My sewing holiday

Designer Joi's sewing holiday 2015.I've just had the BEST time!  I don't get to leave Cayman very often, so it was a double treat for me to go on vacation, and it was a sewing vacation too.  I went to Sioux City for the first ever Sewing Holiday organised by Joi Mahon of Designer Joi.

Joi got a bunch of the best Craftsy instructors together, along with other leading industry experts and teachers, all in one place at the same time and invited us along to join her and brush up on our sewing and quilting skills.  How could I resist.


To many Sioux City might not be the center of the universe, it's a ‘small'  place, but still has a much larger population than the Cayman Islands.  So put 200 keen sewers and quilters, the instructors and all the support and organisation staff in one place and it was pretty overwhelming for me.  I'm used to going all week and only seeing my husband so I felt pretty shy and sat quietly just letting it all sink in and listening to what everyone had to say, absorbing all of that knowledge and experience gathered into one place.

Day 1

The hotel was really nice, modern with a strange woodsy/hunting/wilderness feel about it, lots of dark furniture.  I couldn't work out where the talking was coming from in the rest room until I saw the mirror had a TV in it – I've never seen anything like this before.  We are SO behind the times here in Cayman.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first day started at 5pm with registration, and goodie bags.  I got a very nice pair of Kai scissors, some sewing and quilting magazines, a nice selection of Mettler threads, some pretty dress form cards, a couple of patterns, a small ruler, foldable seam ripper, tape measure, some sew-in sewing holiday tags, and a bunch of local snack goodies which I've already eaten.  And of course my sewing holiday t-shirt  🙂


Then we all got together for the first time to look around the vendor mall, check out all the swanky Babylock machines on display, browse through all of the example garments, and chat about sewing with our new friends.  Luckily the vendor mall was quite small, because I'd spent all my money just getting there!

Dress forms

There was a welcome from Joi, dinner, with entertainment from a fun acapella group.  An interesting guy from Mettler gave us a presentation about how thread is made, and talked us through all the different sorts and what they were best for, and then an early night ready for our classes tomorrow.


Day 2

My morning class was with Joi and she took us through the Fast Track Fitting system she teaches on Craftsy.  The morning session was Fitting the Upper Body.  It was our first class and we were all a bit quiet.  I hadn't been sure what to expect.  I've got the Fast Track Fitting class from Craftsy and had watched it although not really worked through it in much detail yet, so the extra information from Joi and the much more detailed explanation was really useful.

Fitting upper body

There was a lot of ‘boob talk', and we went through the fitting for the 4 quadrants of the body around the ‘apex'. She showed us examples on real volunteers from the group and it really helped to illustrate the different body types and what fitting adjustments can be carried out right on the pattern before we even start on a muslin, so that it's pretty ‘spot on' and doesn't need a lot of fine tuning.  Very useful.

In the afternoon, my hero!  Angela Wolf gave a class on pattern hacking and showed us examples of dresses, jackets and more all created from a simple shift dress block pattern.  Not only did she talk us through each of the designs and how they worked, how darts were manipulated etc, but she passed round the actual dresses and we could see the construction, peek inside at how they were finished etc.  This was a very inspirational class and I've got so many ideas and learned so much about how moving darts around can make so many different shapes and designs.

Pattern hack

What I like about this in particular, if you start with a block that fits you, then no matter what you do to manipulate and change that pattern, you aren't changing the size, so the resulting new design should fit too – unless of course there are very dramatic or radical style changes which might need some tweaking in a muslin to refine the fit.

I love Angela Wolf – she is beautiful, multi-talented (you can tell from the wide variety of Craftsy classes she teaches), very knowledgeable and such a great presenter too.

In the evening, there was a presentation from a physical therapist at the local hospital who gave us all tips and exercises to make sure we are all sitting at the machine correctly, to help us feel less achy and tired and keep us sewing longer.  That was a fun talk and we were all on our feet stretching and bending (and giggling).

The highlight of the evening was a presentation by Eleanor Burns, quilter extraordinaire and quilting legend.  She's now published I think I recall about 140 books and she is such a joy to listen to.  So much fun with a genuine love and interest in all that she does and sharing that with others.  I shared some of her favorite quilts and the stories behind them, and I started taking pictures of some of my favorites, but then realised I was taking pictures of nearly all of them!  I love the really bold styles and bright colors.  I should have had my glasses on though because some of them came out a little blurry.  Old age doesn't come alone….


Eleanor admitted how she likes to design and piece the tops of the quilts, but has no interest in actually quilting them!  She sends them all out to a long arm quilter – I felt immediately better.  I feel exactly the same and now I know even the best-known quilters don't always have to quilt it themselves.  Just do what you love and you'll always love it.

Day 3

A busy breakfast with all of us chatting and getting along like old friends now.  Sharing a love of needle crafts, whether quilting or other areas of sewing, means we always have something in common to talk about.

Back to fitting again this morning with Fast Track Fitting, the Lower Body with Joi again.  This class was far more interactive than the first one, we were all starting to come out of our shell, all asking questions, volunteering to be class examples.  There were several different body shapes used as examples, young and older, skinny and rounder and all with unique fitting issues.  It was really useful to see the fitting adjustments being made on a real person and how much a person almost exactly matched a pattern in some areas, or how another needed a whole host of adjustments.


The afternoon I was with Janet Pray learning her Islander techniques for sewing without pins and basting, using industry techniques.  We concentrated on zippers and waistbands, all without pins and basting.  Er, yes, that was a little challenging.  I admit, my regular zipper was just a little wavy and the waistband a little lumpy.  But I learned some new tips and tricks and with a little more practice, I'll do better next time.  The classrooms were all well set up with plenty of working space, nice shiny new machines to work on and all the supplies we needed.


I didn't get any pictures of Janet teaching because I was too absorbed in what I was sewing and learning!  I'll be honest too, I thought she was going to be a bit scary and a strict teacher, not sure why, but she's a sweetie too, very fun.

Then we did a lapped zipper on a curve, as if it were on the side seam of a skirt, and added a ‘low bulk' waistband suitable for use with thicker fabrics.  It was my first time doing either of these and the lapped zipper came out reasonably well for my first try.  The low bulk waistband was easy and I can certainly see myself using this in future too.


There were two highlights to the event for me.  The first one came this afternoon when Janet came to check out my work and said I was a good stitcher.  I beamed from ear to ear for the rest of the class.  Praise indeed from such a sewing superstar!

Then a bonus session before dinner.  A lovely lady (Rhonda Pierce) from Schmetz came and gave us a talk all about needles.  Fascinating to learn how they are made, and then about all the different types and when they should be used.  I learned there was even a needle that has two eyes – no, not a double needle that has two needles, but a single needle that has two eyes so you can double up on the thread in different colors – how cool is that!


Dinner that evening we had two presentations.  One on the history of fashion and how it had been influenced by Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths from Dr Sara Marcketti which the geek in me loved.

Then a really inspiring and honest presentation from Mary Fons about hers and her mothers love of quilting, their books and magazines, and having their own show on TV.  She told us all about her leaving Quilty and the closing of the magazine and showed us what she's been working on.  A new range of fabric designs with really small scale prints.  We saw examples of her World Piece range coming out at Quilt Market later this year.


Then highlight number two from the event for me. Mary had some fabric from her own stash to give away.  How should she decide?  “Who came the farthest to be here at Sewing Holiday?”  Woop woop, that's me, all the way from the Cayman Islands.  Here's my Mary Fons fabric – now what should I do with this special piece?  Frame it, stash it forever, or use it for a modern and improv quilt?  I feel I have to do this piece justice somehow.


Does anyone know the name of this fabric?  Maybe I should try to track down something in the same range to co-ordinate with it.

Day 4

This was an extra optional day for ‘Master Classes'.  It was a tough choice.  I almost picked the fashion draping class with Joi, but we had to bring or buy our own mannequin and I just couldn't bring my Penelope with me, so I went with the Shirt Making with Janet Pray.  I'm a slapdash sewer and the thought of making a balanced collar, or getting cuffs on straight and the same size, or lining up buttons on a placket – these tasks all seem impossible to me.


Strange as it seemed, my sewing clearly isn't quite as bad as I thought.  I did pretty well.  We made a boys shirt, which in some ways was more challenging than a man's shirt due to the smaller scale.  Time in the class was limited so we didn't get to finish everything, but I learned all about front button plackets, collars and collar stands, sleeve plackets and cuffs, and sewing a curved hemline.

shirtJust look at that lovely collar!  And that super-straight button placket etc, all done without pins.  Makes me very happy.

My shirt isn't finished, but I'm really pleased with what I did do.  It turned out much better than I thought, not perfect of course, I've never sewn anything like it before.  AND we did the whole thing using Janet's industrial sewing techniques which means NO PINS!

Will I go on to start making hubby some shirts?  Probably not, he's more of a t-shirt and shorts kinda guy and well, shirts seem to take a long time to sew.  Nah, I prefer to spend my limited sewing time on me.  Maybe one day…

So eventually it was time to leave, fly back to Cayman.  I had the most wonderful time, and hope I'll be able to attend another sewing event one day.  Maybe I could persuade her to bring the next one to Cayman?  Probably not, but it would help with my travel costs.

Maybe I'll see YOU there at the next one.  You'll recognise me right away, I'll be the shy one wrapped in a blanket.

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Donna G.
Donna G.

What a great report on what looks like a terrific event! Thanks for sharing it with us!

Betty McClure
Betty McClure

I enjoyed your review of your trip, Deby. You are so talented, and I admire all that you do. I look forward to your newsletter each week. Blessings to you from Massachusetts, USA.


I can’t wait to see the results from all you learned. Sounds like a very fun trip.

Paula West Griswold

Deby- I have been sewing for over 40 years, and have been following you for a while now! You absolutely inspire me! I look forward to your email every week! Thank you!


I’m so glad you posted all the details of the event. It was so great and unexpected to see you there. I sat next to you at Joi’s lower body class. Sounds like you had as much fun as I did. I hope to see you there next year.

Primrose Bohne

Lovely write up Deby. Wish I could have been there. Now you’ve got me interested in those classes, especially Fitting with Joi, as I am an odd shape! Ha, I’ve been through Sioux City, nice park near the waterfall. Hope you got a chance to see it, though I think I would have tried to get the most out of every minute at the Sewing Holiday.

carol swan
carol swan

Hey Deby, like Ilna I sit on the other side of the world and drool. It does indeed sound as though you had a wonderful time; and made some new friends I hope. I am completely fascinated by the ‘no pining/basting’ technique you learned, can you tell us anything further about it, or is it just manually holding two pieces of fabric together and hoping that they meet at the end of the seam? I admit to not liking to pin very much but would always use them on a cuff, or collar for instance.
Carol (UK)

Becky M
Becky M

It sounds like you had a wonderful time. Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.


O you lucky woman! I sit here on the other side of the world and drool….


Ah lucky you! I need and want to take a sewing retreat.


It looks like you had a great time & learned a lot. I’d love to attend a sewing camp sometime. I had to laugh when i saw your Day 1 pic, though – my eye caught the pic before I read the caption. I couldn’t figure out why you’d be taking a picture of a bathroom!


Your sewing vacation sounds great! Thank you for sharing it with us! I have a couple of Joi’s classes… I really need to take time and do them.


Deby ~ it sounds like you had a great time with wondering info too.
It took me a few searches but I finally located the fabric collection that print is part of. (I did a google search for pink fabric with doves) It appears to be from Anna Marie Horner named “Pretty Potent”. You can find it here in her shop online so hopefully this will help


You’re more than welcome Deby. Glad to help.