Dear ASDP Board
This year at the Strategic Planning meeting, the National Board accomplished quite a bit. One of the ideas that came out of it was to bring back the Chapter of the Year award. Parameters for this will be discussed with the Chapters at a later date, but in plenty of time before the start date of October 1. I hope that all Chapters will participate, but it is not mandatory.
Unfortunately, due to the nasty winter weather this year, many of our chapters had to cancel meetings. However, they made up for it with some exciting programs and activities once the weather got better.
The Great Plains Chapter had to cancel their December, January, and February meetings due to weather.
For their March meeting, they saw the Katherine Hepburn exhibit “Dressed for Stage and Screen” at the Durham Museum in Omaha. This featured 35 costumes from 21 films she had starred in. At the Durham, they also saw an exhibit from the Omaha Community Playhouse featuring costumes from some of their productions. Following dinner, they attended that evening’s runway show for Omaha’s Fashion Week that is considered to be the fifth largest fashion event in the United States. It was a full and wonderful day especially since they had had to cancel the three previous meetings.
In April, Ruth Ciemnoczolowski presented a wonderful program for them in which she shared her experience in the Passion for Fashion contest at Novi. They were able to see her beautiful winning bridal ensemble. She also talked about her participation in the half scale competition at Novi and showed them her gorgeous Charles James inspired gown. Ruth also did a presentation on body types for them.
For their May meeting, they are planning to go to the Hillestad Gallery on the University of Nebraska campus and see a costume exhibit of Bill Blass, Geoffery Beene and Oscar De La Renta creations. This exhibit establishes the mood of American fashion in the latter half of the 20th century.
The New Jersey Chapter was happy to bid adieu to winter weather and welcome spring with open arms!
Several professional workshops were held to update patternmaking and fitting skills. Chapter member Sharon Zydiak helped members and guests draft and fit a personal moulage and then create a sloper. Another weekend found them traveling to former member Susan Kolar’s Pennsylvania studio to learn how to draft different types of sleeves for their slopers.
They also spent a busy Saturday (and many hours afterwards) altering prom gowns and tuxes for area teenagers at a local Cinderella’s Closet boutique. Being a fairy godmother (or godfather) is a very rewarding experience!! It’s great hearing about how our Chapters give back to their local communities.
They are also in the process of developing a chapter website, and appreciate the fine jobs done by the Colorado and New England Chapters!
The Wisconsin Chapter has had a busy late winter and spring! In February, they met at Sue Tenney’s for muslin fittings of the Tabula Rasa jacket by Fit for Art Patterns, which they hope to wear to Conference (can’t wait to see them!) In addition, Linda McCoy shared a technique she used to support a backless gown.
In March, members met at Denise Severson’s and viewed a fascinating video on Neapolitan tailoring.
In April, because Katherine Merkel was recovering from surgery, they met at her studio for muslin fittings of their sheath dresses for the Threads Challenge, and had a discussion on general business practices. Of course, at each meeting they also had great food and camaraderie, meaning they always left later than the planned meeting time, but time always flies when with great friends!
This from Katherine – “Our chapter members are like a family, and when we don’t meet, we get withdrawal symptoms! Some members drive from a couple of hours away, so it is no light thing for us to get together each month. But it is worth it to each of us as the support, education, and camaraderie is invaluable!”
In March, the Baltimore Chapter meeting was held at A Fabric Place fabric store. They usually hold one meeting a year there. The store is very supportive of the Chapter and ASDP and usually gives them a discount when they meet there. The program for the evening was a Project Runway-type challenge. Attendees were asked to design a cocktail dress for the Preakness. Everyone sketched a design and then looked around the store for suitable fabrics for their design. When all were finished, they showed what they had come up with. It was interesting to see the diversity of designs! And of course, most of us purchased some wonderful fabric while we were there!
At the May meeting, several members will be demonstrating some alterations techniques – shortening, tapering and adding a vent to pants; raising the armhole on a jacket; altering lace seams, etc.
The Heartland Chapter has been very busy so far in 2015. With the exception of January, they have met each month to discuss chapter business and to do some fun activities together. Earlier in the year, the chapter voted on purchasing a college level DVD class on color. They will be watching lessons throughout the year.
Their biggest activity this year was a trip that five of them took to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC in April to see the grounds and the Downton Abbey costumes. They said it was so much fun! On the front end of the trip, they took time to visit with member Judy Gross. Not only did Judy graciously open her home to their group, but she gave them the most interesting and in-depth tour of her factory. She also introduced them to an amazing restaurant in Asheville called Salsa’s, where they all had their most delicious meal! After visiting the Biltmore, they made their way to Gastonia, NC to visit Mary Jo’s Cloth Shop. It was well worth the 1.5-hour detour. Finally, they finished up their trip by swinging by member Cisa Barry’s wonderful new digs. They were all thoroughly impressed and envious of her amazing and wellorganized space.
In May, the chapter plans on visiting a docent-led exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Art called, “Cutting-Edge Fashion: Recent Acquisitions.” They also have plans to continue their color lessons and will make a visit to Chicago in July.
The British Columbia Chapter, besides being hard at work planning our 2016 conference, had a variety of programs this past year. They sponsored a jacketdrafting course taught by Sabine Davis that was well attended. They hosted a draping workshop and also enjoyed a presentation by the Society for the Museum of Original Costume and hope to attend more events of this type. At the Sewing and Craft show in Abbotsford, the Chapter set up an exhibit and felt that the demos they did there were useful, as they drew people into discussion.
The Chapter recently held elections with the following results:
President – Sandy Dunn Treasurer – Marion Goosen Secretary – Carol Lees Members-at-Large – Brenda Breitenmoser and Diana Consell
Every year at their annual meeting, the New England Chapter honors their longtime members by giving certificates to those who have been a member for 5, 10, 15, or more years. This is a lovely practice that other Chapters may want to incorporate into their annual festivities. It is greatly appreciated by the recipients and is an inspiration to the newer members.
Sadly, the Appalachian Chapter will be disbanding this year. Sometimes, when Chapter members live at a distance, it is hard to maintain the energy needed to keep a chapter going. Hopefully, they will all stay in touch with each other and do things on an informal basis. The good news is we are looking forward to the birth of a new chapter in Michigan! They held their first planning meeting on April 30; we hope things will soon be rolling along for them soon. I’ll keep you posted.
Written by Debby Spence, VP of Chapter Relations
Sandra Betzina, 2015 LAA
It always amazes me when one simple encounter has a profound effect. When I was starting my alterations and custom sewing business nearly 25 years ago, I hesitated because my sewing skills were almost completely self-taught, with a few lessons from middleschool home-ec class and time spent sewing with my aunt. I had some books in my reference library: the Singer Sewing Reference Library, the Reader’s Digest Complete Sewing Book, and several Palmer Pletsch paperbacks. I resolved to take every class I could manage in order to advance my skills.
After joining PACC (as ASDP was known then) as a charter member, one of the first well-known sewing celebrity lectures I attended was with Sandra Betzina. Her enthusiasm for garment sewing was, and is, infectious. What keeps her teaching today is her drive to help sewists learn to create garments that look wonderful and fit beautifully, while truly enjoying the process of sewing.
Sandra’s path to teaching sewing also began from an encounter. She always loved to sew, but meeting a neighbor who’d worked in a couture house is what led her to teach others. She felt that other sewists would want to know the techniques her friend shared with her, to make their sewing more rewarding. That led to her decision to open her sewing school (with detours and side trips along the way), to write a sewing column for the newspaper; and to host a weekly segment on a TV news magazine. She has longrunning television shows on two different networks to her credit as well as almost 200 online sewing classes through her Power Sewing website. Five of Sandra’s books are on my shelf now, and several of them are probably on most of yours as well.
Sharing the joy she takes in sewing is what keeps her traveling, teaching groups around the country and beyond - I caught up with her by phone while she was in Calgary, BC for a seminar. Her favorite way to teach is to spend several days with her students, so she continues to offer week-long seminars for small groups at her space in San Francisco, seven or eight times a year. She laughingly told me that she was slowing down a bit, at age 71 - but from the schedule she’s keeping, I can only hope I’ll have the same kind of stamina. The message Sandra would like to pass along to those of us who spend so much timesewing for others is this: take time to make yourself something special every year - it doesn’t have to be fancy, doesn’t have to be special, but it’s a way to remind yourself why you love to sew. Sew for yourself and sew with joy!
Our website describes the Lifetime Achievement Award in this way:
“The Association of Sewing and Design Professionals Lifetime Achievement Award is given annually to a person, organization, or business that has made a profound contribution to the goals that ASDP promotes: sewing, fashion, pattern making, writing, and/or education in the field of sewing and design.”
During my years as a member of the association, I’ve been privileged to meet so many of our past awardees, and to count them among the teachers who helped me along the way. I was very pleased when Debra Utberg informed me Sandra Betzina had been chosen by the board as the recipient of the 2015 ASDP Lifetime Achievement Award, because of my nomination. Sandra is thrilled to be receiving this honor, and true to her constant desire to learn, she can’t wait to hear what classes we are offering at this year’s conference. I look forward to seeing her in Minneapolis this October.
Written by Janee Connor, ASDP member
Although a blog lives on the internet, it is very different from a website, but not so easy to explain (which I learned when trying to explain the differences to a friend recently.)
Before I attempt to detail the differences, let’s start with some terms:
blog --derived from ‘weblog’--an internet site where the blog owner can post information-usually in a conversational tone.
blogger --owner and/or contributor to a blog
post --a single entry on a blog (or as a verb, to add an entry to a blog)
follow --to request to be notified each time a specific blog is updated
follower --someone who follows a blog
One way to think about blogs vs. websites is a website is more like the yellow pages and a blog is more like a journal.
Most websites are informational and don’t change very often. You typically have a page about your background, another page with photos of your work, etc. Each page is meant to be read from top to bottom.
A blog is a series of entries, the most recent usually displayed at the top. A blog changes as often as the owner posts new entries. A blog is also inherently more interactive. On most blogs, readers can post comments at the bottom of each post (think of a post as a single entry in a diary or journal), and the blogger and other readers can respond. Some blogs require the blogger to approve all comments before they are available for the public to view.
So, what’s so cool about a blog and why would I consider doing one? It is much faster and easier to post information on a blog, including links, photos and videos, than most websites. Blog software is usually WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get), and provides easy access to data about your followers/readers. Blogs tend to be more conversational and less formal. And, because the blog changes each time the blogger enters a new post, people tend to either follow a blog by signing up to be notified of updates or check back on a regular basis for new content.
For creative types like us, a blog can be an excellent way to show the process we go through when working on a project. For example, each day for a week you could post photos of your progress. This way, clients can see the care and detail that goes into a garment as well as help them to understand why they can’t get that custom strapless gown in time for this weekend.
The downsides - with any public information, as professionals we need to be careful what we share with current and potential clients and business contacts.
If you choose to start a blog to promote your business, always keep in mind that anyone will be able to see what you post, forever. (No take-backs!). You may shoot yourself in the foot without realizing it.
I just got back from a trip to Europe where most of my free time was spent in fiber-related activities. I would LOVE to post photos of all the gorgeous stuff I bought, but I could risk disqualifying myself for the next challenge since I may be using some of what I bought in some of my garments. You must also be careful about photos you post - copyright laws apply to blogs as they do on websites, so unless you know the origin of the image and have permission to post it, just don’t do it.
Finally, and in this case, “do as I say, not as I do”, check your blog posts (or have someone else do it) for typos, misspellings, broken (non-functioning) links, etc. I really should be better about this since I make my living testing software, but hey, no one’s perfect.
Blog or website? This depends on your budget, your available time (or whoever you manage to trick into doing it), and your clientele. Blogs are gaining more popularity, but aren’t the best place for the type of information typically found on a website, and older users still seem to prefer websites. If you plan to have only one or the other, and don’t expect to have the time to update a blog more than once a week, stick with a standard website. Blogs are living things; and if you don’t update them often enough, folks just stop checking in. If you only want to do one and you’ve got lots to say and show, and the time to post regularly, go with a blog.
Best case in my opinion is do both. Use your website to provide practical information, galleries of your work, directions to your studio, etc., and use your blog to keep in touch with current and potential clients on a more personal level. You can post after conference about all the great new techniques you learned, remind them to bring in alterations and new projects early, before your schedule is filled with wedding gowns and prom dresses, review the latest Red Carpet fashions, etc.
Whichever you choose, always make sure your contact information is quick and easy to find--the last thing you want is an excited client who is unable to contact you right away.
Written by Juliette (Kimes) Howland
Despite the winter weather, our Chapters are managing to get together for some inspiring events, programs, and fun!
Seven members of the New England Chapter visited the American Textile History Museum in Lowell, MA in January. Here is what they said about their excursion:
“Artist Textiles, Picasso to Warhol” The exhibit was in two spaces, the regular special exhibit gallery and the upstairs gallery. It consisted of fabrics designed by famous (Picasso! Calder! Warhol!) and not so famous (Steinberger and others) painters of the 20th century. Some pieces were actually headscarves, most were fabric: printed woven, or painted. Picasso famously stated that his fabrics were not to be used as upholstery. It was ok to lean on his work, but not sit on it. There was only one photo of the artist (in this case, Picasso) with the artwork that was made into fabric. It would have been interesting to see some other similar photos, to see the artist’s work and how it was translated into fabric design.
Most of the fabrics really related to the era in which they were made- the big bright 60’s prints and the earthy 70’s colors. There were quite a few dresses on dress forms showing the cut and style of the era. One dress bothered us couture seamstresses; it looked like there had been no effort at all to match the fish print at the front closure, which looked strange to us. We did not know if that was a sign of the 60’s, when the dress had been made, i.e., purposely unmatched, but we did not like it! Some of the prints were, ah, interesting, others we thought could be used today; everyone had a favorite. We were sorry that the fabrics (replicas) could not be purchased in the museum shop, although there was a nice catalog of the exhibit.
We wandered into some of the permanent space where the textile exhibits continued to be fascinating... Jen Stern got the blower to work on the “feel the wind resistance” hands-on piece. We were surprised at how much resistance the sheer cotton provided. We guessed that it was because of the tight weave of the fabric.
It was a lovely and not too cold day, so we all walked to the restaurant, Fuse, which was quite close by. The food was tasty and the conversation flowed- we have no trouble talking about fabrics, techniques, family (with grandbaby photos of course), etc., etc.
The Textile Museum is always worth a visit, and though their special exhibits are small, they are worth seeing, sparking conversation and thought and, of course, it is always great to get together with the NE ASDP members! (review written by Pat Kane)
Unfortunately, the Heartland Chapter had to cancel January’s meeting “due to the rampant illnesses that are currently sweeping the Midwest.” They did get to meet before Christmas, however, and had a cookie exchange and watched the documentary, “Advanced Style.” They all enjoyed the film and highly recommend it to anyone in the fashion industry. In 2015, they will be starting a color theory DVD series that they will complete throughout the year.
The Oregon Chapter’s theme for the year is ‘A Year of Sewing Dangerously’. They have all “sewn for quite a while and need to get out of our ruts and boost our creativity”. They kicked off their year of programs with a presentation on Entering Sewing Contests by Robin Bolton, a Chapter member and winner of many awards. She presented material from multiple aspects to encourage members to participate in the many available sewing contests.
Robin began the talk by looking at some of the reasons it benefits you and your business to take part in a contest. Challenging yourself to learn something new, whether working with a new fabric or product or incorporating a new technique was top of the list. Also noted were using the experience as a talking point with potential clients, adding to your marketing material, and PRIZES! Robin made a great point that you should not be entering the contest solely to win, although winning is a great accomplishment, you gain as much by participating. Robin provided a great amount of information about the “technical” aspects of entering. A cell phone snapshot will not do your sewing any favors. Tips to create good photographs of your work: choose colors that show well, use good lighting, eliminate busy backgrounds and show garments on a dress form or a model, as opposed to flat on a hanger. She made sure to emphasize the importance of quality sewing to demonstrate your best skills.
A subject that Robin discussed, that is often not addressed, is proper “etiquette.” Acting in a professional manner during and after a contest shows respect to the planners, judges and other entrants. Being appreciative to the vendors who supplied prizes makes it more likely they will continue to be generous with their donations.
To encourage the Chapter members, Robin brought a stack of entry forms for a few different upcoming contests.
Upcoming programs for the Oregon Chapter will be a presentation “Inspired by Italian Fashion’, and a tour of the Italian Fashion Exhibit at the Portland Art Museum, and “Fitting Dangerous Curves” by Debbie Utberg and Elizabeth Miles with pattern fitting before and after the meeting. They will also be taking a field trip in July to the MaryHill Museum to visit the Theatre de la Mode exhibit. Tricia Crocket will be presenting ‘Looking Dangerously – Sewing with Leather’ in September and November’s meeting will be ‘Dangerously Feeling the power of Industrial Machines’. We all hope the Chapter survives this year of Living Dangerously! The Chapter will also get a chance to hobnob with the National Board when they host them for dinner during the Strategic Planning Meeting being held in Portland.
Other Chapters are also focusing some of their programs on this year’s Challenge. At their meeting in January, Chapter member Debby Spence demonstrated to the Baltimore Chapter how to do a full bust adjustment to a pattern for a darted bodice and a princess bodice. She suggested several ways to decide what size pattern to start with, as that is often the problem when trying to get a good fit. In preparation for this year’s Challenge, they will be fitting muslins for a sheath dress at February’s meeting. The great thing about having a well-fitted sheath is that it can essentially be a sloper to design other garments.
At January’s meeting of the Colorado Chapter, members practiced hand stitches from Claire Shaeffer’s Book, Couture Sewing Techniques. In February they are planning on showing the DVD Looking Good. It’s very comprehensive look at color analysis and garment selection will be useful education for members and a tool for applying the ideas to their clients’ projects. If you didn’t get a chance to catch the Downton Abbey exhibit at Winterthur, DE, perhaps you can go with the Appalachian Chapter on Mar.16 when they tour the exhibit at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville NC. The Biltmore in itself is a fabulous place to tour, so the Downton Abbey exhibit will be icing on the cake! If you’d like to attend, contact Judy Gross or another Chapter member about getting tickets and for all the details. Asheville is a lovely place to visit that time of year! (Or any time for that matter.)
New Jersey Chapter members began the New Year with an inspiring show and tell of special garments created during the past year. February brings a fullday moulage/sloper class taught by Sharon Zydiak. Upcoming meetings will provide opportunities for using their slopers to create different designs. They are also hoping this month to get into Brooklyn to see Amanda Madden’s recently completed studio expansion. In March, chapter members will have the opportunity to help area teens in need at the Cinderella’s Closet Boutique, where they will be fitting and altering gowns and tuxes to help make dreams come true!
The Wisconsin Chapter held their annual Winter Workshop in January in Rockford IL. They started this event 9 years ago with just members from their Chapter but now open it to other neighboring sewing friends. The commitment is to sew only for themselves. They do fittings on one another and share ideas and techniques. They also have a fabric swap that usually includes other items such as machine parts, accessories, notions, tools, books and a lot of inspiration! This year, those in attendance were Sue Tenney, Linda McCoy, Joan Kuhry, Katherine Merkel, Noreen Hoenig, Chris Kazmerzak (all from the Wisconsin Chapter) and Cisa Kubley, Denise Liss, Tina Colombo and (former member) Beki Biesterfelt.
Besides the knowledge and inspiration you can get at a chapter meeting, the socializing and networking is a huge benefit. If you don’t belong to a chapter, perhaps you might like to start one in your area. Also, if anyone is ever travelling in an area where there is a chapter, find out if they are having a meeting while you are there. I’m sure they would love to have you as a guest, and if they aren’t meeting, members may still enjoy getting together with you.
No trip to conference with Rachel Kurland is without its side trips, be it a workshop with Natalie Chanin in Alabama, a trip to the Banta Shoe Museum in Toronto or a fabric crawl back to Vermont with stops at London Textiles in Cherry Hill, NJ and Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, CT. These side trips have added an enlightening dimension, and some serious stash, to our travels.
At Banksville, the owner introduced us to Sulky KK2000 Temporary Spray Adhesive. After watching him spray it on a $45.00/yard silk, fold it into place and reposition many times, I decided this might be a good product to have on hand. Though expensive at $15.99 for a small can, it is very concentrated and seems to go a long way.
I have used it on silk, cotton, wool and many synthetics with virtually no problems. It disappears without a trace and does not gum up needles or other surfaces. The only place the results were not acceptable was on fake fur. I thought it could be useful in holding the pile back while stitching the seams. However, it dulled the sheen of the fur. Testing, as always, is a must.
I have also found it handy to hold pattern pieces in place while doing layouts. It would be ideal for those of you who do applique and quilt work as well as for trapunto as it would stay in place for stitching yet dissipate for stuffing. I love using it to tack up hems for fittings - no pinholes in those delicate silks and chiffons - and can be repositioned easily.
Be aware that this is a lightweight, TEMPORARY, adhesive which will disappear in 2 to 5 days, or immediately under a dry iron, but is not water soluble. For a bit better adhesion, spraying on both surfaces helps.
Written by Kitty Daly, ASDP Member
I am the Mistress/Master of my domain. Now prove it.
How often have you had customers balk at the price you have quoted for a garment? Or, still yet, try to bargain with you on the pricing? Did you ever think this might be because you are still being viewed as the person down the street who sews? They may be unsure that you know what you are doing or how well you can do it and thus hedge their bets for payments. Some of these thoughts may have even crept into your own psyche!
This is a continuing problem in our profession. Yes, we are in a profession, whether we create in our homes (basement, bedroom, etc.) or own a storefront. This is what we need to remember first and foremost. In remembering that, how do you move from “the person down the street who sews” to “professional dressmaker?”
The most obvious way is to enroll in the Master Certification Program. Here in black and white is the proof that you are first a professional, second you know what you are doing, and last but not least, you should be paid accordingly for your knowledge and expertise.
ASDP and its countless volunteers spent many years designing a Master’s Program to help change the public’s understanding of what we do, how well we do it and why we have to be paid accordingly. In the same venue, it gives us pause to know and be able to say and show, “Yes, I know what I am doing and I do it well!”
Take advantage of this opportunity to prove proudly you are the Mistress/Master of your domain and think seriously about getting certification. If you have any qualms, questions, or hesitations, talk to some of the members who have now been certified. They will be absolutely thrilled to help you become a member of their ranks.
There is a saying that if you are not moving forward, you are sliding backwards. (Linda Macke, June 2012) Let’s move forward
Written by Vandarra Robbins, MAS/MSDP Certification Board Member
I thought about sharing what I am doing because anyone can do it, and you can save a lot of money.
I was trying to order some custom tissue paper with my company logo and some cute price tags that were not going to cost me an arm and a leg. Well, most printing companies require a minimum order, but I want to order as I need it and I was not able to find something that was affordable to me. So I thought about making my own logo tissue paper, and my own price tags.
How to make your own logo tissue paper, and price tags without breaking your wallet:
Rubber stamp of your logo - I ordered my rubber stamp on line for $6.00 plus shipping.
Package of 25 sheets of tissue paper - this can cost as little as $1.99 at a dollar store.
Ink pad for rubber stamps, whatever color you want - $2.99 and it lasts forever.
How-to: Open the tissue paper sheet and place the stamp whichever way you like; just make sure you keep a consistent pattern.
Materials: Poster board - in whatever color you like, for as low as $.59 cents a sheet Your logo design Spray glue - $ 4.99 Crochet thread - $2.99
How-to: Open a Word document and add your logo in repeated patterns and print it. Spray the glue on the poster board, add the printed logo sheet, cut to size and punch a small hole for inserting the crochet thread or pin.
Written by Sonia Santos, ASDP Member
In October of 2008 at the ripe old age of 22 I started Sew Fitting, LLC. “Never want to get so big that I have to move out of the house,” I said. “Never want to get so big that I need employees,” I said. Yes well, hat sufficiently eaten on both those fronts. After spending two years growing like a fabric-based slime monster, slowly engulfing the entire apartment, my husband kicked me out. Rather, he took the initiative to look downtown in New Albany and found Sew Fitting a happy new home outside of our very cramped and thread-covered living space.
In early 2011 and pushing 25, I packed up and, with the help of my very first minion (also called Amanda), we trudged down the three flights of stairs in my apartment building carrying my industrial sewing machine, a VERY heavy work table, and “all that fabric” to open our doors in the Metro building. This little hole-in-the wall housed us for a whopping 11 months during which time Amanda moved on. I gained Gabrielle and blasted through a learning curve on the hiring process through several hard-learned lessons. I no longer make the, “It’s hard to find good help these days” joke. I know the difficult truth.
December 2011 saw Gabrielle and me moving a few blocks down the street into the historic White House Centre, which was the place to be in downtown New Albany. Our wonderful new neighbors included unquestionably the best consignment store in town with whom I immediately struck up a great partnership.
Three years and several expansions later, Sew Fitting moved to its newest home as the anchor tenant in the newly renovated Underground Station, a historic building complex constructed in 1832. I now have a staff of five who fill a mixture of full-time and part-time positions and who work in several different capacities, both sewing and non-sewing. The additional employee costs such as payroll, employment taxes and worker’s comp insurance can really add up. However, when weighed against the amount of work they are able to produce and the time they free up for me, it makes it all worthwhile.
The last six years have been a whirlwind and included quite a bit of “fly by the seat of my pants.” I’ve learned some good lessons and I’ve learned some hard lessons. One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced is that my business model is a little out of the norm for our industry. When I have workflow issues, I can reach out to our fantastic ASDP membership for advice. Unfortunately, what works for many sole proprietors doesn’t work when you’re juggling 6 people. What happens when you have a very full day scheduled and someone comes down with the flu, or has a family emergency? When I have employee issues, typical HR sources can only help so much. What do you do when you have problems with an employee, but they would be nearly impossible to replace because of the lack of available skilled labor?
With payroll, a storefront, taxes, utilities, and all the other liabilities that come along, overhead can become daunting. I live in an area with demographics and pricing very similar to many other ASDP members. However, I have far more overhead than many other businesses in our industry, yet I can’t set my rates far and above everyone else, lest I price myself out of the market. I’ve found alternative revenue streams to help mediate the rising overhead because my employees and I can only sew so much. Last year we added tuxedo rental to our repertoire, and with our recent expansion we’ve added sewing machine repair, which we farm out to our trusty machine mechanic. Each of these ventures generates income while adding only minimal time requirements on the part of my employees and myself. The additional demands are typically in the form of garment measurements or repair requests, filling out order forms and passing them along to the appropriate vendor while we collect a handling fee.
In my relatively short time in business, one of the most important things I’ve learned has been the distribution of roles and responsibilities. As I’m sure many other entrepreneurs know, delegation can be hard when you’re a control freak. My business has grown to the point that I could work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and still not be able to keep up with all the sewing, marketing, and administration that has to get done. I’ve had to take a good hard look at the things that I do and don’t enjoy or am not good at; those are the things that should be passed to others. The idea of doing my own taxes, especially since I started having employees, is absolutely terrifying to me. I retain a CPA to do taxes for me because it is a better use of my time and talents to sew and grow my business than it is to learn the ever-changing small business tax codes. For every garment that passes through Sew Fitting paperwork is generated, money changes hands, and bookkeeping must be done. Back in the day, at home or in the Metro building, I could sit down for an hour or two every Friday and enter in all the alteration tickets for the week, prepare the deposit and trot off to the bank. Within a year or so in the White House Centre, those same tasks took at least half a day. This was half a day that wasn’t billable. Enter the role of a part-time bookkeeper. Within a year, this position had morphed into a full-time position consisting of bookkeeping, receptionist, part-time seamstress, and office manager. So much work passes through the shop now that I redefined Marcey's role to be my full-time business manager. She no longer sews, but spends her entire 40 hours a week working on payroll, bookkeeping, inventory, supply ordering, and human resources.
Just before our move to the Underground station, I hired another Amanda, this time a part-time receptionist when I realized that I was often spending the entire day answering phones, logging orders, bagging garments, calling customers for completed orders, and checking people out. All of these other activities often meant that it was 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon before I sat down to a sewing machine with 12 hours of sewing work waiting for me. This was *not* sustainable. My biggest argument against hiring a receptionist or having an office manager was that these were people I had to pay who did not generate additional income. With my overhead, how could I spend money on someone who didn’t generate enough income to cover their salaries and overhead? My handy-dandy business advisers (sometimes called my husband and father) were quick to point out that I was currently spending days at a time on things that did not directly bring money into the shop. If I was to pass these tasks off to someone else then yes, I would be paying them, but I would also be freeing myself to generate income at my hourly rate. The un-billable things that have to get done still get done, but now I am able to use those same hours to get billable work completed that I would otherwise be staying up all night every night to try to do.
As Sew Fitting has grown, often times faster than I can imagine or keep up with, I’ve had to learn to rely on other people and different skill sets. The local Small Business Development Center has been an invaluable resource. Every year I sit down with my business manager and my SBDC advisor for a strategic planning session that typically lasts all afternoon. This helps me sort out the jumble of everything I want to do, need to do, or need to consider. These sessions have given me the data, advice, and the courage I needed to add employees when necessary, or plan for expansions, such as the move into the Underground Station. As Marcey once described my organizational skills to someone, “Bless her heart, she’s an artist.” Numbers and management are not my thing. My thinking is much more abstract and scattered than is preferable in terms of business and practical planning. Having mentors and coworkers I can rely on to fill in the gaps in my knowledge or focus has made all the difference in the world for me and for Sew Fitting.
Written by Cisa Kubley, ASDP Member
Sewing for the Apparel Industry, second edition, by Claire Shaeffer (published by Pearson), is a 600 page textbook written for college level fashion design students. There are 27 chapters that start with an introduction to each chapter and the objectives to achieve in the chapter. Key words are highlighted throughout the book with a glossary at the back of the book. At the end of each chapter there is a chapter summary and review questions. The book comes with an envelope of 111 patterns to be used when making samples of the multiple applications. At the end of the book are many usable appendices that include safety rules, forms for photocopying, stitching charts, photos of lock stitch machine for labeling, cost sheet, garment components and operations sheet, and operations sequence form, fiber comparison chart, illustration of hand sewing stitches, ASTM schematics of seams and stitches, troubleshooting stitching and pressing defects, and a burn test sheet.
This book’s main focus is on the sewing techniques used in industrial manufacturing for cost control.
This book has over 1000 illustrations depicting the step-by-step directions.
I purchased this book a couple of years ago. As with any reference book, I recommend that you read the preface and then fan through to see if there are pictures and/or illustrations. I wish I had this book 25 years ago when I started my business. When you have a custom sewing and alterations business, time is money; you are always looking for ways to save time. Over years of doing alterations I learned many of the techniques shown in the book by taking garments apart. This book would have saved me a lot of time. I found it funny that some of the forms in the appendix were of basic stitching lines to practice sewing on. Then I remembered when I first sewed on a lockstitch machine 30 years ago and how I felt when relearning how to control my stitching and the construction process since there was no free arm. Being an accomplished sewer, I found the applications very clear, but if a student new to sewing was not guided on some of the procedures it may not be as clear. This is an expensive book, as most text books are, but it is an excellent reference book for anyone in manufacturing or altering of apparel.
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Written by Linda Homan, ASDP Member
After a summer break, our Chapters are back in full swing with some fun, educational and charitable activities.
The Appalachian Chapter is looking forward to visiting the Biltmore Estate in March (probably March 13) to see the Downton Abbey costume exhibit. Anyone who had a chance to see this at Winterthur in Delaware knows it is definitely worth seeing. Of course, visiting the Biltmore Estate is a treat in itself.
At a recent meeting of the Arizona Chapter, Teresa Kipper showed a Craftsy class she bought on Kenneth King’s ‘Jeanius’ class. They used a laptop hooked to a larger monitor and an auxiliary speaker. You can pause the video to discuss things, and they had a person work along with it. There are so many options for online classes now that this would be an easy and informative type of program for any Chapter to do.
The Baltimore Chapter did something along these lines too. Blondell Howard pulled together a list of online classes, some of which she has subscribed to and some that are free. We got to sample them and see the ins and outs of each one. Some are available 24/7, some at specific times, etc. This is a good reminder to make use of your University of Fashion subscription before it runs out in March!
The Chicago chapter recently attended the "David Bowie Is" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago - its only appearance in the US. They saw amazing costumes and memorabilia. The Chapter is planning a December holiday get-together at the home of Rhonda Buss. We know that the Chicago Chapter always has a blast when they meet!
Karen Bengtson reported about the Colorado Chapter’s October meeting. “This year the Colorado chapter made two quilt tops for Quilts of Valor. The Quilts of Valor Foundation is an organization whose mission is to cover service members and veterans touched by war with comforting and healing Quilts of Valor. We were really excited to whip out two quilt tops in a day!” [See photos] Kudos to the Colorado Chapter for their charitable donation!
Yvonne Jennings, Kathy Bradley, Jan McKinley, Sandi Harmon, Barb Bock, Jane Stoeck, Karen Bengtson, Clara Dittli, (Sandi & Barb)
This from the New Jersey Chapter – “Our NJ chapter is getting things rolling after a rather quiet (chapter-wise) summer. In honor of National Sewing Month, we held our annual "Learn to Sew" event at a local library where we taught kids of all ages how to make several different projects. In October, many of our members were able to attend this year's annual conference in Philadelphia. November's meeting will be held in NYC at the Museum at FIT. We'll be viewing the exhibits "Exposed: The History of Lingerie", and "Dance and Fashion,” followed by a little fabric shopping at everyone's favorite stores. December brings our holiday gala, hosted by one of our members, where everyone can model their seasonal finery and enjoy a wonderful evening with other members and their guests.” It’s great that this chapter is doing its part to encourage a younger generation of sewers!
As you can see, our Chapters are doing lots of things to network, enhance their creativity and skills, and give back to their communities. Being a part of a Chapter is one of the best benefits of being an ASDP member. If you are not a member of a Chapter and would like to be, please contact me, Debby Spence. I will be happy to help you find a Chapter close to you, or even help you to start your own chapter.
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