Spotlight: Ellen March and Sew News
We were very fortunate to have Ellen March share her time and relate her accomplishments with us for this interview series. Ellen is Community Content Director, Sewing Division for F+W Media, which encompasses Sew News, Creative Machine Embroidery, BurdaStyle, Sew it All, and Sew Daily.
We asked Ellen how she became interested in sewing, and she told us that she has been exposed to sewing for her entire life. As she says, “My grandmother lived in North Dakota on a small farm and did all the tailoring and dressmaking for her small town. My mother sewed all the formal gowns for my sister and me growing up (for school dances), Halloween costumes, and random garments and accessories. I think I learned to sew because I wanted to make my own scrunchies in the 80s! But my very first project was a Michael Jackson sequined glove that my sister and I made for a party. I think I was 4 or 5.
I still sew a lot for projects we feature in the magazines and online. And I still love making a project from start to finish. I say that because oftentimes I’m making stepouts, which are in-progress versions of a finished project. Sometimes we need 10 or 12 partially sewn sections of a project for a video or feature article. That can get tiring and repetitive, but I still enjoy it!”
We asked Ellen about the founding of Sew News, over thirty five years ago, and its development into today’s powerhouse online and print resource for all things sewing. She replied, “The first Sew News was published in Nov/Dec 1980 on actual oversized newsprint, hence the name. It was published bimonthly by Siegl & Rehrmann, the Art Director and Editor, respectively. It was really more about the news of the sewing world rather than a how-to sew book full of patterns and project tutorials. The main story in the premiere issue was “Celebrities Give Pattern Sales a Boost.” Funny, I think that’s still true today. Celebrities who sew is what we need to continue to further the resurgence of sewing that we’ve seen over the past decade.
The second issue already evolved into more of a guide, including questions and answers to specific sewing questions. So it was clear from the start that readers wanted to expand their skills and were looking for experts to help them.
Today, I think we have a healthy mix of news and tutorials in Sew News magazine and online. It’s really a lifestyle brand for people who love to sew. In any given month you’ll find an interview with a fascinating person who has made sewing his/her primary source of income (difficult to do in today’s world), Q&A with fit experts, patterns for garments, home-dec and accessory projects, color and style inspiration and more. And of course we bring the latest-and-greatest tools and sewing machine technology to the masses.”
Of course, today’s Sew News is a product of the contributions of many people, including staff and outside contributors. Ellen describes them as “the best, most dedicated hard-working staff in the universe! The sewing team is small, but mighty. Amanda Carestio is our Senior Content Producer; Kate Zaynard is our Creative Editor, Meg Healy is the Editor of BurdaStyle, Jessica Ziebarth is our Assistant Editor, Jill Case is our Web Producer, and Ty Tradelius is our Social Media Manager. Kerry Jackson is our Lead Designer and Ashley Navarre is our Graphic Designer. We all work very closely and collaboratively together. The contributors are so wonderful. Each month we send out a call for editorial, including print and online opportunities. They respond with great ideas and we work together using trend research, survey data and more to come up with thoughtful, inspiring, innovative content we think our readers will enjoy.”
When we asked how the staff of Sew News decides what to include in the publications, Ellen told us that it’s all about the research. She said the staff scours “social sites online, combing through surveys, conducting new surveys, flat-out asking people what they like/dislike at consumer events, on the street, etc. It’s a constant process that always evolves.
When we receive queries from freelancers, we evaluate them against our editorial calendar and vision for the particular time of year. And we have different criteria for what goes online vs what goes in the magazine. Online content can be more time-sensitive and we may pay for a piece and publish it the next day if we can pull it together that fast!”
Sew News is a magazine that focuses on the practical side of sewing, concentrating on content that people can fit into today’s busy lifestyles. As Ellen says, “Sure, we throw in some aspirational couture pieces now and again, but the nitty gritty is “what are people sewing NOW.” This includes not only what you WANT to sew, but also what you have TIME for. This has drastically changed over the past decade and people are willing to take a few shortcuts just to wear something tonight, or actually FINISH something.
We also include content that is close to your heart, meaning stories on people who have taken sewing to the next level, or invented something to make sewing easier or more fun, or people who don’t sew anymore but this is how they incorporate it into their lives. It’s more heartfelt content than rigid instruction. Plus, with all these different sewing brands, we’re able to offer different types of content to the masses. If you prefer fashion sewing, we have BurdaStyle with trendy, tried-and-true patterns. If you sew for fit and want to up your technique game, we have Sew News. If you want to embellish what you’ve made, we have Creative Machine Embroidery. And if you’re short on time but need a quick gift or something to wear tonight, we have Sew it All. And then we have our Sew Daily online community where you can discuss with like-minded sewists, get answers to sewing questions, find videos and quick tips, and more. It’s a great destination for all things sewing.
Sew News is also connected with Sew it All and Creative Machine Embroidery. According to Ellen, “Sew it All is a Special Interest Publication of Sew News and is published once a year on newsstands only. It is a project-based magazine—all how-to content geared toward beginners, but all skill levels love it because it is “instant-gratification” sewing as I call it. Projects can all be completed in an afternoon’s time. Creative Machine Embroidery began as an SIP of Sew News, published quarterly. It very quickly became a subscription-based model and has a different customer base. These folks love embellishment and using their computer software to personalize things well beyond slapping a monogram onto something. It’s a really cool art form.”
We asked Ellen what has been the most challenging project of her very successful career. She said “My most challenging project was creating the Sew it All TV show. We really had to concept it from the ground up—not only developing the content and flow of each episode, scheduling guests and sponsors, but everything from building the studio, designing the set…everything! It was really a labor of love and took a TON of work each season. We taped 13 episodes in 4 ½ days for each season. When it was cancelled just before our 10th season, I was devastated. But it was the best decision for the business and I get that. Plus, I was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after it was cancelled, so it was really a blessing in disguise. I wouldn’t have been able to keep it going while undergoing treatment. I’m glad the magazine has survived and we still publish tutorials for the brand. It’s near and dear to my heart.” We certainly hope that Ellen continues in good health. We discovered her GoFundMe web page here.
Below is a list of the websites and brands that Ellen is involved with, helping grow the knowledge base and enhancing the art of sewing!
Academy.burdastyle.com (our online education site)
And you find all of the above brands on Instagram and Pinterest, where they post all of their embroidery designs, patterns, videos and fashion photography!