Threads Gift Guide, 2018

#33 – Threads Gift Guide

November’s Threads Magazine features their annual Gift & Goodies Guide – For the stitchers in your life.

Cover of Threads magazine, novemeber 2018, featuring their annual gift guide

Cover of Novemeber 2108 Threads

Creating Couture Embellishment is among the 16 fabulous items they selected this year. “I’m chuffed!” as the English say. Or as New Englanders say, “I’m wicked pleased!”

one of four books picked for the gift guide is Creating Couture Embellishment

Threads recommendation of Creating Couture Embellishment

Need I say more?

Ellen with a gleam in her eye

Wicked Cool!

Books & Novels about Dressmakers, Fashion and Sewing

Books and Novels about Dressmakers, Fashion and Sewing

I love to read, especially novels that whisk me away to another time and place. I don’t usually read the Bestsellers from the New York Times; I like easier books. I love series of books: Sue Grafton’s A thru X series, P. D. James’s Adam Dalgliesh and Louise Penny’s Inspector Gammach books. I’ve read every Anne McCaffrey novel, Christopher Paolini’s The Inheritance Cycle and of course J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books.  Another terrific book is The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George; I loved this book.  This is just a short list- if you want to know everything I’ve read in the last couple of years join me on Goodreads.


Below is a list of books that feature sewing or fashion as the focus of the heroine. I wrote a 2 sentence synopsis for all of the books, but not a review; there are professional literary critics who write great reviews. The first few books true stories or based upon true events; the others are novels.

cover of Dressmaker of Khair Khana

Dressmaker of Khair Khana

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana, set in Kabul, Afganistan, is the true story of a family’s survival after the Taliban take charge of the city. Organized by Kamila Sidiqi, the women in her family create a sewing workshop to support themselves amidst the chaos of war and the Taliban’s harsh restrictions on daily life. This was a really interesting book.

cover of Kimono


Kimono and Geisha by Liza Dalby. Liza Dalby trained as a Geisha in Japan in the 1980’s: the only western to do so. Geisha is her memoir about that time. Kimono explains the history of kimonos, including the designs, how they have been worn and their social significance.

cover of The Pink Suit

The Pink Suit

The Pink Suit by Nicole Mary Kelby. The novel is based on the true story of Kate, a seamstress employed by Chez Nino in NY City, who made the iconic pink suit for Jackie Kennedy. The suit was designed by Coco Chanel; the design and pattern were purchased from Chanel by Chez Ninon and Kate created the suit. I knew that making a Chanel suit was labor intensive but this novel describes some of the sewing details that go into the creation of a Chanel suit.


cover of Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini is set in Washington D.C., around the time of the Civil War. Elizabeth Keckley, a fine seamstress and former slave, really did make Mrs. Lincoln’s clothes. Jennifer Chiaverini’s fictionalized account of their friendship and Keckley’s life was interesting and the book has been made into a movie.


cover of Circle of Pearls

Circle of Pearls


Circle of Pearls by Rosalind Laker is set in 1650’s England, a time of revolution and distrust. The pearls are Julia’s inheritance, which she pans to wear at her wedding, but the revolution upends many plans.


cover of The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker


The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott follows Tess on board the Titanic as a personal maid for Lady Duff Gordon. Tess and Lady Gordon survive the sinking of the Titanic and later testify in the hearings about the catastrophe.

cover of The Dress Thief

The Dress Thief


The Dress Thief by Natalie Meg Evan addressed the issues of copyright, blackmail and doing what’s necessary to keep from starving. Set in 1930’s Paris Alix, the heroine knows she’s not doing the right thing copying designs but….

cover of The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker

The Dressmaker by Rosalie Ham. I must confess that I saw this movie on Netlix or Amazon and I haven’t read the book. However, it’s a terrific story set in 1950’s Australia involving the complexities of returning home, clothes as a show of defiance, lost memories and revenge.

cover of The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress

The Wedding Dress by Rachel Hauck unravels a mystery surrounding a vintage wedding gown found by Charlotte, the owner of a bridal boutique in Birmingham AL.

cover of Silk For The Feed Dogs

Silk For The Feed Dogs

Silk For The Feed Dogs by Jackie Mallon follows Kat Connelly as she finishes fashion school in London, finds works in London, then moves to Milan, finding her way “In The Industry”.   I really enjoyed this book.

Please send me any recommendations of books and novels about dressmakers, fashion and sewing that you have read and enjoyed.  I would love to accumulate a library of “sewing books” that are fun reads.






My Book has arrived at our house!

My Book has arrived at our house!

My copy of my Book, Creating Couture Embellishments, arrived in late May!!!! I am so excited! The book looks BEAUTIFUL!   The photos are gorgeous, the illustrations are clear, the text is present on the page, but doesn’t fight with the photos. Everyone at Laurence King Publishing did an amazing job: Thank you!

The book cover for Creating Couture Embellishment featuring blue feather neckline embellishment

This project started seven years ago when someone from Laurence King Publishing (LKP) sent an email to the School of Fashion Design (SFD) asking if any of the teachers were thinking about writing a book. Jim Hannon, head of SFD, forwarded the email to the staff.   Hmm…At our Passover Seder that spring, my friend Diana and I had joked that we should write books together one summer; she is a Psychiatrist, I am a fashion design teacher. Should we spend the summer writing together?

At the time my mother was quite sick and needed more of my time, so I was contemplating taking a leave of absence from teaching. Maybe taking care of my mother and writing a book would be just the ticket for me. I spent the summer dreaming about writing a book.

Laurence King Publishing has a very clear book proposal protocol. What is the book about? Who is the target market? Are there other books like this in the market? and more questions in that vein. I had to work hard refining my ideas about this book just to submit the proposal. Once the proposal was accepted, we (LKP and me) thought it take two years to write this 24 chapter book: a chapter a month seemed like a reasonable work schedule. It took me five years to produce 26 chapters, and it took LKP another two years to edit, layout and print the resulting 23 chapter book. (Yes, 3 chapters were cut: Needle Felting, Crochet and Finishing Details, because the book was too long.)

The basis of Creating Couture Embellishments was a class I taught at SFD: Couture Details. Many of the techniques in Creating Couture Embellishments are straight from my lessons, but some of the techniques were subjects I needed to research further. I knew how to make lots of Flowers, but I had no idea how many different decorations could be made from folding ribbon. I knew how to manipulate and sew lace but I never knew the history of lace making and how the nomenclature came about. Researching and making the samples for the book was time consuming but great fun. Learning to photograph the samples and to write in an academic voice was harder. Normally I write in a chatty voice, as though we were having a conversation, but textbooks require an academic voice. “Just snug the ribbon over until it looks right” won’t do; “Pulling gently on the thread, gather the ribbon into petals” is better. The photographs show exactly where the thread goes through the fabric and must match the text. Having good photos for Steps 1 & 3, but not for Step 2 meant that I needed to redo the entire sequence, otherwise the thread could be 3” long in one photo and 6” long in the next photo. Thus, the two-year timetable went out the window and two years became five years.


During those five years my editor at LKP, Anne, never said, “Hurry up” or “What’s taking so long?” Every chapter I submitted was greeted with words of good cheer, followed by edits: photo suggestions, Step improvements, rewrites and general tiding up of the text. Anne, Jodi and many other editors, and I, were careful to get each step right: with the photos and in the text. The results of many years of concentrated work and patient editing are now before me: in this very real copy of Creating Couture Embellishments! Thank you to everyone who helped make this book so beautiful! I hope you find Creating Couture Embellishments helpful, instructive and inspiring.