Stitching Communities Together

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A new Upper West Side group pairs local kids and elderly residents to work on sewing projects.

New community group Sew Far Sew Good held its inaugural event on Saturday, May 11, 2013 at The Esplanade residence for seniors on 74th and West End Avenue. The group was started by neighborhood parent Jillian Hollmann and several other current and former parents of children at neighborhood public elementary school P.S. 87. Its mission is to bring families into neighborhood institutions that serve the ill and elderly and have them share the fun experience of completing an easy sewing project.

The idea for Sew Far Sew Good grew out of Hollmann's own experience of struggling with a difficult pregnancy followed by a bout with a mysterious illness that left her mostly bedridden for almost two years.

"I took up embroidery to pass the time," she explained, "and found that it really lifted my spirits."

Her 7-year-old son was soon clamoring to learn, and it quickly became a favorite shared activity.

"It came to me that easy sewing crafts, like I do with my son, would be the perfect vehicle to bring some cheer to people struggling with illness and isolation like I was," Hollmann said. "It's soothing because it's repetitive, but there's also a lot of room for self-expression."

Hollmann reached out to other parents from the P.S. 87 community, suggesting it as a volunteer activity they could do together with their children, and was gratified by an overwhelmingly positive response. People readily shared suggestions for craft projects, made calls to help find a suitable venue, and donated materials, as well as signing up with their children to volunteer. After several hospitals declined to have the group due to infection protocols, someone suggested senior residences. "The Esplanade is around the corner from me, so it's the first place I thought of, and they said yes!" said Hollmann.

So there they were on Saturday, a modern-day sewing circle with ages ranging from 4 to about 90, each helping and encouraging the others as everyone made their own colorful felt bookmarks.

"I had to learn sewing when I was a girl, in home ec, but the teacher said my work was no good," one resident recalled. "This is more fun."

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