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Wanda Petunia pig dolls teach sewing, self-sufficience

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Sometimes getting the right skills can be just the thing an individual may need to get a job and improve his or her life. 

And that is why a Charleston woman is on a mission to spread smiles and opportunities with the help of a pig named Wanda.

"She just kind of came out of my imagination, and I started cutting and sewing," explained Amy Williams, Wanda's creator. 

Williams first created the character of the pig, Wanda Petunia, through stories she wrote about love and selfdiscovery. Then she decided to bring Wanda to life by crafting a doll.

Williams is hoping to spread Wanda's message as well by starting the Wanda Petunia Sewing Collective. The idea is that Williams and others will teach low income women how to make Wanda dolls. She hopes the work will give them not just a pay check, but also sewing skills and opportunity. 

"I think so often people talk about supporting creative local economy. Wanda Petunia just embodies so many positive things because first of all, her message is about self-love and just having adventure and improving your life. It is a message I feel good about," Williams said. "We see so much distress in the world. Sometimes it is nice to have stories or fun things that are more lighthearted and positive."

Williams has gotten investors to help her get the sewing collective started. She currently has more than 50 investors and has raised more than $8,000 to get the project started, which was her goal. She said she believes the project can eventually be self sustaining. 

"People who may be struggling in the economy right now but want to learn how to sew and get an income, I plan to pay them a pretty decent wage to be able to make the dolls," Williams said. "People who love to sew or be creative, it is a way for them to do that and make an income." 

Julie Wirts is the owner of Dressmaker's Closet in the South Hills neighborhood of Charleston. She is helping Williams with the project and said the skills people would learn making Wanda dolls could give them an edge and knowledge that is needed to fill a void in the local marketplace.

"We stay very busy and I really could hire three more people right now," Wirts said. "But it is a skill that doesn't exist anymore. I'm excited about possibly finding someone that could work here." 

Williams also works as a therapist. She said she is hoping that with a pig, passion and a plan she can give people in the community the building blocks they need to get to a better life. 

"Sewing is confidence building and it is an actual skill that you can learn and build self-esteem," Williams said. "They are actually making something fun and we are teaching them to sew."