Edmonton International Cat Festival

Catfestthisway

Edmonton is known as the festival city, with an innumerable amount of attractions, events and gatherings happening at any given time of the year, but especially in the summer.

But among the street performers, theatre and arts events, I never expected to be attending a festival centered around the love of our feline friends!  Armed with my cat-themed ensemble and a sense of curiosity I ventured out to Edmonton’s first international Cat Fest.

fluffyblueeyes

The event was organized as a fund raiser for our local human society. It was a lively afternoon filled with cat video screenings, academic discussions about WHY cats are so trendy right now, and if it will just pass as just a fad, talks about cat personality types and even a photo-contest beauty pageant.

cattalks

Sprinkled with food trucks and cat-themed market vendors, the event was a really great atmosphere…especially since we got to actually visit some furry friends! Some from the Humane Society, others from local breeders and show societies, it was a perfect opportunity to sneak in some fuzz therapy.

bengal

I am looking forward to next year’s event and am excited to see how the event grows and evolves. Who knows, maybe in a few years it will grow to be that we’re known as the CAT festival city. A girl like me can dream.

Spcakitty1

Cat Crazy Belladone

Catcrazybelladone

I had been hoarding my Belladone pattern from Deer & Doe for some time, not quite sure what fabric I wanted to make it with. It had to be something special. Then into my life fell this cat print cotton twill found in California last month. I may have bought all of it.

AmazingcatprintI made a muslin to test the pattern, as I usually need to extend the bodice to fit at my natural waist, and I discovered that the flared skirt wasn’t quite for me. I took in the skirt for a straighter silhouette. It was very freeing to do with it as I pleased – this is one of the first dresses I’ve deviated from the original design. It has become so inspiring to me to look at everyone’s unique versions of the same pattern online to get ideas and see what is possible. The lightbulb moment was: anything is possible! I can make anything that I want and do it how I want it. Pencil skirts are more my jive, so why not make that part of the dress?

backbelladone

When I first got the pattern, I was a little intimidated by the back detail, worried that I wouldn’t be skilled enough to handle it. The instructions were clear and concise, and that back detail was the easiest part! I can tell you that this won’t be my last Belladone dress.

neckline

I did encounter one construction issue in the finishing process. The cotton twill has a bit of stretch, the curved neckline creates a bias and I forgot to do a stay stitch once I cut it out. Add all that up and you get one stretched out neckline. My bad. I solved this by making two small pleats to take in the excess. They balanced nicely with the bodice darts, so they didn’t look completely out of place. Next time though, I’ll reinforce that bias for a flat finish.

kittystockings

No crazy cat printed dress would be complete without the addition of my totally rad kitten stockings now wouldn’t it? Funny enough, the stockings caught people’s attention off the straightaway and it usually took them a minute to realize that the whole dress was covered in felines. Crazy cat lady hiding in plain sight.

I am so proud of this project, and although minor mistakes are always made, I feel like I am moving forward and EXCITED for the projects I have coming down the line next. I also have about 3m of this cat print left, and have received many a request for something made from it. I’ve caught the sewing bug, friends. This summer is going to be a good one.

Have a great week everyone!

California // Part 2: San Francisco and Santa Cruz

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When you hear the word ‘vacation’ you imagine a relaxing getaway with lazy days and a good book. This trip was anything but relaxing – in the best way possible. We saw, conquered, hiked, created, played and tried more new things in a span of 5 days than I probably had in the past month.

slackline

The day after the Maker Faire we immediately headed into San Francisco for some fun, hipster-inspired adventures. This was our second time into the city, so we knew we wanted to stay in the Mission, close to parks, shopping and friends. We found the cutest little Airbnb apartment. One tip though, look early for bookings. We waited maybe a little too late (3 weeks out) and although there are tons of options, most places were reserved by then.

tacolicious

When people ask about my favorite thing about the city, I have to say the FOOD! It is so amazing to me that most restaurants we saw as we wandered were small, independent and wildly original in some way. We had New York style pizza (ironic, I know. Tapping into the hipster spirit) at Arinell’s, European sausage at Rosamunde and taco samplers at Tacolicious. Most of the time, we just wandered the streets and went someplace that looked good from the window.  The experience of discovery has fueled me to venture and try to do the same here at home.

dandelion

Now, we couldn’t try all that and pass up dessert now could we? My favorite stop on Valencia was Dandelion chocolate. They made all their chocolate in the cafe and we watched and enjoyed the warm aroma of fresh chocolate. Heavenly. Even though it wasn’t terribly hot outside, I settled in on a frozen hot chocolate. Frankly, I am unsure if I will be able to enjoy one from Second Cup again.

imokay

We skipped all the touristy attractions this time ’round. So been there done that. We also lucked out by having a friend nearby to show us all the cool insider attractions that made the days action-packed. We learned how to slackline in Dolores Park (I took three steps by the end!), discovered hidden art galleries in the back of bookshops (and even stumbled upon a clown-show), went rock-climbing at Misson Cliffs, made mozzarella cheese from scratch, painted the night sky with lights (in the most ironic fashion, of course), dominated the course at Urban Putt, and put our roller disco groove on at Church of 8 Wheels. I can’t even say all of that in one breath and yet we did it all in 3 days.

disco

San Francisco had such an electric, unique, open minded energy that just makes you fall in love with it just a little bit.

We couldn’t stop there though, we had a strict schedule to keep! We departed SF after those few days and headed south to Santa Cruz. Another amazing thing about California…transit! We navigated our way around multiple cities without renting a car. Super plus plus.

bobacruz

Santa Cruz is a quintessential beach town with all the local charms and attitudes of taking it easy. It was a nice change of pace, taking time to enjoy custom bagels at Bagelry, bubble tea (“Do you have a Boba-fettish?”) and outstanding vegan milkshakes at Gratitude.

beach

The beach was beautiful (though the wind made things chilly) and we were lucky enough to have spotted groups of dolphins splashing nearby and then even luckier to have seen a whale! Our friends who hosted us said we were good luck charms for that. Later that evening we went to watch the sea lions on the dock and saw some otters floating by.

wishing-tree

Beyond the beach we also managed to get some hiking in the redwoods on the University of California Santa Cruz campus. It was such a unique trail…all the trees are massive. We also spotted a rare species…a wishing tree. Students at UCSC wrote down their wishes, hopes and dreams and added them to the tree in hopes they may come true. Rory had fun reading them.

redwoords

All good things must come to an end, this was an amazing experience to explore, wonder, and meet new people. It was nice to come home to my own bed, though. I slept for days.

California // Part 1: Maker’s Faire

makersfaire

This month Rory and I jet set off to California for a spring getaway – just in time to leave a brown post-winter Edmonton and return to a lush green summer one! Most people expected me to return home with a glowy beach tan, but in the Bay Area, it actually tended to be warmer in Canada. Luckily, I was prepared with a few more sweaters on hand than the first time we visited a few years back.

tapigami

Our adventurings began in San Mateo for the Bay Area Maker’s Faire. This was a gathering of those who make things…anything! We saw 3D printing, robots, scrapbooking, food processes, sculptures, mobile cupcake cars…anything and everything beyond your imagination.

television

Rory had submitted an LED project and had a small demo booth in the glow-in-the-dark hall, which was a really cool place to hang out! We got to sit right next to a rock’n’roll Tesla coil band who played music with the lightning strikes. The group had collaborated with fashion designer Anouk Wipprecht who designed a Faraday dress and stood in the middle of the performance.

electric-fashion

It is very interesting to see fashion through the ‘tech’ lens (which was definitely the trendiest focus of the show). It tends to take one of two categories; high-end sculptural, art-piece fashion (a la Anouk) or campy ‘rave’/ costume-y LED glow clothes. There are exceptions, such as the bicycle jacket with illuminated turn signalling, but for the most part, tech and fashion don’t mix well enough to crave adoption by the masses. This left me wondering…what needs to be done to change that?

We found a vendor in one of the halls who was selling conductive paint that was water-soluble and could be used to ‘dye’ traces into fabrics instead of using metal wiring to integrate electronics. Not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I am sure there is something exciting on the horizon.

3dprinting

Rory spent much of his time outside his performance completely enamored by the sudden array of 3D printers and scanners, each being slightly different, from plastics to silicone, extruding to laser beams, it is completely incomprehensible what we can be capable of. I’ll just say it simply. 3D printers are cool.

crochet

My favorite part of the weekend, though, was when I visited the textile area. They were teaching everything from needlepoint, yarn spinning, cross-stitching to knitting and crochet. A recent dream of mine has been to learn how to knit and one day be able to create my own cozy winter sweaters. The idea of taking something from a ball of string and turning it into a real, wearable garment blows my mind. In the interest of the rest of our travel, I decided to take my first baby steps with crochet, as the hook seemed easier to take along with me for the trip than a pair of needles. I think I got the hang of everything fairly quickly, and my instructor was spending her time trying to document anyone at the faire wearing cat shirts on Twitter. You could say we were kindred spirits.

In all, attending Maker’s Faire was an amazing experience (if not a bit of a sensory overload), being in the presence of so many creators can’t help but be inspiring.

octopus

Also, giant mechanical, steampunk, flame-throwing octopus. Just because.

Adventures with Plants

adventures with plants // Boots & CatsGuys. I bought plants. You have no idea how excited I am that I have some green things in my vicinity.

Growing up, we always had a garden. Spring meant going to the greenhouse in search of the right bedding plants in the prettiest colors, finding cool and unique flowers, not to mention all the fresh veggies that we’d wait for in the summer. Yum.

As pretty as it all was, I hated going through and weeding the garden and I didn’t like the fact that I could find a worm or spider unexpectedly at any time.

shopping

When I moved into my apartment, plants weren’t really first thing on my mind. I didn’t plan it into my decor, plus, I immediately ruled out a garden since we have a high-rise cement balcony. Not really garden material.

Last summer, we were kindly gifted some potted floral arrangements which were beautiful, but they were quite large so we kept them on the balcony. But because I had written off the cement wasteland, we never really went outside…or watered the flowers. So after about 3 months of solid effort by the flowers to stay alive, they bit the dust. “I don’t think I can have plants” I said to myself.

Cue this year. In February we had our first glimpse of what could be spring (spoiler: it wasn’t), but it made me feel like I really reeally wanted some green things. How would I be able to keep things alive this year.

flowers

Here is my three-fold plan:

  • Keep most of the plants INSIDE. The downfall of last years’ flowers was that they were often out of sight-out of mind.
  • Get lots of succulents and desert plants – they don’t care as much if you forget to water them.
  • The plants that are too large to be inside have to be yummy vegetable producing so I have more of a reason to go check on them. If I want fresh noms I better water my plants. This year I am starting with tomatoes. Because they are the best.

Point three also coincides with my new outlook for the previously known cement-wasteland. I love being outside and it would be nice to create a little atmostphere out there. A place to eat, read and relax. Something dreamy.

I am also attempting to grow a little herb-garden for my kitchen. I am starting from seeds though and, yes third-grade me could successfully grow plants, I still have doubts whether I will be successful. This may or may not be in part to the fact the weather turned grey the moment I planted them and I am incubating them under my overhead stove light because there is no sun right now.

variety

I will be sure to update on the progress of my greenery later this summer. What will live? What will die? Stay tuned…

Also just a quick shout-out to all the amazing people participating in Me Made May ’14! It is so inspiring to see so many seamstresses and the beautiful things they have made. One of my biggest challenges as a seamstress is to actually wear the garments I make more than once, so it is cool to see this challenge. I didn’t make my pledge this year, mostly due to the fact that my selection of me-mades is small and mostly dresses (which doesn’t bode well for this SNOW!), but I am keeping it top of mind and am trying to make an effort to wear more of my handmades as much as I can.

May the fourth be with you ;)

Spring Flower Backdrop

Floral Backdrop for spring // Boots & Cats

This weekend I livened up the living room with a garden of  hanging tissue paper flowers and greenery. This project was amazingly fun to do and was pretty much essential to bring some spring colors into the apartment. This winter has been ruthless and I needed some flowers in here! Fingers crossed that there will be no more snow from here on out.

Floral Backdrop for spring // Boots & Cats

To make this bright springtime wall backdrop you’ll need:

  • Brightly colored tissue paper (I used a rainbow of colors, but any coordinating variety would work really well)
  • Matching washi tape
  • Scissors
  • Needle & thread

Blueprint for a Floral Backdrop // Boots & Cats

To begin, create a plan of how you want the florals to be arranged, so you know how many flowers you’ll need to cut from each color. I wanted to include all 7 colors I had on hand so a blueprint was a must. Measure the size of your wall-space and decide how many hanging strands you want, how many flowers you want to fit on each and if you want some greenery too.

I made sure to create a pattern that had a gradient like flow in the colors while having even amounts of each. This took a little bit of strategic planning at the beginning, but in the long run it really paid off to keep the arrangement balanced.

Once you know your plan, it’s time for tissue. The flowers needed a natural natural looking aesthetic that hung a little ‘floppier’, so I avoided the ‘pom-pom’ method that is quite popular on pinterest. After a few trials I came up with a method that worked quite well, even if it was tedious at times.

Floral backdrop for spring - Step 1 & 2  // Boots & Cats

1. Cut a strip of tissue at the width you’d like your flower to be.  For a fuller flower with more petals, fold the tissue to desired width first.

2. To add a ‘blend’ of colors, add a strip of another color and fold the whole thing over.

Floral backdrop for spring - Step 3 & 4  // Boots & Cats

3. Keep folding until your strip has become a square.

4. Fold one last time to make a triangle or rectangle depending on the type of petals desired.

Floral backdrop for spring - Step 5 & 6  // Boots & Cats

5. From here start cutting in your petals. Make sure to hold on to your layers and keep them together.

6. Open the flower. I reinforced the center on both sides with a matching washi tape dot to keep my flowers from ripping when hung.

Floral backdrop for spring - Step 7 & 8  // Boots & Cats

7. Pin with a sewing pin to keep the layers together.

8. Gently twist to spin the layers apart for your full bloom!

Watch out for pins! // Boots & Cats

I built all my flowers first before assembling the strands, but I could have strung them up as I made them. By leaving all the flowers with the sewing pins in them it became a bit of a hazard at times. Please use caution. Pins are stabby.

To create greenery, accordion fold a long strip of tissue and cut out a leaf shape. This time, let the layers be separated and reinforce each with washi tape at the stems.

Sewing in the details // Boots & Cats

With a green (or any color you’d like) sewing thread, measure out the total height of your backdrop. Double this length, thread your needle and fold the thread in two. Tie a knot at the end.

Floral backdrop for spring  // Boots & Cats

You will be sewing from the bottom of the garland to the top. Keep this in mind when following your blueprint. Tie a knot in the thread where you want your floral or leaves to stop, then use the needle to thread it onto the line. Be sure to use a small hand-sewing needle or it will create a hole larger than the knots you tie and your flowers will slide all the way through. Repeat this process as you move up the garland. I found it easiest to tape the end of the string down and work outwards.

Floral backdrop for spring   // Boots & Cats

Using washi tape, fasten your strands to the wall! I taped them at the top and bottom to avoid tangles when the window is opened.

Floral backdrop for spring // Boots & Cats

Once up, you may want to twist, open and fluff your flowers up a bit.

This project took around 6 hours total to complete. It also had a lot of off-cut tissue paper. I shredded the leftover into rainbow mix of confetti for a future occasion.

projects

I am in love with the results of this project. It suddenly feels like a full change of season in here. (Now just for it to happen outside as well!) I’m sure you’ll see it popping up in the background of all sorts of things this spring.

Happy Monday!

A Kitty Photoshoot

akittyphotoshoot

A few summers ago I happened upon a working Polaroid 100 Land Camera at a garage sale for 20 bucks with all the accessories. When I took it home and began doing research, I stumbled upon this promotional image.

Kittycamera

I immediately bookmarked it to re-create with my cat Cinnamon. Because, why not?

Cinnamon

After some procrastination (and sort of forgetting about it), I finally made it happen last weekend. I had no idea how helpful Cinnamon would be taking part. She is a grumpy old lady who rarely cooperates, so I was crossing my fingers.

After assembling the set for the polaroid image, I carefully placed Cinnamon down and prayed she wouldn’t get mad that I moved her from her spot and run off in a huff. Miraculously she stayed. She started to sniff out her surroundings, and I guess the ball of yarn was a tad dusty…

thesneeze

(Thank goodness my camera was set to action mode)

I took some test shots on my DSLR, then fired up my polaroid to take the final shot. *Click*…..nothing. I swore I had saved my last shot of color film for this VERY reason, but alas. Nothing.

piddlestheruiner

Piddles immediately intercepted the scene and it was all over. At least I had the test shots. Photoshop to the rescue!

I remade the set with the Polaroid camera in the shot, and prayed that Cinny had a few minutes of patience left in her. She didn’t bolt as fast as I assumed she would and we got it. After adding in the superimposed instant camera photo, here it is:

cinnycamera

Cinnamon was quite grumpy with me after, but I admire her patience for even giving me a chance at getting this.

A Day at the Zoo

A Day at the Zoo // Boots & Cats

Recently at work we celebrated our Christmas party, (who says they have to be in December??), and as a part of that we did a ‘secret santa’ gift exchange between the staff.

The catch? Your gift had to be handmade under the theme “A Day at the Zoo”. Oh boy.

Adjustable apron // Boots & Cats

The information I got about my recipient (besides her name) is that she wanted to cook more this year, and her favorite color was grey. I wanted to make her something cute for her kitchen, yet still useful. I found this really easy adjustable apron pattern on the Purl Bee. I enjoyed the sleek lines and the absence of ruffles and ribbons (which I found on MANY online patterns).

For fabrics I chose a soft double woven grey fabric for the apron, a dark grey denim for the pocket and and a light sage green twill for the ties.

Oh dear, double-weave! // Boots & Cats

To add the “zoo” element, I decided to make a little contrasting elephant for the pocket. One problem I hadn’t anticipated for was the fact that double-weave (essentially two different fabrics woven together in the middle) frays like CRAZY. Even as I tried to manually wrap stitch the edges the whole thing was just falling apart.

Top Coat to the Rescue! // Boots & Cats

I didn’t have time to go back to the store for some fray stop, so I took the internet for alternatives. Many sites said that nail polish clear top-coat would do the trick so I re-cut my elephant and gave it a go. Miracle-worker! It instantly transformed my fabric and stalled those frays in their tracks.

Details // Boots & Cats

Just to be safe, I still whip stitched around the edges to keep those fraying threads at bay and added some elephant-y details such as toes, tusks and eyes.

Contrast stitching // Boots & Cats

As I attached him to the pocket, I used a contrasting thread to add some extra details with a simple running stitch.

all-together-now

Then it was time to put it all together. (Note: If you are making this pattern, try to get a twill webbing for the ties like the Purl Bee suggests. I couldn’t find any so I made a tube from fabric, which worked, but took FOREVER to pull through since it was about 150 cm long.)

Voila // Boots & Cats

My first apron! Which is surprising since it is usually a project people do early on, but c’est la vie. The timing on this project was really good, maybe 3 hours? I was really happy with the result and I think the elephant was just the cutest.

Vintage Refashion // #1

vintagerefashion1

I have had an appreciation for vintage clothing and aesthetic, mostly for the late 1950′s and 1960′s, for most of my life. I can still remember the feeling when I first saw images of Jean Shrimpton in the 60′s, and that having that ache you feel when you know you’ve made a connection with something.  I so wished I could be her in that moment in time. It took me probably longer than it should have to realize that I could tailor my style that way if I wanted to. So, it was only a few years ago when I started to seek out and purchase vintage clothing. It took a bit of time to narrow down what I would actually wear, and find things that would blend into a modern wardrobe, be comfortable and not come off as ‘costume party’.

A good vintage dress can make you feel powerful, confident and invincible. Once you find one.

Vintage hunting can be tedious, frustrating and expensive. Things don’t fit,  can be stained and damaged, or that one beautiful piece you are dreaming of just doesn’t seem to exist. What is a girl to do?

My solution to these problems on a few occasions have been to take charge of the situation…with a sewing needle.

Re-fashioning, altering or otherwise changing vintage apparel can be a hot-button issue for some vintage wearers. Some say that we should preserve the garments in their current form, as they are pieces of history that need to be saved. While I agree that some dresses should be left alone (the massacre in Pretty in Pink anyone? How horrid.), sometimes a dress needs a tweak or a change to fit, or better fit your style and thus giving it new life. People used to re-purpose their clothing many times in that day and age anyway.

For example, I found a gorgeous vintage satin spring dress that fit almost perfectly, had a great print…and had a ‘lovely’ 25 cm bow right in the middle of the chest. The bow went chop and the sleeves were let out slightly for fit and boom, a total revival.

before-and-marks

Today’s dress was found in slightly rough condition, the neckline tie was falling off, the kick-pleat was hastily sewn closed and it hadn’t been pressed in a while.

I also found that, on me, while it fit, it was a bit long, and the slight flare of the skirt just wasn’t doing it for me.

After conducting the minor structural repairs, the dress was nice, but probably not something I would be willing to wear often. I didn’t feel invincible in it. To allow that to happen I made the decision to narrow the shape of the skirt to a straighter silhouette, and to take the hem up 10 cm.

I first took in the skirt by wearing it inside out and pinning. This way I could test that with the amount I had taken in if I could still walk.

pinning

I didn’t cut the fabric I had just taken in, this way should I (or any future wearers) want to open it up again it is as simple as picking the stitch.

For the hem, I just couldn’t bring myself to cut  off the excess, so here too, I just rolled the hem up and did a blind whip stitch hem and pressed it (really well, there was a lot of fabric in there).

after

Now my dress will have many more wears in it’s lifetime. Simple refashions like this I think most people can get on board with. I have a more drastic vintage refashion coming this summer that might be a little more controversial…

beforeandafter

What do you think about re-fashioning vintage clothing?

On getting things done.

gettingthingsdone

Do you have a ‘never ending’ project? One of those projects you told yourself you would always do, and yet, for whatever reason, never fully come to fruition?

I bet you can tell that I have. Otherwise this post would just stop here. Picture me, three years ago, promising my friend to make her a custom dress. Excited talks of designs and ideas, oodles of fabric options, then decisions, purchases, buttons, making voiles…then…nothing.

I am unsure what event prompted the complete stall of this project (probably school), but all of a sudden, everything stopped. And as time grew onwards a simple dress became a wall. A 1000 ft tall impenetrable tower of houndstooth.

Pins

Why couldn’t I do it? I put it out on the desk. I put it away to keep the cats off. I wash it and iron it. Fold it away again. Finally I decide to cut the pattern pieces…then stack the pieces in a box. Take it to Montreal when I would have lots of free time. Bring it home from Montreal still in pieces.

The wall was completely self-imposed. The longer I waited, the taller it got. It became a running joke. “Have you made my dress yet? I hope it’s not out of style these years later”

What was worse, is that this impenetrable wall of inertia put a complete blockade on all my sewing endeavors.

“Ooh I just got some vintage fabric. I bet it would make an awesome summer dress….but I can’t make anything with it until The Dress is done”

Over all this time, a thoughtful gift had become a bit of a curse to my productivity. Was it because I was selfish and wanted to make things for only myself? Was I just guilty that it had been so long?

Finally one day with an open schedule. I just did it.

I pulled out the pieces. And I overlocked the raw edges. Okay, step one. done. That was easy. Now, what is step two….

*(Not as easy as I would have liked since my serger wished to test my willpower this day by defying the laws of physics.)*

Before I knew it, I had a bodice…skirt…pockets. Things were coming together. The more I got going, the more I wanted to KEEP going. Suddenly the project was exciting and fresh again.

The opportunity to finally gift it was exciting too, as it would be a welcome surprise after all this waiting. No one believed they would ever see this dress done, and here it was. My friend finally got her dress and was so happy. It fit too, which was a blessing, because between the facings, linings and pleats, re-sizing would have been starting from square one.

*(The hem does need to be taken up a bit, but that is the easiest alteration ever so I am not counting it)*

Red Lining // Getting things done // Boots & Cats

I guess the point of my story is that the big procrastinated projects do not need to rule your life. Set your goals and demolish them. The longer you put off a project because of guilt the worse it gets. You’ll be surprised at how great you will feel as you are accomplishing your long lost projects. Here’s to getting over the wall and just getting things done.

Last year I fell so far short of my sewing goals, and now? I have my next 4 clothing projects lined up with many more in the works to burn through my growing fabric stash. I can’t wait to sew them up, learn new techniques and show you what I am coming up with!