Showbiz was not in Kathy Stanley’s mind when she created this combination of letters for her vanity plate. The owner of two fabric and sewing stores, and with over 100 miles between the two, she is just sooo busy. And, of course, she sews. But with a seemingly overloaded schedule she joined an amateur theatre group, adding rehearsals and shows to her list and another meaning to her plate.
Kathy is voluble and energetic, never still a moment. She outlined the history of the store, while pulling things off shelves for the trip to Portland, helping quilters with patterns, and directing workers. Everyone felt they were getting personal and caring attention. She continues to rattle off the many facets of her life, “Kids, theatre, church, teaching Sunday school, traveling back and forth to Portland, rotary, and sewing of course.”
Before Kathy opened Sewing–by-the Sea, she taught school for sixteen years. Frustrated by more and more restrictions and rules, she decided she needed a change. “I wanted adventure” she says, and resigned from teaching and just started to work. “I had no business plan, didn’t know what I wanted to do, so I did a bit of everything. I baked cookies and cleaned toilets. I did anything for a buck that first year, and wanted a sign up by the road that said that, but my husband wouldn’t do it.” she laughs.
Open seven days a week, including evenings, she gives credit to her family and employees, and everyone who comes to the shop for helping to keep it going. And while she talks about fabrics and business, it is the people she keeps coming back to. And it is very clear that behind her no-nonsense chattiness is a ton of compassion. “One little girl borrowed her sister’s baby stroller, hoisted the old family sewing machine into it, and pushed it to the store to learn how to sew. We couldn’t have her working on that old thing, so she had to use one of the store machines.” And then there was the woman who wanted one of the fancy costly bells-and-whistles machines, but had no money. Kathy chuckles, “She is sewing up a storm now, and I have a little blueberry patch out in the middle of nowhere!” And then there is the young teenager, who gets off the school bus at the store to learn with the sewing group. “She is a natural,” Kathy says. “She just works steadily away while all us old hens gossip and swap stories.”
A woman with a bundle of energy, and tons of heart, she does not find it easy to say to no to anyone who asks for help. It is not unusual to find her still in the store at 9:30, teaching a tricky sewing skill, helping with fabric choices, or simply helping someone with a walking problem down to their car. So where does she find the time for a theatre group? “It’s there” she says with her ready laugh. “I thought it was going to be a change from sewing, but in theatre, when you know how to sew,” she says, “you make your own costumes.” And help with others’ costumes, too.
That’s sew bize for you.
Excerpt from Maine Vanities, a collection of essays about the people and stories behind vanity license plates.
These short portraits capture Maine individuality. There is quirkiness, compassion, and humor. While passions range from skiing to solving Mensa puzzles, and ages from 14 to 91, enthusiasm, curiosity, and delight in sharing the story behind their plate and their bit of Maine is the common thread.