Sew Expo 2019 Puyallup, WA

I recently spent 2 days shopping, learning and connecting with friends at Sew Expo, a 4-day event full of learning, shopping and inspiration for sewers of all kinds and levels. My last trip to Sew Expo was about five years ago when Marcy and Katherine Tilton, Sewing Workshop and McCall Pattern Company still had booths at the show. Knowing they were gone, and hearing from friends that the Expo was now all about quilting, I wasn’t in a hurry to go back (I have been a quilter, but not anymore). Yes, quilting booths dominate, but there are definitely vendors and workshops with appeal for anyone who sews. Those quilting vendors offer some great tools and Marcia Derse, a quilting fabric designer, has some of the most interesting “graffiti” style quilting cottons that would make fun garments.

Day 1:

My friend, Bev, and I arrived at the fairgrounds about 10:00 a.m. on the 2ndday of the Expo. We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street near the Gold gate – close enough that we could easily walk our purchases to the car when we tired of carrying them. If you aren’t as lucky with parking, you can check coats and bags at the fairgrounds for a small fee.

Our first stop was the L’Etoffe Fabrics booth, a small fabric store in Springfield, Oregon.  Owner, Ina Mounir, offers a well-curated selection of fabrics and trims, as well as patterns from the French company, DP Studio. 

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On to Professional Sewing Supplies, purveyor of fine (and hard to find) Japanese sewing tools and supplies. Hisako and her husband have been importing and selling these supplies from their Seattle home for over 25 years.  They have plans to go online soon, which would be great news for sewists everywhere.

We made quick stops at Billie’s Designer Fabrics (Chehalis, WA) and The Wool House (Toronto, ON, Canada) before heading to our first 45 minute seminar, “Enchantment with Fabrics and Tsukineko Ink”, with Joyce Teng. Joyce talks fast and packs plenty of information into her seminars. Her techniques have appeal for quilters and sewists interested in surface design with non-toxic materials. Her samples were stunning and we both bought her more detailed “how to” book for $10.00.

After lunch we headed to Vogue Fabrics, a Chicago fabric store that brings a very large truck load of fabrics to Expo each year. They are by far the largest fabric vendor at the show and you have to be willing to do some deep digging to find their special offerings. I found a beautiful digital linen print that was gone the next day. It pays to shop the fabric vendors early!

We wandered the vendor aisles for the rest of the afternoon, taking in as many vendors as we could. I was pleased to see so many independent pattern companies with booths. They always have sample garments on view and those samples never fail to reframe my opinions of patterns I might otherwise have passed over.

We had purchased tickets for the Friday evening keynote speaker/fashion show featuring Angela Wolf, fashion designer, hostess of the PBS TV series, “It’s Sew Easy”, and spokesperson for Brother and WAWAK sewing. The fashion show was well done and featured some interested techniques, but the styles were definitely designed for younger sewists. There was a fun surprise guest for the runway finale. She was Daniela Gschwendtner, costume designer for the popular TV series, “Dancing with the Stars”. She talked about the process and challenges of producing elaborate costumes for dancers with only a 6 day turnaround. She brought down the house when the models strutted down the runway modeling a dozen of the sparkly and skimpy costumes!

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Day 2:

We began the day with Louise Cutting’s seminar, “Fit, Fit, Fit: What do You Want to Fit?” Louise has been in the sewing, pattern design and education business for a long time, so she knows her subject and is an entertaining teacher. I always come away from her seminars with valuable information and attend her workshops whenever I can.

Before heading to our second seminar of the day, we re-visited our favorite vendors, running into a number of sewing friends. Nothing beats the camaraderie shared by the sewing community! Our next seminar, “How to Choose Fabric, Patterns and Styles to Sew that Flatter Every Body”, with Anne and Bruce Whalley, was pure fun. Anne, known as the “Pattern Whisperer”, and her husband hail from Australia. Anne loves color and pattern and had lively garments to illustrate her encouragement to let clothes reflect your personality.

Anne called this her “Fraggle Rock” dress!

Anne called this her “Fraggle Rock” dress!

Prior to our last seminar of the day, we took in a portion of the American Sewing Guild fashion show. Sadly, we weren’t in a spot that allowed for good photos, but after seeing the skill and creativity of some of the younger members in the show, I’m sure the future of the ASG is in good hands.

Our final seminar of the day, and probably my favorite, was “How to Pack for a Quick Vacation in a Carry-On Bag” with Sandra Miller. Sandra is a writer for Threads magazine, works with Louise Cutting and travels often. This 45 minute seminar was packed with practical ideas for choosing color themes, sewing a coordinated wardrobe for any climate and safety tips for airports. She showed samples of travel wardrobes and how the garments could be interchanged to make many outfits.

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We headed home inspired, energized and anxious to sew with our new purchases. Sew Expo 2020 is scheduled for February 27-March 1. If you are thinking of going, here are some tips:

  • Bring your own food unless you don’t mind fast food, i.e. pizza and burgers. There is a good espresso stand outside the Pavilion.

  • Brig a refillable water bottle and remember to drink the water.

  • Wear comfortable shoes.

  • If you plan to stay overnight, we were pleased with the Fairfield Inn and Suites on 15th, just a few blocks and a comfortable walk from the fairgrounds/expo center. Our room was comfortable, breakfast was included, and we were able to leave our car in their lot after we had checked out in the morning.

Hopefully these tips will keep you going all day, rather than ending up like this gentleman…

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Hope to see some of you next year!