Sewing room brings community together one stitch at a time

Posted 6/17/20

Anita Edwards has established a meeting place for sewing enthusiasts to rekindle what she hopes doesn’t become a lost art.

Her studio, upstairs from Getables on Water Street in Port …

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Sewing room brings community together one stitch at a time

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Anita Edwards has established a meeting place for sewing enthusiasts to rekindle what she hopes doesn’t become a lost art.

Her studio, upstairs from Getables on Water Street in Port Townsend, opened June 3 for people who might not have sewing machines readily available, need more space to finish a project or just want to get away and relax.

“I got the space March 1 with the idea of opening in April,” she said. “And then this whole COVID thing caught up with us and it was, ‘Nope. Can’t do that.’”

She’s taken the ensuing months to organize the 1,100-square-foot studio, with tables and machines set up in an airy, light environment.

“It was something I’d been thinking of doing for awhile, and finally decided we had to budget for it to at least get started,” she said.

Edwards was shocked at street-level rental prices and took the upstairs studio instead.

“That wasn’t working,” she said of the more expensive spaces. “This has been remodeled, it’s beautiful, very modern and clean. It’s just a pretty space. I thought, let’s try this.”

UNDERVALUED WORK

Edwards, a retired CPA, moved here from Seattle more than a decade ago and always wanted to create a space where people could meet — or go solo — to start new projects and finish others.

Her reasons are multifold.

“I believe a lot of skills that are traditionally female get undervalued,” Edwards said. “I really think sewing is a skill that’s very useful in your life. It’s a life skill. I’ve seen a lot of people coming up without having these kinds of life skills and thought, ‘This is something I can do.’”

It’s also ecological, she noted.

“We can repair clothes,” she said. “You can do an upcycle thing with older styles — make them more relevant. You can make higher-quality, longer-lasting clothes instead of disposable, things that are being bought and only used a handful of times.”

A decade ago, she studied interior design for two years at Bellevue College, where part of the curriculum addressed fabric.

“I love fabric, so when I see a piece of fabric that really excites me, I want to make it into something,” she said. “I like having clothes that aren’t like everybody else’s. I look around and it’s like Gap, Forever 21, Macy’s; I think we’ve kind of lost something.”

Her favorite fabric is dressy brocades she enjoys transforming into evening wear. Last year, she participated in the Wearable Art, making a pink dress with fairy-like wings for a 10-year-old girl.

Edwards emphasized she is not an expert sewer.

“I’m just someone who’s taught myself how to sew over the years by going to classes and following patterns,” Edwards said. “I’m not doing this because I’m an expert. I’m doing it to provide a space for people to come sew. I can definitely get someone going on our machines.”

IN THE STUDIO

Her studio features five machines, including her older model, three Brothers from Project Runway and a higher-end Pfaff that’s more of a dress-maker’s machine. There are cutting and ironing stations and a rack of essentials such as shears, seam rippers, bobbins and items seamstresses might have forgotten — interfacing and elastic, for example. Sewers are welcome to bring their own machines, as well.

Soon, she plans to host experts for specific classes, and hopes more experienced sewing artists in town might be willing to teach. Those classes would be held two or three times a month starting in mid-June.

Eventually, she’d like to offer her space to people to put items they’ve made on consignment, and offer specialty fabrics that lend themselves more to evening wear, rather than everyday or street wear. And once the coronavirus pandemic ebbs, she’s amenable to offering space for quilters.

Her target audience, she admitted, is “all over. I’d like it to be more younger people, to pass on the skills.”

Others could include tourists who want to create a simple item as a memento of Port Townsend, home-schooled students looking to learn a valuable skill — or even the husband who didn’t feel like going fishing with his wife.

Edwards said that surprisingly, she’s had calls from men interested in using the studio.

“At least half are men,” she said. “All the things I have for beginners, like making napkins, they don’t want to do. One wants to make his own shirt … that’s a tough beginner project. I think they want to rekindle something they did once and thought was kind of interesting.”

She is abiding by coronavirus protection recommendations and requires participants to wear masks and sit or stand 6 feet apart; blue Xs on the ground designate safe distances. Masks are available in her mailbox in the entry foyer to the studio.

She’ll be available to offer a hand or advice, as well. People might come in with an idea they saw on YouTube and wonder how to get started or, for the foreseeable future, people might want to sew masks to shield people from the COVID virus.

Edwards has made about 60 masks herself, including 35 for the post office staff — with help from seven others — the county’s emergency department employees and others for friends and family.

“It’ll be up to the customer’s whimsy,” Edwards said of what the space will offer. “I’m hoping to build interest. I hear a lot of, ‘That’s a great idea, and I have a machine at home I haven’t touched in 30 years, but it’s there.’ I’d like to keep it open even if it’s marginally making money or not.

“I’m hoping people later on, more tourists, will come,” she said. “Especially, like if we have a rainy day and there’s not as much to do. They can come by for a couple hours, do a project and go home with an origami market bag. I’m hoping some of that will happen.”

SEWING ROOM OPENS

Owner: Anita Edwards

Address: 810 Water Street, No. 2, above Getables

Phone: 360-344-2079

Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday

Cost: $7 an hour

Age limit: Youngest, 12, with adult; adult permission needed until age 16.

Wednesday nights: special events 2-3 a month, dates TBA

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