Handmade: Design Sewing Studio is tailored for success
Gwen Gordon believes “everyone was put here for a reason,” and she feels the essence of her being is not only sewing, but sharing those skills with anyone “who has a desire” to learn.
“Because this seems to be innate with me, this is what I should do,” said the Farmington Hills resident, who works as a real estate agent. “I fell in love with sewing at a very young age. I started with doll clothes when I was four, and as I got deeper into it, I couldn’t learn enough about it. Then in high school, I started sewing for friends.”
Although sewing has yet to become her livelihood, Gordon, 55, took her “life-long passion” to a higher level in January of 2013 when she opened the doors to Design Sewing Studio at 33335 Grand River in downtown Farmington, where she instructs those wanting to develop sewing skills, and others interested in sharpening their ability.
“The majority want to learn how to sew, and many have never touched a sewing machine,” said Gordon. “Then, they stay with me. I have some who have been with me pretty much since I opened. Some come because they’re working on projects, and if they run into issues they’re not sure about, they want the safety net of running it by me, or someone else in the class.”
Classes offered at Design Sewing Studio are basic and intermediate sewing at $120 per month each, and students, who typically range from age 17-65, learn to read patterns, as well. One month for each class is generally all that’s needed. Class size is usually kept to no more than five or six students so that everyone is given the attention they need.
Karen Mrowka of Bloomfield Hills wanted to learn the “proper” way to sew, so she started taking lessons from Gordon in 2015. She said, “Gwen is an outstanding individual and teacher who possesses tremendous sewing knowledge, and is very patient with her students. She takes the time necessary to explain and guide, and is always happy to make suggestions, as well as assist in designing patterns based on individual needs.”
Like Mrowka, once students have completed both class levels, they’re then eligible to become a member of Gordon’s “Sew Club,” for a fee of $85 a month.
Gordon said, “Before starting my business, I’d heard about places that have ‘sew lounges’ so people who love to sew could have some place to retreat to, gather and have fun. That’s how I built the concept of my Sew Club.”
In addition to teaching, Gordon fills custom orders for home decorating items -- pillows, drapes, embroidery pieces, etc. However, she admits “more than anything else,” her favorite things to sew are garments, including pants, dresses and formal attire.
Gordon, who makes most of her clothes, earned her certificate as a Master Tailor and Seamstress when she was 12, and began sewing prom dresses for others when she was 14.
“My mother and grandmother sewed, and when I was 12, my mother enrolled me in Kimble School of Sewing on Linwood in Detroit. My mother married the owner’s son. Then they started grooming me to take over the sewing school, but my then step-grandmother taught all the classes by herself. She taught industrial sewing, and the Big Three hired her students!”
Gordon, who continues to accept custom orders for garments, buys much of her fabric from Vogue Fabrics in Chicago, Mood Fabrics in New York, and locally, at Joann Fabric and Craft Stores. And, while she’s never met a fabric she didn’t “love,” jersey knits are her favorite. She even instructs her students on how to sew with knit fabrics – something many sewists tend to shy away from (including yours truly).
She said, “The great thing about sewing knits, unlike a woven fabric, is that the fabric is so forgiving, and you can manipulate it to do whatever you want.”
Reflecting back on her many years as a seamstress, Gordon stated, “I was the first black female tailor at Saks when it was at Fairlane. And, I managed various alterations rooms at Hudson’s, and became the alterations manager at Hudson’s at Twelve Oaks and Somerset.”
As a business-minded sewing enthusiast, Gordon hopes to someday get to the point where she’s able to operate her studio full-time.
Hours for Design Sewing Studio are noon-5 p.m. Tues., Wed. and Fri., 1-8 p.m. Thurs., and 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Sat. It’s closed on Sun. and Mon.
Detroit News columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, email@example.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.
Contact Design Sewing Studio, 33335 Grand River, Farmington. Call (248) 761-4980 or email designsewingstudio.com.