An area native, Judy Plummer grew up in Malone and moved to Tupper Lake at the age of 20. She married and had three kids, including a son and two daughters who still live in the area.
She has had many jobs over the years, including employment at the Malone Tru-Stitch shoe outlet and a sewing factory.
Her favorite job was at Ames.
Judy Plummer at one of her many sewing machines
(Photo —Yvona Fast)
"I liked merchandising and working with people, but the pay was low $7 an hour after six years," she said. "At Sunmount Developmental Center, I started at $12 an hour."
She still works there today as a secure care treatment aide.
"We guide the people who live at Sunmout to make sure they get three meals a day, take showers, get laundry done, participate in their programs," she explained.
But Judy's true love is crafting. After long days at work, she relaxes by doing crafts.
"I work 6 to 2, run errands, come home, take care of the cats and household chores, make supper; then I'm upstairs, sewing and doing crafts," she said. "Even when I work overtime and don't get home 'til 6, I try to make at least one thing. I keep a bag of knitting and crocheting near my bed.
"I love to create, to come up with new, harebrained ideas and make things. It's fun. You can make something out of anything. This was a Dr. Seuss door curtain turned into an apron. I wondered if anyone would use it on the door. I thought, if I lay it down on a piece of fabric and make strings, it could be an apron. I couldn't find Barbie fabric for the kid tents, so I used Barbie sheets. The possibilities are endless. Of course, not everything works out. I tried to use this piping for the tents, but it was too flimsy."
Upstairs, in the loft, is Judy's work area.
"I have a few comforts here, like a small fridge, a coffee pot and a bathroom," she said. "The rest is full of craft materials: 11 sewing machines (many bought at garage sales), three cutting tables, an ironing board, a wall of shelves filled with fabric and another wall full of craft necessities. Most of what I use is fleece. Fleece is fun to sew with. It's forgiving; it stretches nicely.
"From here down is all Christmas material. Here's stretch fabric, there's spools of lace I purchased years ago at a flea market. I've got 50 pot holders there - all ready to lay out, cut and sew - it's mindless. I save my scraps; you never know when you might need something. I've collected all this fabric for years, buying on sale. "You never want to waste anything; you always see a part you can use. I'll take a pattern and turn it into something it wasn't meant to be," she said as she digs out two parts from two different patterns. "I found this pattern right before the North Country sale. This will be the top of the hat."
While cutting out the pieces, she explains, "You have to make sure you're cutting your fabric the right way. If you cut it wrong, it won't work. That piece goes that way ... Because of the style, I don't need to use pins.
"I have two embroidery machines; they do lettering. Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck and three Singer sewing machines. This one's with the overlock."
Judy demonstrates: "It overlocks, so it makes great edging. You can make a child's hat quickly because of this stitch. After a while, your fingers know exactly what they're supposed to do."
Indeed, in just 10 minutes, she laid out, cut and stitched together a beautiful baby hat.
"This little hat I can probably sell for $3, and it didn't take much fabric or much time. It's nice and warm, a little kid would look adorable with it on."
Other things take longer.
"These nylon pot scrubbies are one of my biggest sellers, though the stitches require lots of counting. You let it soak and use these; it cleans really well. I also make knitted dish cloths.
"I've been doing this since 1980 - since my children were born. We loved to go to flea markets as a family. When the kids were little, I started sewing. When I saw something I liked, I would buy one and use it as a pattern. My daughter loved the unique skirts I made her. For Valentine's Day, I made a skirt with hearts in it. I make my own nighties, shorts, T-shirts for my husband. When things are tight, I have the ability to make personalized gifts. One year, I paid for Christmas by selling blankets. Fleece is 60 inches wide, so I cut it 60 inches square, then used the embroidery machine to print their name on it. It's a quick, easy gift.
"Everything's a risk. The weather can be a big factor. I never know how much of something I should make. You can bring something and it sells out, or you can make 20 of one item and not sell any. On my day off, before this last sale, I cut out 16 pairs of booties - I must've sewn for three hours. I didn't sell a one. But at the kids' sale at Petrova, I might wipe out on them."
But the aprons she'd made sold out in the first hour.
"They were unique," she said. "People liked them. If I'd spent more time making aprons rather than booties, I would have made more money. The hot packs and baby buntings went well; they make nice gifts. I only sold two kid tents. Times are hard; people are being more careful."
There's a lot of work involved, but Judy loves it.
"I would like to do more sales, but I have to find someone to work for me, and then I have to do a double shift to pay back."
Judy points to a bunch of tote bags in the garage.
"These are all ready for the next sale," she said. "If I can't get things ready, I've got some stuff there.
"It's awesome to do a sale, then come home and see how much money you made from it. It's fun to see people buy my stuff and they're happy with it, to see a little kid walking down the street wearing a hat I made, or go to someone's house and see them using one of my scrubbies."
Judy also does alterations, though she prefers doing things from scratch.
"I don't advertise; people at work bring me things. Hemming isn't a big deal; I've fixed zippers and hemmed curtains."
But what she really loves is crafting, and Judy looks forward to the day she can retire from her day job and do crafts full time. She said she hopes to open a craft shop and would love to teach classes.
Yvona Fast writes from Lake Clear. She can be reached through www.wordsaremyworld.com.