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Brooke Burch's skills are bringing in sew many students

The owner of Custom Sewing and Alterations is finding a growing demand to learn to sew.

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Brooke Burch, a local seamstress and clothing design entrepreneur, at her home business on Tuesday, July 6, 2021, in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Is an old sewing machine taking up space in your closet? Brooke Burch can put it to good use.

“I kind of like rescuing sewing machines,” said Burch, owner of Brooke Burch Custom Sewing and Alterations. “If I see a sewing machine getting thrown out, I usually pick it up.”

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Burch isn’t starting a sewing machine collection. However, she has been collecting sewing students. The machines are for new students who would need one, she said.

Interest in learning to sew has soared during and through the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend is similar to other hobbies and DIY interests people took up in 2020.

Burch finds that interest in learning to sew has continued to grow. Interest has been so high, it has changed the nature of her custom sewing business, she said.

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Brooke Burch works with her sewing student, Esme Hogen, 12.
Contributed

“I can be more picky about the jobs I do take and work on the ones that I like,” she said. “It’s a much less stressful landscape.”

Although teen girls make up the biggest demographic of her students, they range in age from as young as 8 years old to adults in their 30s.

The individual classes move at the pace of each student. Most start with basic sewing skills including learning to use a sewing machine, make cuts, press fabric, pin fabric and basic hand sewing movements.

“Once you learn the basics of how to sew, you don’t forget,” she said.

Until this summer, Burch said she has been able to accommodate most of her students by teaching at times that work for students.

However, sewing classes are taking such a large part of her work days, Burch is moving her classes to set daytime hours for the summer — and those slots are already filling up. Burch said she’s giving her current students the first chance to sign up for summer classes.

So what’s behind the appeal of learning to sew? The reasons are as varied as her students, she said.

Most of her students, who are between the ages 15 to 25, want to learn a new skill that allows them to create or customize their own clothes. Some of them cite environmental and sustainability reasons. Others say the skills would make them more resilient and less reliant on consumer good supply chains.

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Some older students are returning to an abandoned hobby. They come to her with a sewing machine they bought a decade ago on a whim or inherited from a relative but haven’t figured out how to use.

“There are lots of stories like that,” she said. “I’m glad to help them and put those machines to use.”

Brooke Burch sewing class 02.jpeg
Brooke Burch works with her sewing student, Esme Hogen, 12.
Contributed

For her younger students, it’s hard to pin down the reasons behind their motivation. Or find it at all on some days, she said.

“I sometimes have to do some extra motivation for my really young students,” she said.

For young students, Burch asks parents to stay for the duration of the class. For adults, she asks them to understand she’s a mom and has two businesses if you include her vintage clothing sales.

“My goodness it’s hard to schedule classes with some adults,” she said, adding that’s one reason she moved to regular teaching hours for the summer.

“I’m sticking to my guns on that,” she said.

Given the sustained interest in her classes – 10 students continuing this summer and 10 new students so far – Burch said she’s considering holding group classes this fall.

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For now, she’s looking at a rapidly filling summer schedule. People who want to take sewing classes can contact her via her Facebook business page, Brooke Burch Custom Sewing and Alterations.

The Vintage Rack returns

Just in time to mark the opening of the reconstructed sidewalks on the 300 block of South Broadway Avenue, Café Steam and The Vintage Rack are teaming up for a pop-retail event June 11. Burch said a previous event, at the skyway Café Steam location, was a success and wanted to hold an event to help kick off the summer.

Clothing will be on display from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you go

What: Vintage Rack pop up event.

Where: Café Steam, 315 South Broadway Ave.

When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 11, 2022.

Related Topics: ROCHESTERART
John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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