The Sewing Machine Project collects and distributes sewing machines to groups committed to using the machines to provide opportunities to create, learn new skills, build self confidence, and contribute to their own livelihoods and the well being of their families and communities.
The Sewing Machine Project is an IRS 501(c)3 organization. Our work is mainly local (Wisconsin) and national. We do limited international work in collaboration with groups that already have shipping channels in place.
The Sewing Machine Project was conceived in March, 2005, following the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia. A BBC article on the internet gave painful details about a woman who had lost her sewing machine in the storm, a machine she’d saved for years to buy, and, in losing it, she lost her means of earning an income. Margaret Jankowski, the Founder of The Sewing Machine Project, was touched deeply by this story and decided to collect donated sewing machines in Madison, Wisconsin to send to the affected regions. In partnership with the American Hindu Association, Margaret shipped 25 sewing machines to orphanages Sri Lanka and India. When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September 2005, The Sewing Machine Project’s focus shifted to that region. From 2005 to today, the SMP has delivered over 1200 sewing machines to individuals, schools and community centers in the greater New Orleans area alone. People are using them not only to rebuild their lives but also to start small sewing-related businesses.
The Sewing Machine Project now operates on a local and national level offering machines and creative opportunities. We work with nonprofit groups helping people whose lives could be impacted by a sewing machine and who otherwise would not have access to these creative tools. We work with women’s shelters, libraries, after school groups as well as many other community building organizations. Currently, we are working with refugee resettlement groups, helping our new neighbors find “home” in a new land.
One of the primary tenets of the SMP is the idea of Paying it Forward. We ask that every person receiving a machine “Pay it Forward” in a sewing-related way. This idea gives our work a ripple effect and reminds the recipients that despite their own difficult circumstances, they as individuals are important and capable of making a positive difference in their community, giving them a renewed feeling of self-worth.
The main mission is one of supplying tools to those who need them however, there is a great component of interpersonal connection as well. There is meaning in every connection we make. Machine recipients feel it not only in their newly acquired tools and skills, but also in the friendships and camaraderie they experience when they meet to sew. Machine donors feel it when they know that their beloved machine will see another chapter. Financial donors feel it when they know that their gifts are helping on a grassroots level where every donation makes a difference. Volunteers feel it when they work together for the common good.