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The American Sewing Guild: Artists in Fabric

Date:2015-05-11

They come from all walks of life, from all over the area, including Apollo Beach, Ruskin, Riverview, Sun City Center and Brandon.  They unite to pursue one common obsession: The Art of Sewing.

Their projects range from making adult garments, fashion pieces, purses, doll clothes, pillowcases, baby clothes, woolly dolls and infant blankets to art quilts honoring veteran soldiers.

Who are they?  They are the talented women of The American Sewing Guild, a national non-profit organization dedicated to supporting sewing enthusiasts all over the U.S.

With more than 125 chapters and nearly 1,000 neighborhood groups that sponsor sewing activities in local communities, ASG has something to offer anyone with a yen for needle and thread.

Standing, from left: Dorothy Sparks, Martha Collins. Seated: Cindy Falck and Delores Lines.
Standing, from left: Dorothy Sparks, Martha Collins. Seated: Cindy Falck and Delores Lines.
“It’s a lifelong interest that we love to share,” said Martha Collins of MiraBay, president of the ASG local chapter, East Bay/Brandon, which, with a current membership of 130, is a spinoff from the growing Tampa Bay chapter.

“Our members love the camaraderie and friendship they get through ASG,” she said. “There’s just nothing else like it.”

“We’re like a bunch of little girls all grown up,” said Cindy Falck of Apollo Beach, who loves sewing doll and baby clothes. “I just recently had the joy of making an Easter dress for my new grandbaby, and nothing could have made me happier.”

Dorothy Sparks, a winter  resident of Kings Point in Sun City Center, agreed. “Many of us started out in 4-H, and now we’re like grown-up 4-H-ers,” she said. She loves the sense of community that being a member of ASG gives her.  “I started sewing as a need,” she said, “because I was short and could never find clothes to fit me.  Now it’s no longer a need, it’s my passion.”

ASG chapters come in all sizes — larger chapters often sponsor quarterly chapterwide special events that may feature local or national speakers, member fashion shows or specialty workshops.

Smaller chapters may form because they share a specific interest, like quilting or doll clothes.

The neighborhood groups provide opportunities for sharing ideas and “hands-on” sewing experiences in a smaller, more social atmosphere. They often sponsor special workshops and events, sewing classes, sewing-related travel and tours, fashion shows, contests and charity projects.

Delores Lines displays two blouses she has made — including the one she’s wearing. Below, colorful pillowcases created for charity by the ASG chapter “Sewing Sisters.”
Delores Lines displays two blouses she has made — including the one she’s wearing.
“I love the charity aspects of ASG,” said Delores Lines, describing the many community-related projects her chapter has tackled. “We have made pillowcases and Christmas crafts for the Mary & Martha and Joshua houses, baby clothes and blankets for needy families, and quilts honoring U.S. veterans,” she said.  She is the second vice-president of the East Bay/Brandon chapter, in charge of membership activities.  “Our pillowcases were so popular, we’ve been asked to do them again for the Firehouse [Cultural Center] for Christmas.”

ASG members get involved in neighborhood groups in order to learn new skills or to pursue new avenues of interest.  With names like Garment Gals, Citrus Stitchers, Sew Much to Do, Savvy Sergers, Sewing Sisters,  Quilts of Valor, Every Stitch Counts and Not Sew Ordinary, there is sure to be something for every sewing addict.

“It would be safe to say we are artists in fabric,” said Cindy Falck, who started out when she was very young sewing clothes for herself and her dolls, then graduated to an interest in art pieces and unconventional combinations of media. “I admire groups like Not Sew Ordinary that explore unusual techniques, like dyeing, stenciling, distressing, beading and manipulating fabrics.”

Colorful pillowcases created for charity by the ASG chapter “Sewing Sisters.”
Colorful pillowcases created for charity by the ASG chapter “Sewing Sisters.”
Falck said these explorations often result in “art pieces that can be hung on your wall, in public exhibits, or even in museums.”  She said people should look for local venues to see fabric artworks, such as the annual Strawberry Festival, or the SouthShore Regional Library, which will host an exhibition entitled Fiber Arts later this spring.

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