Above: Kim Kruse works on her favorite sewing machine. “I paid for it with my hard-earned, waitress money. I’ve had it since ’94.” (Photo by Erik Knudsen)

Six sewing machines are each perched on their own white and orange IKEA table. There’s just enough room at the tables for small sewing projects like pin cushion and aprons, examples of which peek from around the room. The six tables are lined in a horseshoe within the white brick and wood walls of Sew Make Do, Gainesville’s new sewing studio.

Here, people can take a shot at sewing for the first time without having to break their bank, or they can continue to expand their skills. Between open-studio nights and a multitude of classes, Sew Make Do is working to create a space in the community for crafters of all levels. The 600 square-foot studio is moderately decorated with handmade creations. Pillow-case dresses for girls, a game-day dress, wallets and aprons are displayed under the soft lights of the studio.

The eclectic space is Kim Kruse’s labor of love. Kruse has wanted to open a studio for years, and that finally became a reality when a space on the northeast side of town opened up.

“Sewing allows people to make their own choices,” she said. “It’s so great to make something with your own two hands.”

‘Empowering’ is the word Kruse uses when she talks about sewing. Every part of a sewing creation is up to the maker, from the pattern, the cut to the thread color, something Kruse found rewarding since she started sewing back in middle school.

Kruse says sewing allows people to take what they like out of the fashion world and tailor it to their needs. Mimicking ideas from runways or recreating a street-wear ensemble lets people create whatever image is in their heads and also learn a traditional art form.

Some of Kruse’s first endeavors in the craft were a black poodle skirt and a corset. She became involved in costume construction during her high school years and carried her growing love for making handmade creations through college. She created clothing and accessories, a fun hobby and also a way to conserve money. Friends would express interest in sewing, and the idea of teaching and opening a studio always sat high on her list of ventures to try.

Over the years Kruse collected more sewing machines and held onto that idea. She taught classes at the UF Leisure Course Program for knitting and sewing as well as worked as a teaching assistant for an introductory class in the College of Journalism and Communication.

After studio space became available, Kruse gathered her machines, enlisted the help of her husband and put Sew Make Do together. They transformed the space together and have since done a soft, or unannounced, opening, to gauge how the community reacts with the new space.

With the studio, Kruse wants to take sewing away from some of its negative connotations. Sewing carries baggage from pre-women’s rights, but Sew Make Do strives to show just how creative and personal the activity can be, some of its many empowering qualities. The classes she’s designed are meant to take people with little to no experience and have them fabricating something within three hours.

Instead of asking for two-week commitments of weekly meetings, Kruse aims to show people how easy and fun sewing can be with simple projects, such as pin cushions, to start them off. That way, they can leave accomplished by their own hand.

“Seeing their face light up once they finally see what they’ve made is great,” she said.

Currently, Kruse offers her intro course, Get Started in Sewing!, twice a month. Other classes vary based on different projects Kruse has tried and planned. Previous classes included sewing a modern apron, using zippers to create wallets and making your own game-day dress.

Upcoming classes include creating a girl’s dress out of a pillowcase and a patterns class. Social media like Blogger and Pinterest have helped her stay connected to the sewing community beyond Gainesville and translate it back for locals with project ideas.

Kruse keeps the class size at six people to maximize the help she can offer everyone. The studio is equipped with a large table in the center for demonstrations and tutorials, and each student has their own sewing station to work at. Kruse’s advice and encouragement are another plus.

Each sewing machine is different with its own quirks so students can try different models. Kruse liked the idea of allowing people to try the craft first. Sewing machines can run up a decent bill, and here people can try sewing without having to fully commit to buying one without really exploring the craft first.

Open-studio nights are another key point of the studio. Kruse opens her doors on Thursday evenings to anyone who doesn’t own a machine or someone looking to bounce ideas off of or encourage them on a project. For $15, anyone can claim a machine for a three-hour block.

“I’ll be there cheerleader,” she said with a laugh.

People can use her sewing machines for a full-three hours, more than enough time to finish a small project, or they can lay projects out on the larger cutting table. A serger machine is up for use to tie up seams for a more professional look.

As the studio gains its footing in the community, Kruse hopes to create a place where sewers can communicate and connect with one another – the local sewing spot. A tea and coffee station and more decorations to match the 50-esque décor are on her list.

Selling fabric is off her to-do list, she’s joined up with other local shops to further immerse people into the sewing community. Chicakadee Quilt Shop opened recently near the Oaks Mall and specializes in fabrics.  If someone signed up for her beginner class, Chickadee offered discounts if they purchased fabric from their store. Those connections are pivotal to further link the sewing community together, explained Kruse.

Something she does hope to start in the future is selling sewing machines. Until then, she says she’s fine running on her six machines.

So far, the studio’s soft opening has helped Kruse better understand the sewing pulse within Gainesville. Her grand opening will be Jan. 21, and all are invited to attend.

Anyone interested in taking classes can purchase a ticket online and can check back as more classes are listed. Open studio nights are for everyone; you can swing by the studio at 706 NW 23rd Ave., and maybe have a nice cup of coffee and chat while you work.

Above: Kim Kruse plans to hold the grand opening of her new sewing shop Sew Make Do on January 21. (Photo by Erik Knudsen)