I have always been interested in art and fashion. I learned to sew from my mother when I was a kid and I never chose the easy garments to do. I loved to challenge myself by sewing garments such as an eight gore plaid skirt. When I was 12 years old I entered a shoe design contest with the Broadway Department Store and won first place. The next year, I was so excited when I saw those shoes for sale in their store. I took every sewing and art class I could while going through school.
While in my twenties, and raising my small children, I learned my crafts. I ran a dressmaking business out of my home, making wedding & bridesmaids' gowns, drill team costumes of 50 each for 2 different high schools, a small line of clothes for a boutique owner in La Jolla, CA and many private clients with different needs and body shapes. I also continued as an artist by drawing with pen & ink and selling them at local home-base Christmas boutiques.
In 1980, I developed a line of children's clothing under the name of "judith irene creations". With my children in school, and my 5 year old daughter and her friends as my models, I designed and manufactured a line of overalls with animal faces embroidered on the bibs. I was represented in the Cal Mart downtown Los Angeles and the line was sold there and at the Kids Market Fashion Week in New York City. The line was carried by 150 stores and one mail order catalog. The proudest moment was when I received an order from Neiman Marcus for their new Las Vegas store's opening. After a few years, I needed to close my children's line of clothing because my husband and I decided to separate. I moved with my children to Los Angeles from San Diego to pursue a career in the fashion business.
To further my education I took a pattern making course at LA Trade Tech at night, while I worked at International Costumes in Torrance, CA. My instructor Yuki was impressed with my skills and interviewed me for a job with a dress manufacturer "Street Scene ". That was my first job as a designer, patternmaker and doing cost analysis and quality control. I have worked at several different companies as a designer, but I realized that my strengths were in the craft of making the patterns for production. It was what made me happy. I was hired as a head production patternmaker for "Nancy Johnson". The designs were elegant, detailed and pieces of art. The company was known for beautiful southern bell dresses made out of Battenberg lace table clothes. My job was to make the intricate patterns, supervise the sewing and fit the garment on a size 8 model, send the pattern out for grading sizes 4 -14 and then make sure that each size garment's pattern would fit properly onto only one table cloth. I would also draw out embroidery designs for garments that the company would hire total villages in China to hand embroider and sew. It was my dream job, until; it had to close for financial reasons in the early 90s.
For the next ten years, I worked for a few different companies as a head production patternmaker or on a free-lance basis. In the fashion business it isn't how long you have worked at one company but how long you've been doing your job. I was making good money, increasing my wages with each new job. In 1991 my daughter went off to college and there was a new man in my life. I started learning to paint in watercolor and to dye fabric. I started showing on the art circuit, which could be up to 25 weekend shows a year and in 1993 I also joined two co-ops. I did this in addition to working full time as a patternmaker. At the Palos Verdes Art Center I joined "The Artists' Studio", a co-op, in which I showed my watercolor paintings and a small line of wearable art at their two galleries. At Art-A-Fair, co-op, in Laguna Beach, I exhibit my watercolor paintings during the summer show and in 2000 I started showing my wearable art. This gave me the ability to keep working downtown to pay for my daughter's education and to be creative in the arts.
Graphic designs and couture workmanship are the hallmark of my work. Pieced graphic jackets, vests and coats using couture sewing and wonderful artistic details are what I’m known for. I also do a line of hand dyed silk chiffon garments (view example photo) that are painted in a “Jackson Pollock” style. My work is shown at art shows, sold in 24 boutiques across the country and in Dubai, UAE at Saks Fifth Avenue.
I have been creating exhibition pieces that have won many awards. My jacket “Misty Swirl” won first place at the 2005 “Pacific International Quilt Festival” and Best of Show Use of Color at the 2006 “Glendora Quilt Show”. I had the honor of exhibiting my coat “Etruscan Erté” in the 2005-2006 Palos Verdes Art Center International “Wearable Expressions”. In June 2006 “Etruscan Erté” won second place from juror Melissa Leventon, well known author, professor and costumes/textile consultant, at “Convergence 2006 Grand Rapid”. In 2007 I was chosen as one of the designers to exhibit in the “Bernina Fashion Show, Diamond Odyssey”, and I was thrilled to have my gown “Infanta in Diamonds” win the Viewer’s Choice Award.
In 2008, I joined the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, ASDP. I went to the conference in Chicago that year. I enjoyed the networking and the classes I took. I took a tambour beading class from Robert Haven, which is a style of Lesage Couture Embroidery that Chanel, Dior, and most of the French couturiers use in their garments. It is a wonderful skill to add to my repertoire. At this time, I was also excited to be one of the first to sign up for the MSDP, Master Certification Program for the ASDP.
I am very proud to say that I have completed the MSDP this past year. I decide to enroll in the certificate program for my own satisfaction. I did go to a community college but I’ve always regretted not completing my college education. I wanted to prove to myself and the fashion gods, what I’ve learned over the past 50 years. The certificate program is very comprehensive, thorough and very time consuming. When I signed up I had a 5 year contract and I needed to get a year extension. For the past year I mainly concentrated on the certificate and cut back on my business. Now that I’ve finished, I have a renewed excitement to work on a new group of jackets.
PREVIOUSLY FEATURED MEMBERS
The phone rang on Sunday evening, Thanksgiving weekend in 2011. It was my friend BJ, who has been working in the film industry for 15 years: “I know it is a holiday but what are you doing tomorrow?” she said.
It was an emergency costume job for a Vancouver TV series production: take a vintage dress, copy it and make it in triplicate with three separate sleeve options. And it was shooting Tuesday. “I guess we are building a dress Monday”, I replied. “What time do we start?”
This was my first job as a stitcher, a crazy, trial-by-fire introduction to the world of film costuming. BJ recruited another friend as well but it took three warm bodies a full 10 hours in the workshop to complete. We managed to get the dress done and BJ had it shipped to the set late Monday night. The director loved it, it played, and a week or so later I watched our dress on the TV screen, with sleeve option #2! I was hooked.
My next chance to sew for film was in summer of 2012, when I spent two weeks helping BJ build costumes for a direct-to-DVD film. The movie involved puppies, a monkey, two aliens, various farm animals and a few humans, too! We built super hero costumes for the kids and their grandfather, alien costumes and a space suit for the monkey.
Forward to September 2013, my family is grown and independent. The phone rang again. BJ said, “Are you ready to do a feature film? I’ve been hired as a cutter and I need good stitchers. We start in October.” How could I say no? I was hired as a stitcher under an IATSE Union Permit. I was required to take a two-day “Motion Picture Industry Orientation Program” offered by Capilano University which covers the basics of set etiquette and rules. Another course requirement was WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).
October stretched into December, and by the end of January, I had enough days on the job to qualify for union membership. We were still sewing in March and it was not until the end of May before we finally closed up the workshop. That was an important lesson: the duration of the job is ALWAYS longer than you are told at the beginning.
Bound by a confidentiality agreement, I can’t say much about that particular film but it is in post-production with a release date sometime in 2016. It was a massive “build”. That means we built every principle actors’ costumes from scratch. The film is a medieval fantasy, based on a popular video game and the technical aspects of the production floored me. The costumes needed to be meticulously detailed, perfectly stitched, they had to fit well and be durable to withstand the rigors of days on the sets. There were six cutters, fifteen run-of-show stitchers and an additional 6-8 stitchers brought in at the peak times to meet our deadlines. There was also a five-man Armoury shop to build all the armour and chain mail (trade secret: most of the armour is made from leather!). The background actors were dressed in costumes imported from rental shops in Italy and Los Angeles. These costumes required alterations and sometimes embellishments to meet the designer’s specifications.
At the end of November, I wrapped another 15 weeks as a stitcher/builder on a period film about fur trappers in the early 1800s. The shop was an explosion of leather and fur – it is fascinating to work with authentic materials and patterns. A further challenge was to make era-correct costumes while building in warmth for the actors who were on outdoor sets in sub-zero weather.
As a cutter, BJ’s responsibility is to make, fit and alter all costumes that cannot be bought or rented. She is briefed by the costume designer and assistant designer, provided with detailed drawings, specifications and guidelines for whether traditional or alternative fabrics and methods of construction should be used. With the designer, cutters carry out research into period costumes to correctly reproduce the detail of the garment. They draft the pattern, cut to the actors’ measurements and make a toile (rough version of the garment) using muslin.
Cutters estimate the time needed to create the costume and the stitchers begin the making the costume under the cutter’s direction. Cutters attend fittings with actors, sometimes with the designer or the assistant designer, and then make alterations to the costume. Alas, stitchers rarely get to see the actors.
The level of sewing skills in the best shops is astounding. Our responsibility is to deliver the best possible work to the cutter’s specifications. And none of those specifications are anything like I have worked with before – not manufacturing, or home sewing. The desired result for camera is very different from consumer tailoring or sewing. Of course, the actor needs to be comfortable so garments are usually lined (often with silk), and warmth or cooling is built in through the use of heavy interlining or vents. With the advent of high definition cameras, every detail is magnified, particularly around the face, so extra care is needed for collars and necklines. Interfacing is not used – the cut edge lines show under the studio lights so garments are usually fully underlined instead. There is a tremendous amount of handwork – often a week will pass and I do not sit at a machine – it is all hand sewing, sometimes with leather and sinew.
The time commitment to work in the film industry is a huge one, especially if you are working on set. It took me until 2013 to take the leap into the industry because until then, I couldn’t commit the time. Some weeks we work 12 hour days, six days a week, plus commute time to the workshop.
And that’s just in the costume shop itself. There are also costume jobs on set as a dresser, working with background actors (also called extras). If you are in the “truck” on set, you are required to be there from the call time until the director calls “wrap” – it is not unusual for a day on set to be 16 or 18 hours long. Hair, makeup and wardrobe are the first to arrive and the last to leave – I have not worked that environment yet, but I think I’m getting too old for those hours! They say film folk have no life. I agree!
On the bright side, craft service (food!) is usually plentiful and good quality and the productions are completed in a finite period of time so you do get a chance to rest up for the next one!
To be successful as a film/tv costumer, you need to be prepared for last minute requests, deadlines that are really deadlines and not just “coma lines”. You need to be able to work under tremendous pressure, sometimes with a designer’s assistant hovering over you waiting to whisk a garment off to a fitting or a director show-and-tell. You need to be fast, accurate and you need a good “can do” attitude. Maintaining a sense of humour helps.
It is a challenging field, but one full of creative opportunities with the chance to look at a finished job (sometimes 30 feet high on a movie screen!) and feel good about it.
Linda has had a lifelong interest in sewing and creative activities. Excited about starting something from nothing, and turning her creative abilities into a job, she's launched three businesses at different times over the past 30 years; including a retail store, gift basket company, and most recently Snips, a custom sewing and alterations business. In conjunction with Snips she's designed projects and written instructions for sewing publications, and done product demonstration at trade events.
She has studied commercial art and graphic design, patternmaking and sewing techniques with many well-known instructors. She serves as membership chair for the ASDP Wisconsin Chapter, and as a Board Member/Fundraising/Events Chair for a local non-profit in her area. Linda lives with her family near Sheboygan, Wisconsin.
This month we would like to introduce you to Michelle Moenssen who is the newly-elected VP of Education, taking office on January 1, 2015.
Michelle has been sewing professionally for 25 years, and holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in fashion design and merchandising from Wayne State University.
Early on, she was an Elizabethan costume designer for three years for the Detroit Institute of Arts, and after making Renaissance costumes for The Madame Cadillac Dance Theater of Detroit, traveled to France with them on their European tour.
She opened her first tailoring and custom dressmaking business in 1996, and was chosen "Best Tailor in metro Detroit" by the readers of 2 different lifestyle magazines in 2002.
She served as secretary on the board of the Detroit chapter of Fashion Group International before becoming Regional Director in 2005. While director, she won an award for most successful national event of 2006, bringing Daniel Vosovic, a Project Runway finalist to speak to the members.
An accomplished fiber artist, her dyed and felted garments have been accepted into national juried competitions and exhibitions including the Ann Arbor Art Fair, Surface Design Association, Handweaver's Guild of America, the One of a Kind Show in Chicago and The American Craft Council's flagship Baltimore show.
She has taught fashion design at the International Academy of Design and Technology, workshops for the Handweaver's Guild of America, the American Sewing Guild and the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild, as well as classes in her own studio. She served as secretary on the board of the Ann Arbor Fiberarts Guild for 4 years.
She currently owns Nonpareil Studio in Ann Arbor, Michigan where she designs and creates original custom clothing and alterations.
This month we would like to introduce you to Lillian Kincey from Winterville, Georgia. She has been a member since 2001. After years of training in tailoring, pattern making, formal and bridal wear techniques and general sewing she turned her skills to heirloom sewing making christening gowns or layette that are one of a kind treasures. She was quoted in Athens magazine “The second her last embroidery stitch is finished generations of memories begin.”
Lilian started to sew at the young age of 8 and was taught by her Mother who always made sure that whatever Lillian made it was done to the best of her ability. And always told her “If you’re not going to do it right, don’t tell anyone I taught you to sew.”
She brings to her clients the art of fine sewing and a one of a kind garment for the special ceremony or an infant’s baptism.
Her gowns are reminiscent of the gentleness and traditions of the Victorian Era; they are mostly made using white or ivory Swiss cotton batiste, cotton lawn and silk dupionni. Each gown is adorned with fine lace, silk ribbon, hand embroider or pearls she has no problem making each a unique treasure.
The layettes she makes are made from fine fabrics, laces and ribbons as the christening gowns, but some designs are repeated. Some of the items she makes are short gowns, diaper cover, and bonnet, bibs, booties and blankets or coverlets.
Some of her clients will bring her a wedding dress to make into a Christening gown or a photo of a gown worn by a great grandmother to be copied she rises to the challenge and enjoys making memories for her clients.
Check out her website at www.lilliansheirlooms.com and her Facebook page.
This month we would like to introduce you to Cisa Barry from New Albany, Indiana, who has been a member since 2011. She acquired her skills apprenticing for 2 years at 2 different businesses in Bloomington, IN and Louisville, KY. She continues her education through her hard work at her shop.
Like many of us, starting out in 2008, she used a spare bedroom as her work space. From there the business has been on the rise, growing from home to having 2 full time and 2 part time employees in a commercial space in the historic White House Center in downtown New Albany. Her main business is alterations and tailoring, wedding dresses and over the last year has seen a boom in custom work, where her true passion lies.
At the end of this year, she is planning another move which will double her current space and allow for future growth. With the larger staff, she is able to take on more work, including referrals from area boutiques and bridal salons. She also works with a local designer making Western Quarter Horse jackets for competitive participants. Cisa and her staff find this work challenging but also very rewarding, as they never sees the clients in person, (a sample of their work is posted).
In addition to starting her MAS certification this year, Cisa’s new goal is to start a traveling sewing school. She feels there is a real need to teach the younger generations the basic sewing skills that are so lacking in today’s school curriculums. Cisa said “We’ve got this whole generation that doesn’t even know how to thread a needle.” Likely, many in this association would agree with that statement.
She is determined to do her part to not let our art form die out. Cisa’s future plans include adding a fabric store to her core business and offering in-house classes.
We are proud to say that she was selected as a “20 Under 40” recipient last year. This recognition is given to individuals in Clark and Floyd counties under the age of 40 who have made a difference in their work and extracurricular activities. She was also nominated for the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Marketplace Excellence. While she was not selected last year, she will apply again this fall.
She attended her first conference in 2013 and had a remarkable time! This year she is looking forward to taking Carol Kimball’s master class and reuniting with fellow members in Philadelphia.
Carol Kimball has been a member of the Association for 23 years. She is a person who quietly helps out our Association and we would like to recognize her this month for the amazing work she does formatting our Perspectives Newsletter. She is gifted in putting the information into an interesting format we can all enjoy. Thank you from all the membership.
Carol shares her talents in classes that are often offered at our annual conferences. This year she’s teaching two: the new Video Clips for Your Business and her 2-day Master Class in Fashion Illustration.
If you haven’t taken her sketching class or feel you could use a refresher course, sign up early so you don’t miss this opportunity. You will leave with your drawing skills improved 10-fold. Last year in Nashville Carol took pictures of me and did my individual croquis, which I use all the time.
When she pitched teaching Video Clips for us, she was frank that she knew nothing about how to do it. She found doing research and teaching herself new software programming fascinating. She’ll cover options from low-rent to Indie-movie level with her usual relaxed humor and copious documentation. Her first freebie is up on her website, www.CarolKimball.net.
We are very lucky to have such a gifted lady as a member that is so willing to share her knowledge and talents so freely.
By Brenda Breitenmoser
Debbie LaFara knew from a very early age that she was meant to sew. Her mother, who has made all of her own clothes for nearly 80 years, taught her the basics and armed her with a Singer sewing machine at age 10. All throughout her school years, she dreamt of being in the fashion industry but her career path took a detour after graduating with honors from Maryville University in St. Louis, MO. With a BFA in Interior Design in hand, she joined her family’s commercial interiors business to oversee the creative department until the business was sold in the early ‘90s. During this 20 year stint, still fueled by the urge to sew, Debbie attained an Associates Degree in fashion from Washington University.
The sale of the family business gave Debbie the opportunity to take yet another detour by starting a custom jewelry business where she created one of a kind pieces in 22k granulated gold. During this time, Debbie was a co-founder and served on the board as treasurer of the Midwest Metalsmiths organization for 8 years. Although she loved creating works of art in precious metals and stones, the rising cost of gold told her that she needed to return to her true passion of sewing.
In 2007, Debbie finally took the plunge to begin her career in fashion. For the last seven years, she has been creating custom dresses, suits and gowns through couture techniques. Being an entrepreneur at heart, she has also expanded her works to include creating custom patterns. Her long term goals are to offer these patterns on line and through specially retail stores.
Debbie is honored to be a part of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals' board and is the current ASDP Treasurer.
Lois Anderson started Magnolia Hill Re-Creations in 2010 as a way to marry her love of sewing and concern for the environment. In her “previous life” she was an environmental consultant for 12 years until a failed back surgery ended her career. After a number of years on disability, she searched for a way to feel productive and help people. The answer was to use a skill she already had — sewing and needlework. Taught by her mother, Lois has been sewing and doing embroidery since grade school. She joined ASDP almost immediately at the encouragement of a current member just so she could participate in the Threads Challenge to make a “no waste” garment.
The name of her business was inspired by the Victorian language of flowers where each flower has a unique meaning. Magnolia means “love of nature” and reflects the focus of her business. She reuses fabrics and alters clothing, and/or adds embellishments, to “re-create” dull or out-of-style articles into modern, useful clothing and accessories. Some of her favorite projects are converting turtlenecks into open-neck, fashionable tops; incorporating vintage handkerchiefs into anything from blouses to pillows to table runners; and remaking lacey, vintage table runners or tablecloths into blouses and jackets. She also made a quilt from a large t-shirt collection and has been asked to create more. Her fabric scraps often end up as doll clothes, fabric flowers, or in quilts.
Since Lois can’t throw anything out that she perceives as having life still in it, doing mending and repairs are also part of her business. At the encouragement of, and with some tips from, her mother, Lois taught herself to do reweaving to repair tears and holes in quality garments. She learned the technique by using two Cornell Extension Bulletins written by Gladys L. Butt that belonged to her mother. One of the bulletins, entitled “Keeping Clothes Wearable” is dated October 1942.
Lois also teaches beginning to intermediate sewing and uses her skills to complete several projects for charities each year. Lois currently serves ASDP as the NJ Chapter Representative.
I have been sewing most of my life. From the time I was 5 or 6 until I received my own sewing machine for my 16th birthday, I ran to my mother’s sewing machine whenever she left it for any reason. She was not afraid for me to use her sewing machine, so I have never been afraid to attempt sewing anything that struck my fancy. I have made most of my own clothing since I was 12. I am tall and have always had fitting issues, so I began learning fitting in the process of sewing for myself. I occasionally sewed for other people beginning soon after receiving my own machine at 16.
In the mid 80's I decided I wanted to make a business of my sewing and was fortunate to be chosen to attend a Sewing As a Business Workshop sponsored by Clemson University, Coats & Clark, Dritz, ASG, and others. In that workshop I learned about ASDP which was then Professional Association of Custom Clothiers (PACC) and joined under the sponsorship of the organizers of the Sewing As a Business Workshop. Then I took a pattern making class at a local tech school. Shortly followed by participation in a program that culminated in a professional sewing certificate from another local tech school. As the apprenticeship for the professional sewing certificate I began doing alterations for a laundry and quickly learned that there was a large untapped market for an embroiderer, so I began to research machines and talk to people who were in the embroidery business.
In April of 1993 I bought my first commercial embroidery machine and began a fantastic educational journey that has been beyond my wildest imaginings. In 2007 I bought my second commercial embroidery machine and digitizing software that would allow me create my own custom embroidery designs. I do embroidery and digitizing for a local sporting goods store, as well as digitizing of logos and designs for individuals and corporate customers.
Among my other adventures in textiles and fiber arts is the making of Ecclesiastical Stoles with custom digitized and embroidered symbols, upholstery, bra making, Victorian costume design and construction for both men and women, competition dance costume design and construction, hand knitted garment design, and spinning. Oh, and I do alterations as well, but, while alterations help to pay the bills, they are not nearly as much fun as all these other adventures.
Carey Pumo from Hummelstown, PA has been a member of ASDP since January 2009 and participates actively in the monthly meetings of the Baltimore Chapter. Carey started her professional career as a pharmacist but more recently felt a strong calling to fill a need that many women desperately wanted and needed, including her. Starting with a vision to create a unique business where women could go and have custom-made bras created, Carey launched Curvatood LLC in January of 2011. Clients can help create their special garment at Curvatood, whether looking for an improved silhouette, straps that stay up on the shoulder, wires that are painless, supportive sports bra or fashion corsets just to name a few.
After 2+ years in business, Carey’s goals are to continue to grow a strong client base, and with several recent purchases of industrial manufacturing equipment she hopes to develop a line of brassieres. With a strong interest in lifelong learning, she recently studied CAD (computer-aided drafting) pattern making software to enhance her pattern making speed and efficiency. She has already put that tool to great use with custom client work. Her passion for foundation garments is demonstrated in her History of the Bra lecture which she presents to local community groups upon request.
Carey is supported by a loving husband and two children as well as the extended family of ASDP members. She is very much looking forward to the Philadelphia conference in 2014!
Denise Woodson Ofria
Denise graduated from the University of Wisconsin Law School, worked for the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Department of Labor and practiced law in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. She left the practice of law and moved to Arizona for health reasons; after which she enrolled in the fashion and design department at Mesa Community College. She joined ASDP as a student member and transferred to regular membership when her idea for developing a line of career wear for plus size women began to take shape.
Although her business plan was disrupted by a move from Arizona to Colorado, she continued as an ASDP member in Colorado. Denise states that ASDP’s commitment to promoting quality workmanship, collegiality, and continuing education establishes ASDP as the premier organization for serious seamstresses and designers. For this reason, Denise hopes to give back to ASDP by serving as treasurer for the organization.
Rachel Myers, President of the Home Décor Learning Center (HDLC), opened her business in June of 2012 to serve the community after Mt. Diablo Adult Education and Acalanes Adult Education discontinued their upholstery programs. The concept of the HDLC was developed in response to this need. There is no other business quite like the HDLC, making it a unique place for the students to come and work on their projects.
For more than thirty years, Rachel has been doing custom dressmaking, alterations, and many unusual projects including costumes and other specialty items as well as home décor. She has been an ASDP member for several years, originally doing custom clothing and alterations, but has since concentrated more effort on upholstery and home décor sewing rather than garment sewing. She is also a long-time member of the American Sewing Guild, having served as Chapter President, Treasurer, Newsletter Editor, and Fundraising over the years.
Now Rachel, through HDLC, aspires to teach people to become self-sufficient in creating interior design projects to decorate their homes, customize autos, boats, and RV’s and prepares those students who wish to pursue a career in the industry. Rachel enjoys teaching and watching the accomplishments and satisfaction of the students realizing that they have produced a quality project.
The HDLC offers memberships which entitle those people to come anytime during open hours to use the 4000 square foot facility with all the tools needed to complete their projects. The HDLC also offers a wide variety of classes such as the various levels of upholstery, drapery, valances, roman shades, pillows, cushions, slipcovers, quilting and other subjects all while having fun participating in the learning process.
For more information, please visit www.homedecorlc.com.
Gayle Moline of Manson, Iowa is originally from the Chicago area and comes from a long family tradition of experienced sewers and tailors. She started sewing at an early age, learning first from her mother, then high school teachers, then at Iowa State University where she actually majored in Art Education, not Home Economics as originally planned. She met her husband there, married and moved to a farm in rural Iowa and had four sons. She does now have four granddaughters that she is starting to teach to sew.
Her business, Gayle’s for the Bride, was opened in January 1988 as a custom bridal and formal shop creating gowns for the entire wedding party and proms. As the years have pasted and the bridal industry has shifted its production to China and the Far East, her business has evolved to almost entirely alterations, still only specializing in formal and wedding apparel for women. Always located in another house on the farm property, the shop now resides in an old-fashioned two-story farmhouse across the road from her home. There she sews, meets clients and carries a small selection of jewelry, veils and headpieces, and other accessories suited to the bride and her attendants.
Gayle has been a member of ASDP since 1993 and has attended all the conferences other than the very first one that was held in San Francisco. Being from a rural area and having no chapter to belong to, she has always felt that the conferences were her “chapter meeting”. Even though she says that the classes have always offered her many new skills and knowledge, it is the friendships that she has made that have mattered most. She was been a regional representative to the board, 2003 Volunteer of the Year, Benefits committee chairman, and continues as a Threads magazine pattern tester.
Anita Prowse is from Warwick Bermuda and is truly flattered that we would consider her to be our featured member this month. She joined in 2009 as an intern member and had great plans to attend our National Conference that same year but unforeseen circumstance made that impossible. She has had a very busy time since then.
One of her highlights in the last three years was her daughter's wonderful wedding in May 2010 which was held in Ludgvan, England (the village where Anita grew up). She drafted a pattern (her very first) of the dress Hayley wanted and made her wedding dress in 8 weeks (mostly evenings as, she was working full-time). She also kept Susan Khalje's Bridal Couture book next to her sewing table (Anita took a course with Susan in 1998).
Even though Anita has had many setbacks the last few years she still remained a member and now three years later she has decided to return to her sewing/art and wants to make tailored, wearable art jackets. She's never had a sewing business, but perhaps will one day...
The photo is of Hayley and Anita at Land's End Hotel in Cornwall (where the wedding reception was held). Her daughter choose her shoes that have tape measure rosettes and miniature tape measure on the heels!!
Judy Gross has been a member of ASDP since May of 2005, and is also a member of the Appalachian Chapter. She started sewing when she was knee high to a sewing machine. She received her sewing education primarily from her mother, and other ‘self-taught’ methods, but after retiring from a 30-year career as a nurse Judy studied fashion design at Houston Community College.
An avid hiker and backpacker, Judy first started a sewing business doing custom sewing and alterations. After moving to Asheville North Carolina where she now lives with her husband, 2 dogs and a cat, she has put fashion sewing on the back burner as she pursues her other passion of long distance backpacking. Using her love of sewing and her skills in pattern design she designed her first ultra-light weight tent in 2009. LightHeart Gear was established, and she now designs and manufactures ultralight backpacking tents and hiking gear. Judy has 3 very popular tent designs for backpackers, one of which was designed for the extra tall hiker, and is currently working on a tent for long distant bike-packers.
The tent business, started in her basement sewing room, soon outgrew the area where she had several industrial sewing machines crammed into a small space along with just an 8 foot cutting table in the next room. The logical solution was to move into a dedicated ‘shop’, but, the tent business alone couldn’t really support the expense. So a new business was born – Excelsior Sewing, which now does contract sewing for other small backpacking gear companies as well as continues to make the LightHeart Gear tents. www.lightheartgear.com
Mechiel began designing and sewing for her dolls at 7 years old. She made her own clothes by the end of grade school. In High School Mechiel made costumes for both the school and community theatres and also enjoyed making her own fancy dresses. She started sewing for the public over 30 years ago and has maintained her own business for more than 20 years.
Mechiel strives to improve and learn new skills continuously to feed her own passion and the needs of her clients. When she became a member of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals in 2007 she told us that it was life and career changing. She got such a burst of renewed self-confidence at the 2008 conference that she hasn’t missed one since. She is working towards her Master Sewing and Design Professional Certification. Mechiel took part in the Vionnet Identique exhibit in 2009 and was thrilled to have her Zero Waste Sundress pattern and article published in Sewstylish Magazine Summer 2012 edition.
Her story of the process involved in making the amazing San Antonio, Texas Fiesta coronation gowns was published in the Vogue Patterns Magazine Oct/Nov 2012. Mechiel has been working with other dressmakers on and off since 1992 creating the coronation gowns. They have just finished another fantastic season that you can see here; Mechiel worked with Laura Sepulveda on #3,7,8,11,17 The Court of Nature's Tapestry She will have the privilege of making one of these gowns inher own workroom next season.
My passion and purpose is to create any type of garment that a person wants and insure that the fit is the best possible for their personal body type and special wear needs.
Denise began sewing when she was five, restyling her Barbie doll dresses, which is a good way to learn extreme filling. She continued sewing and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelor's degree in Home Economics, emphasis on Textiles and Clothing (1982).
Joining the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP, then PACC) in 2005 and BNI (Business Network International) in 2003 were two of the smartest decisions she's ever made. In ASDP, Denise is also a member of the Wisconsin chapter, having previously served as chapter secretary, and has recently served ASDP national as Challenge coordinator (2008) and VP-Communications (2009-2011). She has placed as a finalist in the Threads Challenge in 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2012. In her local BNI chapter, Denise has served a term as president; vice-president, several terms; secretary-treasure, 1 term; and on various other committees. In addition, Denise has 3 finalist entries in the 2012 Alliance of Independent Pattern Companies Midnight Magic Challenge, 2 finalist entries in the 2013 Alliance of Independent Pattern Companies Ticket to Paradise Challenge, winning the choice for Petite Plus Patterns and placing 6th overall. She has juried into the Wisconsin Quilt Expo 2006 and 2007. She has also been published in Threads magazine (issues 142 and 155).
Her business is primarily alterations, but she also does some home dec, machine embroidery and custom work. She has taught clothing construction fro Rock County 4-H youth for 17 years and has previously worked for a Viking Sewing Machine dealership, fabric retailers and a drapery studio. She is scheduled to teach a half-day serger technique class at ASDP's Educational Conference in October 2013 in Nashville.
What a wonderful year it has been! I've celebrated my first year as a member of ASDP, such a wonderful organization. I decided to enter the Passion For Fashion contest that The American Sewing Expo and Baby Lock sponsors every September in Novi, MI. To my amazement, I won the People's Choice Award, very exciting! Over the summer I received a message from Threads Magazine asking if I would be interested in submitting my French jacket for an upcoming issue. Sending something away that you've spent quite a bit of time working on is a little daunting, but how could I pass up the opportunity? So off my little jacket went. You can see the jacket in the December/January 2013 issue. I am also wearing the jacket in the attached photo. The fun has not stopped as I just found out that I am one of five finalists who will audition at the sewing expo held in Puyallup, WA. I will be auditioning for a chance to be on the television program, "Sew It All." Such a wonderful opportunity!
Three years ago I started my blog, www.rhondabuss.blogspot.com. At the time, I really wasn't sure what to do. I would talk about my life and post garments that I had made. Over the past three years the blog has evolved into a passion. On Friday's I share garments that I have made using very simple shapes, rectangles, squares, circles and sometimes a triangle or two. This post also includes instructions on how to draft the pieces that I make. It's called Fabulous Free Pattern Fridays. On Saturday I post a tutorial on sleeve drafting. Each week I showcase a different sleeve and explain the drafting process. I love doing these posts as they stretch my mind and I hope that in turn helps to stretch the reader's mind as well. My Fabulous Free Pattern Friday posts have become my number one followed board on Pinterest.
When I'm not sewing, I fly! Twenty years ago I decided to learn to fly. Since then I have earned my instrument and commercial ratings. I now fly for an organization called Pilot-N-Paws. It's a non-profilt organization that rescues animals.
Susan Crane had one grandmother who knitted and one who sewed, and grew up doing both. She started a knitting shop but soon realized that while sales was not her thing – she was good at problem solving and doing custom work. While at her shop she designed children’s sweaters and custom wrote patterns for clients.
After that she started sewing for friends and got recommendations from friends and thus a sewing business was born, that was over 15 years ago. Claire Shaeffer’s book “Couture Sewing Techniques” was probably the biggest influence in the type of sewing that she enjoys doing. As soon as she read it she realized that that was the type of sewing the she wanted to do...
That was the past and brings us up to the present. The present is as Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. The worst of times is obviously the recession and down turn in business. The best of times is that she now has the time to explore other things. She started writing for Threads, she loves writing. Besides writing for Threads she has had her work featured in Claire Shaeffer’s book, “Fabric Sewing Guide”. She also won the 2006 Threads PACC challenge for the LBD, and the 2012 Threads ASDP challenge on Lace Garments.
For the future; she wants to design and sell a limited collection on the internet. She also has started a book on sewing with lace.
Susan Khalje had not originally envisioned a career in couture sewing. Instead, her choice was between her two great loves: languages and music. She chose the later, attend a music conservatory, and worked as a classical pianist in London for many years.
She returned to New York and received her professional training at the couture salon Chez Cez et Bez. Given her background, it made sense to focus her own custom business on bridal couture. After 25 years, she moved away from sewing to concentrate on writing and teaching couture techniques.
She is the author of Bridal Couture (Krause Publications) and Linen and Cotton (Taunton Press), and her long-running HGTV/DIY show, Sew Much More, focused on a variety of sewing techniques. In addition to shorter offerings, Susan teaches 6-day seminars on couture sewing, and each year she takes a small group to Paris for a behind-the-scenes exploration of the world of couture. She is a Threads Magazine Contributing Editor, and currently teaches the Couture Dress Class on Craftsy.com. She is also developing her own on-line classes.
Susan is a charter member and former chairperson of the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (formerly known as The Professional Association of Custom Clothiers) and received, in 2005, the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
An acrobat in her youth, Claire enrolled in the circus curriculum at Florida State University but left with a MRS degree. Though quite thin, she had developed broad shoulders through acrobatics — a factor that ultimately steered her life in another direction. Finding it difficult to find clothes that fit, she turned to sewing her own wardrobe, but wanted more than commercial patterns offered. “I went back to school to learn how to make my own patterns,” she says. She studied couture techniques, developed a passion for fashion, and ultimately amassed an impressive collection of designer clothes. Later she returned to school and graduated with an art history degree so she could teach at the college level.
Claire is the author of the popular “Couture Sewing Techniques” and many other books that you should check out. She is a frequent contributor to Threads magazine, as well as Vogue Pattern Magazine and teaches two couture workshops a year in her hometown Palm Springs.
Claire’s motto is “I demystify couture”. In fact, she confides almost proudly that she is not allowed to visit Chanel’s Paris workrooms to observe the petite mains (little hands) at their tasks. “I’m on their bad list,” she says. “I have written them twice, but they have made it very clear that they do not want me to write about the Chanel designs.” She has, however, gained entry into many other haute couture house in Paris. Forever secretive about its methods, Chanel even denies ever having granted authorized copies. [Several books now include this info.]
Claire continues to make her own clothes and has designed more than a dozen patterns for Vogue Patterns, often with a nod to Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent. From her intensive studies of their work, she says, “So much of what I’ve learned is not new techniques, but how to apply techniques I already knew — taking one application and adapting it to a new case. Most things are not difficult, but they are time-consuming.”
Claire passes along the knowledge she has gained through her personal studies, “It’s very rewarding to see people improve their skills and expand their knowledge,” she says. “There is no place else to go to learn these things.”
The ASDP Workshop in Novi–Chanel and that Jacket Class –is no longer accepting registration. Claire teaches a 5-day workshop In Palm Springs.
Claire recently received the ASG Hall of Fame Award. I’m the only person to have received both the PACC Lifetime Achievement Award and the Asg award.
Leslie Littell (Costume Specialist, is the owner of Ashbridge Costume Studio, a private studio offering full costume design services. Currently, her studio focuses on historic pattern development. She is a member of the Costume Society of America, and the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals.
As a Costume Specialist, she earned a BS in Design from the University of Cincinnati and worked in the NY garment industry before obtaining an MA in History from Rutgers University. Leslie has been on the faculty at Oakland University’s Department of Music, Theatre & Dance (Michigan) since 2002 and has worked and taught previously at Wayne State University (MI) and Montclair State University (NJ) in similar capacity.
Leslie has over 100 costume design credits for theatre and dance productions from New York to Colorado, including serving as the principal Costumer for Eisenhower Dance Ensemble in Michigan for ten years. She has presented at national and international conferences on teaching and creative process. Her favorite part of theatre is the rich relationships that come from collaboration. Her favorite part of design is the problem solving process.
Joyce Simons Murphy
Joyce Simons Murphy (JSM) has degrees in apparel design and education plus 20 years of experience running a tailors shop, altering clothes, constructing garments and selling men's made-to-measure suits. As owner of JSM Tailors, Joyce saw a need for new tools to make tailoring easier. In response to this need, Joyce developed the JSM Hourly Rate Calculator, the Pricing Alterations Made Easier system, and the JSM Pants for Women system. As owner of JSM Tailoring Tools, Joyce writes for Threads magazine, trains sewing enthusiasts everywhere in the use of her professional tailoring tools and continues to develop new tools designed to save fitting time, time making and adjusting patterns and time spent on business tasks thus giving more time to design and construct custom clothing.
We are extremely pleased to have Joyce as one of our Master Class instructors for our "Be a Part of it All" 2012 Educational Conference in Novi, Michigan. She is offering a "Menswear Tailored Alterations for Dressmakers" course for two days before conference which is a topic requested by our membership. The first day will address trouser alterations including machine and hand hemming, adjusting the seat and stride, and replacing a fly-front zipper. Day 2 will include such jacket alterations as shortening vented cuffs and the collar, taking in the sides and narrowing the shoulders. Take advantage of Joyce's years of experience and sign up early! More information on Joyce's class is available in the conference brochure.
Juliette Kimes comes from a long line of sewing professionals, including a great-grandmother who sewed for the Queen of England before immigrating to the US, so it is only natural that she was wielding aneedle and thread by the age of four.
She graduated to a sewing machine by seven and startedmaking her own clothes at 12. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Textiles and Clothing from the University of California at Davis, she worked in the childrenswear industry in the San Francisco area. Now earning her living intechnology, Juliette continues to sew for herself and select clients. Her specialty is custom formalwear and bridal alterations, but she also enjoys working with machine embroidery, dyeing and has developed an obsession with making the perfect collared shirt over the years. She began teaching at her local Bernina dealer in 2010.
Juliette has been a member of ASDP since 2005, was a finalist in “Inspired by Threads” in 2004 and 2005, and a finalist in the Threads “Suit Your Style” Challenge in 2010.
Helen Haughey, Helen Haughey Designs
Helen Haughey currently resides in St. Louis, Missouri but her clientele is spread throughout the United States. She began her sewing career at a very young age in New Zealand and initially sewed for herself and her family. As Helen recognized the opportunity to assist women within the community to find a truer, better fit, she expanded her business to clients at large. Helen has a broad repertoire:
- Bridal, including bridesmaid & Mother
- Gala including debutante
- Tailored Day Wear
Her skill set has been honed over time to use couture techniques.
- Advanced Sewing
- Little Sheath Dress
- Children “learn to sew”
Helen belongs to the Haute Couture Society of Chicago and has House of Haughey published in St. Louis Magazine.
As Vice President of Conference Planning, Helen is excited about the new conference format this year, and hopes every ASDP member will consider attending!
Kathy Levy, The Sewing Room, Colonie, NY
Kathy Levy became frustrated and unsatisfied after working many years as a medical secretary. She needed to do something else with her life. A friend asked why she didn’t do what she loved and did well – sew. That began a series of sewing related jobs which helped her gain the skills and experiences she needed to start an alteration business in her home. She did alterations for a dry cleaner, decorated costumes for a dance studio, became production manager for a college sportswear store sewing lettering and art work on garments and made samples for a children’s clothing boutique.
Early in her business, Kathy took on any work she could find, including several independent contracting jobs, to boost her income. Many of the jobs were tedious and uncreative. Eventually she was able to limit her work to alterations. Although she does basic alterations, bridal alterations have become her specialty. She finds great satisfaction working with the difficult to fit client, making her look and feel beautiful for her wedding day. Over the years Kathy has found her true passion to be making Christening gowns, in particular, creating them from the wedding dress of the baby’s mother or grandmother.
In 1999 Kathy took an active part in the development of the newly formed Albany Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. She served 7 years on the Chapter Advisory Board, 4 of them as Chapter President. In 2001 she joined PACC, but did not take an active role in the organization. In 2005, while attending an alteration class given by a PACC member, she learned more about what the organization had to offer and she became a more active member. ASDP Conferences have provided her with valuable education, great networking and many friendships. This year’s (2012) conference in Novi will be her 8th. The association is fortunate that Kathy answered the call to serve on the board; she is currently the ASDP Treasurer.
Rachel Kurland, brings a wealth of experience to the governing board of the Association. Currently residing in rural Vermont, Rachel designs and constructs custom bridal gowns under the label Foxglove Custom Bridal Gowns, but her eclectic resume includes an MFA in costume design from Brandeis University, managing UC-Santa Barbara’s costume shop, work for a bridal designer, an armorer, and costume shops in New York city, teaching costume history and construction at Windham College (now defunct) in Putney, VT, wardrobe work for Jerry Lewis and John Raitt, and curating a costume collection for a historical society in Woodstock, Vermont. Between designing regional theatre shows Rachel also constructs insulated window quilts, builds mascots, tailors women’s suits, and occasionally does alterations.
Located in a small town, Rachel soon came to appreciate ASDP. Attending the Association’s annual conferences showed her how involvement with ASDP connected her to other people across the country earning a living doing what she does. Rachel states, “The generosity of ASDP members always impresses me. We share contacts, sources, techniques, accomplishments, and failures. The discuss list has helped me more times than I can count. Now that I’m travelling less for work, I feel I have more flexible time to give back to ASDP.“
Having a background with dozens of classes covering obscure techniques, Rachel cherishes the most exquisitely tailored vest she has ever seen, made by her paternal grandfather (a Boston tailor) with buttonholes hand-worked by her grandmother. ASDP is grateful to have Rachel begin her two-year term as VP-Communications on January 1, 2012.
The MSDP Certification Program is pleased to announce we have our first MSDP recipient - Brenda Breitenmoser of Agassiz, British Columbia! Brenda has demonstrated mastery in all seven areas of required expertise and has now earned the right to use Master Sewing and Design Professional in all of her business promotions. Brenda was presented with her certificate and a bouquet of seven roses (one for each module) at the recent Members Banquet at the national conference in Portland, Oregon. It is anticipated that Brenda will soon be joined by more certified recipients.
Brenda has had a sewing related business since 1985 and works mainly from her home. Her sewing experience includes working for Trautmann Furs and later for Silk and White Satin bridal shop doing alterations and sales. She is now working on her own doing alterations and custom sewing with a focus on custom wedding gowns.
Joining ASDP in 2006, Brenda has been the secretary of the Association for the past 2 years, and at our recent annual meeting was re-elected to this position for another two-year term. In addition, Brenda is working hard to start a chapter in British Columbia.
For more information on the Master Certification program, click here or email Linda Macke, VP Certificate Program at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo Description: Brenda Breitenmoser, center, receiving her MSDP certificate from Linda Macke (left), ASDP VP Certificate Program, and Catherine Stephenson, Chairperson, MSDP Board.
Photo Credit: Charles Islander
Teresa Nieswaag has been sewing since eighth grade Home Economics. She started her business in 2001, working at a Husqvarna Viking dealership. The manager nudged her into teaching, something she would never have considered on her own. As a certified Square-in-a-Square quilt instructor for Jodi Barrows, Teresa has been a vendor at quilt shows in four states. Teresa now focuses her business more on custom sewing, embroidery and alterations.
In 2001 a garment that she made and embroidered won "Best Use of Color" in the Stitches Magazine Embroidery Challenge which traveled with the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo that year. Teresa joined ASDP in 2006 and has served as a Regional Directory for Region 4 until structural reorganization discontinued these positions. She helped with scheduling volunteers for the 2008 conference in Chicago. MSDP (Master of Sewing and Design) also used her skills as a secretary.
Upon accepting her nomination for President-Elect, Teresa stated "One great way to truly understand an organization is to become involved, and I hope to influence more members to do this also. Asdp is a wonderful networking organization with highly knowledgeable and skilled members. In learning from each other and working together I hope we will continue to see ASDP grow and evolve into an even more dynamic organization." Teresa feels a strong sense of responsibility to ASDP and its members, and is honored to have been elected President-Elect at the 2011 Annual Meeting. After serving one year in this capacity, she will take over as President in January, 2013.
Photo credit:Amy Close-Pepe
Debra Dianne (Debbie) Utberg's professional sewing career began in 1977 when she was asked to sew a wedding gown and discovered the value of her sewing skills to others. For many years, her business was an intermittent, parttime entity.
In 1990, after her children were older, she began marketing her business, "Utberg Custom Clothiers" more extensively. During this period, she took several Master Classes offered at conferences and by various master teachers.
In 2005, Debbie moved her business out of her home into a commercial location close to downtown Portland, OR. While at this location, she attended the Baltimore conference and developed the following "pitch":
Because shopping for clothing can be frustrating and even depressing when your body is not standard, or the current styles do not flatter you, or you just want something uniquely made for you,...we design and create custom clothing that draws upon your personal style and enhances your unique proportions, ...so that you can experience the feel of superb fit and the confidence that comes from knowing you look great. And that pretty much describes her business focus!
Since her first move, she has had to move two more times. Currently, her studio is about six minutes from home.When asked about inspiration, Debbie replies "The creative process is interesting. It begins with imagination and seeing a need or an opportunity to create beauty and perhaps even confidence. Then there comes the question of 'how can I make this happen?' In the quest to 'make it happen' inspiration comes."
One source of inspiration has been the ASDP's annual conferences. The conferences are like an "in-gathering" of artists, technicians and entrepreneurs. Imagine Coco Chanel visiting with the artists and writers of her day in her Paris home. The conversations, "flushing out" of ideas, sharing and debating the topic "du jour". So when the Oregon chapter learned that the conference was to be in Portland, agreeing to organize the member showcase was a natural.