Grab a thimble and your favorite color of thread — we’re sewing the pieces together of this local nonprofit organization’s story. Meet: The Sewing Labs.
City Editor Bella sat down with Eileen Bobowski, Development and Outreach Manager at The Sewing Labs, to learn more about the behind the scenes + mission of the biz.
Q: To start, tell us about the mission at The Sewing Labs.
A: The Sewing Labs is a Kansas City nonprofit teaching the legacy of sewing for employment, entrepreneurship, and enrichment. Our primary focus revolves around our workforce development program, responding to the high demand from employers seeking skilled stitchers.
We proudly collaborate with both the US and Missouri Departments of Labor, allowing us to officially provide comprehensive Industrial Sewing Machine Operator training. This training not only results in a paid apprenticeship but also leads to a valuable Department of Labor Certification.
Q: What about folks who want to pick up a hobby?
A: We offer a stitch camp in the summer for youth. Every Friday, we host an Open Sew session from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., offering a welcoming and supportive space for those who have some sewing experience and can work with minimal guidance.
Q: Let’s look at the history books — where did The Sewing Labs’ story begin?
A: In the mid-2000s, Lonnie Vanderslice and Kelly Wilson turned to sewing, a skill they learned in high school, when facing personal and professional challenges. Through hard work and creative planning, they founded an award-winning soft goods furnishing manufacturing company, Weave Gotcha Covered!, in Kansas City.
This social enterprise also provides employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged women and generates surplus textiles. Their friend Linnca Stevens joined them, and together, they founded The Sewing Labs®, a 501(c)3 organization, in 2016.
Q: What does the KC community mean to The Sewing Labs?
A: The Sewing Labs is deeply rooted in the Kansas City community. It offers a supportive ecosystem for nonprofit organizations like The Sewing Labs, with resources, volunteers, and sponsors from the local community. This ecosystem helps sustain the organization’s programs and initiatives.
The city’s creative spirit aligns with the organization’s goal of preserving and promoting the legacy of sewing. Think: Nelly Don.
Q: How can Kansas Citians support the organization?
A: Kansas City and our community can support The Sewing Labs nonprofit in several meaningful ways: Volunteer assistance, in-kind donations, financial support, sponsorship and partnerships, promotion and awareness, grant writing and fundraising assistance.
Q: If you could pick one thing you love most about The Sewing Labs, what would it be?
A: One of the most inspiring facets of The Sewing Labs is the profound transformation we witness in individuals who participate in our programs. The process of sewing fosters remarkable self-confidence in our students, often surprising even themselves.