HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Jan. 23, 2006

Custom sewing is satisfying craft

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Donna Foley of rural Kingston gets great satisfaction in seeing her finished sewing projects, especially the garments, and seeing how they fit her customers perfectly.

“I just like fabrics,” said Foley about her “Designs by Donna” coordinating aprons, tea towels and table linens she displays at Latte Da Coffee shop in Dassel.

Foley said she loves to go into fabric stores, buy cloth and make things. Lately she has been getting spring-style fabrics, such as those with scenes from the French countryside on them, so she’ll be ready for spring craft sales and bazaars.

Foley, who lives just west of Kingston, is an experienced seamstress. She started sewing her own clothes when she was 11 years old. She has been custom sewing for 36 years, off and on. Foley and her husband, Ralph, a general contractor, have nine children. The three oldest children, Crystal, Miles and Rochelle, are adults now. Kyla, 16; Tamara, 15; Denise, 13; Lane, 11; Paul, 8; and Monte, 5, go to school in Litchfield.

Foley got the idea of sewing coordinating aprons from her daughter’s wedding. Her daughter wanted the 12 servers at the wedding dinner to wear matching aprons. Foley liked how they looked.

“A business looks so much more professional if they ( employees) have coordinating aprons,” Foley said.

Foley likes chef’s aprons, which have a full front, although she doesn’t make them too long or bulky, she said.

“It saves on your clothes so much,” Foley said about wearing an apron while cooking. “I can even wipe my hands on it.”

Foley makes about 50 a year to sell and to give away as gifts.

“I make a child-size apron too. At Christmas time they’re big sellers,”

This year she sold so many aprons with a safari print, she has only one left. The buttons on the top are rhinoseros, she pointed out.

Foley tries to find buttons that not only coordinate, but are clever and creative. The aprons also come with matching table linens.

“Designs by Donna” does more than aprons, tea towels and table linens, though. Foley sews clothes, even wedding dresses, curtains, and finishing on quilts. She mends, remodels clothing and does re-upholstering.

Foley sews her own clothes as well. “I very seldom use a pattern,” she said.

She sews what she likes, or uses something as a pattern that already fits well.

Foley’s all-time favorite sewing project was a wool winter coat. She bought the wool in Washington, where her husband is from originally. The coat turned out to be a big success. She wore it so often the lining finally wore out, Foley said.

Foley is particular that whatever garments she makes fit perfectly. Not only does she measure in every possible way, she will make a sample garment out of a sheet or old fabric first, before she cuts designer fabrics or the cloth for a wedding dress, she said.

Foley also washes the fabric first. “You want to see what the fabric will do,” she said.

Foley recalled how horrified she was when she sewed a size 16 dress, washed it, and it shrank to size 2, she said.

The most difficult sewing project Foley has ever done is upholstery. The fabric is heavier and larger, and the thread is thicker, so getting the sewing machine to adjust to the additional bulk is challenging, Foley said.

This year, one of Foley’s daughters designed and sewed handbags for the fall craft sales and bazaars, and they turned out very well, Foley said. All of her children know how to use a sewing machine, but Foley hasn’t formally taught them how to sew.

They have to show interest and need to sew beforehand, she said.

Foley also has noticed, especially since she has been doing custom sewing, that the craft takes patience. “Sometimes you have to tear out and redo, no matter how experienced you are. Sometimes people quit because they think it has to be perfect the first time,” she said.

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