The Puyallup Report

comments (0) June 1st, 2008     

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AmberE AmberE, member
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March 16. Sewing and Stitchery Expo, Puyallup, Washington. Every year in early March, tens of thousands of sewers make the pilgrimage to the small town of Puyallup, Washington, located about 35 miles south of Seattle, with just one goal in mind—to visit one of the country’s largest weeklong sewing shows. Held on the massive Western Washington Fairgrounds in the shadow of Mount Ranier, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo ( —fondly dubbed “Puyallup” by insiders—is a seamster’s heaven, a cornucopia of fabrics, notions, patterns, machines, sewing stars, fashion shows, and classes.

At this show set inside two massive pavilions, with dozens of booths and classes, you could easily spend several days wandering in stitching ecstasy. And many do, chartering cross-country buses by the dozens and booking their rooms a year in advance. (Hot tip: If you can’t get a room in Puyallup, nearby economical Tacoma is a stone’s throw away, or you’ll find posher digs in the midst of Seattle’s indie fiber-arts scene—more on that later.)

Puyallup is the place for the upstart sewer to get a firm foothold on the coolest, the latest, and the greatest, whether you’re adding to your stash at super-cheap Vogue Fabrics; checking out Marcy Tilton’s funky T-shirt and handbag-makings finery (they beat Three Dots and Kooba by a long shot); oohing and ahhing over Linda Lee’s Asian-inspired Sewing Workshop patterns and Burmese silks (photo bottom left); getting free fleece scarves at the Simplicity booth (thank you Patty Reed, for your ceaseless fleece-cutting efforts); or learning industry insider techniques at Islander Sewing (the new zipper DVD is the bomb).

A few of my favorite finds include the pretty scissors on a chain at Carol Ahles’s booth, Kayla Kennington’s fantasy patterns and garments (including many Bernina fashion show winners), Fred Bloebaum’s La Fred Patterns, and Louise Cutting’s unbelievable textiles. And don’t even get me started on the expo’s endless supply of buttons and beads and ribbons and trims and on and on and on.

For us, the big news was the debut of Sew Stylish magazine, and while we brought along 1,000 copies to give away, it wasn’t nearly enough! You should have seen the feeding frenzy as sewers flocked to the Threads/Sew Stylish booth each morning (word had gotten around quickly that Sew Stylish giveaways started at 9:30). By 10 a.m., all the allotted Sew Stylish issues for the day were gone.

It seems an auspicious start, and readers assured us that they loved the new magazine and would all be getting subscriptions (we need 5,000 by this summer and we already have 1,000!). You can get your subscription, too, on the home page of Apparently, the inaugural Sew Stylish pattern #3837 also blew right off the racks over at the Simplicity booth (you can still get yours at

Seattle is for seamsters. Following the Puyallup show, I spent the day checking out the indie fiber-arts scene in gorgeous, laid-back Seattle. While not exactly fashionista central (fleece is the fabric of choice), the town has its own pretty-meets-practical brand of mountain-girl style and creative spirit. Rather than follow trends, this bookish, music-loving town follows the ever-changing weather and makes up its own layered, micro-climate look. In the spirit of this original style, every fiber-arts shop is a guaranteed distinctive statement and visual delight.

Seattle is a bonafide haven for knitters (Seattle Yarns and So Much Yarn—don’t miss their amazing buttons—are just a couple of the top delectable yarn shops), but the sewers are growing in number, too, especially in generation next. My favorite fabric-shop pick is the Pacific Fabrics Outlet, which gets the bargain leftovers from the area’s robust Pacific Fabrics chain. It’s located near downtown at 2230 4th Avenue South, and you can find every hue of wool felt and dupioni silks for under $10/yard (they even have dupioni quilter’s fat quarters—talk about lush!). Nancy’s Sewing Basket is worth a visit in gorgeous, hilly Queen Anne, with its jaw-dropping views.

But don’t stop there. Metro Seattle is a city of neighborhoods, and you’ll definitely want a car to explore beautiful bayside Magnolia, shopper’s mecca Capitol Hill, and fishing-village-vibe Ballard. In each you’re guaranteed to find some special sewing or knitting shop. Sew Stylish writer Michaela Murphy just relocated to Seattle, so you can be sure you’ll be hearing more about the sewing scene in this cool jewel of a town. Both Michaela and Seattle native Anne McGruder were my gregarious guides, so I was a lucky guest indeed to see all the city’s insider hot spots.

For digs, I stayed at the poshly cool downtown Alexis, just steps from the sensory overload of Pike’s Market, which is home to the very first Starbucks, but you should also check out the hot-property Ace Hotel, located in the heart of artsy Belltown (So Much Yarn knit shop is just across the street, and the new, hip Stitches sewing shop is just up the way).

If you missed Puyallup, the other big sewing show, the American Sewing Expo (called “Novi”) is held each September on the other side of the country in Novi, Michigan. Visit for more info and e-newsletter.

Sewing and Stitchery Expo,
Pacific Fabrics & Crafts,
Nancy’s Sewing Basket,
Stitches, 711 E. Pike St., Seattle, 206-709-0707
So Much Yarn,
Seattle Yarn Gallery,

Puyallup Chamber of Commerce, 253-845-6755 or
Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau, 800-272-2662,
Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau,
The Alexis,
Ace Hotel,

American Sewing Expo,
Sewing Workshop,
Marcy Tilton,
Vogue Fabrics,
Islander Sewing Systems,
Carol Ahles,
Kayla Kennington,,
Fred Bloebaum,
Louise Cutting,

Read more about the Seattle sewing scene:

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