Veteran seamstress thinks Barre is 'right fit'By Stefan Hard
Stefan Hard / Staff Photo Patricia Morse cuts a piece of giraffe pattern faux fur for a hat in her Something Sew Right shop in Barre.
Veteran seamstress Patricia Morse has altered her business more than once over the years. She’s looking for just the right fit.
She may have found it in Barre.
Morse recently relocated from Montpelier and opened her Something Sew Right shop in her apartment at 29 West St. in Barre, where she can keep her expenses low and live with her lovable pooch at her side while she makes clothing alterations for customers and dreams of designing her own line of clothing.
Something Sew Right is right in the heart of Barre. Sitting at her sewing table in front of a big bay window, Morse can see the courthouse straight in front of her, and Dunkin’ Donuts to her right. A large sign out front announces her shop’s presence and a sign on the door welcomes walk-ins.
Morse, 60, has worked professionally as a seamstress for others, and for herself, for 27 years. She caught the seamstress bug at only age 10, picking up basic skills her mother taught her, practicing them in 4-H Club, and in high school home economics class.
“I came from a family of six kids, and we didn’t have extra money,” said Morse. “I got into it when I realized I could make my own clothes and not have to wear hand-me-downs.”
Morse’s enthusiasm for sewing did not translate into a career out of high school. Instead, she went for a degree in parapsychology at Burlington College, but then fell back on to her skills sewing, working at Champlain Leather in Burlington.
Morse struck out on her own, starting her own business in Waitsfield, then moving it to Montpelier, where state government workers represented a steady demand for alterations to suits. Now, she is re-establishing her shop in Barre and hoping many of her Montpelier customers will follow her and that word-of-mouth will bring in new customers in Barre.
“I feel like Barre is on the upswing,” said Morse on Sunday, hovering over some giraffe-pattern faux fur on her large cutting table. “People are saying that the downtown is really looking up, and they did a good job rebuilding Main Street.”
In her Barre shop, Morse is surrounded by customer items awaiting her alteration, and some of her creations, including jackets, scarves, hats, and pocketbooks. Morse works with virtually any kind of material, from leather to fleece, and will alter everything from motorcycle jackets to wedding dresses. She does everything herself, and said she demands excellence from herself in every job.
Over the years, Morse has seen styles fall out of fashion, only to return decades later. She’s beginning to see people come in and ask for shoulder pads to be added to their shirts and blouses, in a return of early 1980s fashions.
“One of the things I enjoy most is taking a piece of clothing that a customer feels has become outdated, and altering it to bring it up-to-date,” said Morse. “I like taking an old favorite and making into something new.” She recently took a conservative wedding dress worn by a bride-to-be’s grandmother and updated its look, cutting three-quarter-length sleeves into cap sleeves and dropping the neckline.
Morse has seen a steady increase in the popularity of thrift shops, and many items that come in to her shop are thrift items bought for their style appeal, but lacking in proper fit, and sometimes worn or faded. Even brand new items can present challenges, like when a a customer comes in with a new pair of the very popular “distressed” jeans and wants them hemmed. Morse has to cut off the pre-worn stitching at the bottom of the legs, shorten the leg, then re-attach the “distressed” cuff to maintain the overall look.
Morse welcomes the challenges posed by alterations of all kinds, and it is her bread-and-butter business, but she is planning to expand her business to include her real passion: creating her own clothing for women, and particularly for larger women who welcome flowing designs that compliment their shape and build.
“I have a lot of ideas that I’ve begun sketching for designs that drape over the body in a flattering way … in items for casual wear or for the office,” said Morse. Morse sees a growing demand in this niche, and she wants to put up a website, sell directly over the web, while showing some of her designs in her shop and measuring a fitting customers for custom designs.
Depending on how busy Morse gets in Barre, she might have to hire expert help, but she said that could be a daunting task.
“This really is a dying profession,” said Morse. “There are so few of us (tailors and seamstresses) left. I don’t even think it is taught in a lot of high schools, and unless you attend a design school in college, I don’t know where you would get enough training to get to the expert level.”
On the reverse side, Morse probably doesn’t have to worry about a lot of competition and soon may have a lot of her kind of business sewn up in a refashioned downtown Barre.
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