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Crown Heights Sewing Class a Hit With Brooklyn's Dapper Dudes

By Sonja Sharp | August 20, 2012 1:08pm | Updated on August 20, 2012 2:46pm

CROWN HEIGHTS — When Keri Cavanaugh first opened Owl & Thistle General Store on Franklin Avenue last summer, she quickly found her thumb on the pulse of New Brooklyn's DIY anesthetic. But it wasn't until she started her home sewing and tailoring classes this July that the former Museum of Natural History curator realized just how deep that vein ran.

"I've had a lot of interest from men, especially in the home sewing class," Cavanaugh, 36, said of her crop of fall students. "A lot of guys are like, 'I try to find cool clothes, but there's nothing.'"

Undaunted by the influx of dapper dudes, Cavanaugh quickly adapted her syllabus to include a simple man's shirt in place of the A-line skirt she'd been teaching earlier female students like Tarrah Lantz.

Like many students, Lantz, 33, of Crown Heights, already had a sewing machine at home gathering dust. Though her mother sewed many of her favorite clothes growing up, Lantz said she never found the time to try.

Until now.

"My mom's been sewing her whole life," Lantz said. "I had this jean skirt in fifth grade that I loved."

Cavanaugh herself was something of a late-comer to couture. Though she'd been sewing since she was 10, it wasn't until she started at FIT for Museum Studies that she got serious about clothes, taking undergraduate pattern-making classes in her spare time. 

"I was making so much stuff that I decided to start selling it at markets," Cavanaugh said. "I was making clothes and got tired of schlepping them through the city. I had my first son, and that was a big impetus to look for something else."

Hence the store. While sewing classes always had been a part of Owl & Thistle's imagined DNA, it wasn't until this summer that they finally got started. 

"I was actually a little surprised [by the response]," Cavanaugh said. "I started it during the summer so we could get it off to a slow start."

No such luck — beginning in September, the store will offer Home Sewing on Monday, Friday and Saturday, and Tailoring and Alteration on Saturday and Sunday. With fall's classes all nearly full, she soon may have to clear more space in her schedule — not to mention on her shelves, where an increasing number of shoppers also sell their wares. 

"So many people are interested in the idea of DIY," she said. "I'm really awed how many creative regulars I have."