Like many of the girls and boys that take classes at Sewing Arts, I began sewing as a young child. My mother let me “play” with fabric…create clothes for my dolls. She taught me to embroider before I began to use her sewing machine.
The first machine that I used was a Singer Featherweight. In the time when girls only wore skirts or dresses to school my mother taught me how to make pleated skirts. I then moved on to making net petticoats…a necessity in the ‘50’s! I would often make shirts, skirts, petticoats for my family for Christmas presents. With the help of my mother, my sewing skills increased. I made bridesmaids dresses for several friends’ weddings…then made my own wedding dress (as well as all the bridesmaids’ dresses).
Through the years I had many chances to sew…with 5 daughters! Proms dresses, wedding dresses, quilts and clothes for my daughters helped wear out my first sewing machine.
When I went back to teaching school full time, I proposed that we begin a sewing class to help our students apply their reading and math skills that were being remediated. The classes became a success as the students were able to take pride in things that they had made. During the 22 years of working with students at school I took the things that my mother had taught me and passed them and a love for sewing on to the students.
In this eighth year of teaching children to sew at Sewing Arts Center, I look forward to passing on a love of sewing that was given to me by my mother (who is still sewing at 91 years old!) to the children come to our classes.
Yolanda has worked at Sewing Arts Center since 2000, and brings years of customer service and sewing machine expertise with her.
Growing up in Denmark I was surrounded by sewing and embroidery. I made my first quilt in 1975, and developed a love of quilting, a passion for embroidery and sewing by machine as well as by hand.
My husband bought me a machine at Sewing Arts Center years ago, and Sewing Arts has been my second home since. I thrill to teach classes, both beginning and advanced. It brings me great joy to share my passion for sewing and to see enthusiasm for the craft build in my students.
Russell Conte, proprietor of Sewing Arts Centers, Inc., is nationally renown throughout the sewing community for his business and sewing acumen, is recognized for having developed one of the most comprehensive educational sewing programs geared to the domestic sewing market in the country, and for his wonderful ease as a sewing instructor. Intimidated? Don't be! Here's one of his students testimonials (the content of which he's been instructed NOT to edit...):
"Russell is charismatic, funny, articulate, playful, a babe (I'm just sayin'), irreverent and underneath all that personality: extremely talented, skilled, detail oriented, confident and a marvelous teacher. Russell has great personal style - which makes students want to absorb what he knows. He makes even the challenging parts of techniques that average students don't have a chance at mastering seem doable. He's clever and witty and possesses an obvious joy sharing what he does so well. I would say the most interesting thing (other than his obvious skill) which might distinguish Russell from another "brand" is his very lively intellect - AND a respect for his students that allows him to reach them using his charisma AND his wit to give everyone - even the genetically sewing-challenged - encouragement and a window into how rewarding the sewing arts are. He doesn't dumb down his lessons, even for beginners. He teaches even the most remedial skills with patience and care."
"EVERYONE loves reading his musings, his writing is extremely entertaining and content-filled ...and it's all peppered liberally with a playfulness and charisma that makes him not only someone to learn from, but also someone you just want to spend time with."
I have been around sewing machines ever since I can remember. My father started in this business in the mid 70s and is still working today. My father often had so much work he needed help, so I was glad to help. I started really working - aka getting paid - part time in the early 90s doing school machines. This was a great foundation for learning the principles of machines and some of the most common ways they operate. Also in school machines anything and everything is usually broken and or wrong. Around this time I started attending seminars for all the many home sewing brands which furthered my education. I started taking over the accounts my dad had to turn down. This lead me to working at the Sewing Arts Center with the great and powerful DUDE - “aka Russell”. I continue to further my education with the latest greatest, every year I attended seminars and certifications with all home sewing machine brands.
(Side note from "the great and powerful DUDE" - I sew, too. Everyday. And I'm absolutely, completely and utterly neurotic about my sewing equipment. NO ONE but Teddy TOUCHES MY MACHINES. Fortunately, Teddy is much younger than I am, and I plan to die first, so I'll never have to find another service technician... He has my utter and complete confidence. So, if you feel anything like I do about your sewing equipment, you'll find yourself in good hands with Teddy.)
Tailoring for more than 40 years, Santiago has worked as a master tailor for Nordstrom's for 30 years. Santiago joined the Sewing Arts faculty in 2011, sharing his expertise with students, and providing fine tailoring and alterations services for Sewing Arts Center.
Michael joined the Sewing Arts Center staff in 2013.
Barbara Rain has been a public school educator since 1984. She taught English and English as a Second Language at middle school and high school for 18 years. She went on to run a high school fashion program in downtown Los Angeles for six years, where she taught design and garment construction, coordinated a fashion internship program, and produced the annual senior fashion shows. Barbara is currently teaching Apparel Construction at Santa Monica College. She is also the Costume Designer and Coordinator for SMC’s Synapse Dance Theater.
Barbara first joined the staff at the Sewing Arts Center in the summer of 2011, where she provides private instruction and teaches classes in advanced garment construction, pattern drafting, draping, and couture cloning.
Ivy Vining has been sewing her own clothing since the age of four. She started off draping herself in elaborate baby blanket creations, and was handed a needle and thread when it was obvious that a few safety pins just wouldn't cut it. Her grandmother and great-grandmother were both costume designers, and at around age five, she inherited her grandmother's sewing machine and stash of fabrics. From then on, there was no stopping her.
Every day after school, Ivy would rush home and hop on the sewing machine, with the nightly goal of always having a new dress to wear to the dinner table. After initially spending the first part of her college career studying architecture and music, Ivy finally realized that fashion was her calling.
Ivy graduated from FIDM with a degree in fashion design and went on to spend four years working in the fashion industry as a designer for a mass-market juniors apparel line. Eventually, she started to miss the intimate experience of making clothing with her own hands, and decided to start her own contemporary fashion line where every piece would be 100% handmade.
When Ivy's not toiling away at the sewing machine, she can usually be found cooking vegetarian meals, gardening, and creating fancy custom hairstyles and fashions for her toy poodle, Napoléon.
Melissa’s love affair with fashion and sewing started with Barbie when she was just a little girl. As a child, she would spend endless hours dressing and styling Barbie and her friends over and over again. Her grandmother, an impeccable seamstress, would sew and crochet additional contributions to Melissa’s Barbie fashion show, as well as sewing all of Melissa’s mother’s clothing and dance costumes while she was growing up.
Mostly self-taught but nursing a few sewing classes and camps through adolescence, Melissa attended the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising after graduating high school, where she learned professional production practices, incorporating garment construction, pattern drafting and more. While enrolled in school, she also held several part-time positions, including contracting for Warner Bros. Special Events making costumes, and selling sewing machines for Viking Sewing Gallery, where she later became a manager of the Sherman Oaks store.
While working with Husqvarna Viking and Singer for almost a decade, she honed her skills and knowledge in sewing machines, troubleshooting, teaching, construction techniques and sewing accessories to make your sewing life easier all around.
In fall of 2014, a chance meeting through the sign painter of our new logo resulted in Melissa joining our distinctive sewing family. Since then, she has readily and professionally provided our customers with her unique perspective, advice, and inspiration. She is eager and available to assist you with anything from sewing machine features and troubleshooting, to private sewing lessons. Come to Sewing Arts Center to benefit from over 20 years of her sewing experience and professional education.
Peggy started sewing clothes for her troll dolls as a child and graduated to sewing clothes for her dog, Muffin when she was a preteen. Blasting forward, she graduated UCLA with a Masters in Fine Arts in Animation in the Motion Picture/Television division. Working as an animator and director for television commercials, she kept up her sewing skills making Halloween costumes for her kids. Having taken many classes at Sewing Arts Center, she tried her hand in teaching the kid’s classes and working behind the cash register at Sewing Arts, but finds her true calling making stuffed creatures.
(Russell's aside: Peggy is an amazing artisan. She has a great eye and has a perspective that's just a little off of center, making her creations truly unique and inspiring. If you ever need a caricature done, or a rendering that's just off the beaten path, Peggy is the one. Catch her if you can!)