Nearly 30,000 home sewers - many from the Inland Northwest - will converge on the Western Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup later this month for the 14th annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo.
The event features dozens of 45-minute seminars during each of the four days. Sponsored by Washington State University Cooperative Extension in Pierce County, the expo draws people from all over the United States. It also attracts 200 vendors who staff 325 booths spread over four buildings at the fairgrounds.
Subjects to be covered include a mixture of the tried and true, as well as what’s new in the field of home sewing, organizers say. Undeniably, some big names will be there:
Mary Ellen Flury will give a workshop for the experienced seamstress titled “The Fine Points of Quality Tailoring.” Her talk will cover double welt
pockets, how to sew in lining, and how to match plaids and stripes.
Jan Saunders of It’s Kits Inc. will speak on Quick Change Decoration. Among items to be discussed are face lifts for windows, easy wreaths for every season, and transforming any room in the house.
Pati Palmer, co-founder of Palmer/Pletch, will present a program titled “Image, It’s What YOU Make It.” She will instruct participants on color, line, design, and wardrobing ideas.
Martha Pullen, host of television’s “Martha’s Sewing Room,” will serve up some fun with doll dressing, heirloom sewing and elegant crafts. New techniques include gimp corded hems, scalloped hems which look like Madeira applique, and the use of machine embroidery on vintage clothing.
Peggy Sagers will present her popular “Pants, Pants, Perfect Pants” workshop aimed at teaching participants how to sew a well-fitting pair of slacks. Sagers will show many pairs of pants, pointing out what is wrong with each. She’ll explain how patterns can be modified to eliminate sags, bags and wrinkles.
Other sessions deal with ease and fit, Ultrasuede and Ultraleather, ribbon embroidery by machine, wearable art, pattern measurements versus body measurements, pockets, machine quilting and industrial shortcuts. There will also be six different style shows.
Organizer Mary Crandal of WSU’s Cooperative Extension in Pierce County emphasizes the expo is primarily for home sewers.
“We try not to be a craft show or quilting show,” she says.
In response to past demand, the expo will include seminars on helping people go into business for themselves, Crandal says. Topics to be covered during “Are You Ready for a Wholesale Business?” by Jane Ambrose include setting up a company, sales and marketing, production, pricing, sourcing and shipping.
A presentation titled “Pricing for Profit: A Guide for all Businesses” by Julie Larson will address cost recovery in setting prices, and how to charge reasonable prices based on market conditions, customer expectations and personal business goals.
Turning a hobby into a profitable undertaking is no easy task, notes Carolyn Schactler, professor or apparel and design at Central Washington University in Ellensburg. Schactler, who ran a successful design and tailoring business out of her home for 20 years prior to becoming a college teacher, says the “ability to do something and do it well, without taking excessive amounts of time” is critical.
“Women like to be able to do something at home and make money at it, but whether they succeed depends on their determination and dedication, as well as their skill and expertise,” she says. “Some people love to make this or that, but not everyone wants to buy a pincushion with lace around it.”
Sewing for hire, particularly tailoring, is difficult, she warns.
“Tailoring has to do with fit … and that’s what the average home sewer knows the least about,” says Schactler, who specialized in suits, custom gowns and formal wear during her years in business.
At the same time, she is not surprised by the continuing popularity of sewing as a valuable leisure pastime.
“Sewing is a creative outlet which allows us to experience the satisfaction which comes with being creative,” Schactler says. “We all need an outlet to express our inner soul.”
Crandal says some people are attracted to the activity because they want designer clothes and can’t afford them.
“They have the creativity, and this becomes their recreation,” she says.
“There are people out there making exciting things,” agrees Spokane textile artist and quilt historian Suzi Hokonson. The author of the book “Stretching Textile Art,” Hokonson will have a booth at the expo.
One of her goals is “to see quilting viewed as art and sold through galleries, at Nordstrom prices.
“Quilting is women giving life and love for their families,” resulting in one-of-a-kind pieces of artwork, Hokonson says. A trained quilt appraiser, she focuses on the stories and histories hidden in each blanket or coverlet.
No matter what form it takes, “sewing is too good not to share,” says Kay Hendrickson, a WSU Cooperative Extension agent for Benton and Franklin counties.
Hendrickson, who will co-present a workshop titled “Sew Creative,” has observed there are many people who lack even a rudimentary knowledge of sewing, such as how to sew on buttons or mend rips. However, this doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in learning.
“We’re getting more requests from the public, women saying ‘teach me so I can teach my kids’,” she says. “It used to be this was a skill most everyone had, but now there’s a large population out there who never learned to sew.”
xxxx WHERE YOU CAN GET TICKETS FOR THE EXPO What: The 14th annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo When: Feb. 26-March 1 Where: Western Washington Fairgrounds, Puyallup Cost: General admission tickets to the fairgrounds are $6 per day for those preregistering, and are good only for that day. Admission is $7 if paid at the door. Seminar tickets, priced at $2 each, are also available through pre-registration and will be mailed to those paying in advance. Remaining tickets will be sold for $3 at the door of the seminar. To register: Checks must be made out to Washington State University and sent to Sewing and Stitchery Expo, P.O. Box 11243, Tacoma, Wash. 98411-0243. Orders postmarked after Feb. 11 will be returned. For more information: Brochures with complete listings of presentations as well as registration forms, are available at both locations of Northwest Fabric and Crafts, 102 E. Francis and 12105 E. Sprague, Pacific Crescent Quilting, 7454 N. Division, at selected Fabricland stores, and through Suzi Hokonson, textile artist, at 1315 W. Woodside, in Spokane. For more information, call (253) 445-4632.