Original Sewing & Quilt Expo comes to Monroeville for second year

| Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, 9:18 p.m.

Piping, sashing and cross-hatching might not be regular everyday vocabulary, but for many people who will attend the Original Sewing & Quilt Expo, from Aug. 22 to 24 at the Monroeville Convention Center, there's no need for explanations.

The expo is returning to the Pittsburgh area for a second year, said Lynn Lunoe, director of marketing.

With a full schedule of demonstrations, fashion shows, hands-on projects and other activities, the expo will provide plenty for visitors, she said.

“Anyone who likes to create anything can find inspiration there,” said Lunoe, of Cleveland.

The first such expo was in 1995, and the Creative Crafts Group now has more than a dozen of the shows across the country, Lunoe said.

In Monroeville, the show will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23 and from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

Admission costs $8 online plus a $3 processing fee or $10 at the door.

About 100 sewing, embroidery and quilting classes — with a range appealing to everyone from veterans to beginners — will be offered over the three days. Classes cost $19 each, or package deals are available online at www.sewingexpo.com.

Some instructors, Lunoe said, are well-known in the sewing community, such as Gail Yellen, who is offering “Bound Buttonholes … Boundless Opportunities” from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Aug. 22 or Louise Cutting, who will share “Industry Insider Techniques: Sewing” from 9 to 10 a.m. Aug. 24.

Lunoe recommends advance registration, which ends Sunday, because some classes fill up.

A display gallery will feature the work of textile artists from around the country, Lunoe said.

More than 50 national and local vendors specializing in sewing, quilting, fabrics, accessories, sewing machines and more will be at the expo, Lunoe said.

Cindy Turnbow of Natrona Heights, owner of The Stencil Co., is a returning local vendor. Her home-based mail-order business offers a wide variety of stencil designs, preprinted whole cloth and notions, which are small tools used in sewing. She said her stencils can be used both for hand and machine quilting.

Turnbow said she is excited about the diverse and top-notch vendors and instructors coming to the area for the expo.

“There are definitely some fantastic vendors on for this year. I would encourage anyone who is a quilter to come to the show because you're not going to get this caliber of who (the expo) is bringing to Pittsburgh,” she said.

At the show, Turnbow will feature some of her company's stencils, which have a wide variety of uses. She said she has seen them used for glass etching, leather work, needlework and even to make designs on Italian tile. A few years back, her stencils were featured on “The Martha Stewart Show” for use in making embossed stationery, Turnbow said.

Even tattoo artists have ordered designs from her company.

“Some people have some of our stencils on their body,” said Turnbow, 56.

Turnbow got into the business after her father, longarm quilter Holice Turnbow, suggested it. Longarm quilting involves use of a large sewing machine.

Now in his 80s, her father grew up with quilting on his family farm as a child and returned to it when he got older. He is one of many male quilters, Turnbow said.

Lunoe said she is seeing a “real trend” with men quilters” lately.

“We have a lot of men quilters (attend) and a lot of men sewers,” she said.

Sharyn Meredith, owner of Creative Stitches Cafe in Monroeville, another returning vendor, also said she has male customers.

“Some of them that come in here are very manly men but who like to sew,” said Meredith, who opened her store two years ago.

She also has been seeing teenagers coming into her store to shop or take a classes. Because schools are offering fewer home-economics classes, Meredith said, she thinks younger people are looking for other places to learn how to sew.

And whether it's to save money or because of an interest of getting back to the basics, Meredith said, she also is seeing women in their late 20s or 30s who are interested in making their own purses, accessories or even draperies for their homes.

Lunoe agreed more young people are becoming interested in sewing.

“Upcycling and repurposing is very popular with the younger demographic,” Lunoe said. This might include finding items at a thrift store and redesigning or embellishing them, she said.

Like many of the other vendors there, Meredith will be offering a free make-it-and-take-it project for those stopping at her booth. Her project will be a Christmas decoration.

Because her store is located close to the convention center, Meredith, 60, also will offer sewing classes there after the expo hours. She said to stop by her booth for more information or visit her store's website at www.creativestitchescafe.com.

Lunoe said show visitors also can get tips at The Spot, a place for an up-close, how-to series of demonstrations with expo designers, sewers and other professionals. Because The Spot is in a smaller meeting room at the expo, Lunoe said, it's important to get to demos early to snag a seat. The expo website has a schedule.

In addition to free projects offered by vendors, participants can get a hands-on experience doing an instructor-led project for $10 at the expo's Make-It Center, Lunoe said. Expo visitors can sign up on site to make an infinity scarf or a zipper flower pin.

Lunoe said every attendee will receive a door-prize ticket. A sewing machine will be given away each day, as well as other prizes. Drawings will be held at 5:15 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23 and at 4:45 p.m. Aug. 24. Winners must be present.

Lunoe said she expects 1,000 attendees over the three days.

“People can try new things and see what's new,” she said

Meredith, of Elizabeth Township, said she's excited to have an event of this type so close to home.

“Up until last year, we always had to go elsewhere. I'm very excited it came to Pittsburgh,” she said.

Natalie Beneviat is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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