Identity By Desgin business offers custom-made clothing, woodwork

Published 3:47 pm Monday, November 15, 2010

Tonya Allen displays a hand-crafted cradle offered for sale, along with other custom-made woodcraft and clothing, at her new Chelsea business.

“I’ve been sewing since I was a little girl,” Tonya Allen said. “I learned on an old pedal machine. My grandmother (Lulu Fowler) told me ‘If you’re going to do it, you need to learn right. So she taught me.”

Growing up, Allen practiced on her dolls, she said, making clothes for all sorts, from baby dolls to Barbie dolls.

In her Chelsea High School home economics classes, under Sarah Conkle, she learned how to tailor-make clothes for people.

“Mrs. Conkle taught me how to fit patterns to people of different sizes,” she said.

About a year ago she began thinking about opening a custom-made tailor shop, and finally told herself, “Don’t just think about it.”

Go ahead and do it.

Taking the name Identity By Design, she had a large, wooden sign made and placed near the road where she lives on Shelby County 36 in Chelsea.

Then she began taking orders for clothing and woodwork items.

She now sews for the public, everything from patches on jeans to men’s shirts and ladies’ dresses, and has been asked to make a prom dress.

An experienced craftsman does the woodwork, Allen said, including everything from beautifully crafted cradles to spice racks.

Allen presently works from her home, but plans to have a shop and showroom built where she can display her handiwork, including some of her own designs.

Her home sewing room now boasts some of her work, which includes a stuffed frog and a laundry bag shaped like a female figure.

“It (the bag) is my size so I can use it as my mannequin when I sew for myself,” she said.

Another mannequin in an unfinished Chinese-style jacket, which she is making for a patron, stands in a corner, while pattern pieces with fabric for another jacket is laid out on the cutting table.

Fashion shows, using outfits she makes from her own designs, are in her dream for the future, Allen said.

But she knows a profitable business can not be grown overnight.

For right now, she’s loving what she is doing and is excited about all the possibilities.

Tonya Allen can be reached by e-mail at or by phone at 545-6169.

Shelba Nivens can be reached by e-mail at