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Front Page » February 23, 2006 » The Business Journal » Delicate works in progress
Published 3,513 days ago

Delicate works in progress

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Sun Advocate general manager

A Carbon High drill team member dances in a "Lucille Ball" costume, one of many made for dance clubs, drill teams and others around the state of Utah by Dancewear By Design's Diana Root.

Finding someone that loves their work, inside and out, is not that unusual.

Finding someone who liked it from a very young age, well that's a different thing altogether.

Most people find their life's work passion when they are in their teens or 20's; a few much later than that. But Diana Root began sewing when she was a little girl, almost too small to see up on the table where her mother worked on clothes. From that time on, the enterprising girl that grew into a woman, would find sewing as her passion.

"Watching my mom kind of built sewing into me," she said as she sat at her kitchen table which also doubles as a cutting surface for the many kinds of dance wear and clothes she designs and works on. "The whole thing seems kind of genetic...just a part of me, how I am."

The little girl that was Diana soon found herself with her own sewing machine, but not an electric one like her mothers. It was a treadle machine.

"My father worked at Sears in Provo," said Diana who is originally from Orem. "One day when I was young he brought home this old treadle sewing machine that someone had traded in on a new model. It became mine and I learned to sew on it. I guess they figured since it was leg powered it wouldn't move too fast and couldn't really hurt me."

The old machine was placed in her room and the first thing she did was start a business.

"I used to make clothes for all my friends Barbie dolls," she said with a smirk. "I sold the clothes to them for 10 or 15 cents. Now that I think back those must have been terrible looking doll clothes."

As the years went by she moved to larger projects and soon was sewing many of her own clothes, including her prom dresses for high school dances. It was about that time a young man who went to Provo High began to take an interest in her and started to follow her around.

"She didn't want anything to do with me," said Richard Root, her husband, and well trained fabric cutter. "But one day a friend told me she was going out with some girls and Diana was in the group and I asked her to introduce me."

The two hit it off and as high school ended, Diana decided that sewing was what she wanted to do. She began working at a small plant in Utah County called Mini-World, a childrens clothes manufacturer. At the time she began the factory only had about a dozen employees, but within a few years had grown to a fairly good sized operation.

Inspiration came fast and furious for Diana. She saw designs of clothes and how they were made professionally, and soon she realized that to really understand fashion design she would have to go to school. So she began taking night classes at Brigham Young University on clothing design.

"That opened my eyes to a lot of things I never thought about," she said. "It gave me ideas that I even use today."

The romance with Richard that had begun with as a small bud blossomed and soon they were married. Almost as immediately, Richard got a job with Utah Power and Light and was told he would serve his apprenticeship in Carbon County.

The two Utah County kids would be moving next door, so to speak, but it was a big move for them. They didn't know what to expect. But when they got here and settled down they realized what a great place eastern Utah is.

Diana continued to sew and after going through two sewing machines doing work on the side during her time working at Mini-World, she was going to do the same thing in Carbon County.

But then she discovered aerobics and found she liked that too. So she and a partner opened a workout center in Price called Breakaway Health and Fitness and they began to operate that business. All during the time she was doing aerobic instruction she found herself making leotards and other gear on her sewing machine for herself and her friends who came to the workout center.

The center had a pro shop where they sold various kinds of aerobic outfits. One day the woman who was running the shop asked her why she didn't make some of the things she had been making everyone else and sell them in the shop.

So she made some and things began to sell.

Diana Root does many kinds of work for people who want customized uniforms and dancewear. Being an aerobics instructor, she knows what works and what doesn't during heavy physical workouts.

At the same time Diana was in the middle of aerobic success too. She competed in the most physically fit woman contest in Utah a couple of times and took fourth in the state once and was the runner up one other time.

Eventually the Root's closed their workout center and Diana began to concentrate on her love of sewing again. Many people from around the area, such as dance teachers and instructors had approached her about making original uniforms and costumes as well as supplying a modification service for those pieces of clothing that had been bought off the rack or out of catalogues. Business began to boom and has done so ever since.

"I have made costumes, dance wear and other stuff for people all over the state," said Diana. "Sometimes I get overwhelmed with work."

Statewide her credits include doing work for the University of Utah, Utah Valley State College, Orem, Copper Hills, Olympus and Cyprus High Schools, just to name a few.

Locally she has done work for the College of Eastern Utah, Carbon High, San Rafael Junior High and many, many private individuals.

"It used to be my busiest period of the year was dance review time," she said noting that timeline ran between just after Christmas and May. "Now I am busy all the time, year round."

Time is the key word. She still teaches aerobics and according to Richard is not a morning person.

"Oh she gets up early enough, but she doesn't start sewing until around noon," he stated. "She does lots of other stuff in the morning."

All of the work is done out of the Root's home in north Price. The amount of work that is performed there shows, just by the supplies on hand. Bolts of clothe fill the basement, and much of the garage. Even the front porch acts as a temporary storage area sometimes.

Pressure is the name of the game. Often people give her little time to design and put together a costume or special outfit.

"Sometimes people give me two to three months," she states. "Other times they need it in a couple of weeks. I try to get it done for them."

Richard says the word "no" does not exist in their business; even when the pressure is great.

Using electric sheers, Richard Root cuts out patterns on the kitchen table for the seamstress, Diana, his wife.

"We have pulled a lot of all nighters, especially when we have had other things to do," he said. "In fact that is how I got into helping with this enterprise."

One night about 15 years ago Diana had so much to do she was almost in tears. She asked him to cut out some patterns and he reluctantly agreed, saying, "But only this once."

Soon Richard wouldn't let her touch the sheers, electric or manual, anymore. It had become his job.

"Now I have to chew her out because I am better at it than she is," he said, and she agreed. "I used to love to build things, an still do. But most of the time I trade in my building belt for a cutting one nowadays."

Diana, and Richard for that matter, get a pure satisfaction out of the business they have built.

"I do a lot of custom work for people," she says. "You know not every kid fits into the standard sizes that come off the rack. People also want to be a little different from one another, even though they may be wearing the same thing as the person next to them. I help them with that."

She also has helped out in emergencies. A number of years ago, some of the CEU basketball players uniforms came up missing and the coach and players at the time turned to Diana for help on short notice. She came through.

"I love the design and sewing, but I think I like the challenge of it best of all," she said. "People often want things done just a little differently or sometimes they have lost some piece of clothing that was dear to them and they want it replaced just like it was."

A delicate balance in a business where people demand satisfaction.

And always a delicate work in progress.

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