It was nearly 30 years ago that Marilyn Gnip opened a storefront for her business, “Marilyn’s Sewing Basket.” In 1992, the talented seamstress and tailor could be found offering services out of the Kamsack Shopping Plaza.
After the first year, the young entrepreneur would move her business to 445 Second Street in downtown Kamsack. From that time on, Gnip has been providing area residents with alterations, fabric, machine embroidery and crafts out of the same location.
Gnip, who is celebrating her 70th birthday this week, has been sewing since the age of 10. It was her mother who first taught her how to sew, and the following decades would see her become a master at her craft.
“I have been doing this a long time,” said Gnip. “There is never a shortage of work. I do it all myself because nobody else seems to have the skills and I don’t have the time to train anybody.”
Originally from Manitoba, her family would move around quite a bit to accommodate her husband’s career as a Pioneer Grain Elevator Agent before settling in Kamsack. Gnip started by offering sewing services from her home, but found the experience to be less than desirable.
“People would arrive at our house on weekends, as early as 7 a.m. and as late as 10 p.m.,” explained Gnip. “I had to draw the line. I never wanted to work weekends and I wanted to have set hours.”
Although Gnip tries to create balance in her work and home life, she says being your own boss can be tough.
“There is no one to pick up the slack when it’s just you,” Gnip explained. “It can get exhausting. The work just piles up. My fingers are often sore [with arthritis] – one good hit, and it’s tears.”
Over the years, Gnip has been an integral part of many lives and special occasions for area residents. In addition to prolonging the life of her customer’s favorite pieces of clothing, Gnip has tailored formal wear like wedding and prom dresses, and helped transform wedding dresses into Christening gowns. With her industrial sewing machine, she has been able to service clients who want to customize items like dog harnesses and horse bridels.
“Right now, I am working on putting a safety reflector strip on the uniforms for the local ambulance response team,” mentioned Gnip. “And another project is sewing names and logos on the jerseys of local hockey teams.”
Gnip says she enjoys her interactions with the people of her community.
“I make open-back hospital gowns and special clothing that helps with easier dressing for those in the [local] nursing home. Of course, many people ask me to make custom face masks. People like to express themselves with certain fabric patterns. Girls love things like unicorns and sparkles. Boys tend to ask for hunting and camo themed masks. I think it’s great they can find a little bit of fun while living in this strange new world.”
With no plans of retirement in the near future, Gnip said she would dearly miss her clients if she had to close shop.
“I do enjoy seeing customers. I will continue to do this as long as my health allows,” offered Gnip. When she is not working on the stack of sewing and alterations at the store, Gnip enjoys gardening, knitting and crocheting on her country acreage just outside of town.
As a mother of four, grandmother of nine, and great-grandmother of six, Gnip says she still somehow makes time to create personal gifts for her family. She says her daughters follow in her creative footsteps, making and selling embroidered products, custom-printed t-shirts, and gift wares customized with cricut printer graphics. Gnip sells many of those unique homemade products in her store, along with creations from other local crafters.
“I just put them all out on the shelves for sale,” said Gnip. “I don’t take any of the profit – I’m just happy to help out.”