CLINTON — Wanting to help support and protect the “nice people” of Clinton post office who regularly deliver her heavy packages with a smile, local seamstress Virginia Maxam has gone to work on her many sewing machines — making medical masks for local postal employees.
Virginia said she and her husband, who is a native of Clinton, moved back to his hometown about three years ago to help care for her father-in-law. A native of Connecticut herself, Maxam said she’s fallen for her close-knit community and wanted to give back in some way.
Maxam had a corporate job, serving as manager for a company that made masterpiece art reproductions, which was “a lot of fun.” But she would trade in her career for family and sewing.
“It was a great job, but I had a teen-ager to keep an eye on and a young stepson at the time — and my husband was in the military and not able to run them back-and-forth to school and sporting events — so I left my corporate job to do all those things, and I started sewing,” she said. “I left my job based on family need, but then I asked, ‘What else can I do?’ I can sew.'"
That was back in 2003, when she and her husband started their own business. For a time however, Maxam had to put her thread and needle aside to care for her father-in-law and mother. But now the sewer has more time to dedicate to the craft she loves, she said.
"I’ve always been interested in sewing and fiber arts — I started out as a hand embroider,” said Maxam. “I’ve always loved the history of textile arts too. I did upholstery work, alterations…I went to work with a dry cleaner for two months, and learned from a tailor there. Then I came back with that knowledge and did alternation work, and started quilting."
She said, “We moved here to provide Hospice for my father-in-law, and now I’m thinking of becoming an official business owner again, and probably will. I plan to make quilts for people who are cold in the Utica and Rome area. And now this has been the first year I’ve been back to the sewing business."
Maxam owns three industrial sewing machines and three domestic machines she uses regularly, as well as three sergers and a blind hemmer. She also has a dozen or so machines that serve as “standbys" to teach sewing with.
“I’ll get machines from goodwill.com and then fix them,” the seamstress said. “I love to teach people to be self-sustaining. It’s crazy to pay me $1 to sew a button when it takes two minutes to sew it yourself, a needle and two feet of thread. I enjoy teaching people, especially women at shelters,” like Hope House. “Sewing is a wonderful skill to help those women learn self-sufficiency and to take care of their families."
So why did Maxam decide her first order of business was to make masks to protect local postal workers?
“They’re so nice and they work so hard,” she answered. “I’m always getting big, heavy boxes — and fabric and sewing machines aren’t light. They’re a really nice bunch of people down there."
"Even when there’s problems, and I’m always one of them, they’re really nice,” Maxam laughed.
Clinton Post Office hasn’t been Maxam’s only donation spot. She’s willing to make and give masks to anyone who needs them.
“I stopped counting the number of masks I’ve made after 400,” the seamstress said. "Most I’ve donated to local health workers, nurses doing private duty work, family members... Right now I’m making a batch for the Agway crew, because they helped put 50 bags or rock salt into my car over the winter. This is a nice community, and I like to be part of that niceness."
To check out more of Maxam’s handy work, or to contact her about mask donations or possible educational opportunities for local non-profits and organizations, go to http://www.maxammadestudio.com.