Our August presentation was by member Clara Dittli, who frequently shows us her different couture techniques. This time she presented her two basic types of hems: straight or nearly straight and heavily curved. Within each group there are numerous options; fabric samples should be tested because the choice of hemming technique should also consider the fabric’s properties.
Clara also discussed the importance of pressing and steaming the fabrics – first on a test swatch – and to get the best results. Hand-rolled hems, of course, are never pressed, to maintain the roundness of the roll in the fabric.
To conclude the session, Clara demonstrated a hand rolled hem and had each of us practice sewing on silk charmeuse. Getting the fabric to turn properly was the most difficult part, but once she got us started we seemed to grasp how to make this beautiful hem. And as often happens, Clara was able to give examples that even our more experienced members could use.
In July the Colorado Chapter was happy to have a presentation by Kathy McMann, who is the only teacher in the Denver Public School System who teaches sewing. We have been supporting Kathy this year by volunteering one of our members once a week to help her class. At our request, Kathy started this presentation by telling us about her experiences transitioning from a bridal professional to a high school instructor.
Kathy then showed us several beading stitches she perfected during her time creating bridal gowns. This included the scatter stitch, different stitches for sewing rows of beads, and stitches for stacking beads for a dimensional effect. At first we struggled with the small seed beads and fine beading needle, but by the end we had a good appreciation of the skill and beauty one can create on customized garments.
The June meeting returned to a sewing technique with demo/activity, this time on Ribbon Embroidery. Marge Serck, owner of The Creative Needle in Littleton (south part of Denver metro area). Marge demonstrated several methods for making flowers with silk ribbon and then had the attendees do the same. We found the methods relatively easy, but perfection took a bit of practice as we learned how much slack to leave in the ribbon to form flowers with good three-dimensional structure. We laughed at our strained flowers, but by the end we were pleased enough to appreciate how beautiful these flowers would look on constructed garments.
Colorado’s May meeting was shifted to the third Monday of the month so it would not conflict with Memorial Day. Attendance was low, but the presentation was appreciated by the attendees. The topic was Navigating the Web, presented by Webmaster Pat Bornmann. She distributed an outline showing of the web links for the attendees to follow as she stepped through images of all pages of the Colorado and National Web Sites, illustrating how to move through the menus and where to find various topics.
Our April meeting was a return to the Avenir Museum (part of the Colorado State University at Ft. Collins). The University’s Textile and Design students use the museum to study fiber arts, design, and illustrating. The students study how fabrics break down over time which is important for current designs and their longevity. The museum has over 20,000 objects from all over the world, including India, Africa, South America, Asia, China, and 300 Japanese Kimonos.
This year our program manager, Jan McKinley, arranged a special behind-the-scenes tour based on the types of items ASDP members expressed interest in seeing. Curator, Katie Knolls, obliged showing many hats, shoes, lace, mannequins of different eras, and behind-the scenes aspects of maintaining a museum collections, such as freezing all glue-free items for 72-96 hours when they first arrive.
It was a gray and foggy morning, but we had an engaging program in March. We welcomed one new member and three new visitors. After this we enjoyed a lively discussion about the Vision for our Chapter followed by a presentation by MaryBeth Davis about lace. MaryBeth showed various types of lace and showed us techniques described in Claire Schaeffer’s book. In particular, she demonstrated the best way to sew an invisible dart into lace by cutting, overlapping, zig-zag sewing, and trimming the motifs
Many of us were still energized by Denver’s Sewing Expo several days earlier. Our booth, with its many garments, displays, trims, and signs looked very professional and generated interest from visitors with serious interest in sewing skills. We had brochures that were new for this year and remainders from last year to cover the wide variety of interests of potential customers and members. (These are included on our website, colosewingpros.org.) One thing we learned is that next year we may move the tables back in order to showcase several dress forms with enticing garments in front.
The February meeting was held as planned on a beautiful February morning. Our guest speaker was the Marcia McGilley from the Small Business Development Center (SBDCO Our Program Manager, Jan McKinley, had surveyed the membership and informed Marcia of topics of interest, primarily pricing our work.
The interactive presentation started with estimating the amount of time required to do each task in an average job. This included time for meeting with the client, researching what was needed, designing items, shopping for supplies, preparing to sew (layout and cutting), sewing, pressing, fitting, and delivery of an item. The gasps were audible as we discovered how much time was typically spent on all aspects of a job; just because we enjoyed much of the process didn’t mean they should be free.
The next activity was similar to the first, but was based on all the non-billable time that we spend because of our businesses. This included time spent invoicing, attending meetings like ASDP, networking, skill development, marketing, and traveling,
Armed with our estimates of total time spent on our businesses, Marcia took us through various pricing models for determining the cost of our work. This included starting with how much we wanted to earn per year to determine an hourly rate, estimating competitor’s prices, and valuing our skills over that of retail.
Marcia was adamant about determining how we might learn that our prices were too low. This included being too busy to enjoy our work, forgetting to include time spend driving, estimating the value to the customer, asking about their budget, and surveying customers about their perceptions of the value of completed work. (This could be combined with marketing and maintaining contact with customers.) This led to a discussion of firing customers that were not beneficial to the business.
In conclusion, she talked about ideas for raising prices. She suggested offering discounts rather than lowering prices, offering loss leaders like hemming pants get customers in the door and charging full value for larger tasks, and offering discounts for a new or favored customer. And finally, she suggested posting new prices on our phones so we remember to tell all our customers .
Our first meeting of the 2018 was cancelled due to weather. Colorado weather can be variable; we were having high temperatures in the 60’s followed by snow the next day. This time, despite many snow-worthy vehicles, the roads were not ready for the addition of our non-essential travel. Therefore the scheduled presentation on lace was rescheduled for March.