BELFAST – The retro hobbies of knitting and sewing came back for many newbies during the pandemic, but Julz Larrabee, a seamstress in Stockton Springs, has been sewing steadily over the years, regardless of what’s going on outside their doors.
Her little shop, Julz Makes LLC, recently moved to the former Maker’s Space in Belfast Fiber Arts expanded retail showroom. Her business is aptly the previous location where the Belfast Repair CafÃ© was held, which offers regular free repairs of fabric items, as well as electrical and other minor repairs. Now it’s her studio where she has her sewing machines, mesh-lined mat, and racks with color-coded bobbins on the walls.
Larrabee’s interest in this once productive – now rare – trade dates back to her childhood. âI learned crochet and hand sewing first and my mom is very smart, so I learned a lot of techniques from her,â she said.
As a young adult, Larrabee bought her first sewing machine and started doing things for fun. As a result, she ran the Viking Sewing Gallery in Bangor for four years and gave sewing lessons. It took her some time in the corporate world and other professions before she decided to go freelance and open a business in 2020.
It’s not just favorite clothes that people bring to Larrabee to fix.
“Jeans were the big thing for a long time when I started,” she said. âAs the word got around to my small business, people came to me to line items or change items. I’m in the middle of a big slip cover project right now. They and I also received an order for custom curtains. “
When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, Larrabee used her skills to do a good job creating fashionable and safe custom masks for people at affordable prices.
“There is so much satisfaction in doing something for yourself,” she said.
When Larrabee, a Gen Xer, grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a trend that revived making your own clothes from patterns.
âIn the past, a lot of people just didn’t have the financial means to buy clothes they wanted. That’s why they made their own clothes and it’s definitely a trend, especially people who are interested in living with more sustainable choices, “she said. âI think the movement is moving away from fast fashion [which are lower-priced mass-produced garments that often get thrown into landfills] was a big influence. “
Belfast is the perfect home for Larrabee’s new store.
âThe creative spirit here is everywhere here; You meet so many doers who settle in this city, âshe said.
Surprisingly, with all of the custom projects she’s working on, repairing clothes is the job that gives her the most satisfaction.
“A young man from Oregon came to me who would only be in Maine for a few weeks,” she said. âHe had this long leather coat that was probably more than 100 years old and the pockets were gone and one sleeve was falling apart and he wanted to know if there was a way to put it all back together. I’d never done this before, but I could do it and when he came back to pick up his coat and see how well it could be mended he was so excited. This is what I love: when someone fixes something, it means so much to someone and gives them more time to use what they love. “
With Belfast Fiber Arts right next door, your own creations will eventually find a home in the store.
“I mainly do repairs and remodeling and have partnered with Belfast Fiber Arts as a studio member, so I will work with them to sell any custom items I sell in the showroom,” she said.
For more information, please visit Julz at julzmakes.com and her Etsy shop, JulzMakes
Kay Stephens can be reached at [email protected]