Sew in the Family
Romaine Coeyman and her great-granddaughter, Cali Fife, were been born more than 70 years apart, but surprisingly, they have a lot more in common than just DNA. They both share the love of sewing and creating. And what’s more, they have done much of their craft in the exact same place, but more than 50 years apart.
Romaine Coeyman began working in the William Bernstein Sewing Factory in 1960, soon after the birth of her son. “I liked the job because I got to set sleeves. I loved that!” Coeyman remembers.
She says she always enjoyed sewing and the friendships she made at work. “I always think of [my work] around Christmas time.” She remembers setting tables up and having a potluck lunch to celebrate the season. “It was really jolly at Christmas time.” Coeyman mostly worked on the second floor in the sewing area where she sewed night gowns. She has fond memories of her days at the sewing factory.
These days, the Bernstein Sewing Factory building is occupied by DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, where many kids, like fifteen year old Cali Fife, fell in love with designing for the performing arts. Fife used to dance but she quickly realized that she loved the costumes more than the spotlight. She found her comfort zone creating costumes at DreamWrights, working in the second floor sewing area, exactly where her great-grandmother worked decades previously.
Fife enjoys creating with fabric and has made many friends through her craft, just like her great-grandmother. She enjoys the collaborative nature of sewing and designing, and in fact, even has her own online shop called Cali Ann, where she creates cool scarves, clever pouches, cute bags, and even the occasional custom costume.
Although the space is much different than what she remembers, Coeyman is amazed at the transformation of the building from a sewing factory to a theatre space. “I love it! I think it is amazing!” And when asked what she thinks about her great-granddaughter sewing and creating, just like she herself did more than a half century ago, Coeyman sums it up simply, “That’s nice. She really loves it too.”