The lost art of alterations
PRINCETON — Three local women are bringing back the lost art of sewing and bringing smiles to their customer’s faces.
Area women Bonnie Smith, Mary Sugars and Arlene Windt have broadened and honed their sewing skills over the years with their many and varying sewing projects. They each utilize their homes as personal sewing studios and serve the community using their knowledge on the art of alterations and sewing.
“I’ve had a needle and thread in my hand for as long as I can remember. It’s a lost art, really.” said Arlene Windt of Princeton
Each of the three ladies has a special room set aside in their homes, dedicated solely to sewing and alterations. Their talent with a needle, thread and a sewing machine takes them on a variety of projects — altering wedding dresses, making children’s clothes, hemming slacks, altering adult clothes and in Windt’s case, even creating a sailboat sail.
Windt’s business, which she has appropriately named “Arlene’s Alterations,” is operated out of her Eastmor Drive home in Princeton, where she specializes in wedding alterations. She is also a certified representative for the Wedding Gown Preservation Co. and at one time, owned her own fabric store — Fashion Fabrics in downtown Princeton for 10 years. Windt’s love of bridal fashion also led her to a 10-year position at the Jewell Rae Bridal Shoppe as a consultant. Fashion Fabrics and Jewell Rae are no longer in business.
“My biggest joy in sewing is a happy bride,” said Windt, as she pinned a bridesmaid’s gown to be altered.
Some of her work includes handmade bridesmaid’s gowns for both of her daughter’s weddings, cheerleading uniforms, small upholstery projects and banners, in addition to her regular alteration clientele.
Windt was a home economics major at Iowa State University and was a buyer in infants and sub-teens clothing for Donaldson’s Department Store.
Like Windt, Sugars and Smith learned the fine art of sewing from their mothers and grandmothers.
Mary Sugars, who resides in Wyanet, also specializes in wedding alterations and fashion. The fitting room of her Locust Street home is filled with framed photographs of the many weddings she has worked on.
“To me it’s not work; it’s something I enjoy. It makes me feel good that I can do something like that for someone and have them admire it,” Sugars said.
Her many sewing accomplishments include making her own prom dresses, handcrafted memory quilts, Halloween costumes, curtains, christening gowns and more. She took sewing in her 4-H group at 10 years old, and later in school in her home economics class.
“I’ve been sewing for as long as I can remember,” she said.
Sugars worked for Harper-Wyman for several years until it closed in 2003, when she turned her love of sewing into a way to support her family. Sugars’ at-home alterations business is simply called “Mary’s Sewing Shop” and is contained in the upstairs of her home.
Unlike Windt and Sugars, Bonnie Smith of Princeton does not specialize in wedding alterations, with the exception of her own granddaughter’s wedding gown.
Smith started refining her sewing talents in her junior and senior high home economics classes, while also learning from her mother and grandmother. In addition to her everyday sewing projects, she also made her own graduation dress, doll clothes, bathing suits and household items, such as curtains and pillow coverings.
“I’ve had several challenges while sewing; I try to do the best I can,” she said.
In addition to her earlier classes in sewing and home economics, she also attended a class at a Singer Sewing Machine shop, when she bought her 1963 Singer 500 machine. The machine is 45 years old and still sits on the tabletop in her sewing room, where she uses it often for her many projects.
Smith worked for Spurgeon’s Department Store for nearly 20 years as a sales clerk while raising her children, until they closed in the early ‘90s. Later on, she took a part-time position at Glamour Isle, a ladies dress shop in downtown Princeton. She worked there for just a few years, until starting her at-home alterations business, which she fondly calls “Bonnie’s Sewing Basket.”
“I just enjoy sewing,” Smith said.
To learn more about these ladies’ love of sewing, feel free to contact them at the following numbers: Smith at 815-875-3475; Sugars at 815-878-4480; and Windt at 815-872-6051.
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