Common Threads 2018 Recap

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50th Anniversary gown at the Tacony Achievement Center

For the past five years, Baby Lock has held its Common Threads event in June, bringing together bloggers, editors and industry insiders who share a love of sewing, quilting and/or embroidery. This year, I was lucky enough to be the Sew News/Creative Machine Embroidery representative to the event.

I had heard great things about Common Threads, and I was excited to experience it for myself. It began with a brief meet-and-greet leading into a few words from the wonderful people at Tacony and an introduction to the staff who would be making our next few days absolutely magical through their hard work.

Next we had the sewing version of speed dating — half of us on the inside of a ring of tables, half on the outside, and three minutes to converse with the person across from you before the bell rang and the circle rotated. It was surprisingly fun; sometimes you talked about yourself, sometimes you talked about them, sometimes you discovered that they were a quilter and you were a garment sewist and then you spend the next three minutes talking about your favorite Broadway musicals. I met a lot of interesting people who I was excited to get to know better over the next few days… but was my voice ever tired by the time we went all the way around the circle!

babylock ct Common Threads 2018 RecapAfter dinner we normally would have had an open sew, but instead we did some prep work for our first class the next day — drafting leggings to your own measurements. The drafting wasn’t complicated, per se (the quilters might not have agreed!), but it took some time and a little math, so we wanted to get it done so the next day could be about sewing and fitting. We did have a little open sew time at the end of the evening, but most of us were worn out and headed off to bed. A good thing, too, because the next day was packed!

(At this point I should probably mention that I was so overwhelmed the first day that I failed to take a single photo! I managed better the second day.)

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Bolts of Riley Blake knits for making leggings

We were all excited for the rest of our leggings class, so we got into it a little before the official start time of 9:00. Riley Blake fabrics had sent a whole stack of lovely knit prints for the purpose, and we each got to choose our favorites to cut our leggings out of. I chose a fun circle print on teal.

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My leggings fabric

I’ve made leggings before, so I wasn’t worried as I sewed my seams, but to my surprise, my made-to-measure leggings were way too big. Turns out that it’s a terrible mistake to take leg measurements while wearing wide-legged pants. I thought I had compensated, but I was very wrong. I retook my measurements later and most of the original set were too big by at least an inch! Luckily our amazing teachers, Zede and Mallory Donohue, worked with me to adjust them and I was able to salvage the leggings with a lot of trimming and some aggressive elastic at the waist. I’m going to redraft the pattern with the retaken measurements and try again. In the meantime, I got to sew on the Baby Lock Triumph, and let me tell you, it was hard to go back to my regular serger after that smooth-as-satin serging and coverlock experience.

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Incredibly efficient leggings cutting station

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Finished leggings hanging on display










After a tasty lunch we had an influencer panel with Pat Sloan, Christopher Thompson and Miranda Anderson. The theme for the session (and the overall event) was community, and all three had some really great insights on building and staying connected to a community online.

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My heart block. Not too shabby!

Then it was time for our charity project, which was also our quilting project. This is the one that made me nervous, because piecing isn’t my strong suit and I wasn’t sure I could keep up. Luckily I was sitting with Lori Baker and Jean Nolte, both quilting experts, and they kept me on the straight and narrow 1/4”. I even ended up with my directional print all going the same way, which was pretty much a miracle!

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My completed Smile Bag

We made Smile Bags for Operation Smile, which repairs cleft lips and cleft palettes for children in developing countries. The Smile Bags are packed with toys and other things to keep the children’s spirits up while they recover from the surgery. Ours were pieced around a heart block, which turned out to be pretty easy once I understood how it was going together. And I got my seams lined up just about perfectly! I should probably give credit to the Destiny II machine I was working on, but I think some of it was my skills as well. I also got to use the Triumph again to make a drawstring with an attachment that worked like a bias tape maker to fold under the edges of a strip and coverlock them in place. Very cool!

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Drawstring made on the Baby Lock Triumph

After we finished our bags they sent us back to the motel to rest up for our mystery event that night. We were asked to wear cocktail attire, and I must say we all looked pretty snazzy. I wore the silk dupioni LBD I made for the December/January issue of Sew News. It’s from a sundress pattern, so perfect for the hot weather we were having.

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The only picture I took that night (oops!), taken to prove to my husband that I was wearing my seatbelt on the bus.

There’s a group picture every year at Common Threads — I think it’s usually on the last day, but since we were all dressed up we took advantage of it. Afterwards, we got our surprise: We were going to appreciate some costume design at the Opera Theater of St. Louis as we watched a performance of La Traviata!

It was an amazing experience. The performers were great, the costumes were amazing and the company couldn’t be beat. It was an incredibly special opportunity, and I feel so lucky to have been able to have it.

Also, operas are long, so I was really glad I decided to do most of my packing during the downtime that afternoon!

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Embroidery selfie!

The last day was bittersweet. Nicci Brazzell taught us to create our own quilted in-the-hoop fabric bowls on the Destiny II. While I have access to that particular machine at work, I had never really used the IQ Designer, but Nicci made it seem easy and I’m planning to spend some time playing around and discovering if it really is that easy or if her expertise just made it seem easy!

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My snap-corner ITH embroidery-quilted fabric bowl

We were all sad to leave (there were a few tears as the event wound down), but Baby Lock has a few more surprises for us attendees — and for our followers — to draw it out a little more. Keep an eye out for more information on that!


I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this event, and I hope I’ll get to go back someday. Everyone at Tacony worked so hard to give us a great experience and to make sure that we learned, played, laughed, made new friends and left feeling like a part of a supportive, ever-growing community.

 Common Threads 2018 Recap
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