Meet a Star War aficionado who serves on the global leadership council of the non-profit Rebel Legion Star Wars Costuming Group. Katherine Winchell's hobby is costume making, all things Star Wars, and she is one of the principal organizers of the October 16, 2021, Rebel Reads webathon. Sew Powerful will benefit from the sale of special enamel pins offered during the event. In addition, Katherine has challenged each national and international Rebel Legion outpost to submit a video showing their Sew Powerful purse making progress, stirring up a little intergalactic rivalry. Please listen to the end because Katherine reveals her very surprising day job and it is literally out of this world. Literally.
Meet a Star Wars Costume Maker with a Surprising Connection to Sew Powerful with Katherine Winchell
IN THIS EPISODE
Star Wars, Lucasfilms, Rebel Legion Star Wars Costuming group, Rebel Reads, Make a Wish, Save the Children, enamel pins, lightsaber on airplanes, costuming, Jedi, Mara Jade, Mandalorians, Mars Curiosity, Mars Perseverance, geology, NASA, purse making, Sew Powerful
Rebel Legion Star Wars Costuming group, https://www.facebook.com/therebellegion
Star Wars Rebels, https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2930604/
Mars Exploration Program, Curiosity Rover camera, https://mars.nasa.gov/msl/spacecraft/rover/cameras/
Mars Exploration Program, Perseverance, https://www.kqed.org/science/1976908/perseverance-pays-off-first-successful-rock-collection-from-mars-complete
We are Sew Powerful, How a Global Community of Seamstresses Is Changing Zambia One Girl at A Time, 2nd edition. By Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, © 2016 & 2020 Jason G. Miles and Cinnamon, all rights reserved.
ABOUT THE SEW POWERFUL PODCAST
The Sew Powerful Podcast shines a light on the people behind the mission to keep girls in school and create purposeful products in Zambia. Join us every week for a new 30-minute episode to meet new people, hear inspiring stories, and learn how you can join us in this global movement. Whether you sew or not, make purses or not, you will find something to enjoy in every episode. Listen today.
Host: Jan Cancila
Guest: Katherine Winchell
Jan Cancila, Guest 00:04
Welcome to the Sew Powerful podcast. This is your host, Jan Cancila. You know the sound of my sewing machine means it's time for another episode. So, let's get started.
Hello, Sew Powerful podcast listeners. I have a treat for you. Our guest today is Katherine Winchell and Katherine happens to be the daughter of Julie Winchell and Julie is a Sew Powerful chapter leader of our chapter named Sew Sisters of Northwest Washington based in Washington State. And Katherine is on the Global Leadership Council of the Rebel Legion Star Wars Costuming group. Now, you may think that I've gone really far afield to be talking to someone about Star Wars Costuming on a Sew Powerful podcast, but let me assure you that is not the case. And please listen, because Katherine is going to tell us the most astounding thing as we get near the end of this interview. So welcome, Katherine, how are you today?
Katherine Winchell, Guest 01:14
I'm great. Thanks for having me.
Oh, we're excited that you're here. We invited you because on October 16, the organization where you are a volunteer is having an event and tell us the name of that event and explain a little bit about what it is.
Yeah, so our event is called Rebel Reads. And it is focused around the books and comics of the Star Wars universe. Every year, there is an event that Lucasfilm puts on called Star Wars Reads. And typically that involves us doing a lot of events with schools and libraries. But last year due to the pandemic, we weren't doing that. And a lot of our members love those events, love the books, love the comics, so we started doing a webathon to celebrate those and encourage literacy, which is what the Star Wars Reads event is about is about and also raise money for an education-based charity.
Wow, that's, that's amazing. And so the event takes place on Saturday, October 16. And it lasts how long?
10 to 12 hours.
10 to 12 hours. And so, what what does the day consist of? What would it look like?
Yeah, so we have a lot of interviews with authors, artists, editors, audio book narrators who have worked on Star Wars books and comics. We also have videos that our members submit talking about their like their favorite books or comics. And one thing that we are doing this year is we are encouraging our members, there are a lot of people who sew to make these costumes, so we are encouraging people to sew purses for Sew Powerful and we're gonna have some people showing off their purses.
Alright, we're gonna we're gonna get to the details there. So listeners now now you know the connection between Sew Powerful, and the Rebel Legions of Star Wars Costuming group. Every year when you do these events, you pick a nonprofit to support and tell us who you've chosen this year.
Yeah, so it's only our second year doing it. But this year, we are doing just a straight fundraiser for Save the Children which works globally, helps educate kids around the world. And then something that's been more special is we are doing a competition between our members. Like you guys have local chapters we call our local groups, bases and outposts and we can get very competitive with each other and so it is a competition to see which base or outposts can make the most purses. And then we'll also be doing a fundraiser for Sew Powerful. We're making an enamel pin with Padme on it that we will be selling to raise money as well.
And the pins are available to the general public or to members?
Yeah, we are still working on that. Everything that we do, like all of this is the intellectual property of Lucasfilm so we have to ask their permission when we are selling to the general public. We've turned that paperwork in. We're still waiting to hear back but chances are that it will be available to the general public. It's it's kind of a formality to get their sign off on it.
I never thought I'd hear Sew Powerful and Lucasfilms in the same sentence together. That's really exciting and I know our listeners would really really like to have one of the enamel pins and then the pins are part of the fundraiser, is that correct?
Yes, the pins will be raising money for Sew Powerful.
Oh well, even better. There's gonna be a high demand for them. I will tell you that right now. Well, let's back up a little bit. Katherine, how did you get involved with Rebel Legion to begin with?
Yeah, well, I have been a Star Wars fan since roughly Middle School. I enjoyed the movies before but it's really the books that got me like deep dive into it and middle school is when I discovered them. And being a rabid fan girl, you know, looking for community, you know, there's online community, but it's better in person. And my second cousin actually is part of one of our sister organizations, 501st. 501st is all the bad guys; Rebel Legion is all the good guys. Yeah, so she told me about it about her 501st experience, and I went over to somebody's house and got a pattern for a Jedi from them. And we've really just been going ever since. You have to be 18 to join the club just for you know, various legal things. So I submitted my application a couple months after my 18th birthday, with a generic Jedi costume. And I have not looked back since then. It is really definitely like my main hobby. And I love sewing. I love doing what we do. And like you said at the beginning, I'm now on the Global Council. So.
Well, wow. And so, when members make these costumes, where do they wear them? What happens with the costumes?
Yeah, so we will do any charity or community event.
So anything from trips, hospital. It is so amazing, when we get called in to help with a Make a Wish event. Those are the best. But we also do any kind of like school event or library event, where having some people in Star Wars costumes would be beneficial. There are a lot of like, very individual focused organizations for kids with various cancers and other debilitating issues. And they often invite us to come to their annual summer picnic hanging out with the kids take pictures, and conventions. We love to do huge display with large pieces that our members have built so people can come in and like take pictures with us in our costumes with this ambience of a huge prop piece. And we raise money for a local charity when we're doing that. So wide variety of stuff, basically anything that's charity related, that could benefit from people in Star Wars costumes. We're glad to show up for it.
That's amazing. So what kind of costumes do you have?
Yeah, um, so the first one that I made is a generic Jedi. And this one is more obscure, but there's a cartoon called Rebels and I made the Twi'lek Hera Syndulla. That was fun. The kids were like that one because the cartoon is a bit more kid targeted. She's an alien. So, there's all green makeup, and I built her headpiece like the alien tentacle-like things that are coming off of her head. I made that out of neoprene and a metal dryer vents.
Yes. So, if that one and then we did a group build of X-wing pilots. There was 28 of us in our local base that started this venture and 25 people finished, so that was a party. Oh my gosh, I'm trying to convince my mom that she should have her Sew Powerful chapter do the same group build method because we spent most of the time serging 28 pilot costumes. You know, other people did other pieces of it, but it really assembly lined it. For our costumes it's awesome. Because shortly after that I moved out of the state, I got to bring this costume with me that had been worked on by 28 people within my former base. So it was kind of like bringing a piece of them with me. Yeah, so that and then also my favorite costume right now, which is again, a more obscure one, Mara Jade, who is from the Star Wars books.
Okay. And because I'm not as involved in Star Wars as you, who are the authors of these books? I mean, are they analyzing the film or coming up with backstories? Or what?
Yeah, totally new stories.
Yeah, what's really fantastic about Star Wars universe, everybody always talks about in their original movie, where they walk into that Cantina, and it's just full of aliens, and you know, all these different people. What the beauty of Star Wars to me really is, is that it is such a vast galaxy that you can explore in. And that's why the books really appealed to me as a middle school or high school. And even now, that since all these stories are interconnected, to some degree. I've always been like a voracious reader. And there's hundreds of these books and if you read 100 books, everything is interwoven to some degree so it's more benefit to like reading more of them. There's no other series can read 100 books and everything builds on itself.
So yeah, it's it's all new stories, new characters, as well as you know, familiar faces. It's like the timeline of it spans between 1000s of years before the movies to hundreds of years after the movies, so, yeah.
Okay. And our listeners can't see but I can see over your shoulder. There's a lot of Star Wars paraphernalia behind you. Tell us about your collection.
Yeah, well these are mostly my Star Wars books. This is the like setup that I've had while I've been doing the interviews for Rebel Reads. But yeah, I've got some action figures. My favorite piece that I'll just pull off the shelf here this is my lightsaber for my Mara Jade costume. And a friend of mine made this for me. He's actually in Washington as well. He is an elementary school science teacher and, on the side, for funsies he builds lightsabers. And when he built a significant amount of them his wife said if you're going to continue to build these lightsabers you need to sell them to other people. But yeah, they're basically just like a giant flashlight. There's an LED in the top, batteries in the back. You are allowed to take them on airplanes; there's a special like webpage TSA has about how you can fly with lightsaber. I have it like pulled up on my phone whenever I'm taking one through security because airport security looks at this and they're like, Bomb? So yes, I have to, you know be like no, no see, it's just a big flashlight. But yeah, I love it. The creative process of this is fantastic. And like this, you know, Mara Jade is a book character. So this whole Sabre design comes off of just pictures from book covers and comics and descriptions in the text.
Wow. That's that's amazing. And to think that there's a page on the TSA rules and regulations for that.
Well, Katherine. Why don't we take a quick break. And when we come back, I want to explore a little bit more about your connection to Sew Powerful and how Sew Powerful was selected to benefit from this year's Rebel Reads event. And then we'll get a little bit more into your career when you're not doing Star Wars things. So listeners please stay tuned. We'll be back in one minute.
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Welcome back. We have been speaking with Katherine Winchell, who is on the Global Leadership Council of the Rebel Legion Star Wars Costuming group. And she has been talking to us about her background in costuming, but specifically with Star Wars and how she became involved with this group. There's an event on October 16th and Sew Powerful is one of the beneficiaries there. On October 16th the format is you're going to be interviewing book authors and people who have an opinion about all of these things.
In between all of that, what will our Sew Powerful fans see?
Yes. So, we've encouraged all of our members to send in various types of video submissions that the theme of Star Wars books in education and since our challenge to our members for this event that goes through the end of the calendar year is to sew purses because we make all these costumes. And a lot of the material from these costumes actually would be from, what my mom has said about them is great for purses, because those bright orange X-wing flight suits that are a nice like twill, canvas material. We've got scraps of that. So, we will be seeing members showing off some purses that they've made and they will be continuing to make them for our competition through the end of the year. And hopefully after that. We have to you know, put the end of the competition at some point so
Well and I read the letter that you wrote that you sent to all the bases and outposts and I have to say it was so well written. And I really liked how you ended it that this was a situation that demanded dignity and respect. And it really tugged at my heartstrings the way you did that. Now you have people around the world who might be making these purses, right?
Yes, absolutely. In fact, the person that I know is making the most so far is in Australia.
Oh my gosh. Well, and so as you know when you put this in your letter, you put a link to the different shipping addresses. And I probably need to alert Pat Grafton in Australia to be on the lookout for some purses coming her way soon. So that's fantastic. Now, how did you first hear about Sew Powerful to begin with Katherine?
Yeah.Well, my mom got involved with your organization. And you know, we talk on the phone every day, and I really support it. Global Education is something that I care about, especially equality for women and girls. And I cannot fathom not having proper menstrual products. I'm a geologist by trade and doing field work to be TMI, like, it's really awful doing field work on your period, even with good quality products. So I can't imagine like being in Africa and, you know, having just rags to work with so it's something that really is important to me. And so my mom got started with it. I kind of thought about making purses as well myself. But at that point, I was churning out masks to give out to people instead. So but now now we're moving on to, to purses and something that I can sew when I'm not sewing costumes.
Well, you mentioned you're a geologist. How have you applied your educational background to your career? What do you do for a job?
Yes, so I am actually a Mars geologist.
Wait a minute. Backup. Mars? Like the planet Mars?
Yes, the planet Mars.
Okay, keep going.
Yes. So, I operate scientific cameras on the Curiosity and Perseverance Mars rovers. We work with an international science team. Every day we log on, you look at where the rover’s new location is from navigational cameras that just take like a big 360 degree panorama for us. And scientists are like, ooh, I want a close up of that rock. And one of the cameras that I work on is on the arm of the rover. So we can take that camera and get right up in that rock's face and you can see the individual grains within sandstone on Mars. So I love it, it is the best job ever.
And I have to say, of all the people I've interviewed, I'd have to say this is the most out of the world job anybody has ever had. Have you found something surprising on Mars that you could tell us about?
Yeah, I mean, well, nothing, nothing is secret, honestly. Like.
We have to publish all of our stuff within 24 hours since NASA is a public organization. I mean, every day on Mars is a gift. That's something that a one of the project heads said at one point, which totally resonates with me, because it is such a complicated endeavor to be keeping these rovers functioning. You know, they're roughly the size of a car. And they have, you know, very complicated computers within them. And we're running them for 10 years, hopefully more than that, without any ability to service them. So, the only thing we can give them a software updates. So honestly, the most amazing thing on Mars to me is the fact that we can keep these rovers live. So, Perseverance right now is exploring a river delta, which I love. Mars at one point had as much water as Earth, which is crazy, because Mars is so much smaller than Earth. And there was water for a long enough time for this river delta to form, which takes a very long time. So, we are driving our way up this delta. And we are picking up samples of wonderful sandstone cores that will tell us about how the delta changed over time, because it's, it's a snapshot of what was going on environmentally for Mars, and we will eventually be bringing those samples back to Earth.
Now, if you had a chance to travel to Mars, would you do that?
I don't know. Honestly. NASA is amazing. Everybody does amazing work. But we are underfunded. And with that underfunding, it would be scary for me to get on a spaceship and go to Mars because we don't have money to do it right.
Well, we're very glad you're here. So, you just stay here and we'll go from there. There are a couple more points that I do want to talk about. Rebel Legion has quite the extensive videos in their channel on YouTube. What is the nature of those videos? What what can we see if we go over there?
Yeah, well, this is going to be our fourth webathon. We started doing them with the pandemic because our usual conventions were not available to us to raise money for. You can see past videos, interviews with actors and writers, people who worked on the costumes and because we have such like a wonderful relationship with Lucasfilm and that you know, in turn, we do have a great relationship with a lot of people who are actors and whatnot. So, there are some really fantastic interviews there. People from the Mandalorian, the original trilogy, people trilogy, all that. There's also videos about there's some tutorials and videos about what we do. Yeah, just everything about our organization, honestly.
Really? Wow, it sounds like a complete library. And then besides the You Tube channel; you have a Facebook group.
You know something on Instagram, a Twitter feed, too. So yeah, you all are all over social media.
So yes, we are.
Is there anything that you want to add about this event and how the general public might be able to support you? Or is this for internal people only?
No, this is absolutely for the public. We will be broadcasting it starting at 9am. Pacific time, on October 16. It will be streamed simultaneously to our Facebook page, our YouTube, and then we think we're also going to use Twitch for the first time as well. That one is not totally solidified yet. But yeah, we think we'll be streaming those three places. You can search the Rebel Legion on Facebook and YouTube right now and give us a follow so that you will be notified when that kicks off.
Well, that sounds like fun. Well, Katherine, thank you so very much for your time. And I know our listeners will be anxious to participate in the webathon on October 16. And if we're allowed, I know that everyone is going to want one of these enamel pins. So, you can tell George Lucas that we really want those pins. So.
Well, and thank you so much, and you keep a good watch on the planet Mars for all the rest of us, and hopefully we'll talk again soon.
Yes, absolutely. Thanks so much for having me.
Okay, thank you. Bye bye.
If what you've heard today inspires you to want to make a difference. I urge you to explore the Sew Powerful website at www.sewpowerful.org. That's SEW POWERFUL dot ORG. The website has great information about the organization. It's where you can download the free purse patterns, or even make a donation. We hope you will join us again next week when we bring you another Sew Powerful story. Thanks for listening. Now, go out and have a Sew Powerful day.
ABOUT THE HOST
Jan Cancila has been making purses for Sew Powerful since 2014. She serves the organization as Director, Global Volunteerism, the Area Manager for Shows and Events-Mid/South USA and as the Houston Regional Coordinator. She was a public speaking major at Hanover College and holds an MBA from Our Lady of the Lake University. Jan had a 25-year career with The Coca-Cola Company before owning and operating a linen and party rental business in Houston. She is married with two grown sons, a lovely daughter-in-law and two remarkable granddaughters. Jan’s published work includes more than 100 online articles for Examiner.com. Reach Jan with comments or suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org.