Kathleen Turner sits at a table surrounded by six sewing machines just about every day of the week. Sometimes, she said, even on Sundays. That’s where she’s happy. It’s where she feels alive and where she feels she can be creative.
Most of the time, she’s surrounded by other women who live at Myrtle Terraces, an independent living facility in Gainesville, who are also passionate about sewing.
With fall approaching, the women are making handbags with collegiate prints to appeal to football fans, along with more traditional floral and holiday patterns. It usually takes a few days to make one of the bags, which resemble the style of Vera Bradley, a popular yet expensive brand. The Sew and Sew Club makes them for about half the price.
“I made these for years,” Turner, 88, said. “When I came up here, I had to sell my home. I got rid of all my sewing materials and sewing machines, but I brought my pocket books with me and someone asked if I would teach a class, so we formed the Sew and Sew Club.”
The women have gathered for the past year and spent time learning how to sew again. Most of them learned to sew when younger but gave it up as life got busy with work and family. Now, they have more time.
“It’s about being creative,” said Joy Harris, 85. “It satisfies your well-being in creating something.”
For Turner, it’s all about the fellowship she finds with the others who sew with her.
“I’m kind of a newbie,” said Sheryl Cain, 67. “I used to sew years and years ago but I had forgotten everything, and Kathleen has brought it back to me.”
For Mary Harrison Mangrum, it’s about helping people in need.
“I started sewing when I was about 13,” said Mangrum, 69. “I used to sew by hand and watch my grandmother. Then I started watching other people that sew, and then I started making my own clothes.”
Mangrum typically uses some of the money she makes selling handbags to help friends and family in need.
Turner gives her proceeds to the Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Phyllis Garofalo said the only reason she’s able to sew as well as she does today is because of Turner. When they didn’t know how to do something, Turner was patient in teaching them.
“It was so much fun when we first started,” said Garofalo, 73. “We’d laugh because we would say, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’ And then Kathleen would show us.”
Now, Garofalo is able to make handbag after handbag and is amazed at the outcome.
“When you see it come to fruition, when you see it molding and becoming something, it’s like, ‘Woah, I made that,’” Garofalo said. “It’s really interesting.”
Even though Mangrum has six Falcons handbags on backorder, each woman gets more than money out of it. They said life isn’t over after retirement. For them, it was quite the opposite.
“It’s like artistic work,” Turner said. “We’re choosing something and just putting it all together.”