The Sewing Summit 2013 – what I learned

I spent last weekend at the third annual Sewing Summit in Salt Lake City. Look at all these busy-bee sewers playing on those beautiful Bernina machines. I thought I’d give a quick recap of what I learned from attending the Sewing Summit this year. 
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to attend a sewing conference? I mean, at what other fancy conference can you sit and listen to lectures while hand-sewing? Be aware going in that sleep-deprivation is part of of the gain-cost ratio. (Think of it as a giant slumber party for grown women.) I’m normally not much of a soda drinker, but caffeinated stimulation was called for. 
Quilters are Quirky. This hotel staff has probably never seen the likes of a bunch of sewers and their odd behaviors before. Here is my traditional grand arrival in the swanky lobby with my floral ironing-board. Also, you’d think the floor space of those giant hallways would be a great place to layout a quilt – and you’d be right! Until…the hotel staff has to ask you to pick-up the quilt blocks off the floor in front of the door to the ballroom where the Utah Truckers Association is about to start their fancy shindig. Whoops!!
Enthusiasm is contagious. This year the sewing machine sponsor was Bernina USA. Not only was it amazing to sew on fancy new Bernina sewing machines, but the support that came with them from both national corporate Bernina to the local Bernina dealer, Nuttals, was superb. This is Sylvain who helped assist everyone on their machines while I taught my class. He was so awesome, he even matched the quilt sample for my class! 😉 
I learned to sew on a Bernina and have sewed on and loved my 30+ year-old Bernina Sport 801, but I have been feeling the desire to upgrade. Especially after trying these new machines. I frequently get asked for information about buying a new sewing machine, so I will keep you updated on that process and what I model decide to go with!
Bringing people over to the “dark-side” is fun. I LOVE showing people how fun and rewarding quilting is. (I don’t tell them right away that they will soon have a new addiction. I just let them enjoy finding that out on their own.) I taught a very simple class using giant half-square triangles, which allowed opportunity for a lot of personal creative expression. The pinwheel quilt I’m showing above was made by SewSara. It was great to see a bunch of people even finish their quilt tops before the conference ended! The one on the bottom right is by my new friend, Amanda. The quilts laid out on the aforementioned-convention-center floor are also from this class. These ladies made such fun group!
Act on your creative inspiration and do something bold. This year’s keynote speaker was Heather Bailey. She was fantastic. I heard Heather speak once a few years ago and have been a huge fan. She attended the whole conference and was very gracious and involved the whole time. The story she shared was amazing. 
She talked about going to Quilt Market for years to help her mother-in-law with her booth and sadly watching the decline of the quilting industry. She loved to sew and wanted so much to connect with and encourage other younger sewers. And then in 2005, with only a month before quilt market, she had the inspiration to try designing a collection with contemporary colors and fresh designs. What she had created was so different from what traditional fabric companies were selling at the time. The response from the industry decision makers was an unexpected enthusiasm for what she’d brought. One of the unusual things she requested was that her name be on the selvage because she wanted to build a relationship with the people who used her fabric and she started a blog to do so. 
I still remember when that collection, Fresh Cut, was first released. I was working in a quilt shop at the time and it was so new and different and modern. I remember it being a change in fabric styles and design, but hearing Heather tell that story, put those memories in context. That collection triggered a huge shift in momentum among the quilting movement for younger quilters and the way we interact with the fabric industry, designers and their collections. 
With Sew Sara (who also matched my quilt), roomies Rachel and Amanda, Andrea & Melissa, and cute Jeni.

Sewy and quilting friends are fun. I’ve said this before, but for years I felt like a sewing weirdo. None of my real-life friends my age sewed and I never talked about my granny-hobby. Enter the world of blogs and social media about 5 years ago and I felt like I’d found a bunch of new best friends. Women who liked talking about fabric and quilts as much as I did!
#Wafflesummit, Pat Bravo (for real!), Angela, Amy, Colleen, Holly, Deedrie, and Jeni again
Then after interacting with many of these women online, I began to meet some of them in real life! The first Sewing Summit 3 years ago was the first time I’d met many of them. It has been so lovely to look forward to reconnecting with some of them each year – especially the ones that come from out of state. And at the same time, so fun to meet and get to know new friends each year! Thank you SO much to all those who came and introduced themselves! Each one made my day better. But there were so many people! At every meal I tried to sit with a different group so I’d have the opportunity to visit with lots of people, and yet I still didn’t get to meet and visit with everyone I would have liked. 

Even if you can’t go to a Conference, find like-minded friends close by. This is a group of the local friends I’ve come to know through online social media who have become wonderful real-life friends. I feel immensely grateful for each one of them, as well as for others who are not pictured. (The Sewing Summit is held in Utah, so there is a high proportion of Utah folks able to attend.)

Abundance. This was my favorite thought and emotion of the weekend. There is truly enough creativity, opportunity, and friendship for everyone to have an abundant portion. I think we are often so prone to competing and comparing to the point that we see people tear others down thinking they’ll get more, and indirectly destroy their own opportunities and creativity. The greatest thing I took away from this was an appreciation for the people that came who contributed to that feeling of encouragement, celebration, and support. I stood on my chair and snapped this picture right after Heather Bailey’s speech because I wanted to capture a little bit of that feeling that was so palpable in the room.

Thank you so much to all to came and contributed to that feeling. And to those who couldn’t come this time, keep connecting! There are so many opportunities now to find “your people” both online and in your real live community. It’s totally worth the effort.

And now, after 2 sewing conferences in 2 weeks, I am totally pooped and content to be a homebody for a long time. I missed my family (and my fabric.)


  1. says

    Enjoyed seeing your good times! The Smocking Arts Guild Convention is kinda the same thing. Stitching but a different medium and I love to look over the room at all the wonderful like-minded stitching ladies in abundance

  2. says

    Here, here, beautiful blog post Amy…We have groups of bloggers that now meet up 5 times a year and they come from all over the place. There certainly isn't anything better than interacting with like minded, creative people.

  3. says

    Amy it was so amazing to meet you… in real life – major fangirl moment! Sewing Summit was an absolute blast and I would definitely like to attend more of these types of events in the future. I really resonated with your summary post, most notably about the abundance of creativity. I think a lot of us have gone home feeling rejuvenated and excited by all the inspiration we saw over those few days.

  4. says

    Haha, the best part is the last line, you missed your family and your fabric. I loved reading your post and seeing your pictures! I might borrow the picture of us for my blog if that's ok :) You are the sweetest, and I can't help but adore you!!! Have you seen the picture of you and Sylain matching your quilt? It's on instagram somewhere, its my favorite!!!! :)

  5. says

    Thanks for sharing about the sewing summit. I love to hear about all your sewing endeavors. I started quilting about 4 years ago, and just can't get enough. I always want to go to quilt market and drool over all the new fabrics and quilts first hand and meet all the fabric bloggers I read about. Thanks for sharing all your inspiration!

  6. says

    Thank you for sharing Sewing Summit to those of us who couldn't attend. I love the photo of you walking through the lobby with ironing board in tow. LOL! I also didn't talk about my granny-hobby much until discovering blogland. I also appreciate in-person quilters; therefore will be joining a local quilt guild.Thanks again.

  7. says

    Loved This Post!! You have such a wonderful way of sharing your emotions through your post, I felt like I was there 😉 So good to see what a great time you and everyone else had 😉

  8. says

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights on Sewing Summit. I've been reading lots of posts about it and it sounds like a blast. I am yet to make it to a big quilting conference but finding my local real life quilting buddies and getting to know people online has given me the same feeling as you – like woohoo, I'm not the only young person crazy about quilting out there! By the way, I

  9. says

    I have had the best feelings all week since I left the Sewing Summit. I just smile when I think about it. I think you hit the nail on the head that there was a feeling of "abundance" that there was enough for everyone to go around and that we all bring something unique and special to the table. I felt like there was something I could learn from everyone there. It was so nice to

  10. says

    So glad we got to not just see each other but actually spend some quality time together this time! And we even got an awesome picture together, double win! :)

  11. says

    I'm so glad you posted so many pics. It was fun seeing it from your point of few. I'm glad I took the plunge and decided to go and glad I got to meet you and so many others in person :-)

  12. says

    Great post Amy on what it is like at a Sewing Summit. You described things very well! I loved seeing pictures of Salt Lake City, and many of the Utah designers. I live in the same area as Heather Bailey, and she occasionally attends our Phoenix Modern Quilt Guild meetings.

  13. says

    I could not be more jelaous of you and your friends, how wonderful it must be to have a get together like this and share ideas and skills. The pin wheel is one of my favourite blocks and as for the bernina machines I have had mine 20 years. I have a 1230 and it is still as good as new, well maybe it is not quite so quiet as it was, have never had it serviced as I was told if it is not broken don

  14. says

    Great post!!! Thank you so much for sharing! You have a great way of evoking the spirit and atmosphere of the Summit!I love the picture of you walking through the lobby with your ironing board!!

  15. says

    Good Morning, Amy. I just wanted to say how grateful I am to have discovered your blog, and how much I appreciate your writing – both the quilting content and the inspirational too. Loved this post about Heather – fascinating to learn of her impact on the quilting world. I've benefitted as a result!! Thanks for all you do to make my day. I've been searching and searching for Dream On

  16. says

    Wow — it looks like you had an awesome time Amy! You must be worn out — someone needs to spread these sewing conferences out a little! I love that you (and several others) were color matched to your quilt. Have fun selecting your new machine — I'm sure you'll come to your senses and select a Viking!!! ;-P

  17. says

    what a great post ! Lucky you to be able to go and drink that all in – I&#39;m sure you were a big contributer to the all around good vibes !<br />Hopefully I will see you at a Sewing Summit one day !

  18. says

    Thank you Amy for a wonderful story! Where I live now, I don&#39;t have any sewing friends and no question about quilting. I am so happy and grateful for all the amazing friends who I have throught blogs! Even I can&#39;t join quilt events (I live in Greece) because they are just too far away, when reading your post I was thinking how lucky I am to be a part of this huge group of sewing and

  19. says

    Amy—it was great to see you at Sewing Summit! Thank you for your beautiful write-up of the event! I love the picture of you carrying the ironing board through the swanky hotel!

  20. says

    One day kiddo…one day I&#39;ll make it to this conference…I promise!:)<br /><br />Love hearing the story about Fresh Cut. I have only bought two jelly rolls ever and one of them it that line and I can&#39;t cut into it yet. I just love how it looks all rolled up on my shelf!;)

  21. says

    What a great recap! It was great to see you again even though mostly just in passing. And now my sister in law thinks I&#39;m famous because she saw my picture on your blog! 😉

  22. says

    That looks like so much fun! I can relate to feeling like a sewing weirdo…I do have a couple of friends who quilt, but they&#39;re content to let months pass without touching fabric. Me? I feel withdrawal after only a day! Blogging and connecting with other obsessed quilters makes me feel a little more normal!

  23. says

    I used to work at Nuttall&#39;s in AF. They were nice then and it&#39;s good to know that they&#39;re still going strong. Looks like you had a great time.

  24. says

    Great recap, and also great to meet you in person last weekend! I am thrilled that I also made it into one of your photos too (well okay it was just the side of my head, a bit of my glasses and a small section of my bottom :-) But it will do. Look forward to keeping up with you on your blog.

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