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Faculty Member's Stitch Buffalo Improving Lives of Refugee Women

Faculty Member's Stitch Buffalo Improving Lives of Refugee Women

Posted: February 28, 2019

On an industrial strip of Niagara Street in Buffalo, one building stands out like a colorful gem—Stitch Buffalo. The unique non-profit organization serves as a craft room and storefront for vibrant handcrafted ornaments, prayer necklaces, hair bands, scarves, denim jackets, and more, all created by refugee women.

Founded by Dawne Hoeg, lecturer in the Art and Design Department’s fibers program, Stitch Buffalo began as a project in 2014. She turned it into a nonprofit organization in 2017, the same year the organization moved to a storefront on Niagara Street, a space Rich Products donated.

“I started Stitch Buffalo because I was hopeful that the many resettled women were bringing textile skills with them from their home countries. I thought how fortunate it would be for Buffalo if I could provide the opportunity for these women to share their many talents and earn supplemental income for their families.”

Stitch Buffalo recently caught the attention of Buffalo’s WKBW-Channel 7, which featured Hoeg in a January 25 story, and the Washington Post, which ran a profile of Buffalo as a fun place to visit. The article referred to Stitch Buffalo as “the Ten Thousand Villages concept on a local scale.”

For Hoeg, the ability to advance social justice for refugee women in Western New York has been the overarching goal. She provides free Refugee Women’s Workshops that allow participants to hone their sewing skills or learn new ones. They make items from a pattern that Hoeg designs. But each item is unique and carries not only the maker’s style but also her name and home country printed on an attached card.

All the supplies are donated, and the women can take what they need to make in the shop or at home. Then Hoeg and her cadre of volunteers sell the items to the public on a consignment basis. The 55 women who participate in the workshops primarily hail from Burma, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, and Angola.

Some companies are now ordering several pieces to give to employees or customers. For instance, Ever Green Healthcare ordered a collection of heart pins to hand out at a conference.  

Hoeg, who works in the storefront three days a week, is the only paid employee. A handful of volunteers assist with sorting donations, helping the women with their embroidery skills, and interacting with customers. One volunteer is retiree Marjorie Tritto who learned about Stitch Buffalo through the Embroiders Guild.

“I like the atmosphere (at Stitch) and like the idea of helping improve the lives of immigrants and refugees,” she said.

In addition, two Buffalo State’s fashion and textile technology students interned at Stitch Buffalo, helping to create designs on clothing that the refugees then embroidered.

“I couldn’t do it without the volunteers,” Hoeg said.

Bimonthly, the organization holds SecondStitch where they sell extra donated supplies to the community at a reduced price. All proceeds benefit Stitch Buffalo programming. The next one will take place on April 6 from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the storefront, located at 1215 Niagara Street.

Regular store hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. To find out more, visit their website

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