Janet Pray – A Passion for Fashion

(Originally posted August 23, 2015)

Janet Pray

Janet Pray

American Sewing Expo is the largest independent sewing expo in the United States.  Janet Pray, President of ASE, says, “We work all year to have the most exciting sewing show possible.  No matter what your sewing interest is — fiber arts, fashion sewing, quilting, needle arts, sewing for children, home dec, or crafting — ASE has the latest in products and education.”

ASE has an exciting vendor floor for shopping and make-and-takes and classrooms for seminars and hands-on sewing workshops.  Three stages on the show floor have ongoing free demonstrations and style shows.  But perhaps the most exciting, unique element to the American Sewing Expo are the CONTESTS.

Passion for Fashion 2013

Passion for Fashion 2013

Contests are the heart and soul of the American Sewing Expo.  No other consumer show in the country even comes close.  Janet Pray clearly wakes up in the middle of the night, dreaming of new contests for ASE.  For 2014, there were an unbelievable SIX different contests and/or sewing competitions.

  • Passion For Fashion:  This premier LIVE design challenge event takes place on the show floor during the show.  On Friday morning, contestants received the official “challenge” and were given their “Expo Dollars”.  They shopped the show floor — then designed and sewed their garments in a designated area.  On Saturday afternoon, they did model fittings, and the Passion For Fashion FINALE Runway show took place in front of a live audience that night.
  • Innovation Generation is a sewing competition for youthful sewists, age 8-18. The participants were divided into three different age groups — and the audience was delighted with the skills and creativity at the free Innovation Generation style show.
  • Fashion Design in Half Scale was an online sew-a-long led by ASE 2013 Teacher of the Year, Joi Mahon.  Participants purchased a kit, including a half-scale dress form.  The theme in 2014 was Fashion Icons Through the Ages.
  • Push the Envelope is the contest where EVERYBODY can participate. The theme in 2014 was Pocket Pizzazz — and entries can be anything sewn. Quilts, garments, accessories, home dec. You just need to include ONE POCKET.  The entries were displayed during the show and winners were selected after judging.

    Janet’s Inspiration for COSPLAY 2014

    Janet’s Inspiration for COSPLAY 2014

  • COSPLAY:  NEW in 2014.  The first 100 who arrived in costume on Sunday, September 28 received a gift.  At 3:00, there was a contest on the Fashion Stage.  The costumes can be any type: Anime, historical, TV, movie, comic book, video game character, etc. — they must be handmade,not purchased.
  • Dream Sewing Room:  Always the exciting conclusion to the American Sewing Expo weekend — attendees have the chance to win a dream sewing room. A sewing machine, serger, table, patterns, fabric, scissors — it truly is a DREAM sewing room.

When it comes to providing sewing inspiration — nobody is doing a better job than the American Sewing Expo.  Grab your best friend, or plan a mother/daughter sewing weekend to attend this cornucopia of sewing events.  The 2015 show is September 25-27, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan.

Janet says, “Be sure to check out the page on CONTESTS — because we have something for everybody.  And if you are part of a sewing club or a guild — be sure to contact us to find out about the special perks we have for buses or groups!”


Sarah Gunn – Life Force Behind Goodbye Valentino

(Originally posted July 26, 2015)

Sarah Gunn at Edisto Island wearing Style Arc "Elle" slim leg pants and holding SCHMETZ needle packs.

Sarah Gunn at Edisto Island wearing Style Arc “Elle” slim leg pants and holding SCHMETZ needle packs.

Goodbye Valentino

Before she became the life-force behind the popular sewing blog, Goodbye Valentino, Sarah Gunn was a busy wife and mother with a successful career as the Executive Director of the Spartanburg Music Foundation.  One of the things she was really good at was shopping.  She was a big fan of Diane Van Furstenberg, Milly, Nanette Lepore, Lilly P., Kate Spade — anything at Nieman Marcus or Nordstrom’s. Her two twenty-something daughters, Katie and Mimi, shared her love of high end ready-to-wear and shopping was a joyful mother-daughter bonding activity.

At some point, Sarah felt like she was spending a lot of money on clothes, but had a closet full of nothing to wear . . . too many special occasion dresses and a lot of black and white. By August 2011, after a series of graduations, weddings and other special events, she’d been on a six month spending spree.

Her “ah-ha” moment came at a home “skirt party” she attended with her daughter Mimi. After trying on several styles, and looking at the fabric samples, they ordered three custom skirts. The bill was nearly $700. When the skirts arrived, Sarah looked at the simple skirts — and she KNEW she could have made them herself.

She felt such tremendous buyer’s remorse — that’s when it happened.   She snapped.

On that day — August 31, 2011,  Sarah vowed to go on a Ready-To-Wear FAST. Her intention was to not buy a thing for one year. She would sew her own clothes for one whole year. And, to hold herself accountable, she would blog about it. She named her blog, “Goodbye Valentino”. Initially, she didn’t tell anybody what she was doing.  She wasn’t sure she could do it, and she didn’t want additional pressure from her family.

PATTERN: Vogue 8750 FABRIC: Wool Houndstooth, Mood Fabrics leather upcycled from thrift store skirt.

PATTERN: Vogue 8750
FABRIC: Wool Houndstooth, Mood Fabrics leather upcycled from thrift store skirt.

Sarah dusted off her seldom-used sewing machine, reorganized her abandoned playroom — and started SEWING. Using an Amy Butler pattern and a Laura Ashley dress (circa 1987) from her closet, she made a really cute skirt.

Sarah had no way of knowing that she was starting a revolution . . . .

She learned to sew in high school and after college she sewed for herself for six or seven years. But after the birth of her first daughter, her focus shifted. Between her family and her career — she had little time to sew. Other than clothes for her young daughters, a few quilts or simple home dec projects, she had taken a 25-year break from garment sewing.

BGoodbye_ValentinoWhen she started Goodbye Valentino, Sarah had no idea about the sewing world that existed on the Internet. As it happened, she enjoyed writing the blog as much as sewing her new clothes. After three months, she told her husband what she was doing. He was incredulous and quickly became her biggest fan.  After five or six months of blogging, Sarah began to receive comments from other women who had been inspired to sew by reading Goodbye Valentino.

In JUNE 2012, after only TEN months of blogging, Sarah was invited to join the Mood Sewing Network. She was honored to be one of their original bloggers because the mission of the Mood Sewing Network is to inspire fashion sewing. When asked about the benefits of sewing her own clothes, Sarah answers thoughtfully, “I started the RTW fast to save money, and I celebrated with a trip to the Mediterranean at the end of my fast!  An unexpected benefit is that while

PATTERN: Butterick 5683 FABRIC: Faux leather/ faux fur backing

Butterick 5683
FABRIC: Faux leather/ faux fur backing

sewing my own clothes, I learned how to fit myself. Because of that, I am much pickier about ready to wear. Also, I’ve discovered my own style which includes a love of color, a fondness for ruffles and classic feminine lines.”

“My sewing skills have also improved, and I’ve learned the little things can make a big difference in my end result. For example, I used to be one of those people who only changed my sewing machine needle if it broke! But now I actually enjoy sewing on knit fabrics because I know there is a specific needle for that purpose. Using a topstitch needle has made a huge difference in the quality of my garments. I’ve also developed a little finesse with the iron.”

Sarah Gunn has always been determined to live creatively, but the reaction to Goodbye Valentino has been more than she ever imagined.  During her first RTW fast, she made 64 garments, and it changed her life.  As it happened, it also changed the lives of thousands of other women who were tired of spending too much money on clothes.

BRTW-2014-LogoGoodbye Valentino convinced them that they could do it, too. In January 2014, Sarah decided she needed to go back on the wagon, so she started another RTW fast. This time, she invited her readers to join her — and 277 of them are along for the ride.  To follow their progress, there is a page on the blog, “2014 RTW Fasters”.

Sarah believes:  If you can read a recipe, you can read a pattern. If you can drive a car, you can operate a sewing machine. If you can shop, you can sew.


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