And we’re off! After some shenanigans picking up our rental car (involving silly rules about expired licenses), we headed into downtown Detroit to take in a bit of the city before our first event.
Neither of us had been to Detroit before, and we were wholly unprepared for the beauty. Right alongside stadiums and office towers lie gorgeous, historical art-deco buildings brimming with character and potential. After a quick loop through downtown, we headed out to Brush Park, where artsiness abounds.
First stop: Great Lakes Coffee Bar, where we hosted our craft blogger meetup. (Yes, we brought our own table cloth… because we’re fancy like that.) We squeezed in a little bit of work while sipping delicious Hot Chilly Mexicans—cayenne/cinnamon simple syrup, hot chocolate, and espresso—before our crew arrived. Yum!
Karen LePage of One Girl Circus heard about our meetup from Handmade Detroit. She came and had some great local recommendations for our retail tour the next day—like Material Girls, where she’s teaching a washi dress class soon. We also chatted with Patsy of Clearwater Creations, who is a chemistry professor extraordinaire by day and runs a local sewing business at night, specializing in potholders and boat cushions. She is thinking about taking a Craftsy class with her daughter who lives in a different city so they can learn new techniques together. What a great idea!
Thursday saw us prepping for American Sewing Expo and visiting many of the local yarn and quilt stores in the Detroit metro area, learning more about their businesses and passing along info about our new Craftsy Connect program for indie retailers.
At our first stop, Ewe-nique Knits, we were happy to see one of our Craftsy friends waiting for us: Susan B. Anderson’s Not So Itty-Bitty Giraffe. This great shop had a lot of warmth and character, not to mention a wide variety of local yarn and roving. We also went to Guildcrafters Quilt Shop and …have you any Wool? where we chatted with owner Bridget Dean about what it takes to run a successful shop these days.
Friday was the first day of American Sewing Expo, and the inaugural Craftsy Quick-Stitch Challenge! Hosted by Donna Babylon of More Splash than Cash, the weekend-long event featured seven live sewing competitions, where each contest had 75 minutes and a basket of three mystery items to complete their project—which was announced right then. On Sunday, the seven champions came back for the Stitch-Off to crown the first Quick-Stitch Champion.
Our first theme of the day was the Bag Challenge. Guest judge Eric Drexler of Sulky Thread awarded Shelley M. first place for her cute lined handbag (that she finished early!).
Next up was the Apron Challenge. Rhonda Pierce of Schmetz loved the bias work of Julianne B.’s patchwork apron, which took first place.
We finished the day with the Evening Accessory challenge. Lisa C. won for her super cool ruffled necklace, which guest judge and Craftsy instructor Susan Khalje loved for its inventive zipper edging and versatility as a belt, too.
Though the first day of challenges was done, the night was just beginning! At the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals‘ fashion show, there were some truly interesting runway items—featuring accents like glow in the dark trim and feathers pulled through a lace overlay. Janet Pray, founder of American Sewing Expo and a wonderful partner in our Quick-Stitch sponsorship, was presented the ASDP Lifetime Achievement Award. Yay, Janet!
We kicked off day two with a Pattern Designer meetup, where Katie gave an overview of our fee-free patterns marketplace and shared tips and resources for gaining better exposure for your patterns online.
Back in the Craftsy booth, the Hostess Gift challenge was already underway. Our contestants’ ideas were creative and diverse—here’s hoping a pattern for the pack-flat breadbasket kit shows up in our Patterns marketplace! Robin Bolton, our guest judge from the Association of Sewing and Design Professionals, congratulated winner Nancy E. for the detailed construction of her wine bag (with insulation and a corkscrew sleeve!).
Also on Saturday morning was the Innovation Generation Fashion Show, for up-and-coming fashion designers under age 18. This was a truly impressive bunch, proving that sewing is a hot hobby for all ages. Congratulations to the winners!
The Pillow Challenge was next, with guest judge Catherine Goetz from Distinctive Sewing. Pat D. won for her whimsical use of ribbon thread on top. Another contestant, Cara, was attending ASE with her mom and grandmother. She jumped right into our competition only having had one sewing lesson, and created a perfectly-fitting pillowcase with an appliqué turtle!
The last challenge of the day was Tabletop Decor, guest judged by Erin Miller, the 2011 Passion for Fashion winner. Laureen won for her imaginative eye, turning non-holiday fabrics into an adorable Christmas tree tabletop piece. This challenge also saw our youngest competitor of the weekend, 11-year old Vikram, who created a utensil holder and even had time to help other contestants with their projects. We really enjoyed having Vikram participate, and so came up with an Honorable Mention prize on the spot!
Saturday night was the Passion for Fashion Show hosted by upcoming Craftsy instructor Angela Wolf and Steve Jeffery, president of Baby Lock. Passion for Fashion is much like Project Runway, an exciting live 18-hour competition: Contestants must do all their shopping for the competition at Expo exhibitor booths, and create their garments amidst onlookers and a looming deadline. Each was given a different insect to inspire their design, from grasshoppers to butterflies, and the finished pieces looked incredible on the runway. The winner was Cheryl Zemke, with Rhonda Buss winning Viewer’s Choice. Three lucky audience members also won Baby Lock machines—how nice!
Sunday was our final day, and we started the morning with our last Quick-Stitch challenge: Travel Accessories. Jeanine Twigg of SnapSource guest judged, and picked winner Nancy S. from the Quilt Guild of Metro Detroit. Nancy created a kids travel accessory: a drawstring bag to carry toys or sleepover clothes, with adjustable pockets, and a little monster handpuppet inside that doubled as a toiletries holder. This was one of the more difficult challenges to judge, as these ladies really know how to travel in style!
And then… the big finale! The weekend’s seven challenge winners came back for the Grand Stitch-Off to decide the 2012 Quick-Stitch Champion. Each contestant chose one of the challenge themes (except the one they already competed in) and were given two hours to complete their design. Guest judge and upcoming Craftsy Instructor Angela Wolf, ASE 2012 Teacher of the Year, had a tough decision to make, but ultimately named Nancy E. the champion for her detailed and well-executed handbag. Nancy won a big prize pack of goodies from our supporting sponsors, and ten free Craftsy classes of her choice. Congratulations, Nancy!
We had such a great time at American Sewing Expo, and you can bet we’ll be back next year for more quick stitching. A huge thanks to all our guest judges, event hostess with the mostest Donna Babylon, C. Islander Images for many of the great photos you see here, and ASE founder Janet Pray!
A few more highlights…
- Contestant Lisa C. added silky sleeves to her Craftsy t-shirt (shown above on Lisa Anne)… Hmm, this might just make for a new challenge theme! Let us know any other challenge ideas in the comments below.
- Janet Pray and daughter Jessica: ASE is a family effort
- Hanging with Craftsy instructor Gretchen Hirsch, and Sunni Standing of A Fashionable Stitch
- Katie learned to sew, making a reversible tote with ribbon handles
- Trend report: Rhinestones never go out of style
- Tired of the sewing expo? Check out the gun show!