Ground Floor: Meet the Odd Blonde Duck

Cedar Rapids sewing studio's owner specializes in alterations

Kathy Huang works on a capelet for a longtime customer in her Odd Blonde Duck Sewing Studio in the Cherry Building in southeast Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (Liz Martin)
Kathy Huang works on a capelet for a longtime customer in her Odd Blonde Duck Sewing Studio in the Cherry Building in southeast Cedar Rapids on Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (Liz Martin)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Kathryn Huang took up sewing because she needed a Halloween costume in 1992.

“I was desperate for a costume but had no money to spend,” Huang said.

Although Huang’s grandmother was a seamstress who had worked as an alterationist, she was in ill health at the time. So Huang’s father taught Huang how to sew.

“My father did all the sewing repairs for the family,” Huang said. “We had a non-traditional household.”

That first sewing attempt did not turn out as well as Huang wanted, but she told herself that the next time would be better.

Huang kept sewing and, as she gained more confidence in her abilities, began entering her work in various costume competitions. Some of those costumes now are on display at Huang’s new Cedar Rapids business, Odd Blonde Duck Sewing Studio.

About five years ago, Huang started sewing for others.

“I came to the realization that you need a creative push from other people,” she said. “People had an idea what they wanted but couldn’t buy it because it didn’t exist. I knew I could make it for them. I knew I could see someone else light up because I made their dream for them. And that’s an amazing feeling.”

Huang made business cards and put them out in local fabric stores. She got some jobs altering bridal gowns and worked out of her home.

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Last March, Huang opened a sewing studio in the Cherry Building in a space she shares with four photographers, one of whom is her husband. She came up with the name “Odd Blonde Duck Sewing Studio” on her second day in the building.

“I felt like the odd duck here,” she said. “The name fits the space and fits me.”

Huang works at the space most weekdays and sometimes on Saturdays. She said having a dedicated studio space allows her to be more organized and to keep her work free from exposure to pet hair and other household impurities. It also allows her to more easily separate her work from her personal life.

“It’s hard at home to say this is where work stops and my life begins,” she said.

While much of Huang’s work consists of wedding, bridesmaid, and prom dress alterations, she will do anything from shortening a pair of pants to replacing the zipper on a boat cover.

“One of the things I find amazingly fun about alterations is repurposing,” she said. “I greatly enjoy taking old items and transforming them into something else.”

One such transformation is on display at the studio — a bridal gown that Huang made into a costume for a Theatre Cedar Rapids production.

She’s come a long way since that first Halloween costume.

At a Glance

-- Owner: Kathryn Huang

-- Business: Odd Blonde Duck Sewing Studio

-- Address: 329 10th Avenue SE, Suite 127, Cedar Rapids

-- Phone: (319) 432-1647

-- Email: keelyvh@gmail.com

-- Facebook: www.facebook.com/oddblondeduck

l Know a company or manager who has been in business for less than a year that would be ideal for “Ground Floor”? Contact Francie Williamson at francie.williamson@thegazette.com

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