“WHAT A SWEETHEART,” the guy who appeared at the Come Sew studio when it first opened: So Anita Edwards described customer No. 1 at her small business.
He found his way to Come Sew, the well-lighted space above Getables on Water Street in Port Townsend, in hopes of learning to use his departed mother’s sewing machine. Edwards, an artist as well as a craftswoman, set him up with a beginning lesson, and off he went with his new skill.
When I first walked in, Come Sew felt every bit as inviting as its name. A small herd of brand-new Brother “Project Runway” model sewing machines are spaced out across the long room, with fabrics, supplies, a big-screen television for watching sewing videos, and a cutting table at the front window.
Edwards, an 11-year resident of Port Townsend, has set out to provide low-cost access to sewing equipment and instruction for teenagers and adults: we who sort of learned to sew long ago, who don’t own a machine — and who desire freedom from the world’s fast-food fashion.
Creating your own look, upcycling, hemming or repairing a piece: These are ways to defy the monotony of mass-production. And Edwards, 69, also provides guidance in sewing adaptive clothing for people with injuries or other needs.
Of course Come Sew brought me back to my youth. We women of a certain age remember sewing class in high school: zippered cosmetic bags, then aprons or blouses. Mine were comical in appearance. Forget this, I thought at 15, and did.
Edwards’ place showed me it’s not too late. The modern sewing machines are much easier to use, she told me, than what I fumbled around on 40 years ago. She delightedly provides tailored instruction along with material from her multicolored collection of remnants, as in pieces under 1 yard in size.
The studio is open for drop-ins and appointments (ComeSew.com, 360-344-2079), and has spots to take breaks nearby: Cafe Tenby and the Adams Street pocket park.
Edwards has a kindred spirit in Lisa Karlstrom, a retired educator who moved here from Tacoma.
“I called her out of the blue,” Karlstrom said, and next thing she knew she was teaching sewing at the new studio. Her teenage students are making clothes for themselves and dreaming about future projects.
The fee “couldn’t be more reasonable,” Karlstrom said. It’s $5 to $7 per hour, plus she’s sharing supplies from her own stash.
“It’s been a great learning experience for me, too,” said Karlstrom, who got her first sewing machine at age 9.
“If you’ve got a challenging project, that’s just a tad beyond where you are, come in and let me help you,” she added.
The Come Sew door is also open to people who want to “dude up their corona masks,” as Edwards puts it.
Then there’s the whole Halloween costume-building process and, coming up, autumn decorations classes.
Edwards’ own original creations, some of which she made for the Port Townsend Wearable Art Show, also live at Come Sew. The exquisite dresses have names: “Neptune’s Daughter,” “Tsunami” and “Girl with the Pink Aura,” and they share the space with exotic fabrics she brought home from Paris, Zanzibar and Tibet.
Edwards, you see, is an avid voyager who, upon being grounded by the pandemic, has invested what would have been her travel budget into this new business.
Sewing — the needle arts — are to my mind a felicitous endeavor for this moment.
Making or mending a garment, after all, is independence, thriftiness and self-care, sewn together like an elegant French seam.
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Townsend.
Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Oct. 7.
Reach her at [email protected].