Friday, May 17, 2013

Countdown to Closing

I've been dreading these words for several months: I'm closing my retail store. I know many of you have received my email stating those very words, but now that we inch closer and closer to the June 30th date, I find myself reflecting on the past twenty years. Yes, that's right. I began my design business twenty years ago this year. Over the years, many changes have taken place, mostly for the better, but some for the worse. Even though I feel happy to be moving on, I can't help but feel a bit sad that all that I have built is coming to a close.

For those of you who are hearing this for the first time, please realize that I am not retiring or ending my design business, but I'm closing my distribution center and retail store. What this means is that I will not be producing some of my products such as Wendy Schoen buttons, lace tape, and the distribution of Floche skeins. Class handouts and kits are also being discontinued. Petite Poche Patterns will continue to be sold and produced along with my books, dvds, embroidery disks, and Wendy Schoen needles.

I will continue to teach nationally and will increase classes in Wendy's Sewing Studio in New Orleans. I will be communicating with you through this blog and as usual, but essentially, I will be focusing on sewing and embroidery education and publication. I plan to offer some designs through automatic download and limited sale months during the year as I focus on returning to writing magazine articles and blog tutorials.

Take one last look at my beautiful shop:

If you would like to purchase my class projects, embroidery club designs, Floche complete sets, or items in my online store, you will be able to do so until the June 30th deadline. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Floche: Friend or Foe

Clockwise from Left: DMC Floche hanks; DMC & Anchor complete set of skeins; Floche samplers.

Many of you ask the difference between floss and Floche. Floche is the French word for floss, but it is a product name. Floche is manufactured by two companies: DMC and ANCHOR. I have been importing and distributing Floche since the 90's and avidly using it in my embroidery work. Although I have been distributing it for almost twenty years, I was not the first one to import it into the U.S. Julia Golson, one of the major distributors of heirloom goods in the States, approached me about purchasing the distributorship. She had designed the packaging and promoted the use of Floche for several years and was ready to give it up.

At the time, Floche was only available through Julia Golson Design and when I purchased it, then available through Wendy Schoen Design. Soon after ownership changed hands, DMC Floche was being imported by another major distributor and then it was much more accessible. Even then, the only method of obtaining the Anchor colors was through my company.

Floche complete set of 98 skeins.
As it stands, we have 98 different Floche colors in the line, many being DMC brand and some being Anchor brand. We combine the two color lots and rename the Anchor colors using the DMC number system for continuity and ease in ordering. The Anchor colors that do not match DMC numbers exactly receive a "word" description, such as Ice Pink and Ice Blue. Those lovely pale colors don't exist in the DMC line. As far as I know, we stock more Floche colors than any other distributor because we use both product lines in our selection.

This month, we are offering skeins of Floche for only $2.00, far below the $3.50 regular price. We also sell Floche by the complete set $192 for 98 skeins. As of now, we have no plans to import Anchor threads in the future, so when we sell out, that will be it. To order, click here.

What exactly is Floche and what makes it so different than floss? Floche is a luxury Egyption cotton strand containing five plys. It is designed to be used by the strand but plys can be carefully removed to regulate the thickness of the strands. Although it is possible to remove strands, they should be discarded, utilizing only the original strand for working. In Madeira, Floche is used for Point de Paris stitch in applique with one or two plys removed. I use this trick when stitching padded satin with Floche. Floss has 2 plys but six individual strands make up one strand. Floss is made to be separated, Floche is not.

Floche is about one-and-one-half times the thickness of floss which makes it perfect for surface embroidery techniques. Stem stitch, Granito stitch, and shadow stitch are especially lovely when worked in Floche. Floche has spread-ability. When pressure is put on the strand when laying onto the fabric, the plys separate or spread out, resulting in more coverage and smoothness. It is soft in texture, therefore a around eye needle should be used at all times. A long-eyed needle can fray the delicate fibers and cause dullness in your stitches. The only time I use a long-eyed needle with Floche is when smocking, and for smocking, there is no comparison between Floche and floss. Floche requires three strands for working and is easier to manage than floss. Shorter lengths are a must, as the fibers tend to get pretty ratty quickly.

So now you know why I detest when my students refer to floss as DMC. Floss is the product name, as is perle or broder and DMC is the company name. Please call floss stranded cotton or floss and call Floche, Floche.

Here is a brief tuturial of the Have a Heart embroidery design using Floche and a #7 Between needle.

Step 1

Working from foreground to background, work the facial features and bow. Beginning at the open end of the inner ear, begin stitching from side to side with pink Floche. (Pilot stitch denoted in red.)

Step 2
Work the iris of the eye with green in Granito stitch. Shadow stitch the eye with white Floche, working the shape as you would an oval. Back-stitch the eyelashes in gray. Work the nose with pink in Granito stitch.
Step 3
Stitch the inside of the bow in dark blue beginning at the knot and working outward. With light blue, work the knot and bow loops in shadow stitch. Pilot stitches are denoted in red. Stitches with dots denote plain back-stitches. Stitch the neckband as you would a rectangle with light blue.
Step 4
The head is worked in two sections. Beginning with the foreground, work the V-configuration at the tip of the ear and work towards the nose. When approaching an existing stitch, place the adjoining stitch into the same A-B points, allowing the stitch to sit beside the first.
Step 5
To work the remaining ear, begin at the point in the V-configuration and work towards the head. Piggy-back the stitches on common walls where sections intersect.
Step 6
Work the little dots in Granito stitch with blue Floche. The leaves are worked in Lazy daisy stitch with green Floche. (See Stitch Diagrams.)
Step 7
Begin working the body at the tail end by placing a row of continuous back-stitches along the straight portion of the line. When the line begins to arch, begin stitching from side to side. Work the stitches with dots as back-stitches without cross-over stitches. Along the upper portion, divide the shape into two.
Step 8
When the main shape is completed, continue upward to the unstitched section and fill in the remaining stitches. Complete the remaining foot.
Step 9
Stitch the tail in white, beginning at the open ends near the rump and working outward.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Have a Heart!

I have just completed the finishing touches to my newest pattern release, "Have a Heart". I thought Valentine's Day would be the perfect time for this special design because of the little heart and bunny motif. I absolutely love the way the photos turned out and I would like to thank my adorable model for making this design look so sweet.

This design features shadow work embroidery, one of my very favorite techniques to stitch and to teach. You might remember a few years ago, my book, Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery was published. If shadow work embroidery is something you have been wanting to try but don't know where to begin, you should consider purchasing this book.


This is an extreme closeup of the embroidery design worked in shadow stitch with Floche embroidery cotton. A #7 Between needle was used because of its round eye.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Perfect Valentine Gift!

It's time to register for La Broderie Bayou, a needlework retreat to be held June 5-8, 2013 in Wendy's Sewing Studio, New Orleans. Registration opened yesterday for my 7th school of embroidery and already, we have spaces filling. If you did not receive an email from us yesterday, that means you are not on our mailing list. If you wish to be included for future mailings advertising our classes, please send us an email ( so you can be added to our list. For more information regarding this upcoming event, please go to our site and download a color brochure. You can also sign up for La Broderie Bayou on line at You can save the pdf file to your harddrive then email it to your sweetheart as a subtle hint for the perfect Valentine gift. He might even want to come along to do some sightseeing in New Orleans while you spend the day stitching away.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

India's Pleather Dress

I don't know what happened to these photos from my last post. Here is the missing dress sample.

This design features open end cutouts which were created by drawing a box on the wrong side of the fabric, then cuting a slash from corner to corner diagonally. The flaps were turned back and edge-stitched with nylon upholstery thread.

This view shows the exposed separating zipper in back. I love the way India looks in this rockin' dress.

The bodice was made much like a traditional strapless bodice except the points at the neckline were extended into longer points. Boning along the bodice keeps the bodice stable. India decided the safety pins would be a bit too much so they were left off.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Getting Into F.I.T.

Something interesting has been taking place at my studio in New Orleans. A prospective Fashion Institute of Technology in New York contracted with me to teach her to sew while working on her three garment submissions. I must admit that I was a bit leery about taking on such a project, since the time frame was rather small, about two weeks, and I had not seen her sketches. I have seen many design sketches from budding designers and frankly, the designs were conceived by someone who had no sense of garment construction. They usually tended to look a bit avant garde and quite complicated to construct so I was a bit worried whether I could actually be of help to her. I decided to make an appointment for the very next day so we could discuss the details.

Upon meeting India Barnett for the first time, my initial impression was of a young girl who possessed confidence and willingness to learn. I questioned her about her sewing skills and paid close attention to her personality traits so I could decide whether she would be a good apprentice. Her sketches were quite extraordinary; nothing avante garde about them but still very stylish and fashionable. She also brought in the fabrics she had previously purchased in New York and surprisingly, not only were they the appropriate choices for the designs, but they were of good quality. She impressed me as someone who had an innate sense of how fabrics work without ever saying so. She seemed unaware of her abilities and listened intently to my suggestions; in essence meeting all the criteria for an apprentice candidate so I decided to take on the job. With no time to spare, we left immediately for the nearest pattern store.

I learned instantly that she had never used a pattern in her life. She didn't know even the basics such as notches and grain line or even how to read a pattern envelope. I heard myself explaining how the pattern companies gave fabric suggestions for each pattern, listed in order of preference. Inside my head I heard a tiny voice telling me to run away as fast as possible and another telling me to jump right in and enjoy the ride. I tried to ignore them both and proceeded with my instruction for choosing the correct pattern for the design. As luck would have it, we managed to find three patterns that I could make work with her sketches and as we left the store, I secretly celebrated my bravery, or idiocy whichever the case. There would be no turning back now.

Back at the studio, we wasted not a minute of time as we proceeded to cut muslin for the first sample, a school-girl like dress with closely fitted bodice and full skirt with inverted pleats. She had chosen a wool and silk blended mini plaid for the dress with a black tulle underskirt beneath. The neckline was scooped and there were no sleeves. I decided that India would do all the sewing with my guidance in cutting, pinning, and fitting. The muslin fit almost to a "T", with minor alteration to the underarm.

The next sample was to be a strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline made of faux leather. She indicated cutout slits in both sides of the dress and an over sized exposed zipper on back. The hem of the dress would be lined with safety pins placed approximately one-half-inch apart. The muslin was constructed and surprisingly the exact same alterations were required as the first sample. The pattern alterations and design changes were made to the working patterns and a master pattern was drawn onto doctor's paper for each garment. We were ready to begin.

The very trendy faux leather dress with cutouts and safety pin laden hemline. India chose to line the bodice with purple silk dupioni.

The schoolgirl mini plaid dress, which ultimately grew to be my favorite of the three samples, featured a full mini skirt with inverted pleats and a funky black illusion netted tutu skirt. the bodice was lined but the skirt wasn't.

The next day, I decided to have India learn about how to work with plaids. Because this plaid was so diminutive, matching wasn't as critical but I still wanted her to learn how to match so she would be ahead of the game later. Unfortunately, fabric was at a premium so we had to contend with that problem as well. After positioning and repositioning the pattern pieces, she finally managed to fit all the pieces perfectly aligned. We both cut out the pattern pieces and marked them accordingly. We also cut out the pleather dress, which went rather quickly without having to worry about nap or matching. We both left for home feeling weary and triumphant. Tomorrow would be another story.

Allowing a full week to construct the two dresses, India began working on the most difficult dress first: the plaid. With every stitch, her confidence grew and soon India was busily sewing away while I worked on checking seams and pressing. The entire dress took only two days, leaving the rest of the week for the pleather dress and for finishing details such as zippers and hooks. The tutu was already made having only to add a few more streamers to the waistband. This being my first tutu, I was a bit perplexed about the way it was to work with the confinements of the dress skirt. Luckily, I didn't have to worry about that; there were bigger fish to fry. We allowed a full week for the final dress: a red satin ballgown.

Here is India modelling her adorable schoolgirl plaid dress and matching tutu. I love the juxtaposition of the innocent plaid paired with the edgy tutu. Those booties are the perfect complement to this precious design.

This is the back of the schoolgirl dress. The fit is perfection!

We began the final week with the construction of the infamous red dress. First, the muslin. I cannot overemphasize the importance of making a muslin shell before cutting into your fashion fabric. The muslin is the best way to get out all the kinks so you can feel confident to cut and construct the actual dress quickly and without fear of it not fitting. Once the muslin was completed, corrections were made to the sample pattern and a master pattern was drawn on doctor's paper. This dress was the most complicated to draft as India wanted to add a train to the skirt and I was not overly confident in my abilities. Thank goodness India has a casual attitude about jumping into the deep water towards life. She figured it out mathematically and the pattern turned out amazingly. We decided to leave the cutting for the morning.

India's lovely sketch of the infamous red ballgown with its pretty red net rose appliqued train. The dress was constructed of crepe back satin and lined in red satin lining. The overskirt (train) is made of red netting.

The next day, we cut out the entire dress and began to strategize about the lovely rose appliqued netting she chose for the train. It was decided there would be no hem on the netting but cutting through the roses was to be avoided. Once the train was cut out, I had India unstitch the roses in the path of the seams and along the edges. We left the rose in tact if more than half was remaining on the edges. By Wednesday evening, the dress was completely assembled with exception to the hem in the skirt and final handwork. It was such a wonderful feeling to have reached the end of our lesson with three completed garment samples, well before the deadline of January 22nd. I sent India home to make final preparations for her departure to New York and I completed the handwork on the final dress. In the end, we decided not to put the safety pins on the pleather dress and we eliminated the huge rosettes she planned to put on the flounce of the red dress.

A gorgeous gown for a gorgeous girl! Not bad for someone who learned to sew two garments before.

This view shows the beautiful rose net train India insisted on adding to her ballgown. What a lovely choice!

Here, the full sweep of the train is evident. The two train halves were sewn together in the center using my technique for the tiniest French seam. It was almost invisible.
India has received a provisional acceptance to F.I.T. in the fall based on her academics. She will soon find out if her sample garments earned her a place in F.I.T. I have no doubt of the outcome.