Sewing the seeds of love
The first thing Michelle Cools sewed was a peach plaid scrunchie.
She didn’t love the color. She didn’t love the stitches. The reason Cools vividly remembers that fabric-wrapped elastic hairpiece was because it was hers. She made it, and that mattered most of all.
“It’s the creating,” Cools said. “I love creating.”
Determined to continue the theme of personal creation, Cools, 33, recently opened The Vintage Common, 166 N. Mulberry St., in Fruita, where she’ll continue sewing and selling her apparel, but the shop also is where she’ll share her knowledge of sewing with others.
“Share is a big word with her,” friend Cullen Purser said.
In addition to selling her apparel and teaching others sewing, Cools plans to offer open crafting sessions from 5 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays so people can learn from each other and teach others new methods. Times for sewing lessons are flexible.
The whole concept of The Vintage Common is to be a place where human hands create beautiful things, particularly clothes and accessories from recycled fabrics or pieces of vintage clothing.
“I find vintage fabric beautiful and unique, and I believe in using resources that are already readily available,” Cools said.
Examples of how Cools uses recycled materials hang throughout The Vintage Common.
A rack of clothes Cools designed, including skirts made from T-shirts, is on a wall near the front windows.
An 8-foot-tall bookcase made from recycled barn wood is on the opposite wall. Purser made it, and Cools stores piles of recycled fabric of all colors on its shelves.
Scarves and handbags Cools either made or purchased for their vintage appeal hang near the bookcase.
Her personal fashion line is called “Ones,” because everything she makes is one-of-a-kind.
“That’s part of the art for me,” Cools said.
Several others interested in Cools’ mission of constructing things from used materials have joined in and will sell their own items in the shop.
Tayler DiGesualdo’s handbags made from men’s used formal wear are near the sewing machines.
“The reason I got a sewing machine was because of her,” said DiGesualdo, who’s known Cools for nearly four years. “Both my mom and my grandma were seamstresses ... so I knew how to sew, but I really didn’t think it was fun. I thought it was something like a chore. But Michelle makes it fun, where you want to create new things.”
The opportunity to turn creation into a career has Cools all smiles in Fruita, a community she is thrilled to do business in after moving to Mesa County nearly seven years ago with husband John Cools and their daughter, Victoria Cools.
The family moved from Southern California, where Cools learned to sew, knit and crochet from her mother and grandmother as a child. She started making dresses and handbags as a teenager.
“I started really getting into it and went to thrift stores to find fabric,” Cools said. “I liked to bring clothes home and cut them up and make something else.”
Her senior year in high school, Cools and a friend would take their bags down to Venice Beach and sell them for as much as $15 each.
“Our biggest day we made $140,” Cools said. “It was extremely exciting for us.”
Just as Cools learned to sew from her mother, she has taught her husband and daughter how to sew. (John admitted he’s not great.)
Victoria, on the other hand, makes stuffed animals. She’s also 8, the same age Cools was when she learned to sew.
“She’s a wonderful little artist,” Cools said of her daughter.
Now that Cools has found a large enough location to open shop and has her daughter enrolled in school full-time, she is ready to offer western Coloradans the chance to create with their own hands.
It really is a dream come true.
It’s her shop.
“I wish to share my knowledge with anyone who has a willingness and desire to learn and conversely learn from anyone with a willingness and desire to teach. My space will always welcome new ideas and suggestions,” she said.