Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sewing School

(Sorry if my Flikr stream showed up in your reader today. I'm trying to figure out how to add social buttons. Obviously I failed. Michelle = Antisocial.)

Martha Pullen Company is known for all things heirloom sewing, but Martha's face is on everything from cookbooks to PBS. The company publishes Sew Beautiful magazine, the premier periodical dedicated to heirloom sewing. Every February and July the School of Art Fashion takes place in Huntsville, AL, and sewists come to learn new techniques and meet others interested in the art.

The School is four days of classes offered in a variety of subjects and techniques. Before the "official" School begins, there are Pre-Day classes -- abbreviated courses attendees can add to their roster. The Pre-Day classes were open this year (I'm told it's the first time) to those not attending the full four-day School. When registration opened, I gobbled up a spot in Lindsay's Ruby Ruffle Dress class.

This was my first sewing class. The classes aren't designed to teach people how to sew. It's more about gathering with others who share mutual passion and learning from the teacher and each other - new techniques, a different way of doing things, a different perspective, etc.

Honestly most of what I learned had nothing to do with actual sewing.

Sewing Bloggers are the Read Deal, No Matter How Many Followers They've Got
Lindsay's blog The Cottage Home is one of my favorites. If I had to describe her online persona, I'd use the words warm, inviting, creative, talented, genuine, ambitious, kind, generous, and smart.

If I had to describe Lindsay after spending the whole day with her, I'd use the exact same words.

I tried really hard to keep my effusiveness in check, and considering we ate lunch together I'm guessing I wasn't too creepy.

Really, if you love her blog, she is exactly as you imagine.

Don't Wear Cowboy Boots to Sewing School
There were two outfits in my overnight bag -- The Cute One and The Comfortable One. I opted for the cowboy boots and polka dotted tights - The Cute One.

It's hard to drive a sewing machine pedal while wearing cowboy boots. I spent most of the day sock-footed.

There's a Sewing Machine. And Then There's a SEWING Machine.
We used the Pfaff Creative Performance. To operate it, we touched a stylus to a screen. There were more button hole options than there are mountains in Appalachia.

Of course, I didn't get the hang of back-stitching until there were two seams left on the dress.

And I didn't find the manual wheel until I was sewing on the buttons (the final step). As nice as it was, my Singer suits my needs.

For now.

Martha Pullen Wears Sequins
Martha was close by while we were tracing and cutting our patterns. Everyone positively gushed when talking about her. Apparently she's every bit as sweet as her accent.

"She's wearing gold-sequinned Uggs," they said.

I should have tracked her down, seen the shoes for myself, and asked for a cheesy fan picture. But I chickened out.

If We Lived In/Near Huntsville, I'd Have to Sell a Child or Risk Going Broke
They trucked the entire Martha Pullen Store over to the convention center and then marked everything 30% off. No lie. Batiste, name-brand quilting cotton, trim, ready-to-smock outfits, patterns, lace -- all you can dream.

And Liberty. Let me show you what I bought.

Tilda. Not sure what it'll make.
Liberty. 1/2 yard of yummy. Not sure what this'll be either. 

Liberty. The coup d'etat. 1 yard. This will be a blouse worn with bright yellow Clovers
The leftover fabric from the kit. This will become a lined A-line dress (the Ruby Ruffle pattern view C).
If You Want to be the Most Popular Girl At the Sewing Party, Buy Liberty
And then carry it around and let everyone touch it.

Lindsay took us over to the store and showed us how she chooses fabric combinations. That was extremely valuable information. She also taught us her technique for hemming lined dresses. And she let us pick her brain about blogging, her book (coming out in October), and business stuff.

The biggest slap-to-the-forehead moment came when Darlene, the Pfaff representative who was in the room to help with the machines, was showing me how to sew on a button. When she finished, she pulled on the strand at the back of the fabric, and when a little loop formed, she pulled the thread from the front through to the back.

I almost passed out right there. Do you know how I've always done it?

I've threaded a needle with the thread remaining in the front and sewed through to the back. It's how I tied off every single thread on those train appliqued shirts. Using Darlene's technique, which is one of those common sense things, would have saved me untold time.

Do you want to see the finished dress? It's so precious.

I'll take pictures of her wearing it later this week. She needs ruffled bloomers to match.

I was thrilled with the class. And it was affordable: the cost was $110 for everything - the kit included the pattern, fabric, notions, and they supplied the machines, irons, tracing paper, etc. Plus I came home with enough fabric from the kit for two more dresses at least. (They include enough fabric for the biggest size.)

We may not have a Sewing Summit east of the Mississippi, but we've got The Cottage Mama. And Martha Pullen in gold sequined Uggs.


  1. I honestly cannot believe how adorable this dress is! The two fabrics you used are perfect together. I really enjoy your posts, and I would love it if you could share this at my link party tomorrow. Hope you can make it!


    1. Thanks, Angie! Lindsay picked the fabrics. She has an incredible talent for pairing fabric. I'll certainly join up tomorrow! Thanks for the invite!

  2. Thanks for giving us a sneak peek into the Martha Pullen glad you had a marvelous time! I would have had trouble leaving the fabric behind to go and sew!! Very witty post :).

  3. Hi Michelle,
    I'm a follower of your blog from London, love what you do! Just wondered if you knew what brand the fabric was above...the one with the little red birds on? It's so adorable.

    1. Thanks, Vicky!

      That bird fabric caught my eye in the March 2012 issue of Sew Beautiful. It was part of January's "kit of the month" last year from Martha Pullen. It's from the "Folklore" Collection from Tilda's Spring 2011 fabric line.

      I've found a few smaller pieces on Etsy, but it's difficult to find yardage online. And I didn't see it listed in the Martha Pullen store online.

      That makes me wish I'd bought more than a yard!

  4. Aren't group sewing events like this fun?! I am from AL and only recently learned about the Martha Pullen school. I live close enough now that I could attend if I could afford the fee and the time! Beautiful dress, and yes, Lindsay is as sweet as you might imagine. I really like your blog. You can thank RaeAnna for telling me about you!

    1. Thanks, Veronica! Other than pestering the ladies at my local fabric shop, I've never been in a group of sewists! Yes, it was blissful. I see from cruising through your blog that you attended Sewing Summit -- that would be spectacular. As for the full School of Art Fashion - it's out of my reach right now, too. BUT it's on my bucket list for sure. I'm your newest follower!

  5. Ok. This pretty much convinces me that I HAVE to go next year. Dreamy fabrics, machines, teachers... Can we make it a girls' date? I would love that so much.

  6. Thanks's just lovely fabric. I shall keep on the hunt...just in case!

  7. This is adorable. Visiting from Make it, Wear it.


  8. 1. I'm in LOVE with your little dress 2. That liberty fabric is great 3. Yes Lindsay is the nicest I got to meet her a few weeks ago at Alt 4. Sewing school sounds so so fun!

    1. Thanks, Melissa! I imagine ALT was incredible!

  9. This dress is the sweetest I've ever seen! I love the contrasting fabrics and the ruffles. Amazing!

    1. Thanks! Lindsay's design and fabric choice were definitely perfect!

  10. Adorable dress!!! I love the ruffles!

    Navy Wifey Peters @ Submarine Sunday Link Party

  11. Michelle! I just got home on Monday and am finally getting caught up on my blog reading. You want to talk about sweet.......let's put the focus back on you, girl :). It was such a pleasure having you in class and I was beyond flattered that you would come all that way. I already told my hubby that we have to head to your neck of the sounds wonderful! The dress turned out SO sweet and those little bloomers just tickle me to death. I'm so excited to be following your blog and can't wait to see what you create next!

    1. Thanks, Lindsay! I was SO inspired by the class. My confidence was boosted, and I learned so much. It was worth the trip. In fact, my buddy and I are planning to go again together next year! Hope you're there!

  12. I'm so jealous! I want to attend a SAGA conference or a workshop/school somewhere so badly. Perhaps one day we'll meet at one. I love the bird fabric you picked up. What a delightful excursion.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I'd love to send a response, so be sure to enable your email in your Blogger profile.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...