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!”


Design Stars – Cheryl Sleboda

Design Stars

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

From left to right: Scott Wernet, Frieda Anderson, Angela Wolf, Reen Wilcoxson, Rita Farro, Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Rhonda Pierce, Rolando Bohlemann, Pete Janss

Early this year, we had visitors from the Industrial Division of SCHMETZ Germany. To help SCHMETZ executives better understand the consumer market, many activities were arranged. Yes, we had traditional meetings and visited retail shops, but we also toured Modern Quilt Studio with Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr and ended the week with a star studded designer showcase with five designers from the Chicago area. Each designer presented their special niche in the marketplace. The result was aptly described by SCHMETZ as “astonishing!” The day was laced with energy, talent, savvy and a passion for creativity. These five business women demonstrated grit, talent, creativity and strategic work. With hard work, that never goes out of style, they make awesome contributions to the sewing industry that we love. Meet, or re-meet, because several ladies have already been featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW: Cheryl Sleboda, Ebony Love, Reen Wilcoxson, Frieda Anderson and Angela Wolf. Five shining stars that make sewing even more fun!

Cheryl Sleboda

Cheryl Sleboda is an edgy, left of center designer who was featured in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #25. At that time, she was still working her “day job” in the comic book industry. Her side business, Muppin.com (www.muppin.com), was about teaching heirloom sewing techniques and combining them with light up technologies for fabric. She designed a very popular skull and cross needle logo, so she also found herself in the t-shirt business.

When we interviewed Cheryl, she talked about how and why she made one six-inch square art quilt every week … for FIVE YEARS. By making one small art quilt every week, she learned new skills and techniques. She learned how to adapt technology to her projects, using lights and conductive thread, and she revisited traditional heirloom techniques, combining those vintage methods with the latest technology. By challenging herself to create a new micro-quilt every week, she developed her own voice. Looking back, those little quilts also serve as a journal of where she started and how far she’s come.

Since that interview, Cheryl’s life has undergone some dramatic changes. She decided to make sewing her full-time job and is operating two businesses. Muppin.com, her existing long-standing quilting and merchandise business, has branched out to include a consulting business for independent retailers. When she worked in the comic book industry, she taught stores how to use technology to improve their business. She has transitioned those skills into helping quilt shops increase business through social media and online marketing.

She established her second business, Sew Much Cosplay™, as a cosplay brand for a line of sewing tools and products for cosplayers. While attending scores of comic conventions, she saw for herself how many consumers were involved in cosplay and how enthusiastic they were about making their own costumes. The goal of this brand is to educate cosplayers on sewing techniques, and introduce them to the independent sewing retailer.

Cheryl is looking forward to vending at C2E2, a comic book convention in Chicago. Cheryl will be doing a presentation on basic sewing instruction and will lead a cosplay panel.