I believe that the face of ASDP is changing. I wish we had birth dates on our profiles so that I could show concrete data but the best I can do is anecdotal. When I first joined ASDP, then PACC, I was among the youngest members. That is no longer the case. And yet, many of us still wonder what will happen when we retire. After all, as we often hear, “the younger ones are not joining.”
There is a term known as “anchoring heuristic.” It refers to the human tendency to accept and rely on the first piece of information received before making a decision. That first piece of information is the anchor and sets the tone for everything that follows. Think of first impressions and how hard they are to overcome. Or as another example, an investor who took a painful loss in a bear market will not readily invest when the market turns around.
“Heuristic” is using experience to learn and grow. While not a bad thing and in fact smart, can anchoring heuristics keep us from seeing, evaluating and utilizing current realities? If the answer is yes, and I believe it is, then what is the antidote? The first question was primarily rhetorical. The second is not. I await your response.
Have you ever wondered why there was a boxed wedding gown in your attic? Why did you keep yours? Was it just for sentimental reasons, or could it be there was a specific reason?
The Project: Over the last three years, three sisters from a Midwest family have become engaged and the last one to marry her sweetheart will do so this fall. It has been an exciting and busy time for all the family, especially the girls' mother, Tracie, who has made the journey frequently from Cape Girardeau to St Louis, Missouri, venue of the weddings; she has planned all the weddings and taken care of the myriad of details. And it may have been while she has been driving that Tracie’s mind moved ahead to the possibility of grandchildren!
So it was that last year, Tracie asked me to take on the task of creating three christening gowns (one for each of her daughters) from two wedding dresses.
Hers: 30 years old
Her Mother’s: 60 years old
The design of each christening gown was left to my creativity. Both of the wedding dresses needed cleaning (including some areas of poorly cleaned red wine stains) and some areas of lace that were torn and needed restoring.
Deconstruction and Cleaning: First, the gowns had to be deconstructed so that the individual components could be cleaned separately. Each grouping of lace, both Chantilly and Guipure, and the silk satin, plain and embroidered, as well as the tulle were left in the cleaning solution overnight. Sometimes this step raises my blood pressure! Next the cleaning solution was carefully rinsed out and the garment or lace pieces were laid to dry over a drying rack. I'm never quite sure how the old/vintage pieces will react in the cleaning solution. (The oldest gown I have cleaned and restored had a date of 1839 on it and fortunately held up well). Once dry the pieces were pressed and then I assessed what was usable and how they could be combined in a pleasing way.
Pattern: I like the variety of styles in the now out-of-date Children's Corner pattern ' Hand Sewing 1'. For this project I chose three different styles.
And the resulting garments were very pleasing for me and also for Tracie and her daughters
Where is your business located? In Greendale, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee. I draw clients from the entire metro-area and beyond.
Do you work out of a home studio or do you have a brick and mortar location? My studio is in the lower level of my home, which is mostly above ground with lots of natural light. I have about 800 square feet, with three separate rooms – a client room, a creative/cutting room, and my sewing work room.
What kind of work do you specialize in? My business has evolved over 13 years and now I only do bridal, prom, and formal alterations, which is what I love doing. I tend to do a lot of bridal gown restyles and pregnancy re-sizing for brides and maids. In the bridal off-season months (Nov-Feb), I also do work on ballroom dance costumes including custom design, restyling, and alterations.
Do you work alone or do you share the space with others? I work alone. What's the first thing that clients notice about your space? That it is an organized and professional business operation, or as many state “wow, this is a real business!” I’m single and support myself solely from my business. Clients also notice the number of bridal gowns hanging in the work pending area, and my sample ballroom dance costumes on display.
How did you develop your layout? I have had several configurations over the years, and am always trying to make the most efficient use of my space, which is split into small rooms with lots of doorways. I’ve had to use grid paper and cut outs of my furniture to figure it out. My biggest challenge was to get the ironing board accessible from the right side, and minimize the movement of bridal gowns from machine to worktable to iron! I’ve also consulted books on sewing space design, as well as any other examples I can find for ideas.
What makes your sewing space unique? Aside from my quirky décor items from Latin America, I think my space is unique because I have set up a dedicated, high speed sewing station/work table for wedding gowns – which is clean of other thread colors, lint, etc. Then I have another high speed station for everything else – bridesmaids’ dresses, ballroom dance costumes, etc. My serger, coverstitch, and zigzag/embroidery machine are also in this area. I made this change a year ago, and feel it has really increased my productivity and efficiency. The other thing I have done is have a ‘creative room,’ which is where I have my reference library, woven and dance costume stashes, rhinestones, cutting tables, and mannequins. The idea is to keep this room clean and inviting to facilitate starting a new creation - from draping concepts to pattern work, layout/cutting, rhinestoning dance costumes, and steaming bridal gowns.
Anything else you'd like to add? Because I am tall, all of my work tables are 32-35”tall. I use balance balls for my work chairs as they strengthen core muscles and make it hard to slouch at the machines. I also switched to a standing desk for my computer/desk this year to reduce sitting time and improve my work posture.
In mid-August, the local county historical society hosted an open house off-site of its main campus, during which they announced an opportunity to ‘adopt-a-tree’ for decoration and display during the up-coming holiday season at the society’s main historical home, The Tallman House, a beautiful 2-story built in the mid-1850’s. The theme had to be family friendly and appropriate for the setting. With almost two dozen trees available for adoption, I immediately signed up for a tree, selecting the master bedroom for the location. A proposed design, a ball gown from June 1860 Godey’s Lady’s Book, was approved and the hunt was on for the necessary supplies. With tree installation scheduled for the first week of November, the majority of the tree needed to have the ‘dress rehearsal’ completed before leaving for conference in Vancouver.
The tree gown is built with a dress form as the base, so the society let me pick the form I wanted from their storeroom. Even though the chosen, undressed form has a silhouette from a later era, it was selected because it was the sturdiest, heaviest form. The S-shape meant draping a muslin for the bodice. The 2016 Threads ‘Quilted Garment’ Challenge came in handy: pliable evergreen garland was quilted to the muslin base. The back closes with a two-inch wide Velcro over/under lap. The unusual busk is a scavenged section from a discarded silverware basket from my dishwasher.
The skirt frame needed enough heft to support the weight of tree branches and was built from 4-foot wide chicken wire. Hint #1: make sure your tetanus is up to date, as you may get a lot of deep scratches while working with this wire. Hint #2: get a friend to help you with this step! While you will be able to snip the wire into panels, it will be nearly impossible to ‘sew’ a shaped chicken wire seam by yourself. The skirt was shaped by folding the wire back about 1 foot below the waist, and the then the seams of the four sections ‘stitched’ by using zip-ties at CF, and each SS. The CB ’seam’ was left open.
A pleated burlap ‘petticoat’ covers the frame; it is also left free at the CB. The burlap hides the wire, helps fill in some of the shaping for the skirt, and provides easy anchoring spots for the some of the smaller branches.
The skirt used 2-1/2 artificial 6-foot trees. (Real trees could not be used as they are a fire hazard) This was the hardest item to track down! After several weeks of looking, I gave up on scoring trees from consignment or estate sales and bought trees from Big Lots. If you want to try this for next year, hit the after-holiday sales! Just remember, the branches should probably look like they all came from the same tree. Hint #3: if you do not have one, GET A BOLT CUTTER if your trees have the branches permanently attached to the trunk. My trees needed to have the pre-strung lights removed before removing the individual branches. After cutting the branches off, use pliers to bend a hook into the tip. Begin at the ‘hem’ of the tree, and hook the branches through the burlap, catching the wire, spreading and shaping the branches as need. Continue told up from the bottom, filling in with the smaller branches as you near the waist. The single tips can be used to fill in as needed. Add lights if desired. Note: historical settings will probably require LED lights, but best to check with the site for any restrictions they may have.
The trim on the dress was built from tulle. Seven dozen silk yellow roses replaced the bows on the original, because they were the favorite flower of the original owner of the Tallman House. The sash was from my stash.
The Wisconsin Chapter toured the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection on the UW-Madison campus in April, directed by collection curator, Natasha Thoreson. The collection contains a wide variety of both textiles and garments from around the world. We were allowed - even encouraged - to touch the garments selected for our tour! How often does THAT happen? We were mesmerized by garments from around the globe and across many time periods. The collection is also viewable on-line.
It’s hard to pick a chapter favorite for all the wonderful pieces we examined, but two of the top contenders were a fitted unlined jacket from the late 1800’s and a chiffon gown from the late 1940’s. Ah, the wonders of seeing in person and being able to touch the garments!
In addition to the textile museum, we were also treated to tours of the student design labs, including draping studios, the extensive weaving studio, and the Ruth Davis Design Gallery. Throughout the tour, Linda McCoy, VP-Membership, had a great discussion with the curator, and as a result, the Wisconsin chapter will be developing a panel discussion with a question/answer period to present to fashion design students on career options in the sewing and design industry.
Rebecca A. Nelson
February 24, 1950 - June 7, 2016
With great sadness the New England Chapter reports the death of Rebecca Nelson, a fifteen-year member and our immediate past president, following a courageous battle against cancer. Rebecca was a much loved and valued member of New England ASDP. From the day she joined in 2001 she brought a ready smile, enthusiasm, organization, a great sense of humor, and wholehearted commitment to our goals and events.
For the past nine years she served on our Board in Membership and Program positions and most recently for two consecutive terms as Chapter President. Rebecca was instrumental in the startup of our website and in monitoring the statistics and effectiveness of our Google group. It was always a treat to be an officer when Rebecca was chairing the Board, because meetings often featured delicious lunches she provided at her home.
A native of Rutland, Vermont, Rebecca made her home with her husband Jon in Marlborough, MA where she established her sewing business, Rebecca's Dresses, focusing on bridal work, christening gowns, and prom gown alterations. She was incredibly generous with her time and talents. Rebecca made room in her busy schedule each spring for Princess Boutique, a voluntary initiative to obtain and alter prom gowns and accessories for local girls in financial need to be outfitted beautifully for their big night. She put in hours of preparation and organization for this legendary annual event. Then, in a single nonstop day of gown selections, fittings and alterations, Rebecca and her team would send dozens of happy girls home with their perfect look.
Besides her lifelong passion for sewing, Rebecca also enjoyed traveling with her husband on his Master Singers music tours, and cheering on the New England sports teams as a devoted fan.
In her passing, Rebecca has left big shoes to fill. To say that we will miss her is a great understatement. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family and to all who knew and loved her.
The New England Chapter has made a monetary gift in Rebecca's name, donated by individual members and a Chapter allocation, to the ASDP Charitable Foundation. We felt that contributing to the support of professional education in sewing and design would be a very appropriate way to ensure that Rebecca's name lives on in a field she so loved and to which she gave her talents and energy.
Where is your business located? In Austin, Texas. Do you work out of a home studio or do you have a brick and mortar location? I have a home-based studio. What kind of work do you specialize in? Bridal aterations and custom linens.
Do you work alone or do you share the space with others? I work alone. What's the first thing that clients notice about your space? The comment I most often hear is, “Wow, you’re serious about this.” They notice all the tools, the machines, the large work table and the sewing related décor such as antique notions, irons and garments.
Tell me a little about your favorite part of your sewing space. The large work table I created from 2 IKEA storage units—I have a place to store things I use regularly and a large work surface. I’ve been doing more hand-sewing on recent projects and this table, with an adjustable height work stool is perfect. How did you develop your layout? Trial and error over the years. As I’ve changed the way I sew, the work area has changed. I spend far more time at the work table than the machines now, so the work table is larger. A long time ago I started sewing at a standing position. I’ve kept my machines at that height, making it easy to sew a quick seam. The adjustable stool I use allows me to sit for longer sewing sessions. The ironing station is easily accessible from both the work and sewing tables. I basically have the equivalent of a kitchen work triangle with the sewing table, work table and ironing station.
What makes your sewing space unique? Lots of interesting notions from my grandmother and my travels. I also have a fairly large collection of sewing, art and costume books. I think clients see this as an indication of my dedication. This is clearly where I spend my time, energy and money, so it must be important to me.
I’ve not actively pursued clients for quite a while, but have kept busy with personal referrals. Since I also have a full-time job, I have the luxury of only taking projects I’m interested in. Most of the work I’ve done in the past year has been through co-workers, which has been really convenient.
When I headed off to college in 1998, I certainly had no idea that my career path would one day involve a sewing machine. I graduated with a BS in finance and a BA in accounting from William Jewell College, a liberal arts college in Missouri in 2002. When I became pregnant with my twins in 2005 and left my job as a financial analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank, I knew accounting was no longer a field I wanted to pursue. It wasn’t until I couldn’t find gender neutral bedding that I discovered sewing. Armed with a sewing machine from Costco and my mother’s limited sewing knowledge, we managed to create two bedskirts, two quilts, two bumpers and a valance. It was then that my passion for sewing was ignited.
From that point on I read and absorbed all the sewing information I could gather. It was at this time that I began accepting home décor sewing jobs from friends and family. When my husband was relocated to the Indianapolis area in 2011, I was yearning to explore garment construction, primarily because I am a very difficult to-fit body type. It was then that I signed up for a class at my local fabric shop and met fellow ASDP member Joyce Hittesdorf who took me under her wing after our first class. From there, I apprenticed with Joyce until the sale of her business in the fall of 2013. I continued to work with the new proprietor, Sarah Knochel, and upped my ASDP membership from friend to Intern. It was also at this time that I felt confident enough to begin offering alterations and custom construction to clients on my own. In 2014, I set up TomKat Stitchery, changed my ASDP membership to formal, and began working from my basement. In 2015, with help from my family, we turned our basement into a professional studio where I continue to work.
I continue to take classes both in person and online to further my education and my skill level. I am very hopeful that the MSDP program will serve as a compass to help me achieve my goal of excellence in this field about which I am so passionate. I can assure you that sewing is not a passing fad or interest for me, but a skill commitment I hope to pursue for the rest of my life. I thank you again for your time and consideration of my application for this scholarship.
Written by Whitney Luckenbill
Our Newest Master Alteration Specialist Graduate
LaVonda Miles, the latest graduate of the ASDP/MAS Certification Program, wanted to share the journey with others who may be contemplating going through either of the two certification programs. Congratulations, LaVonda!
I actually wrote this goal down in 2009, as I wrote my initial business plan.
“A goal to become Master Tailor is also a priority to the owner, as she will take the necessary steps to become a certified Master Tailor in the early part of 2014.”
Although the date/year and the exact title didn’t align, I can still say the original goal was met. I enrolled into the MAS program in 2013 shortly after I joined the ASDP. After receiving the enrollment packet, I rationalized over which module to tackle first, with the Business Professional Module pulling out first, only because I had already done it. So from there, I revised and updated it to the current year and submitted it. Even though I had done it before, it still wasn’t easy to conform to what the organization required. This was definitely an arduous module requiring you to be precise and organized with your business to be able to submit a concrete business plan. The evaluator gave me a great rating and rewarding feedback. So in summary for this module, do the absolute best to submit a professional business plan as it will make so many of your plans and practices come together for a good solid business.
As I recall, the second module chosen was the online Fabric Module. This was a little frightening because, I thought to myself, “How do you test online about fabrics?” My thoughts were there are so many fabric types, blends, properties, etc., how on earth do I prepare for this? Well the test has been very well developed as it is adapted to reading and note taking from the various resource books offered in the registration packet. I could not afford all of the books, so I resorted to the local libraries and even found a great resource book at the Goodwill store.
My third module was Alteration Fit, which I wanted to get in and pass at the 2015 Convention. For this one I contacted the Director of Operations and she orchestrated all the logistics for me to have a model with the proper garments to be evaluated. The preparation for this was to again rely on the suggested books and material on proper garment fit, and techniques. I can honestly say that my nerves initially took over the first 5 minutes of this evaluation. As I entered that room and had myself all worked up over nervousness, I realized the 3 evaluators in the room were not there to make me nervous at all. They were the total opposite. Once I made eye contact and took deep breaths and methodically remembered the fit mantras, ("evaluate from the shoulders moving downward," is what I programmed myself to say), I felt more confidence come across my lips through the remainder of the evaluation. Not only did the evaluators pass me, they too had a great impact and input about how I perform some of my alterations today in order to achieve a great fit.
The fourth module for me, was the Alteration Technique. I spent about 3-4 months gathering all the needed items to alter. Economically, I remember spending about $25 - $30 on the compiled list of items purchased from the thrift store when the monthly ½ price per item event occurred. This particular module was the most in-depth, time consuming, hard as heck, but most rewarding for me. The reason I thought it was so hard was the fact that about 50% of the techniques were none that I had ever done before, or ever knew how to do, or even want to do again. But on a serious note about the different techniques; they all sharpened my skills and gave me that edge I needed to learn how to professionally perform a ready-to-wear alteration. So in preparation for this one, I watched videos, purchased on-line classes, and books for the techniques I wasn't familiar with. I mailed the entire bundle of items and received superb feedback from the evaluator.
Lastly, I had the Alteration Overview module which was initially planned as an online testing that went not in my favor quickly. I attempted to pass this twice. Realization was that it wasn’t me actually failing the knowledge of the overview, there was something technically wrong with the testing mode and grading (whew!)…. I kept asking myself, did I come this far to fail? Then the Director of Operations called me to say that the test would be administered via phone conference with evaluators asking me the same test questions that were online. This, I must say, was a more positive outcome as it gave me interaction with the evaluators just the same as the Alteration Fit experience but without the nervousness.
In summary, to anyone that may be contemplating achieving this certification, I can say to you that the accomplishment is so rewarding on a personal level and will boost your confidence on a business level. This certification will validate your skills like nothing else you can imagine. “Awesome Sauce” on a sewing platform, is what I call it!
Written by LaVonda Miles
July was a very busy month for the Heartland Chapter. On July 8th we hosted an evening meal at Joyce Hittesdorf’s for many of the ASDP officers and members who were in Indianapolis for the America Sewing Guild Conference. We all enjoyed a wonderful evening together making some new friends and renewing old acquaintances. Joyce amazingly managed to seat all of us at one gigantic table which allowed that beautiful non-stop sewing chatter the entire evening.
On July 15th – 16th Julianne Bramson, co-author of “Bias Cut Blueprints” taught her hands-on two day class to 14 very eager students. We were able to use the machines and wonderful facilities at the Art Institute of Indianapolis for the class. Julianne shared the “magic” of the bias cut garments. This is a geometric method for clothing design and construction. She patiently showed us step-by-step how these basic bias tubes could be used in many different ways to construct very different garments. Amazingly, they are sewn on the straight of grain, hang on the perfect bias and actually fit thanks to a simple chart! It gave us all a whole new way to think, plan and create new designs without patterns.
Many more ideas were presented in her extensive collection of sample garments that we were able to examine and try on. We had a fun two days working together and learning about the bias cut with Julianne. Those attending were Tina Colombo, Sarah Knochel, Donna Christian, Joyce Hittesdorf, Cathy Runion, Whitney Luckinbill, Cisa Kubley and Ellen Blacketer from our chapter. Our guest students were Karen Ahrens and Pat Acklie-Ortiz from Nebraska, Amanda Madden from New York, Wendy Cettina and Gail McLaughlin from New Jersey and Robin Kunzer from Illinois.
Each day we enjoyed eating lunch out together and Whitney invited everyone to her home on Friday evening for a meal and more fellowship. Thank you to Julianne for challenging us and teaching us new techniques!
We have the rest of our year’s meetings planned including a day trip in December to South Bend, IN to see the Downton Abby Exhibit, a tour of the South Bend Chocolate Factory (we will figure a way to tie this into sewing some way) and fabric shop in Shipshewana.
Our sewing retreat last year was a great success and we have planned another weekend retreat for late January 2017.
Written by Ellen Blacketer
2885 Sanford Ave SW #19588, Grandville, MI 49418 ~ Toll-Free (877) 755-0303