You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

“Sew for Love”: Turning scraps of cloth into something special

Mercury News 4/14/2019 Thy Vo
a person wearing a hat: CAMPBELL, CA - APRIL 14: Michelle Zeiler works with Sew for Love volunteers, Sunday, April 14, 2019, at Goldenstate Quilting in Campbell, Calif., making stuffed animals and quilts for hospice centers and other local charities. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group) © Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media CAMPBELL, CA - APRIL 14: Michelle Zeiler works with Sew for Love volunteers, Sunday, April 14, 2019, at Goldenstate Quilting in Campbell, Calif., making stuffed animals and quilts for hospice centers and other local charities. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

Click here if you’re unable to view the gallery on your mobile device.

CAMPBELL — Every scrap of fabric can become something special, and Michelle Zeiler doesn’t like time or cloth to go to waste.

The 62-year-old San Jose resident recycles fabric and belongings into hand-made mementos for local charities, donating over 18,000 home-made items to animal shelters, hospice centers, police departments and schools across the South Bay.

She and a band of dedicated volunteers make everything from pet beds for animal shelters, stress balls for people living in shelters, to teddy bears from the clothing of hospice patients, as mementos for families after their loved one has died. The group often receives special requests from charities, like chair pads for individuals with incontinence or circular cat beds for newborn kittens who don’t have a mother to keep them warm.

“Sewing is an art for you to create something personal — it’s not just to save money anymore,” said Zeiler.

Her organization, Sew for Love, often relies on fabric donations, and every scrap of fabric and errant thread is used: either to create a new item, or hidden as the stuffing inside sturdy fabric cubes, which are donated to schools, shelters and churches as seating for kids.

In addition to donations, the program is funded in part from cans and bottles Zeiler collects while visiting sewing shops as part of her job as a sales representative.

“That’s what buys the good stuffing and batting,”  Zeiler said.

a person wearing a costume

© Provided by MediaNews Group d/b/a Digital First Media

Zeiler stays busy. In addition to her job as a sales representative, she churns out quilts and bears, teaches sewing classes at shops across the South Bay, and teaches groups of volunteers as part of Sew for Love.

When she’s not working or sewing, she and her husband drive their Jeep through alpine backroads, relishing the muddy and difficult routes.

Sew for Love works with Seasons Hospice in San Jose, where families can pass on the clothing of a loved one to be turned into personal teddy bears and pillows.

Rose Forti, a volunteer who has been sewing for 40 years, attended a memorial for one of the hospice patients, and was met with tears from one woman who received a Sew for Love bear.

“One lady was just so grateful, that we all started crying — it was wonderful,” said Forti.

On a Sunday at Golden State Sewing in Campbell, Zeiler, Forti and two other volunteers gathered to work on the hospice bears and put together quilts. Many volunteers work on sewing projects from home, and meet periodically to work on larger projects together.

Volunteers range from people who don’t sew at all, to experts who have been doing it for years.

“Anyone can come volunteer whether you sew or not. If you can’t [sew], you’ll be the one tying bows on the bears,” said Zeiler.

Tiffany Hoyt began sewing four years ago, after her mother bought her first machine. The store owner recommended she take classes with Zeiler, and since then she’s been an active volunteer.

Not only do volunteers learn a new skill, but being part of a community and giving back to others can be life-changing, said Zeiler.

“Everybody says I go so fast and do so much, which is true,” said Zeiler. “But I want to do it, while I still can do it.”

Contact Thy Vo at 408-200-1055 or tvo@bayareanewsgroup.com

AdChoices
AdChoices

More From Mercury News

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon