Road to California quilt show
The International Sewing Arts Festival will be taking place January 13-15 at the Ontario Convention Center in Ontario, California. The show will feature garment and home dec sewing and is being put on by the Road to California show management.

Photo courtesy of Matt Reese

We’re always excited when new shows launch and recently we learned about the International Sewing Arts Festival, a new consumer sewing show put on by the same folks who run the popular Road to California quilt show each year. The show will be from January 13 – 15, 2022. We caught up with Matt Reese, the show’s owner, to learn more. (Learn more about Matt in our podcast interview with him.)

Here’s Matt:

The International Sewing Arts Festival is an all-new event geared directly towards the garment and home décor sewist. Rather than adding the medium into Road to California Quilters’ Conference, we feel this market deserved its own unique home separate from the quilt event.

Ever since I purchased Road to California in 2017, I was searching for ways to diversify our business. Quilting has been good to my family for many years and we didn’t and still do not expect that to change. However, our entire business revenue was focused around the singular show. We looked into doing different shows, another quilting show or even being a stand-alone for hire event management company.

What is little known about Road is we operate with two full-time employees (including myself) and a small handful of outside contractors. Each time we looked at diversification, planning labor would become a major discouraging factor. We didn’t want to start something that we didn’t feel we could give our unique premium feel.

Shortly after I purchased Road a very close friend of mine Bruce Magidson of SewBatik approached me to discuss the possibility of us starting a garment sewing show. He was adamant that there was a major opportunity for growth. For the reasons stated above, these conversations resulted in some investigation but stopped short of any action.

An opportunity

When COVID hit and shows were postponed and canceled, we decided to take a hard look at the sewing market and who is currently serving that market. Since Road was about halfway planned it allowed us to dive deep into that segment of the craft industry and see what it is all about. Within a few weeks, the International Sewing Arts Festival was born and we were full steam ahead.

It seemed a little crazy to plan another in-person event in the midst of government shutdowns and the pandemic, but this was the perfect year to launch an event from our specific business standpoint.

We then continued our “deep dive” into the sewing industry and began to interview influential individuals about being a part of our advisory board. From what we heard, there was a universal stance – the shows that used to be solely garment-focused were now quilt shows with a side of fashion. The sewing industry didn’t have a place to call home – leaving a huge hole in the market for an event uniquely positioned to give the sewing industry its place to shine.

We set our target market at the general sewist – someone who is sewing clothes for themselves or their kids, making facemasks for their neighbors and friends, and making their own home décor items. Think both the sewist who has been stitching away for years and the sewist who purchased a sewing machine in the early days of the pandemic who now wants to know what else they can do with their machine. These individuals are intimidated by the large quilt shows such as Road. They are seeking education on TikTok, YouTube, and so on, but are hungry for more opportunities to learn and connect with like-minded people.

quilt show

We have negotiated with our sewing machine partners for Road to also provide machines for ISAF! We will have 8 hands-on classrooms with sewing machines provided! We’re covering all topics related to garment sewing as well as beginner classes (i.e. sewing with different types of fabric, sewing specific garments, etc.) We also have classes directly related to fit including our Fit Clinic™ and hands-on classes with dress forms teaching draping tops and bottoms and so on! We also hope to feature classes on cosplay, home décor, and couture. Get your teacher application in soon! (Applications are open through September 1.)

We are working to bring our unique Road touch to ISAF. We are seeking sewing-related vendors. You won’t find county fair-type vendors at ISAF or Road. No Sham-wow, or lotion vendors. We are seeking out fabric companies, pattern companies, and notion companies that would complement our sewing focus. Quilting-related companies should apply to vend at Road to California. ISAF will remain as pure as possible to our goal of being a destination for sewists. Get your vendor application in soon! (Applications are open through September 1.)

Signing up is easy – go to our website. You will see frequently asked questions as well as the google form to apply at the bottom of the page. This is also the direct link to apply. We priced the booths for ISAF at $840 per 10×10 booth.

We do understand first-year shows especially in the midst of the pandemic can be questionable. We bring to the table a proven track record with Road to California. Our advisory board is the best in the business and will be continuing to work with us on providing great marketing opportunities and also ensuring that we have the best tools possible for success.

Matt Reese

Matt Reese

Matt Reese is the owner of Road to California, the premier consumer quilt show west of the Rocky Mountains.

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