Quilting & Costuming with Karen Wallach

Name: Karen Wallach

Age: 53

Originally From:  Norristown, PA. Went to high school in Naperville, IL, & Art Institute of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

“Originally from” is a loaded question for me. Growing up, my father moved around with each job promotion. My husband’s position in computers has taken us all over the country and we now find ourselves in southwest Portland. We moved here from Blaine, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. He is working at Nike. I am one of the few people that can say I have lived in both Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine. We will have to meet for coffee if you want to here the about the rest of the places we have lived. The list is a long one.

Mill End Employee Since: 2016

Department: Home Decor

Do you sew or knit? Sew

How did you learn, and how old were you?

I have sewn all of my life and I cannot say for sure when I started. Just always have “made things”. As a child, it was clothes for the cat and my dolls. Then, as I’ve continued on my path, it has been quilts, wearable art, furniture upholstery, and costumes. Fabric, needle, and thread have always followed me where ever I have gone. I consider myself a Mixed Media Textile Artist. In short, I like to use fabrics in all of my art work, design, and to create my own textiles. Fabrics are a tactile experience for me and I enjoy developing these ideas and sharing those ideas it with others through the art that I create.


“Magic Flute”

Fabric used in this quilt was dyed in one of my classes that I was teaching on creating your own color wheel of hand-dyed fabrics

The story behind the quilt is I had gone on retreat to LaVeta, Colorado. Our host, Ricky Tims (Quilt artist and musician) had just received a new hand carved flute. Every morning after breakfast we would have an hour to journal/meditate/design. Ricky would play his flute or his piano. It was an amazing way to start the day. This is the quilt that I created on the retreat. The quilt was inspired by the mountains we awoke to every morning, the wild flowers that were blooming in the fields, the bear that walked through town the night we all stayed up well past midnight to sew, and the creative energy that was flowing through all of us that week in LaVeta.

What is your favorite creative accomplishment?

My favorite creative accomplishment is always the last project I just finished. This would be the costumes that I wore to a costuming convention in May of this year.


“The Dust Bunny Fairy”

Created for a masquerade ball where you had to use one of three patterns for your costume. I won for being the “Best Fairy”.

What is your favorite sewing technique or “hack”?

My favorite trick from my sewing studio is the glue stick. I use glue sticks to baste things together, hold trim in place till I can stitch in place, baste in a zipper, working with vinyl or other fabrics that pins will mark. I discovered this trick when teaching kids how to sew. They were much more adapt at using a glue stick than working with pins. Gluing seams together was fun and eliminated the fear of being stuck by a pin. Also, glue wipes right off if it shows up in an unwanted place. Getting an even and straight seam was an easier task when fabrics are not shifting about and you don’t have to worry about pulling out the pins as you sew. I find the glue UHU Stick that goes on purple and dries clear is the best. You are able to see what you are gluing because of the color. I have never had a problem with color or glue making a mess of any of the projects I have used it on.


“Victorian Walking Suit in purple”

Machine embroidered jacket, skirt, and under garments are to date the largest embroidery project I have designed since getting an embroidery machine two years ago. This was the costume that I wore to the historical masquerade ball.

What are you working on now?

Currently, my other hobby of going to estate sales and flea markets has been occupying most of my time. I also have dug out my bead box and have been stringing beads. I also enjoy working in my sketch book, drawing dogs and other things that amuse me while dreaming up the next costumes I want to create.

Lace: 101

Lace can be elegant & sophisticated. Lace can be simple & informal. Antique or modern. It’s a versatile fabric & trim that adds texture and visual interest, and who doesn’t want that! Here’s a little run-down about the types of lace and tips for sewing with it. If you have tips, please comment and share them with us! We’d love to hear from you!

General Types & Terms for Lace

Like almost all types of fabric, there are a lot of variations of lace. Chantilly, Alençon, Venise, Guipure, with galloons, sans galloons…There are definitely more types than listed here, but these are popular types that are widely available.

Chantilly– Bobbin lace which means it is produced using numerous threads on different bobbins creating a mesh foundation and motifs. Named after the city in France the lace is made, in floral and swirl designs on a fine net background, true Chantilly is made in France, same with Alençon

Alençon– Bobbin lace, similar to Chantilly except “re-embroidered” with the addition of silk cord, called cordonnet, outlining the design

Check out this video feature French women creating Alençon by hand! Wow! The next video features machine made Alençon which is totally hypnotic.

Venise– Needle lace created using a buttonhole stitch, motifs are connected by embroidered strands or bars called “brides” to create an open-work feel. A main visual difference is that you will not see a netting background with Venise & Guipure lace.

Guipure– Needle lace, very similar to Venise, but a little heavier. The word “Guipure” literally translates in French as “lace without any ground mesh”.

This video is helpful in seeing the construction of Venise & Guipure laces with a buttonhole stitch.

Galloon– Scalloped edges along the sides of the lace

Beard– Also called eyelash, the fringe threads that hang off the edge of scallops of Chantilly and Alençon…This is a sign of quality, not seen in mass-produced lace. True french laces are not more than 36″ wide and come in small yardage amounts.

Sewing Tips

  • Use fine pins, like silk pins.
  • Baste all motifs and seams.
  • Press, press, press! Pressing is such an important step, not to be skipped! Use a pressing cloth.
  • Always cut around motifs, never through them!
  • Use an anchor cloth to start sewing. Since lace is an open weave fabric, you run the risk of your fabric getting sucked down into the machine. Here’s a great tutorial for this trick here.DSCN3819_large










  • For appliqué lace details, simply cut around the motif as the yarns will not unravel easily. Place your appliqué where desired, or start from the center and mirror your design, ideally with basting, with pins, or in a pince a product like Washaway Wonder Tape or a basting glue stick. Then, use a zigzag stitch around the edge of your motif.
  • For sewing seams of lightweight lace, stitch your seam allowance, then within the seam allowance, stitch again 1/4″ from the first line of stitching. Trim close to the second line of stitching.
  • Always staystitch the neckline as open weaves stretch easily.
  • Instead of seaming the hem or border lace, zigzag close to one edge and cut away the excess from underneath. This creates a continuous border.
  • Seams are finished by: serging, French seam or simluated French seam, or a self bound seam.
  • For hems, you can use the scalloped edge if your fabric has one. Or if you’d like some subtle body that is also flexible, you can face the hem with a lightweight horsehair braid.


Historic Costume with Mary Micaila Curtin

Portland is a city of makers. Places like the Mill End Store are what make this city such a unique place for designers and artists. Without exception, the staff at Mill End is comprised of the most wonderfully talented and creative individuals with a wide range of interests and expertise. We’d like to highlight our employees as many of them are working creative professionals as well. We’re starting off with someone who is a dedicated and meticulous historic costumier, Mary Micaila Curtin. We interviewed her and she pulled some of her favorite patterns, fabrics, and notions for historic sewing. Introducing…Mary!

Name: Mary Micaila Curtin

Age: 34

Originally From: New Mexico

Mill End Employee Since: 2014

Department: Bridal

Website: https://blueboxstitcherie.com/

IMG_4342[1]Do you sew or knit?

I sew, knit, weave, and bead.

How did you learn, and how old were you?

I started sewing when I was ten. My father joined a living history group and I wanted to go with him. There wasn’t anyone local that did historic costuming for children so I made my own.

What was your first project?

An 1850’s historic outfit from the skin out. The fit was terrible, the seam lines were wonky, and it had plastic buttons, but I was so proud of that outfit.


What is your favorite creative accomplishment?

Seeing how far I’ve come from that first dress to my current projects. I am starting to see my outfits referenced on sites as the look to strive for.

What is your favorite sewing technique or “hack”?

I don’t know that I would call it a “hack” but my favorite technique is a hand-sewn rolled hem. They’re magic! And I can do them mindlessly while on the sofa watching TV.

What are you working on now?

I’ve got about a million things in the works right now, but at the top of the list are a new corset, new 1860’s dress, complete 1700’s wardrobe from the skin out, a regency corset, and I’m trying my hand at bra making.




Mary was kind enough to pull some hard-to-find historic costuming supplies and fabrics.  This is just a taste of what we have to offer at Mill End for historic costumiers!

One stop shopping for you historic costuming needs: authentic from the skin out!


The Mill End Store carries supplies for period undergarments.

  • Linen, muslin, lawn, and voile for chemises, drawers, petticoats, and more. We also carry bone and china buttons.
  • Corset supplies including spring steel boning, spiral boning, corset twills, grommets, and lacing
  • Get your buckram-covered hoop boning here! Designed for making hoop skirts, cage crinolines, bustles, and panniers. Hurry! Supplies are limited.




The Mill End Store carries a variety of historical print cottons for your costuming needs!

For fancier day or evening wear, we have you covered with fine silks and tropical weight wools. Shop often as new fabrics arrive daily and go quickly!

historical cottonday and evening


The Mill End Store carries a wide variety of period sewing notions and trims.

  • Cotton and silk threads
  • Hand sewing needles
  • Buckram
  • Horse-hair canvas
  • Glass & bone buttons
  • Soutache braid
  • Silk buttonhole twist
  • Cotton tapes and cording
  • Hook and eye tape


Considering a new spring bonnet? We have everything you need:

  • Buckram + Buckram frames
  • Millinery wire
  • Ribbons and trims
  • Feather plumes
  • Cotton & silk English net

Looking for something specific for your historic costuming needs? Call us or email us at millendstoreinfo@gmail.com & let us help you find what you need! 

Silk: 101

Ah, silk. With it’s rich history, unique qualities, and undeniable beauty, silk has always been synonymous with luxury, glamour, and refinement. If you’ve never sewn with silk before it can be daunting, or at worse an expensive mistake (hey, we’ve all been there!). When I first started working at Mill End, the very first thing I bought was some slinky burnout silk velvet. I realized quickly that I needed to respect the fabric by learning how to sew with it.

So. We’ve consulted our archives and resident fashion sewing experts, Sue & Shelley, to bring you the top questions we get about sewing with silk. I consider this a love letter to silk, because when you complete a silk garment the way you intended, it will always feel special when you wear it, and people will always notice. There’s just nothing else like it.


  • Only natural filament fiber
  • A silk fiber can be up to 1,600 yards long
  • It is unreeled, like a spool, from a silk worm’s cocoon.
  • Naturally coated with sericin, a gummy coating, giving it a plush hand
  • Formed by an emission from a silk worm’s mouth combining two proteins, sericin & fibroin plus the contact with air makes the solidified filament
  • Two main types of silk: mulberry silk & tussah (wild silk)
  • Filament is shaped like a prism thus giving it a shimmery look
  • Very strong fiber (strong as steel in comparative strength)
  • Easy to dye
  • Very absorbent
  • Does not conduct heat
  • Very elastic and resilient

1)Can I machine wash silk?

Yes and no.

Yes) 3 things to consider are color retention, construction, and shrinkage. The more brilliant and dark the color, the more likely it is to lose some of the dye when washing. Intricately constructed garments are best left to the dry cleaner. Silk will shrink, so be sure you pre-washed or dry cleaned the fabric before sewing. However you intend to wash the garment is how you need to pre-wash it. When in doubt, buy an eighth of a yard and test it out. Silk is expensive, so it’s worth it to take this extra step!

Never machine wash and dry. To hand wash at home, using lukewarm or cool water and baby shampoo, gently agitate the fabric in a clean sink.

  1. To retain color: ¼ cup white vinegar to every two gallons of lukewarm/cool water. Never twist or wring. Rinse several times. To set dye, add a few shakes of salt to the final cold rinse. Silk will fade and “suede” with washing.
  2. Drying: Roll in towel, hang in dark place, iron on low on the wrong side. Sueded and sand washed silk can be dried in a hot dryer, although up to 10% shrinkage may occur, possibly more for looser weaves. White silks will often yellow.

No) Do not hand wash: bright colors, dark colors, patterned silk, douppioni, & taffeta. Washing crisp silk will take the sheen and body out of the it. It will appear more like linen.


  • Never expose to direct or indirect sunlight. It will fade or deteriorate.
  • Never spray perfume or deodorant directly to silk; wash or clean silk clothing after wearing it as perspiration and chemicals will fade and break down the fibers.
  • Never soak silk in water for a long period.

2)Do I need a special needle or thread to sew silk?

For delicate weaves, use a microtex needle. Thicker needles and pins will punch holes in fine weaves, like charmeuse. Use silk pins to avoid this.  Although it seems counterintuitive, do not to use silk thread on silk fabric, because silk thread is stronger than the fabric. You want your thread to break at a stress point, instead of tearing the fabric.

3) Is silk hot to wear?

Silk does not conduct heat, so it will keep body heat close to your body. Silk may be used in underwear for winter sports for this reason. For wearing silk in the summer, choose a lightweight weave for a loose silhouette, like chiffon, crepe de chine, or crepe. These fabrics flow away from your body naturally. The texture in crepe silks creates a small layer of air between the fabric and your body.

4)What is the best way to cut silk?

Heavy weight silks, like twill and noil, can be cut out like any other sturdier fabric. However, for lightweight silks (and exceptions), here are some tips:

  • Use plenty of weights or silk pins within the seam and cutting line. Lay out the silk on a surface it will lightly adhere to, like flannel or quilt backing. Cut with long, sharp shears.
  • Use weights or silk pins, and sandwich the fabric between two sheets of tissue paper. Cut with long, sharp shears.
  • For all silk, it’s best to cut the pattern pieces out in a single layer as folded fabric can stick to itself and not lay smoothly. Lightweight silks can slip or shift easily.

4)How do I press silk?

Use a cool iron and a press cloth to avoid scorching the fabric.

 5)What should I use to interface silk?

  • Use organza, organdy, or use another layer of the same outer fabric.
  • Do not use fusible interfacings on silk.

Edit: Armed with Sue & Shelley’s advice. I finished my silk burnout velvet top:

burn out velvet


Do you have any tips for sewing with silk? We’d love to hear from you! Leave us a comment!

Pattern Review: Seamwork Akita

Seamwork’s Akita

For me, sewing is a form of meditation. I tend to lumber around leaving a path of havoc in my wake. As a 7th grade teacher told me once, with a hint of disdain, ‘you’re so destructive’. My father is an engineer, and I grew up encouraged to take things apart to see how they work.

Sewing makes me slow down, think through the steps, practice, undo work (and do it again), and be a student of precision which sometimes requires me to walk away from a project and come back to it with fresh eyes.

Admittedly, I’m an intermediate sewist only on my best days, and feel fortunate to work in a community of skilled makers. As anyone who has sewn for a while will tell you, the craft provides infinite opportunities to learn whether it be variations of fabric, sewing techniques, fit & patterning, and lest we forget the wonderful world of notions!colette

Today, I’m going to share with you a pattern review from a local institution here in Portland, Colette Patterns. They started in 2009 with an aim to provide clear, concise, and informative patterns. If you’re like me, with some of the bigger name pattern instructions, I’m left wondering “What the heck is that picture even of?” and sometimes they will assume you know certain steps or terms.

Colette has a wonderful intro guide to sewing called The Colette Sewing Handbook, which we sell, and I highly recommend it for new sewists. Sarai, the creator & founder of Colette, is a regular at our stores, as are her staff, so it was a big deal for me to get to tell her how much I learned and cherished the info in The Colette Sewing Handbook. I’ve read it cover to cover probably 3 times!

Last year, they launched a fantastic online sewing magazine called Seamwork, plus a podcast! If you haven’t already, check them out!

akita 2

I downloaded this pattern from Seamwork’s site. I was searching for a simple pattern to showcase some of my lovely fabric! I have researched simple tunics quite a bit, and it doesn’t get any better than this! I recommend this pattern for a beginner sewer, or someone who hasn’t sewn for a while and wants to ease back in. For starters, this shirt is just ONE PATTERN PIECE. ONE! Can you believe that? Second reason this pattern is awesome…you can make with less than 2 yards of fabric! In the Bargain Room, you can pick up a low bolt (2 yards or less) at Mill End for 60% OFF on the weekends! Lastly, I LOVE that Colette/Seamwork patterns include extended sizes. Akita ranged in sizes 0-26. I made two shirts with this pattern, one with rayon challis, and one with linen. Pictured is my striped linen Akita shirt! I can’t wait to try it with a knit!


A few notes…

  1. Don’t use stripes. Since this is just one pattern piece, stripes can be tricky (to impossible) to line up. My stripes were pretty spaced apart, and I placed with where I wanted them to hit on the front side of the shirt. They didn’t match up with the back side…BUT I don’t think anyone will notice, but me! Per the garment’s instructions, something with more drape would hang a little better than my linen, but I was determined to use it!
  2. Since the sleeves and hem are on a curve, I found staystitching and Wondertape useful. My muslin was made with a very delicate rayon challis which was a little shifty. I staystiched 1/4″ from the edge, clipped the curve, and then used Wondertape for the curved edges before I topstitched the full 5/8″ seam allowance. I think I also just like cheats that reduce the need for ironing and measuring.
  3. Throughout the pattern, there were links to follow to get more info on the techniques in the instructions.
  4. Since it’s just one pattern piece, it can be tricky to cut it out. You’ll need to do on the floor or on a long table.

Have you made any of Seamwork’s patterns? What did you think? We really liked and recommend Akita.


Top 5 Fashion Trends for 2016

2015 had us wearing midi-skirts, fringe, off-the-shoulder tops, and, the regrettable, pastel colored hair. Well, it’s time to ring in the new year with a fresh start and a fresh look! We’ve been scouring the runways, newspapers, and fashion magazines, and rounded up the top 5 fashion trends that are coming in 2016. Plus we’ve paired these trends with some fabrics and trims that we have in stock!

Victorian-inspired fashion: Garments with high necks, leg o’ mutton sleeves, ruffles, ornate embellishments, & puffy shoulders are in vogue.


Get the look!


From left to right: Embroidered tulle neckpiece, 3.99; lace-trimmed cameo brooches, 7.29; Venice lace with drop fringe, 3.49/yard

Embellished shoes: Add some glitz to some thrifted pumps or sneakers. This look works for evening, OR you could spice up a pair of boyfriend jeans with a flashy shoe.


Get the look!

shoes embell

Our costume and bridal dept is stock full of trims and embellishments, like metal studded trim (3.99-8.99/yard) and hand-beaded buttons & appliques (.99-4.00/ea).

Pantsuit: Perhaps due to the upcoming election, 2016 has been called “The Year of the Pantsuit”. This trend works on many body types, and can go from the office to evening depending on how you style it.

jennifer red suitgigi-hadid-smythe-760x1141orange suit









Get the look!


From left to right: Red wool stretch garbardine, wool & lycra, 18.99/yard; white 4-way stretch suiting, polyester & elastane, 9.99/yard; Pendleton blood orange suiting, 98% wool & 2% lycra, 20.99/yard

70’s-inspired Suede: This is a look that is sure to stick around through fall, but can also be worn in the spring and summer with shorts and mini skirts.

suede fashion

Get the look!


From left to right: Patchwork-look suedecloth, polyester, 9.99/yard; camel (4″) & black (3″) faux suede fringe, 2.99-3.99/yard; tan Elie Tahari suedecloth, polyester, 12.99/yard

Ruffles: Ruffles, ruffles everywhere! Spanish-influenced flounces were all over the runway for Spring 2016. Ruffles are surprisingly easy to make, and they instantly give a garment a feminine and whimsical look.You can add them to just about anywhere too- edges of sleeves, necklines, hemlines, pockets, or layer them for a dress or skirt.


Get the look!


From left to right: Polka-dot double edge ruffle trim, 1.79/yard; red & black rose printed satin, 97% polyester & 3% spandex, 11.99/yard; black ruffle trim, 1.99/yard

Image Sources (left to right, top to bottom):

Victorian looks, embellished shoes, red suit, blood orange suit, white suit, 70’s suede, ruffle looks

2015 Sewist Gift Guide

Sewing requires a thoughtful plan, the perfect fabric, some perseverance, and the right….notions! Like apps on your iPhone, notions specialize in making an aspect of your sewing project much easier. Can’t see to thread your needle? Need to snip some threads? Measuring around a curved line? There’s a notion for that! Even with decades of sewing experience, we’re always finding new notions to make our sewing better and faster. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite notions, new & old! This a great list to get some last minute stocking stuffers or get them all to help a new sewist stock up on the basics!

2015 Mill End Store Holiday Gift Guide

  1.  Bobbin Saver
  2. Hem & Trim Measure Guide
  3. Automatic needle threader
  4. Point Turner & Presser
  5. 14 in 1 Measuring Gauge
  6. Lint Pic-Up
  7. Bias Tape Maker
  8. Thergonomic Hand-Aid
  9. Decorative Rotary Blades
  10. Pressure Sensitive Tape Measure
  11. Embroidery Scissors
  12. Thread Snips
  13. Jean-a-ma-jig
  14. Wonder Tape
  15. Magnetic Pin Cushion/Wand
  16. Magnifer
  17. Fray Check
  18. Easy Threader
  19. Cone Adaptors
  20. Fingers Friend

What is your favorite notion? What do you immediately recommend to a new sewist? What is your dream notion purchase?

10 Easy Holiday Tulle Projects

There’s nothing better than holiday craft projects that are inexpensive, easy, and have a high impact! Tulle is a whimsical and inexpensive material to use, plus quite often sewing isn’t even necessary, making it quick AND great for kids. We’ve put together a roundup of 10 EASY holiday tulle projects. Most of these projects only require a few materials, and are assembled by simply knotting the tulle.

  1. DIY Tulle Christmas Tree: Tutorial HERE

No need to water or vacuum up pine needles with this cute, little tree. Using multiple shades of green adds dimension and visual interest! This would look great in a foyer, kid’s room, or even a table top decoration.

tulle 1

2. Santa Tulle Wreath: Tutorial HERE

I’m always a fan of minimal design. Santa’s hat and a tulle beard are all you need to represent ol’ Kris Kringle. Aside from hanging on your door, I can also see this wreath becoming a fun photo op at a Christmas party!

tulle 2

3. Tulle Pom Poms: Tutorial HERE

Pom poms are as simple to make as they are charming. Similar to making yarn pom poms, but a little fancier! These would make for a darling, holiday headband (in green, red, gold, or blues!), present toppers, or great tree decorations.

tulle 3

4. Tulle Christmas Trees: You can find it HERE.

There’s no tutorial listed with this one, but it’s quite similar to this one. We’re adding it for inspiration, because how cute is that pink tree?!

tulle 4

5. Christmas Tree Dress: Tutorial HERE

Who says dressing up is only for Halloween? If you’re feeling moved by the holiday spirit and hosting a holiday party, you’d certainly stand out as the hostess wearing this Christmas Tree Dress!

tulle 5

6. DIY Frozen Wreath: Tutorial HERE

Is ‘Frozen’ still echoing throughout your household? Can your little princess simply not ‘let it go’? Well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! This tutorial uses a foam wreath as the base, but you could easily use an embroidery hoop as well!

tulle 6

7. Tulle Skirt: Tutorial HERE

There are so many adorable ways to style a tulle skirt, like with a scoop neck stretch velvet top or fitted blazer. This tutorial uses a thrifted skirt as the base, but you could certainly whip up a simple circle skirt of your own!

tulle 7

8. Tulle Angel Ornaments: Tutorial HERE

Simple, elegant design. These would be great ornaments or party favors.

tulle 8

9. DIY Tulle Bows: Tutorial HERE

Another great addition to a little girl’s headband or present topper.

tulle 9

10. Tulle Tree Skirt: Inspiration HERE

The addition of lights make this tree skirt SO DREAMY! Perfect for a “Winter Wonderland” themed party!

tulle 10