Hi! I'm Sarah Kolis, a custom couture wedding dress designer based in Michigan but serving the whole midwest. I love creating custom gowns and alterations for clients and I have a special love for vintage fashion. Thanks for stopping by!
I hear almost daily that sewing is a “lost art”. That statement is truly hard to believe when walking through the Washington State Fairground doors during the first week of March. It is flooded with bustling women making their way through countless rows of booths on the show floor, filled with the most beautiful fabrics, high-end machines, the most nifty sewing supplies, and unique techniques and artists you will never quite see together like this anywhere else.
Until this year’s Sewing and Stitchery Expo, I had never taught a class before, ever! A few months ago, I was asked to teach some classes at the annual Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Seattle, WA. At first I thought this would be quite a challenge starting something entirely new, but as the event drew nearer, my excitement only grew!
The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is a highly anticipated event for sewing enthusiasts from around the world. This year’s expo promised to be exciting as it celebrates the art of sewing with a diverse range of classes, exhibits, and vendors. Whether you are a seasoned sewing professional or just starting out, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo is a must-attend event for anyone who loves the art of sewing!! Me included!
One of the highlights of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo is the extensive range of classes and workshops that are available. These classes cater to all skill levels, from beginners to advanced sewers. The classes cover a wide range of topics, including sewing techniques, proper use of equipment, and even take-home projects! There are also hands-on workshops and demonstrations that allow attendees to learn new techniques and try out new tools and equipment. One of my absolute favorite items I purchased this year was a silly little ring thimble, it is an amazing little tool, and has made my handsewing greatly more comfortable! Something I would have never found elsewhere.
A Shopping Paradise
The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is also a PARADISE for shoppers. There were over 100 vendors offering a wide range of sewing products, including fabrics, patterns, and machines. This is a great opportunity to stock up on sewing supplies, or to discover new and unique products that you may not find elsewhere. I also bought a Cutapiller light table, Kai scissors (of course! I always buy when I see them!), a sewing machine attachment table, custom embroidered bag (being made as we speak!), vintage buttons, an iron cover, and lots of other smaller sewing notions. It’s the vintage fabrics that always draw my attention, and I came away with some beautiful pieces, I can’t wait to put them to use! These vintage florals just steal my heart! Feeling myself aging here, I want to say “they don’t make them like they used to”. But they really just don’t!
Some other booths I always love visiting is Lorrain Henry at Conselle, Joe Veccarelli and Alfredo at French European, Suzi at SewTites, Just Sew Vintage, and more! I may or may not have had to ship everything home in a big FedEx box, something I know all too well from previous shows!
While the event itself is amazing and enough to draw me in, I was SO excited to teach! I taught three classes while there: Hobby to Hire, Invisible Zippers, and Gown Fitting.
In my first class, Hobby to Hire, I had about 35-40 women in attendance per session who were there to learn how to turn their hobby for sewing into a real paid job. This was such a fun class as I was able to reflect and share my own journey of turning my passion for sewing into my dream job. Fun fact, did you know that I could operate a sewing machine before I could write my own name!? I had a lot of great feedback from the women after, some saying they felt very motivated and enlightened. My favorite comments were those of helping the women gain confidence and a greater sense of value in their sewing skills. How fabulous! Some days I still can’t believe I get to do this for a living! Some of my best advice for any seamstresses looking to turn their hobby into their job:
Photography by Victoria Lemos
Talk about a fun class! Invisible zippers are one of my favorite features, so it was so fun getting to share my insights with this class. I always say if I am an expert at ANYTHING, it is invisible zippers!! Most sewists fear this little innocent contraption, but I have mastered this skill through trial and error over the years, and excuse my bragging for a moment… I believe I have found the absolute BEST method for home sewers! I consider this skill a personal strong suit, and I attempted to share what I’ve learned with the students in my class. In my demonstration, I showed the class three different key ways of installation, different tips for different applications, and even sent them home with a little zipper sample to practice on their own! Next year, we might even upgrade to a hands-on class!
The final class I taught was all about gown fitting. In addition to designing custom gowns, I complete several dozens of bridal alterations throughout the year. So many brides would benefit from having their dress altered specifically to their body, after all, each of us has a unique body and it is extremely rare for a dress that is bought in store to be perfect for your body. I feel all my knowledge of alterations over the years has proven to me what works, and also what doesn’t work in terms of structuring and sewing your garment to fit you and your body absolutely perfectly. When learning how to properly fit a gown, it is crucial to structure the linings properly to achieve YOUR desired outcome!
What an incredible experience to not only attend the Sewing and Stitchery Expo, but to teach three classes at it! Wow! This has been one of my all-time favorite experiences in my sewing journey thus far! Most of all, I felt a sense of pride in teaching this group of women that have taught me all I know over the years attending these expos myself as a child and a student. Quick funny story: my parents were very strict on us kids growing up to not skip school ever. However, the sewing expo was always an exception as it was such a special day for me. Aunt Dian would take just her and I to the American Sewing Expo in Novi, and I will never forget her purchasing my first ever pair of Kai sewing scissors… that my little sisters ultimately cut candy with later on (think fruit roll-ups, nerd ropes, and such). Aunt Dian and I would take classes together and talk sewing all day long. It was always the best day of the year for me….or was it attending the local city quilting classes on my birthday? It’s a toss-up! What a wild childhood! Anyway, many fond memories attending these sewing expos!
I felt nothing better than when women would raise their hands during class wanting to know all the details and more. And…what was so awesome is we were all able to feely use our sewing language and lingo! Rare I can talk the nitty-gritty details and people know exactly what I am talking about! How awesome and refreshing!!! Call me crazy, but from a personal level, this experience might be on par with New York Fashion Week! Told ya- crazy I know! It was just that good!
I must take a moment to THANK these fabulous women especially that attended my classes, thank you for attending, participating, and I hope I helped you even the smallest amount to create an even more enjoyable sewing experience for you! Above all, I learned that women just want clothes that fit and fit perfectly, something I find across the board with my brides, my custom clients, and also these sewists. I can’t wait to keep providing this very specific need and desire to all the women I help, teach, and have the honor of crossing paths with in some of the most important days of their lives.
Special thank you to Ann Sagawa! It was a fabulous show! Great work!!
I can’t wait to hear all about your love story and the vision you have for your big day.
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Sarah Kolis is a couture gown designer based in Detroit who serves the whole Midwest area and beyond.