Terry Kelly has four sewing machines in her studio, some much older than others. They all have their specific roles- hems, serging, zippers, etc.
She won’t say how long she has worked as a seamstress, but it’s safe to say it is more than a few decades. She began her sewing career helping her mother as a youngster growing up in Jamaica. Soon customers were asking that she perform the work rather than her mother. She is a natural.
Terry has been sewing long enough to remember when crimplene fabric was the rage, even in Jamaica. For the uninitiated, this heavy, wrinkle resistant polyester fabric retains its shape and was introduced in 1959. A boon to sewers, its downside was its heft and inability to breathe, making it uncomfortable in hot, humid conditions. Even so, Terry remembers its extensive use in Jamaica where it was the fabric of choice for corporate uniforms, including pants and blazers for Royal Bank of Canada staff.
After moving to Canada to join her sisters in 1978, Terry’s sewing and alteration business grew by word of mouth, and often sparked by her daughter, Sheryl. Working in the downtown financial district, a professional wardrobe was important in Sheryl’s career. She would often be approached, even in women’s clothing stores, by individuals asking where she had purchased her outfit. Her canned response was that it was “custom made”. If pressed, she would give her mother’s contact information. They would call, and Terry’s business grew.
Terry takes on projects big and small, from original designs to minor adjustments to improve the drape of a clothing item. Some projects are more significant than others. Terry’s most memorable one was the creation of a wedding gown. A client had fallen in love with a Vera Wang design, but the $8,000 price tag was beyond her budget. She took Terry to the store to see it. A few strokes on a notepad after the shop visit provided Terry with enough detail to allow her to recreate it. These days, a few photos with a phone camera will do the job.
The art of sewing is in decline. Gone are the days when it was a mandatory course in elementary school. Terry suggests that as the price (and quality) of clothing has fallen, so people are less inclined to spend money on alterations that would improve the fit of their garments. On-line shopping has increased the risk of purchasing clothing items that don’t fit and could be easily improved with a few well-placed seams.
In June, Terry and her daughter Sheryl moved to Millbrook, and there have been few opportunities to wear stylish clothes that stimulate new business. Her machines are now set up and ready to work. Whether you need a hem shortened, a blazer fitted, a prom dress altered or an original design created, Terry can deliver. She can be reached at 705-932-7427. KG