ST. NICHOLAS – April Gallant hunches over her sewing machine with the intensity of a surgeon.
With practiced hands she maneuvers her material, which has a future as a teddy bear, around her needle.
The hum of the machine as she speeds it up and slows it down with a foot peddle fills the organized chaos that is her cozy sewing room.
All her attention is focused on her task because she won’t get a second chance if she makes a mistake.
This is no ordinary material she’s working with, no ordinary teddy bear.
What she’s destroying, and remaking, is irreplaceable – literally a small piece of a person’s life.
“You’ve got one cut and that’s it – you can’t go to the fabric store and buy another,” said Gallant.
Earlier this year, the St. Nicholas resident started a new side project to her business, April’s Alterations and Custom Quilting.
She called it Forever in Your Heart Keepsakes.
The premise is that when a person passes away, they leave behind clothing that usually speaks to who they were.
A favourite flannel shirt, a cherished wedding dress, or a pair of worn overalls.
Most of these items get shipped off to charity, or thrown out all together.
Even if the clothing is saved it’s usually packed away in a box somewhere, the family’s lacking a better option.
Gallant offers to take those items and turn them into something special.
Keepsakes like the teddy bear she was working on. Or pillows. Or quilts.
“It’s about letting the family have their keepsake. Something they can hug, cry on, laugh with. It takes away the tears and makes a smile,” she said.
People sometimes want to do their own unique twist with their mementoes, added Gallant.
She’s had one family who had a bear made with a little pouch inside so they could add some of their loved one’s ashes inside. Another family wanted a ring pillow made so a deceased father could be part of his daughter’s wedding.
It’s such a nice feeling to be able to present people with something special like that, said Gallant.
Sewing, like any trade, can be all about mindless repetition and just getting the job done, she said, but creating something for one of these families is not just doing yet another alteration.
“It’s doesn’t feel empty at the end,” she said.
“I want to help families with the grieving process. It’s one of the hardest things I think people have to endure in life,” she said.
She originally got the idea after a customer, who’s husband had recently passed away, approached her and asked to have some of her husband’s clothes turned into pillows.
Since then, she’s registered her business and has been getting a steady stream of customers as word of mouth starts to spread. Her website, www.foreverinyourheart.ca and her Facebook page, www.facebook.com/aprilsalterations have helped her get the word out.
People seem to interested in the service, she said, she even has an order from as far away as British Columbia.
Gallant’s husband, Mike Teatro, said he wished he’d thought of this two years ago when his father passed away.
“Every time I think of him I miss him. And I think about it every time she makes a pillow, instead of giving all my dad’s clothing to the Salvation Army … I wish I had something like this,” said Teatro.