Handmade: Couple that crafts together stays together 50-plus years
Livonia residents Mike and Jane Cuba have been sewing together since before they were married 50 years ago in Rochester. It all started back when Jane made her wedding attire with Mike's help.
"We both worked on my wedding dress together in 1970. It was a mini-dress -- very non-traditional," she laughed.
These days, both lend their sewing skills to Angela Hospice in Livonia. Working side-by-side at their dining room table, they recently made 80 masks and 18 gowns for medical professionals working at the facility since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The gowns take a lot more sewing, but we're not making them now," said Jane, adding that all the extra fabric has been put in storage in case of a possible surge of the virus.
"Sewing together works well because Jane likes to do the pinning and I sew the seams. It's a nice division of labor," said Mike, who learned to sew at the hands of his mother when he was around eight. About six years later, he sewed a black-on white Easter dress for one of his sisters. He said, "I had an idea for making a beret and my mom said, 'As long as you're making the hat, you might as well make the dress. It's a simple A-line dress.'"
And, needless to say, years later, when he was presented once again with the opportunity to help work on another wedding dress, he jumped at the chance.
"Our good friend was going to sew her wedding dress but wanted to drop as much weight as possible before starting," said Jane. "One week before the wedding, she asked us to help her sew. Her sister had brought home 12-inch scalloped lace from France to edge the hem and train, etc. I would have needed a month to study the pattern and probably would still have been terrified to work on it. Mike said 'Sure!' Jill would cut pieces on the floor of our sewing room and toss them to Mike, who sewed! There was a lot of wine (white!) and they got the job done! The man is fearless!"
During the winter months, Jane, 71, who was introduced to sewing on her grandmother's treadle machine, said she and Mike, 72, often spend time together sewing "a big stack of the licensed military print fleece lap robes which are presented to our (Angela Hospice) patients who are veterans, with a lovely bedside ceremony, in the 'We Honor Our Vets' program.'"
The couple's sewing skills also came in handy about 20 years ago when Mike, who at the time taught chemistry at Martin Luther King High School in Detroit, learned the majorettes wanted reversible floor-length capes made in the school's colors -- black and gold. "We ended up sewing all these hooded, floor-length capes -- probably about a dozen," recalled Jane.
Their time spent stitching together goes beyond the sewing machine. Both are yarn lovers, as well. In the evenings, as they unwind in front of the TV, Jane knits while Mike crochets. Every new patient to Angela Hospice is given either one of their knitted or crocheted lap blankets.
Another one of their craft projects for Angela patients are fidget or twiddle muffs, a kind of therapeutic toy designed to keep restless hands busy. "He does the crocheting and I add all the stuff (beads, buttons, etc.)" said Jane, who's been a volunteer with Angela Hospice for 25 years.
"I started as a respite care volunteer. I was spending two or three hours with the patient so the caregiver could go out and about, but in March they had to cancel all that. They're trying to figure out how they can bring the volunteers back," she explained.
Jane and Mike recently took time out from stitching to "very quietly" celebrate their golden wedding anniversary with dinner at home that included barbecued steaks and shrimp cocktails. And, to this day, Mike proudly recalls how much he enjoyed sewing and crocheting garments and accessories (dresses, skirts, hats and "at least one pair of shorts") for his bride back when they first got married!
What an amazing couple!
Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Mike and Jane Cuba at: email@example.com.