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Up with the Curtains, Off with the Shoes

“Good to see you.” “Pull up a chair.” There are many ways to greet a visitor, but Ljudmila Skidmore’s is a bit unorthodox—”Get off my rug.” 

This seamstress is a touch particular about the carpet at her workplace, and its confines are off limits to colleagues’ work shoes. “That’s the way it has to be,” she says firmly, “after all, this is where I work with fabric.” Ljudmila is the uncrowned queen of all things textile at satis&fy; her forte is tailoring material for coverings and curtains, although she also manages and makes sure the inventory of used fabrics is kept clean. Her realm is in Werne, but her reach extends to all sites, as the team in Portland would confirm—and her power to make clients happy travels equally well. 

Her 20-by-20-meter dominion is as big as Werne’s rehearsal hall, but Ljudmila knows every swatch in it by name. She’s been crafting curtains in it for 15 years, and to listen to her speak about her job is evidence that this woman is doing exactly what she was meant to do.

Ljudmila, a native of Kazakhstan, initially started off on a very different career path—a kindergarten teacher. She loved working with kids above all else until the pivotal day she pieced together a mini skirt on a small sewing machine. These days, though, there’s nothing ‘mini’ about her work. “A 12-by-8 meter curtain is a good format I like working with,” says the seamstress. Standing just 1.54 meters tall, she routinely handles bolts of cloth that outweigh her. How on earth do you clean a drape of that size? “By hand, of course,” says Ljudmila, somewhat mystified by the question. Almost everything she does, she does by hand—removing lint from huge bolts of cloth, fitting eyelets, stitching every seam. Fire code rules out cleaning fluids and damp cloth, so “You can expect a fancy tableau curtain to give you 120 hours of work. But the result is something to be proud of!” she explains.

The rest is creativity; sometimes she has to figure out how to make emblems such as a gigantic skull logo for Die Ärzte based on a tiny picture that fits on a CD cover. Taking measurements for stretch fabrics is another tricky task—not to mention having to consider which of the many suppliers, all of whom she knows personally, will give her the best deal. 

Sometimes a used curtain is the best way to go. “It doesn’t make sense to roll out premium-quality gala gear at a festival. That’s why we fix everything—so it can be reused. Nothing gets binned without a second look,” says Ljudmila. She always knows exactly what’s in stock and where to find every pallet of commando cloth, muslin, or velvet. “That always looks sharp and classy,” she says while surveying a velvet curtain, adding sternly—”if you treat it right.” 

Ljudmila speaks as if the fabric were a traumatized puppy in need of TLC—but that’s just the way people brimming with passion for their work speak, and Ljudmila certainly talks about her work as if it’s a vocation and not just a job. When she says, “It’s the best, most beautiful machine out there,” she’s not talking about the sports car of her dreams, she’s referring to her beloved sewing machine. 

Ljudmila, who belongs for nearly 15 years to the satis&fy team, relishes the diversity of challenges at satis&fy, and is ready to tackle whatever task comes her way: “You can’t surprise me!”

Photos: Ingo Haverich

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