Cosmic Bobbins in Cleveland helps refugees integrate 'stitch by stitch'

Posted at 6:53 AM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-22 09:30:57-04

'Refugee' and 'immigrant' are words we are hearing a lot lately with President Trump's proposed travel ban. However, the refugee community is nothing new to some people in Northeast Ohio. One local business owner is trying to help them start a new life here.

Sharie Renee, who owns Cosmic Bobbins on Shaker Square, started the Cosmic Bobbins Foundations a few years ago.

"A lot of people know about our retail, where we represent over 65 local entrepreneurs and fair trade vendors, but what they don't know about us is the mission behind Cosmic Bobbins and our mission is about job creation in underserved populations and we do this through art space entrepreneurship, sewing education and outreach," said Renee.

Renee works with Cleveland's refugee and immigrant community and teaches them new skills.

While sewing usually is not at the top of any high in-demand jobs list, after decades of textile companies moving overseas, the trend is starting to shift. Renee says, "because this skill set has been off-shored ... the heritage of sewing has not been passed down to the future generations." Renee says the jobs are coming back to the U.S. and she wants to prepare those struggling to start new lives to join that workforce or start their own businesses.

Renee is helping refugees like Oshin Samal. The high school senior moved here from Nepal four years ago with her family.  

"If I was in my country, I wouldn't have gotten this kind of opportunity and help from people so I'm really thankful," said Samal, who now wants to become a fashion designer.

Cosmic Bobbins may sound familiar. We first told you about the non-profit two weeks ago. They're sewing Parihugs, the internet-connected stuffed animals that let you hug a loved one from anywhere in the world. Case Western Reserve University student Xyla Foxlin invented the huggable technology. People involved in Renee's sewing class will eventually help make the Parihugs too.

"We've had a lot of fun developing the concept with her ... we're excited to be training the next group of workforce for her project and wanting to keep the work here in Cleveland, we think that's really important to our community and again to our future workforce" said Renee.

Learn more about the Cosmic Bobbins Foundation here.