Lori Van Maanen – Girls in the Garden

Lori with Girls - and boys - in the Garden.

Lori with Girls – and boys – in the Garden.

(Originally posted September 6, 2015)


In the summer of 2006, Lori  Van Maanen stumbled upon a few sewing and decorating blogs, which led to many hours at the computer.   She was hooked on the format, and she thought blogging would be a great way to keep track of her sewing projects.  She could look back on her posts and use the information to improve her next garment.

Lori lives and works on her Missouri family farm, and is very involved in the family’s agricultural business.  She works full time at their livestock market — so time to sew can be an issue.  And she had to think long and hard about making the commitment to writing her own blog.

She knew her area of blogging would be mainly sewing, but didn’t want to limit herself by putting sewing in the title.  One day, while weeding her flower garden with her daughters, she looked at them and the name of her blog came to her:  Girls In the Garden.  As the mother to four girls, it was perfect — close to her heart.

Although Lori does all kinds of sewing  — her passion has always been fashion sewing.  With so many girls in the house, there is always an occasion or event requiring a new outfit.  Lori is inspired by fashion magazines, fashion blogs and Pinterest.  Once she gets an idea for a garment, she likes to search Pinterest for variations and details to make it her own.

aMood_Sewing_Network_LogoLori is fortunate to have a dedicated sewing space — but it’s in an unfinished basement, tucked under the plumbing pipes and behind the furnace.  She doesn’t really have a “stash” of fabric (maybe 10 yards on hand at any one time).  When she is inspired to make a garment,  she goes online to buy the fabric.  The Mood Fabrics website is her favorite place for fashion fabric — so it was a huge honor to be invited to become a part of the Mood Sewing Network in January, 2013.

When asked about her favorite sewing inspiration, Lori said,  “When the twins were babies, I took a smocking class.  My favorite magazine was Australian Smocking and Embroidery and each month I would find at least one dress to make.  One issue had these smocked black corduroy coats with leopard faux fur — and I was hooked on those coats.  It is a wonder I didn’t wear out my magazine just looking at them.  AS&E offered kits with everything but the pattern, so I checked the kit price and the exchange rate.  With four young girls, money was tight and it  took me a week of debating if I should buy not one but two kits.  In the end, I did order the coats and never regretted the purchase.  I made the coats a bit bigger and since the shape was flared, the girls were able to get three winters’ wear.

Leopard Trench Coat

Leopard Trench Coat

The most recent thing I was inspired to sew was my leopard trench coat.  I saw several leopard trench coats on Pinterest.  I found the perfect fabric at Mood and had the perfect Vogue pattern.  I have worn this coat many times, it just goes with everything and it is one of those ‘feel good’ garments.” 

Your best sewing advice?

Whenever I am having a problem, the first thing I do is rethread my sewing machine and change the needle.  That solves the problem 90% of the time.  And don’t forget to change the needles in your serger, too!  My go-to sewing book is Sandra Betzina’s  Fabric Savvy.  It is an excellent reference book and I often refer to it.  I only use SCHMETZ needles, and I ALWAYS have a good supply on hand.”

What does sewing bring to your life?   

I cannot draw or paint but I can take a piece of fabric and turn it into a garment.  Sewing is my creative outlet and it gives me such fulfillment and joy with each garment I make.  Sewing has also brought many friendships with women both near and far.”

Lori’s blog:  www.girlsinthegarden.blogspot.com/

Mood Sewing Network:  www.moodsewingnetwork.com

Janet Pray – A Passion for Fashion

(Originally posted August 23, 2015)

Janet Pray

Janet Pray

American Sewing Expo is the largest independent sewing expo in the United States.  Janet Pray, President of ASE, says, “We work all year to have the most exciting sewing show possible.  No matter what your sewing interest is — fiber arts, fashion sewing, quilting, needle arts, sewing for children, home dec, or crafting — ASE has the latest in products and education.”

ASE has an exciting vendor floor for shopping and make-and-takes and classrooms for seminars and hands-on sewing workshops.  Three stages on the show floor have ongoing free demonstrations and style shows.  But perhaps the most exciting, unique element to the American Sewing Expo are the CONTESTS.

Passion for Fashion 2013

Passion for Fashion 2013

Contests are the heart and soul of the American Sewing Expo.  No other consumer show in the country even comes close.  Janet Pray clearly wakes up in the middle of the night, dreaming of new contests for ASE.  For 2014, there were an unbelievable SIX different contests and/or sewing competitions.

  • Passion For Fashion:  This premier LIVE design challenge event takes place on the show floor during the show.  On Friday morning, contestants received the official “challenge” and were given their “Expo Dollars”.  They shopped the show floor — then designed and sewed their garments in a designated area.  On Saturday afternoon, they did model fittings, and the Passion For Fashion FINALE Runway show took place in front of a live audience that night.
  • Innovation Generation is a sewing competition for youthful sewists, age 8-18. The participants were divided into three different age groups — and the audience was delighted with the skills and creativity at the free Innovation Generation style show.
  • Fashion Design in Half Scale was an online sew-a-long led by ASE 2013 Teacher of the Year, Joi Mahon.  Participants purchased a kit, including a half-scale dress form.  The theme in 2014 was Fashion Icons Through the Ages.
  • Push the Envelope is the contest where EVERYBODY can participate. The theme in 2014 was Pocket Pizzazz — and entries can be anything sewn. Quilts, garments, accessories, home dec. You just need to include ONE POCKET.  The entries were displayed during the show and winners were selected after judging.

    Janet’s Inspiration for COSPLAY 2014

    Janet’s Inspiration for COSPLAY 2014

  • COSPLAY:  NEW in 2014.  The first 100 who arrived in costume on Sunday, September 28 received a gift.  At 3:00, there was a contest on the Fashion Stage.  The costumes can be any type: Anime, historical, TV, movie, comic book, video game character, etc. — they must be handmade,not purchased.
  • Dream Sewing Room:  Always the exciting conclusion to the American Sewing Expo weekend — attendees have the chance to win a dream sewing room. A sewing machine, serger, table, patterns, fabric, scissors — it truly is a DREAM sewing room.

When it comes to providing sewing inspiration — nobody is doing a better job than the American Sewing Expo.  Grab your best friend, or plan a mother/daughter sewing weekend to attend this cornucopia of sewing events.  The 2015 show is September 25-27, at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, Michigan.

Janet says, “Be sure to check out the page on CONTESTS — because we have something for everybody.  And if you are part of a sewing club or a guild — be sure to contact us to find out about the special perks we have for buses or groups!”