New sewing museum perfect fit for seamstress founder

By Debbi Elmore | June 1, 2022

Katrina Stockton with a miniature hand-cranked sewing machine.

It’d be hard to find a bigger fan and practitioner of sewing than Katrina Stockton. Which makes her the perfect person to open what she believes is Kansas’ first sewing history museum.

“It had always been in my thoughts ­ — and a dream,” Stockton said.

Stockton opened the Sewing History Museum in a historic house on North Waco earlier this year. It showcases hundreds of sewing machines and related items. The oldest machine is an 1854 Wheeler and Wilson cabinet model, the newest a 160th anniversary Singer badger machine. 

“At the moment, there are almost 500 machines, and I plan to build the collection to around 1,200 plus,” Stockton said. “It shows the progression of growth and changes of sewing machines and artifacts to educate and create a renewed interest in the artistry of sewing as a fine art and life skill.”

Stockton hopes it “will preserve and archive the knowledge gathered as a gift to future generations.’

Stockton was born in Wichita, raised in St. Paul, Minn., then moved back to Wichita. Sewing has been her vocation throughout life.

A resident of Surrey, England donated this sewing machine, doily and bodice to the Sewing History Museum shortly before it opened.

“I started sewing by machine the summer after second grade,” she said. “Before that, I sewed by hand, designing Barbie and baby doll clothes.”

Stockton started the Alteration Shoppe at age 20. It expanded into two shops with six to eight employees. The shop had contracts with Macy’s downtown, three Hinkle stores and several men’s and upscale women’s stores such as Talbots and Helen Macs. She went to McConnell Air Force Base to alter dress uniforms and sew on patches.

Stockton said she made “so many wedding dresses, usually two a month, plus the bridesmaids’ dresses. A lot were original designs.”

“I also volunteered with church productions and Wichita Children’s Theatre to design and make costumes, which expanded into total costuming of the plays,” she added.

After closing the shops, she started “Alterations On Wheels” for clients who were in retirement centers.

Stockton chose the museum’s location with its history in mind. It’s the 1888 Capman-Noble House at 1230 N. Waco, designed in Queen Anne style by noted architect William Henry Sternberg. It sits on national and state historic registries. She notes that the house to the south as well as two more directly across the street were built by Sternberg, too.

“This area is the largest contiguous group of Sternberg designed-built homes in the United States.  This home is the perfect place to house the sewing machines and artifacts.”

Stockton got a nice surprise just before opening.

“Two days before the grand opening of the museum, we received a Davis hand-crank machine in its bentwood case with the doily and antique Victorian dress bodice,” she said. “Nicola Greensword- Oakley of Byfleet, Surrey, England, donated the machine and had it shipped to us. This was a wedding gift from her husband. On their honeymoon, he found it when he went for coffee and surprised her with it.”

The nonprofit museum is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors 55+ and students, and $5 for children 6 to 12. Tuesday and Wednesday are available for guided tours for groups and students.

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