means to create something.
For years, Gary had been the “crafts lady” at Thee Camp, her children’s summer camp. During her workshops, she noticed something: “the kids who would come in were the kids who would come alone.” She watched how, as they learned a new craft, their self-esteem grew. Within days, the kids who were shy and lonely were suddenly showing other kids how to do the things they had learned.
Gary witnesses the same transformation in the women she sews with, as does Heard, who attends every meeting. “After we complete a project, the look on their faces says so much about accomplishment,” Heard said. “It’s been rewarding for me to get to see that.”
During their sessions, they have learned to sew useful household items, gifts for their families, and through the Charitable Sewing for Others initiative have made sixty dresses and pairs of shorts for girls in Guatemala. Heard, part of a women’s ministry from PC Baptist, will take the dresses in April to Potter’s House, a ministry in Guatemala the church supports.
Throughout the months, the sewing community has become close. They have girl talk. When they sew aprons, Gary jokes with them that they should get their husbands’ support for their group by “trying them on” at night. Last Thanksgiving, several of the women came to Gary’s house to teach her to make tamales.
“I’ve received more than I could ever give,” Gary said of her group.
Gary grew up with seamstresses. Her mother and grandmother both sewed, and her great aunt worked in sewing factories in Dallas. Gary started in third grade, and by high school was sewing her own clothes. She considers it a valuable skill; but more than that, it’s something she associates with the community of women in which she grew up. For Gary, this is what Sew Sincerely is about: the fellowship of women.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what country we’re from, or what language we speak. At the end of the day, we’re all women.”
The greatest reward for Gary is seeing them support each other. For the women she is teaching, sewing means a lot more.
Additional reporting by Debora Annino.