During the pandemic’s early days, many looked inside their own closets and tucked-away boxes to find new pastimes or reignite passions that had hit the back burner during busier years. One of those at-home hobbies? Sewing. Local fabric shops report seeing a larger, and often younger, group of shoppers over the past few years.
“It’s really encouraging to see so many new sewists,” says Michele Hoaglund, owner of Grand Avenue’s Treadle Yard Goods, which has held its corner of St. Paul since the 1970s.
Sarah Vernon, owner of Lakes Makerie, in south Minneapolis, agrees. “We had a robust website with e-commerce in place before the lockdown, and suddenly we were busy,” she says. “We were shipping all over the country and had a lot of people doing local pickup. I think people just needed to do something productive—you could only watch so much Netflix.”
As for what people are sewing, it varies per shop—Lakes Makerie and Selby Avenue’s Sewing Lounge are more garment-fabric-focused, Treadle sells a mix of quilting and clothing supplies, and local giants like Brooklyn Park treasure trove SR Harris Fabric offer a bit (or a lot) of everything. But many shop owners say they’ve seen more people inspired to sew their own clothing—especially millennials and Gen Zers.
“A lot of people are coming back to sewing because they’re tired of the quality of clothing that they can buy, like the fast fashion that isn’t well made,” says Vernon, a former cardiologist who opened her shop six years ago. “They’re starting to focus on making things that are uniquely theirs.”
And now that in-person sewing classes and socials are back at local shops, the numbers only continue to grow. “Our kids’ classes are always full,” Hoaglund says. Treadle Yard Goods offers more than 20 types of classes, clinics, project workshops, and more—including specific classes for children and teens. Sewing Lounge offers classes as well, from complete-beginner programs to drop-in sessions for those stuck on a project or pattern directions. And Lakes Makerie’s project-specific classes, dyeing workshops, and mending lessons are always a hit, Vernon says. The shop even recently expanded into the storefront next door to create a larger classroom space.
While the sewing community has certainly changed and grown in recent years, Scott Harris, CEO of Twin Cities gem SR Harris Fabric, says it’s important to remember Minnesota has long been a crafty place—even if more people are discovering the store all the time. His father, Sid Harris, started the family biz in 1966 and, over the years, grew it into the enormous warehouse of cut-it-yourself fabric, notions, and patterns people know today.
“We’ve always had younger people, older, men, women, different groups coming in,” he says. “It’s a big mix.”
To shop owners, the diversity in sewists—including the pandemic class of newbies—and the number of local shops are exclusively positive. Since everyone sells something a little different, the scene is rooted in collaboration, not competition. “Every shop has its own flavor,” Hoaglund says. “At the end of the day, we’re a community”—one sewn together stronger than ever, with veterans willing to give a helping hand to those just joining the ranks.
January 18, 2023