Not all that long ago, women met in sewing circles held in homes or churches to catch up on the latest news and take a break from everyday responsibilities.
They would stash mending, piecework or embroidery projects in their sewing baskets and enjoy each other’s company while exercising their creativity.
At Sew Uniquely You, owner Anna Turner has recreated the warm, welcoming atmosphere of an old-fashioned sewing circle, but with contemporary touches like sophisticated sewing machines.
“I wasn’t exactly born with a needle and thread in my hand, but close,” said Turner. “I started embroidering when I was 8.”
After many years of working as a seamstress and teaching sewing classes, she opened Sew Uniquely You at its first location on North Nevada Street in 1990. She moved the business to its present location on the Newport Highway just across the street from the Camelot entrance, 2 1/2 years ago.
“I’m not a normal quilter. I don’t follow a pattern. I’m unconventional,” she said, smiling. “I opened the shop because I wanted women to think about creating unique things.”
She pointed to a sampling of fabric collages on a wall as an example.
“We used different pieces of fabric to create a landscape,” she said.
And on Thursday, a half-dozen women gathered to take a class on fabric painting. Longtime instructor Loretta Moore introduced dry brushing techniques as women painted flower petals and a bird on hand-dyed fabric.
“I enjoy painting,” Moore said. “This class is working on hand-dyed fabric, so every piece is different.”
Glenda Carlsson created the fabric and stopped in to chat with Turner.
Carlsson started her business, “Glenda the Good Stitch,” after taking a class on the technique at Sew Uniquely You with her daughter.
“Our rooms filled with fabric,” she said, laughing. “So, I opened the business to show people what they can do with hand-dyed fabric.
Carlsson is one of two vendors whose unique fabric is sold at the store.
In addition to fabric, Turner sells sewing notions and is an authorized Elna sewing machine dealer.
“My first love is sewing machines,” Turner said. “I’m a technician.”
The shop also offers sewing machine repair and service for all brands of machines.
However, the heartbeat of the business is the classes.
“We are a sewing school,” Turner said.
From serger workshops to thread painting, five instructors offer a variety of classes. Instructor Sherry Thompson said the workshops are unique.
“We spend time with everyone,” she said.
That individualized attention goes a long way to making people feel comfortable while learning new techniques.
Student Heidi Carlson delicately shaded a bird’s feather.
“I’ve never painted before,” she said. “I never thought I could. I was intimidated.”
She started taking classes at Sew Uniquely You in December.
“It’s a mental health day for me,” Carlson said. “I can come here and relax and enjoy beautiful women.”
One of those women, Carol Ring, is a regular attendee. You can tell because she wore a fabric badge that read, “It must be Thursday.” Thursday is paint day at Sew Uniquely You.
“I wear the same shirt on paint days, and I didn’t want anyone to think I just had one shirt!”
Another popular event is Sew at Your Own Pace days.
“You pay a table fee and bring your own project,” Turner said. “You can get help if you need it.”
Throughout her 30 years in business Turner who said she’s “just past 80,” has seen trends come and go “from garments to big quilts to quilting kits to creative appliqués.”
But sometimes the basics get forgotten.
“You’d be surprised at how many people don’t know how to sew on a button,” she said. “You’d be surprised at how many people don’t have an iron.”
That’s why, in addition to Sew at Your Own Pace Day where novices and experts can mingle, she also launched Saturday youth days, where youngsters can explore the world of sewing.
Turner surveyed the tables as women chatted and laughed.
“It’s kind of like a women’s center around here.”
She explained that while some men sew or quilt, she feels they prefer to work independently, while women tend to relish the social interaction.
“I really enjoy seeing the creativity of these women and watching them come to their full potential,” she said.
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