Reviving a lost art

Local woman turns her childhood doll-making passion into a business

Angela Huggins believes in a twist on the old adage: “A stitch in time saves lives.”
“Sewing is a lost art that people need to know,” said Huggins, who has turned her lifelong sewing habit into a local business.
Although she makes her living as a nurse, Huggins said sewing has been a big part of her life since she was a small girl.
“I’ve been sewing as long as I can remember,” she said. “I just did it. I think it is something everybody should know how to do.”
Seeking to expand on what has become a sideline for her as well as a hobby, Huggins recently won second place in Rising Tide Capital’s Start Something Challenge 2015, allowing her to relaunch her sewing business under a new name and with a new logo: SEW! JC.

We’re losing a basic life skill and that’s something I want to change.” – Angela Huggins
Rising Tide is a Jersey City-based organization that helps support local entrepreneurs.
“She hired me to design the logo for her with a portion of the winnings,” said local designer, Rob Jelinski.
Huggins has brokered her hobby sewing scrap cloth into dolls into a business that not only sells these dolls, but teaches kids and adults how to do it as well.
She is often invited to children’s parties where sewing becomes both entertainment and an education.
“I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when sewing was taught in grammar school,” she said. “Now it’s become a specialized class.”
She thinks this lack of general knowledge has had a profound effect on society, where people have become dependent on others to do what they should be able to do for themselves.
“You used to be able to stitch something up or put on a button for yourself, now you have to go find someone to do it for you,” Huggins said. “We’re losing a basic life skill and that’s something I want to change.”

A hobby became a business

Born and raised in Jersey City, Huggins used to sew together dolls from scraps of cloth as a hobby even as a young girl. She didn’t think about doing it as a business until many years later.
“Other people would ask me to make them a doll because they saw the dolls I made for myself,” she said.
She got compensated a little to cover the cost of materials and her time. Then around 1996, she realized she had made so many dolls for so many other people, she’d actually made hundreds of dollars.
Although a full time nurse, she thought she might be able to set up a sideline making dolls.
“While I am a nurse, it is in my nature to teach. I love to teach.”
Some of her closest family members are teachers, she said.
“I’m an assignment nurse,” she said. “I’ll never stop being a nurse. But I also teach.”
So the new business wasn’t just about making dolls, but about the process itself, how to develop basic skills that can be adapted to very practical uses, such as fixing a torn garment or putting on a button that has popped off a dress or blouse.
While she continues to make dolls, much of what her business does is teach people how to be more independent.

Getting some business knowledge

Aware that it takes specific knowledge to run a business, Huggins decided to take a program run by Rising Capital.
“Someone recommended them to me,” Huggins said. “I graduated from the program in 2007. But unlike other business programs, Rising Capital people stay in touch with you after graduation, offering help. They’re always looking for opportunities to help.”
So late last year, she entered a competition and surprisingly won enough to afford a designer to help her rebrand her business.
“I got a marketing logo and a new business name,” she said.
Now she teaches and sews, sharing skills that she developed first as a little girl.
“I love teaching children how to make dolls,” she said. “Now I travel around and have activities for children.”
Sometimes she feels like she did when she was a small girl, seated on a floor with a big pile of fabric from which she can create dolls.
“This is my dream,” she said.
She also has a location where people can go.
JC Sew opens its doors every Saturday and Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Hewn Arts Center in Journal Square, 140 Sip Avenue, Studio 6. You can even schedule a visit to look over what she does there.
For more information or to register for a class, email

Al Sullivan may be reached at

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