Would You Like A Bookplate?

Would you like a Bookplate?

I was looking back at some comments (just a little procrastinating…) and found several people had wondered about getting a bookplate for their copy of Creating Couture Embellishment (CCE).

A Bookplate is an autographed label you can put into your copy of CCE.

Generic Bookplate

A Generic Bookplate
Not what you will receive!

I can personalize the bookplate (add your name, a meme, etc.) if you tell me something about yourself or mention a technique you particularly love.

To get a bookplate email me your name, snail-mail address and any details you think I should know.

Email me at: coutureellen5@gmail.com

Happy New Year!

Salmon pink short sleeve with grey Sashiko stitching

Sashiko instructions

Long ago, in June 2019, I promised to post instructions for Sashiko.  Six months later I am finally posting the instructions.   I took the instruction and photos directly from Creating Couture Embellishment, which means the text is quite small; I’m sorry.

In Step 1 of the text below it says to “see box, right” to learn about adjusting the tension of the bobbin case but those instructions have been moved to the bottom of this post.  Enjoy!

First page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

 

Second page of instructions from Creating Couture Embellishment describing how to do Sashiko.

Diagrams and text explaining balanced machine stitching.

 

Inexperience and It’s Sew Easy TV

#35 – It’s Sew Easy TV 1505

In March 2018 I went to Cleveland to video-tape a 10 minute segment for It’s Sew Easy TV. Before I went I wrote about my preparations: Going to Ohio & England!

This was way out of my comfort zone; I was a professional stagehand, backstage, for many years. I think of myself as a support person, not the onstage, out-front person. I had never been video-taped but the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV assured me it was just like teaching. I’m comfortable teaching, so this should be different but fun. OK…

The rest of this post is about that experience, most of which was really difficult. Most of the problems were due to my inexperience and few miscommunications with the producers of It’s Sew Easy TV. Also, I want to emphasize how much I admire the people who do this really well- like Joanne Banko and Angela Wolf of It’s Sew Easy TV.

At home I prepared my 10 minute speech and my samples. I practiced at home in front of my cousin and my husband, until they could recite my lines. Then I packed my large suitcase filled with clothes and samples and flew off to gray, sleet flecked Cleveland.

The It’s Sew Easy TV offices and studio is in an industrial park: gloomy and unwelcoming. I opened the door to the offices and was greeted with big smiles by Sarah Gunn, Cheryl Sledoba and JoAnne Banko! Michelle Paganini was video-taping her segments. I spent a lovely afternoon getting to know these lovely sewists. Wicked Cool!

Problem #1: I am not a morning person. I was scheduled to video-tape first thing the next day. I had to be at the studio at 7:30 am for Make-Up. I got up extra early to drink lots coffee before heading for the studio. OK…

Problem #2: After make-up, I went into the studio to set up my samples. That’s when I was asked what was I going to sew during the demonstration? Why…. Nothing! I had all my samples pre-sewn as I didn’t think there would be time to get used to sewing on a new sewing machine before the video taping. Since Bernina is a big sponsor of It’s Sew Easy TV, everyone must sew something on the their machine during their segment. OK…

Problem #3: There was no tele-prompter and when I started to “recite” my script, I was told it too rote. Improvise more. OK…

Problem #4: When I teach I spend a lot of time looking at my students and gauging their reactions to see if they comprehend what I’m saying. When video-taping you are supposed to look at the camera: not the camera man who’s behind and slightly above the camera, the camera. And did you know cameras don’t show any sign of comprehension when you tech them something? OK…

Problem #5: It is really really hard to demonstrate a sewing technique with your hands, explain what you’re doing and look at the camera; don’t look at your hands or at the sample. When I teach I look down at the sample and my hands, look up at the students and make sure they are following along with me, look down at the sample- you get the idea. When you are video-taping a How-To segment, you must look at the camera, not at your hands. OK…

Problem #6: A very small amount of time was allotted for the video-taping of my segment. No stopping or redoing if I left something out or misspoke, both of which I did. Keep talking, even when you forget what you were supposed to say. When I started to cough during the taping I was told to keep going; I finally stopped when I was coughing so much I couldn’t speak. The tape was backed up to where I started to cough and we went on from there. I expected a second recording would be made and the two versions would be spliced together to get a good version. I didn’t know there would be no second recording until we were “through” the segment. OK…

Problem # 7: In an effort to streamline my presentation I simplified my presentation. In fact, I simplified it so much it’s completely incomprehensible! OOPS…

Solution to problems #1-6: If I am ever recorded again I will rehearse with a professional director recording until I am comfortable with the results on the tape, be recorded while teaching a class with students present. Combining both of these solutions would probably be the best: rehearse a ton and have students present.

To anyone who tried to follow my directions for Sashiko from It’s Sew Easy TV the directions in my book, Creating Couture Embellishment, are very clear and good. I will post the direction in my next blog post; this blog post is plenty long!

A second technique was recorded immediately after Sashiko: Flounces. I don’t know when It’s Sew Easy TV will be airing this segment. I haven’t seen it. I hope it’s better than the Sashiko segment.

Have you had an experience like this? Something you thought would be fabulous, but turned out to be awful?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/1628367-ellen-miller

 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

On not writing

Instead of writing about sewing for this blog I find I am collecting other writers’ thoughts about interruptions while one is writing! Today’s gem is from the poet Mary Oliver.

Mary Oliver: The Artist’s Task

It is a silver morning like any other. I am at my desk. Then the phone rings, or someone raps at the door. I am deep in the machinery of my wits. Reluctantly I rise, I answer the phone or I open the door. And the thought which I had in hand, or almost in hand, is gone. Creative work needs solitude. It needs concentration, without interruptions. It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once. Privacy, then. A place apart — to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.

But just as often, if not more often, the interruption comes not from another but from the self itself, or some other self within the self, that whistles and pounds upon the door panels and tosses itself, splashing, into the pond of meditation. And what does it have to say? That you must phone the dentist, that you are out of mustard, that your uncle Stanley’s birthday is two weeks hence. You react, of course. Then you return to your work, only to find that the imps of idea have fled back into the mist.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page about Mary Oliver:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Oliver

Ms. Oliver’s poetry is sublime; it speaks to whatever your point of view is at the moment.  I find many of her poems speak of Nature’s clothing.  Haha!  There are two snippets of her poems on the Wikipedia page if you have never read any of Mary Oliver’s poetry and there are full versions of selected poems on the internet.  I’m sure you’ll find her work says something unique to you.