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I Went To The American Sewing Expo!!

For all my whining about how there are no sewing classes near me, and only Joann's for fabric shopping, I almost missed the American Sewing Expo in Novi! I remember reading about it on A Fashionable Stitch and Gertie's Blog last year and so when I read Sunni's post a week or two ago on scaling back on her appearances this year, I Google searched for it and discovered it was set for the following weekend. Talk about close!

I made the 1h40m drive Sunday morning and stayed the day. As a first timer, I was completely overwhelmed and bewildered for the first 30 or 40 minutes. I wandered through each aisle systematically browsing and fingering fabrics and sample garments. Planning to go back through and shop in detail, I made all kinds of notes in my little notebook (my notebook and pen fit perfectly in the secret inner pocket of my Minoru) so I would knew where I wanted to revisit.

At the end of my tour I found Angela Wolf's booth. I watch her all the time on It's Sew Easy (PBS) and think she's fabulous. There was a crowd, and so I watched from Silent Stalker position as she whipped out one of her jeans patterns joking about how she pays high school girls to fold them for her and talking to a customer about sizing and what to cut for stretch/non stretch fabrics. I wandered off waiting for the crowd to disperse, but when I came back she was gone as well. I stayed and chatted for a few minutes with who turned out to be her mom. She showed me this ADORABLE motorcycle jacket made from black and gold boucile saying that the pattern for it will be released this winter. (I'm so getting it). When I told her I made my coat, she was stunned and wrote down the pattern source ( Then I admitted to being a bit start struck and she told me to hurry down to the demo stage where Angela was having a discussion about her jeans. I caught the last half and took pages of notes. She discussed everything from where to get good buttons (and why they should not be smooth) to sewing on TV to a simple tip to keep your stretch waistband in place all day. When I went back to her booth to purchase some items, she made sure to explain to me how to choose my size when using stretch fabric, and where on the pattern to find that same information. I found her to be in person just as she is on TV: Friendly and conversational with pretty much everything that falls out of her mouth being a useful tidbit of information. Despite having surely repeated herself countless times to strangers, she maintained an air of enthusiasm and sincere interest, looking me in the eye and giving me individual attention. I'm going to stop babbling about her, because I've clearly developed an Angela Wolf Crush!

The first of the two seminars I attended was Sloper Savy taught by Lorainne Henry. I've just got to say, one hour isn't enough. Just as we were getting to the real meat of things: how you use your sloper to alter patterns, time was up. I came away thinking about altering patterns in a whole new way. Example: Sure the shoulders are too big. So you make a narrow shoulder adjustment and suddenly you have no ease in the back and can't lift your arms. WTF? Maybe the problem is not that your shoulders are more narrow than the pattern, but that you have a thicker neck than the pattern was drafted to fit. You would have removed width from the wrong side of the shoulder seam creating a whole new problem. A proper sloper can help identify and fix these sorts of things on the flat pattern before I start my muslin. Blending different sizes to accommodate shoulders bust and hips, then wondering why my fit is so weird, then going back and trying to figure out where make adjustments (that don't seem to really solve the problem), hunting down answers on the internet, it's all so complicated. What she showed us seemed much more simple. I'm looking forward to creating a sloper and trying her seam line method of alterations. After the session, I spent a good long while at her booth flipping through what has been aptly nick-named the Alteration Bible. In fact, I was there so long, I'm certain her booth assistant was giving me the evil eye. Eventually, decided to bring a copy of Fitting & Pattern Alteration home with me. It's a textbook! And quite honestly, if I can't teach myself a gazillion things using this book, there's something wrong with me. Once I shake this head cold, I will be coercing a friend to come help me measure myself. In the meantime, I'll continue to flip through the book and see if I can correctly predict which figure variations I have. **Update: I opened the book and read the first chapter last night. SO much about design principals that is over my head. Lots of learning opportunities!**

My second seminar was a 2 hour Perfect Fit Tee session with Judy Kessinger of FitNice. I'm not sure what I was looking for, other than advice on making a perfect tee, I guess. I mean, how complex can a basic well fitted t-shirt be? I just didn't expect the course to be so simple. It was fun, entertaining and really casual. The instructor was enthusiastic and encouraging. The whole session was about introducing us to her basic t-shirt pattern and showing us how it could be used, alone or when combined, with her "variations" packages to create a wardrobe full of shirts and jackets. I received her Tee Shirt pattern plus printed and DVD instructions. At multiple times during the session, we were referred to the order sheet in our kit where we could order her pattern variation kits and additional supplies such as fabric glue and French Fuse interfacing. At times, it felt like a sales pitch, and even if I *was* interested in having a wardrobe tops and jackets all of the same silhouette, I wasn't buying. I also have to say that I didn't learn anything about fitting the t-shirt that I didn't already know. All of her pieces were stitched on a regular machine with no stretch or zig-zag stitching. That Yes, this can be done on a serger, was sort of an afterthought. The insides were finished, in most cases, with just trimming off the excess, and in some cases, gluing down the facing with Stitch Witchery. I don't know why that bothers me so much.  Before you think I was terribly disappointed, I DID come away feeling inspired (within my own aesthetic). Though many of her sample items were not my style, she had some really neat non t-shirt pieces. In particular was a reversible zip-up fleece vest and a sweater knit jacket with a notched collar.  Mrs Kessinger also gave some great advice . First and foremost, it's a t-shirt. I need to refrain from over-complicating things. I was admonished for pinning in my knit set sleeves and encouraged to practice the pin-at-quarters-and-gently-stretch technique. She gave us what I feel are excellent instructions for both a mitered and cross-over V-neckline and instructions on how to modify the pattern for use with wovens. She discussed when and how to interface knits to make them do more of I want them to do, including recommendations on the type of interfacing that she finds works best. She also provided advice on where to find the *perfect* basic t-shirt fabric that wears well, doesn't pill, has great recovery and comes in something like 30 solid colors. At the end of the session, Mrs Kessinger measured each of us and advised individually on which size pattern to make and if we needed to make any modifications to the shoulders, length or sleeve. I am thinking with some tweeking, I may be able to develop a knit t-shirt sloper.

I had a wonderful time at the Expo and I am very excited to plan my return trip next year. I will be saving up, taking a day off work and making child-care arrangements so that I can attend an all-day sewing course before the vendor portion opens. (Perhaps sewing pants taught by Angela Wolf? LOL) I will leave you with a few snapshots of the goodies I brought home with me. All fabric was from Emma Seabrooke's booth. I would have bought twice as much if I could have afforded to.

Soft Teal stretch lace.
Turquoise and Tan stretch lace.
Stretch lace w/a tiny bit of subtle shimmer.
I have Peplum t-shirt plans for this fabric.
Embroidered Look stretch mesh.
Black and Dark Grey (darker than the pic) Hounds tooth sweater knit.
I have 2.25 yards of this and plan both a sweater jacket like the Kessinger sample and a color-blocked knit dress, if I can find the right black fabric to pair with it.
I've been wanting a wooden clapper for quite a long time.
AKA the Alteration Bible

My kit from Judy Kessinger's seminar.


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