Thursday, November 25, 2010

Portland Sewing answers growing interest in art and business of making clothes

From Neighborhood Notes by Jennifer Coughlin

Sharon Blair might be considered the pioneer in the sewing studio movement in Portland. After establishing her career as a clothing designer and seamstress, she opened Portland Sewing in 2002. She stuck to the basics in sewing and pattern making in the beginning, but found that her students were asking, “what next?” She said that the expansion of her offerings has grown organically out of the needs and requests of her students. She says the goals of her students usually fall under one of three categories.

“They are usually people who want to start up their own line or apparel business, people who want good quality clothes that actually fit them, or people who want to express their individuality, but also want clothes that are well made.” She doesn’t see the interest in sewing so much as part of the “DIY” movement in Portland, but more as a sign that Portland is becoming a burgeoning apparel center. That has led her to expanding her offerings this year to include two certificate programs on how to start your own apparel business. She has put together classes teaching students how to start a business, deal with city and state regulations, how to source fabrics, how to create patterns both by hand and on a computer and more.

“I teach the skills to make successful apparel people,” Blair says. “My job is to get them to a place where they don’t need me anymore.” She says that her greatest professional success has been found in helping others to succeed.

Portland Sewing has classes for everyone, not just those looking to make a career in apparel. Kid classes, fashion illustration, draping and pattern making, as well as sewing classes from basic to advanced, they also have a “Speed Dating with a Sewing Machine” class. In it, people can check out 10 different machines in a three hour period to find the machine that is right for them before buying one. Housed in an old credit union building, Portland Sewing also features a notion drive-thru.

“If it’s 9 p.m. and you’re in your PJs finishing a project and run out of thread,” Blair explains, “You can just drive up and buy it without getting out of your car!”

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