The Simple Stitch

Kimberly Mollo,OTD, OTR/L, is an assistant professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy at Jefferson, and alumna of Thomas Jefferson University  and The University of the Arts. In 2012 she created an independent study, Project Inclusive, that combines the strengths of the occupational therapy and industrial design fields while developing client-centered products to enhance quality of life.

“Working together deepens everyone’s understanding of…what it’s like to live with a disability and allows for a more desirable end product,” said Mollo.

One of the clients in the program this past semester was Glenda Speller. In 2005 Glenda experienced a devastating and life changing loss – the use of her lower limbs. Because sewing machines require the use of your legs to power the foot pedal, this also meant she was no longer able to participate in her favorite hobby. After several failed attempts at modified sewing machines, she was ready to give up.

Students with Simple Stitch

Thomas Jefferson University Occupational Therapy Students, Meagan Stromer and Briana Elson, with the Simple Stitch.

Project Inclusive students Jude Yao Marks and Lena Feliciano Hansen (from the University of the Arts) and Meagan Stromer and Briana Elson (from Jefferson), teamed up with Glenda with hopes to get her back to sewing. Together they were able to solve the foot pedal problem by designing a new feature for the sewing machine, giving Glenda back a big part of her life.

Together the students, Liberty Resources Inc. (a nonprofit that advocates for those living with disabilities) and Glenda created the Simple Stitch, a forearm-activated sewing machine controller. The Simple Stitch “has given me back my life” Glenda said in a Philly Voice article.

They tried out a few models but settled on the most comfortable option for Glenda.

“The final version allows her to apply pressure with her forearm and not strain her wrists,” explains Feliciano Hansen in the Philly Voice article. Glenda plans to sew seersucker dresses for her great-granddaughters and maybe start her own business.

“Nothing can stop me now,” Glenda told Philly Voice.

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