For Josh Meier, alterations and repairs mean giving clothes a little love.
Josh Meier started sewing nearly 40 years ago, but he’s been doing it professionally just since July. That’s when he opened his new tailoring business, Schwa Tailor Shop, at 917 Williamson St.
The majority of his work is alterations and repairs, like on the nylon cycling jacket he fixed for a recent customer. “It just needed a little love,” Meier says. “And a favorite cycling jacket lives on.”
As if on cue, a customer walks through the front door of Schwa Tailor and asks Meier if he can patch his “favorite jeans in the world” that got snagged by a barbed-wire fence. After discussing the mending style (conspicuous or inconspicuous patching?), Meier tells the man to come back in a week to pick up his jeans.
Meier also hems pants ($10 and up for jeans, $12 and up for dress pants) and can replace the lining of a coat or a zipper ($30 and up).
Sewing started as a hobby for Meier. He grew up watching his mother sew. When he was young, he started designing items for his family members, including the 1800s-style farm dress now on display in the window of his shop. That one he made for his mom, who participated in “Down on the Farm” tours.
After graduating with a degree in sales and marketing from Madison Business College in 1989, Meier spent 27 years working for the state of Wisconsin. He says he was prompted by the political climate in the state to retire and start tailoring professionally. “If I have enough coffee, thread and music, I can sew all day,” he says.
Before starting the shop, Meier made dresses for Renaissance fairs, outfits for steampunk concerts and costumes for science fiction conventions. He helped create the uniforms for Madison’s roller derby team the Dairyland Dolls. He still accepts commissions and is currently working on a traditional Native American ribbon shirt.
The name of his shop, Schwa, comes from the second syllable of the phonetic spelling of his name, Joshua.
Meier bought the building on Williamson Street in 2012 and lives upstairs. He loves how it feels “20th century” to live above where he works, and he spends a lot of time in his immediate neighborhood. More than anything, Meier is pleased with his new career. “If I can make a living patching someone’s favorite jeans, then that makes me really happy.”
Schwa Tailor Shop 917 Williamson St., 608-212-8542