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Technology collides with grandma’s pastime

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image Store owner Sherri Huffman started with vacuum and sewing machine sales and repair, but has opened a new store that offers much more, including fabric and handmade items. Photo Penny Fletcher

One embroidery machine comes complete with a computer on the side that tells operators which color embroidery threads to insert into which embroidery needle, and doesn’t make them do it by themselves.

It’s not your Grandma’s pastime anymore.

When sewing and embroidery are mentioned, most people don’t think of computers or technology; they think of embroidery hoops and trying to get thread to fit through the eye of a needle.

It’s just not that way now.

Walking into the newly opened store of Cypress Vac and Sew could make the technologically-challenged draw back, until they find out that anyone interested in buying a machine gets one-on-one instructions besides the classes offered to the general public.

Owner Sherri Huffman bought Cypress Vac and Sew 13 years ago, and operated it mostly as a place that sold and repaired sewing machines and vacuums. But she saw a need for a larger operation, a place where classes could be held, fabric sold and handmade items made and sold on consignment to the public.

The new store, located at 3804 Sun City Center Blvd. (just to the east of Home Depot) on SR 674, held its grand opening Jan. 4, and most days stays busy from opening at 9:30 a.m. to closing (weekdays) at 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 1 p.m.

That’s because so much is going on there.

When interviewed, Huffman sat in a back room repairing a vacuum. She said it wasn’t one she had sold — or even carried. She says she can fix just about any make or model as long as the parts are still available.

Huffman does all repairs on site, behind a showroom full of modern equipment, some of which looks almost futuristic.

Take the PR 1000 E Entrepreneur Pro Embroidery machine, for example. This baby comes complete with a computer on the side that tells operators which color embroidery threads to insert into which embroidery needle, and doesn’t make them do it by themselves.

“It’s a 10-needle machine,” said store manager Frieda Durrance, demonstrating it. “It has 10 needles, all of which embroider at once.”

The computer screen attached on the right-hand side of it has many patterns built in, but any store-bought pattern may be added. The machine reads the pattern and tells the sewer exactly what to do.

“You can do things as small as designs on shirt pockets or emblems for teams on ball caps,” Durrance said. “There are a gazillion patterns available you can use with it, and hoops that range in size from a very small pocket hoop to one the size of the back of a jacket.”

Team emblems and hats are some of the popular uses, she said. “The Quattro sewing-embroidery machine operates with a computer screen, too, the same as the 10-needle,” she continued. It also has a computer screen on the side. She said, “It takes a picture of your material and shows up on the screen so you can place your lettering or design just so. Picture perfect.”

There are many less technological machines available as well, for those who don’t want to take a big leap, but one-on-one instruction and beginner classes make it easy, she explained.

Huffman is especially proud that her new store is big enough to not only allow for instructional classes but also to display the rows and rows of fabric she sells, along with many items made by hand, from purses to pillows.

There’s a “foot of the month” demonstration that teaches about how to use each one of the many (base) attachments that can go on the bottom of the needles of the machines, Durrance said. “There’s a foot for any kind of sewing someone would need to do.”

A children’s sewing class, given by Billie Avery, starts at 10 a.m. Saturdays. From safety to planning to patterns and the correct way to place a hot iron when not in use, Avery instructs in a child-friendly manner.

“I love it,” said Shelby Woolbright of Apollo Beach. At 11, she already knows she loves to sew.

Her mother, Debbie Nimocks, stopped to order a pattern, noticed the class information, and now the class is an every-Saturday morning event for her daughter.

“Shelby started sewing at summer camp in Apollo Beach, and when I saw this class, I knew she’d love it,” Nimocks said.

Huffman said she always knew she would end up owning some kind of sewing business.

“I made my first dress at 12,” she said, never stopping her intricate vacuum repair. “I made all my own school clothes. I had to, I was tall and skinny and hard to fit, and my mom couldn’t find anything I could wear.”

Huffman grew up in Ohio and moved to South County in 1999. She bought the store in 2001. Now that it has moved and been enlarged, she says she has accomplished her goal.

There are embroidery classes at 1 p.m. on Thursdays and quilting classes beginning at 10 a.m. on Mondays. A beginner’s adult sewing class is also planned.

To find out more about the store, machines or any of the classes, call 813-634-8793.  

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