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Designer's Embroidery Adds Pizazz

February 4, 2001
Copyright © 2001 ORLANDO SENTINEL. All Rights Reserved.

When Edna de la Cruz was a girl growing up in Puerto Rico, she learned to embroider by hand, decorating pillows with cross-stitching. Now an adult and living in Orlando, she still does embroidery -- but she creates her own designs on a computer, then stitches them onto vests, jackets and evening gowns using a top-of-the-line, $5,000 Viking Husqvarna sewing machine.

She also has started selling some of her designs at Fabric Collections, an upscale fabric store in Winter Park. The designs are saved onto floppy disks that can be used in computerized sewing machines. Each disk holds 10 to 15 designs, and sells for $50.

"I learned to sew from my mom. I would sit at her side and absorb everything she did. Later I took classes with Carlota Alfaro, a really big designer in Puerto Rico," she said.

Although de la Cruz designed and made many of her own clothes as a teenager, she had no plans for a career in fashion. Instead, she graduated with a degree in communications from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Santurce, Puerto Rico.

Shortly thereafter, in 1990, she married Tony de la Cruz. The day after their wedding, they moved to Orlando. "It was crazy. We were starting a new life in a new country, and it was also our honeymoon," she said.

Her husband opened a travel agency, Viajes Tony de la Cruz Travel & Tours. She started a small dressmaking business, specializing in wedding dresses. But when their son, Chris, was born 4 1/2 years ago, she decided to quit dressmaking. "I wanted to take it easy and spend my time with him. It wasn't possible to do that if I was meeting with clients, scheduling fittings, working to deadlines," she said.

"But I couldn't do it. I'm such a crafty person. I have to be doing some kind of craft with my hands," she said.

So she turned back to her sewing machine and started experimenting with its embroidery features. "It was something I could do on my own, at my own pace," she said.

At first, she worked with designs she found in embroidery pattern books. But that was too mechanical, not creative enough. "I wanted to make my own designs, position them on clothing my own way," she said.

Although she had no idea how to operate a computer, she bought one anyway. "It was like a blank page. For days I was scared to even turn it on," she said.

Eventually, she started punching buttons. "Stubborn as I am, I wouldn't take a lesson. I spent the whole first week on one design. But I got it. Finally, I got it. "

Now, almost five years later, she has mastered both the computer and the embroidery functions on her sewing machine. She handles with ease the once-daunting process of converting a design idea into a computer blueprint.

"The fun is figuring out how I want to use the designs and where I want to position them on a garment," she said.

When her son is old enough for grade school, de la Cruz says she may do more than just design patterns and sew for her own pleasure. She may start a custom-embroidery business.

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