PRINCETON — For 20 years, Margaret Pennington has been providing materials and advice to crafters and seamstresses in the Princeton community. Known to many customers as simply “Grandma,” Pennington is the friendly face inside Granny’s Sewing Room at 1119 Mercer Street, aross from the Princeton post office, where she has created and altered thousands of garments for her neighbors.
“I get customers needing alterations from all over: Christiansburg, Tazewell, Wytheville,” said Pennington. “I’ve made prom and wedding gowns, just all kiind of things.”
Pennington is a 1959 graduate of Princeton Senior High School. Following graduation, she lived for ten years in Florida before returning home to Princeton, where, she said, “There are a lot of good people.”
It was in Princeton where she and her husband, Larry, raised their five children.
“We had one son and four daughters. It was supposed to be one son and three daughters, but the last one came up a double,” she said of her twin girls.
Her five children have now multiplied to include 15 grandchildren, 8 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren, with a third on the way. Pennington lost her husband, Larry, in 2012, after 52 years of happy marriage, she said.
Pennington worked for 15 years at a shop that once was located on Crumpecker Hill, called Direct Fabric. It was there that she learned the trade of selling fabrics and sewing notions. At her business on Mercer Street, she sells quilting and craft fabrics, with around 300 bolts of fabric to choose from, along with other sewing necessities. She offers alterations and makes draperies and wall hangings for customers. Her shelves and tables are richly stocked with a variety of prints and styles for customers to peruse, at what she guarantees is a fair and affordable price compared to similar stores in the area.
Pennington used to teach sewing classes and taught all five of her children to sew.
“Even my boy,” she said, “because I told him he might not marry a woman who knows how to sew. Two of my girls still enjoy sewing.”
The art of sewing, she said, has nearly been lost as home economics is no longer taught in schools.
“I don’t sell dress fabric anymore. Nobody makes clothes anymore. You just can’t make it cheaper than you can buy it. The only plus to making your own clothes these days would be you don’t meet yourself on the street. Nobody else would have clothes like yours.”
Pennington said the shop gets a lot of alteration requests for ill-fitting, newly bought clothing, a fact she blames on clothing made in other countries where people have different proportions than us.
Pennington passed on her sewing knowledge to her assistant, Kathy White, who has handled the alterations in the shop for five years.
“I’m semi-retired, and Kathy helps me out,” said Pennington. “I can go and visit my family some now.”
White said Pennington has been like a mother to her, though she fondly refers to her as ‘Grandma.’
“She’s very special to me,” said White.
Pennington said her own mother taught her how to sew at a young age.
“When I was a little girl, my mom sewed a lot. I made most of my own clothes in junior high school, and made my first quilt then too,” she said.
Granny’s Sewing Room began as a home business for Pennington, and she called it Maggie’s Sewing Room. In 1996, Pennington decided to use her love of people and to open her own shop.
“I enjoy people, and I enjoy what I do. I’ve thought about selling out and retiring, but it’d be just me at home then, so I think, ‘Why would I want to do that?’,” she said. “The city of Princeton has been good to me. Coming here makes me get up and get out of a morning. Obviously, I’m doing something right, to have been here this long. I don’t make a lot of money, but we pay the bills.”
White said Pennington isn’t just valuable to her customers for altering clothing, but she also alters attitudes.
“People come in here just to talk to Grandma, to unload on her,” she said. “Everybody knows her. She just has that face that says, ‘Talk to me.’”
Pennington agreed, saying, “Here on Mercer Street, there are just so many hurting people. I just love talking to them. That’s what I do. Love people.”
At Granny’s Sewing Room, said Pennington, the goal is to make sure customers get their items back as quickly as possible.
“We work extra hours, if we have to, to make sure they get things back quick,” she said. “For funerals, police, military, we put those ahead of everything and don’t charge a rush charge.”
Granny’s offers sewing, hemming (at $9 per pair of pants), military patch application, alterations, draperies, and sewing supplies. Their hours are Monday through Friday 9 — 5 and Saturdays by appointment. Contact them at 304-425-6554.
— Contact Jeanie Brown at email@example.com.