With an eye on fashion, one Springfield sewing studio is attracting a younger generation to the craft of sewing.
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If you thought sewing was a dying art, think again. At Sew & Design Studio (2814 S. Fremont Ave., Suite 100, Springfield, 417-893-0032, sewanddesignstudio.com), sewing is alive and well and being passed on to a younger generation. Thanks to Ria Shaar, who opened Sew & Design near Battlefield Mall in 2015, boys and girls as young as 8 years old can pick up this once prevalent skill.
“The D.I.Y. scene is huge,” Shaar says. “That was key when developing this business plan.” Since opening a little more than a year ago, the shop has blossomed into a creative space for burgeoning sewers. Shaar’s classes max out at six students per class, and demand has kept Shaar and her instructors busy. Besides offering a limited selection of notions and sewing tools, Shaar and her instructors lead sewing classes where students work their way through a core curriculum including Introduction to Sewing and Sewing One. From there, students can tackle more challenging workshops like serging, pattern drafting, jacket construction, corset construction and hand embroidery. That’s part of the draw. Classes at Sew & Design Studio go well beyond altering your basic hemlines and reattaching buttons. The focus here is fashion, and students are loving it.
“The most common thing we notice is that kids and even our adult students are empowered when they realize they can create something,” Shaar says, who didn’t become interested in sewing until her business degree at Missouri State University intersected with her interest in fashion. After completing her first garment, a pleated skirt, Shaar was hooked. When she graduated with a degree in fashion merchandising and design, she started researching to see what types of fashion-forward programs larger cities offered. She looked at Chicago and New York and came across design schools for children, teens and adults. “It was a fantastic idea!” she says.
By 2015, Shaar’s research came to life as Sew & Design opened its doors with classes for ages 8 to 13 and 13 to adult. “The atmosphere is very laid back,” Shaar says. “It’s vibrant, enthusiastic, inquisitive and active,” like the space itself. Inside Sew & Design, neutral-colored walls are flagged by inspiration boards where students can pin ideas for upcoming projects. Large work tables fill the center of the space, and white, boxy sewing machines dot the perimeter just waiting to hum to life when class begins.
“It’s amazing that I can turn something that didn’t have any form into something someone can use or wear,” says 18-year-old Jessica Milne, a member of Sew & Design’s Teen Club. The club started when Shaar’s students asked for more advanced projects and mentorship. In December, the club had 10 members, and Shaar was gearing up to start an adult club.
Through the Teen Club, Milne went from making tote bags and pillows to skirts and garments. She’s learned how to take her own measurements and match them to commercial patterns to create custom clothing like the burgundy dress she finished, to which she added a boat neckline and empire-waist skirt. “The Teen Club is really tight-knit,” Milne says. “Everyone is really fun to hang out with, and it’s easy to bounce ideas off of everyone.”
Before connecting with Sew & Design, Milne was looking for sewing classes with more of a fashion focus. Even at the age of 7, Milne was flexing her creative muscle by sketching garments, so when her mom stumbled upon Sew & Design’s classes geared for younger learners, Milne signed up. “I’m always up for a challenge, and the teachers are willing to help you, which is great,” she says.
With its focus on fashion and garment creation, Sew & Design started a biannual fashion show for students to hit the catwalk and show off their original designs. Teens and adults strutted through Farmers Park last fall for the shop’s first fashion show, and the second is scheduled for this spring. (Date and location were not available at press time.)