Eye of the needle

"No one teaches sewing," she said. "Schools today don't teach girls-or boys, for that matter-how to sew. It's a shame."

Eventually, Durkee found herself in Middlebury and associated with Preferred Seamstress. But when that business closed, she decided to take the plunge; she started her own designing and sewing enterprise called Classic Couture. That was in Shoreham, back in 2007. For some inexplicable reason, said town didn't respond to a sewing and design business. So, Durkee moved the business to the Little City of Vergennes where customers now drop in regularly or call ahead to arrange a consultation.

At her little 63 Main St. shop, located at the former site of Alter Ego across the parking lot from Vergennes Variety, Durkee makes gorgeous custom garments-wedding gowns, prom gowns, hats, beaded things of luxury, formalwear for men, and more.

Durkee uses 100 percent natural fibers, some of them Vermont-made. And in addition to the one-of-a-kind gowns and dresses she crafts, the clothing maker has expanded into other areas-including the Best for Baby line of all-natural infant gear including cloth diapers (for those moms who don't want disposable diapers adding to the region's growing massifs of garbage), bibs, breast pads and more. She also specializes in "adaptive clothing" for people with disabilities.

"I can put zippers in places where they weren't designed to be," she said.

Durkee performs more routine sewing jobs, too, such as repairing torn clothing, replacing lost buttons, letting out seams, taking up hems, etc. She also passes on her knowledge during in-shop classes that are held periodically on arcane topics such as hatmaking, felting, toymaking, purse making, slipper making, Halloween costuming-just to name a few.

Using only a photograph, magazine tearsheet, or your vague idea, Durkee will create a muslin fabric pattern during a custom-fitting and fabric-selecting session. With all those details in hand, she can then create, say, a fine gown in 10 to 15 hours.

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