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Seamstress, a real doll, already plans for Christmas

It's only March, but Louise Kline already is thinking about Christmas.

She has made one rag doll and is working on several crib toys to donate to needy children in Appalachia through the Santa Train in Kingsport, Tenn. The train distributes toys on a 110-mile route through Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee each year.

Last year, said Kline, 72, of Wexford, she made eight dolls, along with baby blankets and cloth books, for the charity.

"I don't have a goal each year," she said. "I just start projects. Sometimes, I get a little overwhelmed, and my husband ends up making the meals, very graciously, as the deadline approaches."

Kline said she saw a newspaper article years ago about the Santa Train and decided to make dolls for the needy children. She has been making gifts for six or seven years now, she said.

"They were delighted when I sent the first dolls," Kline said. "I was happy to participate with an organization that does so much good. It is like the saying, 'Don't just talk about it, do something.' "

Kline said sewing is her passion. And she does not just make dolls or toys.

She said she picks up fabric year-round that she thinks might fit into a project and then goes where the fabric leads her.

"Some of the cupboards begin to get filled, and then, I have to do something with them," Kline said.

She said she sits down at her sewing machine and decides what to make.

"I have made everything from my kid's clothes to my husband's suits. Last year, I made him four pairs of pajamas. I've sewn the gauntlet."

Kline said her mother taught her how to sew when she was 10 years old.

"She only let me do straight seams at first. But I progressed and ended up making my own clothes for high school. I also made my own prom dress and wedding dress," Kline said.

Although Kline graduated with a degree in education from what now is Slippery Rock University, she did not think that was the field for her after teaching for five years. She said when a Minnesota Fabrics store opened within walking distance of her home, she applied for a job and worked there for 22 years before retiring.

Kline passed along her knowledge of sewing to a cousin and her daughter. She said her daughter can make her own scrubs for work and has made stuffed bears for charities.

Kline is heavily involved at her church, Ingomar United Methodist Church in Franklin Park, and with her family.

"My husband and I are busy. My dad always said he never would have found time to work once he retired," Kline said with a laugh.

The Rev. Tracy Cox, pastor of Ingomar United Methodist, is not surprised by Kline's charity work.

"Her talents and gifts in making blankets, dolls and toys are amazing. She has shown others in the congregation how to use their gifts for good," Cox said.

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