Eileen Roche – Designs in Machine Embroidery

(Originally published February 2015 in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #15. Article written by Rita Farro.)


Eileen with Nancy Zieman on the set of “Sewing With Nancy.”

Eileen with Nancy Zieman on the set of “Sewing With Nancy.”

Eileen Roche with her sister Marie Zinno.

Eileen Roche with her
sister Marie Zinno.

Eileen is a prolific author and one of the most popular speakers in the sewing industry.  She was the first person to teach machine embroidery as a guest on Sewing with Nancy, and her list of accomplishments is impressive.

Besides being a frequent guest on Sewing with Nancy and It’s Sew Easy, Eileen is a BERNINA Ambassador, an expert on Baby Lock and Brother machines.  She was the first teacher to present a class on machine embroidery on Craftsy and now has two classes — with over 12,000 students.

Considered a pioneer in developing techniques to combine quilting with machine embroidery   —   her first book — Contemporary Machine Embroidered Quilts, quickly became a bestseller.  Because of her easy writing style, clear directions, and innovative techniques, she has gone on to write many more books about machine embroidery:

•    Machine-Embroidered Fashions
•    Machine-Embroidered Accessories
•    In the Hoop Tool Kit Book
•    Designer Denim
•    Machine Embroidered Monograms for the Home (co-authored with her sister Marie)
•    Designer Handbags (co-authored w/ Nancy Zieman)
•    Designer Handbags 2 (co-authored w/ Nancy Zieman)
•    Machine Embroidered Quilting and Appliqué
•    The Stitching Sisters Guide to Embroidery Studio Organization (also with Marie)
•    Machine Embroidery in 6 Easy Lessons
•    Today’s Crazy Quilting with Your Embroidery Machine

Recent Issues of Designs in Machine Embroidery.

Recent Issues of
Designs in Machine Embroidery.

Designs in Machine Embroidery has earned a reputation as the most beautiful magazine in the sewing world.  The articles are widely varied and embrace embroiderers at all levels, from beginning to advanced, but it’s the exquisite photography that takes DIME to the next level.  Eileen has always believed that to be really appreciated — the finished embroidered projects must be photographed as they will be used.  She uses models for the garments — and beds to show the quilts. Eileen also writes a blog that receives 58,000 viewers per month.

You might think all that would be enough to keep her busy — but you would be wrong.  Eileen’s real passion is inventing new embroidery products.  She has designed software programs for lettering, quilting, digitizing and piecing in the hoop.  When Eileen encounters a problem, she creates a solution.  She says, “during my first guest appearance on Sewing with Nancy, I got an idea for my first patent:  the Angle Finder.”

Her list of inventions continues to grow:

•    Snap Hoop
•    Snap Hoop Monster
•    Quick Snap for multi-needle machines
•    Target Rulers
•    Target Stickers
•    Print & Stick Target Paper
•    Stipple! Collections – a patented digitizing technique
•    Perfect Alignment Laser (PAL)
•    Bird’s Nest Tool
•    Stitcher’s Hardware
•    Hoop Guard
•    shortE: the embroidery short arm with a long reach. (Basically, a quilting frame that your embroidery machine sits on while the frame holds the quilt – brand new, and a real game-changer) http://www.shop.dzgns.com/collections/shorte/products/shorte

Eileen buried in books.

Eileen buried in books.

So, how does somebody accidentally become the world’s premier, a foremost authority on machine embroidery?

Eileen Roche grew up on the Jersey Shore — in a small seasonal beach town, Wildwood Crest, New Jersey.  She was the third of six sisters — no brothers.  Her family had a popular Irish bar that was a hit with the summer crowd from Philadelphia and its neighboring suburbs.  Everyone in their town had a small business — restaurants, motels, bars, amusement centers.  So she grew up in an entrepreneurial atmosphere where everyone worked 18 hour days for five months straight. The other seven months, many of the islanders were idle or in Florida at their winter homes.

Eileen says, “It taught me not to be afraid of hard work and if you had an idea the only thing standing between you and the idea was idleness. If you wanted to make something happen, you had to make it happen.

Neither of my parents had a college degree but both of them wanted each of their daughters to get a degree. They pushed us to get off that island and see the world, to find a career that made us financially responsible. And we did — today, five of us have a bachelor’s degree, three have master’s and one has a doctorate — from Harvard!

My first sister went off to college and became a teacher, the second a nurse.  I always had to be different — maybe being the middle child.  So I took a different path.   I received a degree in Sports Administration and worked in college athletics — the University of San Diego, DePaul University and Temple University.  I learned a lot in those days — I learned how to write, how to manage large events, how to promote events (some with mass appeals like NCAA men’s basketball and others with little appeal such as women’s fencing).  I worked ridiculously long hours for ten months a year. I liked it, but . . . the pay was terrible and there were 20 young men lurking outside of my office at any time who would do my job for no pay. They were raving fans and I wasn’t.

So I moved into the private sector and spent a year with an ad agency. Fast forward, I got married and had a house to decorate with a very small budget. So I took a sewing class — and fell absolutely in love with the whole process. There was very little education available at the time —1988 — so I did all the research I possibly could and taught myself how to sew. I furthered my knowledge by watching Sewing with Nancy!  A short time later, I began to teach home dec in a local dealership.  When the Janome 8000 came out, the dealer asked me to teach a class on machine embroidery, I said, ‘I don’t know anything about it.’ He said, ‘Don’t worry, no one does.’ I made more mistakes than I had successes and eventually started a newsletter on machine embroidery, Creative News, in 1994.

In 1998, I was teaching at a dealer training event and met Gary Gardner, who was the founding owner of Great Notions. We immediately shared a vision of a magazine on machine embroidery for the home user. It was a radical move — more radical than we knew at the time.  Six months later we put out the first issue of  Designs in Machine Embroidery in January 1999.  

Initially, I worked from Philadelphia and traveled to Dallas once a quarter. The art team was in Dallas and as the business grew, those trips became more frequent and longer in length. In 2001, Gary sat me down and said, “If we’re really going to make this endeavor work, it needs your full attention and that needs to happen here in Dallas.” My husband and I made the decision to move and off we went to Dallas in 2001.

Marie and Eileen, The Stitching Sisters at the Alamo.

Marie and Eileen, The Stitching Sisters at the Alamo.

As my workload expanded, I encouraged my sister Marie to start teaching with me.  She had already learned how to embroider and bought a multi-needle machine shortly after they were introduced by Baby Lock.  By 2007, she was building her commercial embroidery business and had just authored Machine Embroidery for Babies & Tots (Krause).  At our first Stitching Sisters events, she was nervous and acted as a true assistant.  Eventually, she became very comfortable in front of an audience. We thrive on creating an atmosphere of learning and fun.  It’s quite obvious we are sisters and the audience loves that.

On the personal side, we’ve toured the US together — we have spent many a Saturday night in a romantic location — with each other!  We joke about that and wish our husbands were with us. It has brought us very close, we feel blessed to have had the opportunity to help dealers grow their business, meet thousands of embroiderers, tour the US and have fun in the process. Don’t get me wrong, there’s been plenty of stress, long hours and TONS of hard work (that seems to keep chasing me!) but all in all, it’s been a blast.

Working with other talented people like my sister has taught me that you can do good things on your own, but if you want to do great things, team up with others. I learned this first through my partnership with Gary Gardner, with my cherished relationship with Nancy Zieman and my lifelong bond with my sister Marie.  


It’s no surprise to many that I’ve worked on so many different projects with Nancy and Marie, but it might be new to you to learn of the staff at DIME. I have been blessed with a fantastic, hard-working support team. Each is so talented in their own right and take full ownership of their duties — there’s no babysitting at DIME!  We have been together for years — some of us a full sixteen years.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of many!”



Design Stars – Angela Wolf

Design Stars

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

Early this year, we had visitors from the Industrial Division of SCHMETZ Germany. To help SCHMETZ executives better understand the consumer market, many activities were arranged. Yes, we had traditional meetings and visited retail shops, but we also toured Modern Quilt Studio with Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr and ended the week with a star studded designer showcase with five designers from the Chicago area. Each designer presented their special niche in the marketplace. The result was aptly described by SCHMETZ as “astonishing!” The day was laced with energy, talent, savvy and a passion for creativity. These five business women demonstrated grit, talent, creativity and strategic work. With hard work, that never goes out of style, they make awesome contributions to the sewing industry that we love. Meet, or re-meet, because several ladies have already been featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW: Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Reen Wilcoxson, Frieda Anderson and Angela Wolf. Five shining stars that make sewing even more fun!

Angela Wolf

Angela Wolf was featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #29. With her sparkling personality, and reputation for creativity and hard work — she has become one of the brightest lights in the constellation of “stars” in the sewing industry. The anchor of the PBS series It’s Sew Easy, hosts a popular weekly Facebook Live show “Behind-the-Scenes,” and online instructor with over 140,000 students. She is a fashion and pattern designer, founder of ABO Apparel and Angela Wolf Pattern Collection, author of the book How To Start a Home Based Fashion Business, spokesperson, brand ambassador, blogger, and consultant.

Angela started sewing at a young age and continued to design women’s apparel all thru college. With an entrepreneurial spirit and passion for fashion and sewing, she launched and ran a successful custom apparel and alteration business for over 18 years. In 2008, Angela was a contestant in the “Passion For Fashion” contest at the American Sewing Expo (ASE) in Novi, Michigan. Similar to Project Runway, the contestants were issued a challenge and given a budget to shop for fabric on the show floor. They sewed their garments in an arena, while show attendees watched. Angela thrived in the competitive environment of sewing-as-entertainment.

The year after she won the Passion for Fashion contest, Angela mounted an exhibit of her garments for the ASE … and she became aware of something called the “home sewing industry.” Angela’s phone started ringing and the opportunities just kept coming. The home sewing industry welcomed Angela and her skills with open arms. At this point, Angela says her focus is on teaching and inspiring sewers and fashion designers of all ages; offering easy to follow patterns, online classes, and virtual classes for dealers, stores, and organizations. Angela has an active social media presence with free tutorials on her YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/aboapparel and Facebook Live Shows, particularly the popular show Behind the Scenes that airs every Wednesday at 1:30PM EST https://www.facebook.com/AngelaWolfCouture/ attracting thousands of viewers and fans.

Angela’s travel schedule is packed with dealer events, the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, Quilt Festival, and taping new seasons of the PBS series It’s Sew Easy. You can find Angela’s activities or contact her at www.AngelaWolf.com.

Angela Wolf – Fashion Designer and Founder of ABO Apparel and Angela Wolf Pattern Collection

Angela Wolf - Taping TV Show with One of Her New Patterns

Angela Wolf, anchor of the PBS series It’s Sew Easy and host of Craftsy’s new sewing channel on YouTube, is a fashion designer and founder of ABO Apparel and Angela Wolf Pattern Collection. She wrote the book, How to Start a Home-Based Fashion Business.  She is also a spokesperson, blogger, and has contributed to both Threads and SewStylish magazines.  Angela enjoys sharing her passion for fashion sewing and was voted 2012 Teacher of the Year by the American Sewing Expo.

Angela Wolf Book, How to Start a Home-Based Fashion Design BusinessThe oldest of 5 children, Angela’s mom always had a craft going:  needle point, rug kits, paper crafts, cake decorating — there was a big variety.  But sewing was Angela’s favorite.  She made her first outfit (skirt and vest) at summer camp when she was 11.  Even though she was the biggest tom-boy ever, she chose to make a skirt and vest.

Angela recalls, “I was obsessed with fashion sewing and design.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I snuck some vibrant red fabric out of my mother’s stash.  I lay on the fabric and my sisters drew around me with chalk.  The result looked more like a crime scene than a fashion pattern.  But I used their chalk markings to sew and fit the cutest dress.  I wish I’d kept it!
I always loved math (which really comes in handy), so I started college with an engineering degree in mind.  Instead, I graduated with a business degree as that seemed more applicable for entrepreneurship.  During college, my old Singer machine went with me from dorm room to dorm room to apartment, and I designed clothes for myself and others. My sewing machine died two weeks before graduation.  As a gift, my family gave me a brand new sewing machine and serger.  Their idea was to satisfy my ‘hobby’.  Little did they know those machines would launch my career.  I could hardly wait to do what I knew I was meant to do . . . Fashion Design.“

After graduating, Angela moved to Saint Joseph, Michigan and studied everything she could about Fashion Design:  Couture sewing, fitting, flat pattern making, draping, and designing for various body shapes.   She designed a collection with 16 garments and invited all the women she knew to an informal fashion show at a local restaurant (offering free wine). That night was the launch of her custom apparel business, ABO Apparel.

Angela Wolf designs jeans to dresses appropriate for wedding bells.

Angela designs jeans to dresses appropriate for wedding bells.

Many of her clients wanted her to alter their ready-to-wear garments to fit like the custom clothing she designed for them.  Although Angela felt that asking a fashion designer to alter clothes was like asking Picasso to paint your bathroom, she took on alterations because it paid well.  Also, she felt every woman, no matter her size, deserved well-fitting garments.  She soon realized the bonus to doing alterations on designer garments (Chanel, Armani, Escada, etc.) was that she could learn from the masters.  As she pulled them apart, she could clearly see how these fine garments were interfaced, underlined, understitched, staystitched, and so much more.

In 2008, Angela entered the Passion for Fashion design contest at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan.  The contest was similar to an episode of Project Runway, except it was live and on the show floor of a very busy consumer sewing show.  The contestants were given a challenge, and then shopped for fabric from show vendors.  They created their garments with thousands of consumers watching their every move.  During the final Fashion Show, Angela was declared the winner.  It was a game changer.
Until that moment, Angela didn’t even know there was a “sewing world” out there.  She had never attended a consumer sewing show and her victory at the American Sewing Expo (ASE) was a turning point.  The following year she exhibited a large display of her couture designs and the year after that Angela was invited to teach.  In 2012, she was awarded the ASE teacher of the year award.

Angela looks back on her first 15 years in business as a sewing, fitting, and pattern designing bootcamp.  After getting involved with American Sewing Expo, she realized she had a lot to share and she loved teaching. She developed several classes including how to sew your own designer jeans, hand dying fabrics, how to sew with knits, and starting and running an alterations business. And now, thanks to PatternReview and Craftsy, she has over 77,000 students from all over the world.

During this time, Angela met Kathie Stull, who was in the beginning stages of planning the PBS series, It’s Sew Easy.  The concept was for a sewing show that focused on garment sewing.   Angela was a perfect fit and she has been the anchor of the show for 6 years.

Angela Wolf Pattern Collection

What are you wearing today Angela?

Angela’s credibility for It’s Sew Easy came from the fact that she designed and sewed all her own clothes.  She started receiving viewer emails asking “what pattern was your top, or your jeans? etc.”

At that point, Angela made the decision to switch gears in her business.  Instead of designing and sewing for individual clients, she invested in a new CAD software program and started Angela Wolf Pattern Collection — to create patterns for the home sewist.

Her goal with the patterns was to offer a good fit with easy to follow directions no matter how complicated the design.  She wanted the pattern printed on quality paper (easier to trace), with a spiral bound booklet with the directions so the booklet could fold back at the sewing machine.  There would be a coordinating PDF file for the tablet users.

Angela works from a 6,000 sq. ft. office/studio about 10 miles from her house.  She tries to keep to a daily routine when she’s not traveling.   Her first hour is shipping and answering customer emails.  Her day might include some or all of the following — blogging, taping and editing video tutorials, testing new patterns, consulting, experimenting with new technology on sewing and embroidery machines, or designing fabric.

“Fabric inspires me to create and I have quite the stash. I design a lot of my own fabrics, although I don’t sell it on a mass scale, it’s on my short-term bucket list.  From hand-dyeing, printing, embellishing with embroidery and quilting, the list goes on. It makes me sad to see so many fabric stores closing, as people buy online or they go to a store and find a better deal online.  There is nothing better than touching and feeling the hand of the fabrics!”  

Angela with 20+ lbs. of King Salmon Glory!

Angela with 75 lbs. (well, we think it’s that big) of King Salmon Glory!

From April through September, Angela leaves the office on Friday to jump on board their boat the Win-n-Angel.  Her husband (his name is Winn) and she (sometime the Angel) fish professionally on the Salmon Tournament Trail on Lake Michigan. They are featured on the Salmon Showdown reality tv show.  Brother is the official sponsor of their team.  So, of course every team has embroidered jackets and hats.  Angela is honored to be Brother’s official brand ambassador in the sewing world and humbled by the fact they believe in her enough to sponsor her fishing team in the sports world.

“The phrase work hard, play hard sums up my life.  I never stop working — even when I am laying in the sun on a beach — I am coming up with new embellishing techniques, new patterns, thinking about new technology on the machines, researching new trends, new ideas for fabric designs.  Years ago, my grandmother asked, ‘does your mind ever stop?’ Not when you love what you do!
One viewer wrote and told me that watching It’s Sew Easy on Saturday mornings became her new routine after she lost her husband. She told me it helped her to work through the grief and inspired her to start sewing again. I am very blessed to have a career that I am able to grow in and inspire others to do the same.”

Visit Angela at:


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