Hey y’all. Well, June was a whirlwind for me. There was a lot of travel, a lot of behind the scenes work, and a lot of sundresses. Whew!
Today I want to talk about what kicked off my June travels – a trip to St. Louis for Baby Lock’s Common Threads event. I’ve been wanting to share more about this event ever since I got back, but what with sundresses and leaving the day after my return to go to Cailfornia…but mostly, I really wanted to do the event justice. And I’m still worried that I may not. But here goes anyway. And it’s going to be wordy, and I am not going to apologize for that. But if you’re just here for the tutorials feel free to scroll through and just look at the photos for a hint of something I’m carrying that’s going to be the next tutorial I share.
Heading to the retreat I really didn’t know what to expect. I had met some of the Baby Lock ladies and gotten to hang out with them more at the SNAP conference, but all I knew about this retreat was that there were 38 of us going and we were going to get to hang out, sew and play with Baby Lock toys. So my first response to the invitation was, “YES!” and then in the back of my head, thinking about the other attendees (Nancy Zieman! Sandra Betzina!) I wondered if I was a) completely out of my league b) invited by mistake.
But remember my word of the year – delve? I know I haven’t reference it much, but this seemed like the perfect time to DELVE in deeply and get everything I could out of this opportunity, so I packed my one bag and was ready when Dana came to pick me up. We headed to the airport without the calamities that befell us when we carpooled to Alt Summit, and breezed through security to end up with an hour to kill before boarding. So like any good bloggers we pulled out our laptops and got to work.
Dana was flying a different airline, but I discovered from looking at the flight plan for my flight that Kate would be on the same flight after my stop in Dallas. So I saved her a seat and we got to talk from Dallas to St. Louis. Let me tell you – it is so nice to have a friend to go to these things with! I definitely felt more confident arriving with Kate.
Kate and I were also roomies at the event, so we checked in to our hotel, got amazing huge gift bags with gifts from every attendee (I sent some of my paper patterns for the others) and headed over to the first thing on our itinerary – introductions and a tour of Tacony. I couldn’t resist snapping a shot of this artwork in one room.
Tacony is the parent company of Baby Lock, and I had read a little bit about them in Nancy Zieman’s memoir, but after this introduction I am so impressed. They are family owned and part of their mission is to make their employees and customers feel like part of their family. As I said (and you can see it on video at the end of this post) one of my main takeaways from the weekend was really feeling like I was welcomed into a family, and for that I am so grateful. I mean how many CEOs would you expect to host this kind of retreat, much less hang out with the attendees? But that’s exactly what happened – Mr. Ken Tacony, the current CEO, gave us the tour of the facility himself (the headquarters is operations; the machines are made in their factory in Japan) and then the next day hung out with us for dinner. That’s him below, with me and Patty Young, because we made him take a photo with us after he laughed at the selfie we had taken together.
But it’s not just that they were nice to the “online press” – Mr. Tacony answers his own phone. When you call Tacony for any customer service, they route you to a real person. So many of the employees have been there for a very long time – and to me, low employee turnover is a good sign with any company. And when they talked about their sewing machines – they could tell us about who in their factories designed them, how their factories also have long term employees. They just really, really impressed me with their corporate culture, and I think that culture shows in their product quality.
The attention to detail by the Baby Lock crew was awesome. It started with the gift bags (monogrammed bathrobes, y’all! How did they know I do most of my work in my pajamas?) and extended through the food and even the desserts. We got to make a cookie quilt. And I totally meant to give my two quilt block cookies to my kids, but in the chaos of more travel they have actually been buried in my studio for a month and I’m pretty sure even the dog isn’t going to want them when I dig them out. But boy were they pretty!
We also got to have fun playing on some of the Baby Lock machines. A sampling of stitches I played with (aren’t the hexies awesome?):
And then there were new friends that I somehow didn’t get enough pictures of, like Joi and Beth and Stephanie, all of whom you can see in the picture at the top of this post. And other new friends I spent time with but didn’t get pictures of (I am really terrible at remembering to take pictures) like Evy and Kelly.
On the second night we had open sew time, and Cindy and Gina from Riley Blake brought some of their new knits to play with. So I printed up a Shoreline Boatneck and whipped one up. The Simple Simon girls showed Cindy how to make a pencil skirt, and then Amber decided to do both the pencil skirt and a boatneck. Below – Gina, me in my boatneck, Amber in her skirt, and Cindy.
This is what open sew looked like toward the end – all of us and the Babylock crew sitting up late into the night and
sewing talking. Seriously – all those machines around us, but we were mostly having fun talking with each other.
And then of course there were the ladies that left me starstruck…Nancy Zieman, who is a total class act
And Sandra Betzina, who is a total hoot
I am so grateful that I got to go to this event, that I get to share it with you, that I’ve been welcomed into the Baby Lock family, which, after this event, is one I think everyone should join. I have to admit that leaving I actually got a little choked up, but I learned there’s no crying at Baby Lock.
If you want to see what some of these people sound like and see me geek out about Nancy, check out this video from the event. If for some reason the player below doesn’t work, you can also see it here.
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