Imitation vs Inspiration // Authenticity in Style and Sewing

Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

Have you ever seen a photo of someone and just wished you could be them? Whether it was their on-point style, their illustrious setting, or their radiating confident attitude. This can lead to jealousy, but oft lends itself to ideas and inspiration. Pinterest has opened the doors to every image of every style imaginable perfect for each person’s tastes. Personally, I can’t get enough of vintage photos and styling, especially from the mid-century. I want to be transported to that era of designer dresses, flawless eyeliner and sculpted to perfection hair. I imagine the feeling of exuding youthful coolness and fun, so effortlessly.

Style icons, muses, and inspirations do come from all eras, times and places for me, but ever since I opened a John French Photography calendar when I was 15, model Jean Shrimpton became one of those women captured in time that I’ve always wished I could be.

I guess what all this is getting at, is that the real reason I arranged a full out sixties photo shoot was that I wanted the opportunity to be Jean for a day. There’s a photo from a 1965 issue of Vogue that just captures the essence of everything I love and admire about the decade. I’ve always wanted to step inside that photo and live a bit of that reality. While that isn’t possible, I looked to the talented friends around me and thought, if I was going to make it happen, we could do it right.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

The whole experience was a dream, a day full of laughs, inspiration, (and a few dresses thrown in for some good blogging measure). I could not be happier with everything that came as a result. But as I started to share and post the photos, I felt a twinge of apprehension.

If you know me in real life, you know this isn’t how I dress and look everyday. In fact, I appear very 2016 casual. I am by no means committed to vintage style regularly. I love it, but it doesn’t always work for me, and takes more time and effort than is usually available. I worried that people who knew me thought I was simply wearing a costume, or those who found me and the blog through these photos would find some of my other sewing projects and feel like I’ve deceived them, thinking I was a mod-girl 24/7.

It’s really a shame that in this day and age, with access to so many influences and muses, there is still the prevailing idea that we are supposed to be committed to a single style persona. We’re encouraged to explore and develop our personal style, but there’s a catch; “It’s totally okay to be anything you want to be, but as long as you stick to that one thing.” I understand why we think this way, if someone presents themselves consistently, it’s easy to understand and relate to them.

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

I, and so many people I know, have such an array of interests and fashion muses that it seems inefficient (and boring!) to stick within that box. It can be hard, because to people who don’t know you, it creates a dissonance in who they’ve assumed you are, but I think we need to work toward allowing ourselves to take on a new persona as frequently as we like without fear of being judged as fake, or a poseur, because you fail to commit to a single definition of how you look everyday. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable to be a 60s girl one day, to a J. Crew girl the next, and a fluffy skirted fashion blogger the day after that.

The way I see it, there are so many ways to draw elements of your style in different ways, and those may change depending on the aspects of your life. Sometimes certain things don’t fit the situation , but it’s a balance of your mood of the day, convenience and practicality, your environment, your dream self and your aspirations that all work together to create your style output. And sometimes that means you appear radically different each day to the next.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, you have to wonder, no matter how you choose to present yourself, where are you drawing your style from? How is it influenced from those you admire – by drawing your look from someplace else, where is the line between imitation and inspiration?Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

These photos, for example, were planned out down to the colour and size of the flowers to directly reflect the photo in Vogue. Does that mean I wasn’t creative enough? Is my choosing to recreate something that brings me joy celebrating the influence it’s had on me, or does it display a lack of individual creative thought?

In the world of sewing, I often ask myself if choosing to make a dress exactly how it appears on the pattern envelope makes me less of a creative person than someone who hacks, slashes and reinvents the design or even drafts their own concept from scratch? Sometimes, the way a garment is presented by the designer is exactly what I want to have in my life, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for not re-interpreting it.

Can you even compare someone looking for something relaxing and straightforward make with someone who had the desire to inject their own elements based to grow their skills and techniques? Maybe it’s not something we should consider at all, and instead look at the act of creating ANYTHING as a marker of expression and leave it at that?

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

To me, creativity is a spectrum and there’s no wrong way to do it. Following the steps 1-2-3 can be an entryway to learning something new, or even a relaxing way to keep moving forward. I didn’t stray very far from the envelope my first few patterns, and I stick pretty close when I entering new territories (sewing with knits, or tailoring) or even trying a new craft altogether. It’s okay to make the decisions and play out your work in the way that speaks true to you.

Recreating these photos brought me, and those who helped me bring it to life, a lot of joy. The fact that we had to plan, collaborate and bring everything together was enough of a journey that, even though we were quoting the source material, lent itself a voice of it’s own.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

I believe the reason the online sewing community in particular is thriving is because of the concept of inspiration. I don’t know about you, but before I purchase any new pattern, I have to do an image search for every possible version I can find of it made online. It helps me visualize what can be possible, and what options are open for me to explore. I enjoy seeing how everyone infuses their own elements of style. I find things that have been made the exact same way I want to make it, and I am sometimes pleasantly surprised with twists people have put on things that I hadn’t even considered before. There is so much to be gained by just being open to the ideas and concepts from everyone, and getting to know all sides of them, and embracing the style they present.

Something as simple as a few fun photos can open up so many questions! I definitely would love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject as well. Do you feel comfortable deviating from your ‘normal’ style, and does sewing allow you to do that more easily?

And when you are creating something, how closely can you draw from others before it becomes more than just inspiration? Have you ever felt nervous to share something you are afraid people will judge as inauthentic or copied, even if your journey to that result was completely you own?

A Taste of the 60s // Striped Coco Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

I’ve got another really fun one to share with you today. For the second look capturing the fun and bright spirit of the 60s, how could I deny you the most perfect retro-made-modern dress that is the Tilly and the Buttons Coco?

I realized that I don’t really have much to say about this dress, yet it’s one of my favourite makes to date. It’s funny how that works out that way. When I initially got this striped fabric, I knew right away this was exactly what it was going to be. A striped Coco has been on my sew-do list since I first laid eyes on the pattern. I talked about my finding-a-good-striped-fabric woes in the post about my Coco Breton top last month, but if you got any good stripe sources, hook me up!

Both striped Coco projects were actually cut out at the same time. I cut out the dress, then noticed I had enough left to make the breton top too. Probably because it was still pants weather at that point, the top got made first.

On that note about pattern cutting, I have to ask, what’s your process with sewing projects? Do you work on a single garment, start to finish before starting something new, or do you have multiple things on the go? I used to be strictly one-at-a-time, but I found I ended up sewing less frequently because of it.

Cutting out pattern pieces is definitely my least favourite part of the process (it doesn’t help that I don’t have room for a table and I work off the floor) so it takes a lot of inertia to get started on a project, especially if I am short on time. I have started to cut out a few projects in bulk when I have lots of energy, so I have at least one or two projects ready to go when sewing time is scarcer. I do have to be careful not to prepare TOO many projects or else they stare me down and make me feel guilty they aren’t done yet, but so far this is working pretty well. I’d love to hear how you work around your projects and prep things to sew. I’m all about streamlining.

Anywho, back to Coco.

I was trying to think about why this dress just worked for me. It was hard to narrow it down to describe. It’s this perfect blend of simple yet bold, classic yet unique, different but everyday wearable. It’s everything all in one, and it just ‘clicks’.

This makes my third Coco overall. I said it before, but I think this pattern will be my ultimate TNT. I remember when I first started thinking about what I truly wanted from my clothes, I was often pinning styles that had the 60s funnel neck collar, without pinpointing that was a design element I loved. Once I discovered Tilly, it totally made sense to me, and it was one of the first indie patterns I bought. Unfortunately my first top was made of a poor quality fabric and hasn’t worn super well over time.

Construction notes are super basic: Straight cut in size 2 with usual waist length added. I wanted to play with the graphic nature of the stripe so I opted for the option with contrast cuffs. I thought of adding in the pockets too, but it was much too busy. It was all sewed with the overlocker except for the hem.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

The thick ponte makes this dress the perfect transitional piece for this strange winter-spring (winting?) hybrid season we are currently having. It’s soft and snuggly with a print that says bring on the sunshine. I also want to make more Coco tops in a selection of basic solid colours (though my stash is currently lacking in the solid color department…) to wear year-round so keep your eyes out for more retro goodness.

One more look coming from this photo session with Breanne Marie Photography comin’ atcha next week.

A Taste of the 60s // Papercut Patterns Saiph Tunic

Papercut patterns Saiph Tunic // Boots and Cats

I’m not the best at sticking to sewing project timelines. This dress was one of my intended fall sewing projects that just so happened to avoid getting done til January. Luckily, we are having a very mild winter so finishing it now does nothing to diminish it’s wearability.

The Saiph Tunic from Papercut patterns has a very unique silhouette that can seem a bit daunting to people, myself included. I don’t have anything like this in my wardrobe, as I tend to find comfort in more fitted and shaped garments. However, I felt like it was time to take a risk and step out of my comfort zone and try something a little more unique with this unfitted bodice and drop waist ruffle. I also kinda dug that the shape gave off a swinging 60s vibe. Very youthful and flippantly fun.

Papercut patterns Saiph Tunic // Boots and Cats

As I was wrapping up this dress, I had another very mod style dress in the works and took the opportunity to have a lot of fun with my work. I rallied some very talented friends and put together a stylized photoshoot for the dresses. Though Saiph is totally wearable on the daily, what better way to capture it’s spirit than by going all out and playing up the fantasy of it. Plus who doesn’t love playing dress-up and tapping into a hidden alter ego?

Sewing this dress was a breeze regarding the technical aspects, which was great as it allowed me to just work slowly and focus on executing it well. This was my first time sewing a Papercut Pattern and the diagrams and resources were very clear and easy to follow. I also have the Sway Dress which I CAN’T WAIT to get into this spring.

As many people noted online, this dress is SHORT, so I added a whopping 15 cm to both the waist and sleeve lengths to spare me some decency. When I first tried it on sans ruffle, it had great shape and fit well. The sleeves were the perfect length for me (the longer the better!) However,  once I basted the ruffle on, it looked WAAY to much like a vintage night shirt (and not in a good way). I really liked the look of added flounce at the skirt, so I removed it, took up the bodice length about 4 cm and reattached it. It was at this point I conceded I can’t do a totally shapeless design and  took in the side seams about 2cm each. These changes helped the pajama factor, as well as reduced the excess fabric bulk at the waist if I decide to wear it with a belt.

Because of it’s unique shape, this dress was definitely one of those garments I couldn’t decide if I liked or not. I would put it on and be in love with it, while simultaneously zoning in on all the bits that look weird or ‘off’. At the end of the day I had to give in to the love, and hope that I just need to get used to the parts that strike me as odd. Either that or after a few wears I will decide it’s just too much. In any case, I just need to wear it a few more times to come to a proper conclusion. I would encourage those of you on the fence for this shape to just go for it and see how you feel in it!

Papercut patterns Saiph Tunic // Boots and Cats

The fabric is the first Atelier Brunette fabric from Anna Ka Bazaar that I have worked with since acquiring my haul in Paris last August. It was such a beautiful dream to work with. It was as stable as a quilting cotton, but with incredible softness and gentle stretch that makes this garment FEEL like pajamas (secret pajamas FTW!). I definitely had ‘the fear’ cutting into this special fabric for a project with so many unknowns (new brand, unique silhouette) but it was probably my preciousness of the fabric that really made me slow down and focus on my execution, instead of rushing to the end as per usual, and it definitely paid off.

Because if the lightness of the fabric, I should be able to get a number of wears out of this dress even as we go into spring, even with the full-length sleeves. I look forward to playing with layers of cardigans, scarves and belts for a more everyday feel. I do like this pattern and find it very interesting. I would like to make a version as a top but I think I’ll need a drapier fabric to avoid looking like a tent.

Papercut patterns Saiph Tunic // Boots and Cats

It was so much fun to dress up and play with the mod side of the dress for this post, and a huge thanks to Breanne Marie Photography, Dani White (hair) and Brittany Batt (makeup) for making the whole ensemble come to life. I can’t wait to share what other vintage goodness we have in store.

Cozy and Quilted // Sewaholic Hollyburn Skirt

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

I’ve hit a bit of a sewing wall. More specifically, dealing with a feeling of frustration with types of of the garments I have been making. I guess I’ve been riding on a bit of a plateau of my skills for the past year or so and it’s lead me to feeling pretty stuck. Up until this point, I’ve relished this stage of my sewing journey,  knowing exactly what level I can execute and being able to make things quickly without thinking too hard. But it’s definitely a comfort zone and I worry I’ve gotten to comfortable.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE (almost) everything I have made during this phase, but I also can’t help feel that something is missing. Like the clothes (and subsequently myself) haven’t been living up to potential. The only way to describe it, is that my garments feel quite ‘flat’. I hope that makes sense. For example, all my garments are made with a single fabric, with basic style lines. They often rely on the fabric print to make the statement, but are usually a pretty ‘safe’ textile to work with.

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

To try and understand how to get out of this frustration I look at the type of clothing I am drawn to in stores. I can easily dismiss the basics I could make myself, but am still insatiably drawn to clothes I perceive at this ‘next level’. I gravitate towards unique textiles, with drape or texture. I like garments that have a dramatic combination of fabrics and  play with matching embellishments. Not to mention all the complicated wardrobe staples like jeans, coats and undergarments.

After uncovering these dynamics, I have a new lens for moving forward with new projects. How can I take this garment to the next level? How can I make it something worthy of wanting to buy? What can I do to challenge myself, or take it beyond expectations?

Anyway. I made a skirt!

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

I happened to purchase this quilted fabric in different colours on separate occasions for different projects. I found the weight and texture very interesting and I happily had plenty of  leftovers to make something with. Initially I was going to use the navy fabric alone, but realized there was nothing stopping me from using the fabrics in combination.

After recently dipping my toes into the world of colour-blocking with Coco, I decided to play with the technique again. Intrigued by the subtle colours and sort of serious nature of the textiles, I paired it with a pattern that had both volume and femininity. This is my second Sewaholic Hollyburn, (I made the first last May for #MMMay15…realizing now there are so many unblogged projects from that month…), and I love the simplicity of construction and drama of the result.

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

Some projects leave you feeling energized and excited the whole process…this was not one of them. I was so full of doubt as I was sewing this up. The whole time wondering if  it was all too much? Were the colours too strange? The quilting texture mixed with the blocking distracting? Luckily, after the rollercoaster of emotions as soon as I tried it on the first time, I was in love.

As far as construction notes, I didn’t make too many changes overall. To make the blocking, I traced the pattern pieces, cut them 15 cm from the hem and added seam allowances. Putting it all together, I sewed the band to each pattern piece before commencing regular construction. For some reason I couldn’t get the side seam matching quite right. In the future I would likely assemble the skirt and the band separately, then attach them together in the round for a straighter finish.

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

I cut a straight size 4 that was a perfect fit but I didn’t account for the soft stretch (and recovery) of this kind of fabric. The skirt pulled down quite easily, especially when I put stuff in the pockets. Instead of taking it apart to reduce the size, I sewed a stiff elastic to the inside of the waistband for added structure. It worked really well, and I got that snug hugging feeling I really like in a fitted waistband.

I did use my overlocker to sew it all together, but Tasia posted an awesome tutorial about making this pattern knit fabric on a regular machine. In fact,  I didn’t stumble upon that post until I had already completed the project. She has great tips for getting a clean finish, especially that trimmed and hand-stitched hem. Next time I will likely go that route.

Cozy Quilted Hollyburn Skirt // Boots and Cats

I can’t get enough of the silhouette in this garment. The swing is fun and dramatic, but the colours make it quite sophisticated. I feel like a street style blogger in it. It did take me a while to find items in my closet to pair it with (this top is actually a dress…) but I accept it as an interesting challenge. It’s a perfect winter skirt, since it is so warm and cuddly, and should pair well with other textures and layers.

It was interesting approaching this project with the critical eye and actively questioning my process. I look forward to discovering my ‘next level’ of garments. Whatever shape that journey will take.

Maybe you can relate to this frustrated ‘stuck’ feeling? Have you been in that limbo where you can make fun clothes, but unsure of how to make a cool, fully-functional wardrobe?

Stripes & Solids // A Colour-Blocked Coco Top

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

If you asked me to describe my style I would probably tell you something along the lines of: classic, kinda preppy, with a vintage twist. I have a tendency to make some very loud statement pieces that step outside of that description, but on the daily I tend to feel most comfortable and confident in neutral colours and classic cuts. You’ll find me often in skinny jeans and cardigan, or if I’m feeling fancy, a high-waisted skirt and a comfy sweater.

But for the longest time a crucial staple in the classic-preppy-vintage style profile was glaringly missing from my wardrobe selection: a Breton top. (Or as most people know it, a striped shirt, or sailor shirt. Tilly rounded up a wonderful history of it here)

I’ve always loved the ease and style that was exuded from a Breton. So effortless, so chic. This admiration, of course, made me unwittingly picky about what it should be. Not too sheer or draped, has to have the classic wide neckline, long sleeves, preferably colour blocked, with smaller, unbalanced stripes.

How could any shirt possibly meet those standards? Turns out, they couldn’t. It seemed the more I looked for the perfect shirt, the more elusive it became.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

So I turned to the wise muse that is Dr. Seuss in one of his all-time classics.

Did that stop the old Grinch? No! The Grinch simply said,

“If I can’t find a Breton top, I’ll make one instead!”

 

(That’s totally how it goes.)

Though, as you sewing folk will know, simply deciding to make the perfect Breton top isn’t as easy as waltzing in to the nearest Fabricland to get started. Finding a halfway decent striped knit can be like searching for a needle in a haystack. Even when I did manage to find a fabric that was soft, had good stretch recovery and weight…it was always in the weirdest colour. You’d think black and white would be far more in demand.

Thankfully, this Christmas I received the most wonderful gift. I opened the box and inside was a beautiful black and white striped ponte knit from Girl Charlee. The heavens opened, angels sang, and many projects were planned.

I unquestionably chose Tilly & The Buttons Coco for the pattern because it perfectly encapsulates the vintage and modern vibes I love. (I plan on making many 60s funnel neck versions soon too! I think I can safely say this is one of my first TNT patterns)

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

I wanted to soften the look of the stripes for this top and opted to colour block the shoulders. Ideally it would have been in white, but the ponte I had was a slightly cream colour and didn’t match. Luckily, black goes with everything.

I looked into some colour blocking pattern hacks in bloggerland and it seemed like a pretty simple adjustment. The Grainline Lark tutorial was the easiest way I found to line up your blocked seams. I did start to notice, however, that the shoulder curves on the Coco sleeves were quite shallow. I feared this would mean that if I blocked my pattern straight across from the armpit seam it wouldn’t cut straight across my body as I wore it. I didn’t want to lower the blocking either (it would look strange if it cut across the bust), so I would need to do some crafty drafting.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

Using a highly professional (made-up) method, I had to determine the shape of the sleeve cap so it would appear straight as I wore it. I put on my first Coco I made and took an elastic band and wrapped it on my arm. I moved it up until it was touching the underarm seam and arranged it to look straight. I then got Rory to take a measurement of the elastic to the shoulder seam. This distance was about 12 cm. (If I cut straight across the pattern piece, this distance was closer to 10cm, meaning it definitely would have angled upwards when I wore it).

To make my pattern pieces, I traced the sleeve onto some paper and measured 12 cm (+the seam allowance) down from the center of the sleeve. Using a dressmaker’s curve, I met the center line with the underarm seam points, so it would match my blocking point on the bodice. I then cut along this curve, added seam allowances, and had my new pattern pieces!

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

It was stressful cutting out the pattern pieces, not knowing if this would actually work or not (yet not stressful enough to make a muslin it seems…). The stress must have impeded my attention to cutting detail and I totally miss-cut one of my sleeves (it was the bottom layer and I didn’t notice I hadn’t enough fabric in that spot). I hate that feeling of wasting fabric on silly mistakes.

Then for some strange reason after I re-cut my second sleeve and compared it to the first, even though they start on the same stripe and measure to the same length…they end on different stripes? I tried to even it out when hemming but I didn’t want to make one sleeve much longer than the other. Can’t really explain how that was accomplished…but hey I bet you didn’t even notice.

I cut a straight size 2, but added my usual 6cm length to the bodice and sleeves, and took down the flare of the pattern a bit at the hips.

Colour Blocking your Coco Top // Boots and Cats

The sewing was a breeze, as this wasn’t my first Coco rodeo. Tilly’s instructions are beautiful and simple with helpful tips thrown in. I just love this pattern so much.

And wouldn’t ya know, my pattern hacking totally worked out! It can be harder to see in the photos because the stripes and fabric movement, but the line of the colour blocking is DARN NEAR PERFECT! Aha. Victory. Pattern drafting and I have a nice streak going.

I am so pleased to welcome this classic staple into my wardrobe FINALLY. The ponte is soft, stretchy and quite thick, making it a wonderful winter top. Come summer though, I might want to make a lighter weight version.

I guess the search for stripes continues.

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.