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Scholarship fund helps low-income residents learn to sew

Apr 4th, 2016 | Category: Crafts

Donations accepted for the Elsie Richards Scholarship Fund

The local nonprofit Ragfinery, Bellingham artist Jeni Cottrell, and Cottrell’s mother Lee Cole are teaming up to provide opportunities for low income residents to learn how to sew. The Elsie Richards Scholarship Fund, named in honor of Cottrell’s grandmother and Lee’s mother, allows selected applicants to participate in Ragfinery’s “Sewing Bootcamp” workshops at no cost.sewing scholarship fund web

Elsie Richards, who passed away just shy of her 100th birthday, was a life-long fiber artist who ran a tailoring and alterations business in Vancouver, BC.

“She was ahead of her time,” says Cottrell of her grandmother. “She learned to drive car at 14, did her own upholstery, took woodworking classes, built furniture, and traveled the world. She loved to make something out of nothing and was a huge proponent of ‘reuse.’”

Cottrell felt the scholarship would be a great way to honor her grandmother and promote sewing, and because of the combination of Ragfinery’s mission providing job training to low income populations and their role as a community hub for textile arts, workshops, and craft materials, she thought they would be an ideal business to partner with for the scholarship.

“We’re thrilled to collaborate on this scholarship,” says Shan Sparling, manager at Ragfinery. “There’s a real potential for self-empowerment through learning how to sew, and from what I understand that’s what Elsie (Richards) really stood for.”

The scholarships will be awarded to qualified low income trainees who are referred to Ragfinery by partner social service agencies and schools. Tax deductible donations in support of the scholarship can be made at under “Get Involved.”

Keeping in line with Ragifinery’s “reuse” theme, their 3-day Sewing Bootcamp introduces students to the sewing machine and skills around upcycling old fabric and garments into new ones.

Ragfinery accepts clothing and fabric donations which are then either repurposed into upcycled items or sold by the pound to local artisans. All sales support job training for transitional populations, which happens on-site. If you have questions about Ragfinery’s workshops or community endeavors, call 360.738.6977 or visit

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