Set within view of Washington State’s majestic Mt. Rainier, the 35th annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo took place February 28th – March 3rd. According to organizers, a record number of attendees shopped over 400 vendors and took over 100 classes per day from industry experts at this year’s show. Unique in the world of sewing shows, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo is owned and managed by non-profit Washington State University and is the largest consumer sewing show in the USA. Attendees and business owners come from all over the US, Canada, and several other countries.
Sparkling So Sew English Totes
While there is always a debate among attendees about the vendors and classes offered, this year’s show offered an excellent balance between quilting and garment sewing. Many of the “old” favorites have retired, but they are skillfully being replaced by popular newcomers such as Gentle Clothing, Tuesday Stitches, Style Maker Fabrics, L’Etoffe Fabrics and Drygoods Design. Online knit fabric expert So Sew English (SSE) participated for the first time as a vendor at the 2019 show. With a customer packed booth, quickly selling stock and sold out classes, it was clear to see that SSE was a welcome addition to the show.
Begun as a small event to entice a few sewing experts to the Pacific Northwest, the face of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo staff is rapidly changing. Founder Joanne Ross and Vendor Coordinator, Janet McLoughlin have both retired in the last three years. This year was the last for Education Coordinator Ann Sagawa, a 20-year, full-time veteran of the show. Although, most retiring key staff members have been replaced with skilled candidates, at the time of the show the Education Coordinator position was still open.
Angela Wolf, Friday Night speaker. Photo by Rhonda Pierce.
Staying relevant to an aging audience while appealing to younger sewists just discovering the show is an important challenge facing the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. New this year was a free phone app full of show information that eliminated the need for a paper program and included schedule and class alerts. Friday and Saturday night special events featured Its Sew Easy host Angela Wolf and Rob Appell of formerly of Man Sewing, both representative of a younger generation. A $100 per person VIP pre-party featuring champagne, a backstage visit with Angela or Rob and front-row event seating was offered this year, also.
Cheryl Sleboda hosting her Trunk Show. Photo by Rhonda Pierce
Staying relevant in today’s sewing community includes offering classes and events that include topics of interest to all generations. While the “Big Four” pattern company sponsored style shows were missed, local groups and well-known designers filled in with noteworthy events. Trunk and fashion shows included Cheryl Sleboda, founder of Sew Much Cosplay, Laura Nash of vintage style Sew Chic Patterns and Michelle Paganini with upcycled garments. The sold-out class list included a selvage rug, pattern hacking, bust fitting, athleisure, kantha stitching, sashiko and soy wax batik.
Rob Appell in the RARE Bear booth
Generous-hearted sewists and quilters enjoy participating in charitable opportunities available at the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. For the second year over 200 pre-sewn RARE Bears were collected, stuffed by volunteers and made ready to donate to children with rare diseases. Supporter Rob Appell filmed a promo YouTube while assisting in the RARE Bear booth. A second opportunity, Kennel Quilts, featured a booth that collected quilts for shelter-dwelling dogs and cats.
The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is local for me and I love the opportunity to teach and meet up with members of my tribe. Vendors are plentiful, my budget quickly dissolves and at the end of four days, I am exhausted, inspired and already planning for the next year. The 2020 show is set for February 27th – March 1st and I will definitely be there!
Annette Millard has spent most of her work life in the sewing industry and is currently a freelance writer, teacher and blogger. Her past experience includes store, web site and social media management for local fabric stores. When she’s not sewing, Annette blogs for Coats and Clark, admins the Indygo Junction Facebook Group and maintains her own sewing blog at www.sewfullife.com. She is always happiest with fabric in her hands!