Nearly thirty years ago, Irina Boiarskaia had just three months to establish her sewing and alterations shop, Irina’s Stitch in Time, on Lyndale Avenue South.
The sewing shop she had worked for closed, leaving her jobless and broke. Boiarskaia’s friend let her set up her sewing machines in his storefront, rent-free, for the last three months of his lease after moving his dental cleaning business.
Boiarskaia made enough business in those three months to rent the storefront herself, and has remained there for 24 years.
Today her shop is busy with custom alterations, clothing and costume design, cosplay and any other sewing project imaginable. Boiarskaia said that in her decades of owning the shop, the only projects she turned down were those that were “impossible” to create.
Irina’s Stitch in Time is a solo operation. While she used to have employees, Boiarskaia said that she works more efficiently alone.
One of her proudest creations was for the fortieth anniversary issue of Minnesota Monthly–a black and white bikini fashioned after the one Goldie Hawn wore in 1968. Another proud creation of Boiarskaia’s is a Sailor Moon cosplay outfit, though she’s never seen the anime. If a customer shows her a picture, Boiarskaia can make it.
When asked what her favorite part of owning the shop was, Boiarskaia replied, “everything. Absolutely everything.”
Boiarskaia and her son immigrated to Minneapolis from St. Petersburg, Russia in 1995, a few years before opening the shop. Though she said that St. Petersburg and Minneapolis are incomparable, the move between continents was “natural” and “smooth” for her.
She doesn’t remember learning how to sew, but she said that her earliest creations were probably dresses for her dolls.
“I think I was born knowing how to [sew], loving doing that,” she said. “My mom was very good at that, so I watched her making dresses for me and her friends.”
The first time Boiarskaia injured herself on a sewing machine was at three years old, when she sewed through her finger. That mistake earned her a punishment for using the machine without permission.
Boiarskaia went to fashion and design school in St. Petersburg to prove to herself that she could sew for a living. While she thinks she could have gotten by without the technical education, it was still a learning experience.
“The best thing I learned from that school is that it’s not that difficult,” she said. “If I faced a problem, I would have solved it on my own, it’s kind of natural for me.”
To sewing fanatics, Boiarskaia said to “think twice before you go into that because it’s only for those who really love it, because it’s hard work.” While her passion for sewing has been consistent throughout her life, sewing and opening her own shop were simply a way to pay the bills when she didn’t have money.
“It’s not like you know how to thread the needle, it’s just practice practice practice,” she said. “It sounds awfully boring and tedious, but when you get to the point that you don’t think about those technical details and when you understand that you can do anything, then it’s fun.”
When asked about her store’s role in the community, Boiarskaia said that she’s only focused on her own business.
“I’m not thinking big. I’m sitting here in my little shop and enjoying life,” she said.
The best way to reach Boiarskaia is to walk into Irina’s Stitch in Time at 3021 Lyndale Ave. S., just north of Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ and HUGE Theater. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays until 4 p.m.