“S.E.W.” Much to do in Poughkeepsie

A small group of women sit in a circle at a table filled with sewing machines and recyclable fabric. They laugh, talk and share stories while appearing to be close with each other. A sewing class was being taught by two friendly women. The group is called Social Enterprise Workshop (S.E.W). S.E.W has a goal to help eliminate the use of disposable bags by making reusable ones out of recycled materials. Classes are held at the Mid-Hudson Heritage Center in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. twice a month on Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Paola Bari and Cecilia Durkin are the two women who teach the classes. They share similar interests, which is how they came up with the idea for the group and classes. “I really wanted to do something sustainable for the environment,” Bari said. “Coming from Italy, I saw all the grocery bags going to waste. I know it is a big problem in America as well, and I wanted to see if it was possible to reduce the amount of plastic grocery bags by turning them into recycled bags.”

Cecilia Durkin has been sewing since fifth grade. “Even though I have been sewing for a long time, I don’t think I sew very well, but I like the machine and the process.” Durkin said.

The sewing group is open to both men and women of all backgrounds. At the class, Bari and Durkin help teach the others the basics of sewing. “ We are by no means sewing experts but we know the basics,” Bari said. “Even though the fliers say to bring your own sewing machine, if you call in advance, we have a few extra machines to give out for people to borrow.”

The bags can have multiple purposes and don’t just have to be for groceries. “I made a bag that said ‘Beach’ on it,” Bari said. “I use it for the beach and it’s great, because the fact that it’s made out of plastic means I don’t have to worry about it getting wet. This class is a fun and creative way to make a difference for the environment. I love how you can use art as a way to pursue that goal.”

The two main goals of the group are to be sustainable and down the line, to ultimately generate jobs for low-income migrant women.

Durkin had taken a sewing class in Beacon and realized how much she loved it. She had also worked with women’s groups around the world, marketing their crafts. “What I have noticed over the years is the comradery that women have when they are together,” Durkin said. “It infuses creativity in everything you do. I just like the feeling of women coming together and feeding off each other’s talents.”

That is what she wanted to do by creating this sewing group, she said. She wanted a “friendly, fun, supportive atmosphere” that had a mission. “I wanted to be able to have this group where we could feed off of each other’s creativity and interests and support each other. That was the main reason why I wanted to start this group. And I love the mission of stopping the use of paper and plastic bags.”

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