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Novi Report Part 1: Snapshots from the American Sewing Expo

The packed vendor's showroom at Novi. I browsed - and spent money on! - fantastic fabric, thread, yarn, notions, and trim.

I’m so glad I heeded the advice to wear walking shoes to Novi!

Still, after only my first afternoon at the American Sewing Expo (Sept. 24-26 in Novi, Michigan) I had to buy some jumbo Band-aids to protect my heels. That took care of it though, and the rest of the weekend I pursued my sixteen classes, hundreds of worksheets, business cards and pamphlets; hundreds of dollars of beautiful new fabric, at least four fashion shows, plus a trip to Haberman Fabrics in Royal Oak, Michigan.

Associate Editor Nicole Smith and I attended the Expo. Janet Pray, American Sewing Expo owner and founder (as well as the founder and executive director of the National Sewing Council), was such a gracious hostess to us.

I have so much to cover from the Expo. I think I should mention first that we hadn’t been there for more than an hour on Thursday when Janet asked Nicole to model in the big Passion for Fashion Competition runway show. The competition and Nicole’s participation in the show added excitement through the weekend as we quietly rooted for the designer she’d been paired with, Erin Miller of Toledo, Ohio. The contest pits 12 contestents in a “Project Runway” style race to create themed garments. This year, the designers had to come up with designs to go along with 12 classic car models – a great concept since we were so close to the Motor City.

It’s a small sewing world

I was able to attend the workshops of authors and instructors I had worked with but never met in person. I met Maili Powell, owner of Soutache, the ribbon and trims store in Chicago, at the hotel elevator. Maili and I worked on “Turn Ribbons into Blossoms” in Threads no. 149 and I recognized her from her contributor photo.

Another chance meeting-I ran into Wendy Skinner, the founder of the Sew Green organization based in Ithaca, New York. I was taking a new seat in one of the smaller classrooms and Wendy saw my name tag. She was a source for “25 Years of Change” in Threads no. 151. We’d never seen each other. What a coincidence to meet in a group of 30 or so out of thousands.

It was exciting to meet Kenneth D. King, who created the stunning laser-cut jacket on the cover of Threads no. 151 and wrote the accompanying piece, “Cut to Order.” We got to hear about his recent appearance on “The Martha Stewart Show” (where he demonstrated creating the Silk Lotus Flower, also featured in a tuturial here on ThreadsMagazine.com). Kenneth was wearing his beautiful Fortuny jacket. I audited a portion of his Leather 101 class on the final day of the Expo, and I can certainly understand why Kenneth was named ASE Teacher of the Year. He’s precise and patient, his instructions are clear, and he keeps the class upbeat and interesting.

And, I was able to finally meet Carol Fresia, a former Threads editor who currently helps us as a freelance technical editor. Carol and I have communicated many times as she’s edited pieces I’m working on. She and her daughter, Penelope Kogan, are both included in the new Teach Yourself to Sew special newsstand issue. We got to see Penelope, 10, win her age division in the Innovation Generation fashion show.

A few show highlights

I had a very difficult time selecting which classes, workshops and fashion shows to attend. Nicole and I split up and tried to completely fill our schedules. There are just a few I can mention:

  • Serger 911 by Kathy Ruddy of Live Guides. I’m a relatively new serger owner – I’ve only had mine for about 2 years. Kathy covered so much in this fast-paced class. She shared her sequential tension formula for perfecting serged stitches from any serger, on any type of fabric, with any type of thread. You can believe I’m going to be trying her method.
  • I’ve become so inspired to sew silk fabric. Two classes, and some beautiful fabric influenced me: I attended Fabric First by Mesee Wilson of Fabric Gallery, which covered making wise fabric choices. Mesee talked about silk’s wonderful properties and how to prepare it for different sewing projects. That was reinforced by what I learned from Angela Wolf of ABO Apparel. Angela, who has a ready-to-wear and an couture line (she was the Passion for Fashion winner in 2008) covered different techniques for preparing and sewing different types of silk. We got to see and feel examples from her collections and I was already imagining what I wanted to create. All I needed was fabric – and I found silk charmeuse at the Haberman Fabrics booth (and bought more at the store) as well as fabric by Babette Pinsky at Katherine and Marcy Tilton’s booth.
  • The Simplicity 2010 fashion show, which included a new Threads Wardrobe pattern, no. 2288, as well as four new Cynthia Rowley and four new Project Runway Patterns.
  • The Innovation Generation Fashion show. In addition to seeing Penelope’s win, I got to see Erin Veltman of Clarksville, Michigan, take the grand prize, based on a beautiful wool coat and dress ensemble. The coat was featured in Reader’s Closet in Threads no. 151, so I knew Erin from our correspondence to put her picture in Threads. She won a prize package that included a new Pfaf sewing machine!
  • The Reconstruction Zone, where I started to make a “Scoodie” (a scarf-hoodie) from a felted wool sweater. It was great fun, but I had to run off to a class! I brought my scoodie project home with me, and now that it’s getting a lot cooler in Connecticut, I’m sure I’ll finish it up soon.
  • The “20 Tips to Improve All of Your Sewing” class by Janet Dapson of Fabrications in Richland, Michigan. Janet shared advice culled from Palmer/Pletsch books and DVDs. I only wish I had her PowerPoint presentation with images as well as the class worksheet!
  • The Passion for Fashion Sewing Competition and runway show. The judges were Joi Mahon, the 2009 winner and owner of Dress Forms Design Studio, Annie Diaz, fashion designer and custom clothier for Haberman Fabrics, and Kenneth D. King, the new ASE Teacher of the Year, Threads contributing editor, and Fashion Institute of Technology professor. 

I hate to leave you with cliffhanger… but I want to do justice to all of the designers and tell you all about Nicole’s role in the fashion show. I hope you can wait until next week for all the details about Passion for Fashion.

Were you at Novi, too? What were some of your favorite classes and events? What did you think of all the talent in the Passion for Fashion Challenge?






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  1. DianeWilson | | #1

    So sad I missed it! I will have to put it on my calendar now for 2011! Thanks for your treatment. I have the good fortune to only live about 20 miles from The Fabric Gallery!!

  2. LaurieDiane | | #2

    I'm hoping our Sewing Expo in Minneapolis is as great a hit. I enjoyed reading your review of this one. Maybe next year I'll make it to Novi!

  3. User avater
    ggf2005 | | #3

    It was really cool meeting you. I'm Tenia from Texas and you sat beside me in Kenneth King's Leather 101 class before they found a vacant sewing machine spot. This was the second year that I attended the American Sewing Expo in Novi and it was worth every penny! I learned a lot, bought some great fabric, but best of all I met my Pattern Review friends in person and got to hang out with them!

  4. User avater
    Catherine_Goetz | | #4

    I was at Novi this year. I had missed a couple of years but was pleased to be back. I really enjoyed Katherine Tilton's seminar "The Arty T", Pattie Otto's "Waisting Away" session on elastic waistbands and Marsha McClintock's session on Leather. I also spent two days in the "Creative Collage" course with Koos which was an incredible hands-on session. There was a lot more and I could go on and on. Suffice it to say that this is a great sewing show.

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