The fabric of community

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Photos by Sally Ross


Any sewing enthusiast will vouch for the fact that the only thing that gets in the way of a good sewing session is having the space to do it. Unlike knitting, which requires little more than “two sticks and a string,” as the book of the same name reminds us, sewing calls for a table sturdy enough to withstand the machine’s vibrations and sizable enough to support large projects; room to spread out all that fabric and cut into it; and pressing equipment nearby to press each seam after sewing it before connecting any of the sections together (an important step if you want good results).

But how many people have the luxury of an area in their home that they can dedicate to sewing without having to dismantle everything every time someone else wants to use the table? And if one doesn’t have that dedicated area, it’s kind of a pain to get the machine set up each time one feels like sewing – enough of a production that it can be a deterrent to actually getting down to it.

Enter Sally Ross, of the new sewing space Sew Woodstock. Ross purchased seven Singer machines and gave them a home – along with a few spare machines – inviting any and all sewers to come and use the space as if it were their own sewing studio. Now anyone with a yen to sew can pop in and work on a project, and do it surrounded by other sewers in camaraderie.

Reflective of the return to handcrafting and self-sufficiency that’s in the air, Sew Woodstock is meant to provide “a comfortable and well-equipped space for stitchers [of all abilities] to get together to sew, improve their skills, share ideas and develop warm friendships with like-minded stitchers.”

For unlimited access entitling them to drop in anytime during open hours, sewers pay $40 a month to join the co-op. Ross says that there hasn’t yet been an occasion when machines weren’t available for use. Sewers can always bring their own machine, too.

If a sewer doesn’t choose to join the co-op, he or she can still come to Sew Woodstock to take ongoing sewing classes or one-day workshops, like the one this Saturday, November 23 at 2 p.m. on learning how to embellish knit fabric “the Alabama Chanin way.” (And if that doesn’t ring a bell, look it up online: Natalie Chanin is a former New York City-based stylist and costume designer who moved back to her native Alabama and opened a unique fashion company where she offers a line of fabulous clothing with lots of beautiful hand-stitching as well as do-it-yourself instruction on how to recreate the fashions. It’s a unique business concept getting rave reviews from the sustainability communities.)

The $35 class fee includes all materials. Participants will leave with a length of embellished fabric that they can then turn into a tote bag or anything else that they desire. Ross says that there will also be optional kits available to purchase after the class to take home and make easy Alabama Chanin-style fingerless gloves of knit fabric.

Sew Woodstock appreciates knitters and crocheters, too. They’re offering a Learn to Crochet class on Sunday, November 24 at 2 p.m., where participants will make a cute crocheted hat. The $35 fee includes all materials.

Sew Woodstock has ongoing sewing machine classes on Wednesdays from 2 to 4 p.m. called “Make Peace with Your Sewing Machine,” taught by Molly Farley, lead instructor at the site and Ross’s business partner. The fee is $30 per session. Ross says that Farley also takes alterations, or can teach people how to alter clothes themselves (a very useful skill to have).

Sew Woodstock has a retail area, with artisanal and organic fabrics for purchase and all the sewing supplies – or “notions,” as they’re called – that a sewer might need, and there’s even a hand-stitching lounge for people who like to sit on the couch and drink tea or coffee and talk to each other while doing hand-sewing or knitting or crochet.

Ross worked as a professional photographer for most of her adult life, known locally as one half of the duo Photosensualis with Michael Williams. “We met because we both love the same kind of photography, and still do today, 14 years later,” she says. Photosensualis is known for its tastefully sensual images of real women, “getting back to a natural beauty for women,” says Ross.

But the interest in sewing was always there in the background. Like many other stitchers, Ross learned the skill at a young age from the women in her family – her Mom and grandmother, in her case. She continued to sew through her teenage years, but it took a back seat when the time came to make a living and she began working as a photographer. Three years ago, Ross says, she began holding weekly “Stitchy Days” every Thursday for some women friends, where they’d get together to sew and chat. About a year ago, it occurred to her that this could be a business, and now it’s the photography that’s taking the back seat. Ross brought the concept of creating an open studio space for sewers into the former Loominus building in Bearsville, “and now every day is ‘Stitchy Day,’” she says.

Sew Woodstock is located at 3257 Route 212 in Bearsville, open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (845) 684-5564 or go to or Sew Woodstock on Facebook.

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