Fit Club, FitNice, Judy Kessinger, Sewing Lessons

ASG Sew Much Fun LA

Have you ever attended a sewing and shopping retreat?  If not . . . why the heck not?

I recently was part of a weeklong retreat put together by the American Sewing Guild.  Judy Kessinger aka “The Fit Doctor” and creator of the FitNice System partnered with ASG to host this one of a kind retreat in Los Angeles.  If you’ve never thought about attending something like this . . . let me tell ya what you missed !

The hotel and sewing room were in the same building.  Ayres Hotel in Manhattan Beach, California hosted the event. The hotel is less than 5 miles from the LAX airport. The hotel has its own superb restaurant – but if you want to save money for fabric, there were plenty of eating choices within walking distance of the hotel. I don’t know about you, but this is a must for me; the hotel also offers a hot tub.  Nothing says “aaahhhh” like slipping into a bubbling spa after a long day of touring or sewing.

Our first day began with breakfast in the sewing room. We signed up for the first of many door prizes and met the other attendees, forming many new friendships and reacquainting ourselves with others. Have you noticed that women who sew are able to form an instant bond with other sewists? Judy Kessinger, creator of the FitNice System was our mentor for the week. She measured everyone, drew their own personal top and pants mini pattern, worked with us to perfect the fit, and turned us loose to create garments that not only fit us but flattered. Plus she allowed us to design outside of the box. Her easy design ideas and methods alone are worth the price of the retreat.

Later that morning, we boarded our charted limo bus (shout out to our fabulous driver Tiffany) for our first trip and headed to Orange, California to shop with Mary Lundstrom, owner of Fabric Land. Fabric Land has everything a garment sewer or quilter could ask for.

After shopping her selection of quality fabrics, we were invited to her classroom for a scrumptious lunch buffet. Judy then herded us back on the bus and we headed for the offices and warehouse of Clover Notions.

Steve Butler gave us the history of Clover, talked about how notions are born, introduced us to his blog: Tool School and walked us through the warehouse – ending the tour with a bulging goody bag of Clover Notions for all !

Day 2 began in our sewing room with Cindy Cummins and daughter Allyce explaining their new DIY Style cutting mat system. Check out their website: www.diystyleshop.com 

Next came Sandra Perez from the Fabric Shop in La Puente. She brought tables and tables of knits for our shopping pleasure. May I say some of us overindulged this once in a lifetime fabric find? 

After lunch we were wowed by Linda and her collection of buttons.  Her amazing collection was arranged for our perusal and all of it for sale! May I say some of overindulged . . . again.  She sat and talked with us about her love affair with buttons. She was fascinating to listen to. You may have seen her at previous ASG Conferences. 

Now it was time to set up the sewing machines (provided by Joe Fuller of OC Sewing Machines) and we were soon ready to put the pedal to the metal.

Day 3 found us at FIDM – Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. I’ve included a picture of the lobby, but I’m writing a separate blog on that tour.  Wow ! After FIDM, we continued uptown to Michael Levine’s Fabric for more shopping opportunities. Michael Levine’s has a “Loft” where you can dive in the boxes and find all kinds of fabric pieces.  Take what you want to the cutting counter for the length you need – they weight it – and you pay only $3.00 a pound. Now that was fun! Owner, Larry, provided a lunch buffet.

Across the street from the “Loft” we entered their main store that looked more like a regular, but huge, fabric store.  They even gave us free shipping if we purchased $75 or more.  May I say a lot of us took advantage of that offer?  Those that wanted could walk a 4 block area of the Fashion District and check out the little shops that specialized in trims, zipper, buttons, you name it.  By this time, we’re all ready to head back to the hotel to relax and sew.

Day 4  saw us boarding Tiffany’s limo bus and heading for Joe Vecchiarelli’s French European Dress form warehouse. Joe’s had an amazing career providing the dress forms and fit expertise for the TV show “Dancing with the Stars. Each star has their own dress form with which the designers use to create their costumes. You can be sure, he had a few interesting stories. He also had tables full of fabric for us.  This was turning out to be a real honest to goodness fabric acquisition trip! Joe even provided lunch in the form of a 4 foot pizza!

After fabric buying and dress form ordering, we headed back to the hotel to sew and await our next speaker, Pete Menefee. Pete is an amazing gentleman who spent 50 years creating costumes for TV specials, Holiday on Ice, skater Peggy Fleming, Las Vegas shows, etc.  Let me tell you, once again, I could have listened to his stories all night. He is a fascinating, interesting man.

Day 5 Tiffany took us to the LA location of Mood Fabrics.  Need I say more? Overwhelming selection of fabric, trims, notions. . . . and they have a West Coast version of Swatch the dog . . . only this one is a Chihuahua and he doesn’t like to share his cushy seat by the front door.

Later at the hotel, Brandy Bridgewater from LipSense came to show us her collection of non-smudging lip cosmetics. They work ! Sue Ann Obremski was also on hand to instruct us in the art of Kuhihimo (Japanese Bead Braiding). We all made bracelets. Fun fun fun !  The remainder of the day was spent at the sewing machines.  We’re making all kinds of progress here. 

Day 6 was our last day . . . Amanda Cartia from So Sew English Fabrics,  www.sosewenglishfabrics.com  brought us fabulous, high quality knits at really affordable prices.  She, too, was fascinating to listen to; and not just because she’s got an English accent.

All of our speakers had interesting stories to tell on how they got their start and the changes along the way that made them the people they are today.  We were able to sew until 4pm when the room needed to be turned into a private farewell dining room. It was going to be hard to say goodbye to our new friends. We’d had such a fun packed, shop till you drop week that I didn’t want it to end.

So I’m asking you, if you have never taken advantage of a sewing and shopping trip . . .why haven’t you?  Sure, it’s not exactly cheap, but it is well worth saving for.  While it was hard to say goodbye at the end of the week most of us had fabric packed boxes that were making their way to our sewing rooms back home.

It was going to be a Forrest Gump moment; opening the boxes would be: “It’s like a box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.”   Stay tuned for pictures of our new creations.

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