LAYTON — Wimmer’s Sewing and Vacuum in Layton is celebrating its 90th year in business.
The locally owned sewing and vacuum business got its start in 1922 when Glade Wimmer’s grandfather went door-to-door selling and repairing treadle sewing machines, which had a large pedal — the treadle — that the operator would rock back and forth with their foot to make the needle go up and down.
Wimmer, 62, has owned the shop for the past 25 years, but he recalled how his grandfather would fit three sewing machines into his truck, head out for the week — from his hometown near Vernal — and not return home until he had sold all three machines and had three machines in need of repair loaded up in the truck.
Wimmer started helping his grandfather in the business and convinced him to set up a shop in Layton in 1981. The business continued to pick up steam, and eventually vacuum sales and repairs were added.
Sewing machines have changed dramatically since the treadle machine, with technologically advanced sewing and embroidering machines, some that are completely computer-driven.
What once used to take hours of skilled labor, now takes minutes.
“Technology has really made sewing a lot different, allowing you to do things you never would have thought about,” Wimmer said.
For instance, his grandma used to spend three months making small lace doilies by hand — something that can now be done in five minutes with an embroidery machine, he said.
“Most of the machines are fairly easy to use once you get the basic training, but if you don’t, you probably only use 10 percent of its abilities.
“It’s surprising how many people come in with embroidery machines they bought online but haven’t ever tried, because it seemed too big a hurdle to start.”
Wimmer’s shop offers personalized training with the machines, so customers can go home and actually use them, rather than let them sit and collect dust in a corner somewhere, as is often the case, Wimmer said.
“Cheap machines are trying to kill the sewing industry, because they stop working after three months. Then the operators think they don’t know how to sew, so they put it in a corner and give up,” Wimmer said.
Mary Barker, who also works at the shop teaching sewing classes, agreed with Wimmer.
“I would never recommend a cheap sewing machine, because they don’t hold their tension, there’s no quality, and they are always in need of repairs,” she said.
Only a handful of shops sell sewing machines in the Top of Utah, though not necessarily because sewing is a dying industry.
In the past 10 years, Wimmer said, the sewing industry has become healthier, because more people are quilting and embroidering, making quilting fabric and machines a billion-dollar industry.
Several of his customers spend thousands of dollars on a nice machine, fabric and tools. However, sewing doesn’t have to be expensive, and can be used for mending, which is where people can save money in the long run, Barker said.
Sewing is also a form of art.
“You get to have something that you’ve created yourself, and you never have something exactly like what someone else is wearing,” said Barker.
Like any machine, a sewing machine needs to be cleaned and repaired. Wimmer said learning how to repair sewing machines took him seven years of having his experienced uncle lean over his shoulder.
Even now, he is occasionally on the phone with the factory, getting advice on how to make certain repairs, as every machine is different.
Wimmer is now in the process of teaching his son-in-law the fine points of sewing machine repair.