Business

Cedar Rapids shop owner stays busy during pandemic with her stitching

Rachel Maker works on one of her many sewing projects while at home. (Rachel Maker)
Rachel Maker works on one of her many sewing projects while at home. (Rachel Maker)
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Rachel Maker, 27, of Cedar Rapids, has prepared her whole life for keeping her hands busy during this pandemic.

A seamstress who also does embroidery and screen printing, Maker has been creating her own clothing for years, namely relying on thrifted clothing pieces and remnant pieces of fabric.

“Remaking clothing started at a young age, probably 10, for me,” she said. “I remember this striped turtleneck in shades of brown that was my favorite. When I outgrew it, I cut it into pieces and used it in other projects.”

Maker said her mom taught her how to sew by hand and she used remnant pieces of material from a fabric store to hand stitch a top.

“This keeping, finding and reusing cycle has continued to today,” she said.

Now, during stressful times, it’s the perfect activity, she said.

“Peace is usually what I’m after, and sewing and embroidering give me focus. It sets my mind on a task that I can watch grow. It brings a stillness to my day that’s easy to lose sight of.”

Thanks to more time at home, Maker has been focusing on creating new pieces and has been happy to dedicate additional focus to her work.

“Depending on what I’m making, it takes me a few hours or days,” she said. “I’m usually working on several projects at a time but for only a few hours for each project.

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“Going with what calls me has been a process I’ve learned to love — trying not to force work but create it when it feels right. That is a privilege that I honor by working hard and with integrity for each piece.”

Typically, Maker lets inspiration strike whenever she is out and about, namely scouting around thrift stores, garage and estate sales and antique markets. That type of shopping has been limited or not an option for a while, of course, but luckily Maker had a stockpile of materials to work from during the pandemic.

“When I see something that catches my eye or inspires me, I’ll buy it for a future project,” she said. “So much of what has already been made has life and a story to tell — one that I can shape into what makes sense for me.”

She said what she makes deeply resonates with the 1960s and 1970s.

“Music posters from the 1960s are where I draw a lot of inspiration,” she said. “The drippy fonts and flowers create an energy I vibe with. The fashions from this period were totally new, loose and carefree. It’s all pretty groovy and fun.”

She’s also proud to help reduce the environmental impact of the fashion industry, which is one of the leading industries in air, land and water pollution.

“Most garments require natural, non-renewable resources to be made,” she said. “This production requires lots of water and toxic chemicals. A single T-shirt, from cotton seed, to a cut and sewn shirt uses 700 gallons of clean water. Reusing is not only a fun way to recreate, but it’s vital for our planet. When you learn what it takes to wear a single item in your closet, you start to see clothes in a different light. I think each day you wear a flag, showing the world what you stand for; a unique and special form of expression as a human. Why not do it in a way that you stand for?”

Maker is co-owner of Found+Formed, a vintage and handmade clothing shop in Czech Village, where she sells her art and the clothing she makes. She also sells her wares on Instagram (@rachelthemaker) and when she’s able to organize events like the Bohemian Betty Market here in Cedar Rapids. Found+Formed reopened shop June 17 with limited hours: noon to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Masks are required and hand sanitizer will be available throughout the store. Shop occupancy will be limited to five customers at a time.

Whether through trying times like today or not, Maker said her creative work has shaped and supported her throughout the years.

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“I’ve always been a maker, and it makes me smile that it’s in my name,” she said.

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