Katrina Walker

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #52, April 2018. Written by Rita Farro.)

Katrina WalkerKatrina Walker has earned a reputation in the sewing industry as an exceptional teacher with a keen eye for design. She travels all over the country, teaching classes at consumer sewing shows and events. She especially loves teaching online and has classes with Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craft Daily, and Craftsy. She says, “Coming from an isolated rural upbringing, it is especially meaningful to me to share the love of sewing in homes where they might not otherwise have access to sewing education. It’s amazing to have students all over the world.”

So, how does a little girl who grew up on a remote wheat farm, loving clothes, and horses in equal measure — decide to become an investment banker? And after all that — how is it that she finds bliss making her living as a respected sewing professional?

What is Katrina sewing next?

What is Katrina sewing next?

Katrina says, “Nobody could be more surprised than me . . . “Sewing is part of my heritage; I guess you could say that sewing is in my blood. When I was young, I spent a lot of time watching my mother layout fabric and put garments together. She wasn’t interested in formally teaching me but she certainly provided an excellent example. I grew up on our family wheat farm in eastern Washington State, where roads drifted shut during the winter. I never thought of sewing as a special activity; it was something you did to pass the time enjoyably during the long, dark, winters.”

Katrina calls herself a clotheshorse. As a child, she often got in trouble for running out to the corral to hug her pony, wearing her best dress (but always in cowboy boots!) There is a picture of Katrina, age two, wearing her first “little black dress.” Her Mom bought it at Macy’s during a trip to New York, and she found black patent shoes with trim that matched the dress. Katrina insisted to the photographer that those shoes must show in the portrait.

In the ’80s, stirrup pants and knit tunics were all the rage, so Katrina used her mother’s new serger to whip up all sorts of trendy, stretchy clothes. She also had to sew skirts and blouses for various choir commitments, so she got a well-rounded introduction to garment sewing and fitting.

Katrina was probably the only student at Wellesley College who brought a sewing machine on campus — but it was after graduation when her machine got a real work-out, and her sewing skills were raised to a new level.

Katrina made this silk dupioni zonal waist (vest), tucked linen blouse and silk dupioni hoop skirt from Godey’s Lady Book.

Katrina made this silk dupioni zonal waist (vest), tucked linen blouse, and silk dupioni hoop skirt from Godey’s Lady Book.

After she moved to Washington D.C. to start a career in investment banking, she needed a high-end work wardrobe. But, even if she could afford to buy one, at 5’10”, it wasn’t easy to find clothes that fit. G Street Fabrics was nearby, so she found herself spending every weekend at her sewing machine, creating suits, blouses, and cocktail dresses. This was the beginning of her love affair with beautiful silk and wool fabrics.

Katrina never ever would have guessed she’d end up in the sewing industry, but the one thing she knew for sure was that she had no interest in being an investment banker. In 1997, she moved back to Washington State and found a job managing the Jefferson County 4-H program. 4-H has always played a big role in Katrina’s life. She grew up in 4-H raising hogs and competing with horses. As an adult, she was the superintendent or assistant superintendent of the state livestock judging contest for nearly 20 years. She also served on the State 4-H Fair Board and as superintendent for the State 4-H Fashion Revue.

In 1998, she attended her first Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington. She learned about the Clothing and Textile Advisor program (CTA). She applied for training and graduated that year.

Her career path led from the 4-H program to teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, and then on to Nordstrom Product Group where she assisted in Technical Design and then worked as Raw Material Liaison. Throughout this time, she continued to volunteer as a CTA, little realizing how this involvement would change her life.

In 2003, Katrina entered the Make It with Wool competition. Much to her surprise — she won the state adult division. Then, she received a phone call telling her she had won the national adult competition.

Another unexpected phone call nudged her toward a future in the sewing industry. She received a call from Joanne Ross, the director of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. Joanne knew Katrina as a CTA volunteer. “Katrina”, she said, “I need a model [for the style shows].”

The freestyle shows were always one of the highlights of Sew Expo, and Katrina knew they hired professional models to walk those shows. Katrina was flabbergasted by Joanne’s phone call and responded that she did not have the necessary measurements for runway modeling.

Joanne said, “You’ll be fine.” Then, she told Katrina where and when she needed to arrive for fittings. It was clear that Joanne was not going to take no for an answer. Remembering that phone call, Joanne says, “I first met Katrina when she became a CTA volunteer. In 2004 we were short one model for our upstairs style shows. I knew Katrina was perfect for the position. She was tall and not only had the figure of a model, she had the swagger and personality. I was thrilled when she agreed to model because she added a whole new dimension to our fashion shows, and the sewing designers and celebrities loved working with her. She was as good as any professional model we ever hired.”

Because she was an exceptional seamstress with an excellent work ethic — she was soon also teaching classes for Sew Expo.

“I’ve watched Katrina blossom into an inspiring teacher, an author, and a textile artist. She is well known for her expertise and has written articles for many sewing publications. Most of all, Katrina is extremely creative and others are excited to learn from her.”

Katrina Walker's online classes: Threads/Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craftsy.

Katrina’s online classes: Threads/Taunton Workshops, BurdaStyle Academy, Craftsy.

Katrina’s quite unexpected and improbable entry into modeling at Sew Expo would be her catalyst into the sewing industry. She modeled garments for the biggest names in the sewing world — McCall’s and Simplicity, Pati Palmer, Martha Pullen, Linda Lee, Eileen Roche, and Dana Bontrager, among many others. That first year, Katrina was also asked to make appearances in her winning Make It With Wool ensemble. The sewing professionals saw that she was a sewing enthusiast, as well as a model. Those first runway shows began professional relationships and mentorships that have lasted to this day.

As a result of those relationships, Katrina became a sewing educator for Quality Sewing and Vacuum, and was invited to attend conferences to represent “young sewing professionals.” Other opportunities followed, and she was asked to design projects and write articles for magazines, i.e., CraftStylish, Stitch, Sew News, Threads, and Creative Machine Embroidery.

In 2011, Katrina and her husband, Scott, moved to a small ranch near Spokane, Washington. A guest house on the property became her beautiful new sewing studio. They have a flock of natural colored sheep that are watched over by a team of loving and dedicated Livestock Guardian Dogs. Barn cats, a couple of horses, and a small flock of chickens round out their menagerie. They recently launched their online yarn store, Spoiled Sheep Yarn. You can see photos of their adorable flock and purchase yarn from individual sheep. People are amazed that the colors aren’t dyed. www.spoiledsheep.com

Katrina says, “I’m definitely inspired by textiles. Textiles are truly my great love; this is why I mostly work with silks and wools. Being ‘animal’ fibers, they really seem to have their own life energy. I prefer designs that emphasize and highlight the beauty of the fabric, rather than the design itself. Life is too short and precious to sew boring fabric.”

A glimpse into Katrina Walker’s country studio.

A glimpse into Katrina’s country studio.

Her beautiful country studio is clearly Katrina’s happy place — sewing on her beloved Pfaff sewing machines, now as a Pfaff Brand Ambassador. She continues to design and write for magazines and has been published over 40 times.

One of Katrina’s favorite quotes hangs in her studio: “Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” – Edna Woolman Chase (former Vogue editor).

Katrina believes everyone should find their own “style” and not worry about fashion. That’s not to say that fashion should be ignored. Rather, that it’s best to pick and choose which trends work for you, and ignore the rest.

Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Part 3 – Ticket Office and Main Stage Daily Free Style Shows

2015 Sewing & Stitchery Expo Ticket Office Volunteers.

2015 Sewing & Stitchery Expo Ticket Office Volunteers.

Ticket Office:

In early January, the Clothing & Textile Advisors (CTA’s) set up the Sew Expo Ticket Office to process orders (on-line and snail mail). No other consumer sewing show attempts to “ticket” each and every seminar. Everybody who works in the ticket office is a CTA. Teams of volunteers from Pierce and Snohomish counties help pull tickets and get the orders sent out. The team processes over 9,000 admission tickets, 1,500+ special event tickets and 40,000 seminar tickets each year.

Sew Expo attendees go on-line to register, their transaction is processed, their tickets are pulled, and they receive a snail mail envelope with printed tickets to each and every class or event enrolled.

Although many CTA’s volunteer their time to work in the ticket office, (Katy and Julie have been there from the start) the four mainstays are:

  • Katy Patjens: Chair of Customer Service: Takes the lead on helping people with orders and troubleshooting.
  • Julie Kennedy: Chair of Ticket Pulling: Each order’s tickets are pulled and prepared.
  • Barbara Bitetto: Chair of Registrations: Starts the process by printing registrations.
  • Jean Snedden: Chair of Checking Station: This team checks each order before they are mailed.

The week before Expo, the team physically moves the ticket office to the Fairgrounds so attendees can purchase tickets at the show.

Sandy Miller, Louise Cutting, Mary Collen.

Sandy Miller, Louise Cutting, Mary Collen.

Daily Free Style Shows on the Main Stage:

Clothing & Textile Advisor (CTA) Mary Collen has been the Style Show Manager since 1991. She began as a volunteer “dresser.” She asked to be behind the scenes because she was too shy to be a hostess.

CTA Pat Watson is the Co-chair, and this dynamic duo starts to work on the Style Shows in November, when four professional models are hired.

They coordinate the model measurements and information with designers. Some designers make garments to fit models; others send garments already in their sample line. McCalls, Vogue, and Butterick often send garments that were photographed in their pattern catalogue.

Set-up day they schedule each designer for one hour to fit the models and finalize their lineup. A dresser is assigned to each model to help them in and out of the garments quickly. Mary says, “We don’t see the garments until the model fittings on set up day. Often, things don’t go as planned.”

On this day, Shirley Riley spends at least eight (8) hours on a computer entering all of the garments on a spread sheet with who wears what, in what order and what accessories will be worn. These get posted at each model station and at the stage entrance.

Mary is the final checker before the model walks out on the stage. She makes sure they are up on time, in the right order and are wearing the correct outfit. She also keeps the show timed so all of the garments out on stage show without exceeding the allotted 45 minutes. She tries to keep in sight of the commentator to cue them if they need to speed up or slow down.

Remarkably, Sew Expo usually does six different shows every day for three days. With an average of 40 garments per show, that’s 240 different garments in a day. Each Style show is 45 minutes, with a 15 minute break between shows. Models only have a 4 minute turnaround all day long. It is a grueling schedule, but extreme organization makes it look effortless to the audience.


We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a peek behind the scenes of the the largest consumer sewing show in the United States. Everyone involved with Sewing & Stitchery Expo looks forward to seeing you March 1-4, 2018 in Puyallup, WA. For more information, please visit www.sewexpo.com.

Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Part 2 – Meet the Leadership and Clothing & Textile Advisors

Sew Expo Leadership: Janet McLoughlin, Joanne Ross, Ann Sagawa

Leadership: Janet McLoughlin, Joanne Ross, Ann Sagawa


Janet McLoughlin: As a Conference Manager for the Washington State Conference Center, Janet works on Sew Expo year round, but she also manages other conferences for the University. As the Show Manager, her role revolves around the logistics. This is everything from securing the dates with the fairgrounds, signing contracts, ordering wheelchairs and overseeing the printing of the brochure and at door newspaper.

She works with exhibitors, putting together the vendor location puzzle. She oversees move-in and move-out of the booths, decorator set-up of the show floor and making sure everything goes smoothly.

Come December and January, Janet is attached to her computer. Between getting the brochure to the printer and then working to get everything uploaded to the website, ordering the actual tickets and then … making sure the on-line registration system is working! (Many hours are spent trying to “break” the software so that no one runs into trouble when ordering tickets.)

Ann Sagawa: As the Education Manager, Ann is technically the only full-time paid employee of the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. Her job is all about the classes, workshops and seminars. She also coordinates the CTA program and their involvement in the Sew Expo. At the planning meeting, Ann brings the numbers from the previous year, and they review the feedback from attendees. They discuss who’s coming back, who’s taking a break, and what new products or teachers should be invited to the next show. Ann sends out the correspondence with teachers, accepts their applications for classes or events, and presents this information so the final choices are made. She edits every class description, helps put together the show brochure, and uploads the information to the website. Sew Expo also does two special evening events during the show. 2017 Friday Night LIVE featured Martha Pullen. And the Saturday Quilter’s Night Out featured Kym Goldup-Graham and Ann Duncan all the way from Australia.

Sew Expo Clothing & Textile Advisors

Clothing & Textile Advisors (CTA) Volunteers

Clothing & Textile Advisors:

The Clothing and Textile Advisors (CTA) volunteer program was started in 1983 by Joanne Ross. It was a copy-cat of the infamous Master Gardener Program, a nationwide program also started in Pierce County Extension office. The idea was to provide volunteers with in-depth sewing and textile education in return for their volunteer time to teach others sewing and textile skills during the year. The program blossomed into a statewide program in about 12 counties. These volunteers give countless hours and many are well-known experts, even published.

CTA’s teach all year round including 4-H sewing, several summer sewing camps for children 8-14 years old living in low-income areas, adult sewing lessons at different community sites and sometimes they teach workshops to enhance their own skills. They now have approximately 250 members statewide.

Joanne says, “The CTA’s are the heart and soul of Sew Expo. They serve as hostesses during the show, and each seminar room has a CTA in charge for every seminar or workshop. But they do much more than that. During the week before Christmas, 30 CTA’s spend a morning getting the brochures sent out to stores and businesses and individuals not on the mailing list. This year more than 40,000 brochures will be mailed out and another30,000 will be hand delivered to local stores.”

Check out next week’s blog for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into how the CTA’s contribute to the Sewing & Stitchery Expo, consider two specific areas: the Ticket Office and the Free Stage.

Next week, Part 3:  Sew Expo Ticket Office and Daily Free Style Shows on the Main Stage



Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Part 1 – How It All Began

Sewing & Stitchery LogoThe Sewing & Stitchery Expo: How It All Began

The largest consumer sewing show in the United States happens every year in a little town outside of Seattle, Washington called Puyallup. Nearly 30,000 sewing enthusiasts come from all over the world to attend the show. They come because the Sewing and Stitchery Expo (Sew Expo) has more than 450 booths of carefully curated sewing merchandise — including fabric, sewing machines, patterns, books and notions. They come because they will have up close and personal access to the biggest stars in the sewing industry. Over the years, the headliners have included Martha Pullen, Nancy Zieman, Sandra Betzina, Eleanor Burns, Alex Anderson, Pati Palmer, Sue Hausmann and Mark Lipinski — just to name a few!!

No matter what your area of interest is — Sew Expo will have a class for you. With over 500 lectures and workshops to choose from, you can learn garment construction, quilt making, home dec or quick gifts. For over 30 years, the Sewing and Stitchery Expo has been gathering the best and the brightest in the industry for FOUR DAYS ONLY.

March 1-4, 2018, Sew Expo will celebrate it’s 34rd year. So — what’s the story? How did Sew Expo become the biggest and most exciting consumer sewing show in America?

Joanne Ross had a dream . . .

Joanne Ross had a dream . . .

Like anything of value, Sew Expo started as one woman’s dream. In 1984, Joanne Ross was a home economist working at Pierce County Extension. She attended a consumer sewing show in Portland, Oregon and thought the concept might work in Tacoma. She discussed it with Pati Palmer, Chair of the Portland show.

(Top) — Marta Alto, Nancy Seifert, Pati Palmer (Bottom) —The Tilton Sisters - Katherine, Marcy

(Top) — Marta Alto, Nancy Seifert, Pati Palmer
(Bottom) —The Tilton Sisters – Katherine, Marcy

As part of her job with Pierce County Extension, Joanne had already developed a program called the Clothing and Textile Advisors (CTA). To become a CTA, a volunteer attended classes to learn about textiles and sewing, with the emphasis on garment construction. The goal of the program was to send volunteers out into the community to share and teach sewing as a life skill. During the 1980’s, the CTA membership had grown to hundreds of women, with chapters in and around the Pacific Northwest. The CTA’s began asking Joanne to bring in big name sewing teachers so they could learn about the latest techniques, sewing notions and patterns. Joanne knew the CTA’s could become an important element in a consumer show. But it would require a lot of planning.

Joanne Ross developed a business model and presented the plans to the Washington State University (WSU) Conference Office. At that time, the Extension Office, and therefore, the CTA program, fell under the umbrella of WSU, so having WSU handle the management of this new consumer sewing show would be a good fit.

(Top) — Washington State Fairgrounds. (Bottom) — Friday Night Live.

(Top) — Washington State Fairgrounds.
(Bottom) — Friday Night Live.

That first show in 1984 was a complete leap of faith. No other university in the country had attempted anything of this scope. Like Ray Kinsella in Field of Dreams, Joanne Ross felt, “if we build it — they will come.”

The first Sewing and Stitchery Expo took place at the Tacoma Dome Convention Center. It was a two-day show with 56 exhibitors. Nobody knew what to expect — so they were blown away by 3,200 eager attendees. The second year attendance doubled. After only three years the show was too big for the Tacoma Dome. It was a hard decision to move the show to the Washington State Fairgrounds in Puyallup, Washington. Although the new location could accommodate hundreds of vendors and thousands more attendees, it would be a much larger financial risk.

Because of the growth of the show, it was expanded to three days, and by 1995, it was a four day show with over 30,000 attendees. The 2017 show (March 2-5) will have sewing and quilting enthusiasts from all over the world coming to celebrate Sew Expo’s 33rd year with 450 booths, over 500 classes and workshops, five daily free style shows, $50,000 worth of door prizes and two spectacular special evening events.

Joanne Ross says, “The Sewing and Stitchery Expo is the realization of a sewing dream — a place where the best experts in the industry come to share their expertise. Our attendees come to the show to meet the Sewing Stars they’ve seen on television, or to try the latest technology, attend lectures or hands-on workshops. For four days, they can shop to their heart’s content…and share their love of sewing and quilting with like-minded individuals.

Barbara Bitetto drawing lucky winners for daily door prizes.

Barbara Bitetto drawing lucky winners for daily door prizes.

The unexpected benefit of Sew Expo is that it has become THE PLACE to launch new product, try out new technology or introduce new techniques. Our vendors come to Sew Expo to sell their merchandise, of course, but they also set up meetings with the biggest players in the industry. The sewing machine companies sponsor our hands-on sewing studios, special events, and give away bags. They send their educators to Sew Expo, as well as their executives. They have meetings with new designers and the creative juices just seem to FLOW at Sew Expo. We’ll hear rumors of a new product or machine one year — and it will be a manufactured reality being launched at the next show. Many of our attendees also come to Sew Expo with a sewing related business idea. They come to the show because they want to network and find resource suppliers.”

Sewing and Stitchery Expo has been so successful because of its volunteers and staff. The Expo is managed by more than 150 volunteers and a staff of more than 25 persons. It is their dedication all year long that gives the Sewing and Stitchery Expo its national prominence within the sewing industry. It is their customer service ethic that provides a wonderful experience for all who attend.

Next week, Part 2:  Sewing & Stitchery Expo, Meet the Leadership and Clothing & Textile Advisors


Jan Potter & Bonne Swett – Inspired2Sew Duo

Jan Potter & Bonne Swett

Jan Potter & Bonne Swett



Jan and Bonne’s friendship only happened because they shared a love of sewing — and their story should be an inspiration to all of us.

Jan Potter says:  My dear mother was a great seamstress and taught my sister and me to sew, embroider, knit and crochet.  My degree is in Graphic Design.  Art-Create-Sew!  That’s my life and what I’ve always wanted to do!   We live on a remote mountain ranch in Oregon — my husband logs and develops property and I am a retired Graphic Designer.  

I’m driven to sew and garments are my passion!  Color is dominate in everything I sew – the bolder, wilder, more vivid, the better!  I love combining unusual colors and patterns and trying to make them work!!  You see that word “trying”?!!  Sometimes it doesn’t work, but I just cut it up and go a different direction!  Joy and fun in the journey is the most important part of creating and sewing for me!!



Bonne Swett says:  As a teenager, I was introduced to sewing when I was invited to join the local 4-H club, and I was hooked!!!   My husband and I own and operate an equipment rental business and my life is about keeping things in the proper order.  I have a business degree, and an accounting point of view.  I love to sew just about anything — it’s my “me time”.  I follow the rules, I believe in symmetry and pattern instructions. 

When my kids were still at home, finding space and time to sew was a challenge.  Nancy Zieman’s book 10-20-30 Minutes To Sew was what kept me from giving up. It was a true light bulb moment for me.  I often think of what I would have missed out on had I not read that book.

How did the unlikely partnership of the wild artist and the organized accountant become the Inspired2Sew duo?

They first met in the 1980’s when Jan designed a logo for Bonne’s family business.  Several years later, they both happened to attend the same sewing workshop.  Jan was already in her seat when Bonne appeared at the door.  The only chair in the room was next to Jan — and that’s the moment they discovered their mutual love of sewing.

They enjoyed each others’ company, and attended several sewing events in Oregon.  In 1994, they traveled to the Sewing & Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, Washington.

blogaa2014-02-28-09.49bloga2014-02-28-09.49At that first Sew Expo, Jan proposed a “challenge” — but Bonne was reluctant.   Jan had participated in several national sewing challenges and competitions, including the Hoffman Challenge, and she won the Ghee’s Handbag Challenge.  Jan convinced Bonne it would be fun — so they purchased the same fabric.  They had a whole year to make their  “challenge garment.”    The only rule was they could not see the other person’s creation until they went to Expo the following year.  They did not have the “reveal” until the day they left for Sew Expo — so it was a total surprise for both of them.

Bonne brings accounting to her sewing.  She learns the rules and reads the pattern instructions.  Her favorite color was black and she’s always enjoyed technical precision sewing techniques and owns every machine foot, sewing gismo or new gadget — anything that might improve her precision results.

Jan is the complete opposite.  She jumps into every project with wild abandon, rarely glancing at the instruction sheet, looking for ways to add fringe or odd combinations of color or texture.

blogblurbThen the magic happened!  They started sewing together and fed off each other!   Bonne cut loose and Jan’s sewing skills improved!  Jan says, “Bonne taught me that to get that perfection finished look or beautiful crisp embroidery, you must have a good sharp needle.  We only use SCHMETZ and we change them all the time!  This is truly one of the most important things to remember.  My favorite all-around is the 80 or 90 topstitch needle.  I use so many — I buy them by the case!”

By 2008, they were creating 3 – 4 Wearable Art challenges for every Expo.  Each challenge would start with a pattern, or a notion, maybe fabric or a new technique.  Most of their challenges ended up as vests or jackets.  One of their favorite teachers, Linda McGehee (of Ghee’s) — proposed they do a trunk show for Sew Expo.  That’s when they decided to call themselves the “Inspired2Sew” girls.

Their little trunk show became a popular full-blown fashion show on the Sew Expo Runway.  Even though both Bonne and Jan started off with the same inspiration — their end results were

For example, one year they selected a bright hologram print.  Jan went crazy with it — adding even more colors and texture — Angelina fibers and beads….  Her jacket was wild by any measure.  Bonne, on the other hand, walked out on the stage in a simple tailored jacket… and when Jan asked her where the hologram fabric was, Bonne opened her jacket to reveal a butterfly applique (made out of the challenge fabric) on the inside.

blog269921_STANDARD___20130218By 2011, their Inspired2Sew fashion show was a hot ticket at Sew Expo.  They made 9 garments for challenges — which was a whole year of designing and sewing!  They didn’t know it at the time — but Judy Raymond from Simplicity Company Pattern was in attendance.  Then the most amazing thing happened. They were asked to create a totebag  pattern for Simplicity!

Bonne and Jan love sewing and creating together.  But it’s not the finished projects that matter — or even the Simplicity pattern contract.  Their story really is about friendship — and neither one of them can imagine what the last 20 years would have been like WITHOUT their Inspired2Sew excitement.  Their sewing challenges have provided hours of fun and creativity.

As different as they are — the one thing Bonne and Jan both agree on completely is that hysterical laughter has added years to their lives . . . .