Located within The HUB Building on NE Williams is the Klum House Workshop, a cozy and creative space where messages of “I Believe In You” and “Work With Your Hands” are artistically scrawled on the walls. Colorful spools and tools are meticulously displayed for use around the room. A little shop dog–Winston–waits in a corner for the workshop’s proprietress, Ellie Lum, who is busy lugging sewing machines onto a large table for an upcoming class.
The workshop has been open in this location for just over a year, but Lum is a professional at caravanning her studios. She’d shared her sewing skills in San Francisco, Seattle and Philadelphia, before nestling into the support of Portland’s makers community.
Educated in Eco-literacy and Adult Theory at UC Berkeley, Lum studied teaching people about ecology and the environment in an urban setting, and did a lot pedagogical research on how adults benefit from experiential learning. She also focused on arts entrepenurialship, which she already had experience with from running her own bag design company, R.E.Load Bags. Cumulatively, this served as the foundation for Klum House.
Instead of uploading a pattern or stitch into a computerized sewing machine, Lum encourages an analog DIY approach to create one of their many totes, belts and heavy duty rolltop backpacks that have been featured nationally in knitting, crafting and bicycling periodicals.
“There is a general cultural response right now for people who want tactile experiences in life, because we are so digital,” she says. “We are a city of designers, but most designs are done digitally these days. People find a sense of accomplishment and empowerment when they get to make a functional good that they get to use in their day-to-day lives.”
Even if you’ve never touched a sewing machine, Klum House can instruct a novice to create something by hand from start to finish. Classes range from introductory, to industrial, to intensive bag design that allows customization of colors, pockets and strap style–all with an “I Made This” tag attached for bragging rights. The shop sells ready-to-sew maker kits with all the fixings to tackle a project on your own, as well as online courses. Klum House is also a very collaborative entity, organized around education and skill sharing. This allows for pop-up classes and guest instructors sharing skill sets in many areas, including garment design, Shibori indigo dyeing and cyanotype (solar) printing on fabric. These are small classes with personalized instruction from the designers.
“One thing that sets us apart from other sewing schools is that you get to learn from the designer in the design house,” says Lum, “So we’re a pattern design house and a school that is sharing more of the design process as well as skill building at the machine. Our mission is to give people a safe space to create with their hands, to connect with other makers, and to interact with their own creative process through the act of building something themselves.