Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Part 1 – How It All Began

Sewing & Stitchery LogoThe Sewing & Stitchery Expo: How It All Began

The largest consumer sewing show in the United States happens every year in a little town outside of Seattle, Washington called Puyallup. Nearly 30,000 sewing enthusiasts come from all over the world to attend the show. They come because the Sewing and Stitchery Expo (Sew Expo) has more than 450 booths of carefully curated sewing merchandise — including fabric, sewing machines, patterns, books and notions. They come because they will have up close and personal access to the biggest stars in the sewing industry. Over the years, the headliners have included Martha Pullen, Nancy Zieman, Sandra Betzina, Eleanor Burns, Alex Anderson, Pati Palmer, Sue Hausmann and Mark Lipinski — just to name a few!!

No matter what your area of interest is — Sew Expo will have a class for you. With over 500 lectures and workshops to choose from, you can learn garment construction, quilt making, home dec or quick gifts. For over 30 years, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo has been gathering the best and the brightest in the industry for FOUR DAYS ONLY.

March 1-4, 2018, Sew Expo will celebrate it’s 34rd year. So — what’s the story? How did Sew Expo become the biggest and most exciting consumer sewing show in America?

Joanne Ross had a dream . . .

Joanne Ross had a dream . . .

Like anything of value, Sew Expo started as one woman’s dream. In 1984, Joanne Ross was a home economist working at Pierce County Extension. She attended a consumer sewing show in Portland, Oregon and thought the concept might work in Tacoma. She discussed it with Pati Palmer, Chair of the Portland show.

(Top) — Marta Alto, Nancy Seifert, Pati Palmer (Bottom) —The Tilton Sisters - Katherine, Marcy

(Top) — Marta Alto, Nancy Seifert, Pati Palmer
(Bottom) —The Tilton Sisters – Katherine, Marcy

As part of her job with Pierce County Extension, Joanne had already developed a program called the Clothing and Textile Advisors (CTA). To become a CTA, a volunteer attended classes to learn about textiles and sewing, with the emphasis on garment construction. The goal of the program was to send volunteers out into the community to share and teach sewing as a life skill. During the 1980’s, the CTA membership had grown to hundreds of women, with chapters in and around the Pacific Northwest. The CTA’s began asking Joanne to bring in big name sewing teachers so they could learn about the latest techniques, sewing notions and patterns. Joanne knew the CTA’s could become an important element in a consumer show. But it would require a lot of planning.

Joanne Ross developed a business model and presented the plans to the Washington State University (WSU) Conference Office. At that time, the Extension Office, and therefore, the CTA program, fell under the umbrella of WSU, so having WSU handle the management of this new consumer sewing show would be a good fit.

(Top) — Washington State Fairgrounds. (Bottom) — Friday Night Live.

(Top) — Washington State Fairgrounds.
(Bottom) — Friday Night Live.

That first show in 1984 was a complete leap of faith. No other university in the country had attempted anything of this scope. Like Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, Joanne Ross felt, “if we build it — they will come.”

The first Sewing and Stitchery Expo took place at the Tacoma Dome Convention Center. It was a two-day show with 56 exhibitors. Nobody knew what to expect — so they were blown away by 3,200 eager attendees. The second year attendance doubled. After only three years the show was too big for the Tacoma Dome. It was a hard decision to move the show to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Washington. Although the new location could accommodate hundreds of vendors and thousands more attendees, it would be a much larger financial risk.

Because of the growth of the show, it was expanded to three days, and by 1995, it was a four day show with over 30,000 attendees. The 2017 show (March 2-5) will have sewing and quilting enthusiasts from all over the world coming to celebrate Sew Expo’s 33rd year with 450 booths, over 500 classes and workshops, five daily free style shows, $50,000 worth of door prizes and two spectacular special evening events.

Joanne Ross says, “The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is the realization of a sewing dream — a place where the best experts in the industry come to share their expertise. Our attendees come to the show to meet the Sewing Stars they’ve seen on television, or to try the latest technology, attend lectures or hands-on workshops. For four days, they can shop to their heart’s content…and share their love of sewing and quilting with like-minded individuals.

Barbara Bitetto drawing lucky winners for daily door prizes.

Barbara Bitetto drawing lucky winners for daily door prizes.

The unexpected benefit of Sew Expo is that it has become THE PLACE to launch new product, try out new technology or introduce new techniques. Our vendors come to Sew Expo to sell their merchandise, of course, but they also set up meetings with the biggest players in the industry. The sewing machine companies sponsor our hands-on sewing studios, special events, and give away bags. They send their educators to Sew Expo, as well as their executives. They have meetings with new designers and the creative juices just seem to FLOW at Sew Expo. We’ll hear rumors of a new product or machine one year — and it will be a manufactured reality being launched at the next show. Many of our attendees also come to Sew Expo with a sewing related business idea. They come to the show because they want to network and find resource suppliers.”

Sewing and Stitchery Expo has been so successful because of its volunteers and staff. The Expo is managed by more than 150 volunteers and a staff of more than 25 persons. It is their dedication all year long that gives the Sewing and Stitchery Expo its national prominence within the sewing industry. It is their customer service ethic that provides a wonderful experience for all who attend.

Next week, Part 2:  Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Meet the Leadership and Clothing & Textile Advisors

www.sewexpo.com

Shipshewana Quilt Festival

shipshewana_quilt_Festival_Logo

SHipshewana_Speakers

An area tradition not to miss.

An area tradition not to miss.

 

Get a glimpse into the beautiful Amish countryside where giddy shop hoppers descend onto little Shipshewana, IN, population 677.  For the 7th year Shipshewana celebrates quilts among the traditions of friendly hospitality, soul soothing comfort foods, and the workmanship of needle and thread.  The shopping is mighty fine too!  This festival is a feast for the eyes and soul as the quilt reigns king from fabric to gardens.  It’s not too late to make plans for the upcoming 2016 Shipshewana Quilt Festival!!

 

 

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http://www.shipshewanaquiltfest.com/

Mark Lipinski — Marching to the Beat of His Own Drummer!

00Mark-upside-down-3Mark Lipinski lives his life with joyful exuberance.  His magazine, Quilter’s Home, became a runaway hit because it was unlike anything the quilt world had ever seen.  Quilting enthusiasts embraced his wild conversational style.  Every page made you feel like you were inside Mark’s head (where very little editing goes on).  He writes exactly like he talks and he revels in humor and unpredictability.  Swimming upstream is how he gains speed and strength.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

Teaching a class in Chicago.

After starting his working life as a social worker, Mark became a successful television producer — eventually producing Oprah and The View.  Although quilting started out strictly as a hobby — Mark was soon invited to teach and speak at the biggest quilting events in the country.  Not only did he became an accomplished quilter — he designed patterns, and created his own signature line of fabrics.  He wrote just about every word in his stunningly successful magazine, Quilters Home.   Labeled the “bad boy” of quilting  because of his candor, honesty, and unfiltered opinions — he was the most entertaining speaker to ever hit the quilting circuit.  By any measure, Mark Lipinski’s career in the quilting industry was a huge success.   Always listening to his own drummer — he was marching on the very top of the quilt world mountain.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler  taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

Mark with his kidney donor, Mary Eichler
taken just minutes before being wheeled into surgery.

So here did he go?  What happened to Mark Lipinski?

Mark’s  “cupcakes”  (his term for his fans) were shocked and saddened when he quit Quilter’s Home in 2011.   We continued to follow him on Facebook and were sick with worry when he had his life-saving kidney transplant in 2013.  Mark couldn’t travel and he had to be very careful about crowds and people contact.  Although his recovery has had its ups and downs, Mark’s attitude is incredible and now — one year later — he looks healthy, his eyes are bright, he is burning with nervous energy.

After a three-year absence, Mark considered himself an outsider in the quilt industry. He simply moved on.  His weekly internet radio show, Creative Mojo, is a live two hour chat with guests from all over the world.  Mark discusses the actual process of inspiration and creativity with traditional artists, quilters, mixed-media artists, sewists, designers, crocheters, knitters, fiber-artists, etc.

The BIG question was — “When are you coming back to us, Mark?”  His answer might surprise you.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark with Rita Farro.

Mark has no interest in making another quilt-under-a-deadline.  He doesn’t want to crank something out to go with a new fabric line or magazine or book deadline.  In the last three years, he became troubled and disillusioned with the focus of his personal patchwork and stitching journey and that of the fiber and quilting industry, too.  “Everything, including my own work, became about FAST AND EASY.  Visit a bookstore or newsstand and look at the current book and/or magazine covers — they are all packed with the same words:  FAST, FASTER AND FASTEST . . . QUICK AND EASY.   In an effort to appeal to the internet mentality, patchwork and quilting has been dumbed down and this trend has all but eradicated our creative process.  When designing  for a book or magazine we are urged to keep it simple so the pattern pages don’t waste valuable real estate.  Is it any wonder we see Rail Fence or Square in a Square quilts in just about everything we buy? We have lost that soulful level of creativity and stitching and process and excellence that made quilts matter.”

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

One of Mark’s art journaling pieces.

Mark went on to say,  “I am getting rid of my fabric stash. I gave away over 1600 books and magazines to people who may actually need what I am not using. I am finally, after 20 years of quilting, going to make a quilt that matters, an important quilt, just one quilt that will mean something and  be reflective of my life and the time in which I lived. There won’t be a deadline, and I plan to drown in my individual creative process, new techniques, and excellence in execution.  Maybe I’ll add some appliqué, some words or text, and definitely embellishment. I’m going to take my time with it, buy the very best fabric and notions I can afford from my local shops first (called ”ethical buying”), lay out a pattern and carefully choose the colors, designs, and techniques that will tell my story. It will be my legacy quilt.  Don’t we quilters deserve to make just one ‘important’ quilt in our lifetime? A legacy quilt that will say who we were, what our lives were like, and celebrate the original, creative art we leave behind . . .?”

On the QNNtv set.

On the QNNtv set.

Mark went on to say that while speed should probably never be the point of any art or creative endeavor, he still thinks there is a need for “fast and easy” patterns and projects.  But this time, he wants to take it slow, live and create in the moment, perfect his skill, and appreciate the process of making an excellent quilt.  He referred to his new way of thinking as “The Slow Stitching Movement.”   You might think of it as the difference between fast-food eating and a fine dining experience.  There is a time and place for everything — but you should ask yourself which one will you remember ten years from now?  The Big Mac and fries from McDonald’s?  Or the perfectly cooked fillet mignon and delicate chocolate soufflé from Morton’s Steak House?

The “Slow Movement” is not new.  The Slow Food Movement was created by Carlo Petrini in Rome in the mid 1980’s.  Journalist, Carl Honoré, wrote his international best seller, In Praise of Slow:  How a Worldwide Movement is Challenging the Cult of Speed, in the early 2000’s in which he suggests the concept of “slow” can be applied to everyday life.   It was over a regular lunch meeting several years ago with close friends, Liza Prior Lucy and Meg Cox, that Liza brought up the “slow” issue and how she thought it might relate to patchwork.  She urged Mark to develop the idea and run with it. He has.

Mark says, “First of all, Slow Stitching does not mean hand stitching.  Slow Stitching does not mean turning down the speed regulator on your sewing machine.  It means you should take your time and pay attention to the process of your art, allow yourself the space to make something that matters, on a deeper level than just having a finished project.”

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Mark with Eleanor Burns on her Quilt in a Day webinar.

Why?” he continues, “Because your creative time matters. Because what you do and how you create matters.   Because what you learn about yourself and your place in the world by being alone with your thoughts while you create, and reflecting on the life experiences that have formed you, and are continually ‘re-forming’ you into who you are, while you create matters.
YOU matter.”

“I’m simply urging quilters, and needle-pointers, embroiderers and rug hookers, tatters and crocheters, knitters, long-armers, apparel sewists, and all fiber artists to ‘create in the moment, to organize your workspace and your projects consciously, and stitch with focus and intention.  Make your work and creative process benefit you on both internal and external levels.  Don’t just sew or stitch or knit or embroider, but put your whole heart and attention into it, for the benefits of personal growth and increased creativity.  Build a community of like-minded slow-stitchers around you.   Buy the very best quality of supplies you can afford and create while celebrating the process – not necessarily the result.”  

“If you take your time to choose and study new techniques, pattern, design, color and textures you want in your quilt or stitching project — then work toward excellence as a long term goal, through your focus and commitment to your art and to yourself, there will be rewards beyond just having the completed project at hand.  If you invest and practice the process of The Slow Stitching Movement —  intentional,  focused, and soulful work — you may reap the health, emotional, financial and spiritual benefits that have become limited at best, or eliminated altogether by the rushing through and/or the dumbing down of your creative process.  The point of slow stitching is more than just quality versus quantity.  It’s about leaving behind work that actually means something, not just a piece of fabric and stitches.”

Visit The Slow Stitching Movement website at www.slowstitching.com.