Voices

The Fish Hooks Them, Then Stella Reels Them In

Peer through the store window and you’re hooked by the 145-pound marlin hanging on the wall. But it’s the woman who caught the fish who keeps customers coming back to Stella’s Professional Sewing and Alterations at 5-Mile Shopping Center.

“I landed him in 57 minutes on 50-pound test line off Baja, Mexico,” said the cheerful woman, flashing her scissors toward the fish arched above her sewing machine. “But it took them six months to mount and ship him here.”

No challenge is too big and no job is too small for Stella Hoob. For 47 professional years, the seamstress has tailored her life as capably as she has tailored the countless garments that pass through her nimble fingers.

“I flunked sewing in high school, but I really wanted to know how to do it,” said Hoob. “So I’d go down to the Goodwill and buy name brand clothes and suits for a few dollars, and take them apart at home to see how they were made.” She then restitched them, and donated them back to Goodwill. When she entered a sewing contest and won first prize, Hoob said it gave her the confidence to start a business.

Following a difficult marriage, Hoob supported her three children by sewing day and night. They moved here from the Renton area in 1980 for a fresh start, but Hoob developed heart trouble. “I’ve got a plastic aorta now, and two plastic bypasses to my legs,” she said, “But I got the kids raised, and now I can fish and hunt and not tire out.”

Hunt? “Oh sure, I go with my son up to Mount Spokane for deer, and Colville for bear, and I’ve gotten antelope in Wyoming,” she said, her glasses glinting in the light of her Pfaff machine. “Those bear and antelope make the best pepperoni you’ve ever tried.”

Hoob, who admits only to being “somewhere in the senior citizen area,” has just signed up for an aerobics class to get in shape for next hunting season.

Hoob slid fabric under the presser foot and revved up the sewing machine. “The bear I have at home I got with a .30-06, but I’m getting older now, so I bought a .30-30 for this year. It’s lighter,” she said.

Hoob had her “home” bear mounted on wheels, so she can move him around the house.

“He’s parked next to the bar in the rec room right now.”

A customer came in with an armload of dress pants and proudly announced that he’d lost 20 pounds, and needed the pants taken in. “We’re booking for three weeks to get anything back to people - some come in here even to get a single button sewn on, and they can’t even imagine hemming a pair of pants,” Hoob remarked as the man left.

In her 15 years at 5-Mile, Hoob has sewn miles of hems, designed wedding ensembles, stitched motorcycle seats and created green tuxedos for a local radio personality and his wife to wear in the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“It’s hard work,” she said, “But the hardest job you’ll ever have is to be a good parent. I struggled to raise the kids, and they’re raised. Now it’s my turn.”

Since her children went in their own life directions, Hoob has globetrotted to Spain, Yugoslavia, Hawaii and Tahiti, in addition to the hunting and fishing trips. She’d like to point south again to the warm waters off Mexico, but worries about her workload here.

She moved to a serger machine and pulled beige thread through its needles. “I want to go back to Cabo San Lucas and get a grouper and have him stuffed. They weigh 1,500 pounds, you know,” she said.

Another customer came in carrying heavy drapes for hemming.

Hoob glanced up at her marlin, and said, “I think I can fit it in.”



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