Local resident will teach students to sew a variety of patterns

Parkdale Cromdale Community League members are lucky indeed to have Margaret Gilbertson leading the free beginner sewing class that started on April 10.

Gilbertson, now 75 years old, has been sewing since she was 13. She took up sewing as a career when she worked for the Great Western Garment Company (GWG), a clothing company located on 86 Street and 106 Avenue that employed 500 people to produce blue jeans and men’s work shirts. She worked there for 20 years and became an instructor to many employees.

“When you worked there, one person had one job: the pocket, the fly. The parts went down the line until they were finished.”

Employees were paid by piece and Gilbertson explains that most of the employees were immigrant women. “They were there to make money,” she says. “They worked hard.” But they visited while they worked and had fun. “It was just like a beehive.”

Now she’ll bring her experience to other budding seamstresses. The idea for the class started when she went out for lunch with community league president Kevin Wong and second vice president Steven Townsend.

“It was a spur of the moment thing,” Gilbertson explains. “They asked, ‘if we had a sewing class, would you teach it?’ ”

Gilbertson, who says she’s “excited but nervous,” was up for the idea and the class is full, with 15 people registered. Using a microgrant from Sage Seniors Association, the league purchased three sewing machines and one serger machine. Additionally, a few people donated their machines for students to use.

While those machines are there for students to use, other students are bringing their own machines, like Melisa Brittain. She borrowed a vintage sewing machine from a friend. The machine was her friend’s grandmother’s machine. Brittain says, “I just think I want to learn how to use the machine, maybe make something like curtains.”

Catherine Tait has been sewing since she was six years old and will be there to help Gilbertson.

“I saw that she was putting it on and asked if she needed some help,” says Tait.

Gilbertson plans to discover the skill level of her students, but she has ideas for the first few classes, starting with the students practicing sewing lines on paper and getting accustomed to using a sewing machine in general. After that, they’ll move on to other projects.

Over the years, Gilbertson was able to get some jean pockets, zippers, and denim material from work. Students will make a change purse and then a shopping bag. After that, she’s going to ask for ideas on what people want to make.

“We could make aprons or placemats or potholders,” she suggests. “I really look forward to their ideas.”

Although she’s supplying denim, zippers, and thread for the first few projects, participants will need to bring their own materials for future projects. She points out that although fabric used to be affordable, it can get expensive now.

Classes are every second Wednesday from 7 to 9 pm at Parkdale Cromdale Community League until the end of July.

“Depending on how it goes, we might continue in the fall,” says Gilbertson.

Featured Image: Melisa Brittain (left) with her borrowed vintage sewing machine. Brittain hopes to make some curtains. | Talea Medynski