19 March, 2014

SewExpo Random Thoughts

Jacket from Textile Transformations

- in my backyard ( 2 hrs40min from my house) is the best sewing vacation I can have.
It takes two days to get through all the vendors- if you have no friend distractions.
It runs for four days each year at the end of February at the Puyallup, Washington fairgrounds.

I've gradually lengthened my stay from two days to three days. My friend, Pencil Girl, and her mom attend  all four days.

There's a bazillion classes - from 45 minute one-needle classes to four hour, hands on, take something home with you classes.

One is surrounded by other sew-ers. From those who craft, those who are designers, those who quilt, those who sew garments. Even knitters.

Garments are really in this year with most of the classes geared for this topic. In past years, quilting and home dec have been the star.
You can also find fabulous yarns, beads, and related crafty goodness.

Really, the 'mecca' for sew-ers.

This is where you go to be surrounded by new & creative ideas.

Its so easy to make new friends at lunch/ dinner, waiting in line, seated next to each other. At lunch the first day, I sat next to a retired worker at my company who knew people I knew. At breakfast the next morning I sat next to some vendors and I went back to their booth and found something to buy - supporting them as well as looking a second time at a booth when you are visually and mentally overwhelmed by all that is  being displayed.

I read with interest several posts from two sewing bloggers.   Sham's from Communing With Fabric, who was flown up for the day by McCalls (Puyallup SewExpo) because of this Vogue Patterns blog post.  Another blogger, Kyle from Vacuuming The Lawn,  was in a focus group put on by McCalls at a American Sewing Expo last September (Michigan).

These two women sew a lot of garments and are heavily into getting the fit correct . A bit of know-how is necessary to accomplish something wearable that you made yourself.
Nancy Zieman signing her new autobiography - Seams Unlikely
It was difficult to be concise (Do I ramble on?) so I decided to go ahead and utilize the questions Kyle recalled as they promised easier reading.

Q.  Pretend there are no more pattern sales.  What is the maximum price you would pay for a McCalls pattern?  We know that indies are charging upwards of $20, and that you are buying them.

I have paid $20 for not only the pattern but a chance to see real garments made from the patterns on someone my size. If the pattern is really spectacular in details, I am more than likely to shell out retail. I tend towards waiting until the sale though.

I'm amazingly lucky at garage & estate sales (25 cents! lol).

Q.  Do you like having the finished garment measurements on the envelope?
I had no idea they had gone away!  My kids are grown. While I am sewing for myself, it's been nothing fashionable that required a trip to the pattern books.
Why wouldn't you have those finished measurements on the back?? I utilized them all the time when sewing for my people. Bring 'em back.

Q.  How do you feel about the size ranges in the pattern envelopes?

I like a short range of sizes so it is easier to grade from one size on top to another on the bottom.
Easy fit.

Q.  What is your impression of Vogue patterns, McCalls, Butterick and Kwik Sew?

Slippery slope downwards. The big pattern companies stopped designing for boys & men. The women's styles have nothing to do with RTW (ready to wear). My kids grew up, the day job got more intense - I stopped sewing garments except the basics awhile ago.  Why do you need 20 McCall's patterns for pajama pants? Just trace your old ones and sew. The loose fit hides tragic mistakes like nobody's business. Do I need to spend $16 for a pajama pattern? Now if the pattern had a cool scalloped hem, a inset pocket, a 'detail', hmmm.
I think the 'big 4' might have simplified sewing patterns too much.

Q.  Do you feel the size ranges represent your size?

No, not really. As my auto-immune progressed while I was seeking medical answers, my weight ballooned. I've noticed the patterns I buy for my size fit horribly. One needs to have experience sewing to fit the larger size ranges.

Q.  What independent pattern companies have you purchased from?Jalie, Cutting Edge, Textile Transformations, Pamela's Patterns, Ottobre,  etc.
SewExpo brings these pattern designers to me. I can see the garments, try them on, ask questions. If I have further questions, I have their business card and could conceivably contact them.

Q.  Should there be more craft patterns?  More costumes?  More steampunk?

More Steampunk. More men & Boys, more plus-size patterns. I want more RTW details and sewing inspiration.

Call phone pocket detail.

Q.  If we offered kits that included the pattern, fabric, and all notions (thread, buttons, zipper) to make a garment, would you buy it?

Not me, possibly. But I sure know a lot of people who buy quilt kits, purse kits. Taking the fabric type and color out of our hands works for some people - one less decision to make.
I would be tempted if a extremely flattering fabric was included.

Q.  What do you think of the pattern envelope?  Do you prefer pictures to sketches?
Photos!. I can see the finished garment at SewExpo. I can see the body shape/size/etc. Sketches are nice but they rarely hold up in real life after you spend hours sewing the pattern.

Q.  If we had youtube videos that offered sewing help, like how to insert a zipper, would you watch them?


Q.  Social media.  Are you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest?

Facebook, Pinterest. The others are just too much for me right now. Balancing my social media to actual sewing time is imperative to master.

Pacific Fabrics

Q. What sewing blogs do you read?

 Lots. I was surprised by the sew-ers in Kyle's Focus group NOT reading sewing blogs. I read blogs for entertainment & inspiration. How they tell their sewing journey....
Friday Night Live - Polar Fleece Princess.
Saturday Quilters Night Out was with Tula Pink - Fabric designer.

Q.  Do you use the body type ratings system on the Vogue patterns?
No. Only because I don't currently sew with Vogue.

Q.  Do you use the ratings system on the patterns (like very easy, easy, advanced)?

I  have seen the ratings. I consider myself to be an intermediate sew-er and because of my day job commitments, I need something quick & easy.

Q.  When you're at the fabric store, how do you approach the catalog?  Do you like to have the yardage and measurements in the pattern catalog?  (we actually started the hour by being told to pretend we're at Joann's and start looking through the catalogs on the table in front of us).

I like as much info as possible. Yardage suggestions to finished length of the garment.

I used to sew with McCall's & Butterick all the time. I mostly use them for children's garments now. For my son and husband, there is very little out there in pattern land. I sewed a Hawaiian shirt for my son once  by sizing down an existing pattern I had for a man size. Because there wasn't anything out there. When my kids were little, I ignored the pattern 'sizes' and bought patterns based on their age. That was because of way too much ease and length built into the pattern. Until I got wise, I was regularly cutting out their supposed size and then cutting 8 inches off the hem. This was when I started monkeying around with patterns and making my own. De-constructing their RTW pants that fit so they wouldn't have to wear the pattern company balloons (too much ease).

 Apparently, McCalls is printing all the patterns out there. Just like nearly all the sewing machines are manufactured by one or two companies.

Many of the Indie designers are heavily into PDF file patterns which I have tried and found lacking. I want pattern tissue instead of 91 pages to cut and tape. The Indie designers are finding that while PDF patterns have a place (think International sew-ers and no postage as it's an e-file), many more people are like me and want tissues to cut, copy, slash, whatever.

I understand printing patterns is expensive. I don't understand PDF files for $20 when I am doing quite a bit of computer work to make sure it prints correctly, not to mention taping.

My sewing is very much off the cuff. I want the details and I love the process of figuring out how to make those details happen. The big four sewing pattern companies are a good starting point but I want the RTW (ready-to-wear) details that make it less home-sewn looking.
Last year I made a pair of work shorts with  miles of top-stitching and a two-piece front leg pattern that I have never seen in sewing patterns. I de-constructed my existing RTW pair (that I loved the fit of),  made my own pattern and sewed all the details. I would love that pattern to be published but I don't know pattern drafting. However, it is flattering to someone with a plus-size derriere and ballooning tummy.

Pendleton Booth

The Tilton sisters design for Vogue and I love what they have come up design-wise. However, their designs are a bit more 'dressy' than I want.   I also perceive them to be for women older than me.
I live in simple clothes - I like to garden and I need jeans/shorts and a t-shirt/sweatshirt.
Obviously, I don't get out much - haha. Comfortable clothes that can get dirty. Yes, I am a slob. I invented grunge before it was fashionable.


I see online  a lot of the Indie designers who are young, slim - smaller than size 12's designing clothing that is young, hip for 20 - 30 year-olds.

There are not  many patterns for the 40 - 50 year-olds. Then again, not much in RTW is for the 40 - 50 year-olds either.
I don't want to wear voluminous knit garments, nor do I want to wear gathered tops over my full bust which is definitely lower than younger designers allow for.

I'm looking for pattern designers who have garments sewn up that I can see, touch, get a feel for.
Do they allow for older lady bodies?  Is it flattering to my shape?
I can see quite a few designers at SewExpo. I'm prepared to pay more at Puyallup because I am on vacation. In my everyday life, I am too frugal.
Sewing for oneself is a great skill set, in order to have clothes to fit your age and saggy butt. In my case, my bloated tummy problems from my auto-immune.

This next year, I would like to do a bit more hand-sewing in the Japanese Sashiko style - especially after seeing this inspiring post by Yoshimi, the Flying Squirrel. I was able to find several booths selling sashiko thread and some indigo fabric. I bought a small dragonfly sampler kit to play with.

I had signed up for the Saturday Quilter's night out with Tula Pink who designs fabric for Freestyle Fabrics. She's definitely a quilter - not something I generally identify with. Although I can sew quarter-inch seams, I don't really understand the obsession with cutting fabric in pieces to sew it all  back together again.

Her long-arm quilter person managed to free-style sew a rocket ship with boosters and a ladder on the far left.

I was amazed at how much I enjoyed her hysterical, sarcastic journey of how she got to where is today. Oh my goodness - everyone was laughing- the crowd was fantastic . Her class the next morning was still available, so I signed up to learn how she designs fabric and the process of getting a collection together, fabric repeats, branding, inspiration. Spoonflower, anyone?
So interesting. I don't get on Spoonflower very often because I can spend serious time there designing fabric which is extremely gratifying but time spent on the computer is not time producing something on the sewing machine.

Lots of random sewing stuff in my head. I get very inspired at SewExpo and look forward to it every year.

Next post: photos of what I bought.


  1. WOW! What a recap!!! So so so much info in there! This expo sounds much larger than the ASE. 4 days is a long time. Sounds like a lot to cover. I may have to attend sometime!! At PR weekends people talk about this expo but I've never read a blog post about it before. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    I too have some sashiko kits, but have not tried them yet.

    Simplicity is its own company, separate from McCalls. Simplicity owns New Look. When I went to PR weekend in NYC, we got to tour the Simplicity offices in smaller groups. Apparently someone in another group asked if the Simplicity folks ever get together with McCalls folks and they said no, they are totally separate.

    Thanks again for the recap! I enjoyed your answers to the focus group questions.


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