The Anatomy of a Win

My friends all know that I’m a competitive person. I LOVE contests. When I was younger, it was rough. I really, really, really wanted to win. But nobody wins all the contests, all the time. Though I ended many a contest in tears, it didn’t dull my love of competition. Thankfully. Because as an adult, I see contests as more than just a chance to win. It is an opportunity to complete something (nothing helps me finish like a deadline). I have a reason to stretch myself – try new skills. And I get to see what other like-minded creatives have come up with. I love getting to see other entries! I get inspired by what they came up with. And while I still get a little jealous when I see an awesome idea and think, “Man, I wish I had come up with that”, it is now combined with an appreciation for the craftsmanship behind it, and excitement by the inspiring idea.

three different dresses

So, when the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA – now AFCI {Association For Creative Industries}) announced their “Fashion Fusion Challenge” I KNEW I wanted to be a part of it. I’m much more of a quilter than a garment maker, but I’ve successfully made several garments. And considering that the show is filled with crafters, not all sewists and garment makers, I liked my chances. Plus – it would give me a chance to stretch myself.

 

Here are the basics of how the contest was going to run: There were two tracks – accessories and garments. People could sign up as individuals or in paired garment/accessory combos. We would all show up on Thursday at 11am. We’d have several hours to work in the workroom, using the supplies generously donated by sponsors. If we didn’t finish, we’d have access to sewing machines on the show floor on Saturday and Sunday. We had to turn in our completed designs Sunday afternoon for judging. Winners would walk the runway Sunday night.

supplies from sponsors

On the website were photos of the patterns that would be available for us to choose from, the fabrics we would have, and some of the notions and accessories. For a contest, they really gave us quite a bit of information up front. I loved it, and decided to use this information wisely!

 

Fairly quickly, I found a friend to team up with. We started sending design ideas back and forth. We came up with a feather theme. I’d convert the pattern for a top into a dress with a high front and low back. We’d add feather designs on the inside back for extra interest. I would bring Espadrille soles to make coordinating shoes which would lace all the way up the calves. I ordered the pattern online to play with it, and try my pattern adjustments at home – I knew from experience that the first time I make a garment isn’t nearly as successful as my third or fourth.

sharing the pattern

But then she had a family emergency, and couldn’t come. Luckily, Simone offered to step in for me. We re-planned. The pattern I had ordered came in and I sent her photos of my first attempt.

first attempt at design

It was not great. The dress was baggy where it should be fitted. It was uninteresting. And I wanted to take advantage of my quilting knowledge. So I tried again.

dress with quilted pieces

This one was more interesting, but the length made it look like a housedress. And while the log cabin piecing was perfect for quilting … it did nothing to enhance my figure. But, I had taken two passes at the pattern, knew what was working well and what was not, and more importantly, I was out of time.

 

On Thursday, I was late. My flight arrived on time, and I was able to get from the airport to the hotel. But my hotel room wasn’t ready for check-in. I had to rummage through my bags for the items I planned on taking with me, stow my carry-on items in my suitcase, and check them at the bell desk before running to the conference center. Late is not my favorite way to start!

 

Once we were both there, Simone and I wasted no time getting started. She was going to create a headband and purse. I was going to create the dress. And (time permitting) Espadrilles. We went through the items from the sponsors to see what we could use. WOW! So many fancy items that I didn’t even know existed!

Other than being late, I had a second hiccup. I had brought my own rotary cutter and ruler, but there was no cutting mat. My design hinged on cutting strips of fabric and piecing them back together. Not possible without a cutting mat!

Luckily, we were able to wrangle one from one of the booths on the show floor, and I started piecing my dress.

pressing and working

The workroom was loads of fun. Hanging out with the other gals sewing and crafting, chatting with my friend Simone, learning about the cool Brother machine and the Brother Scan-N-Cut. There was lots to keep me entertained while I stitched together strips of fabric.

sewing photo

Unfortunately, Simone and I weren’t able to take advantage of all the workroom time. We were both scheduled to speak at a roundtable on social media that overlapped with the last hour. Simone had nearly finished the clutch (there was adhesive drying on it), and I was at a good stopping place. We packed up what we had, and crossed our fingers.

In the hotel room, I did as much prep as possible. Pinning and marking don’t require a sewing machine. Simone was able to finish embellishing the clutch. She started on the headband.

Pinning on Bathroom Floor

On Saturday, I headed back to the sewing machine. Between working in booths and attending events on the show floor, I snuck in about an hour of sewing. I had forgotten to mark the neckline, so couldn’t progress any further. I also stitched the pieces for the Espadrilles. Saturday night I’d have to stitch the fabric to the soles, as well as mark the dress. And hope that I’d have enough time in the morning to stitch the neckline, sew the sides together, and hem the dress!

While hanging out in the hotel lobby with friends on Saturday night, I stitched up the shoes. I LOVED the way they turned out, and knew that they would be perfect to wear with the dress.

stitching shoes

Sunday I was exhausted. When I attend the show in January, I usually just go for Saturday and Sunday. Just two days. By this time I was on day FOUR. Four days of chatting, planning, partying, staying up way too late, and waking up WAY too early. But I was determined to finish!

oh so very tired

When I finally had the dress sewn together and ready to hem, I was so excited to try it on. Of course I took a bathroom selfie to send to Simone!

ready for hemming

After hemming, I tried on the whole outfit, with shoes and clutch. Just needed the headband from Simone, and we were ready for judging!

try on dress

The judging was incredibly nerve-wracking. Quite a few contestants didn’t make it to the final judging. In the “teams” category, my main competition was a teen who had made a skirt. It was the second garment she had ever sewn, and she had done quite a bit of hand-sewing in order to get her look finished on time. I barely knew her, but was incredibly proud of her for getting it all done.

The worst part of hoping that you will win is knowing that someone else will lose.

judging

When the final result was announced, I was so excited! WE WON!! But that meant being runway-ready that night. Luckily for me, it was as easy as messaging my friend Jessica. She had done my hair and makeup for more than one of these types of events, and knocked it out of the park each and every time.

Makeup session

With the perfect hair and makeup to go with my outfit, I felt fierce as I walked down the runway a winner! Here I am with the other contestants and their awesome looks. To the left of me is the individual garment winner from The New Craft House. To the right, the individual accessories winner. And on the end, the outfit that was my competition. No, we are not all glowing – the lighting in the bar just made us look that way!

fashion show winners

The whole event was such a fantastic experience. It was so fun to alter a garment, work in my quilting skills, partner up and collaborate with a friend, and (of course) come away a winner!

the three dresses

Usually a good win comes with a great prize – this contest was no exception. As the winning team, Simone and I were given a Brother sewing machine and a Brother Scan N Cut. We had them send the sewing machine to Simone, and I’ve been able to give the Scan N Cut a new home!

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