Evanston Stitchworks

Last month I visited and took an introductory sewing class with Amalia Malos, founder of Evanston Stitchworks. This bustling storefront is just the latest of wonderful craft and retail hotspots germinating in town, as I wrote in Evanston Roundtable. Unfortunately, we were limited in the number of photographs to include in print; the rest are included here. The whimsical and unusual fabrics Ms. Malos sources from Japan and Scandinavia are worthy of their closeups, and she is an inspiration. Stop by and join in the fun.

Copyright © 2016, Evanston RoundTable LLC
7/13/2016 4:13:00 PM by Wendi Kromash
More Than Just the Machines: Evanston Stitchworks
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.

 

 

 

 

30 Stores Sure to Satisfy Every Single Person On Your List

I love the challenge of finding unusual and creative gifts for other people. Recently I visited several shops in Evanston and was amazed by the range of items available. December brings Chanukah and Christmas, but there are things to celebrate throughout the year. Here are some ideas to make your shopping local, fun and efficient. Don’t worry if you are not a gazillionaire: every store here offers items guaranteed to delight the lucky recipients without breaking your budget.

Kids: You are never too young to be fashionable, and the kids in your life will look great outfitted in some of the adorable clothes at lollie (1312 Chicago Avenue). The store carries sizes 0-14 and has a great selection of games and puzzles. For hands-on creative gifts, Blick Art Materials (1755 Maple Avenue) carries items like chubby crayons for toddlers–perfect for those still building fine motor skills–and a large selection of age-appropriate kits to inspire and guide creativity for the budding artist regardless of skill level.

Girls (Tweens, Teens and Twenties): Check out the cute tops, bags and jewelry at The Mexican Shop (801 Dempster Street). I loved the cheeky knee socks with irreverent quotes, bold faux bijoux and funky accessories. Ten Thousand Villages (719 Main Street) also offers a fine selection of adorable handmade jewelry and practical housewares, plus everything they sell abides by fair trade practices and benefits the artists who made the items.

Guys (Tweens, Teens and Twenties): If you have not yet visited Quake Collectibles (743 Main Street), a gift is the perfect excuse to do so. They sell comic books, action figures, games and more. Bucephalus Bikes (1424 Lake Street) offers Can O’Tune Up as well as all kinds of accessories for your ride. Keep in mind, both of these places may also appeal to the girls on your list!

Young Professionals: I love just about everything in Stumble & Relish (1310 1/2A Chicago Avenue). For visual interest, clever displays and classy items to decorate your home or person, this store is a necessary stop, and most of what you see is sourced from local artisans. If décor is a consideration, Paramour Bungalow offers cheery, unusual and creative gifts for the home…and the hosts and hostesses who tend to them.

Sophisticated Ladies: Two of my favorite stores are within a block of one another: Talia (1526 Chicago Avenue) for chic dresses, suits and separates and Eve J. Alfillé Gallery and Studio (623 Grove Street) for unique jewelry. Ask for help if you are unsure or overwhelmed; the owners and salespeople know their wares and will guide you to the perfect gift item.

Sophisticated Men: Shaving accessories and Swiss Army pen knives at Corrado Cutlery (716 Main Street) and a subscription for growler or howler refills from Sketchbook Brewing Company (825 Chicago Avenue) will satisfy the discerning men in your life.

Housewarming and Host/Hostess Gifts: Exotic salt and pepper flavors, hard-to-find herbs and pre-packaged rubs at The Spice House (1941 Central Street), a loaf from Hewn (810 Dempster Street), coffee from Chapin Coffee (online only) and a pie from Hoosier Mama Pie Company (749 Chicago Avenue). Yum!

One-Stop Shopping: The Galleria of Evanston (1627 Sherman Avenue) showcases over 40 unique “shops” in one location. A combined gallery space and retail store, everything in the galleria comes from local Evanston or Chicago-based artists or specialty retailers. Some of the more unusual items I saw and loved include Violins By Design, The Glass Station, Laura Tanner Jewelry and CoolPeaces. It’s a fun, happy store with something for almost everyone.

Experiences make great, memory-making gifts at any age. Still searching? Gift certificates to one of Evanston’s many wonderful restaurants such as Campagnola (815 Chicago Avenue), Lucky Platter (514 Main Street) or The Cellar at the Stained Glass (820 Clark Street) would be a welcome splurge…offer to babysit if the recipient has young children at home so their evening will truly be ‘carefree.’ Other ideas include:

  • Book a tour of FEW Spirits (918 Chicago Avenue);
  • Learn about wine at a class offered by The Wine Goddess (702 Main Street);
  • Sign up for needlepoint lessons at The Needle’s Excellency (1630 Central Street);
  • Buy tickets to attend a movie, concert or show at Northwestern (various locations on campus);
  • Pre-pay for a massage (including the tip) at Zen Shiatsu Chicago (825A Chicago Avenue);
  • Splurge for a spa package at Agora Spa (501 Main Street) to buff, pluck and file away the stresses;
  • Visit Eureka! Antiques & Collectibles (705 Washington Street) and browse through the best collection of ephemera in the Midwest to remind someone of a treasured experience from the past. Movie buffs will recognize the owner, Bindy Bitterman, from her small but essential role in Finding Vivian Maier.

For a wonderful family experience, splurge on a family portrait with David Sutton at Sutton Studios (3417 Church Street). David’s specialty is taking photos of people with their pets. He is talented, philanthropic, patient–and he understands animals. (And not just cats and dogs…he will photograph your exotics, too.) I treasure the photos he took of me and my puppies.

Finally, for the person who seems to have everything, make a donation in their honor to a charity they care about. Two of my favorites are Senior Connections (535 Custer Avenue) and the Evanston Public Library (various locations). You cannot go wrong by supporting programs that benefit homebound seniors or reading programs. Even a $5 donation will be graciously accepted by the charity and your honoree will be notified without knowing the specific amount of your gift. Everyone benefits.

Happy shopping and gift giving!