Saturday, February 23, 2008

31. Pre-Planned, Highly Anticipated Diversion

The Original Sewing and Quilt Expo ( came to Tampa, Florida this week, and Susan and I made our plans and class reservations months ago. We try to get out there for one day every year, and this was our third success in the last four years. We spent the whole day (8:00 am – 6:00 pm) there on Friday. I think we both agreed that this was the best yet!

In the morning we took a 3-hour class entitled “Body Type Pattern Selection” with Cynthia Guffey ( It was our first experience taking a class from Cynthia Guffey, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be our last. Cynthia is a high energy, highly entertaining whirlwind. She cuts right to the heart of things in a matter-of-fact, yet wry way that is funny and compassionate without pulling any punches. While the class wasn’t quite what I expected, it was very interesting and valuable.

On the pattern selection topic, I think her main two points were:
1. To get a proportioned line with your body, you may need to build up smaller areas with your clothes to bring them more in line with your larger areas. This goes against our natural tendency to show off our good areas by wearing fitted clothes on those parts.
2. To make clothes fit well over generously proportioned areas, you need patterns with additional seams in those areas – princess seams in a blouse, gored skirts, etc.

She also touched on fitting, especially tops, and explained two frequently overlooked measurements that, if adjusted for, should ameliorate many fitting problems – the shoulder slope and the back curve. (She has 9 fitting DVDs, if you are interested in learning more.)

She talked a lot about small changes that bring attention to and flatter your face. Her argument was that you should echo 2 aspects of your face – the shape of the features (round versus angular) and the amount of contrast between hair, eyes & skin – in the clothes and accessories that you wear around your face. She gave a powerful example of what she meant by contrast by having us imagine Elizabeth Taylor and Sissy Spacek; two beautiful women who should (and do) dress very, very differently because their natural colorings are on extreme ends of the contrast continuum.

Finally, she had each class attendee come up to the front of the room for a quick assessment. She identified their facial features and contrast, indicated if they were dressing and accessorizing appropriately, and discussed the types of patterns they should select. After asking each person if she would prefer a top or skirt pattern, Cynthia identified a pattern from her line that she thought would be most flattering for that person and noted it to be mailed out after she returns home from the Expo.

Susan and I were among the last to be called to the front of the room, so I spent some time thinking of what she was likely to say about me. I think my face is round and my contrast is low, so I expected kudos for my round glasses and round jewelry and the blouse I was wearing in muted colors. My problem area is a thick middle, so I expected her to recommend a gored skirt.

If there was any thought that I might have psychic abilities, the question has been resolved once and for all, and the answer is no.

I was shocked when she announced that the round glasses had got to go, because of my angular features, I needed a more blunt haircut without the curves, and I was NEVER EVER AGAIN to wear muted colors or floral prints. (I wanted to ask if kitten prints were out too, but didn’t get a chance.) She said I should I go for angles, contrast and drama – in my glasses, hair and clothes. She did warn me that I could be an intimidating presence if I went too far…

She didn’t mention my thick middle. She recommended an A-line skirt and said that I have a cute butt. (She even had me turn around and show it to everyone. Yikes!)

My very first reaction was shock.

My second was something along the lines of, “How can I have lived 45 years and be so wrong about myself?”

With some thought, however, I realized that I haven’t actually been wrong, I was just reacting in the opposite way to what she was recommending. While I may never have used the word “angular”, I’ve always known that I don’t have small, pretty, feminine (i.e., round) features. I deliberately select round frames and round haircuts to try to soften my features – instead of selecting angular accessories to play that up.

And I do enjoy wearing bright colors – even if I hadn’t realized exactly that muted tones were washing me out in such an unattractive way. So, I’ll be more careful with the colors right away, and I guess I’ll spend some time thinking about whether I want to continue to try to soften my features or experiment with repeating them in my accessories and clothes.

We ended up with only 30 minutes to grab a quick lunch before our 3-hour afternoon class, “Super Slick Serger Tricks Workshop” with Diana Cedolia ( This was a hands-on workshop and it was fantastic! We each a serger to work on and a packet of pre-cut pieces of assorted fabrics in various sizes. Diana walked us through a number of simple techniques with wonderful results! Here are some of my results.

First, a blanket stitch and my first attempt at using a gathering foot.

Second, a crisp serged corner, a tote bag bottom and a piped pillow top (from my first time using a piping foot).

At the very end of the class, Diana demonstrated a few tricks using a machine that can do a cover stitch. The whole class was a blast and I learned a lot! I have 8 specialty feet for my serger that I’ve never used, and I’m really looking forward to doing more than overlocking a seam and coverstitching a hem!

Finally, from 4 to 6 we wandered the exhibit floor. We were both trying to be “good” this year and not spend much money. I only had one item on my shopping list – champagne colored silk thread to attach the lace to the bodice of Susan’s wedding dress. We located that right away, and then worked our way systematically up and down the aisles exploring all the booths. In one booth with lots of quilting fabric, I found this print:

It is perfect for my Mom (a classical musician) and I’ve never seen the print anywhere before, so I bought her a half yard panel. It would make a nice cover for the chalk bag (making a rock climbers chalk bag) I made for her!

I was drawn in at a booth selling patterns for making quilted jackets using a sweatshirt as the pattern pieces and batting. One particular pattern/kit – very bold, wild and dramatic (Cynthia Guffey would have approved) kept calling to me. I turned to Susan and jokingly asked, “Aren’t you supposed to hit me?” and – she did! Right in the arm! Ouch!

Just a cautionary note to everyone – I’d minimize rhetorical-question-asking around Susan. (I’m not blaming her – I DID ask for it…) And, it worked. I put down the pattern and we moved on to the next booth, which happened to be selling patterns and materials for making undergarments – something that Susan has been thinking about getting into for a while. She really liked the products, but eventually put everything down, collected a business card with a website, and we wandered along our way.

The last two aisles of the exhibit hall contain some of the fashion contest winners and the quilts. Talk about inspiration! I’m just a hobby seamstress, but I know Art when I see – and those quilts are Art!

Finally, around 5:45, we decided to head home. We started in on some

** foreshadowing alert **

premature self-congratulations for our shopping restraint. I had only purchased one spool of silk thread and one half-yard panel of cotton fabric for my Mom. Susan hadn’t purchased anything!

But, I think the realization that she hadn’t purchased ONE SINGLE THING was too much for her, and she decided to just nip back to the undergarment booth and pick up one pattern… and maybe some of that elastic in just the right width that isn’t easy to find anywhere else… and maybe…

Of course, as you may remember, the undergarment booth was right across from the quilted - jackets - made - out - of - sweatshirts booth (, so I decided to loiter in there while she was making her purchases… That same jacket had gone from murmuring my name to calling out desperately to me! And the proprietress mentioned that it was her very last kit in that particular color & print combination and there wouldn’t be any more because it was from her last year’s collection… I think you can guess what happened.

Here are pictures of the pattern and the fabric that came in the kit. (You supply your own sweatshirt.) I may ask Barbara and her husband Jerry to help me make it.

So, it was a wonderful, wonderful day and we left the way the Fates (or at least the Expo organizers) intended – with less money and more knowledge, inspiration and projects than when we had started... :)


Vicki said...

Sounds like you had an interesting day. And lots of food for thought!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you took some time out to have some fun!
How difficult it must have been to stand up in front of class and be "judged"! I would have hated it at the time, but would appreciate it later. I was recently told how horrible I looked in certain colors, and should pretty much only wear pastels since I am sooooo pale. I've never been one to go find out if I'm a "summer" or "autumn" or whatever, but I guess I should have! LOL! Could have saved money on some "wrong" clothes I have bought!
Just remember... you look great and we all love you no matter what!Love, Kathy

Gwen said...

Hey Kathy!
Actually, it wasn't like that at all - Cynthia had me laughing much of the time I was up there. She managed to be honest with people without being judgmental. It's as if she was able to separate the facts (your middle is thick) from the value assessment that many of us automatically apply to ourselves (you look horrible, you need to lose weight, no one could ever find you attractive, you're a failure, etc.) Now that I think about it, that's pretty powerful...
Thanks for the sweet words! :)
Love, Gwen

The Faerie♥Kat said...

Hi Gwen

Gosh, you've gotten so much done; where have I been! That jacket is so adorable, and the colors are nice and bright, too. Just the ticket! I'd love to see you try to push the envelope a little -- as you know, I have a tendency to bust right out of envelopes and have no shame! But I could definitely see you carrying a bit more flash and daring do in your day-to-day get up and go -- I tend to think that about everybody! I want everyone to sparkle and shine -- faerie wings for everyone!

Missing you always