Sew What?

Sherry Dunkleman, of Salamanca, is reinventing herself and turning her passion into a cottage industry. She will “Sew What” the customer wants and will customize their apparel or home decor.

SALAMANCA — Nothing looks and feels better than an article of clothing that has been fitted and customized to a person’s body and personality. The same holds true with home decor. A person’s personality can shine through with the customization of accessories for their home.

Sherry Dunkleman, of Salamanca, can customize clothing and home decor items for anyone who asks. If people are looking for a unique, personal gift, every item can be customized to suit a customer’s needs and taste through her “Sew What?” enterprise.

A West Virginia native, Dunkleman has lived in the area for 17 years — first in Little Valley and, for the last six years, she has made Salamanca her home.

She refers to her “not yet official business” as a cottage industry that has its roots from her longtime passion for sewing. She said it’s a home hobby that she’d like to take to another level.

“It’s a way for me to pursue something that I’ve loved to do for a long time,” she said. “I just like to make things for people to enjoy. Because it is a custom creation, it has the added personal touch attached to it.”

She pointed out that ready-made is fine, but she likes to sit down with someone who has, for example, a certain color scheme and an idea of what they want. From there, she will help them accessorize that item.

“I want it to be what the customer wants — what they’ve designed or even something I can help them re-fashion, like a plain sweatshirt,” she said. “I can add zippers on the shoulders or sleeves, stitch a scarf down the middle and make it unique. It’s unlimited what you can come up with.”

Dunkleman said “the sky’s the limit in home decorations.” All of the accessories can be customized to tie a room together. She pointed out that when a room has been designed the way a person wants it to be, it’s more welcoming.

“You can coordinate all of your room accessories,” she said. “It can be anything from a shower curtain and the trim on a rug to embellishing the towels in your bathroom or kitchen. When you have a certain theme in mind, it can be hard to find. Having these room accessories customized will save you the cost of having a custom decorator come in and do it for you.”

Dunkleman began sewing around the age of 10 with her grandmother. Growing up, she would seek out an older lady who was a seamstress and go to her house for help with a project. She would work so far and then go back to have the seamstress take her to another level.

“My grandmother was the biggest influence on me and then that seamstress,” she said. “When I was a little girl, I would stand by my grandmother’s treadle sewing machine, as it rocked, and watched her sew every stitch. I was absolutely fascinated by it. Then she would fix something small that I could try to sew.”

As a teenager, Dunkleman thought she would pursue being a Home Economics teacher in college because she had a love for sewing. She said she tried to learn from everyone who knew how to sew and the skill has followed through her whole life.

Over the years, Dunkleman has honed her skills — first making items for her family and then expanding to making men’s pants and ties, women’s dresses (including her own cocktail dresses and her daughter’s prom dress), draperies, valances, pillows and costumes.

Dunkleman said she has always enjoyed sewing and is trying to pass it on to her granddaughter. She bought her a little sewing machine because she wants to learn to sew.

When it comes to her new endeavor, Dunkleman said she’s sort of reinventing herself. She is combining her reinvention with her passion and offering her “Sew What?” service to the public.

“If I make something for myself, it doesn’t go anywhere. If somebody can use my service and my talent, I would like to make something happy for them to use in their home,” she said.

Dunkleman said she charges by the project and not by the hour because she has sewn so many of these items that she can estimate what the cost will be. She used a quilt as an example and said it can take as long as 70 hours, so she has a base price for a full, queen and king size.

Coasters, which she makes as little mug rugs, make a nice teacher’s gift. She said they can be very unique. She has a friend who loves to go to the casino, so she made coasters out of fabric with hearts, spades, clubs and diamond theme. She said fabric is just so unique and there are so many different kinds.

Dunkleman can also make fleece blankets, childrens footed, fleece pajamas, and even pet clothes like coat warmers, bandanas.

Her “Keepsake Quilts” are very special because she uses pieces of clothing that a person wore as they grew up. Each block represents a special event or time in the person’s life.

Dunkleman will be offering seasonal, custom-made items like table runners, placemats, and if people request them — custom-made table napkins to go with them. Other seasonal items include Santa pillows, zippered gift holders for a bottle of apple cider or wine, and bath gels.

To find out more about what Dunkleman can customize, call “Sew What?” at (716) 307-9172 or email her at Custom orders by appointment.

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