They're known at Fredericka Manor as "those magical sewing ladies with the flashing scissors and flying needles." And after an 18-month hiatus because of the pandemic, the Fredericka Manor sewing circle is back in action!
You could say these highly skilled stitchers have come together under a common thread - their love of sewing. Currently there are about 20 members in the circle with a core group of six. Their specialty is making minor garment repairs or alterations for their fellow residents.
This enthusiastic group work out of the community's sewing room, located on the Garden Level of Fredericka's Asbury Towers. The small but efficient space boasts a large work table and individual work stations, as well as an incredible hodgepodge of fabric, thread in every color of the rainbow and sewing tools that would be the envy of any tailor.
The room is open each Monday from 9-11 a.m. During that time, residents can bring their items in for repair or alteration. The work is done free of charge, although the group accepts donations to the Fredericka Club, which funds resident-centered activities at the community. For a $4 donation, for example, a resident might have a pair of pants hemmed – a much better price than most tailors would charge.
Typical projects include lengthening or shortening pants, skirts or sleeves, replacing missing buttons or one of the most frequent requests - replacing worn out elastic waist bands.
"I wonder how many miles of thread they have used," asked one resident dropping off a sweater for repair.
"How many stars are in the sky?" sewing circle member Agnes Hughes replied.
"We do relatively simple requests," said Linda Wright, who has the led the group for about a year. "We don't do major alterations or overly complex projects, because we like efficiency and want to complete as many projects as possible in the least amount of time."
The average time for a sewing job to be completed is about a week, although many just take a few days or even just a few hours.
Some members participate more than others, sometimes working extra hours when the sewing room is closed. Currently, none of the sewers are or were professional seamstresses, but learned the skill from their mothers or other family members, a tradition some say may soon end.
"I think it's a lost art," group member Gale Graysage said. "I taught my daughter how to sew when she was young, but at first she did not seem interested. However, to my surprise years later she ended up making her own wedding dress. I guess she paid attention after all."
One of the benefits of being part of the group is to assist each other with the occasional complex or difficult project. If one sewer is having trouble with a particular garment or stitch, someone else in the group is sure to know the answer.
Linda estimates about half of the requested work is done with sewing machines and the other half is done by hand. The sewing room has four sewing machines all donated or purchased second hand. In fact, with few exceptions, like elastic, all supplies, like fabric and thread, are donated. Drawers are full with hundreds of spools in every color imaginable, some labeled as low as 10 cents. "We know it's old because a spool of thread these days costs about $3 or $4," sewer Stephanie Meyer quipped.
And just when did the sewing circle begin? Veteran sewer Del Alkema moved to Fredericka Manor almost 20 years ago and found the sewing group well established. There are no definitive records indicating how long the group has operated in the community's 113-year history. But however old the circle, residents are pleased with the service.
"This is my first time coming here, but I've heard the sewing group has a wonderful reputation," said resident Don Allan, who dropped off a damaged sweater.
"The service they provide is so valuable," said resident Bill Word, who brought his fourth pair of slacks in for shortening. "They may not be professionals but they do professional work."
"Everyone here truly enjoys it," Linda said. "We have fun!"
About Fredericka Manor
Fredericka Manor is a multi-level San Diego senior citizen housing community known for its lush and mature landscape, manicured lawns, charming streets, lovely cottages and a warm small-town feel. Fredericka Manor has been an iconic part of Chula Vista for generations.
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