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DIY design

Sewing Studio owners Pat and Mark Sauer stand next to Kim McGauley's handmade wedding dress displayed in the store.

Sewing Studio owners Pat and Mark Sauer stand next to Kim McGauley's handmade wedding dress displayed in the store.

Kristy Vickery

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Kim McGauley couldn't find the right wedding dress for her big day, so she made her own.

Instead of combing the aisles of wedding gown boutiques, McGauley spent her time searching for the right material, handpicking the beading and designing the embroidery.

With mother JoAnn Fitzpatrick's expertise, she designed and stitched her own dress.

"I liked the idea of a custom-made dress," McGauley said. "When I went and tried on dresses, I found a little of this that I liked in one and a little of this that I liked in another, so [Fitzpatrick] was able to incorporate different aspects I liked."

With the downturn of the economy and different ways to pinch pennies on most people's minds, the do-it-yourself idea has become more of a reality then a dream in recent years, and the Sewing Studio Fabric Superstore in Maitland is one of many fabric stores reaping the benefit. While many businesses are heading into the red, Sewing Studio owners Mark and Pat Sauer said business has picked up in the last two years, and they have seen an increase in women ready to take on the task of making their own wedding dress.

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Kim McGauley's handmade wedding gown

One of the reasons the Sewing Studio has seen an increase in this market, Pat said, is because brides-to-be can get the exact design they want at half the cost.

"Maybe they saw a Vera Wang dress for $10,000, but they can have it made with really nice silk for $2,000 to $3,000 instead," she said. "They are trying to duplicate what they see at a lesser cost."

She also relates do-it-yourself popularity to shows such as "Project Runway".

"A lot of the younger generation is coming back to sewing now," Sauer said. "It always used to be ladies who had retired and had more time to sew, but now I see young girls with babies and stay-at-home moms, and 'Project Runway' has a lot to do with that."

McGauley decided to take on this do-it-yourself approach with the help of her mother, who incorporated pieces of her wedding dress, as well as pieces of her grandmother's dress into her own dress, which she said made it more meaningful.

"Making it was a little time intensive with all the beading I put on," McGauley's mother, Fitzpatrick, said. "But the rest of the dress was pretty much a piece of cake for me because this is what I do."

As a professional seamstress, Fitzpatrick knew just how to budget her time to work on the dress; she said she would try to tackle the task a little each night in between her regular clients.

"It's hard to estimate the exact amount of time I actually spent working on the dress," Fitzpatrick said. "But it was well worth it all."

Making a wedding dress may have paid off in the end for Fitzpatrick and her daughter, but for some, making a dress is too daunting a task.

"I don't have enough time for that," said bride-to-be Christine Vazquez. "I can barely get my venue down; my dress is the last thing I want do, other than try it on."

But DIY wedding accessories is another story. Vazquez said her mom is making her bouquet and veil with materials she got from the Sewing Studio.

"Accessories like veils and tiaras are expensive at wedding stores. They are a lot cheaper over there (The Sewing Studio)," Vazquez said.

Besides saving some dough, making anything from the actual gown to an accessory makes it feel more personal, Fitzpatrick said.

"When you're making a wedding gown, even if you have tried some on, it becomes yours," she said. "And you put into it what you want, and it becomes your design."

Learn more

The Sewing Studio Fabric Store is located at 9605 S. Hwy 17-92, Maitland. For more information on them or their variety of different sewing and embroidery classes or materials, visit www.sewing.net or call 407-831-6488. For more information on JoAnn Fitzpatrick professional seamstress services, call 407-677-9972.