This past week, I had the opportunity to attend the Sewing and Quilt EXPO (sewingexpo.com) in Cleveland. If you’ve never had the chance to go to a sewing expo, let me give you an insiders look so you know what to expect and how to prepare. I find I’m usually nervous before attending large conventions and expos and love to get a heads-up from the inside.
I was lucky enough to go with a friend who also sews/quilts/crafts, but if you are a Lone Sewing Wolf, don’t let that stop you! Many people go alone, as these expos are the place to meet others in our tribe.
Prior to the show:
If you have time before the show, I recommend checking out their website and looking through their classes. A large variety of classes were offered for all levels of experience. Don’t worry about traveling with your big machine and possibly breaking it; most of the classes let you use one of their new machines! Tickets online prior to the show were $8 (plus a processing fee), but $15 at the door. Tickets for the classes can quickly add up, but this expo offered “value packages” where you attend a few classes and get admission to the expo included. My budget is fairly tight, but since quilting is one of my main hobbies, I felt comfortable with this small amount.
Unfortunately, my friend and me were unable to sign up for a class, as they fill up early, but we found we still got a lot out of the expo and enjoyed our experience. If this will be your first experience, I would recommend signing up for no more than one class and using your day to explore the galleries, watch the demonstrations, and get inspired. It can all be a little intimidating!
Eat a big breakfast. The expo offered lunch concessions and some (delicious!) bakery items, but who wants their stomach determining what talks they go to and when they roam around? This is no place to get hangry!
Walking into the show:
We chose to go on a Thursday so the crowds would be smaller. Although we arrived fairly early, many people were already there! When you walk into the door, there was a coat check (April in Cleveland can still be brutal) to free up your hands for walking around and trying the hand-on exhibits. Grab the guide that is available! This includes not only the map and floorplan to help you find specific exhibits, demonstrators, and make-and-takes, but will also keep the times of the events and stage demonstrations at your fingertips for easy reference.
It’s not a bad idea to do a quick walk through of the demonstrators and exhibit halls to get a feel for its offerings and to decide if you might want to alter where you will be spending your time. I circled events and demonstrators in my guide book to return later in the day.
Enjoying the expo:
You can find some great deals for things you need. I usually assume prices can be inflated at specialty events, but if you know your prices, you can find many retailers offering discounts on their products.
Window shopping for the latest tools and supplies can also be exciting. Many of the retailers offered demonstrations of their products, and a few offered make-and-takes. I tried to keep a project in mind while I shopped around the vendors. A new fabric can really update a classic design or get your creativity flowing!
Watch the demonstrations! While the big-name retailers are there, many boutiques are also there and want to share their love of sewing. Think of these like a farmers market where you have the opportunity to learn about products, techniques, and the person behind the store. I found a local fabric retailer that I didn’t know existed! Pick up their business cards to easily remember how to find them.
Two examples of the demonstrations that I watched were fabric painting (which can then be used in a quilt or other sewed creation) and a new technique using a template and special chalk for planning out a quilt design. I think that could really come in handy for my next quilt!
Many of the retailers bring their fancy new sewing machine models, and this definitely included long-arm quilting machines! Go ahead and give at least one of them a test-drive. The sales people were friendly, knowledgeable, and more than willing to give me a quick hands-on training. This is the best place to experience these new machines, especially if you are in the market for a new one.
There were actually two stages where different professionals were showcasing special techniques or pointers to help take your sewing to a new level. These are all included with your admission. There is open seating, which worked well for me as I got distracted at a booth and was a few minutes late to one of the talks I had circled to attend. Some of the talks on the day I attended included how to use European dress forms and sewing supplies, how to upcycle and recycle denim, pattern alteration for busty issues, sewing for your kids, how to quilt with templates on a standard machine, and how to paint, layer, and fuse for tilework designs. Similar talks were scheduled for the other days, so don’t feel like you would miss out on much if you attend only a single day of an expo.
This is also a good place to find fellow stitchers who are interested in the same topics you are! Everyone I met was super friendly and was happy to talk about their projects, flaws and triumphs alike. I like to think of this as Hobby Networking! #hobbynetworking
The quilt galleries were simply incredible to walk through. It was humbling yet inspirational to see classic designs as well as modern quilt creations displayed. Many of the quilts had the creators name or group displayed next to it, and I plan on looking up a few of these groups online for more inspiration, and who knows…maybe consider joining a guild?
No matter what sewing level you are at, there is something to gain from attending an expo.
Don’t feel pressured into buying something outside your budget. Take their business cards to research the products from your own home or while you are browsing at their storefront.
Reinvigorate your sewing. This expo inspired and encouraged me. We all need that sometimes. I felt able to stay in my comfort zone of sewing while letting me learn a few things in order to be challenged and hopefully produce even more beautiful quilts!