Sew Fun Sewing Expo

Last weekend was the American Sewing Expo in Novi, Michigan. It was their 20th year anniversary and my 5th year attending. How could I have not heard about the first 15 years?


I always enjoy the classes and shopping, but this year I was part of a focus group with The McCall Pattern Company. The company includes Vogue, Butterick, McCall’s, and Kwik Sew patterns and their new president is emphasizing connecting to their customer. 101_0470Leading the group was the company’s Retail Promotions Manager, Kathleen Wiktor, who gave us some company background. Their New York office has only about 70 employees and many have been with the company for 20 years or more. There are just a few women who sew all the garments seen in the pattern books and, of course, everyone loves sewing and fashion.

Our group had a range of age and sewing experience and Kathleen asked us about our pattern buying habits (yes, everyone waits for sales), what we like to sew (the lone spoiled brat who only sewed for herself was me), our complaints with patterns (sizing and fit) and of course, what we were looking for in patterns.

Over the next year we should see some changes, with each division taking on a distinct brand image, Vogue may be for the young trendy sewer, Butterick more classic, McCalls having more beginning level and Kwik Sew, well what else, quick. The Vogue Patterns magazine is also being redesigned (a previous editor has been brought back and oops, someone was let go), we should see a difference in the December/January issue.

Talking about sewing was a great way to spend the afternoon and Kathleen was genuinely interested in what we had to say. To top it off, she gave us $50 Amex gift cards and a tote bag with a few patterns and notions. Bonus!

McCalls booth

The next day I stopped by their booth and bought a pattern, just because she was so nice. I also had a chat with Randy Peterson, Vice President, Manufacturing. McCall’s prints the patterns of over 70 independent pattern companies at their facility in Manhattan, Kansas. Someday, in my dreams, I’ll design a pattern and have it printed. At least now I have the price list.

More to come from the Expo.

Magical Waist Whittling Gertie Dress

Ever try on a dress in a store and think, “If only they made the (fill in the blank) different?” That was the inspiration which lead to the magical waist whittling Gertie dress.

Being drawn to ruffles, I tried on a blue chambray dress while out shopping. I loved the bodice, with its neckline ruffle, but the skirt was less than flattering. It was gathered at the waist,  cut very straight and somewhat narrow. Definitely made for a body type different from mine, but I really liked that neckline ruffle.

Enter the Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing, by Gretchen Hirsch, a favorite sewing blogger. I’ve had this beautifully illustrated book for almost a year and it was time I stopped looking and starting making. Her smartly drafted shirtwaist dress had the perfect silhouette, minus the collar and sleeves.Gertie shirtwaist

While looking for fabric, blue turned to black when I figured out blue chambray may look too much like denim to get away with at work. I ordered a Robert Kaufman black chambray from, which arrive quickly enough to keep me motivated.

The Gertie pattern was so easy to follow. I made a muslin for the bodice, using the size 8 and made my regular petite adjustments. Instead of sleeves, I cut facings and redrafted the neckline a bit to accommodate the ruffle.  The back has shirring at the waistline and is done with elastic thread in the bobbin. Since this was my first attempt at that technique, I practiced on the muslin. Being much shorter than the length of the finished dress, the waist-whittling was not obvious on the muslin.  gertie back


Once the dress was far enough along to try on, it was an oh-my-goodness moment.  I knew a shiny red belt would be the perfect accessory. The shopping karma was with me on the belt, which then inspired the red bias tape for a Hong Kong finish, another first time technique for me.hong kong finishThis dress is so comfortable, with great pockets. With a sweater, it should work well into fall. Full disclosure, I’m not a skinny as the dress form, but the dress still makes my waist look good.101_0351Now I need to find the perfect fabric to make it again, in the original version.

Oh, now I get it.

Having followed sewing blogs for a while now, I just recently started paying more attention to the comments. Now I get it, the comments are a conversation and I was just a little slow to realize it.

Talking about sewing is usually only fun with someone else who sews. When you bring up using a Hong Kong finish to a non-sewer, or worse, try to show them your silk organza underlining, the conversation usually stops. I did both of those things at work, and sadly, no one really wanted to see the inside of my garments.

I love seeing what other sewers/sewists are doing, the choices they make, the problems they over come and of course, the finished project. I’m a little hesitant to put myself out there, but I would love to have the exchange of ideas and opinions. So here goes.scissors