A place where a wee Scot can talk about the stuff she bores other folk with. Sewing, The Beatles, cats, and zumba may feature...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

The Creative Stitches Show, Victoria, BC

A few months ago I found out that a big crafting show was coming to Victoria, which is not that unusual here. But when I looked closer at the brochure I was very excited to see that there was a great emphasis on garment-making, at least in the workshops being offered over the two-day event. Victoria is Quiltsville, CAN, and although we do have a few apparel fabric shops (Gala Fabrics, Fabricland, and the Cloth Castle in Langford), most events, clubs, and classes focus on quilting - understandable if that's what the customers want I suppose. But not me.
There was a tempting offer to sign up as a volunteer at the show and in return receive free entry over both days and free entry to two workshops. With some great foresight I put my name down for today, Saturday 14th March. If I had opted for the first day the show started (ie yesterday) I'd have had to drop out as I started a brand new job (my first in over 2 years....thanks to my brand spanking new Permanent Residency I'm now officially a Landed Immigrant) on Tuesday of this week.

I've only myself to blame for feeling like I was thrown in at the deep end. I turned up having not heard anything back since I received confirmation of my volunteer shift. I really should have chased up the organisers to ask what was expected of me. But I didn't. So I arrived 15 minutes before my shift, was handed a clipboard and class register and shown where my room venue was. Thankfully it was a small class (only limited by numbers due to the participants using sewing machines in the class) but there was some confusion from some students who hadn't been advised to bring their machines. Understandably they were quite upset about it. Thanks to the wonderful Sawyer Sewing Centre, who had a shitload of machines with them for selling at the show, everyone was soon armed and ready for the star attraction, Mr Ron Collins who was sharing his 'Designer Tips for Couture Results'.

Through the frisson of excitement amongst the students I soon gleaned that Ron was a Big Deal, but certainly not through his demeanour, which was absolutely lovely and unstarry. From what I can gather (and I may be wrong) Ron is the Canadian Patrick Grant, and has appeared in over 180 web videos alongside Sandra Betzina (the fitting expert and Vogue Patterns designer). Just as the class were settling down, Ron asked me if I sew. I replied I'd just started and he took me over to the side where he had a load of his DVDs set out and let me choose one. How generous! I chose one on zips, as you can never know enough of about them, and I still know barely anything. The DVDs usually sell for about $30, so that was no trifle gesture!
Can't wait to watch this. Especially now that the Great British Sewing Bee has finished, and yeah Lorna should have won!
Ron's classes are very hands on, he brings tonnes of samples and encourages you to get up close and personal with them

It soon became apparent that Ron has quite the fan club, and that many of the ladies there (we had one gent amongst the students) had either been to his classes the day before, other classes in Victoria (a few times a year he does some special classes at Sawyer's), and a sewing retreat he mentioned a few times, which one girl I spoke to said was a blast.
Ron with some hair canvas
Ron is a calm and very clear teacher. No umming or ahhing, not rushing through things, and funny and charming. An all round nice guy. He was teaching three classes today (pretty much back to back), and had taught two 3-hour classes yesterday. I mentioned to him at the end of the day that his voice was sounding like it was starting to go, but he said this weekend was nothing: a four-day show or retreat was the real killer!

Sawyer's Sewing Centre is a Victoria staple for machines and notions. I'm definitely going to find out when Ron Collins is next teaching there
Ron recommend quite a few stabilising products from this Canadian shop
Although I was allowed to watch the class, once everyone starting sewing a patch pocket (using Ron and Sandra's couture technique) it wasn't as fun for me to observe, and to be honest I was dying to get round the stalls in the main arena. So I went off for a wander. My wee bubble soon burst as I went round the stalls and to a man (and lady) it was all quilting or embroidery stuff. Sorry, but massive yawn!

I had a wee chat with Barry from the Cloth Castle (who I always talk to when I shop there), and he was telling me about a good fabric store to go to in Portland, when I eventually do get the chance to visit there. Though I can't remember the name of it right now...And an awesome book shop which is seven floors and a block wide. Where do I sign up?

The future's so bright, and so will be my Zumba leggings
Gala Fabrics had bolts going for $6 a metre and a red and white waffle knit caught my eye (I love me some stripes) and also some garish swimsuit fabric (which will do for Zumba leggings), which I made a mental to note to come back for later. I headed back to Ron's class in case I was needed. By the time I had returned he was demonstrating sleeve finishings, so I was able to watch along with everyone else.
A perfectly finished sleeve ready to be set in

I then had to usher in the next class to this room and this is when things went south. The class was called 'Ten Absolutely Fabulous Things to do With Pre-Cuts', a bit of a mouthful, so as people were arriving and asking if this was the right place, I was replying 'yes, are you here for Pre-Cuts?'. I was getting some strange looks and vacant nodding and just plain old befuddledness. I cottoned on that people weren't understanding me (believe me, I see these looks on people's faces on a daily basis) but I was starting to feel like a prize eejit. Well, it turns out they thought I was saying 'peacocks', and so of course they thought they had come to the wrong place. This was a huge class and so after I while I gave up (I promise I was speaking as clear as I possibly could) and just started pointing to the room sign instead.
Captain Pre-Cuts I presume?
This was on the noticeboard outside the Pre-Cuts classroom. Are you trying to tell me something Universe?
Feeling a bit flustered and having finished my volunteer duty, I was swithering whether to just go home and call it a day. I ran into a fellow Weegie gal who lives in Victoria (and also sews! I met her at the Bamboo Leggings workshop at The Makehouse...check out her fab blog about life, love, and everything in between).

Natalie was just about to go into a Learn to Crochet workshop for a few hours. So I went back into the main arena to buy the two fabrics I'd spotted at the Gala stall and then got chatting with the lady helping at their checkout (not actually a Gala employee, but a very frequent and loyal customer). Her mum was from Springburn in Glasgow and was a war bride. She told me that her mum never really settled in Canada, but had gone home to Glasgow soon after moving to Canada and came back again anyway. It was quite depressing to hear that her mum was never truly happy here....But the lady was genuinely lovely and the wee chat buoyed me up a bit (and at least she could understand what I was saying!).
A Gala Fabrics customer recently made this. It's Vogue 8934 and on sale in my Etsy shop, click through to buy

After a magic hot chocolate from Starbucks at the mall across the road (there's nothing a hot choc cannae cure) I headed back to the show for my two free workshops which I'd earned from my volunteering stint. And I am so glad I did!
The unsinkable Kathryn Brown
The first workshop of the afternoon was 'Sewing for a Full Bust' by Nanaimo instructor, Kathryn Brown. Kathryn mostly sews for herself but has fit numerous ladies of all shapes and sizes over the years. She caught my eye as she was looking round the room for a suitable boob model to demonstrate on, measured me up, and said yes I would do. She sweetened the deal by saying I'd get a free pattern, so I was in.
The pattern which Kathryn used to demonstrate the full bust adjustment, and which I got to take home, bonzer!
My big mistake was not taking a pad and pen to the show. Smart phones are great but nothing beats taking actual written notes. Kathryn shared so many great tips as she demonstrated how to do a Full Bust Adjustment on McCall's M5433. My high bust turned out to be 38", which was size 16 on the pattern envelope. And from now on, as Kathryn demands (and correctly so), I should be choosing pattern sizing according to my high bust measurement. This will ensure the best fit for the shoulders, which is crucial. Knowing this starting point means I can actually attempt some of the vintage patterns I have which are 38" bust, which is fecking amazing! I've got quite a growing collection of vintage patterns now (most of which I upload to sell in my Etsy shop) but will be looking at them with fresh eyes, now I know how to choose the correct size for me.
Some of the recommended pattern papers that Kathryn brought
She also hammered it home that tissue-fitting is the cheapest and most time-saving method in making a garment. Kathryn said that she pretty much only muslins for gowns and wedding dresses, and that there is no need to do a muslin for every top, jacket, dress, shirt you make. Fabric will always be more expensive than a pattern, so get it right on your tissue or traced pattern, and don't ruin your fabric with fitting mistakes! She also advised joining Club BMV for discounted patterns, which I am definitely going to do once I get paid.
My first time seeing the slash and spread method in action, very exciting!
After trying on the pattern tissue which had back and front (and shirt placket) pinned, as well as the original bust dart pinned, Kathryn showed everyone how I needed 3 inches added in order to make the seam edge of the centre front fall down the centre of my body.
Taping on pattern paper in the gaps. Always use Scotch Tape and always only tape on one side (so you can press the pattern from the other side)

The McCall's pattern that Kathryn was fitting on me is a Palmer Pletsch and the method for bust alteration is in the pattern instructions, as well as being covered in the Fit For Real People book, which I have but haven't tackled reading yet! Kathryn was also very excited to tell us that she had just participated in the research (along with 20 other instructors from all over the world) for the new book in the Fit for Real People series, which is Knits for Real People. Having a personal recommendation coming from someone like Kathryn, who was an absolute gem of a lady and a teacher, is all I need to know!
Is it too early to ask for this, Santa?
She also told us about a new french curve ruler, fresh on the market, which is cooler than others curved rulers out there because the ruler depth all round is 5/8", therefore allowing you to trace curves on the inside as well as the outside. It's called the SA curved ruler and Kathryn said she got hers on Etsy but I simply can't find it there. I have found it here however. Another tool for the wishlist!
And this? Ta

To backtrack a bit, Kathryn also took us through the history of how sizes and measurements were first established for shop clothing and sewing patterns. The proportions are all thanks to the perky boobed, tiny waisted, perfectly hour-glass wife of one of the men involved with the sewing pattern companies. Thanks to the restrictive undergarments which were prevalent up to mid-20th century, women's bodies were constrained (and imprisoned, if you want to go that far) making consistently proportioned dress sizes possible. The 1960s comes along, and all hell breaks loose, together with girdle elastic and bullet bras. Women are now free to walk around with muffin tops and all sorts of lumps and bumps bustin' forth.
Showing how we can add french darts to t-shirts. Darts should never end in the apex circle
These days, I wouldn't mind being girdled up to my eyeballs, but I'm sure youngsters would recoil in horror at the very suggestion (not that they would even know what a girdle is. I was too young to ever wear one but I do remember them). As Kathryn reminded us, and as I've read in so many dressmaking articles, books, blogs: if a garment properly fits, it's so much more flattering, no matter what size or shape you are. Kathryn also recommended adding bust darts to t-shirts, especially for the full-busted. Something I'll definitely consider. She also told us that we are under no compunction to use vertical darts, such as back or front, if we need the fabric width (instead of narrowed, which is what darts do - they eat the fabric which is not required).
Princess seams are a godsend for adding full bust adjustments
Kathryn also showed us how to move a bust dart and how to treat a princess seam for a full bust adjustment (adjust the pattern piece which has the side seam).

As class ended I left with a perfectly fitted bust for my front pattern piece of M5433. As another student said to me, I was so lucky as I could practically go home and sew it straight up. However, I bumped into Kathryn later on and she said I'll need to do a waist and hip adjustment. I asked what kind of fabric might suit this pattern and she suggested a nice cotton (but not a quilting cotton). I had a wee look in Fabricland just before I went home and they have some lovely voiles, lawns, and I even considered buying a red cotton eyelet. Whoo, check me out! I have plenty of cottons in my stash, no more purchases for me right now! Kathryn told our class to email her with any questions, or even send her pics, so I really want to do her proud and finish the McCall's pattern that she so kindly gave me, and email her my results.

After Kathryn's class it was back downstairs to the lovely Ron Collins again for his 'Taming Knits' workshop. I saw lots of ladies who had been in his 9am class, and as Taming Knits followed on straight from another afternoon class he'd done, they literally never left his side all day. The man's got something!
Not one to do anything by half-measures, Ron brings his own wardrobe to demo on
Ron comes prepared with tonnes of samples: in swatch form; works-in-progress; and his own clothes (not quite off his back, but I did feel a bit guilty copping a feel of his own personal clothes). He took us through the array of knits from jersey (recommending jerseys with cotton or silk, as rayon jerseys pill like crazy) to double knits, lyrca, sweater knits, novely knits, and the holy grail, in Ron's opinion, of knit fabrics: Matte Rayon Jersey.

He also explained various forms of stabilisers and finishings, from Stay Tape to Tricot Interfacing, to Fusible Interfacing, to Foldable Elastic, and self-made knit bindings. To get rid of that pesky curling edge on jersey knits, he recommended using spray starch which is a godsend while you actually construct your knit garment. It was really cool to learn that Ballpoint machine needles should be used for knits with two-way stretch, eg pontes, rib, but for knits with four-way stretch Stretch needles are best.
The knit sewers best friend: clear elastic - which can also be sewn onto bust darts, what a great tip! (no pun intended)
Some useful stabilisers
Using mesh knit to line knit shorts. Lining is cut smaller than the leg piece, attached at the bottom hem and then the lining fabric is pulled up so that the waist matches on lining and fashion fabric. This creates an automatic hem at the ends of the leg piece. Nice!
A pattern which Ron has used to make many t-shirts for himself. Jalie is a Canadian company, which I didn't know
By the time the class ended my head was bursting after such a long day of so much information to take in. I knew I had to write this post tonight before I forgot things, which I probably have anyway. It has put me in good stead for any future sewing shows I get the chance to go to, and in the end, being in all the dressmaking classes today really made me realise that there is a healthy non-quilting community in Victoria (and Vancouver Island).

Gala Fabrics is having their monthly sewing meet-up on Easter Sunday, 5th April, and none other than Tasia, the founder and creator of Sewaholic Patterns will be a guest, so I have no excuse to miss such a great get together (I've been too shy to go before). I definitely want to do the corny thing of wearing something made from one of her patterns. I have the Renfrew and the Cambie, and quite fancy her new Davie knit dress (but no.more.purchases!!). I better get my finger out and decide what to make though, because March is flying by already!

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