New school provides outlet for dying art
At Briar Rose Sewing School, a new business on Union Hill, owner Barbara R. Mar is reviving the dying art of sewing and giving people of all ages a place to gather as they exercise their ingenuity.
Mar, a former piano teacher, grew up sewing, just as her mother and grandmother did. After her daughter Becca was born, Mar enjoyed making dresses and doll clothing for her and also formed a children’s custom clothing shop called RuBarb Creations along with her mom Ruth.
If you’re a fan of the drama department at The Bear Creek School, you likely have admired some of Mar’s splendiferous costume creations. While Becca was a student there, Mar costumed more than 24 plays, including seven major Shakespeare productions. Working with fabric finds from Value Village or discarded prom gowns, she made intricate and historically accurate garments that would be the envy of professional theatre ensembles.
Lately, it’s been hard to locate places that teach sewing. And what Mar does at Briar Rose is “different from what you’d find in fabric stores,” she said. “I’m offering long-term lessons. It’s a skill just like learning an instrument. You have to start out with the basics and build from there. People who take on too much get overwhelmed and give up.”
Her first projects for people who’ve never sewn before are very easy. Adults begin with small pillowcases and children begin with little “notion bags,” she explained. Students use workbooks with step-by-step and level-by-level instructions. The check off each project completed and move on to the next book when they’re finished with the first.
To foster creativity, students can choose whatever fabrics they like and Mar encourages recycling of old jeans or vintage clothing.
“Quilts have made a comeback — also wall hangings. It’s fun to do things with different colors and fabrics and a great way to make gifts,” said Mar.
“I’d like to get a community group together to reach out to cancer patients and we’re going to be sewing kitty blankets for MEOW in Kirkland.”
These are social opportunities, like the old-time “sewing circles,” as well as a way to give back to the community, Mar said. “It gets people out of their homes … and it’s important for young people to have a skill for the rest of their lives.”
The name of her business, Briar Rose, came from the main character in the fairy tale “Sleeping Beauty,” before she found out that she was Princess Aurora. Mar added, “My name is Barbara Ruth, the same initials as Briar Rose and I’ve always loved roses, too.”
Mar and her husband Rick began building her sewing studio, above their home’s detached garage, in 2003. In 2004, they were in a serious car accident which almost rendered her blind in one eye. Settlement money from the accident helped to finance the completion of the beautiful studio.
To introduce Briar Rose, Mar held a weekend open house in September and has also attracted students by word-of-mouth.
And she anticipates that many homeschooled children will enroll, especially because academic skills such as math and history can be incorporated into the sewing curriculum.
Briar Rose Sewing School is located at 25508 NE 62nd St. in Redmond. To learn more about classes and free events, call (425) 868-6338.