Two is Better than One // Zadie Separates

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

I am just in the nick of time to share my #FailFebruary garment! Even though in the end I found a creative solution to turn around what was a sad little project, I found it amusing that it went so wrong so many times this month. Maybe I just had to share a fail with y’all, no?

Earlier this month, I was really excited to see the new Zadie dress pattern from Tilly and the Buttons hit the scene. I love the interesting seaming and pleat details. In what can sometimes feel like a sea of basic raglan and shift dress patterns, this dress felt fresh and unique to me. I’ve really been appreciating patterns that give us different and interesting elements or seamlines that let us play. The colour blocking possibilities with this pattern in particular are endless.

So naturally I chose two fabrics that barely contrast each other.

I knew I wanted to make this dress up quickly, to both catch the ‘new release’ wave (since I am often years behind haha) and to give myself a cozy but cute winter dress that my wardrobe really needs right now. I didn’t have any fabric on hand so I went on the hunt and it was SO HARD to narrow down what I wanted! Did I want to play with a print? Contrasting colours? Mixing something neutral with something to stand out? I seriously stared for hours at my million online fabric shopping tabs and the colouring sheet in Photoshop rendering every possible combination. Eventually I narrowed down my fabric to this cozy french terry in two soft colours (oyster and ivory) that would just give a hint of the contrast. After one too many bright dresses that are amazing but I never wear, I figured something more subtle would be nice. Plus, I’ve been loving my Linden in this fabric and knew it would give optimal cuddle factor, and coming from Blackbird I would have it within the week. Sold.

The Zadie pattern itself is a really neat pattern. Instructions are clear, and even the tricky corner seaming of the side panels/waistline/skirt was straightforward. (Though admittedly I DID have to hand stitch the corner closed, both my fear and the squishyness of the fabric made it difficult to run my seams right up to the exact point, but it was an easy enough solution). It sewed up very quickly and I loved all the tips and tricks along the way. Just a note for fabric shoppers, as with all Tilly patterns, they only list one set of fabric requirements, so if you are on the lower end of the size range, you don’t need to buy as much as they suggest (though in my case, having extra on hand turned out to be a huge blessing).

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

I was so excited to bring this dress to reality once I got my fabric, but the further along I got in the construction, I started to get fears about my fabric choice. Even though I chose a medium weight knit, as suggested, I kinda took for granted the bit about the stretch recovery. As I added more and more pieces to the dress I realized how heavy it would all end up being. The fact that the waist doesn’t have a full seam meant that the side panels would be taking the weight of the skirt. The french terry had such soft stretch that my fears were realized as soon as I slipped it on… I had one droopy, sad sack of a Zadie. Womp womp.

This was actually so disappointing, and really a fundamental mistake on my end, ignoring how the design of the garment and the fabric would interplay with one another. I didn’t want to start from scratch, mainly because the fabric is soooo comfy and a great quality, I’d hate to see it go to waste (plus, start the agonzing fabric/colour combination hunt all over again? No thank you). It basically came down to two options; take in all the seams in hopes of letting a tighter fit support the weight of the skirt… or give it the chop. In a traditional fit-and-flare pattern with the seam along the natural waistline, this decision might have been easier to make, as the two halves would be leaving a bit more to work with. But the empire line pretty much determined that if I wanted to use the top at all there would need additional fabric to be added on.

After staring at it on the dress form, asking friends for advice, covering each half with my hand with one eye closed to try and envision what might happen for about 3 days I decided just to go for it. I first unpicked the seams attaching the skirt to the bodice, then measured and marked the halfway point to cut through the side panels. Out came the scissors and soon I had a sweater AND a skirt. Yippee!

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

To finish the skirt, I dug out an 1.5 cm elastic and measured it around my waist at a comfortable stretch. I then measured the width of the skirt waist to get the circumference of my new waistband and cut it twice the width of my elastic plus seam allowance. I used my overlocker to attach the band on one edge, folded over, and hand-stitched the other edge with an opening to feed the elastic through. There wouldn’t be an easy (or flattering) way to wear the skirt at the original empire waist, but with the a-line silhouette it works perfectly fine at the natural waist.

For the sweater, I decided that adding a wide hem band that ended at my natural waist would be the simplest option and would make it a versatile piece to pair with my high-waisted skirt collection. To make the band I measured the hem of the bodice laying flat, then took the length I wanted the band to be (10cm) then doubled it. I cut two rectangular pieces from those measurements. I sewed them together lengthwise, pressed them in half, then attached it with my overlocker to the top (exactly like the hem band on the Linden). The first band I cut I reduced the width to have extra negative ease so it would sit nice and tight. However it was too small for the top which meant that put together the seam was laughably wobbly, wavy and so sad. Plus whenever I moved my arms it would ride up and not slide back down. SO MANY #FAILS.

After sitting in time out for a week, I unpicked the old band, redrafted the hem band without reducing the ease and it worked like a charm. Phew.

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

If you want to make this pattern into separates before you sew up the whole thing, just line up the side panel pattern piece along the bodice and mark the seam line. This is where you can cut the side panels, add your seam allowances and repeat for the back pieces. I can make a little tutorial for this if you’d like, since pictures are probably more useful than words. Just let me know 🙂

After all the trials, tribulations and fails, I am actually really stoked about how the cropped sweater turned out! The princess seam details are so unique and unlike anything I currently have, and it will pair so well with my selection of skirts. If I am being completely honest, the skirt was less of a success. The pockets show through the fabric and look kinda lumpy, and the colour doesn’t go with too many of my tops. It is wonderful as a lazy, cuddly, at home skirt, so who knows. I can also wear them both as an ensemble, but I don’t think I will actually do so, especially when mixing and matching can be far more interesting.

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

I’ve enjoyed following along with everyone else’s projects they’ve shared that have been less than ideal. It’s always reassuring to know that it’s not always sunshine and roses and sometimes projects don’t work out. We can only hope to reflect, learn and become better seamstresses.

This pattern was gifted to me as part of a request to preview the Zadie pattern. All opinions and sewing gaffes are my own.

Lots of Lindens!

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

So many Lindens! Okay, well…two Lindens!

When I first made this pattern two years ago and participated in the Linden swap, I concluded with saying I would definitely be making more. Why wouldn’t I? It’s a quick and easy pattern, has a classic shape and lends itself to warm fabrics that satisfy my need for more sweaters. When you have 6 months of cold weather to deal with, you never seem to have enough sweaters. I just want to be warm, people!

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

In my sewing journey I feel like I have crossed over the bridge of making things that look ‘home made’  into making things that look comfortable and fashionable . For the most part I have to say that beyond improving my skills, it has a lot to do with my fabric choices. I’m finally being very particular about quality and things like how it feels, drapes and moves. After observing other seamstresses and discerning what it is about their makes that make them look polished and professional, I uncovered the next step; trims and embellishments.

For the longest time I would never have even thought about including extra details like piping, embroidery or colour blocking. Which is why the sewing community is such a wonderful place, there are so many opportunities to be inspired and see things that unlock something new in your mind. About a year ago on Instagram, I saw a gold-piped Linden by Elle . It looked so beautiful and professional and it was definitely one of those *ding* moments.

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

I almost immediately started hunting for gold piping of my own. I first found some on Etsy, but when it arrived it was overly shiny, puffy and so not chic. Feeling a little burned I filed away the idea. Luckily good ol’ fabricland had the PERFECT gold piping (dainty, sparkly and just cool) when I was searching for something else. (Of course, you realize that by sewing this beautiful gold detail onto black fabric it will be impossible for your camera to capture it’s perfect beauty – so you’re gonna have to trust me on this.)

I paired the piping with a quilted poly knit. I liked the play between the lines in the fabric and the contrast stripe of the gold.  As I was preparing to cut out my fabric, I decided to stick my nose into my stash for any other fabric that wanted to be a Linden. I’ve only done it once before, but I prefer batch sewing when making the same pattern. It makes it seem much quicker and the results are twice as satisfying.

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

I unearthed a swath of grey french terry from my Blackbird fabrics remnants order and juuuuuuust managed to eke out enough for the second sweater (the sleeves may or may not be a little lot off grain). Totally stoked on my gold piping, I couldn’t just leave this one plain now could I? I dove into my random box of bits and bobs full of rick rack, trims and more. A number of years ago I inherited a bag of random sewing everything and inside were a number of lace trims and off cuts. I didn’t really expect to like the look of white lace, but this one just felt at home as soon as I experimented with placement. Sold.

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

I zipped them both up on a weekend afternoon, making my regular length adjustments. The lace had to be tacked down to the front and back before sewing it up to keep it from flopping around and I learned that hand sewing down all the little details takes up WAY more time than you think it will. The lace also didn’t have a flat edge, so I could have sewn it first and then tacked it on top of the seam, but I like the definition of the edges being tucked into the seam. The piping was a far easier detail to add, just being sandwiched in the seam and done. I think I am going to have to stock up on more piping for the future.

When I was making these, I was pretty confident that because of the gold trim, the black one would be my favourite. But the surprising outcome of the lace, plus the super cuddly factor of the french terry, has solidified the grey one as #1 sweater in my heart.

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

I love the feeling of constantly being inspired by fellow sewing people. Linden is one of those great patterns that is so simple – but has endless possibilities to create something totally unique. There are still so many ideas out there…and it’s still winter…so…more sweaters, anyone?

Marvelous Paper Marbling (+Gold Leaf! )

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

No matter how many times I try it, how many colour combinations I make, marbling is just like…the coolest. After my very successful attempts at marbling with fabric, I decided to try something a litter different and go back to the roots of this craft- marbling on paper.

I knew immediately the challenges of paper would be different than fabric – but seeing as people have been marbling with paper for centuries it had to work…right? The biggest hurdle for me was dealing with the paper getting wet. With the technique I am using the paper would be wet multiple times (when preparing it with alum before marbling and rinsing off the carageenan after) and post-water wrinkled paper is my biggest pet peeve. (I had one of those Wreck this Journals when I was younger and loved destroying it until one page said put it in the shower. It was the worst experience ever and even though it was the point of the book to get over things like that, I pretty much stopped using it because of its crinkled, stiff state. But I digress)

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

When doing research, it was actually pretty difficult to find out specifically what paper would be best to use actually use. Pretty much all the resources said to use the smoothest surface possible to ensure the paint stuck, but I couldn’t find any info about weight. Ideally you’d be working with something thin enough to bend when marbling, but thick enough not to wrinkle and curl into nothingness when wet. I tried two types of drawing paper and hoped at least one would work.

Even though I have marbled twice now, the bath seems to be slightly different each time (and I am even using pre-made kits, what’s up with that?). This time I was crafting with a friend who wanted to experiment with the world of marbling, so naturally it did not work out as well as before. The carageenan size wasn’t as thick as previous, and most of the pigment sank to the bottom or bled after being pulled. No bueno.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

Between my two papers, I found the heavier weight one worked better. The lightweight paper curled almost immediately after touching the marbling surface. However the thicker paper meant it was trickier to get a smooth lay along the surface of the size. While fabric will bend and then lay softly as you roll it along the surface, paper is stiffer and I found I would end up dunking the middle underneath the paint as I tried to get the edges to touch. This lead to more of the paint bleeding away when rinsing and it made the pan very cloudy and hard to see the patterns.

Despite the challenges, I did manage to get a few really good pulls. I knew I was making them as gifts, so I picked paint colours that I knew would suit each of the recipients. I am not sure if I will try marbling with paper again, maybe if I get a better paper recommendation. For now, I am way happier with the results I’ve been getting on textiles.

Back to the prints; while marbling is very pretty, it doesn’t have a particular focus and as a pattern felt like it was missing something. In order to give them as gifts, I had to take it up a notch; but how?

Enter the magic of gold leaf.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

I recently had the experience of working with gold leaf in some renovation projects at work and fell in love. Basically, it’s metal rolled out as thiiiiinnn as possible. You prep your surface with a special glue, then very carefully lay the leaf on top to stick. It is hecka finicky and SO delicate, but the incredible shine and finish is totally worth it. I had access to a few sheets leftover from the projects and decided to play them up here.

I chose some simple words, phrases and illustrations to accompany my prints. If you’d like to try it yourself, here’s how.

You’ll need:

  • Cardstock
  • X-acto knife/ scissors
  • Pencil
  • Small paint brush
  • Gilding size (glue)
  • Gold leaf
  • Soft bristle paint brush
  • Fine tip permanent marker

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  1. Select your motif for your print, either by drawing or searching the internet and print onto a piece of cardstock
  2. Using an x-acto knife and scissors, cut out your motif from the cardstock
  3. With a pencil, trace the outline of your stencil onto your marbled print. Trace lightly in case of mistakes or if you want to reposition it.
  4. Very carefully, with your paint brush, ‘paint’ the gold leaf glue inside the lines of your motif. The leaf will stick to anything remotely adhesive so be very careful not to get any drips or smudges outside your design.
  5. Once the glue is tacky, carefully lay your gold leaf down on top of your design. Let it set for 30 minutes.
  6. Gently start to pull away the gold leaf. Because it is so delicate, using a very soft bristle brush or muslin cloth is best for this part to keep the leaf from ripping off your design. The leaf with easily flake away (and fair warning, it will get EVERYWHERE. It’s worse than glitter.)
  7. Let your final design dry for 24 hours before putting in a frame. If you feel like you need extra contrast between your design and the marbling, outline with a fine tip pen.
  8. Enjoy your marbled, gold goodness.

Marbling & Gold Leaf // Boots and Cats

Festive Luxury // A Stretch Velvet Wrap Skirt

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

Last year, I was all in on a handmade holiday. I sewed up multiple garments as gifts, hand-stamped my cards, and even decorated my own wrapping paper & ribbons. It was delightful and satisfying, but it was a LOT. This year, I needed to scale back.

A crazy last couple months, plus a playing with some new crafts meant that all sewing fell by the wayside and I opted not to sew anything for Christmas, as gifts or otherwise. Sewing with a deadline can be motivating, but can also be super unpleasant and stressful, so I gracefully opted out.

Then on December 2nd, I opened my inbox to a freshly sent email from Blackbird fabrics. It was their monthly remnant sale. Usually, the sale gets ravaged rather quickly, but as luck would have it, it had only been launched 15 minutes ago. No harm in taking a peek at the full selection, eh?

I like to avoid cuts less than 1m, since it is so limiting to the patterns you can use. I found many fabrics I liked in large meterage; many knits for sweaters and tees and that’s when I saw it…1.2 meters of a stunning red stretch velvet.

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

I never pictured myself as someone who would ever be attracted to working with velvet. The notion of the fabric immediately conjures visions of the 80s prom and 90s redux skater dresses. Not that there is anything wrong with either of those things, but they are way outside the realm of my style.

And yet something about this one caught my attention. It was the perfect Christmas red. The way the colour was so rich, yet the light caught it and made it brilliant. This feeling was exemplified the moment I had it in my hands and could make it move. It felt like liquid light, I could move and bend it any way I wanted. My first vibes when I bought the fabric was to make a crop top to pair with my ever-growing skirt collection. I could almost see it, the pinnacle of festive dressing; red velvet top with gold sequin skirt.

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

However the moment I started to play with the fabric and sense its movement, it undoubtedly had to become something with a little more swish. It would have been an insult not to play up its unique qualities that few other fabrics had. I figured a skirt would fit the bill nicely.

It was hard to find a pattern using basic terms like ‘draped skirt sewing pattern’, especially since many sewing patterns aren’t named by their visual description. It’s either a number or a woman’s name and it became clear I would have to search manually. I started going through my favourite sites one at a time, scanning over the designs. I finally landed on the BurdaStyle website, which clearly had the library large enough that to likely have what I was looking for.

I bookmarked a few, but ultimately selected this pleated wrap skirt from 2014. It features a pleated front panel, pockets (which I eliminated to reduce bulk) and snap closures.

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

This was my first time using Burda patterns and while it wasn’t as tricky to navigate as some people have mentioned, I definitely missed some of the care and attention that comes along with working with an indie pattern. The instructions were pretty good to follow (with one exception in adding in the waistband) but I felt like I was missing something, like I was walking around only wearing one shoe. As such a visual person the lack of diagrams was so weird! Luckily, none of the steps were too complicated to figure out, many of the steps I have done before.

Those details aside, I wouldn’t hesitate to use a Burda pattern again if it was a design I couldn’t find anywhere else and didn’t include techniques I am unfamiliar with. It is a wonderful resource for pattern selection.

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

In terms of working with the fabric, I made sure to read many articles about handling velvet before getting started. I mostly absorbed the points about pins, marking on the back and using tailors tacks. I vaguely remembered the notes about nap, and before cutting, rotated it around to see if I could see a difference in the fabric depending on its orientation. I couldn’t see a noticable difference so I went along to cutting. What I fool I was for not using my sense of FEEL.

After cutting it out and assembling the first steps, I tossed it on to get a sense of the fit and that’s when my hand touched it. The itchy side. I NOW realized I cut the nap (velvet fuzzies) facing up, so as I ran my hand down the skirt it was rough and scratchy, whereas when I ran my hand up- silky smooth. D’OH. I also flipped it upside down and noticed the colour brighten right up. How I didn’t notice this before I have no idea.

Had to re-read every article to reassure myself it wasn’t ruined. While most people sew velvet with the nap facing down, “cutting with the nap facing up will give your fabric a darker, moodier appearance”. Sooooo that was totally what I was going for from the beginning and I am sticking to that story. In reality the skirt has so much movement, and the front pleating ends up on the bias, that it catches plenty of light regardless. But just a tip for future velvet sewing… just feel the darn thing.

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

Construction of the garment went smoothly otherwise. I didn’t notice too much slipping with this fabric and it was easy to manipulate. The only change I had to make was to the pattern detail that has the pleating fold over the waistband for a tucked in effect. It was a detail that drew me to the pattern and really set it apart. However, it was a tad naive to believe that I could use a pattern designed for thin-as-air crepe de chine in a velvet fabric. This fabric is definitely on the thinner side, but try as I might, the pleats were not going to fall over the band without just looking like a lumpy awkward bump. Instead I sandwiched the pleats inside the waistband like you would with any other basic skirt pattern, and I am super happy with the results.

The pattern recommended snap closures and I was happy to use them, especially as it gave me the chance to really perfect the fit at the waist, and I sewed in a second row to allow me to wear it comfortably with different tops (or after a large Christmas dinner).

All in all this was a quick and breezy make. I am glad the fates had it in for me to sew something this month – it was so relaxing and refreshing to come back to the craft after a break. It always is. I wonder if that’s why my sew-jo ebbs and flows so much. Absence makes the heart grow fonder?

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

I hope you all have an amazing holiday weekend, spending time with family and friends and getting into all the traditions that make this time of year so wonderful. As soon as everyone has opened their gifts I will be sure to post about the crafty goings-on that went into them 😉

Until then, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

Easy Origami Advent Calendar

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Advent calendars have really become all the rage in recent years, especially for adults. You can find calendars filled with fancy chocolate, wine, gin, beauty products…you name it! For the past 3 years (alongside my fancy chocolate calendar) Rory and I have had a calendar full of Christmas-time activities to get us into the spirit of the season. It has lived in many forms, including a scrapbook and hanging ornaments, and needed a fresh face for this year.

I wanted something bold and pretty (geometric has also been my jam lately) but also very quick and easy (all honesty, I put this together 2 days ago). I was toying with the idea of origami boxes or the like, then Rory suggested folding ‘fortune tellers’ that we used to make in school. This would also make the calendar into a bit of a daily game and adding to the surprise of what we reveal each day.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

December snuck up on us quickly this year, so no judgement if you didn’t have time to make one of the many beautiful crafty calendars Pinterest can provide. This one is quick, easy and full of things that will bring you closer together with friends and family and fill you up with holiday cheer.

You can totally whip this up this weekend in an hour or so and you can join in on the fun!

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

You’ll need:

  • Christmas-coloured card stock (whatever Christmas colours means to you and your decor)
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Pens
  • Hole punch

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Begin by refreshing your grade-school memory on how to fold ‘fortune-tellers’. I made sure to practice on a scrap piece of paper before moving onto the good stuff, but it turns out, it’s just like riding a bike. Each one will hold 4 activities, so for the 24 days til Christmas, you’ll have to make 6 of them.

This is an opportunity to play with your paper colour selection. You can make all 6 from the same colour, multiple colours alternating in a pattern, or sort of a gradient effect like I did. This is the most ‘design-y’ part of the project. (For me personally, finding good card stock in a variety of pretty, saturated tones was always a challenge, until I found this!). If you enjoy the simplicity of the folded lines, leave them as is, but if you’re all about the holiday bling – go nuts with glitter, ribbons and any other ‘accessorizing’ you can think of.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Once those are folded up, brainstorm 24 activities, treats and things to do each day that will bring festive excitement and merriment. Some of my favourites we use are “go out for tea”, “go tobogganing”, and “watch Christmas cartoons”. If you are bold, you can go for an activity each day, but I am not gonna lie, about 12 of our activities are “eat chocolate from the Christmas stash” because as delightful as these things are; December is a busy month! We’d be exhausted (and not to mention probably resentful of our calendar) if we forced ourselves to do something every single day. This is an unfortunate side effect of adulthood.

Once you’ve narrowed down your activities (and chocolates) it’s time to fill up your calendar. On the inside, on top of the flaps, write a word or symbol (Christmas related is preferred) that will act as the ‘door’ that will reveal your treat for the day. Underneath, write down one item from your list. Randomness is totally valid here, as your daily activity will be chosen by surprise chance. I did keep a bit of balance and wrote 2 activities and 2 chocolate treats on each one.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Once all 6 are filled in, you’re done! If you’re ambitious like me (and still have a giant stick from years past) you can punch a small hole in each ‘fortune teller’ and hang them on the wall, but these are cute enough on their own, or stashed in a festive bowl or basket.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Now it’s time to play! If you remember playing these on the school yard, you’re ready to go. If your memory is a little foggy; it goes a little something like this: Hold the fortune teller in two hands, thumbs and fingers in each section so you can move it around, kind of like a puppet. For the first round, switch the sides the number of times as the date of the month (Eg. today is the 2nd, so we’d move it twice; once forwards, then again to the sides). Then from the two visible symbols (or words) on the inside, have your friend or partner choose one and count out again the letters of the word. Eg. Candy cane would switch 9 times c-a-n-d-y-c-a-n-e. From there, they chose one of the two visible symbols, then lift the flap they chose and voila! Your treat for the day.

I hope you all have a magical and crafty December. Cheers.

Adventures in Fabric Marbling

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

It was nearly a year ago, when over a hot cup of tea my friend Courtney and I poured through the print edition of Seamwork magazine. The styling, the features, the tutorials filled us with giddy sewing & fabric glee. But one piece quickly jumped out at the both of us: The Art of Marbled Fabric. We were taken by the soft swirls and twirls of ink on textile and wanted the results for ourselves.

Fast forward to late this summer and we’d finally sat down and put that craft date into our calendars. We tracked down the materials, brainstormed projects and settled in for some exciting trials in the world of paint floatin’.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

The basic principle of marbling is using a thick, high-density liquid (called Size) to float paint on it’s surface. You can then swirl, pull and twist the paints together in intricate patterns before gently laying your fabric (or paper) flat to the surface to pick up the design. Your fabric is treated with Alum beforehand to help the paint stick to it. Any fiber type will take the paint; what’s more important is that you have a smooth, fine weave for your paint to adhere to.

We did a bit of research for supplies and ultimately determined that this Jacquard kit would be the easiest and cheapest way to acquire everything we needed. We ended up using 2 kits (over two sessions) which marbled around 5m of fabric projects and odds & ends. The kit supplied us with plenty, leaving us with lots of the paint and alum leftover. If we had more project ideas, fabric and endurance I am sure we could have yielded even more works from the Size pan we had going.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Since there was no specified ‘best’ fabric type, I dug out multiple white swaths of fabric from my stash to play with. This included a soft (but slightly textured) woven cotton,  a mystery twill and a bunch of rigid weave polyester leftover from making a tablecloth for an event booth. Courtney also brought a myriad of textile scraps, including some really light cotton and a flowy chiffon.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

The Seamwork article suggests small pieces, for lingerie, bias tapes or table napkins. But for me, I felt it was go big or go home baby. My grand scheme was to make a pastel marbled Sway dress. It would be a masterpiece and a dress of dreams. The one limitation of marbling is the area of your tray. We calculated how much of the Size our kit would make and found the biggest bin that would work for that amount. I luckily had the perfect under-the-bed bin that would allow us to marble decent sized cuts. The bin was, however still too small for the entire length of the dress, so I altered the pattern to have cool angled seamlines at the waist to create smaller pieces to marble.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

After weeks of excitedly planning projects, making the size, preparing our fabric, we were ready to marble. We took the dyes and mixed a beautiful deep cranberry paint, filled the dropper and…bloop….it fell straight to the bottom. We thought it was game over – we had no more size to make it thicker (and thus the paint floatier). In an effort to salvage the day we tried a few other colours.  And lo, it started to work! It turned out the ‘pure’ highly saturated colours floated (and took to the fabric) best, and using a lighter application method (paint brush flicks vs a big dropper) helped a lot as well.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

In my nature of being prepared, I had already planned, cut and overlocked the edges of the projects I KNEW I wanted to accomplish, mainly the Sway dress and two pillow covers. This was under the assumption that all the fabrics would work out perfectly the same. Naturally though, some fabrics were better than others.

Those with smoothest surfaces took best, mainly the tablecloth polyester (which I used for the pillow covers) and the chiffon, leaving us with colours and patterns bright & true. Some of the cottons worked, but faded a bit when rinsed, unless they used deep tones like dark purple or black. Interestingly, one fabric didn’t take AT ALL – with the paint literally rolling off the surface when lifted, which makes me think there must have been some sort of treatment or coating on the fabric that I did not know about. Before our second run, I washed the fabric in hot water and scrubbed it real good, but it had no impact on the result.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Naturally – the fabric that did not work was the one I had cut my Sway dress of dreams from, and carefully planned the colours and designs. It was going to be perfect – but fate would not have that. Goodbye dream dress. Luckily there happened to be some OTHER fabric craftiness going on that day, so the dress pieces got folded up all nice and dunked into an indigo bath instead (more on that another day).

I did not have enough of the other fabrics to re-cut the dress, but I really wanted to make a marbled garment. The polyester had the best results taking the marbling, but is quite rigid. It needed a pattern that had volume and structure to accommodate that, without needing extensive yardage (I didn’t have much left).  The wonderful sewing blogosphere led me to Workroom Social and I downloaded the Tate Top pattern and cut a crop top version.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

The Tate Top is a free pattern which is awesome, but is also such a flattering cut for me and a very quick, satisfying make. The simplicity of the lines, especially with the darts on the neckline, allowed the marbling to be shown off. The dress of dreams became the crop top of dreams and I love that it is a completely one-of-a-kind object in my wardrobe. I’ve been slow to get into the crop top trend but I have had fun pairing it with high-waisted skirts for work and special events. The fabric is also comfortable, which I was worried about honestly, but so far no complaints. There will definitely be more Tate tops in my future, time will tell if they end up marbled or not.

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Playing with colour is one of my favourite things, so creating combinations of shades and tones, then swirling them together was so addicting and fun. I found the more you moved and worked with the paints, the finer the detail and more intricate the designs would become. We used every last scrap we had on hand just to experiment with new colours and patterns – even if we had no intended use for them. I selected combinations with bright and interesting colours (usually no less than 3) and it wasn’t until our very last dip before wrapping up the day did I realize the impact of monochrome. That last scrap of black and white was probably one of my favourite pulls of the day. My brain is swirling (ha) with possibilities of single hue marbling, or playing with varying tones of one colour.

Marbling fabric was such an interesting and fun experience, and I love the impact of the results. I think in my next endeavors I will try marbling some paper – it would be great for art prints, envelopes and gift tags…so many ideas, especially with the holidays coming up. If you have had any experience with marbling, especially paper,  I’d love to hear your tips and tricks for next time. And if you have any questions for me please ask – it was honestly far easier to do than I ever expected and so gratifying (plus you’ll love the oohs, aahhs and OMG YOU MADE THAT?!s that come along when people see your work  😉 )

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Hooray for marbling!

Special thanks to Dallas Curow for the styled photos and Courtney for being my fabric partner in crime

A Halloween Hemlock Tee

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

The fact that October is nearly over is a spooky one for sure. It’s been a crazy month around these parts lately, so much so that I’ve barely had a chance to even glance in the direction of my poor ol’ sewing machine. Maybe that’s the true terror of this story. A solid sewing streak I had at the end of summer has come to a screeching halt and probably would have continued if there wasn’t a deadline at the end of this week in the form of my favourite holiday.

Sure, the idea of making my costume this year went out the window weeks ago, but as I placed my order for the coveted Les Fleurs fabric back in August a meter of this adorable Ghosty Ghost Party print also snuck it’s way in. Can you blame them? Look how cute they are, wearing party hats and everything. Plus it’s a knit, thus totally allowing itself into my stash because of my focus to work with more knit fabrics.

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

I bought it with the intention of making a simple tee to wear throughout the month to get in the spirit of Halloween. Then I blinked and October disappeared, and as there is only a week left before everything turns to jingle bells and fir trees, it was time to get moving on it. I couldn’t bear to let the ghosts postpone their party until next year. The fabric print is designed by Lizzy House and I am so glad Andover fabrics included this design in their knits collection. It’s cotton/spandex and so unbelievably soft and comfortable with great recovery. I see why a lot of people make leggings or pajamas with this fabric, but I really felt like a cuddly tee was the way to go.

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

I downloaded the free Grainline Hemlock tee pattern knowing it would create an easy, comfortable and versatile tee that I could wear in multiple ways. I didn’t make any adjustments to the sizing of the pattern, but I decided to break up the busy print with some contrast side seam panels in a grey stripe knit.

When I first latched myself onto the colour-blocking idea I had it in my head that the pattern had regular set-in sleeves. However, the Hemlock tee has off the shoulder sleeves and a boxy shape, meaning there’s no defined armscye. This puzzled me as to how I would go about creating a side seam insert without messing up the sleeves,  but I had the idea and I was going to make it work.

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

To create my contrast side seams, I cut away the amount I wanted to be in the other fabric from my bodice pattern from just below the sleeve notches (on both front and back) and used these new pieces to cut my fabric. I then took the dimensions of what I removed and cut out strips from my contrast fabric.

When assembling the pattern I attached the bodice pieces at the shoulders, then added the sleeves. From there I sewed up the bottom seam of the sleeves up until the point where the contrast fabric would be inserted. I attached the contrast strip along the armpit, then closed up the sides. Thankfully, it all worked out beautifully, despite the origami.

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

For a one-size pattern, I am actually super pleased with the proportions without adjustments. It’s comfortably long, the sleeves sit in a nice spot and though it is boxy, it has a nice amount of volume and is very flattering. I initially wanted to make the pattern with the full 3/4 length sleeve, but I unfortunately was a few cms short of fabric to fit it in. In the end, I am actually thankful for that because the print would be far too busy with all that sleevage. As I am wearing it I also think it would be very cute without any sleeves at all (if only it were summer still…). This is a pattern I can definitely see myself sewing again and again to make some pretty basics that pair with everything. There is lots of opportunity to play with more colour-blocking or mixing fabrics.

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

I enjoyed experimenting with different ways to style this shirt. Sure, I can wear it relaxed with a pair of jeans at home, but I was pleased to find out I could dress it up a little and sneak my Halloween obsession into the workplace. Most people couldn’t tell I was walking around in a shirt full of ghosts. Ha.

Happy Halloween!

First Skirt of Fall // Les Fleurs

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

When new things start hitting the sewing scene, I usually don’t get swept up into the hype. You’d be hard pressed to find an indie pattern that I’ve sewn up in the same year it was released, and am totally cool with leaving newly acquired fabric in the stash piles for months on end. I have too many things in the queue before I can move on, so new releases and fabric tend not to be much on my radar. But when Rifle Paper Co. comes out with fabric…things change.

At first I was actually pretty chill about the collection from Cotton + Steel. I saw the announcement and a few posts and thought it was gorgeous, but since I don’t often sew with floaty rayons and want to move on from quilting cottons, I didn’t think I would actually get anything. Then I saw a post on Colette highlighting the different C+S substrates and saw a full-bodied skirt using the linen canvas fabric. The wheels started spinning. Then more people started sharing their sneak peeks, and pre-orders, and shops posted that they were already selling out in pre-order. It sort of looked like this: Day 1: So pretty, maybe I’ll get some later. Day 2: PANIC! I NEED THIS FABRIC NOW FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS TEXTILE.

Ahem.

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

I settled on 2m of the beautiful floral on natural linen (and a yard of the flamingo lawn for a yet to be determined project – it was just too cute). The weight and structure of the fabric was perfect for what I wanted. It fit right into my autumn silhouette, just in time to kick off the first weekend of fall. In the summer I tend to wear longer dresses and skirts, in softer fabrics. But when the temperature dips, ironically my hemlines rise in more structured garments (and plenty of woolly tights). I knew this skirt would beautifully play into this plan.

From the pattern depths I dug out my trusty B5285 pattern (seen here) and cut out the box-pleated view B. I had toyed with the idea of making the Hollyburn skirt instead, but I really wanted the extra body that pleats would give. I still preferred the open pocket shape of the Hollyburn (as opposed to the in-seam pocked of the B5285) so I simply traced & cut along the pocket curve onto my front pattern piece and used the Hollyburn pocket bag pieces. I ended up having to shift over my front pleats toward the centre by 1 cm so it would all fit in, but the front pocket method is super easy to do and I think adds a nice extra touch of dimension.

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

To avoid skirt-to-tight stickage, I lined the skirt with a rayon lining I had lying around the back of my stash. The deep green was a perfect match to the print (don’t you love it when that happens?). To reduce waistline bulk and avoid pleating more than I needed to, I folded the pleats in on the pattern pieces before cutting out the lining. I then sewed it up separately and attached it to the skirt after the zipper, but before the waistband. Once everything was in, I hand stitched it down to the zipper for a cleaner finish (I mean, as clean as one can be when using contrasting thread).

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

Once again, even though I matched the pattern measurements perfectly, the skirt could have been about 1-2 cm tighter along the waistband. Constantly in the struggle of having skirts sit snugly on your waist where it’s supposed to vs too tight you can’t breathe. I suppose I could take off the waistband, take the skirt in at the side seams and reattach a shorter waistband but nobody got time for that. I just pulled the top closure over a little further than intended, and luckily the pleating hides the bit of bunching. I might sew in a second row of eyes to allow for multiple skirt tightness for say, in the situation I wear it to Thanksgiving dinner…

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

It may seem silly to put a label other than your own on your makes, but the selvage of this fabric was just too pretty to let go into the scrap bin. I saved and fray-stopped this piece to prove that my skirt is authentic Rifle Paper Co. 😉 .

With the leftovers of this precious fabric I had juuust enough to eek out a cover for some of my couch pillows. Thankfully the print happened to match totally with the other pillows (and even if it didn’t, I totally would have done it anyway), so now I have an extra fashionable couch, too.

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

Taking the photos of this project was so much fun, because I really enjoy wearing this skirt. You know some garments you make and you just feel so sassy and awesome in it? This is one of those. It was also my first time shooting photos at Golden Hour (right before sunset) and oh my goodness, what a difference it made.  The lighting was so interesting and flattering, plus bouncing off the warm colours of the neighbourhood, it was an autumn dream. It’s moody, warm and cozy and everything I know my favourite season to be.

Have a lovely fall weekend; enjoy those pumpkin spice lattes  ☕.

The Flyaway Anna Dress

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

It’s time for the fall frenzy! Thick linen skirts, cozy knitwear, LONG SLEEVES! Well…not quite yet. Snuggly, warm-hued clothes-to-be are being cut as we speak but there are still summer makes left to share. It feels awful rushing these end-of-season projects along. I mean, had they been made just a few short weeks earlier they would have had more than a few seconds in the spotlight. I guess it happens to all end-of-season makes, but it’s extra tragic when our victims are pretty summer dresses. I hope they will forgive me when I wear them all the time when spring rolls around.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

After our little week in Banff, Rory and I took our real vacation south to Waterton and Nelson, BC. It was our first time venturing to that part of the mountains and we were so glad we opted to visit. The mountain views and hikes in Waterton were so stunning and unique, plus there’s nothing like sitting lakeside eating a hot dog after a day exploring waterfalls and trails. Nelson was a charming little town filled with heritage buildings, beautifully designed and unique parks and not a chain store in sight. We ate delicious local food, took a vintage streetcar to the beach and danced at a night market that appeared to have the entire town present. It really reminded me that some of the best travelling doesn’t need to be that far from home.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

Anyhow, back to the dress. This is my second Anna dress and it has been sitting in my to-sew pile for a good long while, and only after planning the trip did it shoot to the top of the pile to actually get finished.

The fabric is from my Paris visit to Anna Ka Bazaar (it only took a year to get to that stash, but I am working my way through it now and it’s very exciting). It’s a buttery soft rayon fabric and has a gentle stretch that makes it super comfy to wear. I love the subtle abstract print that many people think looks like a flock of birds. When we were taking the photos we were secretly hoping a bunch of birds would fly up from behind me to match, but it was far too windy for any feathered friends to fly.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

As you can see the wind made this shoot kind of tricky, but I was determined to utilize that beautiful view. I guess I am stubborn that way, but it also made for a creative challenge which is something I enjoy. I always want to think of different ways to present my makes on the blog that is visually interesting but still useful for people looking for inspiration and information about the garment.

With my first Anna dress, I find that the waist is very close fitted, and actually a smidge too tight after a wash. I decided to cut this one a little generously around the pattern pieces, which naturally meant I was totally swimming in it. After taking it all back in, I found a fit I was happy with, but the fabric was shifty and hard to press, so my seamlines no longer match up. C’est la vie.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

Since I made this dress on relatively short notice, I didn’t have time to head to the fabric store. Luckily I had a cream zipper from my stash. It’s a vintage metal one from a random bag of zippers my grandma gave me. It’s a little worn down and if I simply pull the two back pieces apart it will just slide open. After wearing it twice I haven’t noticed it open much with movement which I am happy for, but it’s still not an ideal situation.

I find that stocking up on notions to be a challenge for me. When I am at the fabric store I only grab the zippers I need for projects I have immediately in mind. I don’t know how to properly anticipate which ones I might need later on. I don’t drive and there are no shops nearby, so trips to the fabric store only happen once every few months. Sometimes I want to make something spontaneously but get stuck by the fact that I don’t have a zipper in the right length or colour or style. Any tips for stocking up on notions in advance? Do you just buy one of every type and colour and stash them like a squirrel preparing for winter?

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

About making this dress, there’s not too much else to say. Anna is a beautiful pattern and I love that I don’t have anything else quite like it. It’s perfect for making in soft, floaty fabrics and has a dressier vibe while still being totally wearable any day. I hope I can transition this dress a little further down the calendar with some layers, but it can sometimes be hard to blend in light, wispy (unlined) garments. Many times the skirt fabric just sticks to my tights! Nothing like walking to work and having to tug at your skirt every few steps.

A Bright and Bold Gabriola Skirt

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

Last month I was lucky enough to steal away for a week in the mountains while Rory attended a conference. This happened because of this exact exchange;

“I told my mom I was going on this trip next week and she asked why you weren’t coming.”… “Wait… why aren’t I coming?”

I knew there would be some beautiful views available to me (as, hello, it’s the mountains) and in good sewing blogger fashion I spent the precious few days I had before leaving to sew up at least one new thing to shoot while I was there. When you have the opportunity for something new in the background you do not squander that chance!

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

The garment in question was this beautifully swishy and fun Gabriola skirt. It was a delightfully fast make. Though it did feel like time stood still finishing all those long seams, they were all straight lines so it wasn’t a huge risk to take if I happened to zone out and think of other things partway through.

I bought this fabric last summer in Paris from Anna Ka Bazaar knowing I wanted to make this exact pattern with it from the very beginning (quite rare for me these days). I knew the shape of the triangle print would play nicely with the unique hip panels on the skirt, and that the cotton would be so soft and breezy for the last few weeks of summer sun.

This is my second Gabriola, but last time I was working with limited yardage. THIS time I had enough and was able to go full-out volume. Growing up, I loved pretending that I was wearing long dresses everywhere, holding an invisible skirt as I walked up stairs and everything, and let me tell you, this skirt gives me full out princess vibes and it is very fun. You’ve never had a gust of wind blowing your skirt in beautiful wisps and waves feel so satisfying until you’ve made and worn a voluminous maxi skirt.

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

I had a touch of trouble with the waistband once again. Last time I had to take in about 1 cm from each side seam (I just pinched in the sewn in band because I was lazy) and was mindful of making sure it fit right. Measurement wise it totally should fit snug, but when I wear it I find it sits slightly loose. It doesn’t look like it’s too big but I can feel it and it’s very annoying. Sometimes I noticed the skirt even twisted around me a little. I like my high waisted garments to feel quite snug.  I don’t want to take it in, however because I worry when I sit (or eat a large meal) it will be too tight. I think the solution for me is to only make high-waisted garments in stretch fabrics instead of wovens, or consider adding in a bit of elastic or something to the waistband.

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

Speaking of waistbands, how picky are you when laying out fusible interfacing? I know since it is supposed to provide support, you should use one solid piece, but I couldn’t bear letting these odd bits go to waste. Seeing as it is fused to the fabric I figure that puzzle-piecing the scraps into things like waistbands should be fine. Since it is enclosed, if one of the scraps peel away it won’t go anywhere. I have done this before and haven’t experienced any problems, but are there any horror stories I should know about before I keep doing this? What else are you supposed to do with the off cut bits?

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

I also opted to add some inseam pockets, as that was one thing I really noticed was missing every time I wore my other skirt (#pockets4ever!). The hip detailing made an opportune placement to slide them in. I am pretty happy to have them, but I do notice it changes the silhouette of the skirt, as it doesn’t glide over the hips as smoothly as if they weren’t there, and they do gape open when I sit down. It doesn’t bother me much right now, but if it ever does, it’s the easiest fix ever to take them out.

Other notes; I cut a size 2 at the waistband and graded to a 4 at the hips and added about 5 cm of length to the hem to make sure it could actually hit the ground. Fabric is a lightweight cotton that pressed really well to play up the crisp lines of the print.

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

I am noticing a pattern of me making these skirts just as summer ends (I think they just sink to the bottom of the summer to-sew list) but I think a really lightweight rayon or something in a solid colour would be beautiful for the beginning of summer. Ah well, next year. Onwards to fall sewing plans!