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Saturday, October 30, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- Deerbrook Fabrics

Our next stop was Deerbrook Fabrics in Fairview, NJ. Some of us thought we were going fabric shopping, but Deerbrook Fabrics is a large-scale machine embroidery operation.
By large scale, I mean their newest machine embroiders 30 yards of fabric at one time. Deerbrook Fabrics operates 3 machines, all Swiss made, all "Schiffli" machines. In Swiss German, schiffli means "little boat", referring to the boat shape of the bobbin cases used by the machines. The 2 older machines (1950's--pictured at right) are double-decker (two lengths of fabric are embroidered with the same pattern at the same time) and the design is read from a loop of punch tape, not very different from the punch cards once used to load code onto computers. The older machines do one color at a time and must be completely re-threaded and reset for color changes.
The newer machine (pictured at left) is single-deck and completely computerized. When a thread breaks the machine stops, a red light turns on where the broken thread is, the computer screen displays the # of the broken thread, and a bell rings. The older, slower machines are usually re-thread while they are running. This machine holds 1000 needles, and depending on the size of the design can be loaded with 20 colors which are changed automatically as the design is worked.

The range of work they do here is amazing--from embroidered stars for high-end American flags to delicate floral embroidery for lingerie, dense all-over designs to eyelet. (Small square knives under the needles work the threads apart to form the holes before the edges are embroidered.)

Run by father and son, Ed and Steve Parseghian, it is encouraging to see some things are still made in the US, though this industry, like so many similar ones is shrinking. Mr. Parseghian noted that at the turn of the last century there were hundreds of businesses like theirs, and now they are some of the last survivors of globalization. As he put it, it is up to all consumers to make buying decisions that support local industries whenever possible.

Many thanks to Mr. Parseghian and his son--they we gracious hosts!

..Next up--my first hand experience as a finalist in the Threads Magazine Challenge.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ASDP Annual Conference -- Wolf Form Company

I returned a week ago from the Annual Conference for the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals. The conference was held in Secuacus, NJ this year--not the most glamorous place, but close enough to NYC to allow for some great adventures.

I arrived on Thursday, October 14th, and the fun began right away. I've made many dear friends and always look forward to catching up with them at conference, though we keep in touch via email and Facebook. You may not think that a bunch of seamstresses/sewing teachers could be a fun group, but we are.

This year was especially exciting for me, as I was a finalist in the Threads Magazine Challenge "Suit Your Style" and taught my first formal class ever. (more on both these topics later).

We had 3 options for Friday, and I chose the tour of the Wolf Form Company and Deerbrook Fabrics, both in New Jersey.

Stephen Wisner of New Jersey was our tour guide. He is very knowledgeable and has a fondness for diners, so we ended our day with a late lunch at the TickTock Diner in Clifton.

Our first stop was the Wolf Form Company, makers of high quality standard and custom dressforms.
I was really impressed that everything is still done by hand, from laying the paper-mache like material in the cast to form the foundation of the form, to sewing and shrinking the Irish linen cover to fit.

The owner, Mr. Ferri, walked us through the entire factory and explained every step of the process. This may sound boring to some, but to a sewing geek like me (and my sewing peeps), a dressform is an essential (though often luxury) tool. To see how something so important to our craft is made was a treat.

Next up: Deerbrook Fabrics--even cooler stuff for the nerds among us! 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Collared Shirt Class coming up in Austin

For anyone interested in stepping up their shirt-making skills, I'll be teaching a class at Sew Much More in Austin. This is a 2-day class, November 27 and December 4. We'll cover tools and techniques to sew a better collar, attach the collar/stand, add decorative stitching and  make better seams.
Please visit Sew Much More or call them at 512-452-3166 for more details and to register.

2010 ASDP Conference is just around the corner...

Less than two weeks away, in fact. I'll be headed to New Jersey this year on Oct 14. I always have a wonderful time at conference, but this time I am teaching a class (Take the Mystery Out of SEO) and I am a finalist in this year's Threads Challenge, "Suit Your Style". I'd love to give specifics, but it is a blind judging, so mum's the word for now. I will share details as soon as I can. I can say that I really enjoyed working on this project and took the "challenge" concept very much to heart. I have a long list of things I could have done better/different, but I am still very proud and please with what I made.
For more information and the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals (ASDP), visit the website:

I'll post updates from conference and when I return.