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Vogue Fabrics sells textiles at the Sewing and Quilt Expo in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Sewing machines, quilt patterns, and fabric, oh my! It’s the 2016 Original Sewing and Quilt Expo.

The Original Sewing and Quilt Expo is a three-day event that offers workshops, demos, a shoppable trade show, and more. The expo delivers creative inspiration and skill-building classes to sewists in eight U.S. cities.

I attended the Chicagoland installment of the Sewing and Quilt Expo, and following are my impressions, presented yearbook-superlative style. If you’ve ever been curious about checking out a sewing trade show, read on:

Sound mostly likely to be heard

The quiet whir of sewing machines. So relaxing.

Mostly likely to be seen

Middle-aged women. I don’t feel like I saw a lot of other sewists my age (30s). Ladies (and gents!) — where were you? I want to hang in out person!

Most unusual vendor

Vendor Tangerine Mountain Imports shows off a kimono at the Sewing and Quilt Expo.
Sisters selling vintage kimonos for upcycling. I was enamoured of Tangerine Mountain Imports and Designs. They sold old kimonos by the pound for upcycling, which is a common practice in Japan. This was news to me, and I was utterly fascinated by all the vibrantly patterned robes.

Most likely to catch your eye

Quilts decorated the convention center at the Sewing and Quilt Expo.
Oh, baby, there was tons of quilt eye candy. I was especially loving the display of modern quilts.

Best marketing

Pineapple Fabrics offered a free sewing pattern with its precut fabric packs.
Pineapple Fabrics, a quilt shop. Sewists get a free pattern with every Pineapple Pack, a set of quilt precuts. For example, if you bought a “Bella” Pineapple Pack (about 2 ¾ yards of strips, squares, and quarters), you could grab a free Bella pattern for a tote bag, quilt, or pillows. It was fun to thumb through the different patterns designed for each precut pack. Way to go, Pineapple Fabrics, for helping sewists line up a project with ease! #valueadd

Overheard phrase that most made me take pause

I could never do that. I heard women say that as they talked to quilt vendors. As I admired a beautiful quilt, a quilt vendor said to me, ”You could make that, too.” I said I know, but it would take me a while. She informed me that her daughter made it in two days, including quilting (with help from Mom).

Why do we think that unless we can do something quickly and expertly that it’s not worth doing? There needs to be more love for the process as we grow our sewing practice.

Most anticipated for next year

There were many sewing classes at the Sewing and Quilt Expo.

In 2017, I’d like to take a class at the Sewing and Quilt Expo, maybe something related to fitting. There’s always a lot of enrichment on offer. Check out the classes that were happening just on Saturday (see above).

Most impressive event

BurdaStyle hosted a fashion show at the Sewing and Quilt Expo.
BurdaStyle hosted a fashion show of 23 of its sewing patterns. Burda patterns can be very fashion forward, and sometimes it’s hard to understand how they’d look on non-high-fashion-model bodies. The BurdaStyle fashion show showed off the proportions of the clothes on real bodies in motion, and I ended up liking the garments in person more than I do on the pages of BurdaStyle magazine. Nice work, BurdaStyle!

Biggest aha moment

When I stopped by the BurdaStyle booth, there were a couple of middle-aged ladies (50s-60s) ahead of me. The Burda gal (Burda online editor Meg Healy herself!) was showing them a printed PDF pattern. The ladies weren’t familiar with print-at-home patterns, and I overheard them saying how cool it was to get patterns on demand.

It surprised me that, in 2016, there could be sewists who hadn’t heard of PDF patterns. My shock was a reminder to me that my personal experience and perceptions are mine alone. It’s important to remember that everyone is coming from a different place. For those ladies, that intro to PDF patterns may have changed the way they sew!

Best toys

Pretty much every sewing machine company had a booth. There were lots of opportunities to test drive fancy machines, especially long-arm machines and embroidery machines. It was mesmerizing to watch some of them run on autopilot.

Happiest surprise

BurdaStyle gave away free printed PDF sewing patterns at the Sewing and Quilt Expo.
The Burda booth was giving away printed PDF patterns! Burda offered a pencil skirt or a peplum top, and they had two plus-size patterns, too. I choose the peplum top. I was hoping for more pattern company booths at the expo. So, getting a free garment sewing pattern mitigated some of my disappointment.

Most irresistible goodies

I couldn’t leave the Sewing and Quilt Expo without taking home some stitchable souvenirs. Here’s a nine-minute Facebook vid featuring my mini haul from the expo:

I came home with (clockwise from top left in the collage below):

Collage of my mini fabric haul from the Sewing and Quilt Expo.

Worst deal of the Sewing and Quilt Expo

I paid $17 for a turkey-bacon wrap, Diet Pepsi, and chips at the convention center, and I was underwhelmed. Not that I was expecting gourmet fare, but the cost made me cringe a bit. That could have been spent on fabric, people! If you’re bound for the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo next year in Schaumburg, maybe plan to eat elsewhere.

Over to you, sewing friends: What sewing trade shows have you attended? What were your impressions? Did you check out the Original Sewing and Quilt Expo in another city? Please share in comments!

P.S. As long as we’re talking sewing events, I attended the Sew Pro convention, a conference for sewing-business professionals. Here are my thoughts on the conference:

5 Sew Pro convention takeaways for every sewist
So you want to be a sewing professional…