CURTAIN CALL


Seamstress restores Fitch auditorium to 1968 splendor

By kristine gill

kgill@vindy.com

austintown

Krystyna Williams surveyed the damage, careful not to lose her footing as she pushed through heavy folds of blue velvet.

“I’m so scared I’m going to back off the stage,” she said. “I can’t afford to break a leg.”

Williams can’t, but her clients can.

The 31-year-old Boardman native has been sewing costumes and apparel for young dancers, skaters and actors for six years. After working for another dance-apparel company and earning her bachelor’s in business from Youngstown State University, she opened Kustomized Creations in her home basement.

On Friday, Williams took on what she called the most interesting repair of her career: the stage curtains at Fitch High School’s auditorium.

“Hot lights,” she said, pointing up toward the bulbs responsible for burns and charring around several small holes in the main valance, the short curtain that hangs closest to the audience.

Mal Culp, supervisor of facilities and operations for the district, noticed light peeking through those holes at a recent event and looked for someone who could repair them. Many of the curtains are the originals that Junior Principal Dennis Jazinksi said “came with the brick” when the Fitch addition was built in 1968. But because new curtains can cost upward of $40,000, Culp decided a repair was best.

“Some curtains have been replaced over the years, but you can see tears in them,” he said.

With help, Williams was able to lower the valance closer to the stage, draping the blue fabric onto a high table where she set up her sewing machine.

“Oh, there’s so much fabric here,” she said, weaving the navy thread through her machine as French horn and trumpet players practiced around her during their band class. She was thankful for the music. Silence would have made her work between dimly lit rows of fabric an eerie endeavor.

Later, she hand-stitched the hem of one of the house curtains, the ones on the left or right of the stage and closest to the audience. She said students who move props off stage in a hurry sometimes snag the curtains as they close them.

“Really the only one that moves a lot is this blue one — Ow! Finger!” she said, nursing a pin prick.

Williams began sewing for herself in high school when she wasn’t able to find dresses that fit her for school dances.

“I was 17 and wearing mother-of-the-bride dresses without the jackets,” she said. “Not cool.”

The hobby quickly transformed into a career, and Williams said she now spends 50 to 60 hours a week making custom designs for various groups. In the past, she’s sewn dance-line uniforms for Austintown’s basketball and football squads. Last year, she made 15 pirate and 10 Indian costumes for Boardman High School’s production of “Peter Pan.”

Now she’s working on the costumes for Boardman’s spring musical, “Hairspray.”

“It’s pretty intense because we have so many kids she has to outfit for,” said Nick Opritza, supervisor of the Boardman Performing Arts Center.

Opritza, who had Williams as a student, said she’s also sewn costumes for the show choir and made a custom curtain to block out sound around the orchestra pit.

When she works on custom orders for young ice skaters, she can spend hours gluing hundreds of rhinestones to the stretchy fabric.

Williams, who has two young boys, said she grows close to the young girls she regularly fits for costumes at various dance schools. She tries to attend their performances to see the costumes on stage or on the ice.

“I’ve worked with some of these kids for five or six years, and I’m tearing up when they graduate,” she said. “It’s just exciting to see them.”

Williams spent an additional two hours hand-stitching about six more holes in the tan rear and leg curtains Friday afternoon.

“It’s all done,” she said. “Looks good.”

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