Sew-a-thon's goal is to make adaptive clothing for soldiers injured in combat

Nimble and willing hands will be busy cutting, stitching, labeling and folding Saturday at a marathon sewing bee to provide adaptive clothing for U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq.

Nimble and willing hands will be busy cutting, stitching, labeling and folding Saturday at a marathon sewing bee to provide adaptive clothing for U.S. soldiers wounded in Iraq.

Organizers plan to ship dozens of the specially designed pants and shirts to military hospitals, where they'll be worn by servicemen and servicewomen undergoing treatment and rehabilitation.

"We're excited to be able to get people to do this," said Sue Danielson, owner of Fabric and Textile Warehouse and organizer of the sew-a-thon.

"I think this is a really great way for us to give a little bit of our time to something that supports our troops and lets them know we care," she said.

The sew-a-thon will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Willmar Area Senior Citizens Center.


Sew-a-thons also will be held Saturday at Fabric and Textile Warehouse's four other locations: Spencer, Iowa; Rapid City and Mitchell, S.D.; and Jamestown, N.D.

The effort was inspired by Sew Much Comfort, a nonprofit organization that creates and distributes adaptive clothing for injured soldiers.

Because of better medical care and wider use of body armor, as many as 90 percent of soldiers wounded in Iraq are surviving injuries that might previously have been fatal.

Their injuries, however, often make it difficult for them to wear normal clothing.

Burn injuries, missing limbs or limited mobility can make it difficult to maneuver into clothing. Gunshot and shrapnel wounds can make it painful to get dressed. There's also a need for wound and amputation sites to be accessible for medical care.

The founders of Sew Much Comfort came up with an idea: specially tailored garments that are comfortable, easy to put on and that allow injured soldiers to retain their dignity and independence while they recuperate.

"Something like this can just make it for a soldier," Danielson said. "They can wear them for physical therapy. They can wear them out and about. It's an important part of the healing."

Sew Much Comfort garments were designed with input from medical staff, physical therapists, sewers and the soldiers themselves.


Flannel pants have side seams closed with Velcro, allowing the wearer to put them on more easily. Shirts with Velcro side seams can be easily slid on and fastened shut. Similar designs have been created for shorts, undergarments and swimwear.

Sew Much Comfort volunteers also alter ready-made T-shirts, polo shirts, sweatpants and boxer shorts to make them adaptive.

The clothing is shipped to military hospitals in the United States, such as Walter Reed Army Medical Center, National Naval Medical Center and Veterans Administration hospitals. Some goes overseas as well, to combat surgical hospitals in the Middle East and in Landstuhl, Germany.

"They are going to medical centers where the soldiers are receiving their care. It all goes where the need is," Danielson said.

The response to the upcoming sew-a-thon has "been phenomenal," she said. "People are so excited about this. It just hits a chord with so many people."

Thirty to 40 sewers have already signed up. A local 4-H group is sending some of its young members. There has been support from veterans organizations and church groups.

Fabric and Textile Warehouse is donating some of the fabric and supplies such as thread, elastic and Velcro. Several vendors also are donating materials, Danielson said. Donated T-shirts and basketball shorts have arrived from several businesses.

Sewers are asked to bring their own sewing machines on Saturday, plus supplies such as pins and scissors.


Don't know how to sew? There are other ways to help -- cutting, threading elastic casings, sorting and labeling garments by size, and folding the finished garments.

"There are so many things people can do," Danielson said. "We'll set them up and keep them busy."

Her goal is to complete six dozen pairs of pants and six dozen shirts at each of the five Fabric and Textile Warehouse locations.

Even after the sew-a-thon is over, volunteers can continue to help Sew Much Comfort by sewing adaptive clothing on their own, Danielson said. They can also help by donating ready-made clothing to the organization or making financial donations to help with shipping costs.

"I just think it's a great project," she said. "I just hope we can fill the whole Senior Center and keep people sewing and cutting. When you multiply what one person in a day can do by 50, you can accomplish so many things."


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