From sewing to soldiering, she’s one-of-a-kind
159th Combat Aviation Brigade Public Affairs
By Sgt. Richard Carreon
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — Skills and hobbies make up a lot of what we do in our spare time. Some of them we stumble upon as we PCS from one location to the next.
Then there are those we pick up from the examples of others or we saw growing up.
Spc. Dianne Demeuse, tactical operations NCO for 1st Battalion, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade (Task Force Dragon), picked up her love for sewing from her stepmother and grandmother when she was young.
“I started out with cross stitching when I was about 8 years old I think,” she said. “Since then, I’ve tried all kinds of arts and crafts, such as weaving, crocheting, knitting, embroidery, latch hook, macramé and sewing. Sewing is still my favorite.”
She perfected her craft by watching, learning and doing.
“My grandmother used to sew dresses for me,” she said. “She made the same dress for my doll. She would make dresses and send them to me when we moved away.”
She was born in Korea to an Army UH-1 Huey helicopter pilot, then raised in the United States and Germany.
“I really didn’t help my stepmom or grandmother do anything because making stuff was a one-person job. I just watched them and learned from what they did,” she said. “My stepmom made a dress for me, and out of the leftover fabric, I made a dress for my doll.”
Demeuse said her stepmom, an elementary school teacher, taught her how to sew ruffles, using a treadle machine, an old-fashioned mechanical sewing machine powered by foot. Today, she uses a top-of-the-line sewing machine professional seamstresses use.
She moved on to a number of other projects from stitching to making vests for two boys in her friend’s wedding in Germany.
The bride hired a professional seamstress to make the groom’s vest, Demuse said.
“In Germany, you have to study for three years to be a professional seamstress,” she said. “It turned out, my vests were better than the seamstress’ vests because she used cheaper materials. The boys were (very young) and they moved around a lot. My vests stayed together better than the one the seamstress made. The seamstress was pretty upset.”
When she enlisted in the Army five years ago, she had to stop because she couldn’t take her mechanically-driven sewing machine to basic training or advanced individual training.
She resumed her craft when she got to her first assignment in Korea. She sewed patches on her battle buddies’ uniforms.
Since she deployed to Afghanistan in June 2010, she has created a number of handmade pillows to give out during Christmas to coworkers.
“I made one of those no-sew fleece blankets for my best friend, who is currently deployed to Mazar-e Sherif (in Regional Command-North) with another part of our battalion,” she said. “There was next to no space to make it in my RLB room so I made it at work. I used the pilots’ planning table one night during a power outage. It turned out looking pretty good. I hand sewed all of the Christmas pillow cases at work and filled them in my room, where I also closed them.”
Sewing downrange does present some challenges.
“I would say the biggest challenges with sewing downrange are keeping things clean and having enough space,” she said. “Thread breaks when it gets dusty and sometimes you just have to spread out.
“Ordering fabric or supplies downrange isn’t that difficult,” she continued. “I mostly order from (a fabric store) online. They ship to APO addresses. That’s where I ordered the fleece fabric and pillow inserts to make pillows as Christmas gifts.”
While she is most proud of the clothes she’s made, not all of her work is designed to be worn.
She has created embroidered tags for the pilot’s bags, and has repaired a strap on a weapon holster. She said her next project is making covers for the aircraft radios to increase their durability.
Demeuse even takes requests.
“(A friend) wants me to make her an (Army combat uniform-pattern) cosmetic bag,” she said.
Sewing is an escape for her, she said. She has been known to spend an entire weekend working on a project.
“I don’t ever keep anything (I make). A lot of what I make, I give away as a present. Everything is unique and one-of-a-kind.”
One of her goals is to make her own patterns, she said.
“I thought it would be cool to one day make my hobby my job, but I think I would rather just keep it a hobby,” she said.