Introducing Sewing Educator Sarah Veblen

We all know that creating beautiful clothes that fit and flatter is an art. It requires talent, skill, a practiced eye and time. Teaching this art requires the ability to break down processes that have become second nature and communicate them in a way the uninitiated can understand, plus a considerable amount of patience and diplomacy. Rarely do we encounter anyone who excels at both. Sarah Veblen is among this rare breed.

If her name sounds vaguely familiar, you may have read one of Sarah’s articles in Threads Magazine. My introduction to Sarah was through her online classes on These cover topics such as sleeves, linings, underlining, buttons and buttonholes, knits, wools and sheers. Her class titles use the words “All About” and those classes deliver on that promise. Her written materials are thorough and clear. Her follow-up on the message boards is equally clear and comprehensive. As if that weren’t enough, I am amazed by the fact that she is able to look at pictures students post on the class message board, identify the fit issues and write out suggested alterations to address them. As this is posted, Sarah is putting the finishing touches on her book, The Complete Photo Guide to Pattern Fitting, which is scheduled for publication in January 2012.

Sarah offers an array of classes, workshops and private lessons at her home studio in the Baltimore area, as well as workshops and weekend retreats around the country. We are working on bringing Sarah to the Chicago area soon, and so we thought it would be nice if you got to know a little bit about her in advance. So, here is an introduction to Sarah Veblen, in her own words:

Tell us when and how you got bitten by the sewing bug.

My mother sewed, and when I was in elementary school, I’d play with her scraps and make doll clothes if she had everything out. In ninth grade, I started sewing some clothes for myself, more experimentation than following a pattern. But in high school, I started to sew using patterns. Because of a move that my family made from one state to another, I never had home economics. When I asked my mother about my learning to sew, she said she never really taught me, but that I just started to sew. In her words, “You were sewing circles around me by the time you were finishing high school.” Sewing just made sense to me. I’ve always loved working puzzles, and to a large degree, sewing is nothing but a big puzzle.

After college, I was working in the Boston area as an executive secretary and office administrator, and I needed a better wardrobe than what I had worn in college. Because I was interested in sewing, I started to make more and more of my own clothes. One of my new friends in the area also sewed, and she and I would pour over pattern books and shop for fabric together. Having a friend who liked to sew helped to keep me interested as well. It was then that sewing became a passion. Lots of my spare time was consumed with sewing clothes for myself and friends. I just loved the process and couldn’t stop!

How did you learn sewing, patternmaking and design? How did you get your start designing and sewing custom clothing?

It’s hard to answer these two questions separately, so I’ll talk about them together.

Fast forward about ten years, and after several moves and getting married and having my first daughter, I was living here in the Baltimore area. My friends were really impressed with the clothes I was making for my daughter and encouraged me to sell them. I found a local shop that sold handcrafted items, and they were interested in carrying my children’s clothes. However, I knew that I couldn’t use commercial patterns for this purpose, so I developed a few patterns on my own – some of these were based on commercial patterns, but there were such substantial changes to them, I felt that they were legitimately my own. I sold my children’s clothes through two local craft stores and several small boutiques in New York City for quite a few years, doing all my own production.

It was during this time that I had a few inquiries about making custom adult clothing. When I look back now, I can’t believe that I said yes, knowing as little as I did about fitting. But many dressmakers start off by offering the service of just making up a pattern. I realized that I was on a trajectory that I had never before seriously considered – of becoming a custom designer – and that in order for my work to be really good, I needed to learn patternmaking. With my marriage failing and three daughters, I knew I needed to support myself and couldn’t face going back into secretarial work. So I signed up for a patternmaking class at a local community college.

It was the best thing ever! I learned the theory behind what I had been doing by the seat of my pants. I hardly slept the whole semester because I was so excited about what I was learning. I asked my local independent fabric store, A Fabric Place, if they would give my name to people who inquired about local dressmakers, and I started sewing custom clothing in earnest while continuing with classes in patternmaking, draping, and tailoring.

Although the community college’s fashion program barely touched on fitting, I realized through working with clients that fit was of utmost importance – and in fact, that’s why most clients were coming to a dressmaker. I read what I could find on fitting, but the theoretical examples never seemed to really match what happened in real life. One of my new clients had a challenging body to fit: she was barely five feet tall and quite amply endowed. As I fit a muslin of a jacket on her, I remember not knowing if making a change in a certain way was better than doing it another way. So I asked her if I could do some experimenting, and if so, I wouldn’t charge her for the pattern development. I then copied the pattern and altered each set differently, and in the next fitting, I could quickly tell what worked better. I often did this in the beginning of my dressmaking career – had two muslins going for the same client – so that I could better learn how I liked to fit and what gave me the results that I wanted.

As my fitting improved, I realized how closely linked fitting, patternmaking, and design were. For example, there are often times that by introducing a new style line (i.e., adding a seam), I can both improve the fit and make the garment look more flattering. It was really through fitting that I became more interested in design. And as I developed my own sense of design, I became even more interested in fitting. The two definitely fueled each other. And it was my ability to fit and design that made my reputation as a custom clothier.

Thank you for giving us these insights into your journey, Sarah. We look forward to continuing this interview in later posts.

Celebrate National Sewing Month!

National Sewing Month logoSeptember is here! On the one hand it means a melancholy feeling because summer is coming to an end and we’re heading to cooler temps. But on the other hand, September is a CELEBRATION OF SEWING! September is celebrated as National Sewing Month and is co-sponsored by the Sewing & Craft Alliance and the American Sewing Guild.

A Brief History of National Sewing Month

President Ronald Reagan signatureIn September 1982, President Ronald Reagan signed Proclamation #4976, declaring that September as National Sewing Month. The proclamation recognized the tens of millions of Americans home sewists and  “the skill and the self-reliance which are so characteristic of this Nation.” This was followed with successive annual proclamations by President Reagan during his terms. But in 2005, the request for a proclamation was not accommodated. However, even without a Presidential proclamation, September continued to be supported and promoted as National Sewing Month by various organizations.

In  2008, the American Sewing Guild joined forces with the Sewing & Craft Alliance to continue the promotion of National Sewing Month and provide a central location for the distribution of National Sewing Month information and materials to organizations, educators, sewing enthusiasts and anyone else interested in promoting and/or participating in activities for National Sewing Month.

Celebrate With Sewing: Sew For The Love Of It Contest

 Sew For the Love of It logoNational Sewing Month is celebrated with a contest to showcase and encourage sewing creativity and imagination. This year’s theme is “Sew For the LOVE of it!” 

The contest runs through September 30, 2011. Official rules and entry can be found on the National Sewing Month website. Here’s what you should be thinking:

“Show us what YOU love to sew! You choose the project, whether it’s an article of clothing, a toy, something for your home, an accessory, a quilt, or even an item for your car or boat. Whatever you decide to create, show your love with a within the project. It can be heart fabric, a pillow shaped like a heart, heart embroidery, heart-shaped pockets – it’s completely up to you. The item you enter must be hand-crafted and utilize fabric, thread and sewing machine and there MUST be a visible heart somewhere on the project itself. Whatever you choose to sew, just make sure we see the expression of your love of sewing!”

Think about using National Sewing Month in your neighborhood group challenge this month. If you have pictures, be sure to post them to the Members’ Projects album or email me to post them.

Follow National Sewing Month on Twitter

Twitter logo

The National Sewing Month is on Twitter, @sewingmonth. Watch their tweets for daily giveaways and tutorials posted to the National Sewing Month website.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, @sewchicago. Watch for our special National Sewing Month tweets with the hashtag “#NatSewMo”. We and other sewists around the Twitter-sphere are using the hashtag to share our enthusiasm for sewing!

Video Tweet Day List

Watching movies clipart from MicrosoftDid you follow the tweets of videos yesterday? Did you follow #vidtweetday or did you follow on the blog? I really hope you liked them; I had a fun time finding various topics and not-the-norm videos.

In case you missed any, here’s a list of all the videos:

  1. Threadbanger’s How to Wet Felt a Beret
  2. The art of tambour beading as done in French Haute Couture Embroidery at Lesage in Paris
  3. The Making of a Chanel Haute Couture Outfit from New York Magazine
  4. VogueFabrics’ Mac Berg shows how to use the stilleto when sewing and pressing
  5. Embellishment With Bias Strips from Sandra Betzina
  6. Haute couture French crochet beading from Corinne Meunier and photos
  7. Bespoke tailoring in U.K.; mobile tailors set up in pubs and the suits are made in Hong Kong
  8. Traditional shibori tying & dyeing
  9. Shingo Sato, extreme pattern making: Transformational Arm-Hole
  10. Francesco the tailor, Italy (I wish there was more to the video)
  11. Julian Roberts Subtraction Cutting by an Indiana University student under Julian’s direction
  12. Japanese kimono maker. I love his foot action and mesmerized by his adept needle-handling.
  13. A two-fer deal: Spoonflower’s tutorial of how to design without Photoshop and creating wall art with custom-printed fabric

I hope you enjoy these videos! I’ll try to do another Video Tweet Day every few months.

Call for Volunteers: Original Sewing & Quilt Expo

Submitted by Susan Gerbosi, ASG Chicago Membership Chair

Original Sewing & Quilt Expo logo

Image source: PRWeb

The Original Sewing & Quilt Expo is coming to the Chicago-area on March 31 through April 2 at the Schaumburg Convention Center and the ASG needs your help. There are two types of volunteer opportunities at the Expo:

    ASG Chicago Chapter Booth Volunteer — Member volunteers will help promote the ASG and encourage membership or renewals for half-day or whole day shifts.
    Expo Ambassador Program Volunteer — Volunteer for classroom assistant, ticket taker, information desk assistant, set-up/tear-down assistant, sewing studio organizer, white glove gallery monitor, and general booth help for half-day or whole day shifts.

Free Tickets Available!

The ASG Chicago Chapter will have a booth at the Expo and we need volunteers for the following times. The first two (2) volunteers to register for each section will receive a free general admission pass to the Exhibit Hall.  The pass will be good for just the day volunteered.

  • Section A:  Thursday, March 31 – 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Section B:  Thursday, March 31 – 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Section C:  Friday, April 1 – 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Section D:  Friday, April 1 – 1:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Section E:  Saturday, April 2 – 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
  • Section F:  Saturday, April 2 – 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

If you are interested in volunteering at the ASG booth, please email Susan Gerbosi.  Be sure to give Susan your name, return contact information, date and volunteer section for the ASG booth.

Expo Ambassador Program Volunteer

American Sewing Guild artwork: Lorelei's Three PeopleVisit the Expo website’s Ambassador Progam application page. Complete the online application and click “Submit” at bottom of page. Be sure to list your Group Affiliation as “ASG Chicago”. You may leave the Ambassador ID# section blank. You will receive an automatic email confirmation after you register.

For your convenience, you can download the Volunteer Information and full details of the Ambassador Program Application.

We hope our members take advantage of these volunteer opportunities as well as visit the Original Sewing & Quilting Expo.

Stop By and Say “Hello!”

ASG Member logoBe sure to stop by the ASG booth between classes or while you’re shopping. We’d love to see you! If you’re not an ASG member, come see us at our booth. We’d love to show you what the American Sewing Guild means by “Advancing Sewing as an Art and Life Skill” and having fun learning and sharing with other members.

How To Thread

Superior Threads Sampler Pack

Sampler Pack from Superior Threads

On February 8, Bob Purcell, President of Superior Threads “and Self-Certified Threadologist,” taught Thread to a capacity audience assembled at the newly expanded and extremely sewer-friendly Fabrics Etc. 2 in Bensenville.

Read some of the tips that Liz C. learned at this seminar on the Sew Chicago blog.

Bob’s alter ego wife, Mother Superior, also writes a blog about all things thread. It’s great inspiration if you’ve ever wondered about using metallics or Texture Magic threads.

On my list of “how cool would that be to do?!” is to take Threadology‘s classes. Who can resist “Thread Therapy with Dr. Bob” and an “Open Thread Bar.”

If you missed the discussion at Fabrics Etc 2, here are a couple of videos from Superior Threads. Not quite the same as being there, though.

Cotton vs. Polyester Thread

Metallic Thread

Now you’ll be looking at that holiday gift exchange with a new eye when you open it and find metallic thread. 😉


A Weekend Well Spent

Submitted by Marge Damm, ASG Chicago Community Service Chair

Hold the housework. Leave dinner for dear husband in the ‘fridge. Pack up up your unfinished and not-yet-started projects to spend a weekend at a sew-in.

In late January, 19 ASG members and friends attended a special sewing weekend sponsored by the Tinley Park neighborhood group.  They enjoyed seeing each others’ projects progress and having time to relax with friends and exchange sewing ideas and techniques.

Beautiful Results From A Well-Spent Weekend

Rita Fallara of Palos Heights models a Curvy Girl dress she made at the weekend sew-inRita Fallara of Palos Heights (Sew N’ Sews NG) models a prom dress she made at the weekend sew-in for the Curvy Girl Prom Dress community service to the Glass Slipper Project. So beautiful, Rita! Some girl will be very happy to pick this dress for prom.

Sew-In Finished ProjectsSome of the participants show items they worked on during the weekend.

Standing (from left): Jay Watts (Sew Chicago NG) and Louise Dergantz (Sew N’ Sews NG) with Curvy Girl dresses; June Sullivan (Desperate Stitchers NG) with her quilt; Rita Fallara (Flying Needles NG and Sew N’ Sews NG) with a prom dress; and Pat Frederick (Sew N’ Sews NG) with one of a set of aprons.

Seated (from left) are quilters Betty Krainik (Flying Needles NG), Sandy Migitz (Flying Needles NG), Carol Rasmussen (Flying Needles NG and Sew N’ Sews NG) and Terri Kowalski (Flying Needles NG).

Your projects look GREAT, ladies! Looks like you had fun hanging out with each other and working on some wonderful sewing projects!

Are you an ASG member, but don’t have a neighborhood group (NG)? We can help you get in touch with one nearest to where you live or work in the Chicagoland area. Not an ASG member yet, but would like to get in on the fun and learn new techniques? Membership is available online. Join today and a Neighborhood Group leader will be happy to welcome you at the next meeting!

Introducing Quilting Through Stories: The Seasons Sewn

Cover art for The Seasons Sewn

Image source: Ann Whitford Paul's website

In addition to the growing list of references in our Education Resources page, our chapter blog will also look at how we can encourage new and younger folks to become interested in sewing and improving their sewing skills.

My young niece loves the idea of the stories behind quilts. I think this came from her mowing through my childhood set of Laura Ingalls Wilder books. Throughout the series, Laura and Mary are tucked warm and cozy under the quilt that Ma made.

During a recent trip to the library, I cam across this book, The Seasons Sewn — A Year in Patchwork, written by Ann Whitford Paul and illustrated by Michael McCurdy. The Seasons Sewn is a children’s book and uses quilt patterns to explain the seasonal flow of life in our country during the 19th Century.

The Seasons Sewn is not a true historical account of how quilt pattern names were derived. In fact, as the author writes that many quilt blocks have more than one name because back in the day, the only way a sewist recorded a quilt block pattern was by memory from when she saw the quilt block until she could return home to cut out her fabric and piece the block together. So the pattern may be slightly different as well as the name.

Inside page of The Seasons Sewn

Image source: Ann Whitford Paul's website

What this book does do well, with its wonderful illustrations, is romanticize the history of the quilts. It brings to life a story of how the quilt pattern could have come about. The author imagines that someone playing the tag game of Fox and Geese in the snow might have been inspired to work the pattern where you can almost imagine the path of the “fox” chasing the “geese” within the game’s boundaries onto the block. Follow the seams of the block and imagine you’re the fox chasing the geese. Each block is described in one paragraph, which makes for easy reading with younger audiences.

The illustrations are slightly reminiscent of Little House’s Garth Williams color illustrations, but a little more primitive. On each page, there is both an illustration of a single block and one of four blocks together to give you an idea of the overall effect that would be on a quilt. These make excellent springboards for young quilting minds to copy. Or maybe come up with their own block design.

The Sewn Seasons is recognized with the following literary awards:

  • Winner of the 1996 Carl Sandburg Literary Arts Award for Children’s Literature
  • 1996 NAPPA Award
  • One of the New York Times Best Illustrated Books for 1996
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Book of 1996

Ms. Paul wrote another quilt block book titled Eight Hands Round where she imagines the American pioneer origins of 26 quilt blocks, one for each letter of the alphabet.

Ann Whitford Paul was born in Evanston, IL.

Do you know of any other books that are helpful to introduce quilting to children or new sewists? Let us know by leaving a comment.

If you’d like to share a book on the blog to the rest of our ASG Chicago chapter and our dear readers from other areas, leave a comment or drop me an email.

Welcome to ASG Chicago

(This post was written by Connie, ASG Chicago Chapter President)

Welcome to the Chicago Chapter of the American Sewing Guild.  We have Neighborhood Groups located between Rockford, IL and Valparaiso, IN. To the north, we have a group near the Wisconsin border.  With 400 members in the Chicago chapter, you will find a Neighborhood Group with interests to stimulate your creativity.

We invite you to check here frequently for updates on chapter events and Neighborhood projects.  A listing of meeting dates/places can be found on our website.

A Little Bit About Me

Remember when you bought your first sewing machine, or purchased a new machine?  Purchasing a new piece of equipment gives us the opportunity to expand our expertise.  I have the privilege of teaching sewing machine owners new techniques, but the owners teach me much more – camaraderie and enjoyment of sewing. I look forward to sharing with you news about ASG Chicago and our members here and I hope that those of you who found us on the web and live in our area will come to a Neighborhood Group meeting or a Chapter-wide event and give us a try.

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