Domestic Abuse Program sewing circle builds skills and friendships

Once a week, every Tuesday evening in Minneapolis, a group of women come together to participate in a constructive task of edgingamerican indian sewing circle minneapolis together a cultural symbol. The Domestic Abuse Project’s (DAP) sewing circle at Little Earth, made possible by a grant from Verizon Wireless, allows for a small group of women to take a few hours of intermission from daily life to focus on making star quilts. The sewing circle is a voluntary activity started by DAP Advocate Cindy Lyons. The group is a revamp and continuation of an earlier circle that had ended a few years ago.
Meeting in the Neighborhood Early Learning Center (NELC) Advocacy Office, the participants that are involved with the latest sewing circle are mostly from Lyons’ own clientele. Lyons, who’s been working for the DAP since June of 2000, leads the group with a volunteer named Cheri.
The sewing circle focuses mainly on teaching how to sew and construct star quilts. Star quilts have a challenging pattern and are traditionally given away within Native American cultures on special occasions like weddings and graduations.

The concentration on star quilts stemmed from Lyons’ own desire to learn how to make one within the previous sewing circle and the theme continued on into the new group.
“If someone comes in and wants to do repairs on their clothes or make regalia, then we will help them as best we can. But the star quilts are the main focus,” said Lyons.
Each woman’s sewing skills vary but they help each other as a group to catch up and complete their projects. Lyons prefers to have people in the sewing circle who are committed to being a part of the group and to finishing the projects they start so that the material and time they invest goes to good use.
The amount of time each week spent in the sewing circle not only allows for the women to create beautiful quilts, but also enables them to bond and have some time to themselves, which can be therapeutic. The weekly meetings have created a connection between the members and the enjoyment they get out of their time together makes the sewing circle a success in Lyons’ eyes.
“I would say it’s pretty successful. People are getting something out of it whether it’s their beautiful star quilts or friendship and time to spend with other women… It’s like getting a mental break for them,” said Lyons.
Lyons enjoys seeing the women taking pride in what they’ve made and gaining a sense of accomplishment from their work. The group proudly displayed their quilts at their holiday party on December 21, whether they were completed or yet to be finished. One participant planned to give her two quilts to her grand children, saying that she had never made anything like the star quilts before.
This is the fourth year the DAP has been awarded a grant from Verizon Wireless. Carol Arthur, Executive Director for the DAP expressed gratitude for Verizon’s continued support of the DAP NELC Advocacy Office at Little Earth.
“Because of the current economy, we have had to focus on getting women what they need and providing direct services….Grants like Verizon Wireless allow us to do things that are also important but might not fill an urgent basic need,” said Arthur.
Most of the women in the sewing circle are from Little Earth Housing or are part of the community. Although the circle is open for anyone to join, some of the participants are or have been involved with the DAP in various ways. Having been around since 1979, the Domestic Abuse Project was the first domestic therapy program in Minneapolis. Its goal to break the cycle of abuse by providing education and counseling for women and children who come from abusive homes, as well as men who are abusive.
Though the grant helps to pay for some of the material used in the sewing circle, most of it is donated. If you would like volunteer for the sewing circle or make a donation, call Cindy Lyons at 612-728-5874 or visit the Little Earth NELC at 2438 18th Avenue S. in Minneapolis.
The Domestic Abuse Project crisis line is available 24/7 at 1-866-223-1111.