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A small sign that reads “Ella’s Sewing” is taped to the window of a green house on South Willson Avenue. It’s easy to miss.

Inside, Ella Arthur, 78, has been working for 25 years. She is now retiring and moving to Phoenix to live with her son.

“I’ve loved the variety and the people who are extremely appreciative of my work,” Arthur said. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

On a recent afternoon, she sat in an office chair in front of her sewing machine with a measuring tape around her neck and dozens of spools of thread nearby. Clothing hung on racks and was stacked on every surface.

Arthur hasn’t had much time to start packing and hopes her customers pick up their clothes by the end of next week. What’s left behind, she’ll donate.

She’s taking her sewing machine and several bins of blue jeans with her to Phoenix, where she’ll use the fabric to make bags that she’ll sell at flea markets.

Arthur grew up on a ranch between Winifred and Lewistown and learned to sew at a young age. For many years, she made her own clothes because she could never find any that fit. She graduated from Montana State University with a degree in home economics. She then spent time as a home economics teacher and worked for a few clothing stores in Bozeman before opening her own business.

Over the years, she’s had hundreds of customers. She’s never advertised but has always had a steady stream of work, often starting at 7:30 a.m. and not leaving until 6 p.m.

“I’ll miss all the people coming in and out,” she said. “But it’s time to slow down. I’m looking forward to having time for myself, having time to read a book.”

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Perrin Stein can be reached at 406-582-2648 or at Follow her on Twitter @PerrinStein.

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