Connie Crawford

What a lovely day, not only was the weather delightful, but I had the privilege of spending the day with members of various neighborhood groups of the North Jersey American Sewing Guild Chapter at their annual Spring Fling, which was held in a ballroom of a restaurant in Sussex County, NJ.  The speaker for the day was Connie Crawford, a mega sewing industry personality, who came from the fashion industry, taught Fashion Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, and is a licensed designer for Butterick, published numerous textbooks, has a whole line of patterns, and is a terrific enthusiastic speaker.

The room was filled (around 50 people) with participants eager to find out how to fit their bodies, the actual title of the seminar was “After the Perky Body is Gone: Fitting Solutions”.  Now, I will say (and please don’t send me hate mail) that due to some genetic roll of the dice, I’ve been blessed with no fit issues, I can basically unfold any commercial pattern and with little tweaking, get it to fit,  even after a mastectomy.  But I teach this sort of stuff, and my students are demographically over 50 and now have bodies that they don’t quite know what to do with.  And I am always interested in how someone teaches, or approaches these issues.

Connie actually has her own pattern line, as well as the designs that are selected by Butterick.  I am a bit embarrassed to say I wasn’t really familiar with them.  Largely her lectures are designed around her line of patterns, which have their own sizing, and from first glance, halleluia, they actually fit real bodies.  To give you an idea, I am actually her smallest size, and she goes up from there, another 11 sizes, to a 6x, which has a 76″ hip.  I was truly impressed by the way the patterns fit the couple of fuller figured women she pulled from the audience, right out of the package.  She did a bit of tweaking, no more than I would do with a Vogue size 12, and these women, who clearly hadn’t been able to fit into any commercial pattern on the market, probably hadn’t even tried, had well fitting slopers or master patterns to build on for all kinds of great styles.  I give Connie a lot of credit for tackling this very forgotten demographic.

Connie was funny, and entertaining, but I will say, I was a bit uncomfortable with the way she dismissed much of the home sewing market, what’s being taught in fashion schools, what’s being written in books, others teaching in the fashion and sewing industries, and the way those of us who weren’t trained in the fashion industry, sew.  I think she is too good at what she does to resort to dismissing everyone else, and maybe she is right, but still, there are ways to present materials that are new or innovative without making everyone else seem invalid.

If you are fortunate enough to attend one of her seminars, be prepared to spend!  I think her books are good additions to my library, I have a number of pattern making and drafting and draping books, but not hers, and I actually did pick up a few tricks.  But her books are actually college textbooks from Fairchild, and are priced accordingly.  I did a quick check on Amazon during the lunch break, and her class discount was a lot better than the best price on Amazon, which for one of the books soared upwards of $125 for used copies.  I did buy her books, Patternmaking Made Easy and The Art of Fashion Draping, and am excited to go back and remember what I learned, way too many years ago in my pattern drafting classes in college. She  also sold her patterns, and pattern drafting supplies, she has 5 sewing DVD’s, and for most of the seminar, people were lined up with their credit cards while her husband played shopkeeper in the back of the room.

For me, it was fun to be surrounded by people that do what I love so much, I met some great new friends, and reconnected with someone who has come in and out of my life many times over the years.  That’s always a treat!

On another note, Thursday and Friday I am taking a two day workshop with Barbara Herbster, a great weaver from the New England area. Barbara did a lot of terrific work for me for the Color Forecast Column I use to write for Handwoven Magazine.   She is coming down to our guild, to teach a workshop in Supplemental Warp, and it is always fun to get together with my guild buddies and play.  BUT!  I just realized I have to clear the loom, with the remainder of the warp from last October’s two day class with Bonnie Inouye.  So, I think I know what I’m doing tonight!