Editor’s note: This article is underwritten by Plexpod — a progressive coworking platform offering next generation workspace for entrepreneurs, startups, and growth-stage companies of all sizes — but was independently produced by Startland News.
The art of sewing might have been forgotten by some, but it surely isn’t lost, Eileen Bobowski said as the SINGER Corporation needles a thread of growth for one of Kansas City’s highest-impact social enterprises.
“We’re wanting to teach people,” Bobowski, executive director of The Sewing Labs, said of the 2016-stitched effort, designed to support women experiencing poverty, addiction, incarceration, immigration or other struggles by equipping them with job skills training in the art of sewing.
Click here to read the full story of The Sewing Lab’s beginnings — born out of Weave Gotcha Covered.
SINGER announced a partnership with The Sewing Labs earlier this month — landed largely by the operation’s philosophy that mending garments and other items holds health and wellness benefits.
The partnership is expected to see the nonprofit support the creation of educational and marketing content in exchange for sewing machines, companion products, and scholarship dollars, Bobowski explained.
“They work with a lot of influencers and they create video content with single, individual influencers, but they’ve never worked with a nonprofit organization before,” Bobowski said of the honor which will also show off The Sewing Labs newly opened space inside the Don Bosco Community Center.
“There’s an amazing community that gets built in a room where people are sitting next to each other and they’re creating and they’re sewing and the people in the room use that community to build each other up. It’s really magical what happens.”
Such a feeling will be captured as cameras roll in the new space, but what online viewers won’t see are the challenges The Sewing Lab worked to overcome amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When we had to close our doors in March, we very organically found ourselves in the mask-making realm,” she said of what became the most common pandemic pivot among sewists and apparel companies, but which also required careful problem solving with lockdown encouraged and social distancing requirements in place.
“We put together kits of all the materials you would need to make 12 masks. We put them in Ziploc bags with fabric, elastic, nose wires, and we pulled together our volunteers and students and our teachers and had people working safely at home sewing masks.”
The pandemic effect also spurred initial outreach between Bobowski and SINGER, ultimately leading to their newly forged partnership, she recalled.
“I asked if they had any sewing machines they could donate back in April and they donated 30 refurbished machines to us and said, ‘Get these out to your stitchers who are sewing masks,’” Bobowski said of the correspondence, which soon saw her follow-up about potential partnership and collaborative opportunities.
“The thing that’s come out of this pandemic is the online push. We work with other nonprofits in town to host our classes [such as “Sewing is a Universal Language”] and they were wanting to get online and create content,” she explained.
“In a weird way, we grew out of this pandemic. We continued the conversation and we came up with ideas.”
Click here to read about SINGER’s pandemic partnership with KC-based Rightfully Sewn.
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Using curbside pickup procedures, The Sewing Labs saw 64,000 masks ordered and donated at the height of COVID’s first wave, Bobowski said, noting the experience has pushed the nonprofit to scale its efforts as sewing and creative arts — much like cooking and baking — became trendy overnight.
“I don’t believe in coincidence, I think things happen for a reason in our world. … We’re grateful for the resurgence that exists and there’s been a really great resurgence for men as well. It’s not just for women,” she said.
“We’ve had waiting lists lately for our [socially distant] classes and workshops. People feel like they have a purpose in life. The timing is so unique.”
Click here to learn more about The Sewing Labs and its mission.