A brief recap of my interview with Joanne Banko
On Monday, June 28, 2021 I was invited to guest-Zoom with Joanne Banko on her new channel, Sew… Let’s Talk! We had a wonderful conversation about sewing, my favorite sewing machine feet, a quick tour of some my sewing space storage and some of the samples I made for The Book (Creating Couture Embellishment). I could talk to Joanne for hours. She’s engaging, curious, well informed about sewing and sewing related topics and just plain Nice! You can find the recorded/YouTube version of our conversation here.
Joanne and I met in Cleveland OH during a taping of It’s Sew Easy, series 1500. Joanne was filmed after me, but was there for my filming to help set up the Brother sewing machine for the Sashiko technique. (You can see my post about that experience here.) Joanne and I both belong to Craft Industry Alliance, which you can find here, so we get to wave and briefly chat at the monthly Roundtable Zoom meetings.
So… the samples I showed to Joanne and her subscribers started with a simple sleeve with gathered ribbons adorning the hem and then black velvet sleeve with pink-gold trim couched down the length. (I’m not adding photos of the sleeves to this post as I hope you will watch the YouTube interview. The sleeves start at 26:44.) Next we talked about changing the hemline of a sleeve and adding trims to accent that change: the silver sleeve with dark green trim and the grey short sleeve with sequin trim. From there we looked at using both sides of a fabric: shiny & matte finishes on a piped sleeve and a jacquard weave with an added single feather. We also looked at using both sides of a trim. Using both sides of a fabric or a trim is easy because the colors always match. We always have long discussions about which colors “work together” in our house as we each see colors very differently.
From the website of Optical Masters of Denver CO comes this scientific description:
The vision process is the same for every person. However, color perception is different in some people. Color perception (or the colors you see) depends on if parts of your eyes are working correctly. We mentioned the retina of the eye and how it is a light-sensitive tissue that communicates with the brain. This thin layer of tissue houses millions of microscopic light-sensing nerve cells that we call rods and cones. These are the cells that send impulses to your brain, interpreting colors from light waves.
Rods and cones don’t work the same in every person. They may malfunction slightly, meaning your color perception is only a little off. However, severe forms of abnormal color perception are referred to as “color blindness”. This means that people with color blindness aren’t aware of specific color differences like the rest of the population is. You may see a stop sign as being bright red, while someone with red-green color blindness sees that stop sign as a hue of green. 8% of men and 0.5% of women have color blindness. In many cases, this trait is inherited by males from a mother who had genes for abnormal photo pigments. This will make the cone cells work differently in the eye than they should.
But I digress…then I showed two sleeves with beads: picot trim and beaded net fringe.
Next we talked about adding lace or trim to a garment and then cutting away the under or base fabric. -The add and subtract method is similar to Applique but with two more steps; after the lace or trim is appliqued,
Both of these samples were Bodices: the Lace Trim chapter opener and Crochet chapter opener (the Crochet chapter was cut when we ran out of space!)
Finally, I showed Something Seriously Elegant: the Hollyhock sleeve sewn in an ornate silk jacquard and organza and Something Seriously Fun: the Loose/Single Sequin sleeve sewn in cotton chicken fabric with “wings.”
I answered some of questions from the Chat and our hour was up. I think the final sleeves summed up our talk: serious, elegant and fun! Thank you so much Joanne!
Hi! Once again I’m a day late and maybe a dollar short but….
At 7 pm EDT on June 28, 2021 I will be talking with Joanne Banko on her series: Sew Tell Me…I am very excited about the show; we are going to talk about sewing, some of the samples from Creating Couture Embellishment, maintaining your sewing mojo and lots more. I hope you’ll join us on Zoom live here:
The recorded interview can be found here.
I will be teaching some new classes, some on Zoom and some In Person! If you’re interested in any of these classes send me an email: Contact Me
October 2, 2021 10-12n with Atlanta ASG (American Sewing Guild) in Atlanta, GA:The Bodices from Creating Couture Embellishment
October 2, 2021 2-4 pm with Atlanta ASG (American Sewing Guild) in Atlanta, GA:Carnations & Leaves from Ribbon Flowers
October 30, 2021 9-12n with ASDP (Association of Sewing and Design Professionals) Conference in Boise ID: Writing About Sewing
February 8-9, 2022 with the NTGM (Needlework and Textile Guild of Michigan) on Zoom, 3 classes: Feathers, Chinese Knots and Channel Quilting (Boutis Provencal)
I am making KITS for some of the techniques in Creating Couture Embellishment. So far, I have great Reverse Applique Kit. The Reverse Applique Kit has 2 new design to try: one in paper and one if fabric. The kit has all the materials you will need to complete the designs and more detailed instructions and photos than shown in The Book. Still churning about in brain is a Carnation Kit and more…
Coming soon: a blog post about the Reverse Applique Kit and directions on how to get one!
I have another article in Threads magazine! Woo Hoo! This article is about Needle Felting: applying wool roving and/or wool batts to a wool fabric with a special barbed needle.
Here is a photo of the jacket I made to showcase Needle Felting, on the index page of Threads, issue #212. (I forgot to take photos of the jacket when it was completed!) The white wool is from Gorgeous Fabrics /gorgeousfabrics.com. The jacket pattern is from Fit for Art Patterns https://fitforartpatterns.com/. The wool roving and batts are from Big Sky Fibers Arts https://store.bigskyfiberarts.com/.
Needle Felting is a wonderful technique that was supposed to have a chapter in Creating Couture Embellishment. The chapter was cut because I exceeded the 400 page maximum and Needle Felting was deemed “too crafty.” In retrospect, I think my samples were not elegant enough to adequately represent needle felting. Thank you Threads! for letting me make new a Needle Felting sample to accompany this article. I think “crafty” does not apply to this jacket!
The editors at Threads are wonderful editors; they took my over-long article and cut it down to fit into six pages with out losing the basic information needed to explain the technique. Being a good editor requires being able to see the big picture and being able to trim away all the extra bits & bob to get to the heart of the story. This is not something I can do. I get so excited about all the bits & bobs that I try every variation to see what how they all work. In the end, I know what works well and what doesn’t work but I’ve got twice the material that’s needed. I guess that’s why I’m a writer, not an Editor, with a capitol E. Good thing I’m associated with great Editors.
So now- to get back on topic- Needle Felting… I’ve assumed that you have access to Threads magazine and/or know something about Needle Felting, so I am not going though the basics of Needle Felting. Instead I will explain some of my designing process.
Pictured above is the basic shell of the Tabula Rasa jacket from Fit for Art patterns, partially sewn together and draped on my dress form. I placed Blue Painter’s Tape on the jacket to mark the waistline and the same horizontal line on the sleeves. Having a horizontal guideline across all parts of the jacket facilitated the designing of the needle felting.
If this design were for me I would have kept the jacket on the dress form for most of the designing phase. However, Threads uses models that wear size 8-10 and I wear a size 12-14. I was afraid that keeping the jacket on my dress form for too long would stretch out the wool along the neckline and sleeve heads; those areas were susceptible to stretching as the cut edges have varying grain lines. Additionally, in my studio, photographing in-progress garments is easier on a flat surface than on the dress form.
This photo shows the jacket laid flat. Threads cropped out the background for the article; you get to see the unedited version of this photo. The side panels were sewn to the front panels and are at “the bottom” of the photo. Eventually the side panels will be sewn to the back panels. The sleeves extend out to the sides, with the underarm seams un-sewn.
Knowing the article was going to be in the Fall issue of Threads I ordered wool roving and batts in autumnal colors: maroon, dark red, medium red, pumpkin orange, yellow gold.
Initially, I was thinking of an ombre pattern, going from dark around the neck to lightest at the hem. That iteration was so far from what I imagined that I didn’t even take any pictures.
Then I played with blocks of wool batt. This was not what I had imagined either.
I tried adding some twisted roving between the batt squares. The twisted roving didn’t help.
Back to the drawing board… I remembered this photo of Water Lilies from Pinterest.
That led me to a William Morris coloring book (ISBN 978-1-62686-882-3), which led to me to a Victorian wallpaper book (ISBN 978-0-486-46135-9) and this design.
I simplified the design to create this stencil. The stencil separates into 2 parts: a negative stencil, where the design elements are empty spaces and a positive stencil, where the design elements are solid forms.
The stencil cut into 2 parts: negative and positive pieces.
I placed the positive stencil pieces on the jacket. Once I was pleased with the design I took a photo of the jacket so I knew where everything went.
I had to try some techniques and color combinations on a wool scrap before I started.
Starting: the stencil crosses the horizontal guideline.
A completed flower, with a glimpse of the blue tape on the right.
This photograph shows the jacket nearly all felted. Of course, as I worked on the needle felting, the design changed. The vines on the lower left front of the jacket were shortened (on the bottom right in the photo.) A vine was added to the right side panel and more flower buds were added to the back.
I added fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. Initially, I intended to add fusible interfacing only to the main parts of the jacket, but the interfacing changed the color of the wool just slightly so I added the fusible interfacing to the whole jacket. The fusible interfacing added support for the jacket and locked the felted wool to the jacket a little bit more. Then I sewed the jacket together. The entire jacket was lined for comfort; I find wool very itchy.
I didn’t put the jacket on my dress form when it was completed because I was afraid of stretching it, so I only looked at the jacket from the front and then from the back. In retrospect, I wished I had felted more on the back. The back has a lovely light, curvilinear vine pattern, much like a Western shirt. The front has the same curvilinear vine but accented with the heavy Victorian flowers. A few more vines trailing down the back, with a Victorian flower or two would balance the jacket’s design better. Oh, the things we see after some time away from a project!
Aren’t they amazing?
PLEASE JOIN US IF YOU ARE IN THE BALTIMORE AREA ON JANUARY 9, 2019!
I WILL HAVE COPIES OF CREATING COUTURE EMBELLISHMENT TO SELL .
I’M HAPPY TO AUTOGRAPH YOUR COPY.
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
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…
I wrote an article for ASG Notions Magazine, vol. XXII, no. 4, Fall 2017 about Embellishing Ready to Wear shirts.
I made an apron and a hat for auctions at the School of Fashion Design to benefit the Scholarship Fund.
I wrote an article for Threads Magazine, issue # 202, April/May 2019 about Soutache trimming on a wool jacket
I indulged in Procrasti-learning, as in: I can’t write blog posts until I learn PhotoShop.
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!
I’m even thinking about writing another book- something I swore I would never do. (Cue James Bond and Never Say Never Again).
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.