Dear ASDP Board

  • 04/02/2013 9:07 PM | Anonymous

    Most of the wedding dresses I see in my alteration business are strapless. However, I currently have a display in my store of four wedding dresses--all with sleeves.

    The oldest dress was worn by Mrs. Gertha R. Stenske on April 10, 1917. The wedding took place at a Lutheran church in Sheboygan, WI.

    I was told there were also bridesmaids. From the information I have gathered, it was purchased at Stolzenburg’s Ladies Apparel store in Sheboygan. It was still in the box from Stolzenburg’s store. This wedding gown was worn only the one time by this bride. It was passed on through the family and was eventually given to me by a friend who knew of my interest in sewing and wedding garments.

    This 1917 ensemble has 4 pieces: a blouse, skirt, sash, and the veil. The blouse has a lightweight lining that is almost sheer. It might be cotton or even linen. It has a crisp hand and gives structure to the bodice. The lining supports the sleeves and is only connected to the outer fashion fabric at the front v-neckline and at three small areas at the waist. It does not fit on any of my dress forms as the waist of the bodice measures a mere 22 inches. The sleeves are set into the lining and are kept high at the shoulder with a built-in stay made of netting.

    The outer fashion fabric is a silk crepe, very lightweight. The blouse has a crossover style that wraps the bodice. When the bride puts it on, she must first close the lining at center back; then the silk fashion fabric crosses from right center back, crosses the front torso and continues around to close on the left side of the center back. Next, the left side wraps in the opposite direction from the center right back and across the body to close on the right side back. The outer layer is crossing the body from the left shoulder on both the front and back and has decorative 2-inch shell buckles at the right side waist, both front and back.

    There is lace at the wrists and the neck. The lace is very brittle, as it has metallic thread in it, and has browned over the 96 years. It looks in the photo to have been white or ivory at the time of the wedding, matching the dress color. Over the bodice are two drapes that hang from the shoulders coming to a point at the side of the body decorated with a metallic tassel. This drape is hemmed with a bridge stitch to a double layer of 2-inch wide silk.

    The skirt is also made of the silk crepe; it has two layers slightly gathered at the waist. The top layer has an angled hemline forming points at center front and back trimmed with the bridge stitch. The under skirt has the same lining as the bodice from the waist to the hip. The lower skirt falls straight from this lining.

    The sash is 6 inches wide by 3 yards long with a tone on tone border. We believe it was worn at the waist. The blusher veil is stitched onto a wire that would have been bent to keep it secure on the bride’s head. The veil is hand embroidered around the edge in a swirl pattern on a double thickness of the tulle. The veil is hemmed to follow the pointed design that the skirt has at the hemline. The veil, while it is very deteriorated, is a fine example of detailed hand embroidery done at that time.

    Thirty years later, another bride had a special dress. The dress from 1947 was made by a talented seamstress and milliner, Mrs. Marie Bowser. Marie made it for her daughter, Mrs. Kathleen Ayers, when she married on June 28, 1947 in Sheboygan Falls, WI.

    The dress is made of a light, sheer, yet very durable parachute nylon, which was commonly used in the post war years, as it was readily available.

    It has a high neck with a Peter Pan collar, long full sleeves with cuffs, and a slightly gathered skirt that falls into a chapel length train.

    The delicate guipure lace was placed at the waist, cuffs and Peter Pancollar. The dress was worn with a slip of satin for modesty, as the nylon is very sheer. The very full sleeves are kept full at the top with the aid of a sleeve head. Delicate lace covers the cuffs, which close with snaps. The fullness for the bust comes from the hand-stitched smocking at the shoulders. This dress was worn again by Kathleen’s oldest daughter, Maureen Juul, in 1972 and a third time by Andrea Jensen in 1974.

    Over the next 30 years, I learned many of my sewing skills from Mrs. Marie Bowser. I took those lessons and made my wedding dress to wear on June 11, 1977. My dress is made of chiffon and Chantilly lace over satin. It is a princess seamed dress that has a slight A-line skirt tapering into a chapel length train. The Chantilly lace is on the bodice, sleeves, hem, and appliqués on the skirt. The slender sleeves are set in and trimmed at the wrist with a matching lace. There is also lace trim at the neck and on the bodice. The veil and headpiece worn with the dress have the same Chantilly lace as the dress.

    Thirty-five years later I found myself making another wedding dress. This time, the dress would be worn by Mrs. Annette Baumgartner of Chicago, IL on November 24, 2012. This dress would also be princess seamed and made of a lovely ivory Alencon lace with accents of an embellished beaded Alencon trim over satin. The skirt is a fuller A-line that tapers into a chapel length train. It has a petticoat attached to the dress to give the skirt fullness, as this bride knew exactly how she wanted the dress to move and flow as she danced with her groom. The v-neckline, accented by Alencon lace, was most flattering on this young beauty. This dress, too, has sleeves; but they are small cap sleeves finished with the beaded Alencon scalloped lace. Annette wanted a part of her grandmother’s dress incorporated into her dress, but it just didn’t work with the design that she chose. So, as a surprise, I added a pocket inside the skirt of her dress made from her grandmothers wedding dress.

    Just before the wedding ceremony, her grandmother Kathleen gave Annette a handkerchief from Marie Bowser. She placed it in that pocket made of parachute nylon, while her Aunts Maureen and Andrea looked on and felt included in their niece’s wedding day. They, too, had worn that dress made by my grandmother, my first sewing instructor.

    Written by Chris Kazmerzak

    Christine Kazmerzak by Heather Meyer

  • 04/01/2013 9:05 PM | Anonymous

    Renewal, rebirth, new start, fresh, hope, reawakening, regeneration, revival, new beginning, resurgence, renaissance are all words that relate to the spring season. For many of our members, work is bridal related; in many cases, bridal business increases in the spring. Therefore, as I have heard it said numerous times, spring is a busy time of year for our members.

    Bridal is the main theme for this month’s newsletter. We have an article about bridal gowns that have had many “lives” over the years as they made their way through the generations.

    As with the discuss list, information learned here in our newsletter can be filed away for future reference if it isn’t needed immediately.

    Fitting issues and finding the right dress to compliment a particular figure will give inspiration to those who are now or will be working with a challenging figure type, and Erin Young has written information about sharing her business with a bridal boutique.

    As my Minnesota winter continues to hang on, I yearn for spring. I find that in the spring I like to plan ahead for the next year and reconsider my personal goals. This is a good time to re-evaluate a business plan. Remember that Member Resources on the ASDP website has helpful links about writing business plans and other links for running and improving a business.

    Spring is also a time for the ASDP Board to evaluate the past year and to make new goals for the future. Part of our recent Strategic Planning Meeting was spent reviewing our long-range plans. We are happy to report that the goal of a Canadian chapter has been achieved a year early! Pressing short-term ASDP goals are to continue changing and improving the website, conference planning of Oh Sew Country in Nashville, and increasing membership involvement within ASDP. My hope is that all of our members will take some time this spring and make a decision to be more involved in ASDP.

    Written by Teresa Nieswaag, President

  • 02/09/2013 8:01 PM | Anonymous

    Several years ago I rejoined ASDP after a long hiatus as my career track had taken a sharp turn toward architecture. However, as I renewed my interest and learning in the field of sewing, I realized how many people skills learned in my 25 years in residential architecture related directly to the challenges met in dressmaking and design.

    For example, we would often hear that a friend, brother, etc. had a house built in Wyoming, New York, etc. for $100 per square foot. How many of you have heard a client say that her friend, mother, etc. can make a dress for (fill in the blank) dollars? Yes, but what house and what dress, what materials and what size, and in what economic market?

    For the most part, a short conversation with the potential client would yield whether they are open to learning how to match their expectations to reality. In both architecture and custom clothing, the role of the successful professional is to manage those expectations from beginning to end. If you do not think that is possible, walk away from the project, be it a $2 million house, a $2,000 wedding gown or a $20 alteration.

    While most clients for home design had a level of sophistication and experience that led them to make reasonable decisions, the one class of client who could be a troublemaker, regardless of income or education, was the control freak. Whether because of insecurity or a need for power the control freak can greatly interfere with the design and manufacturing process often with a dose of unpleasantness to boot!

    In an effort to help these clients understand the degree of control which can be asserted the building industry had a simple three part triangular chart: Price, Quality of Materials, and Size. The client can control any two of the three; the designer has control of the third. Think of it - if price and quality are most important, then the designer will need to determine the size. If price and size are most important, the designer controls materials. If quality and size are most important to the client, then the designer has free rein with the budget.

    If a controlling client was unwilling to acknowledge the validity of this triangle, they were not right for us. As simplistic as this triangle seems, it did help to weed out those who were inflexible, but unwilling to pay for their inflexibility.

    What relevance to sewing does this have? Since there is not as much variation in size between clothing items and houses, how does this compare? Replace the “Size” category with “Design Complexity” for your answer, as Design Complexity is directly related to the number of hours spent in creating the finished product.

    Now, let’s review the triangle from a custom clothing point of view - if Price and Quality of Materials are most important to the client, you will need to control the complexity of the design. If Price and Design Complexity are most important, you will need to control the quality of the materials. If Quality of Materials and Design Complexity are most important, you will be in control of the Price. If your client can’t wrap their head around this concept and still thinks they can control it all, it may be time for both of you to move on.

    How many of you have also had multiple careers and bring those skills to the sewing table?

    Written by Kitty Daly

    Kitty Daly by Ned Daly

  • 02/07/2013 7:57 PM | Anonymous

    The Chicago and Wisconsin chapter members got together for a weekend retreat on January 18-21, sewing for themselves and trying new patterns such as Angela Wolf’s knit top. Knowing these members, I’m sure there was great food along with the great time spent together fitting one another and solving sewing problems for each other.

    The Chicago chapter has had a busy month, as they also held their first meeting of the year on January 6, revealing the results of their “Out of the Wild” competition and who won the wildest? We’ll have to get someone from the chapter to let us know! I’m sure it was a fabulous show.

     Karen Gay in her Angela Wolf top

    Elections held recently in the Baltimore Chapter yielded a new board of directors. Blondell Howard is the new President, Debby Spence (who most recently served the chapter as President) takes over as Secretary, along with retaining her position as Chapter Representative, and Carrie Emerson is one of the Directors-at-large. These members join Jane Backert (Treasurer), Edye Sanford (Program Chair), and Jean Harris (Director-at-Large), who are partway through their terms in office. Congratulations to all of you, and thank you for your continued commitment to your chapter.

    In February the New England chapter presented a two-day workshop, the Perfectly Fitted Shirt. Jennifer Stern-Haseman, who is the chapter’s VP of Programs as well as instructor and owner of J Stern Designs, took participants through the process of fitting a torso sloper that will become their perfectly fitted shirt.

    Speaking of New England, chapter members had a fabulous opportunity in mid January to visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with a behind-the-scenes look at some amazing couture garments from the museum’s costume collection. Pam Parmal of the Textiles department gave us an in-depth look at garments from Dior, Mainbocher, Chanel, plus a gown attributed to Vionnet. The seven of us struggled to keep our hands to ourselves, gesturing and peering into the understructure of the garments to try to determine how and why seams were sewn the way they had been. The Mainbocher gown was a bias confection of floral lame with a deep circular flounce attached by intricate appliqué seams. Diane Martin pointed outt that the Chanel boucle suit had vertical stitching in the hem at certain seamlines, a mystery to us until Pam realized she had the skirt aligned incorrectly. The zipper was actually in a side-back seam of the 6-gore skirt, and the seaming in the hem allowed the hemline to softly fold at the side front seams, as if it were a pleated panel. For some of us, the piece de resistance was being able to examine an outfit still under consideration for purchase for the museum’s collection, a Dior wool skirt and strapless bodice with a taffeta shawl. Where else can we get the chance to be part of something like this? The event made me so thankful to be part of the New England Chapter of ASDP.

    Here’s a suggestion for chapters in locations near cities where the Original Quilt and Sewing Expos take place; after ASDP’s very successful service project sewing garments for Michigan Dress for Success at the 2012 conference, the organizer of OQSE has expressed interest in having the association do a similar project at their shows. One of our chapters is looking into the possibility for this year. Is your chapter interested? Contact me for more information. Giving back is one of the things we do.

    Written by Janee Connor

  • 02/03/2013 7:43 PM | Anonymous

    In 1988 I was asked to make a flapper style dress for a woman who loved to do period dance. She wanted it to wear to a party she planned to attend. This was soon after our move to Michigan.

    It was an inexpensive number, polyester shantung and rayon fringe, but I constructed the pattern to fit her body and style needs, and as usual sewed in my ASHBRIDGE COSTUMES label along with the care instructions.

    Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail (early Jan 2013) from a woman in Florida who had purchased a dress at a thrift store and wanted to know more about it! She had tracked me down through my website because of the label. Her daughter just loved the dress! So, you never know where you may make contact with your potential market!

    Written by Leslie Littell

  • 02/01/2013 7:17 PM | Anonymous

    For the past 14 months I have been shadowing Rae Cumbie to learn about the duties of the Association’s president and other board members. I am now your official president, and I find that it will continue to be a learning process. When I was a new member and heard about board members getting together to work on a giant pink shirt for breast cancer awareness, I found myself wanting to be a part of that group that got together more than just at conference. I felt a little left out as I looked at the photos of those members “having fun” in the construction of the shirt. I think that some of the work on this project was done at the strategic planning meeting. That amazing pink shirt was unveiled at the first Chicago conference by a proud ASDP board, along with the story of its construction intricacies.

    Your ASDP board members are busy planning this year’s Annual Strategic Planning Meeting, which takes place the end of February. We have an evergrowing list of tasks, some a continuation of last year’s meeting, some long-range plans, and some new projects. As always, improvement of the website is at the top of this list. So often, as board members we hear comments about the “wish lists” that members have for the website. Member input never falls on deaf ears and, although they can be very subtle, there are continual changes to the website. Check for the biggest updates in March, immediately after our meeting.

    Final plans for our annual conference in Nashville this year are also a big part of the planning meeting. If you follow the discuss list and Facebook, you know that instructors and classes have been chosen from a wonderfully large list of candidates with excellent topics. Take advantage of the Master classes, held before and after the core conference to increase your knowledge base and to advance your business. The Threads challenge and fashion show is always a highlight of the conference. Entering this contest will help you to grow in ways you may not have even considered.

    In my learning process about how ASDP “works,” I look forward to our Annual Strategic Planning Meeting. I most definitely do not feel left out any more and working with my fellow board members in the continuing promotion of ASDP is a joy. It is also with joy that I welcome and thank new members who have joined us in the past year and renewing members for your help and support.

    Written by Teresa Nieswaag

  • 01/07/2013 7:15 PM | Anonymous

    After unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, I’d like to offer a little hope for the holidays.

    I recently posted about a 7-year-old child w/ Cystic Fibrosis who asked her teddy bear to be her “date” to the CF Ball. I offered to make a tuxedo for her 4-foot tall friend, free of charge, and enclosed a picture.

    Katherine suggested I hang the bear by his ears and drape a pattern. I did just that! It worked great and was lots of fun! Thank you!

    Kitty sent me a pattern I graded up and compared it to my pattern to true up some of the lines. She also sent me cashmere wool and satin so Grizzly could step out in style! I strategically laid out the pattern several times until I could fit it all in - I was determined to use that beautiful wool!

    The jacket has a satin shawl collar and tails. I made a pleated tux shirt and had a picture of her dress so I matched the cummerbund and bow tie to it. The pants allowed his little tail to stick through, of course, I couldn’t help but line the whole thing.

    I gave him a boutonniere and hat. When I was done, I realized he looked like my grandfather! LOL!

    The little girl embraced her 4-foot buddy and the mom was so touched she cried. It was wonderful!

    I cannot thank this group enough. I am so moved that Katherine and Kitty were so generous with this project and I appreciate every one of you!! ASDP is a truly amazing group and I am extremely proud to call myself a member.

    Written by Tammy Haynes

  • 01/05/2013 7:09 PM | Anonymous

    The American Canvas Back Button End of an Era... and New Options for the American Custom Bridal Industry

    For thirty years, the last canvas back assembly machine left in the United States sat broken and unused in a dusty corner of a New Jersey button factory. For decades, this hulking collection of gears and springs supplied the nation’s factories and bridal shops with canvas button backs – backs for covered buttons with a cloth “pouch” or tuft that could be sewn nearly flat against a garment. The machine inserted a small cotton canvas wad that served as the shank for finished covered buttons. Hand-operated button presses cranked out millions of these buttons in dressmaking shops all over the country.

    Clothing production started moving overseas, and domestic demand for canvas backs fell. When the assembly machine broke down in the late 1970’s, factory owners decided to wait. The machine was old and repairs were expensive. What if the market never rebounded? They waited. Vendors like Steinlauf and Stoller emptied the factory shelves, hoping for the best, but bracing for the worst. They waited. Custom dressmakers started to feel the pinch. Some switched to hopper backs, or even wire eyes, but disliked the higher shanks. Vendors quietly raised prices on dwindling stock, still hoping, but realistic. Desperate, they looked to Europe and Asia for new suppliers, but their customers owned American presses and the buttons weren’t compatible. One by one, vendors removed canvas back buttons from their websites and catalogs.

    In November 2012, the last canvas back assembly machine left in the United States was sold for scrap. My name is Dede O’Hair, and I own Workroom Buttons. We distribute and manufacture professional covered buttons and button-making equipment to a variety of industries, including custom dressmaking and tailoring. As an American company, we are deeply committed to purchasing inventory and materials directly from American mills and factories. We do stock some foreign-made products, but only if they are unavailable domestically. And canvas backs are no longer available domestically.

    Workroom Buttons is committed to providing the custom sewing industry with the most complete selection of covered button components available. To that end, we have made arrangements with a European button manufacturer to re-size their canvas backs to fit American button presses. We will be the exclusive distributor of these new backs, stocking sizes 16, 18, and 20 to meet the needs of professional dressmakers for years to come.

    For additional information, please see our website: We welcome questions on any covered button-related topic, and can be reached by telephone 978-597-2228 or email

    Written by Dede O'Hair

  • 01/04/2013 7:04 PM | Anonymous

    My studio is in a detached garage at the back end of our property. We live within walking distance of the ocean and the Shrewsbury River in Rumson, New Jersey. During the past 7-1/2 years we’ve been here the floor has gotten damp during heavy rainstorms, but had never flooded until super storm Sandy hit. At high tide during the storm our house was completely surrounded by water (fortunately our living space stayed dry). A picket fence in front of my studio was completely under water except for the very top and my studio had 3’ of water in it.

    I’ve always sewn, so when I became a stay-at-home parent it was a natural transition to start sewing for others. It is such a ‘tiny’ business that I never bothered getting business insurance or thought to include any of my equipment on our flood or homeowner’s policy. I’ve invested money in fabric and equipment, but nothing to secure what I’ve invested.

    Since the floor has previously gotten wet everything is raised off of the floor or is in plastic bins. The exception to this, and one of the things I really regret not taking care of was my patterns, which were stored in metal filing cabinets. Many of my patterns ended up in the trash, some I was able to dry by hanging on a drying rack. The other thing I regret was not bringing my machines in the house instead of leaving them in the studio. I had unplugged them and brought the pedals onto the sewing tables but the water was so high one table was under water and the other actually floated dumping my serger under water.

    What would I do in the future? Store my patterns in plastic bins and place them high up at any threat of a large storm. Bring my machines in the house. Store everything in containers that are easily transportable to raise them higher off the ground or bring them inside. Reduce the amount of excess ‘stuff’ I tend to have and not get rid of. This would give me less to sort through, organize, and move if this happens again.

    Is there a positive aspect of to the storm? My fabric has all been washed and sorted, most of the fabric that got wet was washable and the ‘precious’ fabric was unharmed.

    Also, oddly positive, is that I had broken my wrist in September,so I could not sew for a while and had no client work in my studio. Since I’ve had this unintended break from client work, it’s given me time to re-think my business, identifying areas that I did not like and would like to improve. I plan on opening again in January more focused, more profitable, and more assured.

    Written by Wendy Cettina, ASDP member

     Wendy Cettina by Roger Cettina

  • 01/04/2013 7:01 PM | Anonymous

    When I was asked to write an article about the importance of attending conference, I agreed immediately. Those of you who know me know that I am not one to brag about my accomplishments; however, I will brag about the following. While there are a number of members who have attended all but one conference, I am the only member to have attended every conference. Conference is that important to us.

    The first reason is meeting members face to face, to put a face on those members we know from the discuss list or articles they have written in the newsletter. To make new friends and learn about their business as well as catch up with old friends is wonderful. We discuss business, sewing techniques, family, children and grandchildren and all those things we do not put on the discuss list. I really make an effort, and urge all attendees to make the same effort, to meet and talk with everyone and not spend all the time with old friends. I’ve used these friendships to reach out to specific members with questions out of my expertise and help has always been forthcoming. Two examples of this: I was making a wedding gown. I scanned the photo of the gown detail and sent it to an ASDP friend with what my plans were for constructing the gown. The question I asked was if I was forgetting anything or if I was on the right track and the friend sent me back some suggestions I had not thought about. I made my first heirloom dress and requested a member to mentor me through the project, which she agreed to do.

    The second reason includes a little more bragging. During the 1990s, I served on the national board and in 1999 was elected national chair. As some former presidents will tell you, I am passionate about the organization and the business of the organization. I want to know what is going on with the organization and keep up to date with the management of ASDP. I want to attend the membership meeting, ask questions, and remain involved. This is our organization and it is vital to me to make sure it remains strong, growing, and properly managed.

    I started attending consumer-sewing shows in the mid 1980s. My children were older and could be left for a long weekend and I could drive the four hours to get there. I took so many classes and was so disappointed because they were intended for the hobby sewer and not the professional. This year I took three classes with Kenneth King and learned so much. At conference, I’ve studied with Susan Khalje and Claire Shaeffer, whereas I would never have the additional time and money to go to them for classes. I’ve met other teachers over the last nineteen years (yes, 2013 will be the twentieth annual conference), learning so much that I can take back and use in my business. I want the advanced classes, I want to learn beyond the hobby sewer, I need to grow my business and myself, and conference is my best tool.

    I’ve been asked how I make it to conference every year. Once I know when and where the conference is going to be, I start making plans. First, it goes on the calendar. I travel a great deal in my business, so when something goes on the calendar the master classes and tours are included and the travel dates are marked as well. Oh I love the fabric shopping tours, the trip to the Maryhill Museum outside of Portland is a must, the Worth I saw in Savannah, the New York City Museum, etc. I may not take part in the extras, but the days are blocked off. I balance my workload and commitments so I can attend conference. By the way, I do this for all major events during the year.

    Based on previous years, I try to figure out what my cost for conference is going to be. Next year’s conference will be in Nashville, TN, so I will be able to drive rather than fly – a cost savings. Once I have an estimate of the cost, I make sure to build a “conference tax” into the price of my work, much like the often-discussed PITA tax. One suggestion is to raise your hourly rate by what you need for conference and another is a sliding surcharge. I will also put birthday money aside for conference or more likely the shopping tour.

    In closing, let me urge any member who has not attended conference before to attend, and those of you who have been absent for a few years to come to Nashville.

    Written by Abby Riba, ASDP member

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