January is National Hobby Month, so each week we’re featuring different hobbies and talents of residents at Buckner senior living communities. This week, meet Jo Ann Cannon, the heralded seamstress of Calder Woods in Beaumont.
It’s difficult to say which is sweeter: Jo Ann Cannon’s Alabaman, Southern belle accent or the carefully hand-sewn garments she crafts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The 87-year-old Calder Woods resident has been a seamstress most of her life, but in the last 40 years has devoted her creative efforts almost entirely to French hand sewing, a unique European technique that uses delicate fabrics and no sewing machine. She’s put together countless outfits for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren using the finest laces and linens she could find.
“When I first learned this technique, it opened a whole new world for me,” Cannon said. “I’ve had the best time with it every since!”
Every Monday, Cannon, a native of Alabama who moved to Texas five years ago to be closer to her daughter, gathers with a small group of local women to work on their sewing projects. While she continues her latest endeavors for family members, the other ladies hand stitch clothes for local foster children. Monday nights, Cannon said, have become one of her favorite times of the week.
“Hand sewing is an art, and we don’t want those skills to be lost,” Cannon said. “These clothes express our love for the people we give them to. It’s comforting to know you’ve made something beautiful.”
Cannon sees sewing as a labor of love, and often uses her talents to help others. During the recent Hurricane Harvey disaster that flooded much of Beaumont and surrounding areas, a friend’s antique wedding gown from the 1800’s was nearly destroyed. Cannon, because of her experience working with delicate fabrics, was able to restore the dress to its original quality.
“It was an honor to be able to help my friend keep an heirloom like that after such a disaster, and it meant so much to her!” Cannon said.
Cannon takes pride in the things she creates, and in crafting clothes that last. Many of the clothes her great-grandchildren wear today, in fact, are ones she sewed for her own daughter decades ago. The sewing discipline itself, however, didn’t pass through the generations.
“They just think it’s so convenient that I can do it,” laughed Cannon, who enjoys her role as the family mender and seamstress.
Calder Woods has welcomed Cannon’s talent and helped her convert the second bedroom in her independent living apartment into a sewing room. There, Cannon stores countless thread types, linens and exotic fabrics from her and her husband’s world travels, including pieces from Russia, Ireland and Scotland.
“Hand sewing is a process,” Cannon said. “You enjoy the process and are really kind of sad when the little garment is finished. But that’s what makes it fun, always getting to make something new.”