Saturday, June 28, 2008

Weekend Activities: Convergence 2008

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

It was a weekend for friends - old and new. My best friend from college, Kathy, flew down to Florida from Maryland and we attended Convergence 2008 - the convention for weavers and other fiber artists - that was held in Tampa.

Kathy and I generally are only able to spend a couple of hours together once a year - when we each return to Ohio to visit family for Christmas. We decided last year to try to find a way to get together during the year.

Kathy does beautiful needlework of all types and has recently started beading. I learned about Convergence 2008 from PatternReview and it was perfect for us! There were beading classes for her and sewing classes for me... And a vendor exhibit hall with plenty of shopping opportunities for both of us!!! ;)

First, some pictures of my shopping swag. ;)

I got fabric for assorted friends who like dragonflies and all things Asian, and stencils for a friend who loves Halloween:

(I may have felt a touch foolish after buying the Asian "pez dispenser" fabric in an Asian booth, when I discovered that it is Alexander Henry fabric!)

Finally, I got these small pouches for two friends who really love this kind of thing and the super soft, hand-dyed sock yarn for a friend who knits socks.

Next, my classes. Because this conference is not geared specifically towards sewers, I had the opportunity to take some classes that aren't offered at conferences like the Sewing and Quilt Expo each year. For example, I took a class on sketching for fashion and design, taught by Diane Ericson. I was really excited about this one, as I have always thought of drawing and sketching as a skill that I don't have.

I really enjoyed the class. Diane pointed out some obvious things that most people tend to overlook, such as the fact that we get good at the things that we do a lot! So if we want to be good at sketching...

She gave us some fun exercises to practice using our eyes and trusting our hands.

She explained how to use light and dark shading to give the illusion of depth (see my ruffle below).

And we spent much of our time with tracing paper, tracing designs and design elements on existing illustrations that we liked, and then trying to recreate those images superimposed over a line drawing of a female figure.

Basically, she encouraged us to keep a portfolio of images that we like, trace and sketch them, combine them, manipulate them, etc. She made it all very do-able for me. :)

As for my second class - I have read in so many sewing blogs about the importance of keeping inspirational journals - plus, I want to make a kind of scrap book for the wedding dress - that I took a class called "Journals for the Fiber Artist" by Mary Fisher.

This one turned out to not be what I was expecting. It was more about experimenting with scraps of fabric, bits of ribbons and beads, tissue paper, water colors, etc. to create interesting, creative, textured and abstract visuals. Mary showed samples of her work and she is an incredibly creative and powerful visual artist.

However, truth be told, I'm more of a coloring-within-the-lines kind of person, and I'm okay with that. I did manage to put this cover on the small book that came in our materials kit:

But you can see my mistakes right away - I used symmetrical shapes, colors that match, recognizable images... This garnered the dreaded comment from the teacher, "Oh, that's pretty." Instant death in her world... ;)

Seriously, most of the women in the class had a lot of fun, and I don't suppose that a little bit of loosening up would kill me, but I was much more drawn to... the looms! The woven fabrics are visually gorgeous, have incredible textures, and the kind of systematic, mathematical relationships that appeal to me.

There were many loom vendors in attendance and I spent probably more than 30 minutes learning about and weaving on a small Harrisville loom. This was their 22 inch model (that's the largest width of fabric that it can produce) with four harnesses. I fell in love. I learned how to do a standard weave (your weft thread goes over and under each successive warp thread - like those potholders we used to make when we were kids) and a twill weave. Pressing the treadles in the right sequence, passing the shuttle back and forth, watching your fabric emerge in front of your eyes... It was all so cool!

My fate is sealed. I don't know when - certainly not too soon! - but someday I will weave. :)

Okay, my last two classes - more traditional sewing classes - were with Cynthia Guffey. One was on seam treatments and the other was on drafting lining patterns for your garments.

I really enjoy Cynthia's classes. She is incredibly skilled, interesting and entertaining. She showed multiple exterior seam treatments, described lots of tips for modifying a garment pattern to produce a corresponding lining pattern, and demonstrated her hemming approach (3 hems!) to help support bulkier fabrics (such as hand wovens).

Of all of the things that I learned, perhaps the most interesting was this simple yet significant idea that I have somehow missed during my years (okay, just 5 of them, but still...) of sewing - apparently you are supposed to sew with the grain of the fabric.

In other words, every time I pin in a zipper and carefully line up the edges along the top of the fabric, and then sew down one edge of the zipper, pivot at the bottom, and finish by sewing up the other edge, guess why the top edges of the fabric don't line up anymore? It's because on one of those two long rows of stitches (either the down pass or the up pass), I was sewing against the grain of the fabric and that side stretched!

And that's why one side of my collar lines up so nicely, but not the other. And ditto for hems. According to Cynthia, instead of stitching in long continuous seams, I should break up single continuous seams into sections and stitch them separately, changing direction as needed so that that I am always stitching with the grain. Her rule of thumb for stitching with the grain is "high to low and wide to narrow".

So, have you guys heard of this? Do you do it? What do you think?

In summary, it was a great three days and I'm exhausted and can't believe I have to get up early and go to work tomorrow! Yikes!


Claudine said...

That sounds like FUN!! I love the pez fabric. I did not even notice until I read the description what the print represents.

I always sew directionally, as Cynthia recommends. I'm a bit of a stickler, though. I've taken Cynthia Guffey's classes before, and they are wonderful. One day, I'll get to another expo and take more of her classes.

Summerset said...

Lucky you, what fun!

I lived in Tampa for quite a few years growing up. I'm going back to Tampa in a few weeks as my husband has a business trip there and I'm going along, and the following week we'll be in Naples for vacation without the kids.

Audrey said...

The conference sounds very interesting. I would love to take a class with Diane Ericson. I enjoy Cynthia Guffey too though there are one or two items on which I don't agree with her. She goes overboard with her directional sewing, especially around neck and armholes. But it is always good to be exposed to different opinions/techniques and try them for yourself.

Claire said...

Thanks to Cynthia Guffy I can honestly say that, yes, I sew with the grain.

What a fun time you must have had. Moreso, to spend time with your best friend from college. It doesn't get better than that.