Cheryl Zemke shows off a few of the art squares totes she crafted from distressed denim, appliqués, yarn, charms and other materials. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)
As a young girl growing up in Lincoln Park, Cheryl Zemke dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, but despite her passion for sewing, her wish was often met with discouraging words.
“People said you had to be some place like New York or London in order to go into fashion,” recalls Zemke. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family, so I kept talking myself out of it.”
But some things in life are just meant to be. Zemke earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Lawrence Tech University and an associate’s degree in merchandising management from the International Academy of Design & Technology in Tampa, Fla. She now owns C. Creations Custom Sewing and Design in Riverview, for which she created her own private label — C3 (Creative Clothing Collection).
She has a number of fashion design awards to her credit. For the Passion for Fashion contest, hosted annually by the American Sewing Expo in Novi, she took first place in 2012, second place in 2011, the People’s Choice Award in 2010 and third place People’s Choice Award in 2009. Prior to winning awards, she worked two years as a quality (garment) control specialist for the Home Shopping Network during a 10-year stay in Florida and managed a local JoAnn Fabric and Crafts Store.
“I guess God keeps on giving me these opportunities. I resigned in 2002 from JoAnn Fabrics and started this (company), and it’s been going strong ever since,” says Zemke, a member of the American Sewing Guild, Allen Park Sewing Guild, Downriver and Detroit Business Association, Cultural Partner-Downriver Council for the Arts, and Common Threads Professional Group.
Many of the things she makes and designs — from swing vests to fabric collage totes (like the one featured here) — are inspired by visits to the Detroit Institute of Arts and her family’s history, which stems from England. She says, “I studied the whole entire monarchy and got inspired by all the designs, but I think a lot of designers do that.”
Large Art Squares Tote
Large Art Squares Tote
Estimated time: 4 hours
Tools: Scissors, iron, tape measure, sewing machine
Supplies: Bag fabric: 1 yard denim pre-cut into 27 5½inch by 5½inch squares, lining: 1 yard cotton (works best for fraying), pre-cut into 27 5½-inch by 5½-inch squares, 1 yard 4-ounce batting precut into 27 4½-inch by 4½-inch squares, miscellaneous fabric scraps, decorative trim, lace, novelty yarns, matching and/or contrasting threads, optional: large snap closure
1. Build up 27 squares by layering each with a piece of lining, batting and bag fabric. Stitch ½-inch around all four sides of each.
2. Add decorative accents (torn fabric, appliqués, lace, trims, etc.) on each.
3. Then, add novelty yarn accents to squares by zig-zagging, with either matching or contrasting thread. (Squares can also be accented with other decorative machine stitches.)
4. Lay squares on large surface and position in pleasing arrangement that’s 3 rows wide and 3 rows deep for front and back of tote, and also, three squares for each side and three for bottom.
5. Stitch rows of front, bottom and back squares together with ½-inch hem showing on outside of bag. Open seams flat as you stitch. (The finished piece will have seven rows of three across.)
6. For side of tote, sew together one set of three pieces with same ½-inch seam allowance. Repeat for other side. Press seams open. Firmly press bulky areas to flatten.
7. Now, attach one side panel by matching seams to form box shape, clipping corner just enough to pivot at turn. Repeat for other side.
8. Make strap by layering batting, lining and bag fabric. Pin all layers together and stitch along entire length on both sides to create long tube.
9. Turn inside out, making sure batting is inside when turning. Press firmly. Top-stitch edges. Securely attach strap to sides of bag. (Note: It’s OK if raw edge shows.) Add snap closure, if desired.
10. Wash and dry bag. Trim threads, leaving some showing for character. Press bag.
Contact C. Creations Custom Sewing and Design at (734) 740-1292, www.cherylzemke.webs.com or email@example.com
Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at detroitnews.com/crafts. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150.