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?




Alice’s Kimono

My niece once removed Alice received a child’s kimono similar to this one from her aunt/ my cousin Abby.

Colorful Japanese children’s kimono on dress form

Child’s kimono on a dress form


Alice wanted to alter the kimono by shortening the torso and sleeve lengths so she could wear it as a fun top. What a great idea! I started by taking apart the sleeve and torso hems. The more I took the kimono apart the more the dirt and stains on this lovely fabric became apparent.

Here, at the center of the photo, you can see the lines of dirt that marks the clean seam allowances that had been tucked inside the sleeve.   Alice and I agreed to take apart the rest of the kimono and wash it to see if we could reduce the dirt.

Here is the same piece of fabric after washing. There is still a clear dirt/seam line, but lighter, and the entire piece is much cleaner.


These two kimonos, the one pictured on the dress form and the one Alice received, came from my grandparents. My grandparents spent several years working in Japan in the early 1960’s; when they came home they brought a kimono for each of the girl grandchildren. We wore the kimonos for special occasions, Halloween costumes and dress-up fun. I would not be surprised if Abby’s kimono was never cleaned. Dry cleaning was a luxury for us and with the wool interlining, the kimono would have been difficult to wash.

To quote Wikipedia and Liza Dalby: Kimonos are traditionally made from a single bolt of fabric called a tan. Tan come in standard dimensions—about 36 centimetres wide and 11.5 metres long—and the entire bolt is used to make one kimono. The finished kimono consists of four main strips of fabric—two panels covering the body and two panels forming the sleeves—with additional smaller strips forming the narrow front panels and collar. Historically, kimonos were often taken apart for washing as separate panels and resewn by hand. Because the entire bolt remains in the finished garment without cutting, the kimono can be retailored easily to fit another person.

Dalby, Liza (2001). Kimono: Fashioning Culture. Seattle: University of Washington Press. ISBN 9780295981550. OCLC 46793052.

Once the kimono was partially sewn back together, I draped 2 different pieces of fabric to try as new collars.

I thought the light teal polyester worked better with the bright colors of this children’s kimono.


Once the kimono was the kimono and sleeves were shortened, I applied a bias strip as the collar and along the sleeve edges.


Alice’s completed kimono with light teal collar and sleeve bands and 4-strand flat braid closure

Alice’s completed kimono

Close up of 4-strand flat braid closure that can be added using hidden buttons

Close up of the removable braid closure

I braided some bias cord to use as fastener at the front. Alice said she wasn’t sure she wanted a fastener, so I made the braid removable by sewing some clear buttons into the kimono. The braided tie can be hung on the buttons or unbuttoned to be removed.

Alice wearing her remade kimono top

Here is Alice wearing her new kimono.