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Sewing in the Dark with Jaclyn Pope – a 2020 CNIB Scholarship Recipient

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Jaclyn (right) and her cousin, Alexandria pose for a picture indoors. Alexandria has her arm around Jaclyn’s neck.
Jaclyn (right) and her cousin, Alexandria

Jaclyn Pope is determined to not let COVID-19 railroad her education and professional ambitions as she expands her online business, Sewing in the Dark.

When a sewing course at Durham College was cancelled due to the pandemic, Jaclyn, 39, viewed it as an opportunity to reconsider her educational plans.

“I started to think about other things that I could learn that would ultimately help my business and help me achieve my goals,” says Jaclyn. “I realized one of the ways I can promote my business is to have a website, but I didn't want to pay someone to create a website for me. Because I like to have control, I decided to learn how to build my own.”

With the support of Make a Change Canada, Jaclyn registered for an online certificate program in Applied Web Development and Design.

“I’m now able to create my own accessible website and maintain it," says Jaclyn. "Plus, I learned how to look after servers and web hosting.” 

With the scholarship money she received from CNIB, Jaclyn was able to partially fund some equipment for her business.

Six colourful stuffed animal Llamas, created by Jaclyn. The llamas have tactile elements like button eyes.
Stuffed toy llama's – created by Jaclyn 

“The scholarship helped me purchase a sewing/embroidery machine that connects to my computer, so I can make my own designs," says Jaclyn. "I can zoom in and out using ZoomText and make my own unique designs with the machine, including braille quilts!”

Jaclyn says the support she’s received from Shirley Eichler, owner of the Ultimate Sewing Centre, continues to inspire her to create. 

“Shirley is amazing. She’s always looking for ways to help me on my sewing journey and finding new sewing "gizmos"; like putting fluorescent tape on the sewing plate around the needle so I have a guide area for the material,” says Jaclyn. “She’s even offered me a lifetime of free lessons once the pandemic is over.”

The online web development courses have also helped her stay motivated and engaged throughout the pandemic.

“If I didn’t have virtual schooling to keep me busy, I don’t know what I would have done. It’s given me a reason to get up in the morning and keep focusing on my business with the goal of creating something amazing for our community,” says Jaclyn.

Sewing in the Dark 

A stack of homemade colourful cloth masks.
Cloth Face Masks – created by Jaclyn

When she started to lose her sight in 2016, Jaclyn says she felt alone and spent a lot of time on the couch in the dark.

Nat Miller (a CNIB peer support program lead) helped show me that there’s so much more out there,” says Jaclyn. “Sewing in the Dark was my way of getting off the couch.”

Sewing in the Dark is all about making the world more accessible and inclusive through tactile designs.

“I was so tired of spending my money on stuff I couldn’t feel or see. And I wanted to create durable products with a variety of textiles for our community that people can actually use like accessible tactile bedding, clothing and other garments,” says Jaclyn. “I even made a fort blanket with different panels, so a child could feel castle bricks in their fort.”

Jaclyn says the CNIB Scholarship gave her the motivation to take her business to the next level.

While her website is still in development, you can check out Sewing in the Dark on Facebook at Facebook.com/SewingInTheDark.

CNIB scholarships, bursaries and other external awards can help support your educational and professional aspirations. To learn more about these opportunities and how you can apply for them, visit cnib.ca/scholarships.