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EVERYDAY PEOPLE: Grabowski creates community one stitch at a time

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When Marina Grabowski graduated from college the plan was to pursue a career in civil engineering — the field she spent four years studying.

Like many women, Grabowski took a hiatus from her career to start a family. But as far as her career in civil engineering went, she left and never looked back.

“I never loved it,” she said.

What Grabowski does love is sewing. “I’ve been sewing since I was a little kid,” said Grabowski, who learned to sew from her mother. “I’m sure I was sewing my own clothes by the time I was in junior high.”

Grabowski’s love for sewing evolved from a childhood hobby into a viable business.

For the last 15 years, she has operated her own custom sewing and alterations business, first from her home, for the last six years from her own studio in the Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.

“I like it here a lot better,” she said of her space in the Arts Center. “It’s nice to have all that stuff out of my house.”

Grabowski’s store is called A Needle Pulling Thread, a reference to the Sound of Music. “It just came to me,” she said. “Sometimes ideas pop into your head — this was one of those.”

A Needle Pulling Thread’s inventory includes everything from pillows to winter treatments to unique winter hats.

Grabowski said it was her sister who inspired the idea to create winter hats when she gave a winter hat to Marina’s first child.

“She said, ‘You should make these,’” Grabowski recalled.

More than a decade later, Grabowski is still making hats. And pillows, and curtains, and pretty much anything a customer might ask for. “It’s always been a little of everything,” she said. While winter hats dominate her inventory space, she said custom pillows are her favorite things to create. “I love the different fabrics people bring in,” she said.

Grabowski said one of the more unique projects she has undertaken is custom costuming. “The last year I’ve had some strange ones,“ she said.

Her odd requests included a costume for a display mannequin to be used at a car show and a costume designed after ousted Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. “It’s really kind of fun to figure out how it’s all going to work.”

Grabowski said the transition of Franklin Arts Center was a great thing for her business and her sense of community. “I was really excited when the Franklin Arts Center opened,” she said “Half the fun of my job is all the customers — all the people I’ve met.”

Grabowski was among the first tenants at the Franklin Arts Center when it opened up to the Arts community six years ago.

A native of Aberdeen, S.D., Marina and her husband, Leonard, moved the Brainerd lakes area more than 20 years ago for Leonard’s work. Grabowski said she attempted to find a job with a civil engineering firm, but becoming a mom changed her ambitions. The couple now has three children ages 18, 14, and 11. When she’s not busy with her studio Grabowski loves taking advantage of lake country. She loves to bike ride, walk and, of course, support her kids in their various activities. “That keeps us pretty busy,” she said.

As for a possible return to a career in civil engineering, that seems to me more of a distant memory. Grabowski’s life as a seamstress and a business woman keep her plenty busy and without regrets. “This is what I would want to do if I could do anything,” she said.

SARAH NELSON KATZENBERGER may be reached at or 855-5879.