I felt a little weird taking photos at the show, because there were "rules" about taking pictures of booths. There were even some quilts with signs that said "don't photograph unless you have purchased the pattern". Okay...I guess quilt pattern theft must be a thing? IDK. However, you can see pictures taken by the Expo folks on their Facebook page.
This was my first time attending any event like this, so I didn't know what to expect. Since quilting was obviously going to be a part of the show, I had some concerns about how much of it would appeal to a garment enthusiast like me. I was right to have my doubts, as it turned out the vendors and programming was definitely skewed towards quilting. I'm not sure if that's a function of this particular show, or because the state-wide sewing vibe leans towards quilting anyway. Most of the attendees were also much much older than me. My husband wanted to know if he won a prize for being the youngest person there (he's a year younger than me and loses no opportunity to remind me of it).
I took two classes, one on casual jackets taught by Barb Callahan, and one called Fine Tune Your Sewing Skills, taught by Linda Lee. The jacket class wasn't really worth the money ($19 for an hour-long class). It was mostly Barb showing off jackets she'd made and talking about them. If the jackets weren't your style then you kind of had to glean what you could and figure out how you'd adapt the ideas for yourself. Spoiler alert: the jackets weren't my style :) I was easily the youngest person in this class, probably by 10 years, so all the jackets were a bit...mature for me.
Linda Lee on the left, narrating a fashion show
The second class was much better. I've seen Linda Lee on It's Sew Easy (I think?), and she has classes on Craftsy as well as being a contributor for Threads. I can't say that I haven't heard her tips before and that the class was revolutionary for me, but it was still worth the price as she was a great presenter.
Honestly, the best part was the hotel where the Expo took place! It had enough space for all the classes and vendors, plus a beautiful outdoor courtyard. There was also a great restaurant and bar right in the middle of everything.
Day drinking! It wasn't even noon yet...
We did spend the entire day (10am-5pm) at the show and if it weren't for the hotel's amenities we would have been bored. I mean, my husband was probably bored the whole time, but y'know. Believe it or not, I didn't even buy anything! Vogue Fabrics was there, as well as a store from Canada called The Wool House, and an Indianapolis store called The French Seam. They all had lovely fabrics, but nothing spoke to me right now. Maybe I'm wrong, but it didn't seem like anything was cheaper except for possibly sewing machines. Obviously, you're not paying shipping, but I kind of wanted to "get a deal" or at least FEEL like I was getting a deal!
The only reason we stayed until the end was because the prize drawings required you be present to win. They were giving away some nice stuff, including a new Bernina, so I felt like it was worth it to stay. Also, even though it was Saturday, it didn't feel like the show was crowded at all so I thought I had a good chance of winning. Until the giveaways happened! Then suddenly it was crowded. I didn't win anything, unfortunately.
Did I mention the hotel lunch buffet included dessert?
I MIGHT go next year...but it would be more about spending the day with my husband at a nice hotel than about the show. I would also be more selective with the classes and their instructors to make sure I was getting my money's worth. Ideally, I would prefer to go to a convention like the American Sewing Expo which seems to be bigger and more focused on garments, but it's a state away and that's not quite as feasible for me as an hour drive.
The one benefit I can't overlook is simply being surrounded by fellow sewists. When you're self-taught and your primary community is online, it can be surprisingly refreshing to be around real people who share your interests. It's also a great measuring stick for me to see if I really know what I'm talking about. If I can follow along easily in a tips and tricks class without getting lost, it boosts my confidence immensely.
Are there any other shows in the Midwest worth attending? All I want is a large show conveniently located to a dog-friendly hotel and mountain biking trails. With free babysitting. Is that too much to ask?