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Four-Wheelin’ Grandmother Sews for Love

08 Apr 2019, Posted by Seasons in Community

On a typical day, Michelle Zeiler is at her sewing machine turning out blankets, teddy bears, tote bags, and pet beds for local shelters and schools. But in her free time, you’ll find her traversing remote alpine backroads in the family jeep.

Zeiler has never been one to miss out on an adventure. Last September, she and her husband got stranded on a back road described as one of the most difficult routes in California.

“Our jeep broke down in the middle of nowhere,” she recalls. “Calling Triple A wasn’t an option.” Fortunately, friends were with them and trekked out to get a new part for the vehicle.

During her “down time,” Zeiler has facilitated the donation of over 18,000 items to local organizations.

For Seasons Hospice families, Michelle makes teddy bears and pillows out of specially-chosen clothing worn by loved ones who have passed away.

She feels honored to provide these legacy gifts, and every single item is unique. To support her giving work, Zeiler teaches sewing classes around the Bay Area in conjunction with hosting volunteer sewing days.

“My Mother taught me to sew at the age of seven,” says Zeiler. “I remember her making us Easter dresses from beautiful drapery fabric. And the first pair of pants that I sewed – they were plaid,” she laughs. “I even made a wedding dress for my Barbie Doll out of old bedsheets and leftover pieces of lace.”

After attending fashion college, Michelle was offered a job as a sales representative for a sewing and craft supply company. At first she declined the offer, but they asked again and this time included a company car. The car was too hard to turn down and sealed her destiny.

When her daughter was in Girl Scouts, she was asked to teach the Bay Area Scouts how to sew. With the help of friends and family, Michelle launched the Sew for Love program. Supported by the Girl Scouts and local Bay Area sewing stores, she was able to get donations of machines and supplies to help with the program. The Girls Scouts organization honored Zeiler’s work with the Unique Award for her contribution.

“Sewing for charities has changed my life. I love recycling sewing supplies and turning them into something usable,” says Zeiler.

One item that she makes is “cubies.” Cubies are soft square seats that you can sit on, and are donated to hospitals, shelters, and schools. Zeiler gathers fabric scraps and leftover batting from sewers all over the Bay Area to make them. She notes, “It takes a 30-gallon bag of scraps to fill one cubie. It’s a great way to keep the scraps out of the landfills.”

Awarded the Jefferson Award from KPIX for Community Service in 2017, and the Spirit Award in 2018 from the American Sewing Guild, Zeiler is grateful for all the many volunteers and friends who have helped her to contribute her gifts to the people who need them most. She plans to continue her work for many, many years into the future, as long as she continues to find her way out of the wilderness!