Hobby helps dress thousands

Invercargill seamstress Myra McDonald with some of the masses of clothes she sews for people in need. Photo: Petrina Wright

IT may be a hobby, but Invercargill woman Myra McDonald’s impressive sewing skills are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people in need at home and abroad.

The seamstress has been industriously sewing thousands of items of clothing for people in need for the past 20 years.

She said she did it just for pleasure.

“I like to see kids warm.

“I would go mad if I didn’t have my sewing to do.”

The now 81 year old has been a sewer all her life, not surprising given her parents were both tailors.

She had always made clothes for herself and her family, but about 20 years ago she started sewing clothing for people in need in New Zealand and overseas.

When asked why she started doing this, she shrugged.

“I don’t remember. It was just something to do.”

As her husband Monty had limited mobility, they did not go out often, so sewing was a way she could occupy her time when she couldn’t get out into her garden, Mrs McDonald said.

Mrs McDonald estimated she made about 48 items a week, paying for the majority of the material and sewing supplies out of her own pocket.

Over the past 20 years, she estimated she had made thousands of blankets, polar fleeces, dresses, underwear, hats, trousers, shirts and more, which have been given to people in need in countries including Romania, Russia, Nepal, India, the Solomon Islands and Uganda.

Pupils from the Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation nursery school in Kabarole, Uganda, model the clothes made and donated by Invercargill sewer Myra McDonald in July 2016. Photo: Dot Muir

Mrs McDonald said she would love to travel to those countries and deliver her clothes in person, but she would probably want to bring all the children home with her.

She had also made clothing for the former refugees being settled in Invercargill and the children of students attending the Murihiku Young Parents Learning Centre, and cushion covers for the Ascot Kindergarten after it was broken into.

Out of the material scraps, Mrs McDonald had also made blankets and covers for pets which she donated to Furever Homes Invercargill.

Not only is Mrs McDonald a prolific sewer, she also does not use sewing patterns, but rather creates the designs herself.

“I think up designs when I am meant to be sleeping.”

Mr McDonald said he did not have any problem with his wife’s sewing, which sometimes piled up around the house.

“If some kid gets a nice warm bum, that’s all that matters.”

Dot Muir, of Rwenzori Special Needs Foundation, Invercargill, had taken Mrs McDonald’s clothes to Uganda on several occasions.

“I think [what she is doing] is absolutely fantastic,” Mrs Muir said.

“She is very caring and wants to help.

“I think she is just wonderful.”

If you would like to donate material towards Mrs McDonald’s work, phone (03) 217 6228.

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