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Studio teaches button-cute kids, grownup novices how to sew

Claremont has a new business that will leave you in stitches. Located on Foothill Boulevard—in the center that’s home to longtime local establishments like The Ivy House—Sewciety Studio offers sewing and crafting lessons to adults and kids alike.

The business is the brainchild of two friends with a lot in common, beginning with their names. Yvonne Cervantes Coleman and Yvonne Dill-Cruz each have two kids attending Sycamore Elementary School. Both women love to sew. And both have a background in show business.

As of a month ago, they share something else: a studio that represents the culmination of a longtime dream.

People can come for a lesson in the basics of using a sewing machine or serger. They can come for a three- or four-session sewing class. Or they can come in on a Saturday morning and, in one session, complete a handmade, one-of-a kind project.

Tomorrow, Saturday, April 2, students of all ages will be creating totebags. On April 9, the featured project is a circle skirt. Guests can bring their own fabric or buy fabric at the studio, which features a growing collection of vintage-look cotton material by Cotton + Steel.

The women have also engaged experts in knitting and quilting, allowing them to offer a full range of needlework instruction.

The Yvonnes are delighted to teach grownups how to sew. They derive special enjoyment, however, from transforming children into bona fide makers.

They’ve been teaching sewing to kids through Sycamore’s afterschool program for a couple of years. The instructors have had to lug sewing machines, fabric and all manner of notions to the classroom where their sessions have been held. With the opening of Sewciety Studio, their young charges, from Sycamore or anywhere else, can continue afterschool sewing lessons at a new venue.

On Wednesday, a group of four Sycamore girls were engaged in the first session of a class in which they’ll be making a knit dress. One of the girls, Jordyn Batz, was dressed for the occasion in a circle skirt she made earlier under the tutelage of the Yvonnes.

Like Jordyn, the women developed a knack for clothes early on. “I had a Vogue subscription when I was about 10,” Ms. Cervantes Coleman said.

She also had a love of film, which was cultivated by her parents, who would take young Yvonne with them to see foreign films at the Rialto in Pasadena. The two fascinations—sewing and performance—merged when Ms. Cervantes Coleman reached high school and got involved with theater.

When she told her folks she wanted to pursue costume design, they were supportive but practical. “My dad said, ‘Why don’t you learn to thread a sewing machine first,’” Ms. Cervantes Coleman recalled.

She went to LA Trade Tech and took classes in pattern-making and fashion design, then got a job working in costume design at the LA Theater Company. Luis Valdez was putting on a production in one of the company’s theaters. Ms. Cervantes Coleman heard that he was poised to direct a biopic on Ritchie Valens, the teenaged rocker who died in 1957 in the plane crash that also claimed the lives of the Big Bopper and Buddy Holly.

Mr. Valens was an icon among Mexican-Americans as well as among rock fans in general. What’s more, Ms. Cervantes Coleman’s cousin had gone to school with Ritchie. “I remember telling my parents, ‘I’m going to work on that movie,’” she said.

She approached Mr. Valdez and convinced him she had the chops for the job. She ended up as costumer for the film La Bamba. She pored through books highlighting fashions worn by Mexican-Americans in the ‘50s, including her own family photo albums. She then pulled costumes from the Warner Bros collection.

Ms. Cervantes Coleman forged a career in costuming, working on films like Stand and Deliver (1988) and Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and for productions like Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones de Mi Padre tour.

Ms. Cervantes Coleman eventually returned home to Claremont, where her parents had settled 20 years earlier, and married her husband, Ron Coleman, in 2001. A year later, they adopted two children, Harper and Mateo, now 11 and 12, respectively.

Yvonne Dill-Cruz became interested in sewing because her mom’s vintage Singer sewing machine was stationed in her childhood bedroom. Starting at age nine, she would finish her homework and then get to the sewing machine.

“My mom had a huge barrel of fabric. She never limited what I could use,” Ms. Dill-Cruz said. “The good stuff, the cheap stuff, it was all fair game.”

Soon, she was outfitting her Barbies in ‘70s splendor like culottes and ponchos. She honed her skills further in junior high home economics, making, among other creations, a pair of stirrup pants.

She moved away from sewing for a while, falling in love with photography in high school and earning a bachelor’s degree from Cal State Northridge, studying radio, TV and film.

Ms. Dill-Cruz landed a job four months out of college at a music video and film production company helmed by Mark Pellington. At the time, Mr. Pellington, who’s gone on to be a director of films like Arlington Road, was specializing in music videos for acts like De La Soul.

Ms. Dill-Cruz worked on the staff, learning the business side of things, and then was delighted to land where she really wanted to be: on set. She then went on to work as a freelance production manager, beginning with a gig working for director David Fincher at Propaganda Films, now known as Anonymous Films.

Ms. Dill-Cruz spent 13 years moving up in the industry, working 16-hour days and “basking in the glory of all of it.” Then, she got to an age where she realized it was time to think about marriage and kids.

In 2000, she began dating Michael Dill, who had been her first boss during a gig she had at Crossroads Films. They were married in 2002 and plunged quickly into family life, having two girls just over 14 months apart. Carmel and Siena are now 12 and 10.

One of Michael’s friends suggested they move to Claremont, using the city’s great schools as a selling point. They took his advice and Ms. Dill-Cruz said they love the town. 

“The childhood our kids are having is exactly what we hoped for,” she said.

Now a stay-at-home mom, Ms. Dill-Cruz took up sewing again. She had salvaged her old doll beds from her mother’s garage and she started by making doll bedding. She moved onto doll clothes and then to making clothes for the girls as well as for herself.

Ms. Cervantes Coleman and Ms. Dill-Cruz had met years before at a parenting class and continued their friendship as members of the Sycamore School community. It was Ms. Cervantes Coleman who created a sewing circle for Sycamore moms, even drumming up a venue near the Joslyn Center at Larkin Park.

With permission from the city, the moms would meet there once a week after dropping off their kids at school.

“It was really nice. Motherhood can be really lonely,” Ms. Dill-Cruz said.

The women were asked by other Sycamore moms to helm the afterschool sewing program. Before long, they began talking about setting up their own studio.

It’s a charming space, dominated by large tables with metal lockers beneath, perfect for stowing backpacks and purses. There’s a cupboard filled with fabric for kids’ projects along with sewing machine stations, supplies for sale and a display of vintage sewing machines.

The Yvonnes have a general rule of thumb: nine is a good age to get started sewing—old enough to handle sharp scissors and machines.

For kids looking for a fun one-off or regular craft session, there is a Crafty Sewciety class every Friday from 3:30 to 5 p.m. Sewciety will also offer a Spring Sewing Camp from April 4 to April 8. In the 9 a.m. to noon session, students will create a wardrobe for 18-inch dolls. In a session held from 1 to 4 p.m., participants will get sleepover ready, creating a pillowcase cover, pajama shorts and a zipper bag.

“We’ve got it all in here. We’ve put our heart and soul into this,” Ms. Cervantes Coleman said.

Sewciety Studio is located at 218 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont. For information, call (909) 447-6790, visit www.sewcietystudio.com or check out the Sewciety Studio Facebook page.

—Sarah Torribio

storribio@claremont-courier

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