Sunday, March 27, 2011

That’s Why They Call it a Theory

Fact: I always have to shorten my patterns two inches. Always! No matter what pattern I choose. If I make up a pattern without shortening. on donning the finished garment, I will resemble a chubby 4 year old clattering around in her mother’s heels.

Fact: I am short-waisted; very, very short-waisted. The distance between the bottom of my bust and the top of my belt is best viewed with a microscope. When they invent the belt-bra, I will be the first in line at the cash register.

Fact, unaltered V-neck patterns, expose things best left hidden forever.

Fact: Linda, Kubrik, designer of Elements, the new pattern-line Bullard Designs* is carrying, is one tall drink of water. She’s tall and slim and the distance from her belt to bust is wide, very wide, grand canyon wide.

Fact: Because independent pattern designers can relate best to their own body-types, their patterns are usually designed for bodies similar to their own. Therefore, if you know a designer’s build, you can project which body type her patterns will flatter. Apple shaped designers design garments with loose waists and exposed arms. Fashion model shaped designers should be designing garments with long waists.

Proposition: In theory, when making up one of the Linda’s patterns, Elements’ Vest 103, where the waistline is an important design element, I should shorten the upper body by a minimum of two inches.

But as I have made up patterns without testing the fit with a muslin and lived to rue the day I chose to take the extra step of making a muslin. Turns out, that was a wise choice.

So, after deciding the fabric/embroidery design combination for my next project, the Element’s Vest 103 pattern I began with a muslin.


Before starting the muslin, I did take a pre-emptive strike and shortened the bodice. The pattern has a wonderfully interesting X shaped back which made shortening a challenging task. Taking out one inch above and one inch below the middle of the back required reshaping and re-angling all of the back pieces; making sure each matched the one next to it and had the appropriate seam allowances. The front was a much simpler task, a breeze after the back.


So I made up the test muslin. Yikes! The vest was hiked up under my breasts. I was Erkel sans suspenders. My top looked shorter than usual. Is that even possible?

I experienced something I’ve never experienced before, a too short top. Two inches too short! I can’t believe it.

My original plan was to whip up the vest and post a picture of it when I posted this blog. As is the norm for my projects, the original plan has had some major additions. The vest is taking way longer than expected so its not yet ready for prime time. Here’s a picture of the back, so far.  I feel another blog in the making.


* In case you didn’t know it, Bullard Designs is my company. We specialize in embroidery designs but also sell sewing patterns from a variety of sources.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

On With the Show

Ahh… I can’t believe it. Sew Expo is over for another year. The booths dismantled, the boxes packed and all that’s left is the memories. Now is the time for reflections, pithy sayings and a recap of the week.
So here it is, my collection of vignettes from the show. Be warned, a sewing show from a vendor’s view is very different than that of an attendee.  My only views were of the booth, the people who visited my booth, and my classes. Pretty myopic.

This year I taught 5 classes and gave 2 talks on a free stage as well and I accompanied a young sew-ist down the runway in a fashion show that highlighted the future of showing.
The show had 32 time slots for classes and still managed to schedule me for the 8:30 timeslot every morning. It’s not that I mind speaking that early in the morning I love mornings. I’m one of those crazy people who greet the sunrise every day. (I know it’s unnatural but it’s the way I am.) What surprised me is that so many people came to see me that early in the morning. I’m pretty sure that at least 1 person in each class attended with eyes sealed shut and a drawing of an eyeball applied on the eyelid.

My classes were all full! In most, there wasn’t a single spare seat. In two of the classes people paid for standing room. Wow!

This year I strayed from my usual Quick Gifts Embroidery Style  class to teach a new class; Machine Embroidery Virtuoso. I covered ways for machine embroiderers to make their work even better. I am writing a book and the class is some of the concepts from that book. It’s always great when you attract a lot of people into the room but that’s generally the result of a good class description. What’s better is when the attendees love the class.

I’m used to people liking my classes. I show fun things, I’m a bit of a ham and get lots of laughs, and I try to have new information each time I teach. What’s not to like? But this class was different. It was like I had brought bread to the starving. Eyes lit up, smiles appeared, heads nodded. I couldn’t have had a better reception if I had been throwing out gold coins.

I heard, “Your class was the best one I’ve ever taken!” many, many, times. The best quote was, “Your class was worth the price of the class, the price to attend the show, and the price of my plane ticket here!”  (And yes I am preening as I write this). By the end of the weekend I had trouble getting out the door, my head was swelled so big.

The classes didn’t take all of my time. I also spent time in my booth, working. The best part about working the booth is that I get to see old friends, make new friends, and spend time talking about sewing.
We offer free designs to anyone who comes to our booth wearing our embroidery designs. I would have more pictures except, silly me, I didn’t think to pull out the camera until late in the show.

I only have two pictures from Naomi. She actually came by with three different outfits. The designs are from Crystal of the Month Club of which she’s a member. You can’t see it on line but these designs shine with crystals.  And Naomi shines, too. The stitch-outs ain’t too bad, either.

Jeanne also came by multiple times, wearing a variety of clothes, all with our designs. Unfortunately, I only have pictures of one. Luckily it’s spectacular. The designs are from our Brilliants collection.
Talk about versatile, Rosemary used the same  Brilliants designs. Look how different they are from Jean’s. Rosemary fell in love with the fabric she put in the hood. She added the embroidery to coordinate with the hood fabric. I love the finished look of designs coordinating with the jacket – without looking matchy-matchy.

Notice anything unusual about Janeen’s embroidery? It’s not exactly attached to her clothes. She really meant to sew up something for the show and didn’t get to it. she was determined to get the free designs so she stitched out this bear from Crystal Critters.  and hung them on a rope. Kind of sad for the bear, hung sideways like that, but good for Janeen. She received free designs.

On another note, I was let out of the booth on Sunday to accompany my young sew-ist, Mentee down the aisle in the charity fashion show. The show was designed to showcase the talent of young people who sew. The Sew-Expo folks paired up sewing professionals with sew-ists, supposedly for us to act as mentors. My Mentee, Mia, is 12 years old and incredible. I’d like to take credit for Mia’s work, but the reality is that I did very little. She’s so talented and such a self starter that I didn’t need to do anything. Her jacket has 5 zippers and used a double needle. Everything looked perfect. My only input was to offer an embroidery design for her to stitch designs on the back.

The downside to being a vendor is that I don’t get to visit other booths. I just don’t have the time. If you’re reading this expecting to hear all the newest, coolest stuff in the sewing world, you might as well as close the browser now. Not going to happen. It can’t happen. I didn’t get to see those things.
The show was a success. I was able to purchase three small things there. Luckily I have a helpful secret shopper, Cindy, (see the last post to see Cindy’s picture). She found a few things I couldn’t live without, things I needed.
And now we’re home and on to the next adventure.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Glamorous Life of a Sewing Star

Most people who read this blog know that I’m a professional in the sewing world. I write for magazines, speak in multiple national shows, have ribbons from nationally ranked quilt shows and have been featured as a top designer.

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it, with visions of me traveling down the street, surrounded by my entourage, with scores of gorgeous men throwing themselves at my feet.  Ahh… if only that were true. Instead, my life is often filled with a manual labor and humdrum tasks.

Wednesday of this week found me in high drudge mode; I had the excitement of setting up for a sewing show, manual labor of the highest order. The show is Sew Expo, one of the largest sewing shows in the country, probably the largest that is geared for garment sew-ists.  Sew Expo is held in the metropolis of Puyallup, Washington and I attend each year as a speaker and vendor, which means that Bullard Designs sets up a booth at the show.

As always, the show promoters have cleverly scheduled the show at the end of February, with predictably bleak weather. I’ve been to the show for the last nine years and only once during that time do I remember seeing even one ray of sunshine. At least I think I remember that. It’s possible it’s just something I dreamed.

Part of the joy of setting up a booth at  tradeshow is that you have to bring a whole store’s worth of ‘stuff’ with you.

First you pack your van, stuffing in all kinds of exciting paraphernalia ranging from boxes of product to the very walls you’ll need to display it.the-van

Unfortunately, packing the wares isn’t good enough. When you arrive at the show, those same items must be unpacked, and moved from the van to your booth space. As I have not yet conquered telekinesis, this involves extreme manual labor.

To ensure a maximum amount of discomfort for the vendors transporting their wares from their vehicles to their show spaces, the show organizers open all of the doors and leave them open for the duration of the setup period. This wouldn’t be a problem if these were ordinary doors, but no, the doors into this establishment are super doors, large enough to accommodate the Mongol hoards including elephants. As we’re in the booth closest to the door we get to experience all of the rain, wind and snow at close range

This year we chronicled the setup process. Here’s the space as it looked when we  first arrived. We were able to capture the space during a lull in the wind.


The only way to approach this is with humor so despite the weather, we managed to keep our spirits up. And by we, I mean, Cindy S, who actually organizes my show life and keeps me on cindy-and-me-1the straight and narrow, and DH, Randy, the love of my life who plays the role of mule, master technician and salesperson when we’re at tradeshows.

Contrary to the evidence shown here, Randy does not spend all of his time in a cage.randy1


I could go into detail about the frustration of unpacking, the search for the tape gun which you knew was in the under-the-table box but in reality was found in the box for the crystal rack. Or how we must have used an alternate alphabet when boxing the design set CDs at home which impeded the arranging of said CDs on the way. You get the gist of it.

Somehow, just when chaos seems to prevail, a little order surfaces.




Eventually, good does triumph over evil, and our booth takes on a semblance of sanity and order (the illusion we work hard to maintain).

We’re now two days into the show, and things are going well. The booth still looks close to this, although the crystal rack has bare spots and there are fewer CDs on the wall. I daresay that the three of us look a little worn, but our spirits are still high.

So, hello from the show.