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JOCELYNN BROWN

Handmade: Pandemic leaves crafters with more time for sewing

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, crafters everywhere have found more time on their creative hands -- time to finish projects in the making, start new ones, or maybe even learn a whole new crafting skill.  

Washington Township resident Patty Weir, who owns Haberman Fabrics in Clawson, has seen a noticeable increase in the number of her customers doing home decorating projects. It's a way to use this unprecedented time to give their home a fresh new look, and why not since it's where so many are spending most of their time these days?

"With more time at home, many have cleaned and painted, and now want to refresh their cozy spaces with items from simple pillows and window treatments to doing reupholstering. Our home decorating gallery is bustling. It has extensive choices of fabrics and trims in sample books to order from.

Patty Weir in her classroom space at Haberman Fabrics.

"A lot of new customers came in who finally have free time to enjoy sewing again. They have extra time at home after the shutdown, and they're saying, 'It's been such a creative outlet and stress reliever. We often hear them say, we are their 'happy place.'" This "horrible" (pandemic) situation" has created what she calls "a season of sewing."

Weir's personal projects have even included a few home decorating items. Her daughter, Jennifer, a freshman at the University of Michigan, has had all her classes go online, so she turned her bedroom into "a fun dorm room to make it comfortable for her this semester" by sprucing it up with new window treatments and pillows.

Once she reopened her shop in late May, Weir said, "We were able to supply customers with their mask making needs -- cotton and elastic." She sells 1/8 and 1/4-inch elastic in white and black, and it's reordered regularly. With so much mask making among sewers, cotton has been her biggest selling item. And, sewing enthusiasts have not only been making masks, but also a lot of apparel because clothing stores were shut down.

After reopening, her customer base also included those in need of items to fill orders for special occasion garments. "Many dressmakers were finishing prom dresses for photo shoots. A lot of girls still wanted to do simple graduation photos so they could have memories," said Weir. "And, brides are still coming in to complete their gowns and veils for rescheduled dates."

Pillows add pop to this chair.

Weir continues to work with longtime local pattern maker Christine Jonson. "We coordinate fabric for her new plus-size patterns for 2020. She is making current samples in our fabrics and then we will have the 'Meet and Greet Trunk Show' that would have happened before the pandemic."

While there are no classes or events currently scheduled, a "wide range of merchandise" arrives daily. "We were able to restock many things -- cotton, silks, linens, and laces. Now wools are arriving daily for fall, and also the popular designer sample cuts. We call them 'great finds at great prices!'"

The pandemic has caused Weir to make a number of changes, but she's somehow managed to make it all work. "We have temporarily reduced our hours, but we're still open seven days a week. For safety, we have had to temporarily cancel all of our classes and events. It has been a challenging time for everyone since reopening, but as a small business, we're so grateful for customers coming in and giving their support to us."

And, if you're ever in need of a customized item, Haberman Fabrics keeps a handy referral list that includes contact information for individuals specializing in everything from alterations to home decorating. "A lot of people who sew even use it when they don't have time to make something. They're all local dressmakers, designers, etc." 

Weir's optimistic outlook leads her to believe the other side of this pandemic will see a "stronger" sewing community because "when this kind of thing happens, people come back to sewing, knitting, etc."

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, jbrown@detroitnews.com or facebook.com/DetroitNewsHandmade.

Contact Haberman Fabrics (1060 W. 14 Mile, Clawson) at (248) 541-0010 or on Facebook.