Valerie Guevara, left, looks at aprons that Debbie Sherman, right, had made and were for sale in her booth Saturday during Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s 35th annual Sidewalk Art Festival in downtown Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

WINTHROP — For Debbie Sherman, her sewing hobby is how she makes connections.

Wherever she’s traveled — so far the tally is 60 countries and every continent except Antarctica — she’s been able to overcome barriers of language and custom with something that she’s made with her own hands.

On Saturday, Sherman made more connections at the Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival when Valerie Guevara and Gayle Sheehan stopped by her booth, where she was selling mittens made from recycled sweaters, aprons and  purses.

Guevara said she was looking for an old-timey apron, like the ones her grandmother used to wear, as she reached out to search through the rack of aprons that Sherman had on display. She’s also been looking for a pattern to make one herself.

Guevara had considered finding a vintage dress to fashion into an apron herself, but she hasn’t been able to find any. She set that idea aside when she realized that Sherman’s bib aprons came in different sizes and she could buy matching aprons for herself and her 4-year-old grandaughter Delta for when they play in the kitchen.

Leaning in, Sherman flipped over the smaller apron and pointed to the hem.


Spectators watch the Bailey Ukulele Band perform Saturday during the Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s 35th annual Sidewalk Art Festival in downtown Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“I learned this from a person when I was in Germany,” she said. “Write your name and the date here, and pass it on as a legacy, as an heirloom. Pass it on to the next little one. It’s wonderful, even if there are stains on it!”

“Absolutely,” Sheehan said. “It’s history.”

That struck a chord with Guevara.

“That’s where I am; I’m very nostalgic now about everything,” she said.

Now in its 35th year, the festival takes over downtown Winthrop on the third Saturday in August and showcases the works of local artists who work in a variety of media.

Guevara and Sheehan came to Sherman’s booth with bags already in hands. Guevara had bought a pillow, Sheehan bought a positive energy bracelet and had a tarot card reading. They both bought decorated wine bottle lights.”


Some of the items featured in Debbie Sherman’s booth were these mittens, up-cycled from old sweaters, and available Saturday during Winthrop Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce’s 35th annual Sidewalk Art Festival in downtown Winthrop. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Lisa Gilman has been coordinating the art fair for years. This year, she worked on making it more of a community event to raise awareness of what happens in Winthrop.

“That’s why the fire department’s here, the library, we have the Rotary, people selling a quilt raffle,” Gilman said, standing at the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce tent next to where the music acts played all day. “Anything that benefits the community.”

Most artists and exhibitors are local or from the immediate area, said Gilman, a teacher at Winthrop Middle School.

“We had a couple of backouts at the last moment for family issues,” she said. “But I think also people were nervous about the weather.”

From her vantage point in her booth in the parking lot across from the Winthrop History and Heritage Center, Sherman had no qualms about the weather as she reflected on the years she’s spent at fairs, selling her handiwork.

She’ll take part in fairs and festivals in Lewiston and Bangor for the Shriners, where her husband held a leadership position in 1998, as well as the Winthrop Sidewalk Art Festival where she has been selling her mittens, aprons and purses for more than a decade.


But she’s just as likely to tuck her wares into her suitcase to give away when she travels as she is to sell them, finding ways to make connections.

She and her husband were traveling in Europe in 2020 when the global COVID-19 pandemic was declared, and they were scrambling to get home from Vienna.

“We were given 24 hours to get home. It was kind of a mess,” she said.

But she had brought about 50 little purses and pouches made with lobster print fabric, just the right size to carry earbuds in, to give to people who were gracious and kind and to help bridge the language barrier.

“I had two left when I got to the airport in Vienna. The woman behind the counter was so gracious I gave her one, and she immediately put us on the next flight,” she said. “When we went up to the gate, there were over 500 people trying to get on standby. We were very fortunate to get home.”

And because of the connections she’s made, she keeps a little folder containing notes from people marking where the mittens she has made have traveled — Nepal, Scotland, Australia, Moscow, Argentina, Belarus and France, among others.

But on Saturday, she was content to make connections with her neighbors in central Maine as they made their way through downtown Winthrop.

“Stay well and stay safe,” Sherman said as Guevara and Sheehan moved on to the next booth. “Isn’t that fun to meet all these people?”

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