Dyed and Gone to Heaven – An Online Magazine and Needlework Resource  

Deanna Van Assche

Featuring her own Vintage Style of "Wearable Art"
by Rita Vainius

Deanna, interior decorator/designer and seamstress brings to her work a lifetime of passion for the needle arts, and through her own vision and ingenuity, has combined sewing, embroidery and French flower making skills to create a collection of "wearable art" that is uniquely her own. (Deanna is also a staff member of the "Crafty Lady University" this month's Shop Focus, teaches periodically at Oakland Univesity and has won awards at state competitions and has been a featured artist at numerous shows.)


Her apprenticeship began as a child, at her grandmother's knee, where she learned the basics of sewing and embroidery. Her grandmother made all Deanna's clothes and was a patient teacher, always ready with a smile and words of encouragement. She instilled in her granddaughter a love of handwork and attention to detail. Under her tutelage, Deanna progressed from the basics to increasingly advanced skills and techniques. After high school Deanna attended Wayne State College and received a degree in Interior Design. She subsequently worked in that field for many years. Her needlework skills were relegated to her free time, with family and friends the sole beneficiaries.

Later Deanna began teaching sewing and needlepoint classes. In the past 10 years, her interests have grown to include crazy quilts, having studied with Arlene Dettore, who wrote the book, "Victorian Patchwork and Quilting". She credits Arlene with being the primary force in bringing embroidery back into her life. It was Arlene, as well, who introduced Deanna to the Caron Collection, specifically Wildflowers and Watercolours. Working with the Caron threads has been a formidable factor in the development of Deanna's needlework pursuits.

Because of a chance encounter with Camela Nitchke at a Stitcher's Sewing Convention in Toledo, Deanna began taking some classes with her. Camela is a world renowned expert in creating French Ribbon Flowers and is the only American whose work is on display in the Museum at Versailles, France. Not surprisingly, Deanna was soon able to add ribbon flowers to her repertoire of skills and her classes grew to include wearable art design. Using French wire and satin ribbon, embroidery, buttons and beads she embellishes sweaters, jackets and dresses to create one of a kind garments. Deanna sees the garment as her canvas, and proceeds to create an artistic collage on this background.One sweater simulates a garden setting: 3 dimensional flowers with embroidered accents of a trailing vine encircle the neckline and cascade down the bodice, with butterflies, ladybugs or even angels nestled among the petals and leaves. Unusually shaped beads and vintage buttons add both whimsy and elegance to the design. Another creation is a beach tunic which depicts a seashore scene: intricate embroidery consisting of variegated colors and multiple textures approximates seaweed, fish nets and aquatic plant life as though seen glimmering through a thin film of water. The colors and patterns convey a sense of movement and undulation with fish darting about in this underwater fantasy world.

Aside from being an enthusiastic fan of the colors and textures found in the Caron Collection, Deanna is constantly amazed by how well they have held up to the wear and tear of everyday use and subsequent cleanings. The fibers maintain their texture and the colors remain fresh and vibrant. In teaching her classes, the Caron threads are her first choice and she encourages her students to use them. She also advises them to build their color studies from the colors in the specialty fibers they are using.

Deanna's creations would be stunning using almost any threads, but she insists that by using the Caron Line, they are real "Show-Stoppers". Since she frequently wears her creations to work and around town, she is constantly eliciting both praise and curiosity. Her classes include many novices, who have no prior needlework experience. Her approach to teaching is a very populist and democratic one; she wholeheartedly believes that these, as well as many other artistic skills, can be learned, and are not just for an elite talented few.

Ever eager to try her "hands" at something new, Deanna is currently working on a knitted bag, lavishly embroidered and further embellished with beads. It is progressing so well, that we will, no doubt, soon find her adding another class to her busy, but rewarding schedule. Deanna is also continuing the tradition begun by her grandmother. She now has 8 grandchildren of her own, and is committed to passing on her skills and love of needlework to the next generation.


© 1997 The Caron Collection Ltd./ Voice: (203) 381-9999, Fax: 203 381-9003

CARON email: mail@caron-net.com /