Wednesday, July 1, 2015

NY Fabric District

The Fabric District of New York covers several blocks between 27th Street and 39th Street and 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue (there are some places beyond these parameters). Many stores are wholesale only, but they are clearly marked. The shop fronts clearly show the type of fabric and notions they sell. Not all stores have fronts on the street, many are located inside of the buildings, involve elevator rides and walks along blank corridors! It all adds to the mystery of the place!

                                                                      Paron Fabrics

On the recent SAGA Meet-Up in NYC, I visited Paron Fabrics on 39th Street and took advantage of a Groupon coupon! I also walked around M & J Trimmings on 6th Avenue. I passed Spechler-Vogel- a name we all know as they supply many of the fine batistes to our business members.

If you have the chance to visit the area it is a fun place to wander around, but if you plan on buying my suggestion is to have some idea what it is you want to buy because there is just so much choice and it is easy to get distracted and confused!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Las Vegas Retreat Projects-Completed!

I was so excited to be able to go to the SAGA Retreat in Las Vegas in February and be able to take classes. I signed up to take the Paper Doll Dress squares with Brenda Shade and looked forward to actually making the two projects -Mother's Rose and Cottontail. I have owned Brenda's book  (Sweet Memories) for a number of years, along with a patterns for square yoke and bishop dresses, but I had just never got around to making even one of the designs.

My finished Mother's Rose Quilt Square
Vegas was my chance! But like all good plans, things changed as I went to Vegas with my right arm in cast up to my elbow as two weeks prior to leaving I fell on black ice and gave my wrist a multiple, unstable fracture- nothing simple for me, oh no! Having my wrist in a cast and very badly swollen and bruised fingers meant there was no fine hand sewing for me! But I decided to pick up a needle and at least thread it ready to smock on the tiny pleated dress skirt from the Mother's Rose kit. Then I got brave and using my right hand to guide the needle into the pleats and my left to pull it out I smocked the five 2 1/2 inch rows. It only took me nearly the whole day, but the smocking was acceptable and at least I was doing something!

My completed Cottontail quilt square
Anyway, after six long weeks in a cast I my wrist and hand were freed and I was able to use sewing as some of my therapy and sew I did. I completed the two projects and loved them. Did I say that I loved them? They are so cute and I am now planning a quilt and have five bishop papaer doll dresses ready to smock and make into squares and plans for several more dress squares. My stash of small fine fabric pieces will have found a use, along with those small pieces of lace.

Bunnies and a Bow!
So now I am getting excited as I am going to the SAGA Retreat in Chicago a month away in July and I have my paper doll dress squares to keep me busy while I wait for my flight. What classes am I taking in Chicago? None. I am going to be with my smocking friends and help out where I am needed and work on my paper doll dress squares. If you are going look out for me and ask me how my projects are going I will be happy to show you!

Did I say I love these little dresses??!

Shadow work bunnies and bows with pinstitched Madeira appliqued hem.
You can see other patterns and designs that Brenda has on her website
Her book, Sweet Memories is now out of print, but can be found on various Internet sale sites.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Smocking on the Porch

I spent my afternoon today with these ladies stitching on my front porch and enjoying afternoon tea.
What better way to spend a lovely warm summer afternoon?
Some of us worked on our Mystery of the Five Diamonds insert.
                                              Left to Right: Julie, Wanda, Jill and Lisa

Thanks for coming over ladies and especially Wanda who drove to Connecticut from Pennsylvania just to be with us! This is what SAGA is all about-friendship and sharing our love of smocking.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Let's Meet Barbara Meger!

Barbara Meger is a SAGA approved teacher and at present is leading a Smock-Along for SAGA which is available to Members Only, through the SAGA website ( In this blog, Barbara gives us a little insight into her life and her smocking.

Thoughts on Smocking

My eyes have been opened in recent years to the depth and variety of expression that smocking can provide.  Research for the lecture “Smocking—Yesterday and Today,” which I presented at the March 2014 opening of the exhibition “Smocking—Fabric Manipulation and Beyond” at the Lacis Museum of Lace and Textiles in Berkeley, California, turned up so much more than little girls’ smocked dresses.  For hundreds of years stitchery has been used to control fabric fullness in decorative as well as utilitarian (19th Century shepherds’ smocks, for example) ways.  Today, we see smocking on television, in mail order catalog offerings and used as a purely creative art form.

I have adopted a mission to open stitchers’ eyes to these many possibilities and get them to think “outside the box” (yes, that is the name of one of my classes!) when it comes to smocking.  I also encourage stitchers to not stitch in a vacuum, but to broaden their exposure with other types of needlework.  It is amazing how one medium can transform and enrich another.

For a complete listing of my classes, go to

We all start somewhere:  I must have started sewing when I was 5 or 6 or whenever my legs were long enough for the old treadle sewing machine we had.  I grew up on a farm in southwestern Missouri where sewing was an integral part of nearly every woman’s life—you made it (curtains, slipcovers, pajamas, evening gowns, patches for the men’s overalls, etc.) or you did without.  An aunt was my inspiration—she won all sorts of awards for her sewing through the 4-H organization where we all learned the correct way to do everything or ripped it out!  Eventually my mother got a new Singer and we didn’t have to go to Grandma’s anymore to get buttonholes made.  I just figured I’d become a Home Ec (that’s what it was called then) teacher but tossed out that notion after 10 weeks in junior high with an incompetent teacher.  We had moved to central New York by that time.  I sewed all through high school and college, even once designing and making a set of wrestling cheerleaders’ uniforms!

Going Green-inner detail
Hand sewing came later; though I vaguely remember my great-grandmother showing me how to do stamped cross stitch when I was really little.  I ordered and stitched numerous needlework kits from The Stitchery—never allowing myself to get a new one until the current project was completed.  (Whatever happened to that discipline!)  We moved to Crofton in suburban Maryland in the late 1970’s.  There was a wonderful needlework shop where I started taking classes:  quilting, crochet, knitting, needlepoint, hardanger, etc.  I actually avoided the smocking classes because I had an idea that since smocking went so well with all of the sewing I had always done, I might not want to ever do anything else if I learned to smock!

Starburst Evening Bag
Shortly before our daughter was born, though, I took my first smocking class, and I was hooked!  I made all of her dresses—the pre-school teachers couldn’t wait to see what Sarah would wear next!  I incorporated smocking into my own clothing as well, something that I still love and continue to do.  I had begun teaching a variety of classes at that same local needlework shop and even seriously considered buying it when the owner retired.  I had discovered SAGA along the way and attended my first seminar in Baltimore in 1984 and then that huge Atlanta convention in 1985 and many others that followed.  I was so fortunate to be able to take classes with many of the early influential SAGA teachers.

In the early 1990’s several things happened simultaneously.  By then I wasn’t allowed to make Sarah’s dresses anymore, and I began teaching SAGA-approved classes.  I developed a series of designs for Christmas ornament kits stitched with metallic threads to sell through my business, Classic Creations (   My earlier exposure to other types of needlework had introduced me to threads that were not all that common for smocking, and I offer them as well as other needlework accessories.

                                                        Galaxy Smocked Ornament, #1
The Smocking Horizons series for Creative Needle Magazine began in 1993.  This series of articles, as well as A Smocking Primer and the Smocking Essentials series which followed, gave me the opportunity to experiment with and try out some of the “what if’s” I’d always wondered about.  I’m basically a very practical/frugal person (Midwest upbringing?) and could never bring myself to make something unless it had a specific objective which the magazine articles provided.

Inflamed, a Scarf
I love teaching, though, and am so grateful that SAGA has allowed me the opportunity to travel across the country to share with its members.  Nothing warms my heart more than when I see the light go on and a student says, “Now I understand!”  Even better is when a student from a previous class returns to show me a completed project and/or what she was able to develop of her own based on that earlier class.

                                                              Mother of the Groom
I do have a life beyond stitching which centers around my love of history and passion for textiles.  As a long-time docent at an 18th Century historic house in Annapolis, Maryland, I have researched and participated in the creation of period clothing and needlework installations.  I am also a volunteer curatorial assistant at the Maryland Historical Society where I am able to apply my knowledge and skills to furthering the understanding of its collections.  This all meshes nicely with my keen interest in genealogy research.  As it turns out, I come from a long line of needle workers, one of whom may also have been named Barbara!

Barbara at a Teacher Showcase, SAGA Convention

Friday, June 19, 2015

SAGA goes to NYC to visit FIT

The SAGA Meet-Up in New York was a great success. Many thanks to SAGA President, Lisa Hawkes for organizing the event, including a lovely lunch at 'Stitch', a restaurant on 37th Street.

There were 19 ladies, mostly SAGA members and a couple of friends. Ladies had traveled from Maryland and Boston as well as New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. There was even a Past President, Kathie Ettinger, who is from Florida (but was in the area visiting).

Many of the group had a chance to shop the Fabric District in shops such as Mood, B& J, M& J Trimmings and Paron Fabrics. Lisa had emailed out an extensive list with location (some places are inside buildings and involve elevators to floors and directions along faceless corridors!) and specialties.

The highlight of the day was the visit to the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where we were greeted and lead to the second floor room and shown items from their extensive costume collection and given a brief history of women’s fashions from the early 1900's through to today. Our presenter was Ellen Shanley, a curator at the Museum at FIT and she was extremely knowledgeable and interesting.

There was then time to visit the museum at FIT and/or go back to shopping. I am sure everyone was as glad as I was to sit for a while on my train ride home and rest my feet!

You can visit the website for FIT to get more information about the college, Museum and up-coming exhibitions at

Heirloom is timeless

Proving heirloom and classic clothing is timeless, Prince George looked so cute at the Queen's Birthday Parade on the balcony at Buckingham Palace, June 2015. He is wearing the same outfit his father, William, Duke of Cambridge, wore at the same event in June 1984.

HRH Prince Charles with the Duke of Cambridge, Prince George and HRH The Queen (with Duchess of Cambridge in the background)
HRH Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and Prince Charles with Prince William
and Princess Margaret

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An 18th Century Wedding Dress

Have you seen the Outlander TV series? I have not (and apparently neither should anyone under the age of 18), but two of my chapter members are avid fans and one, Linda Gray, suggested I look at the shows website and read about the wedding gown that was made for the programme.

The wedding gown was designed by costume designer Terry Dresbach who used the descriptions in the original books as well as her own ideas for the concept of the gown. Unlike modern gowns, in the 18th century gowns were not white and tended to be the best dress you had already or if new, something that could be worn again. The dress began with looking at lots of pictures of gowns from 18th century and after four months was finished. Details such as pleating, stomachers and types of embroidery were looked at and chosen.

Terry wanted the dress to have shimmer to it as the scene was going to be shot in candlelight, so a metallic fabric was chosen. Many gowns in 18th century were woven metallic. Besides the metallic fabric used, the gown has embroidery done by hand with metallic threads which were then aged. The embroidery is of leaves and acorns.  The sleeves of the dress were typical of the period and the fabric was pleated –using a pleater- something that would have been done by hand in the 18th century. Terry says on her web page(  “We have this beautiful little smocking machine that operated with a hand crank. Makes beautiful, magical things’ .

Visit Terry’s page to see detailed photos of the pleating, embroidery and read more about the gown and you can also get to see pages of pictures that were used for inspiration.