Meet New
Neighborhood Group Chair
Sharon Gerth
My interest in sewing began when I was about 12 years old. None of
the women in my family were sewers. However, my mother always
included her daughters when visiting her lady friends, many who did
sew, knit, and/or crochet.

Before tackling the required apron and skirt in my middle school home
economics class, those ladies helped me make a crop top and a
gathered skirt.

In high school my sister and I would sew for ourselves using the money
we earned babysitting to purchase patterns, fabric, etc. One particular
favorite of mine was a shift made from a cotton fabric with a strawberry
design over a white background. I even figured out how to apply a
ruffle around the hem.
Due to the fact we didn’t receive new clothes very often, the garments I made for myself were
worn and treasured. Limited funds and a desire to have a personal say in the design spurred
my sister and I to sew the wedding dresses and bridesmaids dresses for our own weddings. I
remember my mother’s old Singer sewing machine had a shuttle instead of a bobbin and it was
a challenge to keep it threaded and to keep the thread from breaking. In the years that
followed, time permitting, I made many of my nursing uniforms and lab coats.

When I came to Champaign-Urbana in the 1970’s I discovered The Treadle in a little house in
Fisher where the end run bolts of knit fabric were available for purchase at a good price. From
the variety of knits acquired, I made clothes for my mother as well. About that time the Stretch
and Sew Fabric Shop opened in Champaign. I enrolled, completed all the classes and made
nearly all the garments in the book that accompanied the course. My large collection of Stretch
and Sew patterns includes several of my favorites that I still use today. Unfortunately after a few
years Stretch and Sew closed. Somewhere along the way I took some classes at the Singer
Sewing Center in the Country Fair Shopping Center but they too closed. When they were
selling out, I was given the opportunity to purchase a machine in a nice cabinet that I used for
years after.

Until we eliminated our family gift exchanges at Christmas, I made garments for each of my five
sisters, my brother, and my nieces and nephews. My husband prefers to buy his own clothes,
but I have sewn a wool vest, some shirts, and nightshirts for him in addition to repairing items to
prolong the wear. When he recognizes that I am wearing a garment I made, he will frequently
say how nice I look and his favorite line is “When you make something, you make it to last.”

Although I vowed I would never make a quilt, my sewing took off in that direction. After several
memory quilts, log cabin designs, and other patterns, my interest waned. Since my retirement,
garment construction has taken on an increased focused. One day while in JoAnn Fabrics
looking for bargains, I picked up a flyer for the Champaign-Urbana Neighborhood group of the
ASG. Once I joined, my attendance was regular until schedule conflicts arose in my work with
the Friends of the Urbana Free Library. When the neighborhood group was reorganizing to
focus on garment construction, I wanted to see that happen and a change in the meeting day
and time for the neighborhood group resolved the conflict. Beside garment construction, I
found that others in the group are interested in fitting issues too. We have some very talented
and knowledgeable ladies in our neighborhood group. I expect to learn a lot in the days to
come while I continue to refresh and update my knowledge base and hone my skills related to
the art and craft of sewing.

This year I am serving as co-chair of the Champaign/Urbana Neighborhood Group.