Review: Sew Expo 2016

I just got home from Sew Expo last night and thought it would be a good idea to write up a bit of a review of my weekend. The last time I went to Sew Expo, I think was in 2001. After I got married and had kids, I didn’t feel like I could leave them for a weekend, and it’s about 150 miles away, so too far to drive there and back in a day. The kids are finally old enough where it felt fairly comfortable to leave everyone home with Papa in charge. I came home to a houseful of sickies, but otherwise they all did fine while I was gone. Everything went well enough that I might feel tempted to do this again sometime, though maybe not as an annual event. My sister came with me, and my Grandma had gone up there with my Aunt, and stayed with us after my Aunt went home, so I wasn’t left completely unsupervised on my trip.

I’m writing this as a completely un-sponsored post. Having gone to this event in the past, all my current impressions are in comparison to my past experiences. My first impression this go-round is that I think I’m finally old enough to attend this event. I’d be interested in some statistics about the average age of attendees. The first time I went, I think I might have been about 15. In the early 2000’s I would have been a little older, but still looked really, really young, and while I wouldn’t have been opposed to talking with vendors, I wasn’t the most outgoing person and it would have taken some special effort on the parts of the vendors to penetrate whatever was going on in my own head-space at that time in order for me to feel like I had a really social experience. This time I really felt like I was able to interact with different people and have some good conversations. I still think I’m younger than many of the attendees, but there were certainly plenty of people my age, and even some quite a bit younger.

The Expo is a lovely mix of sales vendors and classes, and I was able to take advantage of both. I went up on Friday, but hadn’t been sure what time I’d get there, so I hadn’t signed up for any Friday classes. I just shopped the vendors on Friday. The rest of my shopping was done on Saturday and Sunday between the classes I’d signed up for. I felt like the vendors were a really good mix of quilting, crafting, and garment sewing. Hancock fabrics did have a pretty large space, but the vibe was overwhelmingly Indie. McCalls Patterns and Simplicity patterns had booths, but they weren’t any larger or more special than anyone else’s and they really just fit right in, just like they do in my own pattern stash in the basement.

Several yarn vendors were selling some lovely yarns and patterns. I picked up some new sock yarn and this book written by Kim Hargreaves. I think the first project I’ll make from the book is this sweater in the middle picture for summer.Knitting Collage

I’ve been pondering trying out some quilt sewing, so I picked up this sock monkey baby quilt kit that should be super-easy to put together and a more ambitious pattern with three-dimensional flowers. I don’t know when I’ll get around to making the flowery quilt, but I loved the one they had all made up and hanging in the booth, so I wanted to have the option to make it later. They were also selling a kit that included all the fabrics to make up the quilt top, but as you can imagine, it was a bit on the spendy side, so I settled for just the pattern.

Quilt Collage

One of the classes I took was by Monica of BravoBella. She gave several classes, but the one I took was on camisoles. She had lots of info about fit and a review of FBA’s. She also had some tips about how to sew a bra into a camisole (or dress). I ended up buying a few patterns from her. Also, Decades of Style had the pre-release of their Buttons and Bows pattern, so of course I had to pick up that one. The other clothing pattern I bought was from Sew Chic, the Myrtlewood Dress.

Pattern Collage

Sew Chic Patterns were sharing a booth with The Smuggler’s Daughter fabrics. It was really nice to be in a place where all those nice fabrics that are usually only available on-line were actually there in-person. Susan is so very sweet and she had a gorgeous fabric selection. I bought the blue stretch cotton sateen below from her, and the other pieces, which are embroidered silk, from Nancy’s Sewing Basket.

Fabrics Collage

Pendleton Wool had a booth, and I was able to get some nice wool for a bag for Romeo and some wool felt pieces to make some flowers. Vogue fabrics had a very large space with a giant assortment of fabrics. Their selection was all over the place in terms of content and design, but the prices were good. They had one section full of shelves of pre-cut fabrics. While plenty of things caught my eye there, I tried to limit my purchases to things I knew I’d use relatively soon or that I didn’t already have some version of in my fabric stash. The top picture is knits and sweater knits and the lower picture is wool-blend suiting and a rayon challis.

Rolled Fabric Collage

Shifting gears from purchases to classes, on Saturday, the classes I took were about 45 minutes each and were in a seminar/demonstration format. This is the class format I remember from when I attended before; I think they may not have even had the longer hands-on classes back then. I do feel like I learned some things, but I’m glad most of them had hand-outs because I couldn’t possibly absorb everything to recall later. One of the things that used to bother me in the past when attending this Expo was how many classes were aimed less at sewing and more at making “wearable art” that could be thrown onto clothing. While the art was often pretty, when tossed onto clothing, the finished outcome was quite often an “old lady sweatshirt”. Not that there’s anything inherently wrong with purchasing a craft-store Hanes t-shirt and embellishing it, but the emphasis on that type of project by the craft industry as a whole, is quite likely one of the contributing factors in the decline of garment sewing in a younger generation. This year I manged to avoid any classes that gave me a feeling I was being trained in “how to buy your clothes at Craft Warehouse” and really felt like the ones that did offer embellishment techniques focused on being able to apply them to a lot of different applications, including as subtle accents on clothing. I was really inspired by the last class I took on Saturday which was all about using different kinds of thread and tips to get them to play nicely with the sewing machine. Of course, to try out what I learned, I had to buy a few threads to try some things out. That thread in the middle is a hologram thread, held next to a standard metallic thread. I couldn’t resist the sparkle. I also got a few clover chalk wheels and some appliques. The puzzle was to bring back to my kids so they wouldn’t feel like I forgot them while I was away.

Threads and misc Collage

The classes I took on Sunday were longer than the ones on Saturday and were hands-on. The last class was a knitting class, so I don’t have anything cool to show for it. It was a great class though, with the instructor up-front with giant needles and a camera so her hands could be up on the screen. They also had assistant instructors walking around the room to provide more individual help. The focus of the class was learning different ways of casting on and binding off. I learned much, much easier ways to do things and felt like I caught on right away. I thought the pace was quick, but good, and I think the ladies sitting on my right were keeping up, but I know the ladies sitting on my left were getting frustrated in the beginning and, by the end, were completely lost. While I realize that there probably are You Tube videos of what I learned and plenty of information is available in books, it was so nice to see it demonstrated and to have someone take a look to make sure I was doing it correctly. Yes, there are Local Yarn Stores that offer that service, but I think the most “local” one for me that I could even go to is 30 miles away. It isn’t exactly like I can just dash up to Portland on a whim to check in with someone about my cast-on technique.

The first two Classes on Sunday were sewing classes using top-of-the line BabyLock Ovation Sergers. I loved using this machine. I took the classes mainly to have the experience of using a really nice machine, with the side benefit of possibly being able to apply some of the techniques with my low-end and/or vintage machines at home. I didn’t expect to see so much difference from my home machines, but now I’d really, really like to upgrade. In one of the classes we made a portable placemat with pockets and a tie. We used a chainstitch to do the quilting and a fancy belt loop attachment to make the ties. This class also used fusible thread for the binding. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I got to bring the spool home. It worked quite well for the placemat, and I’m thinking it would be really nice to use in making patch pockets to keep the edges turned down before stitching, especially in slippery fabrics.

The other class was a wallet class, and as you can see below, I didn’t get the hardware put on before class was over. I just need to fiddle with it a bit and it will be finished up. The inside has card pockets, a zipper pocket, and two larger pockets. This was also entirely constructed by serger using a chain stitch. Overall the classes moved at a brisk pace to fit into the Expo schedule, but they had several instructors working so that instructions could be given in smaller groups when necessary and so that technical difficulties with machines could be dealt with and students could move on. The instructors were lovely and encouraging, even through the last class of the last day of the Expo when I know they were worn out.

One thing I really appreciated about the hands-on classes, which did have a kit fee, is that the instructors in charge of the classes chose nice materials to work with. They kept the wallet a classic black velveteen and the placemat fabrics are so summery and fun. Sometimes with classes and kits the materials are cheesy or weird so that even though the finished product is technically “usable” it’s more of a muslin and doesn’t actually get used. I think I’ll use these though.

Project Collage

Overall, I had a great experience at Sew Expo 2016. There was plenty to see and do and for the most part the other attendees were a lovely bunch of people. It isn’t really a sewing “meetup” but the atmosphere was definitely conducive to some interaction with random people who happen to have a common interest.

Here’s me and my sister, Laura at the Expo.

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3 Comments

  1. MaryEllen

    Thanks for this recap . I had a great time when I went last year for the first time . The classes you took sounded great also. I enjoyed most of my classes , but many were just advertisements for their products . Several even said – oh just buy my book – I didn’t make a handout . I’ll think about going again next year

    Reply
  2. My Handmade Space

    Nice! looks like a lot of fun! I love that baby quilt kit that you bought.

    Reply
  3. Lynn

    Oh wow! I wish there was a sewing expo in my area. I have never heard of such a wonderful thing.

    Reply

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