All That Glitters // Self-Drafted Sequin Maxi Skirt

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

Lately in the sewing world (and in the blogging world as a whole) there’s been a definite trend towards minimalism (hello Marie Kondo!). We should be sewing thoughtful, practical basics that speak to the core of our style. Instead of closets stuffed with party dresses never worn, we need a pared down selection only with wearable items we love most.

For the most part, I totally agree with this. I think reducing waste and making the things we love to wear, and will wear often, is a valuable use of our time, space and resources.

But sometimes, there are sequins.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

Sometimes a project calls to you, and you need to give in, just a little, to your sense of impracticality.

During the holidays I saw Madalynne’s exquisite skirt and immediately fell in love. As smitten as I was, I had no need for a sequin skirt at that time (or any time really) so I filed it away in the back of my mind in the ‘future projects’ folder.

As we rolled into 2016, after a wave of holiday sewing and a particular dress that I couldn’t get quite right, my sew-jo hit an all-time low. I had lots of projects to make, but just couldn’t round up enough cares to move forward. It’s kinda sad when you feel like that.

Early this month, Heather wrote a brilliant post to help kick our butts into gear and get over sewing fear. Usually, this would have been the pep talk I needed. But for once, I wasn’t really in a rut because of fear or option paralysis, it was more a classic case of sewing malaise. I just felt meh about everything.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

Then, two weeks ago my co-worker announced the theme for our staff holiday party (yes, i’m aware it’s January). The theme was tailor made for me: Glitter.

I LOVE anything glittering, sparkling and shiny. When I rushed to my closet though, I realized there was very little glitter to be found. After a short existential crisis (who even am I? Why don’t I have any glittering clothing?!) it seemed like an opportunity for a waist-to-toe smattering of sequin goodness!

I felt giddy at the thought of making and showing off this project. As soon as the idea sparked, I could hardly wait to get started and mentally ran through the construction details every night before bed. THIS was the perfect sew-jo booster!

As fate would have it, I was headed to the fabric store with Nicole for a collaborative project in only a few days time. I allowed myself to break my newly established ‘no new fabric’ resolution just this once.  I went in search of a stretch sequin (for comfort and fit) and some soft jersey lining. It was a miracle (and the first time EVER) that the rose-gold fabric I imagined in my head was right there on the shelf waiting for me.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

In terms of constructing, I analyzed Maddie’s blog post and followed in her footsteps. I self drafted a skirt using my waist, hip and height measurements, took in the fit 3 cm at the knee, then slashed and spread to the width of my fabric. I forgot how much math was involved in drafting (hence why I avoid pattern drafting where I can) but it was a fairly simple draft (skirts are like that) and took just over an hour to do.

I had mentally prepared myself to insert an invisible zip at the side seam, though I reaallly didn’t want to. Entertaining the notion I might be able to just pull the skirt on, I calculated the percentage of stretch for the fabric. It was about 30%. I then calculated that my waist to hip ratio was 0.76. Theoretically, this means it would work. My fabric could stretch over my hips and remain fitted to my waist because MATH.

But just to be safe, I just cut out and sewed the lining first, then tried it on because math and I aren’t friends and I usually don’t trust it. But it stretched over my hips easily. I also did a test run with my elastic waistband, pulling it on after sewing it to be sure I could get it on before attaching everything. It all checked out a-okay. No invisible zippers for me today!

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

I would have loved a shiny exposed elastic waistband but I was unable to find one that matched the warm bronzy gold of my sequins. So I simply used my lining fabric to cover basic black elastic. The elastic was quite stretchy so I undercut the waistband about 20% and it was perfect for holding up the weight of the sequin.

The jersey lining makes this skirt so comfortable and soft to wear. I was a little worried  the fabric would make it feel like I was sitting on tiny spikes anytime I sat down, but the small sequins on this fabric were sewn down flat, and you can’t even tell you are sitting on them.

Word of caution to anyone now tempted to get into the magical world of sequins. They are much worse than their cousin glitter. Sequins get everywhere.

Here's how to rock a glamourous winter photoshoot: secret wooly socks.

Here’s the secret to a glamourous winter photoshoot: hidden knee-high wooly socks.

I had planned to cut and sew the sequins in one weekend afternoon, so I could make a mess, then promptly vacuum up the carnage. WELL. After somehow deciding I wanted to be a stickler for finishing on this garment and started hand-stitching down the inside seams, (since you can’t press them because of melting sequin issues), I was not going to finish in a day. It took HOURS. That meant the days rolled on and the sequins took over. We discovered quickly they stick to your feet and get tracked around, but also that socks were impervious to their cling. Living room/sewing space was declared a sock-only zone for over a week. Sorry Rory.

Though I did eventually get to clean them up, they still like to make surprise appearances. I’m not totally sure they will ever go away.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & CatsI finished the skirt about a week in advance of the party and couldn’t help but slip in on now and again and dance in front of the mirror. I don’t care how ‘impractical’ this skirt appears to be. IT MAKES ME SO HAPPY.

I feel so glamourous in it. It’s just so swishy and fun. When the light hits the sequin it looks like liquid gold and a disco ball at the same time. At the party my co-worker said I looked like an award. I’ll take it.

Minimalism and practicality has it’s case, and I have lots of amazing basics coming down the line, but just for a moment let’s celebrate the happy statement pieces. There’s so much value in the joy they can bring, and all that happy energy it going to be channelled into my next makes.

DIY Sequin Maxi Skirt // Boots & Cats

(Such a statement skirt needed a statement locale to shoot it in, so we ventured out to the really cool Ice Castles built in our city this winter. It was a wonderland.)

Here’s to grossly impractical but oh so empowering sewing! Cheers!

 

Welcome, 2016 // Resolutions and a New Calendar!

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a blissful holiday and break. I’ve been spending lots of time with family and friends, while also managing to be a hermit at home, devouring seasons of Downton Abbey (how have I NOT seen that show until now? Seriously!). With the snow freshly fallen and the calendars turned over, I find myself feeling a little reflective, as ya do.

I don’t tend to make New Years resolutions. At my birthday I make a long list of little goals I want to check off, so resolutions have felt a bit redundant in the past.  This year though, I found a few things bubbling to the surface, mostly about sewing and blogging. So I thought there’s no better place to share, as a way to kick off 2016.

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

Use the fabric I have. This seems to be a fairly common one I’ve seen in bloggerland this week. Perhaps the rise of accessible online fabric stores with good quality textiles has lead to an abundance of fabric purchases all-round? I know for me, travelling and finding new, local(-ish) resources lead to lots of new fabric acquisitions. So many in fact I needed to find a way to document it all. When I moved in to my current place, I filled my shelf with folded piles of fabric and told myself that I could not have more fabric than it could hold. Well. My teetering stacks currently exceeds the volume of that shelf 3-fold. So: no more buying fabric until it all fits back on the shelf (with the exception of something I am planning on buying this Wednesday. But after that, NO MORE.)

I’ve really started to find good quality materials, and I need to focus on using them to the best of my ability before I go off searching for the next shiny thing.

Connect with like-minded seamstresses. The sewing community is a vibrant, thriving place with so much talent, creativity and uniqueness. Though I have been doing this DIY blogging thing for a while, it seems I have yet to break through the wall and meaningfully connect with others in this arena. A large goal of mine this year will be to work to connect with the community. There are so few local sewists that I long to make that connection with those who share the same passion and nerdiness for this craft.  This will mean mindfully commenting on blogs of those I admire, creating more useful/ instructive content and maybe even run a swap or challenge of some sort. 2016 is going to be the year of sewing friends!

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

On the more general bloggy side of things: Forget about what everyone else is posting. Last year I found myself getting sucked into the vortex of “I need to blog this right now because everyone else is doing it”. Seeing content that others were writing, and the response they would get made me scramble to get in on it too. I rarely had the time to do it properly, which either lead to half-baked posts, or finished posts that were just too late and missed the boat completely. This left me feeling unsettled, antsy and generally just unhappy about writing anything at all. This year will see none of that. I am going to focus on what I want to post about and when. And that’s that.

Embrace my social media channels for creating community. Especially Facebook.  I definitely don’t use my page to it’s best ability, and I would like it to become a little creative space for conversation and sharing of ideas and inspiration. Haven’t entirely figured out the strategy but now that I am mindful of it, changes will surely be made.

And lastly; Hold fast against the idea that blogs are ‘disappearing’. I love Instagram and will happily participate in that arena, but I do love the combination of long form ideas, imagery and inspiration that I feel only blogs can bring. I truly believe that the blog is the heart of the creative movement online, especially in sewing. Social Media is a wonderful tool to connect, but will never replace blogs for me. Either by reading posts about a pattern I plan to make or just by discovering the new makes of the talented people I follow, blogs remain my favourite place to be. So I will do my part to keep reading, engaging and writing content.

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

There you have em! And as the new year requires, I’ve once again crafted my own calendar. Modeled pretty much exactly after last year’s calendar (details here), I found myself pleased that I tried more detailed illustrations, and noticed a growth in my abilities. It was fun to look at what I previously made, and expand upon it, change it and basically do whatever I wanted with it.

Improving my illustration skills has been one of my long term goals for a while now and it’s cool to see it paying off. I even let myself draw many of the designs freehand, ON THE GOOD PAPER. Not one bit (okay a tiny bit) afraid to ruin the whole thing. I just went for it. I was so proud of myself.

I have so many fun sewing projects in store for the next few months, and I am SO EXCITED. I can’t wait to share them with you.

Have a beautiful wintry week!

Creative Gift Wrapping // Fabric Scrap Ribbons

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

Aside from finding the perfect gift for someone, wrapping those gifts is my absolute favourite thing about the holidays. Even from a young age I was all about matching paper to ribbons (and I ALWAYS preferred ribbons over those stick-on bows) and trying to make my gifts the most beautiful ones under the tree. It got to the point where I often wished I had more people to buy gifts for, solely on the fact that it would mean I would have more presents to wrap.

As Pinterest entered my life I became aware of a gift wrap world beyond shiny printed snowman paper and curling ribbons. I saw stunning glittered gifts, simple plain paper, baubles, florals and more. To say the gift wrap obsession increased may be an understatement. I began wrapping gifts in classic dotted kraft paper wrap, tied with twine and topped with jingle bells. And last year created my own stamped paper patterns.

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This year, in the midst of tackling my overzealous stash of basically useless fabric scraps, I was inspired to utilize what I already had and make some fabric ribbons.

Perfect for seamstresses who have offcut hems, homemade bias-tape gone wrong, selvage trims and other long strips of fabric, this gift wrap inspiration is for you! If you are sewing gifts for people, use the scraps of that project as the ribbon! It’s a subtle hint of what awaits inside.

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

You’ll need:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Fabric Scissors
  • Fabric scraps, cut into strips
  • Accessories!

It’s perfect if you already have fabric scraps cut into ribbon-like strips, but if you don’t, there are a few ways around it. For smaller segments that don’t quite reach around your gift, just sew the ends together and hide the seams on the bottom of your gift. Or if you can transform short, wide shaped pieces by using the zig zag cutting method (pictures explaining that here).

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

I had quite a bit of my kid’s craft easel paper left over from last year to be a blank canvas underneath. Once I chose my fabric for the ribbons, I used metallic Sharpies to doodle simple designs. This way, the paper complemented my fabric, but still let it be the star.

Really inspired by the use of greenery this season, I accessorized my gifts with gold dipped branches, frosted pine, teal florals and sparkly ornaments. Take a trip to the dollar store (or outdoors!) for some fun branches and baubles to elevate the whole presentation.

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

Even if you aren’t able to hand make each of your gifts this year, a custom, creative wrapping just adds that personal touch.  It’s such a joy to receive a beautifully wrapped present. Your friends may not even want to open them!

Enjoy the hustle and bustle of the week ahead and happy gift wrapping! Merry Christmas!

Hand-painted Gift Mugs

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

In recent years I’ve made more of an effort in delivering handmade gifts where I can. It’s pretty much impossible to make something for every person on your list, but mixing in something you’ve created every once in a while can be a delightful treat. My favourite thing about making something is that I can tailor the details to the recipient. It can feel like winning the lottery when you think of that perfect touch to add.

I know my limits when it comes to sewing gifts, so I decided to only make two garments this year. However, I still wanted to craft a few other handmade goodies. After a few conversations with friends it became clear that hot chocolate is pretty much a universal favourite this season. I decided that I would spread the cocoa joy in a hand-painted mug! These make a delightful gift for friends, family or co-workers, that are super easy to make your own. Er…their own?

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

Instead of just buying a cute mug and filling it with goodies, painting it yourself allows you to make it as personal as you’d like. I chose 4 phrases carefully for each of my friends who would be receiving them, but you can just as easily choose fun phrases that go for anyone.

These are perfect to have on hand for hostesses, secret santa’s and those gifts that just seem to pop up in this last week before Christmas.

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

You’ll need:

  • Blank ceramic mugs (as many as you’d like to make!)
  • HB pencil
  • Ceramic paint in a contrasting colour (I used Pebeo Porcelaine 150)
  • Small paint brushes, both firm and soft bristles.

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

The steps

  1. Brainstorm a few phrases or designs you’d like to include on your mug. Think of who will be recieving it and what they like. Pinterest also has lots of fun ideas. You’ll want to keep it relatively short (2-5 words) so it will be easier to paint.
  2. Sketch out your ideas on paper.
  3. Using a soft pencil, sketch your words onto the mug. You can use masking tape to make sure you have straight lines. Once your paint dries, you can wipe any marks off with your fingers.
  4. Paint! I found a firm brush worked best for printed letters, and a softer brush for script. If you are painting on a darker background you may need more than one coat.
  5. Follow the paint instructions for drying. For me, that meant letting them dry for 24 hours, then baking for 30 minutes in the oven to set it. This made the paint dishwasher safe!

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

Once you’ve painted your mugs, it’s time for the really fun part; filling it with a few fun and festive goodies! I chose two different hot chocolate mixes, candy canes, a Jacek chocolate bar, some sewn ornaments and a pom pom.

Go nuts and fill it with whatever you can think of! Other ideas might be marshmallows and cookies, small gifts like lip balm or jewelry, or even a tiny bottle of Bailey’s to go with that hot chocolate.

I’ve already started to give these away and It’s such a joy to pass along a handmade gift. The best part is watching people notice the personal touches.

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

Are you making handmade gifts this year? I’d love to hear all about em (and steal your ideas for next Christmas…)

Fabric Scrap Busters // Hand-sewn Christmas Tree Ornaments

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

There’s something about this time right before the holidays that I really get the itch to clear out the clutter. It’s a serious everything-must-go mentality that won’t let up. It’s probably because I like a clean slate for when the Christmas decorations come out and/or I am subconsciously making room for all the new lovely gifts that start to trickle in. In either case, old make-up is tossed, cupboards are cleaned and my overflowing craft storage pillaged.

This year, my main target is my fabric stash that is somehow not surprisingly  spilling out onto the floor and actually busting the sides of my shelf. When it comes to pretty textiles, I have a difficult time letting things go, even those measly little off-snips. After years of holding on, it’s getting out of control. I began going through and making a textile-only recycling bag of the really not useful bits (melted interfacing, creased-beyond-all-help lining, frayed who-knows-what-that-was, ect.) but I kept coming across decent chunks that could surely go on to be better things.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

Instead of hoarding them any longer though, if I am gonna keep ’em, I gotta use em. With some faded carols in the background and a cup of hot cocoa in hand, it felt like it was time for some holiday crafting.

With my acquisitions of some adorable prints this year, I found a pretty simple way to utilize my off-cuts. Plushy tree ornaments!

This craft is super easy and awesome to show off some of those brilliant novelty prints in your stash, or would work with other printed textiles (like linens, or tea towels) that need a new lease on life.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

The steps:

  1. Pick a portion of the pattern motif to become your ornament. Cut around the main design leaving a 0.5-1cm seam allowance.
  2. Flip it face-down and trace the shape onto another scrap of the fabric to create a mirrored back piece.
  3. Find some matching yarn or embroidery floss and snip a 12 cm length for the hanging loop.
  4. Tie the ends in a knot, creating the loop, and place inverted on the right side of your fabric
  5. Place the design right-sides together and hand stitch around the perimeter, leaving a 2cm opening near the bottom
  6. Turn your ornament right side out and fill with stuffing. Slip-stitch the bottom closed.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

Tips:

Here is a good resource for hand-sewing methods from By Hand London. I experimented with using my machine, but for the small shapes and curves it was difficult to manage and you end up losing the defining shapes of your design. Bonus points if you can spot the misshapen fail-cupcake* on the tree.

Patience is key, especially if you are new to hand sewing. You’ll want to be sure you aren’t stitching too closely to the edges, or else the ends will fray and burst open.

Poly-fill is a good choice for the stuffing, or what I did was shred some of the unwanted off-cuts and put them to use there instead.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

You can also add a touch of pizzazz with some sequins, beads or embroidery stitching onto more abstracted prints with simpler shapes. The options for where your creativity can take you become endless at this point.

Even if the aesthetic isn’t quite your jam for the tree, skip the hanging loop, toss in some catnip, and boom! Instant cat toy for your feline friends.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

Each ornament takes about 1 hour to make, depending on your hand-sewing skills. That makes it easy to make one for each of your friends in a print they’ll love most. That, or you can take all the pieces of your favourite print or collection and cover your whole tree!

I hope you enjoy using your fabric in a fun way, and please be sure to share pics if you make these!

Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to get back to sewing those last few gifts. It always seems to sneak up on you, eh? Next year I’ll start my Christmas projects in June.

Christmas tree ornaments from fabric scraps // Boots & Cats

* Rory and I decided that we are going troll our future-selves and put the fail-cupcake on the tree year after year. Hopefully in about 10 years as we decorate we’ll be like “What is this thing even, and why do we keep putting it on the tree?!”. Unless I keep re-reading through old blog posts and just ruined it for myself here again. Bah.

Kitty-ful Shift Dress // Colette Laurel

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

Seems like it would be obvious, but it took me a while to grasp the importance of good fabric in making a garment look real. I know things you make are ‘real’, like it’s tangible, but I can’t think of any other way to describe a quality, wearable garment.  You know, that magic combination of looking polished, professional and elevated (and a lot less home ec project). It’s all in the fabric.

With all the good fabric stores in my city shutting down just as I discovered them, I’ve recently turned myself to online fabric shopping and the world opened up. In one of my online hauls this spring I purchased a large chunk of Lizzy House’s Cat Nap collection. I mean, how could I possibly resist?! Lizzy’s designs are whimsical and fun, but very well designed as to avoid being too twee. Kitty Dreams design is my favourite of the bunch and had to go towards something special. Because cats.

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

There have been quite a few stunning swing dresses in this print floating around, but my standard 2m order couldn’t quite accommodate the pattern I had in mind. Also, I have yet to decide if swing dresses are ‘me’. I love how they look on other people, but always feel a little off in them. But I digress. I opted to keep it simple (and not break up the awesome print) and make a basic shift.

Perhaps surprisingly, this was my first shift dress! It’s one of those basics I kinda just skipped over to get to making more ‘exciting’ things. I looked through my vintage pattern stash and there wasn’t quite the shapes I wanted there, so I went on an online hunt and after much  indecision I landed on the Colette Laurel.

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

The warm purple of the fabric meant it was going right to the top of my fall sewing list. I am all about warm and cozy colours this time of year. Once the pattern arrived (and I swooned over the brilliant branding) I swiftly cut out all my pieces. Then the autumn days vanished and it sat. It sat for weeks, and to be honest it made me super anxious. I mean, it’s highly uncommon for projects to sit in limbo that long.

Turns out I just needed a good deadline (isn’t that just the key for us procrastinator types?). I had the opportunity to spend my birthday weekend in the mountains and decided I NEEDED to take advantage of the locale to shoot some blog photos. Laurel was waiting: three days later she was up and running.

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

I didn’t read many pattern reviews before diving in, so I cut size 4 based on an ‘average’ of my measurements. I later realized I should have graded down the bust since it is technically at a size 0 in Colette and read that the patterns run a little pear-shaped. (I also didn’t make a muslin, because who has time for that?!)

When I first tried it on there was quite an excess of fabric in the tummy area. Not so flattering. The physics of pattern-making sometimes boggles me, but I have a feeling it had to do with my lack of bust fitting. It was a bit too late (too lazy) to take out the sleeves and darts to reconstruct everything, so I just compensated by taking in 2cm from each of the side seams and it managed to do the trick. It still sometimes bubbles out when I sit, but you don’t notice too much.

I added 10 cm to the length as per usual, but then  decided I wanted a wider and heavier hem. This ate up most of my additional length. For future Laurels I may have to order a few extra cms of fabric, I barely have anything leftover. Suffice to say, it’s on the short side but I don’t mind much. If it does become a problem I can always let down the hem later anyway.

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Invisible zippers and I aren’t totally bffs yet, so I just cut the center back edge 0.5 cm back and installed a regular zipper instead. Also, how stoked was I that I found one that matched the orange PERFECTLY?!

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

The biggest win for me on this project is that this was probably the first time I have 100% correctly installed bias tape. If you look at my early makes you’ll see that the bias technically fulfills it’s purpose but is inserted inside out or backwards. It’s such a simple technique, but it never occurred to me that I was doing it wrong. I guess I needed Sarai’s super detailed and patient instructions to get it to click. +100 XP to me!

I am so excited to wear this dress. Perfect for layering, I am going to have fun playing with different tights, scarves, sweaters and more this season. I love that it’s a statement piece but the colour and shape are going to make it quite versatile. And it’s full of cats! Yay. AND when I looked back at it, this dress checks all the boxes from my wardrobe architect exploration in terms of colour, fit and shape. So double yay.

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

Now that the technical bit is over with; LOOK AT THE VIEW! Even though I live so close to the mountains, I haven’t been in years. It was so crisp, refreshing and festive and cozy and awesome. We spent two days with an awesome group of people (in a giant rental house) playing board games, hide and seek, hiking, and playing in the snow. We were lucky too, lots of sun and decently warm weather, perfect for snowballs and sliding on the ice. I’m already planning another trip back in a few months.

Kitty Cat Laurel // Boots & Cats

Of course, what kind of crafter would I be if, sitting in a chalet by a roaring fire in the midst of winter, I didn’t get any knitting done? I haven’t finished my sweater yet (why does it take so long?!) but I’ve been inspired and whipped up a quick knit while I was there. But more on that in a bit.

Keep Track of your Fabric Stash // Printable Pages

How to keep track of your fabric stash // Boots & Cats

You can’t deny it. Every seamstress has one: a toppling pile of oh-so-beautiful fabrics. As much as we try to use what we already own… there’s always that one more new fabic we HAVE to have (you know, just in case).

Personally, my stash will always exceed my project list. I am never one to pass up a fabric that inspires me, even if I have no project in mind at the moment. And sometimes, if I DO buy specifically for a project, I may lose interest in that plan by the time I get around to it or wish to allocate the textile elsewhere. This method fabric hoarding does make it difficult when I want to make something with stash fabric. It’s been so long since I got it, I no longer know what it is!

Is it 100% cotton or is it poly-blend? Wool or acrylic? Can I trust two fabrics will play nice if I use them together? Did I get this from a friend or family member? Have I pre-washed it?

On a few occasions, I’ve made some lucky guesses to my fabric’s origins and all was well, and other times…not so much. It really is a shame to lose a project to factors that are ultimately in your control. So after a particularity fruitful haul in Europe this summer I knew I wanted to use that fabric to its best ability (and remember what they all were). I would start keeping track of my fabrics.

How to keep track of your fabric stash // Boots & Cats

I devised a fairly simple system by looking at what other’s were doing and choosing to track the info I used most. To keep it from being overwhelming,  I am slowing adopting the system with each new fabric purchase from now on.

Taking a small swatch and some basic notes, I now have a permanent reference for my fabrics so I may treat them all properly. Plus this also give me an easy reference before I hit the stores. I can identify what I have before buying more, plus spot gaps that need to be filled.

I shared my methods on Instagram a few days ago for Bimble + Pimble’s Sewvember (organizing #likeaboss, hehe) and got lots of wonderful feedback so I decided to share my printable catalogue pages. Now all of you can join in on the organizational fun. Just click the download image below and print (or save for later). It’s easy peasy!

How to keep track of your fabric stash // Boots & Cats

How to keep track of your fabric stash

If you are buying fabric at a chain shop, take a photo of the bolt with the fabric info on your phone for reference. They sometimes won’t write it all on the receipt, and if you are buying a lot, it can be hard to remember what’s what.

As soon as you get home, cut a small swatch from the corner of each fabric, about 4×4 cm should do.

Staple, tape or glue (whichever method floats your boat) your swatch onto the page, then using your references from your order/receipt/photos, fill in the following alongside:

  • Fabric name. If it’s from a collection you like, or if you bought online and want to tag, credit or find it again.
  • Fibre type and percentages, for obvious reasons.
  • Where it was purchased from. If you want to note the store, place or date of purchase for memories or reference during clear-outs.
  • Quantity. So you know what you have on hand. Ideally you’ll adjust this amount as you make stuff with it.
  • Pre-washed?  I don’t always get around to pre-washing fabric when I sew (I know, BAD) so I am never sure which leftovers have been washed or not. Probably just best practice to wash it as soon as you get home and check it off.
  • Project ideas. I like to write in what I initially had in mind for it when I bought it, or to make a note of any inspirations you have but don’t have time to tend to immediately. These definitely aren’t finite plans, but are good to know in case you forget later on.

How to keep track of your fabric stash // Boots & Cats

Just print a new page anytime you need one (print on card-stock if you can, it’s sturdier). I also print and swatch double-sided to save paper. I currently keep all my pages in a folder, but you could easily hole punch them and store them in a binder. If you wanted to be REALLY organized, you can keep like with like ie. knits together on one page, cottons, bottom-weights ect. and keep everything divided. Or sort by colour, or season. The options are quite endless.

Personally, it took me enough effort to get this far, so I will just add each new fabric sequentially as I acquire them. I tend to shop in batches so it’s fun to see the patterns emerging  about my tastes and interest at the time. Snapshots of my fabric story.

I hope this page and tips will help you control your stash and be a better seamstress. I can’t wait to follow along with you for the rest of #BPsewvember. Happy weekend!

Halloweaving

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

I love Halloween. This can be evidenced by the fact that I am wearing glow-in-the-dark pumpkin socks and eating a ghost cookie as I write. As soon as the calendar flips to October my apartment is fully decorated and I plan in as many spooky (but not scary, mind you) activities to make the most of this holiday.

I can’t really pin-point exactly what I love about it so much. I love the visual aesthetic of orange and black, not to mention the graphic style of vintage decorations. It could also be the child-like sense of fun in creating costumes and getting together with friends. Or it could just be the copious amounts of sugar. Who knows.

What I do know is that I can’t get enough and love to fill my days with Halloweeney things. Best way I find to do this is to infuse the spirit into my crafting. (Pun? I think so.)

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

This year, I happened to buy a loom and take up weaving in September. Loom weaving, especially wall hangings, has been on my radar for the last few years but I never jumped into it- I guess I had too many other crafts on my plate. Then this summer some really stunning work repeatedly popped up on my feed that I felt really inspired and connected to. I went to Etsy and got myself a loom, and an arm load of yarn to play with.

As hard as I tried to take a workshop with Lucy Poskitt while I was in Vancouver (I visited twice recently and BOTH TIMES she taught the day after I left) I didn’t take any classes to get started. I read a few tutorials, mainly from A Beautiful Mess, but I found it pretty easy to get the hang of it. Sure there are some basic techniques you need to know, but once you get those down, honestly the main skill required is patience.

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

This isn’t a quick craft, especially as your pieces get larger, but the creative possibilities are actually endless. You can play with geometry and colour blocking, gradient tones and abstract textures, or bold motifs. The bulk of what I’ve seen is abstract work, with lots of chunky elements and fringe, which is stunning, but I find that my default is lots of structure, uniformity and simplicity. My first few pieces were primarily geometric shapes, but the lightbulb went off for me when, in an ABM tutorial, Rachel said “think of shapes in pixels”. My mind rushed with words and  shapes I could incorporate into more graphic style work.

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

And with Halloween coming up, there’s no better time to put that idea to work! I knew right away I wanted to play with some cute little ghosts flying around and sketched out some shapes. I found it quite helpful to design on grid paper to keep in the ‘pixels’ mindset. To ensure I kept true to my design, especially on the rounded shapes, I actually drew it onto my warp yarn with a sharpie, to act as a guideline. It might be cheating but it works!

I constructed most of the hanging using a basic basket weave (over one-under one) using contrast yarns for the ghosts and sky. I could have left it like that, but I picked up an amazing orange yarn from Rain City Knits in Vancouver and needed to incorporate it. I used it to add some extra texture and highlight elements. I was a little on the fence about it at first but I think it heightens the overall look. Makes it ‘pop’ if you will.

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

Like I said, weaving takes a lot longer to complete than you think. I would estimate there is about 6 hours of work in this little guy. But hey, what better way to binge watch Netflix shows. (I am all about Once Upon A Time right now… that’s kinda Halloweeney right?)

These little ghosties are now hanging in my ‘Halloween corner’ of my living room along with some spooky flowers, pumpkin lanterns and glitter bats and seems to fit right in.

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

Now that I’ve completed my fourth weaving, I can stay that I am quite enjoying it. I always loved the fluffy texture and the endless array of colour in yarn, but knitting and I still haven’t completely hit it off. I am already brainstorming many more things I could weave. The loom is relatively non-intimidating to experiment with in terms of design and techniques which is really nice.

Now I just need to get ALL the yarn! Muahahaha

The BlogPodium Dress // A V8766 & B5982 Mashup

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

A few weekends ago I had the pleasure of travelling to Vancouver to attend the 5th annual BlogPodium conference. To be honest I hadn’t heard of the conference before, since it had been previously held over in Toronto. Then I received an email from Jennifer letting me know it was to be held on our side of the country this year. I got so excited and HAD to go. I even booked my tickets from Berlin to be sure I didn’t miss out.

Meeting up with like-minded peers, geeking out over blogging and travelling to the coast? Yes please. Blogpodium is targeted at design and lifestyle bloggers and provides them with a platform to connect & collaborate in a beautiful venue featuring brilliant speakers.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

Beautiful lettering of Justine Ma Design

To say it was amazing would be an understatement and the energy from connecting with friends new and old was electrifying. I could go on but some of my fellow local bloggers have already recapped the event better than I could, so visit their blogs to read all about it!

What I’ll tell you about was the fact that I was attending a conference for bloggers. ie. the most stylishly dressed people of all time. If I was to attend this conference…what the heck would I wear?!

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I knew it couldn’t be just any old outfit and I wanted to be sure it was handmade (after all, that’s what a huge portion of this blog is about. I need to live my brand! ha). It would also need to be pretty powerful. In crowded rooms I tend to shrink away, especially if I feel intimidated by the ambition, style and brilliance of those around me. I wanted wear something that made me approachable, yet seem cool and successful. I placed it upon the dress I made to make me feel bold, confident and be a true representation of myself. That’s kinda a lot of ask of a dress now that I think about it.

I dug out this dreamy structured linen  stripe that has been maturing in my stash for about 3 years. It came home in my Sig Plach closing sale haul (among many unnecessary pretty things I needed to have before the store closed forever) and I knew it was something special. It had the potential to be something show-stopping, but I never previously had the project to make it shine.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I decided this is what my dress would be. The bold stripe deserved a cupcake-y Kate Spade-y shape and just the thought of it got me giddy. I  grabbed the pattern B5982 because I loved the ruched and pleated skirt and felt it was perfect shape for what I was going for. However, I worried about breaking up the stripes on the bodice with the princess seams. Also I kinda wanted to have sleeves, since it’s just easier than carrying a sweater with you everywhere (I’m ALWAYS too cold, okay?). Enter V8766.

I had never franken-patterned before, but have seen it done many times to brilliant effect. I took the Vogue bodice and matched it to the Butterick skirt and I could not be more pleased with the result. A big plus about mashing up two ‘Big 4’ patterns, as I discovered, was that all the notches matched up! That means I didn’t have to adjust the darts or skirt pleats, they fell into perfect alignment. Hurrah!

I wanted to say that the sewing itself was a breeze, which it was technically, but it definitely didn’t feel that way at the time. This make kinda got emotional.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

I first made a muslin and added my usual 6 cm length to the bodice and it seemed great. When I cut into my fabric, I made sure to end the bodice on a full stripe so the pattern could continue seamlessly into the skirt. But then for some reason when I tried on the dress…the waistline was WAY too long, like almost at my hips! I brought the skirt back up another 3cm and all was well…except my perfect stripe matching! Blast.

I also went with a full lining since the fabric was a little sheer (and itchy if I am completely honest) and when I put it in and tried on the dress, I felt like it was so lumpy and bumpy and awful. All of a sudden this amazing fabric and design felt heavy, and icky and it made me feel so insecure of myself and skills. It was clear I had tied too much of my perceived success at the conference into the success of this dress that it sabotaged the process. I wanted to quit so bad and just forget the whole thing.

But, I sat and thought about it for a bit. I had already put out a peek of the project on social media, so I basically blackmailed myself. “It would be quite embarrassing show up not wearing what you told everyone you would, no?”. I grumbled and pushed on.

I made a few fit adjustments and completed my hand-finishing (which I ended up quite proud of) and without trying it on again, hung it up for about a week.

I don't usually post shots of the guts but c'mon look at how beautiful that lining is at the zipper!

I don’t usually post shots of the guts but c’mon look at how beautiful that lining is at the zipper!

Luckily, it does seem that time heals all sewing wounds, because when I made my peace with it and put it on a few days before I left (to see if I needed to pack a contingency outfit) it fit like a dream. It was exactly what it was supposed to be.  The shape, the pattern, the FUN. The joy and enthusiasm I had for the project had returned. And I couldn’t wait to pack it.

Just some other alterations and sewing notes; I cut a size 12 from both patterns, added in-seam pockets, raised the neckline about 2cm and drafted a neckline facing to attach the lining. I found it easier to make the dress and lining completely separate and attaching them to the facing at the very end, just before hemming.

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

When you get heavily emotionally invested in any project you are making, I think it is so important to give yourself time to take a break. Once you distance yourself from the object of frustration, you gain a little perspective. Ask yourself why it’s so important to you to create this and what is the worst that would happen if it didn’t work out. You’ll probably find that you have deeper reasons for your emotional reaction than the project itself and once you separate the two, you allow yourself the simple joy of creating something, no pressure attached.

I relieved the dress of my expectations to have it make me connect with people at the conference, because really, it never had the power to do that for me anyway. I am so grateful I powered through and finished it. I felt so at ease with myself as I wore it and felt no need to compare with others in the room. Some people asked if I deliberately dressed to match the decor (nope, coincidence), and many were interested to hear about my process. The dress was a wonderful conversation starter (especially after Jenna called me out for it in her talk!) but it was me who got to do the talking.

I’ve learned that I find my joy in making without expectations. Tying yourself (and ego) into the results can be a frustrating and heartbreaking experience I’m hopefully aware enough of to avoid repeating. I am thankful that this dress rings true to who I am in the end, but the process felt way too heavy – creating is supposed to be fun! Just gotta let it go, and trust that it’ll work out.

My friend Jenna rocks at photobooths. Also, check out that pattern matching at the side seams! Photo credit: Vancouver Photobooth

Jenna totally rocks at photobooths. Also, check out that pattern matching at the side seams! Boo yah! Photo credit: Vancouver Photobooth

Our Trip to Europe // Paris

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

As you might expect, I simply could not take a trip to Europe without taking a stop in the city of lights. It was our last stop of the journey and it was as beautiful as they said it would be…and as crowded full of tourists as they said it would be.

I knew it would be crowded and touristy, but I did my best to try and scope out little authentic experiences for us. Buuuuuut nobody told us that the entire city of Paris takes a vacation in August. This means all the local bakeries, independent artists and shops, all the things I had intended to see were closed (many of them reopened the Monday we left, just because it would just sting a little more that way). The only places that were open were the touristy stops and chain stores. Serious boo-urns.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

Admittedly, what I had been looking forward to the most in Paris was a stop at Anna Ka Bazaar/ Atelier Brunette. I’d been following (and ogling) the shop for about a year after discovering them by chance on Instagram. The moment I saw the quirky style, affinity for pastels and modern printed fabrics I was hooked. I was so stoked to be able to step foot in their charming shop and had been preparing my (very long) shopping list for weeks.

Once we arrived, I made the discovery that, like the rest of the city, they were closed. Not only that, but they were in the process of moving locations. It seemed I had missed my chance.

Hating to see how whimpery and heartbroken I’d become, Rory suggested I simply reach out to them. Maybe I could just order from their online store and pick it up. At the very least I’d save a bunch on shipping. So I did.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

Then, something amazing happened that reaffirmed everything I love about people in the sewing community. They told me that, since they were in the process of setting up their new (and now open, and completely stunning) location and would be there all day, that I would be welcome to just stop by and pick out my fabrics.  I was floored.

When I arrived the next day Anna and the team were incredibly sweet and didn’t hesitate to pull out boxes of fabrics for me to fawn over and sort through. I definitely satisfied my fabric fix and was so warmed by their generosity. A small part of me is still sad I hadn’t the chance to see the shop fully stocked and merchandised in all its glory, but I count myself so lucky for the one-of-a-kind, behind-the-scenes experience I was given. It will forever be a highlight.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

Along the walk through the 3rd arrondissement after stopping at Anna Ka Bazaar, we happened ourselves upon another cat cafe! Rory obliged a second kitty visit and we enjoyed a mid-afternoon dessert at Cafe des Chats. Though not as cool and modern as Kopjes, I  pleasantly enjoyed the Parisian atmosphere and, of course, the fluffy company.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

Our Airbnb was located in Montmartre and could not have been closer to the Abbesses metro station. It was a charming little flat, and though the smallest accommodation on our trip, was lovely and had everything we needed. We were 2 minutes away from Sacre Coeur and subsequently the large fabric markets of les Coupons de Saint-Pierre and la Marche Saint-Pierre. It was a textile-lovers dream. I only left with two new fabrics from here, showing restraint after my haul at Anna.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

The only other thing we had planned for ourselves was a day-long bicycle tour through the grounds of Versailles. It was a dream. I forgot how much joy there is in coasting along on your bike, wind in your hair and beautiful sights to see.

The tour started at the market in the city of Versailles to stock up on some cheese, croissants and charcuterie for our picnic lunch later in the day. I may or may not have devoured a vanilla eclair before we even left the bakery. Then we went into the grounds, cycling among the spawling trees, stopping for visits at Marie Antionette’s hamlet, the petit and grand Trianons, and stopping for a picnic alongside the expansive Grand Canal. The day was beautifully mild and leisurely.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

After the cycling we did get to go inside the palace, but it was SO packed and we felt like herded animals. We couldn’t escape fast enough! The more enjoyable part was the gardens. It started to rain a bit and a fair bit of the crowd dissapated. You can’t help but feel wonder and awe at the expanse, detail and elegance.

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

Our last two days were pretty open and frankly quite lazy on our part. By this point we had spent weeks of walking and exploring and were tired of mapping, planning and trying not to get lost. We wandered a bit through Montmartre, had a small picnic by the Eiffel tower and had a pleasant stroll along the Seine.

One of my favourite things about the city: croissants for breakfast. Rory marveled at their fluffiness, at one point dubbing them ‘a cloud-like butter delivery system’. We also made an obligatory macaron stop at Laduree. I would have loved to try a few more patisseries, but again: closed (sad face)

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

After 25 days of exploring, eating, discovering and walking, as magical as it was, we were ready to be home. This of course meant that our flight was delayed and we missed our connection and had to wait even longer. Eventually we arrived home and I have never felt so comfortable in my own bed.

Weirdest thing about being home? Our apartment felt huge! I will never again take for granted the amount of space I have here.

Phew, that about covers our European adventure. I’ve been home for over a month now and been sewing, knitting and weaving (!) up a storm. I can’t wait to share with you what I’ve been up to! Have a great weekend lovelies!