Photo Credit: Shannon Beamon

Story originally published by The Stanly News & Press.

What some sewers view as a necessity, Cathleen Vanhoy considers an unneeded accessory. The 90-year-old North Carolina resident no longer measures her fabric when she sits down at her machine. That's right, Cathleen does most of her sewing by eye.

An avid sewer, Cathleen got her start in the business 70 years ago when she became a seamstress in 1946. Even after her retirement in 1988, she continued to make an income sewing aprons and collars for Dean & Associates, a North Carolina-based company that makes Masonic products.

After more than 40 years with Dean & Associates, it's unusual to find Cathleen anywhere else but her sewing space, located in a small room at the back of her house. Each week her coworkers will deliver pre-cut material to her house and she wastes no time getting started on the products. "She's the best you can ask for in this profession," Cathleen's co-worker, Sara Cox, told The Stanly News & Press. "I've seen her do two dozen [aprons] in a day when she has to."

Materials used for the Masonic aprons vary depending on what ranking the member holds within the order. Those lower in the order have aprons made of duck cloth, whereas those higher may use vinyl or leather and are overall more complex. Her aprons have been shipped across the U.S., and have even been sent to a handful of Grand Masters.

After 70 years as a seamstress and a brief health scare, Cathleen has no plans to retire soon, and Dean & Associates will keep her as long as she will stay. "She's the heart of it all," Sara said.

Photo Credit: Shannon Beamon
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