‘Makerspace’ for Sewing and Sustainable Fashion unveiled

By Maggie Reynolds

Molly Grazioso ’23.5 spent the final months of this past summer renovating a room in The Annex to become a makerspace for sewing and clothing upcycling projects. The space opened for the first time this past Saturday, Oct. 2.

Grazioso got the idea for The Studio, as she is calling the room, when she began taking classes in the art and architecture departments at Middlebury.

“I felt like I wasn’t getting exactly what I wanted, which was to study clothing,” she said.

In the fall of 2020, Grazioso applied for the Social Entrepreneurship Fellowship through the Innovation Hub.

“On my application [I] explained that I wanted to pursue sustainable fashion very generally,” Grazioso said. “[I wanted to create a space for] upcycling or other sustainable fashion projects.”

Later that fall, Grazioso, along with eight to 10 other sophomores and sophomore Febs, was awarded the $7,000 fellowship, to be used over the next three years. It was not until this past June, though, that Grazioso began serious conversations with the Innovation Hub about  possible locations to house her makerspace.

The Innovation Hub’s Old Stone Mill Program is an initiative where Middlebury students can become tenants of The Annex (located across from the townhouses) or 82 Weybridge Street to pursue their projects. Grazioso was able to tour one of the upstairs rooms in The Annex this summer. “It was exactly what I was looking for,” she said.

After Grazioso had selected the room in The Annex for the upcycling studio, she set an ambitious opening goal: the beginning of the fall 2021 semester. In order to reach that goal, she began working extra hours around her CCE Privilege and Poverty Internship to clean up and paint the space. “When I came in, [the] space hadn’t been utilized for a long time, so there was a lot of work to do,” she said.

Along with preparing the space for students to sew and embroider in, Grazioso had to work on setting up the machines and placing fabric orders. Though she is still in the process of acquiring supplies, Grazioso said she has gotten most of her materials from second hand stores, estate sales and donations from Middlebury residents.

“The space is open, but I definitely wouldn’t consider it finished,” Grazioso added. “The easiest thing to work on right now is a ‘slow fashion project,’ like embroidering jeans you already have.”

In addition to the advice she received from staff members at the Innovation Hub, Grazioso was guided by the experiences of Kelly Hickey, a Middlebury resident and owner of Edie & Glo, a line of reused textiles and clothing.

“Molly approached me about her idea of opening a repurposing lab,” Hickey said. “I definitely supported it because I feel that people need to have hands-on experience to understand the problem [with the fast-fashion industry].”

Hickey advised Grazioso on the necessary supplies and best fabric sources for upcycling.

Grazioso also recently brought on seven student-volunteer monitors, who will supervise The Studio. Emma Barrett ’24.5 said they were drawn to being a monitor for the opportunity to both work on their own personal sewing projects and help other people with projects.

“I really like doing sewing-related projects,” Barrett said. “There’s not really a space for that here, so when I heard about the studio, I thought that was perfect.”

Megan Mahoney ’22.5, another monitor, said she is looking forward to meeting other students who also have an interest in sewing. “Molly has put so much work into [The Studio], and it’s such a cool space to have for students because there really isn’t anything like it,” Mahoney said.

One monitor will be present in The Studio at all times, and two students can work in the space at once. Students can book the space using the link in The Studio’s Instagram biography: @studioatmidd.

The space’s current hours are 7-9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 3-5 p.m. Friday; and 12-2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The Annex also houses the Tea Club and the ceramics studio, so The Studio is not open on Tuesdays because of the Tea Club’s meeting. 

Grazioso said she was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelmingly positive feedback she has received about the make space over the past few months since she announced its opening on Instagram at the end of June. 

“My very long-term goal is that in the future I could get a new space, because I was kind of overwhelmed this summer by positive feedback and demand for this space,” she said. “I’m not sure if this space is effectively going to meet the needs or wants of so many students who are interested.”

Though it has been a demanding process to prepare the space for students, Grazioso said she feels a lot of excitement and relief now that it is open. “A lot of times it’s really easy to have an idea for something, but that follow-through is always really hard to achieve. It feels so real now that students can come into [the space],” she said. 

While her enthusiasm and passion for a space on campus for students to pursue sewing and slow-fashion projects has not waned, Grazioso clarified that The Studio is not an all-encompassing solution to the issues with the fast-fashion industry. 

“[The Studio is] a way to start the conversation about sustainability and fashion, but ultimately, I think that actual policy change and change within the fashion industry is necessary to combat the damaging effects of the fast-fashion industry,” she said.