Pam Washburn and Sherry Fletcher grew up in Bakersfield, California, watching their mother sew, neither realizing they would take up the craft in their later years, the two Harbor women agreed, laughing.
But now, Washburn owns Karma’s Creations — Fletcher does some of her own creative work there, but is mostly there to keep her sister company, she said — filling a niche they said is much needed in a city with young kids looking for glitter and shreds and older folks who never realized they could get a favorite coat re-created into a fashionable everyday jacket.
“We just picked it up,” Washburn said, of the alterations and clothing they learned at their other’s knee.
“We just came naturally by it,” Fletcher chimed in.
Well, to a point.
Their mother made the girls’ clothes as they were too poor to buy them in department stores. She’d give them the thick Spiegel clothing catalog and tell them to pick what they wanted to wear for the year.
They both took home economics courses in school — and Fletcher failed hers.
“I made a French evening gown that came out perfect,” she said. “But I failed because I did it without a pattern. I got an A-plus on the gown, though.”
Washburn, on the other hand, uses patterns.
“No one seems to do this anymore,” she said. “And I never thought I’d think of doing it either.”
The two women married and went on their separate life journeys: Fletcher into law enforcement in the Los Angeles area before retiring in Brookings in 2001, and Washburn off to Arkansas, working in housekeeping.
Washburn’s husband died and she moved in with his sister in Houston, but after a year, she’d had enough of that city and joined Fletcher in Brookings.
“Sherry called and asked if I wanted to live here,” Washburn said with her acquired lilting Arkansas drawl.
She jumped on it, and opened Lil’ Cats Shreds on Oak Street, but recently opted to go into alterations, repairs, custom-made T-shirts spangled with bling, embroidery and memorial pillows made from Grandpa’s old shirts.
Within three weeks, they had to blow out a wall to accommodate the work.
Today, they’re busy working on clothing for the pirate’s festival, Fourth of July and the annual CASA ball, whose theme is 1980s Prom.
There’s a lot of bling going on in the shop these days.
A filmy, short black dress hangs from a rack for the CASA ball. It only has to be fitted with an “obnoxious black bow,” per the customer’s request, before it is worn by the belle of the ball. A pirate-skeleton is festooned on a T-shirt, with a glow-in-the-dark pearl necklace draped over the fingers of one hand, and the gold glint of a gun in the other. His hair shines silver; rhinestones line the lapel of his jacket; a parrot sits on its shoulder, its outstretched wings shining blue, green and red.
“It’s almost blinding in the sun,” Washburn said. “They make a statement.”
In addition to creating custom works on request, Washburn takes ideas from the internet and transforms them beyond their original intent.
One is a fluffy boa, transformed to hold a hidden pouch women use to hide their money while out on the town. Others are simple changes.
And they’ve been amazed how many older people come through the store, thinking an item that’s been hanging in the closet for 20 years is useless — until a few pockets and sparkles are added.
“I just like changing things because T-shirts are so boring,” Fletcher said.
“And they’re so tickled they get to wear the jacket again,” Washburn added.
They’re now selling the merchandise formerly sold at Lil’ Cats to make room for more sewing space.
“I just love meeting new people, knowing that they appreciate what we do,” Washburn said.
“I love seeing their faces,” Washburn said, laughing. “Their faces, when they see what we’ve created.”
Karma’s Creations is located in the Hanscam building at 16399 Lower Harbor Road, Suite B; contact them at 541-661-1289.