Monday, March 7, 2016

Meet Tess Ellenwood

Tess Ellenwood is leading the latest SAGA Smock Along- a Wee Care project with a picture smocked puppy (Visit the SAGA Facebook page to download the directions and start the project), so I thought it would be fun to learn a little about Tess and her life. Tess agreed to answer some of my standard questions so enjoy her answers and if I had a dollar for the times that the answer to the last question has been the same I would be quite rich!

1.      Who taught you needlework skills and when did you first start learning?
As a child, I was surrounded by grandmothers, aunts, and a mom who could sew, knit, crochet, and tat.  Even my dad was accomplished at picking up dropped knitting stitches.  My earliest sewing memory is from when I was little more than two.  My mom had cut the feet from my pajamas because they had gotten too short. I got up in the night, found a needle in the sewing box (it must have been already threaded), and attempted to sew the feet back on.  I’ve been stitching ever since.  

2.      What is your favorite form of embroidery?
I like them all, and I like to morph techniques from one to the other.  If I had to pick, I would say stumpwork, whitework, and Brazilian.  I know; I didn’t really pick. 

3.      When do you find time to embroider/sew?
I used to sew everywhere and all the time.  But since I discovered my work looks exponentially better when I stitch it under extra light and magnification, I try to find time mornings or evenings at home.  My portable project is now knitting socks; lots and lots of socks.  No magnification necessary!

4.      What inspires your design
Absolutely everything!  One time I based a design on a bar of soap.  When we went to the beach, I took a picture of the dime-store rug in the entranceway of the beachhouse rental because I really liked the palette; everyone else was snapping pictures of the ocean. Once, a furniture ad inspired a vest.  When I walk through my yard, I take time to look at the really tiny wildflowers, count their petals, and decide which stitches they could be.  I tend to see tiny pieces of things, not necessarily the whole.  I really have a different drummer (maybe we all do, but just don’t realize it), and I like to push the envelope.  As a consequence, I try a lot of stuff that just doesn’t work :)

5.      Do you attend classes and workshops as well as teach at them?
      I do.  Even if you are an expert, you can still learn; opportunities are everywhere.  The learning might not be part of the technique, it might be in the way the teacher interacts with the students, or maybe the person next to you ties knots in a way you hadn’t thought of before.  You never know where you might pick up something new.
Tess teaching at a SAGA Convention

6.      On average, how long would you say it takes for you to complete a piece, from design concept to end?
I try not to think about it.  I spend a terrible amount of time in the design phase.

7.      Do you belong to a sewing guild of any kind?
Just SAGA.  At some point I’d like to join EGA.

8.      Do you smock?
Yes.  I suppose that’s my main thing.  I’m working on some real “out-of-the-box” stuff.  Stay tuned.

The Wee Care Gown for the SAGA Smock Along
9.      Where is your favorite place to stitch?
I’m not picky; I’ll stitch anywhere.

10.  Are you married? Children? Pets?
I already touched on this in another question, but I have a husband, 4 children, and over the years, almost too many pets to count.  We only have 2 cats right now (my husband hates cats) having just lost our 10-year-old golden retriever.  We’ll probably get a new puppy soon.

11.  What is your most favorite sewing tool?
Anything that does the job.

12.  What sewing tool do you carry everywhere and why?
Scissors.  You never know when you’ll need to cut something. I once got stopped at a security check with 6 pair of scissors (dress shears, not little thread snips) in my purse. The officer knew there was something wrong with me; but back then, scissors weren’t against the rules, so they let me go.  I had been teaching a class at lunch.  You can never have too many scissors.  My name is probably still on a list somewhere.

Wee Care Puppy design

13.  What other hobbies/interests do you have?
That’s a problem.  I know I should focus on just one thing, but I seem to be hardwired to be eclectic.  I am never bored, and I don’t understand people who are.  I am only frustrated because I can’t finish a project without interruption or because I can’t decide what to start next.  In addition to all kinds of sewing (sandbox covers to christening gowns), I am a hand spinner (not a form of exercise).  I knit and crochet, cane chair seats, and weave baskets.  In other words, I am drawn to the tedious (it must be genetic because even my impatient children engage in tedious hobbies, like making chain mail armour).  I once tatted a bookmark, and at least, decided I don’t need to do that anymore; I’ll buy my tatting.  I have also managed to steer clear of scrap booking.  I’m not a quilter, but I’m currently making a quilt; and as a sidebar, I decided to design all the fabrics on Spoonflower, a custom digital printing service (yes, it’s taking some considerable time). I am and avid reader and researcher (I was a librarian at the Library of Congress for 16 years).  I also enjoy computer programming and water/snow skiing.  And don’t forget the animals…. We have housed everything from ferrets and iguanas to cats and dogs.

14.  How often do you travel to teach?
I haven’t done much traveling to teach other than conventions because I have 4 kids and a husband, who works full time.  My youngest son is just finishing up driver’s ed, though; so I’ll have a much more flexible schedule since he’ll be able to deliver himself to school and events.

15.  Have you a favourite location where you most enjoy teaching?
Not really.  All the groups I’ve taught for have been great.

16.  Where can we get to see your projects (magazines, stores etc.)?
In the past, I have had articles published in Sew Beautiful and SAGANews .  Right now, I post occasionally to my Facebook page for Tess’ Heirloom Needlework, and I’m working on a website, which I hope to have up and running soon.
Tess enjoying SAGA Banquet
17.  Have you had another type of career other than in the sewing area?
I used to catalog Slavic language scientific materials at the Library of Congress; but when we moved to rural Southern Maryland, I started teaching English part-time at the local community college.  

18.  What is the biggest enemy to your creativity?
House work!

1 comment:

  1. Great article, I love the part about the 6 pairs of scissors!