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‘It’s like therapy’: Calgary teens’ relationship stitched together over common passion

Sewing is more than it seems for a group of Calgary teens who became friends while taking lessons as young girls.

The hum of machines and chatter of friends fills Sandy Stewart’s sewing room.

She’s taught about a thousand students since the 1980s but four 17-year-olds – Lily Derwee Church, Finnley Maloney, Hailey Southorn and Hannah Timson – have been coming to her basement sewing studio for years.

Some of the girls started at seven or eight years old.

“Most students stay for about two to three years, but these girls have persevered for a lot longer than that. They got to know each other here and now they’re friends,” said Stewart, who runs Calgary-based Seams So Easy.

“We created a bond in sewing class, but also outside of sewing class,” said Timson.

The girls also meet in-person once a week.

Working side-by-side and sometimes together, their work builds more than just their latest pieces. It builds confidence too.

“I like to know that I can make things,” said Church.

“I go to the store and I see a shirt and I’m thinking, ‘oh, I could probably make that.’ There’s no use of buying it if I can just do it myself.”

The girls say it’s not just about creating unique pieces there is something special about wearing something you made yourself.

“Knowing that time and effort that went into making something, it’s a really good feeling,” said Southorn.

Gathering, easing and working on raw edges aren’t only terms that apply to fabric for this group.

“It’s a relationship outside of my family that’s sort of like family,” Maloney said.

“It’s our own little getaway from, from stress from school and family situations.”

“It’s like therapy for sure it is. It’s not about the product, it’s the process to get there,” Stewart said.

Over the years, they’ve worked up from simple tote bags to commissions for family members.

“I’ve become more creative,” said Timson, who sewed a dress for her mom to wear to a wedding.

“I’m able to like look at something and just say, ‘I want to make that’ and I can go and make it.”

The girls have also been together through personal moments including getting driver’s licences and romances and they’ve even kept in touch over the pandemic.

“The friendships I’ve made here, they lasted throughout all of COVID, so that is nice,” said Maloney.

Looming graduations will alter this pattern.

Timson is in Grade 11 but the other three girls are in Grade 12 and are already thinking about their future paths.

“I want to continue sewing like even after, and if this does take me in a career path some way that would be great,” said Southorn.

Nevertheless, the memories and life lessons are stitched into their lives and the girls expect the sewing and friendships will remain.

The girls seem to have caught onto a trend early.

A research report from 2023 shows the demand for household sewing machines is rising worldwide, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

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