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Amalia Malos, owner of Evanston Stitchworks, 906 Sherman Ave., has always been a craftsperson. Even as a little girl, she recognized the value of something handmade, whether the object was food, something to wear, or a decorative object. “Making something by hand is a two-way dialogue between the maker and the receiver. It involves thought and intention. It is unique and can not be duplicated,” she observes.
A long-time Evanston resident, Ms. Malos wanted to create a space where she could share her enthusiasm for sewing and knitting, and teach others how to create objects and clothing using fabric and yarn. She envisioned a business that would include her love of vintage sewing machines, fine Japanese and Scandinavian fabrics, and high quality threads and notions.
Ms. Malos visited and spoke with other like-minded business owners in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Cambridge, Mass., and elsewhere via online research, Which confirmed the validity of her idea. Thus encouraged, she tested it with an email to friends offering a few actual classes in her home.
That first email was a revelation – all of the spaces sold out within four hours and she had a waiting list in case there were cancellations or other classes. Those first few classes were cozy and relaxed, but pretty soon the business outgrew the family’s dining room. She needed a dedicated space for her growing business.
She wrote a business plan, rented a small studio in Evanston, and slowly got the word out to her friends and the mothers of her children’s friends. Her students were having fun and learning new skills, and signing up for additional classes. Word -of-mouth was her main source of advertising. The business continued to expand, happily.
Eventually Ms. Malos needed to move her business into a larger space. The result is Evanston Stitchworks. The bright white, high-ceilinged space is the perfect environment in which to feast one’s eyes on the array of beautiful fabrics, sit around and knit with others, or learn how to sew. This summer has been bustling with activity with nearly sold-out camp sessions such as ‘Basic Sewing Machine’ and ‘Pajama Pants’ for, tweens and teens, and adult classes of all levels for sewing, knitting, and quilting.
So far most of her students have been girls or women, but the boys who have tried a sewing class tend to love it, Ms. Malos said. It is all about the machine, after all. The sewing machines used in class are relatively easy to thread and operate, especially after a bit of practice. Ms. Malos is always nearby to offer a gentle suggestion or demonstrate the best way to do the task at hand.
The fabrics available in the store are fresh, modern, and vibrant. Ms. Malos sourced a few domestic and international manufacturers who specialize in organic fabrics and who encourage young textile designers. The color palettes used are alive with energy and playfulness. They are extremely visual, tactile, and affordable, and best when used for clothing, soft wearable objects (such as a bag) or upholstery on an item that will not be used heavily, like a decorative pillow or seat cushion. Gone are the days when projects started with a pattern followed by fabric. Nowadays it is just as common to purchase the fabric without a particular project in mind.
The yarns available at Evanston Stitchworks also have a designer pedigree. Amalia sources wool from small, privately held, often family-owned and-operated farms, many of whom dye their own yarn. The majority of the yarn is grown and processed in the United States, and one of the farms even identifies by name the sheep who have contributed to each particular skein. You cannot get more personal than that.
Ms. Malos has a class for those who want to brush up on dormant sewing or knitting skills, if you are curious to learn new skills, or if you want to work past bad experiences from middle school home economics classes. Evanston Stitchworks, they will find, is a happy spot in a bustling neighborhood.