Metamora resident sewing gifts for a decade
METAMORA — Santa Claus has the reputation of giving away gifts one day a year.
Barb Clem one-ups him; she gives gifts year-round.
For the past 10 years, Clem has churned out thousands of handmade blankets, hats and scarves; giving them either as gifts or donating them to charity.
“Everyone laughs and tells me it’s an addiction,” laughed Clem, first-grade teacher at St. Mary’s School in Metamora for the past 28 years. “The blankets started having memories with them.”
It started in 2002, when Clem was wondering what to give her students as a Christmas gift. The art teacher at St. Mary’s, Ann Cowling, had an idea.
“She told me, ‘Why don’t you make hats?’” Said Clem.
What started as a simple idea has ballooned to include everything that can be sewn, from hats to blankets of all sizes, ranging from mini-American Girl Doll size to larger, standard size. All are hand sewn using fleece.
Many people have benefited from Clem’s handiwork.
“My friend’s husband passed away, and I made her a blanket for a gift, because you know flowers don’t last,” said Clem. “She was a big Cubs fan, so I made her a Cubs blanket. I gave it to her and I was just so overwhelmed.” Clem, a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, had to stop here and laugh. “My friend said to me, ‘I know how hard it was for you to make this because you’re a Cardinals fan.’”
A boy in town chose to have surgery performed on his pet dog over having gifts for Christmas, because his family couldn’t afford both. Clem made all three members of the family their own blanket.
“Fleece has changed my life. It just has. I’ve touched so many people’s lives,” Clem said. “I just tell people to pass it forward.”
Clem has made items for everyone from the Germantown Hills Junior High School teachers to the Metamora High School and Illinois Central College’s volleyball teams. She was recently asked by a woman from her church to create the capes used in the Peoria Players’ rendition of “A Christmas Carol.’”
“Not that I’m famous, but the blankets mean so much more, because when I give it to them, it’s not just a blanket, it has a meaning,” Clem said. “I don’t give blankets away if they don’t have a meaning.”
She guessed every teacher at St. Mary’s owns at least one of her blankets.
“They’re very special. They’re made from someone who cares,” said MacKenzie Reynolds, third-grade teacher at St. Mary’s and owner of nine of Clem’s blankets. “They’re the blankets to cuddle with every night.”
Clem never charges more than the price of the material she used, if she charges at all.
“The people I charge (for blankets) is far less than the people I give them away to,” Clem said. “If I charged everyone I would probably be rich.”
Clem simply loves to sew and create.