SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

Distinguished Alumna Award

Distinguished Alumna Award

On Friday, May 11, 2018 I was awarded the Distinguished Alumna Award by the School of Fashion Design in Boston, MA.

SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

SFD Distinguished Alumna Award

{For those who don’t know the School of Fashion Design in Boston it is a small school that only teaches Fashion Design and related classes: sewing construction, pattern making, draping, sketching, CAD for pattern making, Photoshop & Illustrator, fashion photography, couture details, 2 and 3-D design, fashion history, hand-bag design & construction, shoe design, and so on. All the classes are limited to 15 or so students, with most classes being much smaller. I love the student: teacher ratio; in every class the teacher has time to check in with every student making sure each student has understood and has successfully completed the lesson/homework assignment from the last class. Located in downtown Boston, it has day, evening and weekend classes.}  http://schooloffashiondesign.org/ 

I graduated from the School of Fashion Design (SFD) in 1998, with a Certificate in Clothing Construction and Pattern Making. (SFD only awards Certificates, not degrees.) I started teaching a Level 1 Construction class the following year.  By the time I took a leave of absence from SFD 10 years later, I had taught Construction and Pattern making levels 1 and 2, Construction levels 3 & 4, and Couture Details. I really love teaching, and I’m good at it, if I do say so myself. I love seeing how each student learns: some students need to read a book, some students need to see a demonstration and some students need to do the project themselves. Of course, we all learn best by using a combination of all 3 methods: reading, watching and doing.

My book, Creating Couture Embellishment, came from teaching the Couture Details class, with some bits and pieces from other classes thrown in, too.

As the Distinguished Alumna, I had two duties: helping to select the garments that would be in the annual Fashion Show and giving a graduation speech. The garment selection process is called “Judging”. As in “Is your dress ready for Judging?” “Oh, no. I still need to hem to my dress and add the hook & eye at the top of the zipper on my skirt!” I was one of six judges; all of us are professional fashion people. We were shown over 100 garments and we loved most of them!

The Fashion Show was held a week later, and it was stunning.

Fashion Show program, front cover

Fashion Show program, front cover

Fashion Show program, back cover

Fashion Show program, back cover

Graduation was the following day. The six members of the graduating class listened to three speakers: Dr. Denise Hammon, the current head of the school. Denise, who is retiring, will be sorely missed. She kept tearing up during the ceremony as she said good bye to the graduating class and to the staff at SFD. I spoke next—the text of my speech is below. Olivia Spence, the recipient of the Isobel Sinesi Lifetime Achievement in Fashion Award, spoke next. Olivia told us of her experiences in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970’s as the co-designer of hundreds of outfits for the Saudi royal families’ wedding season. Each woman needed several outfits for each wedding ; there were many women and many weddings. Now, whenever Olivia is unsettled by an upcoming event or project, she tells herself, “If you can manage the royal Saudi wedding parties, you can mange anything!” It was a great speech and wonderful reminder that we can conquer just about anything we set our minds to. Finally the graduates were handed their Certificates and a rose. All in all the graduation ceremony lasted about an hour, just the right length if you ask me!

 

Graduation program, front cover

Graduation program, front cover

Graduation program

Graduation program

Here is my speech. I was quite nervous. I tried not to speak too quickly. I was so pleased when the audience laughed. I have added <laughs> where the audience laughed. Everyone liked my speech. Olivia and I agreed that if we had planned our speeches together we couldn’t have gotten them to compliment each other any better. Hooray!

Good Morning.                  I started to write a speech telling you about the 5 years I spent writing my book, Creating Couture Embellishment and about the 10 years before that, that I spent teaching at SFD and the 20 years before that, that I spent working in the theater. Several people said this would be interesting to you. Two pages into this reminiscence I was bored to tears. <laugh>

I thought about my SFD graduation day – well really all I remember about that day was that on my way up to the podium to receive my diploma from Mrs. Cushing I tripped. <laugh>

I thought about what would I like someone to tell me on graduation day.

Your work should be something that makes you happy.    

It is work so there will be times when it’s really, really hard: when you pin and baste the left sleeve into the right armhole, when rip out every seam you sew, and when press in creases where they don’t belong.     There will be times when you would rather not bother: when you would rather stay in bed and watch Netflix, or be outside in the sunshine. <laugh>     And then there will be times when everything goes right: when the zipper goes in on the first try, when the pockets match, left and right, and the piping goes right around the corner without bunching or pulling. Those are the times that make all the other hours worth struggling through.   And you can say,  “Yeess! I do know what I’m doing!”

Whatever it is that you do: give it your all.

The prime example of this is hemming a gown: the hem you know you should sew by hand, but you really want to sew it by machine because it’s a really full skirt, and it’s way down there on the ground and who’s going to look down there, because if people are looking down there, then your client isn’t very interesting is …  <laugh>  But you know you should sew it by hand because the rest of the garment is really great and to skimp here… This is when you have to step up and give it your all.  Put on some really good music, or an audio book and sew the hem by hand because you know it will be worth the trouble. When you’re done you’ll be able say, Yeesss! It was worth it!

Don’t worry that you don’t know everything.

It’s true, you will never know everything- that’s impossible. There’s always something new to learn- My sister is a Harley Davidson Motorcycle dealer in Wyoming. She taught me that Harley Davidson Motor Clothes have extra long sleeves. That’s so that when you’re riding your motorcycle with your arms outstretched, your sleeves will still cover your wrists. Yeess! You have learned something new today! <laugh>

However, you know a tremendous amount. For example, you know about pivoting a dart, adding seam allowance, sewing in a sleeve, a hundred ways to hem a dress.  You know how to design a line of clothes and how to present that line of clothes with hand drawn sketches and computer graphics.  You know the difference between cotton and silk, underlining versus interfacing, 2 way stretch versus 4 way stretch, woven versus braided elastic, wearing ease and something that’s just too big. And you know how to take-in that too big garment to make it fit.  You know how to drape a skirt, a blouse, a dress and a gown. You know how to thread a sewing machine in your sleep and how to model a garment on the runway. And it’s very clear that you know how to create a beautiful, original, custom made white dress for this graduation. So, Yeess! You do know a tremendous amount!

You’re graduating from this “wicked hard”  program at the School of Fashion Design. Congratulations! you’re amazing!

After all of this we trooped off to a delicious Brunch at Post 360.

Brunch Invitation

Brunch Invitation

The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

#19 – The SFD Apron- Seminole Patchwork

The School of Fashion Design in Boston, where I went to school and later taught, has added a December couture detail garment auction to its annual calendar. This year’s garment to be embellished is an apron. I was asked to make an apron for the auction; the apron is due December 1, 2017  for the auction on December 12, 2017.

SFD Apron Flyer

SFD Apron Flyer

Here is rumpled flyer; it’s been through the USPS to get to me.

As I have mentioned before designing is not my strong suit, so I set up a Pinterest board about Aprons. https://www.pinterest.com/coutureellen/apron/ I wanted my apron to be useful: machine washable & dryer-able.On the Pinterest board were photos of apron made from shirts.  My husband recently cleaned out his closet and a bag of his shirts was waiting to go to the thrift store.  There is a standing joke in our house: which blue & white striped shirt will he wear today? Blue & white stripes and Seminole patchwork could work!

The shirts on the table

The shirts on the table

First step: cut the shirts into 2” (5 cm) wide strips. Second step: create an order for the strips. Did I create an easy to replicate repeating order? No, of course not.

The first set of strips

The first set of strips

 

Cut into strips

Cut into angled strips

Third step: cut the strips into angled strips on a 45° angle.

Sew the angled strips together

Sew the angled strips together

Fourth and fifth steps: Offset the strips by one block and sew them together to make the “new fabric.”

Working on the base shirt: I cut away parts of the yellow and blue checked base shirt leaving the fronts shaped into apron-like pieces with the collar. I opened up the collar stitching from the edge of the button placket around through the back neck and forward to the other front placket. I also opened up the stitching on the buttonhole placket that attached it to the shirt front.

Sixth step: Place the strips on the base shirt. When I made the set of strips for the right hand side I had to cut all the strips in reverse to get the diagonal pattern to mirror the left hand side. All good. But when I laid the strips out and sewed them together I saw that I had added an extra set of narrow blue striped blocks into the pattern. I took apart the blocks around the narrow blue stripes, laid it out again and the pattern still didn’t work. I asked my husband to come help. His verdict: I was missing the narrow blue striped blocks. Argh! We placed all the blocks in the correct order and I pinned them into place. Then I took photograph below.

Laying the new fabric on the base shirt

Laying out the new fabric

This photograph shows the missing pieces on the right hand side, as you look at the photograph.

 

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

Close up of the missing pieces with numbers

After looking at the photograph I decided I could still get mixed up so I numbered all the pieces to be added: the strips/columns (vertical) were labeled 1-11 and additions were numbered A-D using bits of masking tape. Columns 1 and 3 just got numbers as they were complete. All the other columns got numbered and lettered A through D as they needed pieces added. I didn’t think to take a photograph of this, but I labeled the photo in Photoshop; I hope the numbering is visible. Column 11 didn’t exist, so I hadn’t screwed up that piecing!

The next steps have no photographs.

I placed the “new fabric” on top of the shirt fronts and aligned the diamond pattern, vertically and horizontally. The raw edge on the right side at center front got tucked into the buttonhole placket and then I re-sewed the placket seam. The raw edge on the left side at center front was folded under ¼” (6mm) and top stitched down to the base shirt, right next to the buttons.

Working across the fronts I matched the vertical seams of the new fabric to a blue stripe in my base shirt, every 3” (5.5mm). These lines were then top stitched/ machine quilted to keep the two fabrics together. There are a few places where my attention wandered while I was top stitching and my stitching line went astray; I left these bobbles as it shows the garment was made “by hand” rather than by machine. OK- I was too lazy to undo the stitching.

Step one hundred: I cut away the extra new fabric around the outside edges of my apron base. Now it really looks like an apron! I stitched all around the edges of the apron at 1/4″ ( 6mm) to hold it all the raw edges together. Bias binding made from a shirting remnant was sewn around the outside edges and made into apron strings. The apron strings were stitched onto the sides in big Xs. Finally the collar was re-sewn catching the top edge of the apron and closing the back neck. DONE!

The completed apron on the table

The completed apron on the table

What I thought would be a one day project was a 2+ day project.

The completed apron belted on a dress form

The completed apron belted

 

The completed apron tied in back on a dress form

The completed apron tied in back

 

I’ll let you know how the auction goes!