SUGAR GROVE – In the winter of 1952, a baby girl was born without a right hand and placed for adoption with St. Vincent Orphanage in Chicago.
This little girl never met her late biological parents, but there’s no doubt she would’ve made them proud of the sister, friend, wife, mother and grandmother she’s become, as well as of the career she’s prospered in. She remains active today during her retirement, as Sugar Grove resident Terry Janisch now is the owner and operator of OB Sewing.
Janisch, who started sewing when she was only 3 years old, offers complete tailoring and alteration services.
“I can do a lot of things, as well as things people wouldn’t expect can be done,” she said. “I also do home décor, which includes drapes, sheers, pillows and stuff like that.”
Recently, she met an older gentleman who also resides in the Prestbury Citizens Association, and she ended up adjusting a bunch of his shirts.
“For who knows how long, he’d been wearing shirts that were 2 inches longer than he thought he was,” she said. “So I was able to adjust them for him so he wasn’t stuck pulling them up under his sweater and holding them up with rubber bands.”
With Mother Nature being confused and giving the area a “white Thanksgiving” rather than waiting until Christmas to blanket Kane County, gloves and mittens were called to duty earlier than usual this year. Mittens are Janisch’s specialty.
“I went to the Christkindlmarket in Chicago about eight years ago and saw these beautiful mittens that weren’t fraying, but were $65 a pair,” she said. “I figured, ‘I could do this,’ so I got my own patterns, got some sweaters and began making them.”
Janisch makes the mittens by recycling wool sweaters and adds fleece lining. Not only do they keep one’s hands toasty warm, but they’re quite attractive, with a neat, vintage look to them that people likely won’t find anywhere else.
She also creates what she calls “warm and fuzzy” mittens from the sweaters of someone’s mother, father or other loved one who has passed away. She turns them into multiple pairs of mittens for the family to distribute to their loved ones as a one-of-a-kind keepsake.
“Some people aren’t ready to do that right away, because they feel the sweaters will lose something,” she said. “But once they’re ready, that’s something I love to do, and it’s a nice, personal thing for them to have.”
One of the benefits of choosing OB Sewing for new mittens or alterations is that people know Janisch is the only one doing the work, and she’s doing it with love.
She named her company after what she spent 40 years doing professionally as she overcame her disability to become an obstetrics gynecology high-risk neonatal intensive care unit registered nurse.
In other words, she helped deliver thousands and thousands of babies – from when Jennifer and Jason were the most popular baby names in the mid 1970s to when Ava and Aiden were common choices at the end of her career six years ago.
“I had always wanted to be a nurse since I was 6,” she said. “I was going to go away with my cousin to the Cook County Hospital School of Nursing, but my dad, a big Irish Catholic guy, was having none of that.”
That was in the late 1960s, and only a few years after the first random mass murder in the country, when Richard Speck killed eight student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital. Such an unfathomable crime changed the country, and fear didn’t dissipate even a few years later.
Janisch ended up staying at home and commuting to Triton College instead.
“I got laughed at in nurse’s school because they didn’t think I could do it [without a right hand],” she said. “After my first semester, the director of the nursing program was surprised I had made it that far, but she told me I wouldn’t be able to do what came next, but I did it.”
By 1974, Janisch was a full-time nurse and helping deliver 250 to 300 babies a month at West Suburban in Oak Park. She would remain there for 15 years.
Although she loved being a nurse, Janisch never forgot about her love for sewing. Even while studying for her nursing degree, she was taking sewing classes, such as tailoring and advanced cloth construction.
“I took classes, but a lot of it was also self-taught,” she said. “When you know how something is put together the right way, and you can deconstruct it and make any alterations and put it back, then you know what you’re doing.”
Delivering babies and hemming pants without a right hand has never troubled her. Even cruel teasing from classmates during her youth never fazed her.
“Kids would make fun of me, but I never let it bother me,” she said. “They’d call me ‘Stubby’ and ‘Lefty’ or whatever, but I never came home crying. My parents were strong, and they raised me to be strong and made sure it didn’t bother me. I can’t say there weren’t times where it didn’t bother me a little, but there was nothing I could do about it, and if anyone doubted I couldn’t do something, I’ve proven them wrong.”
The inevitable ups and downs of life continued in her later years, but she’s been able to roll with whatever comes her way. As she neared retirement from nursing, her husband, Jim, lost sight in one eye in 2012.
Then, 18 months later, just as she was getting used to being retired at home, Jim lost sight in his other eye.
“I’ve always been strong with my Catholic religion,” she said. “I do a lot of praying. I pray the Rosary in bed at night, and I have a great family, a great husband, great children, great friends.”
For information about OB Sewing, call 630-936-1351.