Teena Kantor learned to sew as a child, and now creates items for her friends and family members, who she hopes pick up the trade.
The first item Teena Kantor sewed was an apron that won her a blue ribbon at a New York State Fair when she was 9 years old.
Her sewing education began long before that, though.
She remembers her mother teaching her how to sew a button on a coat when her youngest brother was born. But it was her grandmother who really taught her the trade.
“She hooked rugs, she braided rugs, she sewed, she embroidered, and she always asked me what I was doing with my hands,” Kantor said.
Kantor said she sewed more frequently when she was in school as she made her own costumes for plays and for a pageant, when she sang “Just You Wait” from “My Fair Lady.”
During summer breaks, she would take out her mom’s sewing machine and try to make whatever patterns she could.
Now, Kantor spends her free time sewing clothes and gifts.
She’s never sold her work. She does it purely for the satisfaction of giving gifts to those she loves.
“For me, it’s more fun to have someone to make it for than just to make random things,” she said. “I’m more motivated, even for myself, but if I can think of a reason to make it, then I’ll do it.”
A few years ago, Kantor’s mother-in-law had surgery, so Kantor made her a quilt that had the names and anniversary dates of the family.
“It’s a way to show people you’re caring about them and make them something,” she said.
She sewed each of her grandchildren a blanket and told them to think of it as a hug from her every time they use it. When her kids were young, she learned to smock, an embroidery technique, and made clothes and costumes.
In 2010, Kantor attended an eight-week summer course at the Royal School of Needlework in the United Kingdom where she studied Jacobean crewel work, needlepoint, silk shading and gold work. Then she went for a full school year and took advanced courses in goldwork, silk shading, white work, box making, tassel making, stump work and black work.
Kantor calls herself a fast sewer because she’ll start a project at 8 a.m. and be content working on it until midnight. But sometimes, the availability of materials can hold her process back.
For some projects, such as a Queen Elsa costume she made her granddaughter based off Walt Disney’s “Frozen,” materials can be bought at Joann Fabrics. But when Kantor is making clothes for herself or friends, she prefers nice fabric, typically at Mendel Goldberg in New York, but on her last trip to Paris, she bought other fabric.
Once she has her materials though, she’s always working on a project. She often listens to audiobooks while she works.
“I’ve always liked to hold a needle and thread,” Kantor said. “I just always feel comfortable sewing.”
Sewing is something Kantor has shared with her friends. For a time, she would host “Teenapalooza” and invite friends over for a sewing lesson and dinner.
In the future, she hopes to pass the craft on to her grandchildren.
“I can’t wait to teach Maisie to sew,” Kantor said of her 4-year-old granddaughter. “I’m really hoping (she wants to learn). I’ve given her sewing cards and I’ve shown her things.”