The door opens, and a man walks into the shop and up to the counter holding several garments.
Wendy Bakke, 58, owner and operator of Sewing Unlimited, greets him and asks how she can help. A row of neatly hung clothes waiting to be picked up by clients hangs behind her. They include a brightly colored snowball dress and a variety of winter jackets. A row of shelves on the wall next to her are stacked with various styles of pants and other items ready to go.
The man, Charlie Farrow, holds up a pair of gray wool pants and asks if she can patch them … again. He explains they are very old and they don't make them like they used to.
The vintage wool pants were made by Woolrich, possibly in the early 1950s. Farrow searched to find another pair. He has found similar ones by another company, but they cost almost $300.
“These are just sentimental. They were my dad's,” he said. “My dad passed away two years ago, and it was really sad. It just feels good when I wear something of my dad's.”
Farrow wears the wool pants during the winter when he rides his bike. The heavy, red button-up shirt he wears as a coat was also his father's.
Customers often bring in vintage items that belonged to their parents or that have been in the family for years.
“I get that all the time,” Bakke said.
But the hours Bakke spends hemming clothes or hunched over the sewing machine are taking their toll. She can feel the hours in her knees and shoulders, she said.. She also had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists.
She wonders out loud what will happen when she can no longer keep her shop open. Who will take over?
“There are not many of us out there,” Bakke said.
She has been sewing as long as she can remember. Her mother sewed some of the family's clothes and taught Bakke how to iron and press pillow cases.
Bakke learned about design, shapes and fabrics at technical school, where she earned a liberal arts degree. She started her career as a tailor in a menswear shop. She also worked at bridal shops and dry cleaning services to gain experience.
When her daughters were born she worked out of her home. She opened her shop about 20 years ago.
A slow day for Bakke is when no one stops in for a while as she repairs or alters clothes. There is always sewing to be done.
“People walk in all day, all of the time,” Bakke said. “Some days it’s non-stop.”
Monday she keeps the door locked so she can work without interruption.
Her inventory depends on the season. During the school year there are snowball and prom dresses and suits that need to be altered. Clothes for hunting and sports peak to each of their seasons.
Hemming knows no season.
Bakke has shortened socks and altered dog jackets. She sews badges on uniforms for members of the military and law enforcement.
“I can do zippers in my sleep,” she said.
While most of Bakke's clients walk in to drop off their items, she asks customers with big projects like wedding dresses to call and set up an appointment.
Sewing Unlimited is open to the public 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. To make an appointment or for more information call 218-879-0501.