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.

Embellished Shirts

Hello everyone! I have been absent from the Blog-sphere for a while, but I’m back – finally! I had some minor health issues that have been resolved and my sewing has returned! Yippee!

In January (!) I created a series of embellished white shirts for an article in Notions, the magazine for American Sewing Guild. Here is the introduction for that article:

Embellishing Ready To Wear White Shirts

A well-fitted white shirt has been declared an essential item in today’s wardrobe. We have been told that we can dress up the white shirt by adding a suit jacket and look “professional” for any occasion. That’s all well and good, but why settle for a plain white shirt when you can embellish the shirt in a few hours to make a unique garment? By adding ribbon, lace, some cords or Seminole Patchwork you can create a beautiful shirt with original details.

I bought some white shirts from a local discount clothing store and embellished each with a different technique. Using fabrics and trims from my stash, I used a number of techniques to embellish each shirt differently. Inspiration is sure to strike after seeing these beautifully embellished white shirts.

 

a four strand brand sewn to the cuffs and collar of a RTW white shirt

Four Strand Braid RTW Shirt

 

Blue lace replaces the lower sleeve on a RTW white shirt. A lace flower is pinned to the collar

Lace Sleeves on a RTW Shirt

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organza ribbon sewn to the sleeves and front placket of a RTW white shirt

Organza Ribbon on the Sleeves and Front Placket

 

 

 

Seminole Patchwork sewn to the cuffs and pocket of a RTW white shirt

Seminole Patchwork Cuffs and Pocket

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I will post the directions for one or two of the embellished shirts in a future post; I promise.

Since my sewing mojo has returned I created a new shirt that I hope will interest quilters: a Tumbling Blocks embellished shirt. I know several quilters who would like to show off their quilting skills, but you can’t exactly wear a quilt to work, can you? The Tumbling Blocks shirt uses a plain white shirt, with a set of blocks sewn onto one shoulder. Then several single blocks tumble down the front of the shirt, ready to join some mates at the bottom of the shirt.

 

Tumbling Blocks quilt pattern spread across a RTW white shirt

Tumbling Blocks on a Shirt

 

I think the Tumbling Blocks work well enough and are fun enough that I’m now playing with the Spool of Thread pattern. What do think? Do these variations on quilt work interest you?

 

 

 

Lace Presentation at the Boston ASG meeting

#17- Lace Presentation at the Boston ASG meeting

On Saturday, November 4th,  I spoke to about 35 members of the Boston chapter of the American Sewing Guild about Lace and Lace Trim. I had made a Power Point presentation based on the Lace and Lace Trim chapters in Creating Couture Embellishment- my first ever Power Point presentation. I think the presentation was OK, not great, as I was nervous; I know I rushed through the information at the beginning too quickly. I think the middle and end were better, as I slowed down, but I think I relied on information from the book too much and the topic didn’t catch fire in everyone’s imaginations.  Afterwards I overheard someone say, “Well, she certainly knows her subject…” Damning with faint praise.

Because I was nervous, I forgot to take photos at the event–again.   I recreated the display and photographed it in my workroom so you can see what I brought for Show and Tell.

Three shirts and eight sleeves with lace and lace trim on a table

Lace and Lace Trim display

Top row: a new shirt with Lace Appliques going over the shoulder, the Lace bodice, and the Lace Trim bodice from Creating Couture Embellishment.

Bottom row: Sleeves: metallic lace with beads and feathers, lace in a plain seam, lace applique, lace motif, lace around a curve, lace mitered at the corner, lace eyelet insertion, adding lace to beading and lace beading from Creating Couture Embellishment.

 

I started the talk by explaining the structure of lace; I definitely went through this bit too quickly. Then as I talked about how to sew with lace, I passed around some of the flat samples made for the book. Later the bodices and sleeves pictured above were passed around the room too.

Since most of the women in this group are not interested in making an entire garment out of lace, I wanted to show these ASG members that they could easily add a little lace to an existing garment, creating something striking and unique. One of lace’s endearing qualities is that it doesn’t ravel, making it ideal to use for appliques. One of lace’s drawbacks is that the net background that lace is woven onto can be very delicate and can rip, which is why a used wedding gown often has rips near the hem where the train of the gown has caught on something. Often the rips can be mended using a narrow zigzag stitch. But the delicate net background also folds down to nothing, so you can bunch up the net or push the net under the more solid motifs, when appliqueing lace.

I bought 2 shirts at a local discount store: a blue and white striped shirt and a plain blue shirt. The blue and white shirt is a casual shirt. I wanted to maintain the that easy going feeling, but make the shirt unique; I added some cream colored Alençon lace on one shoulder.

Blue & white shirt with lace

Blue & white shirt with lace

Piecing lace for an applique like this is a bit like working a jigsaw puzzle; you move the motifs around until the pieces fit together nicely.

Pocket close up to show lace coming out the pocket

Pocket close up

On this shirt I started the lace coming out of the chest pocket and continuing over the shoulder. On the shirt’s back I pieced a fleur de lis and two large flowers to the lace that came from the front. Once I had the motifs pinned in place I trimmed away the net fabric and the extra bits until I had a single layer of lace motifs.

Blue & white shirt back

Blue & white shirt back

Alençon lace is good to use as an applique because the heavy cordonette that outlines the motifs provide solid outline edges to sew to the garment. The appliques can be sewn to the garment by hand or by machine; in this case I used a narrow zigzag stitch to sew the pieces of lace to the shirt. I also used some tear-away interfacing on the wrong side of the shirt to prevent tunneling by the zigzag stitch.

For a more formal look you could use some blue lace, but I love the way the cream Alençon lace makes this shirt “a little bit country”.

The other shirt I embellished is a blue button down shirt. I wanted the embellishments on this shirt to be more formal and subtle, so the shirt could be worn under a jacket to an office.

Blue shirt with lace embellishment

Blue shirt with lace

This size M shirt doesn’t show very well on my size 4 inflate-able (!) form; she’s listing to the back a bit. The inflate-able forms are wonderful for traveling Show and Tells.

Blue shirt collar close up

Blue shirt collar close up

I added 2 rows of a lightweight, polyester edging trim to the collar. The trim is placed with the footsides next to each other so the decorative headside edges are visible. (The footside of a trim is the sturdier edge of the trim, designed to be sewn to fabric. The headside is the decorative edge of the trim.) Because this a demonstration garment the footside edges of the trim are spaced 1/16” apart from one another so that you can tell it’s two rows of trim, sewn to the garment with line of straight stitches through the footsides.  If I were making this for a client I might butt the two rows of trim together and sew them to the collar with a single line of zigzag stitches catching both pieces of trim. Part of the stitching method decision requires thinking about the look of the under collar: do you want two rows of straight stitches or one row of zigzag stitches on the under collar?  Of course you could sew the trim on by hand catching only the upper collar with your stitches.

Blue shirt arm close up, side view

Blue shirt arm side view

On each sleeve I added a strip of allover black lace. To insert the lace I unpicked the shoulder seams and the cuff seams part way. Next I cut a slot along the straight grain of the sleeve. Then I added a strip of lace to fill the slot, sewing the two fabrics together length-wise, with a ¼” seam. I tucked the ends of the lace into the shoulder and cuff and re-sewed those seams shut. Finally I topstitched the long seams to keep the seam allowances from showing and from raveling. The lace strips aren’t visible  if you are wearing a jacket, so you could wear this shirt to a business meeting. Take off your jacket and you’re ready for a more casual setting.

I’m really pleased with lace additions to blue shirt: it changes up the shirt from one of thousands to one of a kind.

Head Shots

Head Shots

Thursday was a very busy: from 10 am – 1:30 pm I was in Salem, MA with Jess McDougall getting professional Head Shots (photographs.) From 3 pm – 8 pm I was at the School of Fashion of Design preparing for, enjoying and then dismantling, the Creating Couture Embellishment Book Launch Party. It was a long day but terrific!

The Photo Shoot

White Blouse on me

Head Shot- White Blouse

Jess McDougall www.jessmcdougallcreative.com in Salem is a professional photographer who specializes in Boudoir and Fitness photographs; she also does Head Shots  to use for websites and publicity pieces. I wanted new Head Shot photos as the photos I have been using were fairly informal photos that are at least 5 years old. It’s true that those photos look pretty close to how I look now but Jess’s session included full hair and make-up done by her colleague Shannon Rouvel www.shannonrouvel.com which I’ve never done before! As a child of the 1960’s I was brought up to believe that looks mattered less than what was in your head; while this is still true, what’s in your head matters tremendously, looks do matter and trying to live as thought they don’t matter is foolish. (This is a topic for another day’s blog post.) Long story short, this photo session was a HUGE gift to myself and was really fun.

 

After Shannon and I talked for a few minutes Shannon used a curling iron to curl the renegade sections of my hair that don’t curl as much as the other sections. All went along swimmingly except for one lock of hair, on the top of my head, which only curled up and would not join the other locks. Shannon curled it the down, left, to the right, … Finally it sorted of joined the rest of the crowd. I was impressed with Shannon’s unperturbed manner in dealing with ornery lock- and that this stuff happened to her too! On to make-up: unfortunately I had my eyes closed for a lot the make-up application and I can’t tell what she did. I do know that I looked amazing when she was done. Not too different, just polished and with great eyes & lip color. I need to book a make up lesson with Shannon.

Jess has a small but wonderfully light and airy  studio in downtown Salem. The small space made the session less intimidating; it was just Jess and me, casual and intimate. On Jess’s instructions, I brought 4 different shirts that were different colors and have different necklines. I did not feel self conscious or worry about anything, as Jess was clearly catching every detail in each photo. She was clear in her directions: “head forward, chin down- not so much”, “look there, now here,” “tilt your shoulders to the left.” Jess took photos of me in each of the 4 shirts and we were done!  After Jess downloaded the photos into PhotoShop, she had me choose my favorites. I chose 18 favorite photos. Jess and I looked the 18 photos together and quickly whittled the 18 down to 6 based on Jess’s comments.  So fun and easy!

Head Shot- Red Shirt

 

Me in the purple blouse

Head Shot Purple Blouse

Here are the three most formal of the photos.  Which one do you like best?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mother of the Groom Dress

Mother of the Groom Dress

My son is getting married in a couple of weeks. We are all very excited as we love my future daughter in law and her family. The entire event will be outside, from 4 – 10 pm in Massachusetts. The weather could be chilly and rainy or could be warm and sunny; what to wear?

Over the summer I asked my friend Eddi Phillps to design some clothes for me to wear on a book tour (still in the planning stages.) Eddi sketched 10 beautiful designs; we selected 6 for me make.  Eddi also helped me choose fabrics from my stash to use in this project.

Sketch of green princess line dress with swatches of fabric and trim

Green Dress Sketch

I chose this dress design for my Mother of the Groom dress.

I started by adapting my muslin from the shirtwaist dress pattern (in post #3) to a shoulder princess line dress. I sewed the bodice pieces to their corresponding skirt pieces and fiddled with vertical seams until the pieces laid flat on the worktable.

The center back seam opened so the pieces can lay flat.

The center back seam opened so the pieces can lay flat.

Here is a close-up of the back panel showing how the center back seam had to be opened up to accommodate the pattern changes. (The fabric peaking out from behind the muslin along is the lining layer.)

 

All the pieces laid out in order on the worktable.

All the pieces laid out in order.

I cut out the dress in a lovely dark teal that I bought from Zimman’s Fabrics in Lynn, MA. http://www.zimmans.com/

I cut out the lining in a dark Bemburg rayon; I love the feel of the Bemburg against my skin and it sews up beautifully.

After sewing the dress and lining I put the dress on my dress form and started to pin the trims in place. The trims are from Daytona Trimmings Co. in New York City; they don’t have a web site.

Trim pinned to the back of the dress.

Trim pinned to the back of the dress.

Designing is not my well developed area. The change from lace and rat tail in Eddi’s design to this flat, rectangular trim and rat tail trim has thrown me for a loop. I can execute a design, but making something up isn’t something I can do. I have fiddled and diddled with the trim for the better of two days and this still doesn’t look anywhere near what Eddi designed.  Argh…

Time to re-group…

 

 

 

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