Which way should I go?

Just when I thought I wouldn’t be teaching anymore, I was asked to teach a class at the ASDP Conference in October.  So much for my understanding of The Way I Am Supposed to Go.   “What?” you ask, “No teaching?  How did you get there?”  Let me explain…

Since Creating Couture Embellishment was published in August 2017

My book, Creating Couture Embellishment sitting on my work table.
Creating Couture Embellishment aka CCE

 

I have applied to various conferences and conventions to teach. For one reason or another, all of my proposals were rejected.  To make this more insulting, many conference/convention organizers never wrote to say, “Thanks but no, thanks.”  I thought about teaching in small fabric stores and studios around the country, but that has a whole bunch of other problems, the most serious of which is that I don’t have a big mailing list of students who want to take a class with me. So despite the fact that:  I have taught at a post college level for more than 10 years before writing CCE,   I love to pass on the sewing and pattern-making knowledge, and I am a very good teacher (I really am), I thought the universe was telling me, “No teaching, go another way.”

I found another way to go…

A cuff with Braided Bias strips pinned to it

Cuff with Braided Bias strips pinned

I wrote an article for ASG Notions Magazine, vol. XXII, no. 4, Fall 2017 about Embellishing Ready to Wear shirts.

Boston University's Seal

Boston University’s Seal

I wrote to various alumni magazines touting CCE.

 

Fleece hat prototype with lots of ribbons pinned to it

SFD hat prototype

I made an apron and a hat for auctions at the School of Fashion Design to benefit the Scholarship Fund.

Navy blue soutache trim sewn to yellow-gold wool in a braided pattern.

Soutache trim around the collar

I wrote an article for Threads Magazine, issue # 202, April/May 2019 about Soutache trimming on a wool jacket

 

Logo of LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning Logo

I indulged in Procrasti-learning, as in: I can’t write blog posts until I learn PhotoShop.

Bixby International logo

Bixby International logo

I made a dress for Rubbish to Runway auction to benefit Long Way Home out of industrial discards of poly-urethane fabric.  Reminder to self:  get the photos of this dress from the photographer!

 An open book

I’m even thinking about writing another book- something I swore I would never do. (Cue James Bond and Never Say Never Again).

ASDP logo

ASDP logo

 

 

 

 

And then ASDP came calling- or rather emailing. To paraphrase their email: since the number of conference registrants is very large, they need more classes. Would I be willing to teach- but not what I had proposed earlier.   OK… Truthfully, having seen the class list I understand that my proposed classes duplicated what other teachers also proposed. We quickly settled on a class topic, which I am calling “An Afternoon of Rose Petals, Sharks’ Teeth and Butterfly Bows.” The class will make some flowers out of ribbon and fabric, some folded ribbon trims and some plain & fancy bows. I am very excited about this class; it should be really fun.

 

Maybe the universe does want me to teach. Or maybe this is a one-off opportunity. Either way, I will keep writing, which doesn’t come easily to me, as it’s a solitary, isolating activity. According to Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, I am an Obliger: good when I have outside imposed deadlines, not so good with my own personal deadlines. You can attest to this, as there has been an eight-month gap in Blog Posts.   I would promise to do better, but I don’t make promises I may not keep.

How do you keep on yourself on track? And how do you manage commitments to yourself?

Rhode Island Sewing Network

On November 6, 2018 I will be presenting a Power Point Presentation to the Rhode Island Sewing Network about my Embellishing Ready To Wear Shirts.  I am excited to meet this group of sewists from Southern New England. Below is the article about me that appeared in their monthly newsletter announcing my talk.

 

Tumbling Blocks quilt pattern spread across a RTW white shirt

Tumbling Blocks on a Shirt

November Meeting Program

November 6th, 2018

We are very excited to welcome Ellen Miller to the RISN in November. She loves to sew elegant clothing, from the simple to the ornate. She is an accomplished professional couture seamstress and experienced college-level teacher of fashion construction. Ellen’s book, Creating Couture Embellishments, was published by Laurence King Publishing, London, in late 2017. Through her company, Ellen Miller, Seamstress, established in 1983, Ms. Miller has created and altered custom garments for hundreds of sophisticated clients. She served for a decade on the faculty of the School of Fashion Design on Newbury Street in Boston, teaching a variety of construction, pattern-making, and couture techniques. In both her professional and teaching work, Ellen uses her craftsmanship and design sense to realize the designer’s concepts, treating each design as a challenge to create a wearable work of art, and in the classroom, to enable all her students to realize their designs. The personal summary: I love to sew clothes. I love taking a piece of flat paper or muslin and creating a pattern, cutting out the garment pieces in luscious fabric, pining the pieces together, sewing and pressing the seams to form a three-dimensional thing that slides over the body giving voice to wearers inner vision of herself. Creating clothes is slow, meticulous work but oh- the final product- it speaks of me: the love and care put in to it and it speaks of the wearer: bold or soft spoken, brightly colored or muted tones, bejeweled or plain- if it accurately represents the wearer- she will stand tall, feel confident, equal to anyone in the room.

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