Local stitchers to be featured in magazine

Published 12:29 pm Monday, May 3, 2010

Two-year-old McLain “Mac” Connell, supposed to be smiling for a photographer, was overcome with shyness.

Dressed in an heirloom-quality linen outfit made by his grandmother, Vicksburg resident Rosemary Fairchild, Mac was one of a dozen children modeling garments made by members of the Magnolia Stitchers to be featured in the March 2011 issue of Sew Beautiful magazine.

Once Fairchild led Mac to an azalea and got him interested in its petals, he forgot to be shy. Photographer Kamin Williams quickly took advantage of the situation, snapping several shots of Mac on the lawn of the Old Court House Museum.

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Williams and Sew Beautiful editor Kathy Barnard were in Vicksburg last week on a day-long photo shoot of kids ages 10 months to 12 years wearing Magnolia Stitchers-designed garments. About 24 outfits were chosen for the feature.

It’s the second time the artistry of the Vicksburg group has been recognized by the magazine, which will showcase the group’s Victorian children’s clothing in its Christmas issue later this year.

“Heirloom sewing” creates the kind of fancy clothing made in Victorian and other days gone by, garments trimmed with lace and ribbons, featuring hand-smocked bodices, embroidery, pleats and other embellishments, said Dorothy Dyer, president of the Magnolia Stitchers.

“The ability to do it comes with a lot of practice,” said Dyer. “And you have to have a machine that will do what you want it to do.”

The Stitchers, a chapter of the Smocking Arts Guild of America, has about 30 members and meets once a month at the Sewing Boutique on South Frontage Road. Meetings feature a how-to program or a new technique and a meal or refreshments.

“It’s a good group of women who enjoy the same type of sewing and have a good time meeting together,” Dyer said.

Tallulah resident Carolyn Caldwell, “Nene” to 4-year-old Quade Welch of Zachary, La., has been in the Magnolia Stitchers for about a year. She made the handkerchief linen shorts-and-shirt set Quade wore for the photo shoot.

“I love seeing the different things that people make, and the different demonstrations,” Caldwell said. “There’s always something to take home with you to add to your repertoire — and the food is delicious.”

Besides sewing for their own children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces, the Magnolia Stitchers also have a pet project, one that’s embraced by all SAGA groups.

“One of the things we do is make ‘Wee Care’ gowns for the premie babies who don’t make it,” Dyer said. The women make little gowns and hats with delicate hand smocking, cherished as burial gowns for their little ones by grieving parents.

Barnard said heirloom sewing is beautiful but just a small part of the home sewing industry. For that reason, the magazine has been working to change its theme somewhat, beginning to focus primarily on “fine sewing” — work that is simple, fun and practical.

“Some simple but very nice things sell for $80 to $100 in boutiques,” she said, “but you can make them for $20.”

Sew Beautiful is published six times a year, and features articles, patterns and other resources “for those who love to sew beautiful things.” The magazine was founded in 1987 by Martha Campbell Pullen, one of several projects that began in a small shop in Huntsville, Ala.

Sew Beautiful can be purchased for $6.