Wendy Week Day 2: An Interview with Wendy (Plus another giveaway!)

Welcome to Day 2 of Wendy Week here at the Sew Beautiful blog! With the release of designer Wendy Schoen’s new book Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery, we’re honoring the renowned artist and teacher with a week of special promotions and giveaways. Join us on the blog every day this week for exclusive book previews, an interview with Wendy, and our awesome giveaway contests – a different one each day!

Today we are giving away 2 copies of Wendy Schoen’s Machine Embroidery Collection I, the companion CD to Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery! Details follow the interview below.

So who exactly is Wendy? Allow us to introduce you! Wendy Schoen is a native New Orleanian who resides there with her husband, William, and their son, Evan who is in his 4th year of college. A regular contributor to Sew Beautiful Magazine, Wendy teaches at the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion and hosts the hand embroidery segments on Martha’s Sewing Room. Through her company, Wendy Schoen Design, Wendy has published five books on the subject of fine embroidery and sewing. She has published over 30 patterns marketed under the name, Petite Poché, of which she is the owner, and countless embroidery designs and kits. Her latest business venture in conjunction with MPC includes the production of three hand embroidery DVDs, Shadow Work Embroidery, Basic Embroidery and Embroidery II, and several machine embroidery disks, featuring Wendy’s original embroidery designs in digital format.

We’re thrilled to bring you an exclusive interview with Wendy this week as we celebrate the release of her new book and machine embroidery CD. Enjoy!

SB: Wendy, we are proud and excited to be celebrating the release of your new book, Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions! Let’s start out with the basics; tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thank you so much for this opportunity. I have been designing as long as I can remember. I dressed my dolls in custom made outfits when I was a small child and decorated my blue jeans when I was a teenager. I designed and painted backdrops for a school play in the 6th Grade. I became an art director for a weekly newspaper when I was just 17 and worked in the graphic industry until I began my sewing business in January 1994.

SB: How long have you been sewing? Teaching sewing?
Wendy: I taught myself to sew when I was 28 years old. One day I decided it was something I wanted to do, and loving clothes as I do, it came naturally. I remember phoning my mother to tell her my decision to learn to sew. I asked if there was anything I needed to know and her advice was to follow the pattern instructions verbatim without skipping any steps. That was terrific advice, don’t you think? I then asked what a selvage was, which tells you how little I knew about the craft. I loved it instantly. I have been teaching since 1994 and one of my first jobs was at the Martha Pullen School of Art Fashion in Huntsville.

SB: Tell us how your business Wendy Schoen Design began and has grown to what it is today.
Wendy: I was a free lance graphic designer when I gave birth to my son, Evan in 1989. The schedule was killing me and taking precious time away from my baby. Because sewing was such a joy to me, I became disgruntled towards my job. When Evan turned 2, I attended the Martha Pullen School for the first time. I remember sitting in the lobby of the hotel thinking there must be a way for me to earn a living in the sewing industry. That’s when I decided to write a book, which began my career in sewing. Five books, over 30 patterns, embroidery disks and dvds later, I managed to live my dream.

SB: You are an extremely busy woman, from running your own online store to designing patterns, managing an embroidery club, teaching classes all over, and of course, writing books and creating beautiful pieces! How do you stay on top of it all?
Wendy: Truthfully, I am a very motivated person and deadline oriented. I try to focus on the task at hand, and not think of all the other things going on until the task is completed. I attribute my success to my dear husband, Billy who literally bankrolled my business and my sister, Penny who continues to manage my business. Without them, I don’t think I would be a success at all.

SB: From where would you say you get your inspiration for your sewing projects and designs?
Wendy: I never run out of ideas; everything inspires me. I can literally wake up in the morning with an idea or inspiration. I have always had a sixth sense of what color will be in vogue and the ability to envision a project to completion even before it has been started. Some of my best ideas come in the shower, when all I can do is think. I need complete quiet sometimes to rejuvenate and other times I can see beauty in the most humble objects.

SB: You have worked with Martha Pullen Company and Sew Beautiful magazine for many years. Tell us how that relationship formed and continues to develop.
Wendy: I think my marketing background helped me tremendously in promoting my business. I made an appointment with Amelia Johanson, who was editor of Sew Beautiful at the time, to show her my garment samples. She was interested in showing my designs in the magazine and scheduled articles immediately, which was quite lucky for me. It wasn’t long after that I was teaching preday classes at the School of Art Fashion.

SB: Your new book Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery is now available. Not only are the projects and designs gorgeous, but your detailed instructions make this a must-have for any embroiderer. This book is the culmination of many years of planning and love; how did you make your way from inspiration to publication?
Wendy: This book has been long in coming. It probably would have been published a long time ago, but for the fact I was trying to make the transition from offset printing to digital and wasn’t remotely familiar with the new design programs. The new technology intimidated me so much, I put off production for years. Luckily, Sew Beautiful approached me to publish and the project took off immediately.

SB: The book includes everything from an overview of shadow work embroidery to instruction for stitching different shapes, tips and techniques, a number of sweet designs, and two adorable patterns. What is your favorite part of your new book?
Wendy: Having the step-by-step directions for stitching the designs is invaluable. It has been my dream to finally have my original shadow work techniques in print. The techniques are uniquely mine and I was anxious to share the idea with everyone.

SB: Also available as companions to Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery are a machine embroidery CD, Wendy Schoen’s Machine Embroidery Collection I, and an upcoming pattern. Tell us a little bit about these “extras”.
Wendy: Not everyone has the time or inclination to hand embroider so it is my great pleasure to “introduce” my designs to machine embroidery enthusiasts. The machine stitch-outs have surpassed my expectations and look as lovely as the hand counterparts. The companion patterns are to be released next month and we are quite excited to offer them in a wide array of sizes. I’m very proud of them.

SB: What are some of your favorite go-to sewing tools?
Wendy: I am asked this question quite often, and I don’t think I would want to be without a good quality embroidery hoop. Shadow work requires the fabric to be drum tight in the hoop. Those made by Clover and Susan Bates are the best on the market because of the inner rim which grips the fabric well and never slips. Of course, my embroidery needles are the best and I highly recommend them. Many say they are marvelous and I agree.

SB: What about some of your favorite sewing resources (publications, websites, etc.)?
Wendy: I don’t really have a lot of time to view websites or blogs, but I do enjoy eBay every day. I love hunting for antique garments and patterns for inspiration or simply to collect. I also scour the boards for thimbles and stilettos, which I have been collecting for years and have too many to count. I actually use them, so I don’t think it frivolous. I also keep my eye out for large lots of threads and trims to add to my ever growing collection. My antique books have been invaluable to my design business. I absolutely love reading and studying the old techniques to determine how they can be incorporated into my designs and lessons.

SB: You are a great inspiration for so many sewers. Who are YOUR sewing role models?
Wendy: Without hesitation, I would say Margaret Boyles, Judith Dobson, and Margaret Pierce are the embroiderers whom I admire most. And, of course, Wendy Lee Ragan, who was the best shadow work designer in the industry. Helen Poprick, my Aunt “Red” sewed beautifully and the summers of my childhood were spent watching her diligently at work. I’m certain she had a huge influence on my attention to detail. My mother sewed when we were babies, but her ability to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear during my formative years was the catalyst of my creativity.

SB: What would your advice be for a true beginner of fine sewing or shadow work embroidery?
Wendy: Keep working on your embroidery, as it improves with each project. I can give you the tools to learn the techniques, but only you can put the miles on the fabric to further your skills.

SB: Any last words of advice for our readers?
Wendy: Handwork has been around for thousands of years. It has passed the test of time and is still as important an art form today as it was in ancient times. Let’s keep it alive for many more generations to come.

SB: Wendy, thank you so much for sharing your stories, advice and talent with us. You are a true source of inspiration for all of us!
Today we are giving away 2 copies of
Wendy Schoen’s Machine Embroidery Collection I, the companion CD to Mastering Shadow Work Embroidery! To enter the contest, simply leave a comment on this blog post below. Be sure you include an email address or contact information so that we can contact you if you’re a winner. Entries will remain open through the rest of Wendy Week and the winners will be drawn at random and announced next Monday, March 14, 2011.

If you are a Sew Beautiful fan, make sure you’ve “liked” our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to keep up with Wendy Week events (and more). Don’t forget that Martha Pullen Company is also on Facebook and Twitter – you definitely don’t want to miss out on this week’s special deals. While all Wendy Schoen merchandise is on sale in our webstore for 20% off all week, MPC will be featuring additional, deeper daily discounts on certain Wendy Schoen products!


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