Susan Edwards stands in the doorway of her new downtown Rocky Mount business Pearle’s Thimble, offering “sewing, alterations and fancy dresses.”

Franklin County native Susan Edwards parlayed her lifelong love of fancy dresses into a new business in downtown Rocky Mount, opening Pearle’s Thimble on May 13.

As her opalescent card reads, Edwards offers “sewing, alterations and fancy dresses” at 392 Franklin Street, located beside the Rocky Mount Post Office.

“About three years ago, I was thinking about finding something I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” Edwards explained. She was a full-time supervisor at Jammin Apparel Inc. on Technology Drive and cut back to part-time.

At the same time, Edwards said, she offered a sewing and alterations service out of her home, accepting clients from A Cleaner World in Roanoke. She said that as her business grew, she needed an larger location and shorter commute.

The space that is now Pearle’s Thimble became available in Rocky Mount at the perfect time, she added, allowing her to gradually set up work space, a dressing room, and two retail store sections.

Plus, she’s now able to sell fancy dresses, she explained. One side of the store is lined with consigned formals. On the wall behind them, Edwards hung photos of the “strong women” in her family, dressed up in the classic formal attire of their eras. Her mother’s wedding dress is on display across the room.

“Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved fancy dresses,” Edwards said. “I remember playing in an old prom dress and mama let me play in her wedding dress. I love the styles, and creating them, and everything that’s involved in the process of making something that turns out beautiful.

“This path brought me right back to my passion. This is my passion. Sewing is my craft. It’s my hobby. It’s my life, and I owe that to my mom and my grandmothers, who were quilters and seamstresses.”

The business’ namesake, Pearle, was Edwards’ great-grandmother, who taught Edwards at age 5 to sew on an old black Singer treadle machine. Edwards’ mother was constantly chiding the young protege to “put that thimble back on” as she worked, Edwards remembers with a smile – thus, the business name Pearle’s Thimble.

From there, Edwards began creating fancy dresses for Barbie dolls, later selling them on the e-commerce site, Etsy.

She also worked in a children’s clothing consignment store, performed sewing and alterations there for about 13 years.

All of those experiences led to her offering the consignment section at Pearle’s Thimble where she can both showcase the beauty of barely worn party, prom, bridesmaids and mother-of-the-bride dresses plus offer formal attire at affordable prices. Most of the dresses are in the $30 range.

She offers a discount on alterations to anyone purchasing a consigned dress, Edwards said.

Edwards also does embroidery and makes custom items such as tote bags and curtains. She does not sew custom dresses, she added, but has taken on significant alterations such as combining two exiting dresses.

“It’s so fulfilling being able to take someone’s idea and turn it into something real and make them happy,” she said. “It gives me a lot of joy.”

When she’s not busy with alterations, Edwards is stocking the front room of Pearle’s Thimble with handmade local crafts such as wreaths. Her goal is to build an inventory of all hand-made, locally crafted items, focusing on useful and traditional wares such as aprons.

Pearle’s Thimble is open Monday through Friday from 1 to 5:30 p.m. Edwards asks those needing alterations to formal dresses to please make appointments. The shop’s handicapped accessible parking is beside the entrance, and additional parking is available in back.

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