Sew Easy

BY DENISE K. JAMES

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When I think back to my first days at college, I remember how my family helped me hang curtains to dress up my dorm’s barren windows. There was something about those cheerful swaths of fabric that let me know I was actually home—in a place where I could feel comfortable.

Jean Peters, owner of Jean’s Custom Workroom on Johns Island, spends her time making people feel at home as well. As a talented seamstress, she helps her clients put together the elements of décor that establish the mood of a room—slipcovers, pillows, or a set of curtains for those otherwise uninteresting windows.

Her space is part workroom, part workshop. This, she says, helps her clients feel at ease with a product, actually watching it as it’s made.

A native of the Lowcountry, Jean attended James Island High School and learned to sew by watching her grandmother, who taught her how to make doll clothing when she was a child.

“My grandmother made me a sewer,” she says. “She taught me how to operate the make items that fit your bed or window so you don’t have to make do with the standard sizes from retail superstores.”

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Jean has a few gifted artists whose work is also on display in her showroom. Sheila Kern, for example, paints fabric with beautiful illustrations. Jean transforms them into pillows, shower curtains—pretty much anything made from fabric. She also features the work of two local photographers.

Most of the décor in the showroom has a coastal theme. For spring 2014, she anticipates that clients will continue to seek color themes of coastal blues and greens with vibrant accents. Orange and red have been popular recently.

Whatever color clients happen to choose machine, but I didn’t like it back then the way I do now.”

Jean worked out of her house for several years before moving just a year ago to her current location on Betsy Kerrison Parkway. She decided that purchasing workspace on Johns Island made good sense since many of her clients live in Seabrook and Kiawah. The business has grown since Jean relocated last August. And she’s grateful for her new opportunities.

“I get walk-in traffic as well as designers…my phone is steadily ringing,” she says. “You have to pass by my storefront in order to get to Kiawah or Seabrook, and a lot of designers work out there.”

When you walk into Jean’s Custom Workroom you also walk into her actual workroom. Visitors can see where she does all of her work—which comprises anything for the interior of the home. And when they buy the fabric for their drapes, they can pick out hardware, too.

Jean explains that when she opened her Johns Island location, she figured she’d sew all day long and not even open a showroom. However, the business slowly transformed. Now she keeps popular sample
items on hand to show clients. These samples include Hunter Douglas hardware and fabric brands such as Dura Lee, Kravet and Greenhouse. Best of all, Jean will visit your home and measure and install everything. “So, someone can walk in and ask for a custom comforter, and you’ll put it right on their bed?” I ask.

“Absolutely,” she confirms. “No two beds or two windows are the same. We can at Jean’s Custom Workroom, Jean genuinely enjoys the opportunities to serve them. “I don’t know if I have one favorite thing I like to sew,” she muses. “Because I do my own installations, I usually see what they end up looking like inside my customers’ homes. When it all comes together in the end, it’s worth it.”

Denise K. James is an independent writer based in Charleston.