I’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend at Sew Pro, a brand new conference for sewing professionals that took place in Chicago on September 16-17. The event was organized by Sara Lawson of Sew Sweetness and Brenda Ratliff of Pink Castle Fabrics. Between the two of them Sara and Brenda have designed fabric for two different companies, designed PDF and print patterns, had a thread collection with Aurifil, taught on Craftsy and at shops, written books, run a brick-and-mortar fabric shop, blogged, and so much more. They have lots of industry experience to draw upon when organizing an event like this and that really shined through.
Leading up to the conference attendees were invited to join the Sew Pro Facebook group which served as a place to plan transportation, find roommates, and figure out what to wear and what to bring. Now that the conference is over the group continues to be a valuable place. This morning Pat Sloan asked what everyone is working on post-conference and I found reading the replies to be so motivating. Everyone is working hard to put what they learned to use including reviving blogs, reworking Pinterest boards, writing query letters, and formatting patterns. Facebook groups are a really valuable accompaniment to conferences and definitely served to build community for this one.
There was a mixer on Thursday evening which I missed (it was back-to-school night here), but I arrived Friday morning just in time to see Pat Sloan’s opening keynote. Then it was off to classes.
The first class I went to was MimiG’s session, “Creating a Following and Brand Loyalty.” One of the things that going to in-person events does is clarify who people are and what their work is all about. When you mostly operate online sometimes it’s hard to grasp all of what a person does.
Although I’d heard of Mimi G and had visited her site, I honestly didn’t totally know who she was or what she offered. Seeing her presentation I was incredibly impressed. I especially loved her honesty about her background. She was a teenage mom, never graduated from high school, and spent periods of time being homeless in Los Angeles. Today she’s an incredibly successful fashion sewist, blogger, and business owner, plus a dynamic and hilarious teacher. I came away full of admiration for all that Mimi G has accomplished.
One of the reasons I attended Sew Pro was to help promote Craft Industry Alliance (CIA), the trade organization for craft professionals that I co-founded with Kristin Link almost a year ago. Although Kristin and I work together every day we’ve only met in person once (at Quilt Market in Houston last fall). It was great to see her again!
We gave a presentation during lunch on Friday which included panel discussion with some CIA members who were at the conference. The members who spoke were truly awesome and I think we succeeded in showing that CIA provides the same kind of information and community as Sew Pro, but all year-long.
After the formal sessions were over on Friday I recorded a podcast interview with Mickey Krueger, the president of Windham Fabrics, and I invited people to sit in on the recording. This was the first time I’ve had a studio audience for a podcast and it was fantastic. Typically I record the show alone in the front room of my house and all of the feedback I receive is virtual. To be surrounded by listeners during this recording was so good. Thank you to everyone who came! The episode will air on Monday, October 3, and Mickey was a very forthright and interesting guest. Fabric is a fascinating industry.
Sunday began with Tula Pink’s keynote. Tula has tremendous stage presence and great stories to tell. She showed her process step-by-step and the whole room was riveted.
Sharon from Free Spirit Fabrics gave the lunch lecture.
MimiG talking with Tula Pink.
One of the things that really struck me about Sew Pro was that it brought together fashion sewists like MimiG and quilters like Tula Pink. I’m not sure these two groups are often in the same room discussing business, yet the synchronicity is definitely there.
Later in the day on Saturday I went to Tula’s session, “You’ve Designed a Fabric Line – Now What?” in which she really dug into the strategic business decisions that have led to her success. At the end MimiG came up and gave her a big hug. That was really neat!
The overall atmosphere at Sew Pro was warm and encouraging and the teacher lineup was outstanding. Kudos to Sara and Brenda for a well-organized inaugural event. I hope to go again in the future!