West Town DIY group serves community

(Lindsay Payleitner )
February 15, 2012|By Shaymus McLaughlin, RedEye contributor

One thing Chicago does not experience a shortage of is stuff to do. Between the abundance of bars, restaurants, social events and stores, seldom do entertainment seekers opt for the volunteer or community service avenue.  

One of those people is not Lindsay Payleitner, a Chicagoan who has combined her backgrounds in volunteering and sewing to create a bi-weekly community sewing class through her business The Sewing Maniac.

"I think that people want to give back," Payleitner said. "I think that people want to volunteer, but sometimes they don't know where to get started."

Payleitner thinks that starting point could be a needle and thread.

"I feel like just lately there's been kind of a resurgence in do-it-yourself, crafting, that sort of thing," she said. "And I think that people are always looking to develop new skills...I think a lot of people don't know how to sew."

Participants come in, are taught a sewing-specific skill set if needed, and then all work to create a set of items to be donated.

While her workshops are usually held at her studio in West Town, The Sewing Maniac, two of the next three community sewing events--the first on Thursday, Feb. 16, the next on March 20 -- will be held at Next Door Cafe in Lincoln Park (659 W. Diversey Pkwy).

For the first run of classes, she has teamed up with New Moms Inc., an organization that helps impoverished adolescent mothers.

"Lindsay gave us a call one day, she was looking for an organization that she could help support," explained Mary Griffith, the Director of Resource Development for New Moms Inc. "We need stuff all the time, people who have a skill. And we want to make participating in New Moms fun for everybody. [Lindsay] had this skill, she was teaching sewing...there was the opportunity then to say, I have these things, you guys have a need for them, how do we partner?"

In the first class, Payleitner walked the group of four through bib making. One of the participants, 35-year-old Danita Ivory, came in a group, and was walking into a world none of them knew much about. That didn't turn out to be a problem though.

"The three of us, we didn't have that much experience, but it didn't matter because Lindsay was really good with showing us how to work the sewing machine," Ivory said. "She was really good at explaining how to work it...I think it was just fun. And for me it was like, when I finished my first bib, I was so happy. Because you know, we actually finish a project from start to finish."

Ivory said she is signed up for the next class on Feb. 16, which is rattle making. After that, it's baby winter-wear on March 1 and then diaper bags and changing pads on March 20. Participants are also suggested to make a monetary donation to New Moms Inc. as well, but it isn't required.

"It's kind of a neat concept, because she's asking people to make a donation and then the proceeds come to our agency, but then they're also making something," Griffith said. "The things they're making, the bibs, the blankets, our participants have a need for that. They're always very low income."

The group has definitely gained members and interest--especially for people like Ivory, who said the biggest reason she signed up was the community service aspect of it.

"I do quite a bit of volunteer work, so when I saw it, I sent out a text to my sisters to my friends asking, Who wants to do it with me, it's a community event?" Ivory said. "I like the idea that it's every other Thursday, and at the end we're going to donate it all to New Moms Inc."

And it certainly is helping people, Griffith explained--even if it may seem like a small gift.

"You're 15 years old, you're out on the street, and there's nobody out there to care for you," Griffith said. "Now [after they receive help], they realize there's people that care about them, just because. It's kind of a neat thing that happens."

To sign up for one of the community sewing classes, or one of the paid workshops, visit Payleitner's website.

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