Karen Ferguson remembers learning to sew from her mother and grandmother.
At age 5, she sewed by hand. Two years later, Ferguson was using a non-electric sewing machine.
“I took to it, like a duck to water,” she said.
Now 70, Ferguson works on a variety of projects from her home in Fern Prairie. Her two-car garage has become a sewing room, with a cutting table. Patterns fill file cabinets. Ferguson designed the rack that holds thread, and she built shelves to hold fabric with materials from Washougal Lumber Co.
She provides alterations, hemming, resizing and zipper repair.
Ferguson has created a saddle seat suit for an equestrian team member and a wedding dress for a bride. Making the dress involved 25 hours of hand beading.
Ferguson’s life experiences have included providing contract sewing services for Daisy Kingdom, previously located in Portland, and she worked for Jantzen, formerly in Vancouver. She ran the fabric department at the Pendleton Woolen Mills store, in Washougal, from 1998 to 2002.
Ferguson has also made rod bags for C.F. Burkheimer Fly Rod Company, of Washougal. Other local clients have included Glory Days Trophies and Sports, of Camas, and Deja Vu Camas ladies consignment boutique. Ferguson also sews couche baking cloths for Artisan Baking Resources, in Stevenson.
She has made brown habits for nuns in San Francisco and blankets for Native American graduation ceremonies.
“I have the enthusiasm and stamina of people half my age,” Ferguson said.
Three years ago, she sewed 96 items — including shawls, purses, scarves, blankets and multipurpose bags — for a reunion with her fellow 1960 Oregon City Senior High School graduates. Ferguson was compensated for the cost of the materials, but she donated her labor.
She also recently sewed and donated a blanket for the Feast Day dinner and auction at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church, in Camas. The annual event supports the church’s summer family camp.
Ferguson and other local residents have sewn clothing for 200 orphans in Uganda. That includes shorts for boys and sundresses for girls. The St. Thomas Aquinas congregation is raising money for two or three water tanks at the orphanage. The cost is $800 each.
Ferguson made 21 cassocks for altar servers at St. Mary Catholic Church, in Kelso.
“I have a good reputation, and I like to keep it,” she said. “I’d rather sew, than do anything. I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I did not want to go to the big cities.”
Ferguson enjoys making costumes for her great-grandchildren and other relatives. Those costumes have included Capt. America, Superman, Batman, Dash from “The Incredibles” and several Disney princesses. A great-niece wore a Princess Tiana dress, sewn by Ferguson, to a Disneyland breakfast attended by several characters including the princess from “The Princess and the Frog.”
Ferguson has five stepchildren, 12 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
“They are scattered all over the country,” she said.
For more information about Ferguson’s sewing services, call 833-8805.