By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN Luaine Rolfzen is “sew” happy to have a new embroidery and alteration shop in downtown Lester Prairie, but her passion began long before the business.
“At the age of 9, I sewed my mother a dress out of feed sacks,” Rolfzen said. “We used to get chicken feed in 100-pound sacks, and we’d use the empty ones to make sheets, underwear, curtains, and clothes.”
She remembers learning how to sew on a treadle sewing machine, which is powered with a foot pedal instead of electricity.
As the years went on, Rolfzen’s interest intensified. Her freshman year in high school at Howard Lake, she worked in the lunchroom to earn money for her first sewing machine.
“It took me one year, and I bought it for $79,” she said.
Although she loved to sew, Rolfzen didn’t originally pursue it as a career.
Instead, after graduating from high school in 1961, she went to school in Willmar to become a licensed practical nurse.
As an only child whose father suffered from multiple sclerosis, Rolfzen said sewing and taking care of people have always been her two specialties.
“It was a way of life for me,” she said.
One of Rolfzen’s sewing projects has a special place in her mind.
“I sewed my wedding dress and the dresses for my attendants,” she said.
She and her husband, Dennis, originally met at a dance when Rolfzen was 16. They were married in October 1962.
“After 48 years, we still hold hands when we go down the street,” Rolfzen said.
She remembers that her wedding gown was lace over taffeta, and her bridesmaids’ dresses were made of blue velvet.
“She does beautiful work,” Dennis said. “I’m not kidding you.”
When Rolfzen’s four children were young, she enjoyed sewing clothing for them.
The Rolfzens’ oldest daughter, Ann, now owns Double A Limousine Service with her husband, Art Mallak. Their office is located on Juniper Street, in the same building as Rolfzen’s sewing shop.
Another of the Rolfzen children, Loren, drives truck for Art and Ann in the Twin Cities. Rolfzen’s daughter Julie manages a floral shop in a Rapid City, SD, grocery store, and the youngest, Dale, plans to help with the sewing business.
“He’s quite a sewer,” Rolfzen said.
A career change
For many years, Rolfzen had been working at two assisted living jobs, and also doing home care and private care.
Then, about two years ago, she was injured at the assisted living facility and had to stop working. The incident occurred when a patient grabbed her arm and twisted it, causing severe damage.
“He chicken-winged me,” Rolfzen said.
According to Rolfzen, the man had been in a concentration camp in World War II, and he wasn’t thinking clearly. Typically, he was a gentle, kind person, she added.
Rolfzen had her first surgery to repair her arm in April 2010, and her second one was in January of this year.
Sewing was pretty tough for awhile, but fortunately, she’s starting to recover.
Recently, Rolfzen completed a long-awaited project for her husband: a western-style shirt with hand-stitched embroidered roses on the back.
“It was the ‘wonder shirt,’ as in, ‘I wonder when I’ll have it done,’” Rolfzen laughed.
At Thread & Thimble, Rolfzen does patchwork, alterations, and embroidery.
She’s usually at the shop from 9 a.m. to about 4 or 4:30 p.m., and welcomes visitors at any time during the day.
People often stop in to look at the wide assortment of baby blankets, towel sets, and decorative pillows.
Those who have a specific request are also welcome to call Thread & Thimble at (612) 770-2791.