Scissor Sisters Weave Threads of Healing

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Every Tuesday morning, you’re likely to find a group of volunteers at Tucson Medical Center in stitches – both literally and figuratively.

The sewing club is about far more than making heart-shaped pillows, bags and quilts to help make patients’ stays here more comfortable.

For this group, it’s about friendship as well.

Some of the women who participate have lost spouses. Some have retired and don’t have as much of an opportunity to socialize as they once did. For others, it’s a chance to dust off a skill they once used extensively while raising families.

“This is the high point of my week,” said Marge Zismann, who has been sewing with the group for six years.

Her colleague, Anne Loveland, agreed. Initially, she said, she came to the group seven years ago because she liked to sew and knew there was a need to fill. “But a benefit of the group is the social part of it,” Loveland said. “We laugh all the time.”

No mistake, though. The group, which usually draws a range of about 10-15 folks a week, gets the job done.

The group made more than 1,000 heart-shaped pillows last year for cardiac patients, who might hold them to their chest when they cough or breathe deeply. They made more than 530 bags which drape over walkers, with convenient pockets to carry items in. “Sometimes, you dream about walker bags,” quipped Margot Marx.

Sandi Triplett, the nurse manager in the orthopaedic department, said patients are deeply appreciative of the walker bags. “They are such a godsend,” she said. Patients have their hands full with the walker, Triplett explained, so it isn’t as easy to carry a comb or their keys or their cell phone, or the other things we might typically carry.

“This allows patients the freedom to still have all those supplies handy so they can still be productive and active,” she said.

Armed with thread and fabric, the volunteers also make fleece blankets and sheets  for newborns and quilts for pediatric patients at Christmas time. They also make something called a “busy pillow” – comprised of zippers, key rings, straps, beads, fake fur and satin – designed to keep hands active for patients with dementia or who otherwise appreciate the tactile distraction.

Mary Ann Miller, the chairwoman of the group, said after she lost her husband, she was looking for a new outlet. Her daughter had worked at TMC previously so she had some familiarity with the hospital. “You can only clean the house so many times,” she said, “and this is so satisfying.”

So satisfying, in fact, that Miller spends five days a week volunteering, including serving in the gift shop and in the Desert Cradle boutique catering to new moms and babies.

Wanda J. Hamilton, who retired from TMC after 33 years serving in the business office and as an insurance specialist, said it was nice to reconnect with a skill she learned as a child, when she sewed her own doll clothes.

“As far as I’m concerned, TMC is a second home,” she said. “I get to play in traffic every Tuesday to come to work. At this point, my car just knows the way to go.”

Hope Thomas, the director of volunteer services and community programs, said the volunteers are indispensable. “Each week while the ladies gather, they are creating a lasting gift of heartfelt healing and love for TMC patients,” she said.

“With every stitch, these ladies are sharing a bit of themselves with our patients.”

The sewing circle meets every Tuesday morning, somewhere around 8 a.m. until about 11 a.m., with a coffee break in the middle.

You won’t run into too many knit brows. Just a lot of people who are sew special.

For more information about joining the effort, call TMC volunteer services at 324-5355.


  1. Craftism of various forms exists in lots of forms, long before it became a thing. Love this story.

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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