Susan White wakes up every day at 4:30 a.m. She looks forward to a day filled with… sewing. She sews, and she sews. She loves to sew.
White was born and raised in the Bitterroot. She got her first sewing machine when she was 12. She learned to sew from her grandmother, who worked part-time at JC Penney in Hamilton, and got discounts on fabric.
When she was a young woman, White left the Bitterroot and joined the Army. She returned to the valley 13 years ago. She owned and operated Montana Sassy Sewing Company on Main Street for 11 years, moved it to North Second for a while, and now it’s back on Main Street, in a little storefront in the 100 block sandwiched between Blades Barber Shop and First Security Bank. But don’t let that little storefront fool you. The shop is deep, and it is absolutely filled with doll clothes, dolls, and doll accessories. And gnomes.
Doll clothes for American Girl dolls has been a mainstay for White. Many of her buyers are adult collectors of American Girl. She also makes clothing and outfits for Ruby Red Fashion Friends, jointed dolls that are trending right now. She makes everything herself, except for the shoes. White also does alterations and makes lots of other hand-sewn things, like aprons and pot holders.
But another item has also proved to be a huge hit – gnomes. White starting making gnomes in October and has made over 500 gnomes already. She has a wall full of orders waiting to be filled. Each gnome takes about an hour to make. She first makes a simple body and stuffs it with flax seed to weight the bottom, then polyfill. She cut the beards out of faux fur. Each gnome is unique and many are special ordered with a particular theme.
White said she watched a YouTube video to learn how to make the gnomes. “I had no idea it would become a full-time job,” she said.
Most of White’s work is mail order. She said she sent out more than 300 gnome orders for Christmas.
In between filling gnome orders, White is working on a new project, making doll clothes for the children of Afghan refugees. White has a friend in California who sends her money and fabric. Then White makes the clothes and sends them to an organization in Utah called Special Dollivery. That group collects used dolls, cleans them and gives them new wigs, and two or three appropriate outfits. White’s friend also provides carrying totes for each doll.
White is waiting for the final pattern before she starts really ramping up her Afghan doll clothes-making. But she did make a prototype, using bright colors and including a head scarf.
White said the name of the company is Special Dollivery and anyone interested can look it up online.
Montana Sassy Sewing Company is located at 110 West Main Street in Hamilton. It features handmade doll clothes for 18-inch and 14-inch dolls, and shoes and accessories. White also carries a line of 18-inch dolls for sale. The shop also has handmade gnomes, potholders, microwave bowl holders, pot scrubbies, baby bibs, burp bibs, aprons, dress-up-your-stove dish towels, mini totes and gift bags and more. Hours are Mondays 10-2:30, Tuesdays-Fridays 7:30-2:30 and Saturdays 8-1:30. Stop by and check it out or give Susan a call at 961-9012.