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Mid-Week Mugging: HummingBird Sewing

Family business continues long Barrie tradition
Mid-Week Mugging Sharon Schobert
Sharon Schober and her husband Mark own Hummingbird Sewing at 19 Hart Drive. Sue Sgambati/BarrieToday

HummingBird Sewing is a family business right down to the origin of the name.

Owner Sharon Schober said hummingbirds were her father's favourite bird so that's what she renamed the long-standing business when she and husband Mark bought it over two years ago.

John's Sewing Centre had already operated in Barrie for 40 years before owner John Conklin retired in 2014. 

Schober worked there for seven years while John apprenticed her to be a sewing machine technician.

"Originally I was manufacturing out of my home - breast-feeding pillows, baby garments and sewing for Pre Academy in Barrie school uniforms for children under age five," Schober said.  "I came to John to fix my machine and one thing led to another and I pretty much had a job on the spot."

Schober was eight years old when her mother taught her how to sew on mom's Singer sewing machine.  

"I learned to make my own dresses, purses, everything. It was those skills that she passed on and knitting and crocheting was part of that too," she said. 

At the end of John's career he had sewing machines, did repairs and sold some notions.

Now HummingBird has brought in dozens of colourful fabrics and offers classes.

If you buy a machine from there you get free sewing lessons for the life of the machine

This summer the store is putting on a sewing school in the Sylvan Learning Centre for children 8 to 18 for half days  in July and August.

"We're trying to teach the next generation the best we can," said Schober. "So that's our little attempt at passing on that skill."

Schober says garment making is on the decline but quilting has taken off.

She calls it an 'addictive' hobby.

"I think its just the fabrics and the colours and it is quite addictive," she said. "When it all comes together there's always a bit of a surprise. There's an exhilaration. It's practical art and its quite beautiful."

Schober grew up in Toronto and moved to Barrie with her husband in 1990 and 'loved it ever since.'

Their two boys now aged 20 and 22 also learned to sew. 

"Robert has made pajama pants and Cody made a quilt for his girlfriend for Valentine's Day when he was 16."

Other Hummingbird team members include Schober's sister Maureen Scott, long-time store fixture Debbie Skilton, who worked with John for more than 20 years, plus technician Ralph Godin.

A lot of the loyal customers from John's Sewing Centre have embraced the new owners, much to Schober's relief.

"Just lovely, lovely people, " she said.

"I hope what people find when they come to the store is that they are pleasantly surprised by the support that we will give them."

HummingBird Sewing is located at 19 Hart Drive.