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Published: Monday, August 30, 2010, 12:01 a.m.

Joanie Hemm, leader of a volunteer sewing program

  • Joanie Hemm, volunteer support specialist for Providence Hospice & Home Care of Snohomish County, runs the sewing program that gives out handmade pill...

    Mark Mulligan / The Herald

    Joanie Hemm, volunteer support specialist for Providence Hospice & Home Care of Snohomish County, runs the sewing program that gives out handmade pillows and blankets to people using the agency's services.

  • Joanie Hemm also sews historical costumes, such as this one she made for a La Conner event.

    Beth Wade

    Joanie Hemm also sews historical costumes, such as this one she made for a La Conner event.

Q: How did your name direct your career path?
A:
I don't think it did. My maiden name was not Hemm, and I've been sewing forever.
I started dressing Barbies. I wanted them in historical costumes and those are hard to find, so I had to make my own. I once made a hoop skirt for Halloween when I was 10, and people who saw it said, "You didn't make; that your mom did," and I said, "My mom can't sew on a button." I had just read "Gone With the Wind" and I actually did use curtain material.
I'm still really into repurposing fabrics. I'm proud of that because any fool can buy any fabric they need, but I work with what's there.
I once made a bustle gown out of a tablecloth, chair cover and a pair of drapes.
I am a history buff and a theater buff so with those two things together, sewing was a no-brainer. And then I married Tom Hemm, and I've never heard the end of it.
Q: Would you change your name if you could, and why or why not?
A:
I would not. I have finally got here, and now I have a perfect fit.
Q: If you could choose another career, what would it be?
A:
I have always dreamed of being a costume designer, but being raised in Iowa, I knew I'd have to go to one coast or the other and that kind of scared of me. But sewing had its hooks in me, and I've never given up.
I owned my own theater company when I lived in Colorado so I could create my own costumes, and my group is still going. I'm also part of the Seattle group called "Somewhere in Time, Unlimited" a costuming group.
I had run my theater group for 13 years and I loved working with volunteers, who are very special people. So when I got here I was working with a temp company who sent me to the Providence Hospice volunteer program, and they hired me into the position.
Q: How do you know when someone has picked up on the fact that your name is an aptonym?
A:
They say "Oh Hemm, isn't that funny?" And sometimes I don't even know what they are talking about, and then they say, "And you sew," and I say, "Yes, that part is right."
Q: How do people react to the combination of your name and job? Do they get it? Any funny stories as a result?
A:
The only thing I will tell you is sometimes I will say to my husband, 'I've got to put a hem in this dress,' and he'll say, 'She's already in it.' And he never gets tired of saying that.
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