Sunday, December 14, 2014

Teacher Interview-Judith Adams

Today's interview is with Judith Adams from Australia. Judith has taught at numerous SAGA conventions as well as local chapters and will be teaching at the SAGA Las Vegas Retreat at the end of February 2015.

Who taught you needlework skills and when did you first start learning?

I have some pieces of petit point that I worked when I was 10 or 12 but can’t really remember much about them.

When I lived on an Australian Air Force Base (my husband was the Senior Dental Officer at the time ) we had a USAF exchange officer and his family living there and I was taught by the officer’s wife. I was pregnant with my daughter at the time (1984) and loved smocking and bought a pleater immediately.

What is your favourite form of embroidery?

            Smocking would be my passion and what I love to teach. Second would be heirloom techniques with shaped lace which is not really embroidery, but my next favourite thing.
When do you find time to embroider/sew?

            In the evenings or when Claire (granddaughter 4 ½ ) is out or at pre-school. My daughter Catherine, and Claire live next door- two houses on the one piece of land) so Claire is always around….I LOVE it! I have started teaching her to smock . Just one step waves but she seems keen and works it with two hands but at least she wants to learn to smock. Hooray ! Another convert!

What inspires your designs?

             Anything I see that has a regular shape may “plant a seed” for a smocking plate, or it could just create a theme in my mind, such a “bows”. I always come away from SAGA Convention or a workshop feeling inspired to create. I think it is being surrounded by ladies that are just so enthusiastic about smocking and it makes me try and think “outside the box”.

Do you attend classes and workshops as well as teach at them?

            I wish I could! I am very tempted by all of the wonderful retreats that many chapters hold. Unfortunately I would have to fly there from Australia so I am very jealous of all the wonderful opportunities our members have to attend workshops and the retreats in 2015. I am very tempted to try and work attending Valley Forge Retreat into my schedule!

On average, how long would you say it takes for you to complete a piece, from design concept to end?

            It takes me much longer to work on the concept and refine it (numerous times) and then graph the smocking design for the project, than to actually smock and construct it. Sometimes I have a seed of an idea and I will write it down or draw it and then a few years later I will see it again and then work up a class.

Do you belong to a sewing guild of any kind?


Do you smock?

Yes, but I wish I had time to do more of it!

Where is your favourite place to stitch?

I have a sewing room with windows on one side above the cutting table and double glass doors on the opposite side and a BIG skylight in the middle. This floods the room with light and I have comfy lounge chairs to sit in.


Are you married? Children? Pets?

Married to Ross (Orthodontist) and with son Steven 35 and daughter Catherine 30 and of course granddaughter Claire (5 next May and starting school in February)

What is your most favourite sewing tool?

Don’t have one

What sewing tool do you carry everywhere and why?

Tapemeasure. So when out shopping I can measure clothes. My kids give me orders for shirts etc when I am away so this way I can compare to ones I know fit.

What other hobbies/interests do you have?

Love playing and watching sports. Netball (Australia is World Champions) is a very British Commonwealth game and similar to Basketball. I used to play two nights a week and also watch Catherine play each week. Claire will start next year. I watch Steven play Ice Hockey and Inline Hockey each week and he has played for Australia at the World Inline Hockey Championships for the last seven years. This year it was in Toulouse France and next year we will all go to Mendoza Argentina for Worlds.

How often do you travel to teach?

I do two or three trips to teach each year with a maximum “away from home” time of 14 days. I make this rule myself so I won’t be absent from Claire for too long. This usually means just two workshops can be fitted in before I have to leave. I also  make a trip to the UK to teach for the Smocking Branch of the Embroiderers Guild or if not teaching that year, then to attend their Residential Workshop as a student or just to visit with my friend Rowena (whom many of you have met at Convention).

Have you a favourite location where you most enjoy teaching?

Not really. Love visiting all around the USA and love staying with a family in their house. My hosts have kindly taken me to museums, historic houses, school football games and kid’s volleyball practice, and too many other wonderful places to list them all …and I have loved every minute.

Where can we get to see your projects (magazines, stores etc.)?

In my classroom.

What do you do with your completed projects-frame and keep, give away, etc.?

Most of my finished projects are garments for Design Show and they become part of my “travelling show” for when I teach.

Do you have a favourite colour(s) that you tend to use more than others?

I love pale pastel silk shantung so that features a lot in my garments and projects. I also love the bright hot pinks and peacock blue so I am trying to diversify and not get in a rut of always using ivory silk with ivory beads!

Have you had another type of career other than in the sewing area?

I was a High School (for us YR 7 to 12, so 12 to 18 year olds) Mathematics teacher so the formal teacher training has helped me transition to a needlework teacher. Teaching ladies who are interested and want to be in the classroom is a joy.

How do you see the future of your sewing career?

I would like to continue teaching around the USA for the various chapters of SAGA and am always very excited when an email arrives asking for dates for a workshop. I love Convention and seeing all of my smocking friends each year. I love hearing about their families, their smocking projects and feel privileged and humbled by the friendship they extend. I consider them my extended family.

What do you do to recharge your creative spark?

Surround myself with other smockers at workshops.

What technique still can’t you get the hang of…….. ?

I really hate to smock upside down! Like when you centre a bishop. I know it is not any different to smocking holding the fabric the right way up but my brain is not happy doing it.

What accomplishment are you most proud of?

Apart from being asked to teach at my first SAGA National Convention back in 1999, I think it is when I win People’s Choice at a SAGA Design Show. The opinion of my SAGA friends means a lot to me.

What is the biggest enemy to your creativity?

 Probably time. Design Show used to force me to create a special garment each year as I felt it was both a wonderful opportunity  and it was a tangible way for me to support SAGA. This year felt very strange as I did not have the panic of creating a garment in perhaps the month before I left for Convention! And this year was the only year I had actually planned what to do 12 months before, and designed it in my head after buying a heavily embroidered ribbon at the Houston Quilt Show. The dress with the smocking echoing the design on the ribbon-,that would in turn be the sash looked wonderful in my head! Perhaps another year!

You can visit Judith's website at: 


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