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Sew Sister

"Highlighting an essential but insufficiently recognized contribution by women to this country’s space program, Matich celebrates the fabric workers who, as "Aerospace Composite Technicians (Soft-Goods)," manufactured by hand the 1,400 thermal blankets placed beneath the ceramic-hull tiles of all the space shuttles. Focusing particularly on the early life and NASA career of Jean Wright, a largely self-taught seamstress who was the last of the "Sew Sisters" to be hired, the author describes how the special materials were made, tested, and applied on the way to a tense, climactic story of how some of the quilting on the shuttle Atlantis once had to be repaired on the fly. Painted illustrations alternate views of grand shuttles and scenes of intent- looking women bent over their stitchery, then give way to photos of the latter and samples of their products in an afterword. "Stitches are small," the author writes, "and so was their part / in the shuttles’ amazing voyages, / but very small things / can lift mighty wings / on the heels of the highest adventures."

Sew Sister

Did you know that the white material on the outside of space shuttles was not metal or glass but actually fabric? Specialized quilts, two inches thick, covered the space shuttles and protected the astronauts from deadly heat and radiation. Jean Wright was one of the eighteen “Sew Sisters” who crafted these thermal blankets, mostly by hand, with incredible precision and skill. Capturing both the grandeur of space flight and the intimacy of a needle and thread, Sew Sister tells the story of Jean’s childhood passion for space and sewing, and her fascinating work for NASA’s shuttle program. Elise Matich’s elegant prose and stunning, detailed artwork harmonize with the STEAM concept at the heart of this story: the role of skilled hands and artistry in STEM fields like aeronautics. Sew Sister offers a heroine in the context of space exploration who doesn’t go to college or excel at math; instead, it is her excellence in a trade—one traditionally practiced by women—that allows her to achieve her dream. NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired in 2011.

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