Everyday Basics // The Julia Cardigan (with pockets!)

A perfect basic - the Julia cardigan // Boots & Cats

About 5 years ago I bought a sweater from Urban Outfitters that very quickly became my all-time favourite. It was lightweight but still warm, had a draped sort of style that could be dressed up or down, it had pockets and it was black. This sweater went with 80% of my wardrobe and was my go-to whenever I needed to feel put-together and stylish. I still have it and wear it occasionally, but time pills all fabrics and I needed something new.

Patiently sitting in my fabric stash was 2m of navy blue bamboo jersey. I acquired it during my internship at Télio and it’s been staring at me for the 2 years since then. It has beautiful drape, a good amount of stretch and is unbelievably soft. I couldn’t simply make ANYTHING with it. It had to be something really great that would be worn a lot in appreciation of it’s quality.

Super loooong sleeves.

Super loooong sleeves.

On some level I had been been hoping all these years to replicate that sweater with this fabric but struggled to find a pattern that fit the bill. Most patterns I looked for had a really long draped front, featured just tonnes of excess fabric or wasn’t my style. I felt a little hopeless and even contemplated self drafting.

Enter Julia.

The moment I spotted the pattern I knew she was exactly what I wanted. I saw that it was a part of the Perfect Pattern Parcel #6 and promptly purchased the bundle (the other patterns were just a nice bonus). It was a dream come true.

A perfect basic - the Julia cardigan // Boots & Cats

My one criticism? No pockets! I need to have pockets in my cardigans, not just to hold items like my phone (always a plus), but I feel way more comfortable when I have a place to put my hands.

I contemplated restructuring the front of the cardigan and adding new pocket pieces, then I realized the doubled over collar band could be used as a pocket bag and all I needed to do was create an opening on the outer layer.

A perfect basic - the Julia cardigan // Boots & Cats

I followed the instructions up until right before attaching the collar band to the rest of the cardigan. I measured the approximate placement of where I wanted the pockets to be and marked the pocket placement. It was here I noticed that the seam where the front and back band pieces met was pretty much where I wanted the pocket to end. I could stitch in the ditch to close up the pocket bag. (This way I won’t have to fish out random pocket objects that floated all the way around the band).

I stay-stitched the opening edge to keep it from stretching, then attached a bias binding to give it some structure. This was a real test of my patience as stretchy fabrics don’t play well with rigid ones.

Then finally as I pinned the collar band all around to the rest of the cardigan, I eased out the one layer from the serger to create the pocket opening on the way ’round.

Did you notice something odd about the way the pocket is pinned in picture 4. there? That’s right! Just as I thought the project was complete I put it on to see that I had accidentally flipped the band around and put the POCKETS ONTO THE INSIDE.

A perfect basic - the Julia cardigan // Boots & Cats

Kids, this is why you should stop sewing before midnight on a Sunday.

Instead of picking ALL the serging around the whole collar band (at the risk of destroying my pretty pretty fabric), I just unpicked the pocket ‘opening’, repeat the bias taping process and then serged the correct side down onto the sweater. A little annoying but totally salvageable.

The Julia cardigan was so simple (minus the pocket fanagaling) to put together. It was a two session project and the next one (and there will be more) will likely be a one sitting deal. I did add about 6cm to the length of everything since I wear my sweaters long. It did make my sleeves a tad too lengthy (they practically cover my hands if I let them) but I decided that I like that fact and it makes me feel extra cozy while wearing it. But because of this and the doubled-over collar, the pattern devoured all 2m of my bamboo *sniffle*. I was hoping I would have enough leftover to make a comfy top or something but only scraps remain.

Soon the weather will be nice enough to shoot outdoors again...

Soon the weather will be nice enough to shoot outdoors again…

Is this the new sweater to beat? Will it take over as reigning wardrobe champion?? Only time will tell – it looks great with jeans, but still needs to pass the skirt and dresses test to know for sure.

What I do know is that I put that special fabric to some darn good use and I am so excited to be building more wearable basics into my wardrobe.

Heart on your Sleeve // The Plantain Tee

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

There’s a time in every seamstress’ journey where she realizes that party dresses and twirly skirts do not a wardrobe make. She then does a complete 180 and focuses down on basic patterns, neutral fabrics and wardrobe staples. That time has finally fallen upon me.

I first got the itch to reinforce my closet with some staples last summer after making a Belcarra blouse with some printed cotton. It went with EVERYTHING and it was so invigorating to wear a make more than once every few months. I then broke the ice with knits when I tested the Senna dress. Add it all up and you got yourself a recipe for some good casual wear. I’ve since made a turquoise Coco, a Julia cardigan, not one but TWO Linden sweatshirts (granted, one of them is crossing the ocean right now to it’s new home for the #LindenSwap) and a Plantain tee. I’ll share all in time, but today i’ll start with the Plantain, since it is so suited for the season.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

During the holidays I needed some good knit fabric. Our city has lost most of our great fabric stores in the last few years, so locally I am basically reduced to shopping at Fabricland. It’s fine for notions and some wovens but seriously lacking on knits. I took to the web and landed in the land of Girl Charlee. While I found exactly what I needed for gifts, a few extras may have landed in my cart (bundling up saves shipping, right?). I got this gorgeous grey stripe ponte and it’s been staring at me since then.

Last weekend I decided to put it to use in a Plantain tee. I loved the concept of a simple, long sleeved tee (I always get cold) with elbow patches but I wanted to keep it from looking just ordinary. I started looking at printed fabrics for the elbow patches, thinking maybe a floral would be quirky, or maybe lace? Then the inspiration hit me – hearts! The idea probably nestled into my subconscious as all the valentines bits and bobs started appearing, but I loved the idea and grabbed the scraps from my Linden and made the patches. I used a solid black knit as the design was already wielding a hefty cuteness factor and I didn’t want to launch it over the edge.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

To make sure the patches were at a suitable size and scale for the pattern, I traced the original pattern piece on some paper and drew the heart within it, approximately the same size. Other changes I made to the pattern was to lengthen the whole thing 4cm (as I do with practically everything), heighten the neckline 2cm and reducing some of the flare at the hips. I cut a size 36 and it fit perfectly. I did hem my sleeves too closely to the edge of the fabric though, which stretched them out and gave them a bell-shaped edge. Will make sure too avoid that next time.

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

The fabric was a DREAM to work with. Stretchy, yet firm.  I love the subtlety to the stripes. I’m glad I bought 2m and have some leftover. It would be so dreamy as a Coco for the spring!

Hopefully I won’t bore you with all the basics coming up. I think there’s a special challenge in working with something simple, you have to make it well and find subtle ways to amp it up. I’ve been finding endless inspiration online for unique additions or techniques for these types of patterns. (Exhibit A: Lace touches on Laney’s and Mokosha’s Linden Sweaters, or this colour blocked Coco!)

Heart on your sleeve Plantain tee // Boots & Cats

Sending out wishes of love to everyone this Valentine’s season- especially YOU, you blogging, sewing, creative community, you!

For Cinnamon.

I was a cat lover way before it was cool. Of all the books I checked out of the school library, 90% of them were about cats. It’s no surprise that the best day of my young life was receiving a little orange kitten wearing a big red bow when I was 8 years old.

Cinnamon grew up with me; she dealt with playing dress-up in doll clothes, we explored new homes together when we moved, she was a prominent subject for me as I learned photography. She gave me funny stories to tell and cuddles when I was sad. She inspired me, and in many ways, also inspired this blog. For 16 years she filled my life with companionship and cuteness. Last week, after a few months of illness she was put to sleep. It’s very strange feeling not having her here; she was one friend who would always be around. I guess sometimes we take that for granted. She had a long, beautiful adventurous life and I am really thankful that she was a part of mine.

When I started this blog I had an idea for a weekly series featuring cats I knew or found online – ones I found cute, fascinating or funny. I drafted my first post for the feature but never published it. As Boots & Cats blossomed, the series didn’t really fit in anymore, and never became a part of it.

However, that first draft was still sitting in my posts, all about Cinnamon.  I want to celebrate her and her awesome, sassy nature and share with you a little glimpse of who she was.

Cinnamon

Smitten Kitten: Cat of the Week

You didn’t think I would have a blog with ‘cats’ in the title and not have a feature dedicated solely to our feline friends, did you? Introducing Cat of the Week, each week I will feature a purring lovable friend that deserves internet affection and ‘squeees’.

The honour of being the first CotW is bestowed upon my cat, Cinnamon (so I have a bias, sue me). She joined our family on Christmas in 1998, where after opening a box of cat food (to much of my perplexion) she was brought to the living room wearing a red ribbon. She’s a rescue from the Humane Society and is now 14 years old, but still has her kitten face so people can’t guess her age. She’s the envy of her cat friends who’ve had to resort to botox in their later years.

cinny-paper

Yes, that is my pattern paper she is nomming.

Likes: Whipped cream (she comes running at the sound of the spray can), licking the cheez powder from cheezies, sunlight and mauling shoe laces.

Dislikes: Being woken up, getting tackled by Piddles (my brother’s 2 y/o cat) and children (as a kitten she was thrown down the stairs TWICE by toddlers).

Biggest Adventures: Figuring out how to open the screen door and escape into the yard, falling in the fish tank and  falling in love with Enrique during the 10 hour drive when we moved.

IMG_2114

Gazing in admiration at my craft project . Either that or she wants to eat this too.

I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Cinnamon and I look forward to meeting all the wonderful felines in the coming weeks! (I am going to need a lint roller!)

Posts featuring Cinnamon: A Kitty Photoshoot, Leibster Award, Felt Fantastic! // Part 2.

Make Something! // DIY Art Calendar

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

My work space is a little corner of our open living room in our apartment. From where I sit I can see my sewing mess, dirty shoes at the front door, dishes on the kitchen island and more. In order to keep my focus at my desk I am working very hard to curate my little corner so I can look ahead, detach from the rest and get busy. Part of this is my seasonal mood board and a calendar right above my monitors. They keep me inspired and refreshed. I am exceptionally invigorated by the seasons and the ‘traditional’ imagery and attitudes that go with them. It helps me remain grounded in time and keep things from feeling like they pass in a blur. Pastels and umbrellas in April, bright florals in May, neon sunshine in July, muted leaves in September, warm chunky knits in November.

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

It all plays a part in my daily creative energy. I enjoy the freedom to control the focus of my mood board,  but my calendar is a little more permanent. A decision made that will stick with me for the 12 months to come. I need something that captures the essence of the seasonal influences without being in your face about it, something that gives a jolt of renewed energy each time the page is flipped on the 1st.

Growing up I had calendars filled with images of cats and vintage fashion photography, and while cute and pretty, they felt a little flat. Boring. I began gravitating towards calendars with a more artistic feel, put out by creatives with a unique perspective (Paper Fashion, 1Canoe2). Each year though, my style, inspiration and aesthetic changes, so I need to leapfrog onto the next thing. But finding that jewel of a calendar has never been easy. (Okay, that sentence made me sound a little obsessive. Please say someone understands why I over think this?)

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

As the search continued this year, the options were less and less appealing to me and I just couldn’t find what I wanted. It took so much time and drained all my energy. When I eventually did find something that got me excited, the cost plus shipping and exchange rate made things unrealistic (this could also be another rant for another day).

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

A lot of the time if I find something I truly like, I’d buy it before making it. It’s so much simpler that way. But the search to find the perfect office accessory left me feeling burnt out. Plus the new year had already started and I was unable to glance at the date when it was called upon. A fire emerged and all inertia was removed. I said “Fine then! I’ll make my own!”DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

The process was fun, simple and satisfying. Looking at the pages of past calendars, taking elements from new ones scouted online, and perusing my many Pinterest boards, I sketched and devised 12 simple and geometric designs to adorn my wall. I was able to make it using supplies I had on hand (with one tiny trip to the art store for more pen colours). After 4 days and lots of patience I welcome my new one-of-a-kind 2015 art calendar.

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that watercolours will never be my medium. I have found I have the most joy drawing with a good pen or marker. There’s no mess, good saturation and total control. But to make sure I felt a little challenged I dug out a mini Blue eye Brown eye Calligraphy kit I got from BlogShop two years ago. I’d been perfecting my ‘faux-calligraphy’ for a while now and felt ready to take the dive into the real thing for the months.

I maybe should have done a little prep work first though. I couldn’t get my strokes to widen because I was too afraid to apply pressure. When I noticed my nib split, I thought I’d broken it! Eventually I went to the internet and got some advice from friends and it was smooth sailing.

DIY Art Calendar // Boots & Cats

I guess the whole point of this story is to tell you to never be satisfied. Never be satisfied with what is being presented to you in stores to buy, never be satisfied with your current set of skills. Be proud of your work, every step of the way, but don’t settle. Always be aware of your ability to go for exactly what you want and do not be afraid try new things to achieve your goals.

Whether it is a calendar on the wall, a dress for a party, the living room of your dreams; go and make it happen. Think carefully, plan, create and execute. You can do it. And you should do it, a little bit everyday.

When you look back on 2015 I can guarantee you’ll see the results of your actions. And I, for every day in 2015, get to look up and see mine.

Welcome, 2015

Welcome 2015! // Boots & Cats

It’s the first weekend of a new year, a time to reflect, ponder, relax and refresh (according to every blog post I’ve read for the last week). 2014 was inspiring, fun and a year full of learning, so I am quite excited to be welcoming 2015. (Though the fact that in 6 months we’ll be closer to 2030 than 2000 is kind of frightening).

I think I need to work on my 'subtly disguising the camera remote' game

I think I need to work on my ‘subtly disguising the camera remote’ game

To celebrate 2015, friends and I put the confetti poppers to good use at our New Year’s Eve party. The affair was sparkly, joyous and fun, though prepping and hosting an event can be a little stressful. Some of that stress may be attributed to the fact that my dress wasn’t finished until about 6 pm, 2 hours before party time. I’d planned on finishing most of it on Dec 30th,  but late in the evening I noticed I had sewn in the lining in a way that had one of the shoulders all twisted and called it a night to avoid further mistakes (never sew while sleepy). I then woke up at 7am and decided I NEEDED to add pockets. Talk about making more work for oneself last minute. I made sure to have a backup dress planned but between decorating, food prep and set up, I managed to sew it up right. Success!

Welcome 2015! // Boots & Cats

Looking back at the blog this year, I am very proud of what I have produced, even though I fell behind the posting schedule I’d originally planned. I am still working to strike the balance for making good content and using my time efficiently to get it done. Many of the things I am posting include projects or techniques I have never tried before, which will always take up more time. A personal shining moment was in taking the leap and doing a full DIY graphic redesign of the site. There are a few (responsive) kinks to iron out, but we’re getting there.

Welcome 2015! // Boots & Cats

Your favourite posts from 2014 included:

  1. A photo shoot featuring my cat Cinnamon (cats will always reign supreme)
  2. A refashion of a wild vintage dress
  3. My halloween costume from How to Steal a Million
  4. The cat-crazy Belladone dress
  5. Learning how to arm knit

Welcome 2015! // Boots & Cats

Now that the balloons have been popped, the confetti has settled, I am hoping 2015 will be filled with new sewing adventures, unique DIYs, interior crafts and many more cats! The big goal for Boots & Cats this year is to reach post #100, which means I should be posting about 3 times a month. New projects are already in the works and I can’t wait to share. Thanks for coming along for the ride and wish you a very happy 2015!

Ring in the New Year // Confetti Popper Printables

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

I guess it’s time to say it, 2014 is another year gone by. Many people get nostalgic at this time, looking back at what they’ve accomplished this past year. They then get proactive and start planning the next. While I do participate in these rituals to a degree, this year there is only one thing on my mind: PARTY!

Growing up, I would always see these glamorous New Years’ Eve parties on TV and in the magazines. Sparkles, champagne, fancy dresses, balloon drops. I saw this and I couldn’t wait to be old enough to go to those parties. Then I grew up and noticed that they weren’t as common as they appeared to be. So in an effort to make sparkly dreams come true some friends and I teamed up and are planning the ultimate glamour party to ring in 2015. It couldn’t be more exciting.

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

We’re making most of the evening’s decorations and accessories, from invitations and hats, to centerpieces and photo backdrops. Creating things from scratch has been really special and a lot of fun. One of my projects to prepare for the evening is one of my favourite things ever: confetti! No celebration is complete without clouds of confetti floating through the air, amirite?

I had initially planned to purchase pre-made confetti poppers off Etsy, but I wanted to have as many as possible and soon the price became prohibitive. So I got crafty and made my own.

To make these confetti poppers you need only a few things:

  • Dessert push-pop containers
  • Tissue paper/ribbon/cellophane/any confetti material
  • Card stock
  • Scissors
  • Double-sided tape

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

I designed custom New Years Eve labels for my confetti launchers, printed them on shimmery card stock and cut them out. (You can download the labels for free below). I wanted to see the pretty confetti on the inside, so I made the labels cover only part of the popper. Using a strip of double sided tape on the back of the label, I wrapped them around the circumference and for extra security used a matching piece of washi tape at the ends to keep them from peeling up.

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

For the confetti inside, I once again looked online and found for the amount of confetti I wanted, it was still more cost effective to make my own. I purchased a few sheets of tissue paper and grabbed my scissors. I kept the sheets of tissues nested together, cut them into strips, and then into squares. NOTE: If you are going this route, it is time consuming. Find yourself a good Netflix series before you start. For extra sparkly bits I took some metallic curling ribbon and cut it into little squares and I shredded other metallic wrapping materials hoarded from Christmas.

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

Once you have a sizable confetti mountain. Start to fill your poppers. You’ll noticed that the confetti compresses A LOT, so you’ll probably need twice as much as you originally thought. Once appropriately filled, snap the lid on and you are ready to ring in 2015 in style!

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

Hope you all had an amazing holiday and I wish you all a very happy New Year!

How to make your own confetti launcher. plus FREE printable // Boots & Cats

Creative Gift Wrap // Custom Stamping!

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

Tis the season to get crafty! My general crafting output goes up 500% as Christmas approaches as there are always little opportunities to try something new and make things more personal. Gift wrap is one of those places where the opportunities are endless; you can try colour blocking, play with ribbons & accessories, add pieces from nature and scraps from your craft bin.

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

Last year I opted for polka-dotted kraft paper and dainty strings and jingle bells, and while it was very lovely and darling, something new was in order this year.

Almost a year ago, I carved myself some custom stamps to make stationery with and decided to revive them for the holidays.

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

Instead of getting the  expensive white ‘gift wrap’ paper from the store, I wandered into the kids section, grabbed some ‘easel paper’ for twice the size at half the price. It pays to think outside the box sometimes.

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

I considered pre-stamping my paper for all-round patterns, but thought it would be fun to create designs that corresponded with the shape of the gift, so I wrapped everything up first and went stamping away!

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

I used flowers for snowflakes, made candy cane stripes, used my triangles for trees and did a duo stamp with both red and green for some really festive hearts.

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

If you are quick enough you can dust a little glitter on your fresh-pressed stamp before the ink dries and it’ll stick!

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & CatsOnce you are all stamped and dried, add your tags, stickers, ribbons, pom-poms and other details to complete the picture. (Warning, cats WILL eat those yarn poms. It’s just inevitable…)

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & Cats

This was such an easy and fun way to add a little extra something to the gift wrap process. Stamps are so easy to find or make you can easily make something that works just for you.

The crafting couldn’t stop there though, as I finished up writing my cards as well, I needed some envelopes! Using pages from magazines I have stashed for far too long, I made custom envelopes (tutorial here). I had fun matching the images to the people I would be giving them too. 

Stamped Gift Wrap // Boots & CatsI still have a few gifts left to make and it’s coming down to the wire! Here’s to a whirlwind few weeks and loving every minute of it!

 

Experimenting with Fabric Dye (& holiday cookies!)

 

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

You may be wondering what fabric dye and cookies have to do with one another, especially as dye can be, y’know, toxic. Well ladies and gents I have to tell you that they are absolutely in no way related except I decorated cookies this weekend and happened to be wearing my own custom dyed outfit while doing so. So there you go.

A few Christmases back, I got this awesome sweater. It is warm, stretchy, the sleeves are super long (a major plus) and it is one of the comfiest I own. In the dark, endless days of winter I call back to this sweater many a time. However, the light, baby blue colour seriously wasn’t doing anything for me. I would resist wearing it out some days for more visually complementing pieces. Which was really sad because I love it.

I decided to do something about that. If colour is the only thing keeping me from embracing it’s awesomeness, I should be able to change it! I picked up some dye and was ready to rock.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

The thing was, RIT can only dye natural fibers (cotton, wool, linen). I went to check the fabric content of the sweater to determine what dye to use when I noticed the tag was torn out (probably too itchy for my likes). Luckily, I didn’t take three textile science classes for nothing! The fastest (and most fun) way to determine fiber type (or narrow it down at least) is a burn test. I snipped a loose thread from an inner seam, stuck it in my candle flame and watched it completely melt into charred black beads. Synthetic fiber it is…probably acrylic and polyester I am guessing. (I had photos from my totally un-scientific set up and results but they are lost or were deleted somewhere in the abyss). Well the dye I had clearly wasn’t going to work…

I put the project on hold for an indeterminate amount of time seeing as polyester/acrylic dyes aren’t super easy to come by.

Until a late summers’ afternoon where you find yourself wandering downtown Calgary, mosey into a small art store and see a glowing stand of iDye Poly staring you in your face. A miraculous moment that shall be remembered through the ages.

It was time to get dyeing! I chose a rich crimson dye for my sweater, hoping the blue underneath would make it a little less intense and maybe even purple. While I was going to be making a mess anyway, I pulled out two pairs of oft-unworn, yet still good fitting light wash jeans. (Light wash it also really no-go on me). These would make good use of the other RIT dye, since they are cotton.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Dyeing the jeans was super simple, I dyed one pair at a time in a plastic tub nested in the bath-tub and let each pair sit in a bath of Navy and Royal Blue dye for about an hour each. Spills and drips just wiped away with a bit of soap and water. “Wow”, I thought, “this is the easiest thing ever!”

Onto the the sweater. Polyester and manufactured fibers are a lot harder to get the dye to take, so it needs constant heat on a stove top to get any kind of results. I bought a dye pot from Value Village (you can’t cook with the tools after, so I didn’t want to use my nice cookware) and got it going. I got a nice boil, kept stirring constantly and enjoyed the results. I also threw some socks into the pool too for fun. “This is pretty easy too!” my ego said.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Then came time to dump and rinse the dye bath. There is a lot of dye in that bath and of course some of it spills and sloshes..and what…this stuff doesn’t just wipe away like the other dye did. The sweater dyed beautifully, and so did my floor, and microwave and somehow even the overhead oven fan (???). Note to self: any future polyester dyeing will be done in a studio or garage space. Gah.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

Ignoring that though, once rinsed, washed and dried, I happily have 3 new pieces of clothing. AND I am totally a specialized trend forecaster and totally knew that my sweater was going to turn out close to Pantone’s 2015 colour of the year.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

My new outfit took to the streets for an afternoon of cookie baking and decorating with friends to swing us into the holiday spirit.

Experimenting with Fabric Dye // Boots & Cats

A perfect way to celebrate a new challenge and get creative and festive for the season.

 

Have you ever dyed anything at home to change it up? I’d love to see your creations. And any tips for dyeing with polyester in the future is mucho appreciated!

 

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & Cats

Even though I tell myself that I have out-grown chocolate advent calendars, there’s still that part of me that longs for a special treat each morning in December. Last year, Rory and I set out with daily festive activities to be documented in our scrapbook calendar. In theory the idea was brilliant, in action though, we just didn’t have our schedules synced up enough to do an activity a day. We often hoarded a week’s worth of prompts and tried to bust it all out on the weekend. Technically it worked, but it didn’t always get us into the holiday spirit as intended.

This year, I decided to relax the rules a little, and have maybe 10 activities scattered throughout the month, with chocolates and treats filling in the other days. Less pressure AND chocolate, the ideal Christmas.

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & CatsOf course the inclusion of 3D objects meant I couldn’t store the daily treat in a book and needed something a little more interactive. Inspired by the bevvy of beautiful and unique wall hangings and wreaths I’ve seen recently, mixed with the urge to break things open like a pinata, I came up with this hanging wall advent calendar that now hangs in my kitchen waiting for December.

This project requires only a few supplies, and almost all of it I already had on hand.

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & Cats

What you’ll need:

  • 24 toilet paper roll or paper towel tube pieces that will fit your treats. (I cut 8 tp rolls in half and had one paper towel roll which yielded 6 good sized pieces)
  • Card stock for tube backing
  • Tissue paper
  • String
  • Glitter
  • Glue
  • Scissors and/or Xacto knife
  • Large, sturdy cardboard or wooden branch

After cutting my paper rolls into the appropriate sized pieces, I traced the size of the circle onto card stock, cut it out and hot-glued it to the back opening of the tube. This ensures my treats won’t slide out.

I then cut larger circles from my tissue paper. I went with traditional red, green, gold and white, but any colours will do depending on your decor. On the tissue paper, write the number for each day with white glue and dust with glitter (or simply use glitter glue and save a step!)

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & Cats

You are now ready for the fun part. Randomly fill each tube with an activity or chocolate (or both!) and seal inside by brushing white glue along the sides of the tube and covering with the tissue paper. Let dry.

To make hanging the tubes like ornaments easy (as I didn’t want to accidentally break them open early) I tied a small piece of string around the center and hot glued it on the bottom and sides so it wouldn’t slide about. I then tied the longer hanging string to the loop.

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & Cats

For the branch, I traced out a tree-like shape on a cardboard sheet and cut out with an xacto knife. To keep it from bending, I reinforced the back with some popsicle sticks. I then made 24 small notches along the width and tied on my ornaments.

I am looking quite forward to breaking open the tissue each day to reveal the treat inside. Activities such as winter walks, Christmas cartoons, baking cookies, going out for tea and decorating await, not to mention all the chocolates hidden in there too.

Wall Hanging Advent Calendar // Boots & CatsNext year I hope to include a real branch for the support, and possibly add some greenery too, to bring even more life to the project.

Do you have a special holiday calendar for December? I love the variety of ideas out there. Tidings of comfort and joy to all!

Learning Letterpress

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

I have an unhealthy addiction to stationery. Cards, notebooks, prints, calendars, you name it, I want it. I am getting better at resisting cute paper works but anything with a clean letterpress design? I just can’t help myself. It is just so beautiful and something I just can’t recreate at home, which makes it more magical, right?

Can you imagine my joy and glee when a local letterpress artist I followed started advertising for small workshops? It apparently is the trendy blogger thing to do here in Edmonton after all. I have wanted to try letterpress for some time and this was a really exciting opportunity. After many months of dates that just didn’t work, Rory and I found ourselves in the small Uppercase Press Studio on a snowy afternoon a few weeks ago.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & CatsSince there was only two of us at a time, Rory and I got a real hands-on experience trying our hands at typesetting, mixing ink and pressing our own works. Lu was super helpful and made the afternoon so much fun. Beyond the basic techniques, she taught us some really neat stuff about the history of letterpress. (Like did you know that they don’t make presses anymore? You can’t just walk into Micheal’s and get one, you have to hunt down machines from 100 years ago if you want to do serious pressing. Maybe you knew this…I didn’t). I walked away from the afternoon feeling more knowledgeable, accomplished and inspired.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Once you have it all set up, you can print as many copies of your print as time allows so I wanted to make sure I made things I could get use from (the craft drawer of pretty paper things is growing everyday with stagnant projects). The soft feathery flakes floating from the sky that afternoon inspired some festive holiday cards, and then some ‘cheers!” tags for gifts at any time of the year.

When typesetting, all your ‘stamps’ had to be snuggled up tight to hold together. I never knew how tricky that could be. I may have been a little over ambitious with my projects for a beginner. I did some serious MacGuyvering to get the diamond embellishments on the cards to stay put, and Lu had to show me some ‘cheating’ methods to get my ‘POP’ bubbles to sit still. I like to think it was worth it though!

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Rory had fun typesetting his own little poem which he printed and is going to illustrate in the future. On his first print we realized he only had ONE typo. Pretty impressive seeing as you are spelling words with backward letters.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Learning Letterpress // Boots & CatsWe easily agreed on ink colours, and though we both thought we were pros at colour mixing, we used WAY too much ink getting the perfect blue. Luckily, you don’t actually need that much ink to print, so in the grand scheme of things we didn’t waste that much.

After hours of printing, talking, laughing and even enjoying a spot of tea, we had created some pretty awesome things. I can imagine the work it must entail to do this day in and day out as part of a creative business. Lu was a wonderful teacher and knowing the methods of craftmaship makes me appreciate the letterpress process so much more.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

You can check out Lu’s work for Uppercase press at the Royal Bison both weekends of the show coming up and I can’t wait to give out my holiday cards!