Bright DIY Tropical Paper Backdrop

It’s been a while since I’ve created a fancy wall backdrop craft and I was inspired by our seemingly endless winter (doesn’t it always feel that way in April?) and the desire to soak up some sun. This easy, bright and fun vignette is perfect for birthdays, costume parties or any upcoming Hawaiian-themed events to lighten the winter mood to encourage that warmer weather to arrive.

Supplies

  • For Leaves:
  • Scissors
  • 3-5 paper poster boards in varying tones of green
  • 8.5″ x 11″ paper in more tones of green (optional)
  • Pencil
  • For Flowers:
  • Hot glue gun
  • Crepe paper in varying colors for hibiscus flowers (yellow, coral, or pink are good options)
  • Paint
  • Floral wire

We’re going to start off by making the greenery. Having a variety of shapes will enhance the ‘tropical forest’ feel of your backdrop, so take to google images and look for island plants and leaves. Sketch out a few of the shapes that appeal to you. For me, that was a big, round monstera leaf, some palm leaves, ferns and a few ‘generic’ looking leaves to fill the space.

With your pencil, trace out a few of your shapes onto the poster board. For high impact, I wanted the leaves to be very large. I started with my biggest leaf, the monstera, and used the whole width of a poster board to draw it in. I also cut my large palm leaves. From here, using the remaining paper from the poster board started drawing and cutting out my other leaf shapes, even saving the edge scraps for some long thin leaves to fill in gaps.

Once you have a starting variety of shapes, sizes and colours, you can start playing around with arrangements and see what “gaps” you have in your collection, whether you have too much of one size or colour, and use your remaining supplies to balance it out.

You can totally stop here, tape it up on the wall and party, or add a few flowers to the mix.

I based my flowers off of this tutorial for making the hibiscus flowers but sized everything up to scale. You’ll cut 5 ‘tear-drop’ shaped petals from your crepe paper and if you want the look of real hibiscus, take a little bit of paint and colour the bottom quarter or so. (I used gouache since it is pigmented but also soaked into the paper a bit. Acrylic would work if you thinned it out a little so it won’t get stiff, and in a pinch even a felt marker would do). Yellow hibiscus tend to have coral centers while the pink and red flowers simply have a darker tone in the middle.

Once this is dry lay them out in a fan shape and hot glue the centers, one petal on top of another. They should overlap quite a bit.

To prepare the stamen that epitomizes the look of the hibiscus flower, cut out two small rectangles from your crepe paper, and with a little bit of hot glue, sandwich your floral wire in between. Then snip into the paper at an angle to create a little fringe. Use your fingers to fluff and fold it out.

Lay your floral wire in the centre of your fan and glue down. Next, carefully fold and twist your petals around the wire and tuck the bottom petal on top of the topmost petal and hot glue. Once dry you can peel back your petals and open your flower. For the rippled effect, gently tug and stretch the crepe paper at the edge of your petals.

To display, use wall safe tape and layer your leaves on the wall. For the ones on the bottom you can tape along the edges if they’ll be covered by other leaves, otherwise use tape loops so it isn’t visible. Bend your floral wire 90 degrees and slide your flowers in between your leaves and secure with tape. Voila! Your walls are ready for a tip-top tiki party. Just add some pineapple and coconuts.

Years in the Making // WAK Classic Sweater

Hello! I can’t believe I am finally, FINALLY finished and ready to tell you about the sweater I started knitting nearly 3 years ago! Technically I finished knitting, seaming and blocking this bad boy last June (which makes it just over 2 years in the works. That’s… better I guess?) but by that point it was clearly summer and way to hot to wear it for more than the 5 minutes it took to take an Instagram photo. Once that was done it was taken from the UFO pile and planted firmly into the closet awaiting chillier weather.

It took until mid-January to we have the kind of cold spell that requires nothing less than a 100% wool sweater and man was I so pleased to have it on hand. (I then waited for a brief reprieve to venture out to snap some photos.)

Sort of…

The project is the Classic Sweater from the We Are Knitters knit kit in a soft single strand wool. As I mentioned in my first post about WAK, these projects are super accessible to the knitting newbie. They supply the required yarn, needles and pattern so you can just open your kit and start stitching.

I chose the Classic Sweater as it seemed like an easy gateway into the world of apparel knitting, basically being two rectangles and two basic sleeves that are knit flat with gradual stitch increases (the most “difficult” element to the pattern). Looking at the photos of the garment, I noticed it looked on the short side and was worried that it would be embarrassingly short on someone who regularly adds 3-5cm of torso length to any garment. Unwilling to take the risk of knitting for years to find out it doesn’t fit, I decided to make some fitting adjustments. Knowing full well I had absolutely no idea how to do so.

My greatest worry was that I would run out of yarn (yes, ordering one more skein would have been the easy solution but shipping to Canada can be an expensive pain in the you-know-what) so I dug out some good ol’ math. Figuring that each stitch used the same amount of yarn I figured if I took some stitches away from the width, I could add it to the length. Using the swatch as a measure I concluded that if I took 8 stitches off each row, I would reduce the width by about 6cm, and could then extend the length by about 10 rows (4.5 cm).

After all was said and done I had an entire skein and a bit leftover so I didn’t need to do ANY of the above and could have just knit up the extra rows no problem. You live, you learn.

When I first basted everything together I was ultimately pleased with the longer, slimmer silhouette but didn’t think ahead to the sleeves. Since they were simple drop-shoulder sleeves and I essentially took away any drop from the shoulder, they were way too narrow at the armscye and I couldn’t put it on properly. Instead of admitting defeat I just picked up the stitches on the top of each sleeve (at 90 degrees to the rows since again, knitting newb over here) and added a few extra rows of ease.  When its all stitched up my little extensions are well hidden on the underarms and no one can really notice. It’s still a little tight at the bicep but I am hoping with time it’ll all stretch out and relax a bit.

After comparing the final garment to the photos and having a whole extra ball of yarn leftover I have to assume my stitches were quite tight and thus making everything a lot smaller than intended. I did knit up a swatch and it looked okay but I think my tension got away from me. This was most evident with the collar. The pattern said to pick up the neckline stitches after seaming the front and back together and make a rib-knit collar but I could not get my needle back in there no matter how I tried. Luckily, I quite like the style of this neckline, but overall a little extra ease might have been nice.

The whole point of this project, besides filling many Netflixing evening with something to do and experimenting with a new skill, was to see if knitting was something for me. Many sewing friends are also talented knitters and the thought of something a little more portable piqued my interest. Ultimately though, I really don’t think it’s my jam. At least apparel knitting anyway. As gorgeous and swoon-worthy the Brooklyn Tweed patterns I have book marked are, the time, repetition and counting was an uphill battle. I have a few smaller scarf and hat projects on the docket (all with fast, fluffy, chunky yarns) but on the whole I think knitting is destined to be a spectator sport on my end.

If only I had stacks of fabric to sew instead. Oh wait.

Summer Perfected // Indigo Sway Dress

As fall rolls in with it’s brilliant colours, cool breezes and cozy inclinations, I feel a bit of a time crunch to post a dress that encapsulates the feel and energy of summer. This Sway dress is light and breezy to accommodate summer’s heat, complete with playful patterns to capture the energy of the goings-on, and a bright, natural indigo colour that pays tribute to the colour of the sky.

This dress is one of my most proud makes to date, not because of any complicated construction techniques or meticulous applique detailing, but because it’s the garment I’ve most had a hand in creating, start to finish. Not only did I sew this dress, I dyed the fabric myself too, using a technique with indigo dye called Shibori.

Shibori is a traditional Japanese method of dyeing fabric and is a resist dyeing technique, which means creating spaces where the dye WON’T reach to create your patterns. This is achieved by tying, clamping, folding, and compressing the fabric so that the dye can’t soak in. You’ll most likely have seen this technique done in the rainbow colours of Tie Dye. While the organic and unpredictable effect of the sunburst you get with tying, I prefer the more geometric outcomes you get with the folding techniques.

For the bodice section of the dress I went with a square fold, so I folded the pieces like an accordion lengthwise, then again crosswise and clamped a cardboard block in the centre to keep the dye only along the edges, creating the square pattern. For the skirt I wanted to balance the patterns with a simple stripe, which meant just a basic accordion fold and dip-dyeing one half. My friend Courtney and I also had lots of scraps and small pieces we also wanted to dye so we played with triangle folds, beads, and ombre effects as well.

The magic of Indigo is how it actually dyes the fabric. Unlike most pigment dyes, instead of penetrating and ‘staining’ the fibres, indigo actually starts out as a neon green liquid and when it is removed from the water and hits the air, it oxidizes and the chemical reaction creates the stunning rich blue you see. The best part is unfolding your creation and watching it change colour before your eyes. For this reason alone I recommend giving it a try!

Back to the dress. This is my second Sway dress and I really love the shape and fit on me and cut a straight size XS once more and created the paneled skirt by slashing the (traced) pattern from the waist line diagonally to the centre front/back seam. Normally, I would not have cut in extra seamlines into a pattern (though I am quite pleased with the results) but this dress was actually originally planned to have been marbled instead. I needed to cut the fabric into small enough sections to fit into the marbling tray. That whole plan was re-directed after the fabric proved not to hold the marbling paint, so into the indigo it went.

It’s been pretty much a year since I actually dyed the dress. Since September brought fall with it so quickly last year, I didn’t end up sewing it (why sew a summer dress in winter if you can’t wear it once it’s done?) and it sat in the to do pile for months. It wasn’t until an upcoming trip to Portland at the beginning of August (with daily temperatures of 30+ ) that spurred me to whip it up in a few days and bring it with me.

It was the perfect dress for the humid, sunny, hot hot heat of mid-summer and Rory and I took it on our visit to the International Rose Test Garden to snap some photos. Portland was such an amazing, creative, fun city and one of my favourite trips in a while. I didn’t nearly take enough photos of the rest of it. Looking back at these photos makes we wish we had just a few more sunny days to soak in summer, but I am already tackling my fall sewing plans, so maybe it ain’t all bad.

Kitty Kenedy Top

Happy almost Solstice! This is my favourite, most energetic time of the year… I mean, check out all that sunlight! There’s nothing like starting a picnic or patio date at 8:30 and still have some rays of sun by 10:30. In light of the mood and the season I have the perfect breezy summer make to share with you all today.

For years I have followed the artist Hello Harriet for her adorable sketches. I think I found her work on Instagram and have been in love ever since. In the past I bought items from her shop including, stickers, phone cases, temporary tattoos (which I only now realize I should have worn in the photos! Dang) in all her fabulous and sassy cat designs. Recently, she held a  Studio Sample sale filled with items that never made it t the shop WHICH by some cosmic matchmaking included fabric!!! I nearly missed out, most of the fabric selling out so quickly but I scored two prints in a cotton voile and a little bit of cotton poplin.

I didn’t really plan on doing much with such small pieces, thinking I would use them for additions like colour-blocking, pocket linings or accessories. The more I stared at the yardage I realized I would probably have juuuust enough to sneak out a top from the purple print. The pattern couldn’t be too form fitting because the fabric has no stretch whatsoever and the voile is somewhat sheer. It needed a flowy silhouette that didn’t require too much volume (ie. fabric). On top of this, I didn’t want to buy a new pattern either, not because I was intentionally challenging myself, but more so to the fact that I have SO many patterns and I have made up only a fraction of them. I figured I must have something that would work.

My leading idea for a while was making it into another Belcarra blouse, but I was hesitant because of the raglan sleeves. The repeat print on the fabric is quite large scale and I didn’t want to break it up with a bunch of seam lines. After scouring my pattern box, shelf and finally my pdf patterns, I opened up the Seamwork Kenedy dress. I liked the simplicity of the shape of the dress and the deep back and tie details.

I knew I didn’t have enough fabric for the dress, but figured it would make a cute trapeze top. To do this I simply measured my desired length and traced off the pattern at this point. I added a slight curve to the hem and made the back ever so slightly longer than the front but you can’t really tell in the final version.

After looking at lots of examples of other people’s makes, the one thing I noticed I didn’t particularly like about this pattern is the excess volume at the sleeve cap, giving it that puffy effect. I thought about making it sleeveless but I decided to try and make the sleeves work first. I dug out my old Pattern Making for Fashion Design book from school and followed the steps to draft my own basic sleeve.

When I tried it on, the sleeves were far too tight and pulled across the shoulders. I had no fabric left to re-try so I had basically resolved that sleeveless it would be. Sleeves and I have an odd relationship, especially short sleeves. When in doubt I tend to just make my garments sleeveless. I justify it that it’s more ‘my style’ but I wonder if subconsciously it’s because I am rarely up to dealing with the fit hassle haha.

After wondering that, I had to give the sleeves one more chance (I could always take them off later). Leaving them on, I re-sewed them along a 0.5cm seam allowance inside the original 1.5cm allowance, then unpicked that first seam. That little bit of extra ease was just what was needed and made it totally wearable.

I posted this project on Instagram partway through, feeling a little frustrated and having doubts about it. I felt like it looked a little like hospital scrubs because of the fit and fabric. I worried it was too short for the shape, that the voile had too much structure, that I had WASTED this one-of-a-kind fabric. I put it on the back burner and just let it sit for a few weeks.

But after a lot of positive feedback, tips for tweaking it, and finishing the details (which included shortening the back ties by about half their length) I really came around on it. The fabric really does steal the show on this one so I am happy to just let it shine. I want to play with styling it, pairing with skirts or shorts for the season and hopefully I can get a lot of wear from it. *(That is if I don’t ruin it first. The day after I took photos I wore it and had tacos for dinner, promptly spilling salsa all over it, naturally.)

I find in general I have been sewing less often lately. While I know my sew-jo ebbs and flows, I am reaching a point where I have filled most of the gaps in my wardrobe. I am in a place where I feel happy with my closet and I simply don’t NEED anything else. Sure I could sew for other people, but I really like that it’s a hobby just for me (much less pressure IMO). So I think for a while I might just be sewing less frequently and jump around to other projects of interest until I figure out what I need and or want from my wardrobe again. Thoughts? Have you ever found yourself in a place of feeling satisfied with your wardrobe? Do you keep sewing anyway?

Dreaming of Summer // Vogue 1236

It’s been one of those springs where its sort of been a long, wet, tapered off version of winter. It’s not even the cold I mind, its the lack of sun. How I long for the days of warm rays and not having to think of what the approximate levels of appropriate layering I will need to get through the day.

Using my powers of positive thinking, I am going to will these summery days into being by talking about a warm weather make. This Vogue 1236 dress was completed in the tail end of last summer and was captured in a bright selection of photos by Dallas Curow. Look at that sun…look at that green!

There’s not too much to report in regards to the pattern. It’s a super simple one that requires no fastenings or fiddly bits. Just a touch of neckline pleating and an all-in-one facing and bam, you have yourself a super comfortable dress. I never blogged the first version I made of this beyond its regular appearances in Me Made May. I am not sure why, because it is definitely a spring and summer favourite. Maybe I have a subconscious bias against blogging big 4 patterns. Or maybe I made it up so quickly and just jumped to the next thing before thinking about it. Who knows.

The star of this dress is obviously the fabric. It was one of my scores during my Britex visit in San Francisco last spring. I immediately gravitated towards it because of the border print. I have never worked with one before and was definitely keen to try it out. I feel like a good border print can end up looking a little more profesh than an all-over design because it has to be intentional.

But in order to avoid falling into the trap of “ooh this special fabric is sooo special, I can’t possible make anything but the perfect project with it”, wherein the perfect project invariably never arrives and then it sits perfectly on your shelf for eternity, I just went ahead and made it in the first pattern I thought would be a good match.

It sewed up like a dream and I enjoyed playing with peeks of the print in the pockets and facings, some little touches just for me.

After wearing it a few times, I felt like the neckline (and armholes) sat too low for me, so I unpicked the shoulders and brought it up about 2 cm and now it sits just right. I didn’t make this adjustment in my first version, but don’t feel the need to. I assume it’s because this fabric is quite a bit thinner and the reduced bulk increases the ease just a bit. Whatever the case, it was a simple fix.

I’ve worn it once so far this May, during one of our few sunny days and I hope it will be able to make a reappearance soon. How’s everyone else’s Me Made May been? I’m posting a lot on Instagram (and if I am too lazy for a nice photo, I’ll post a mediocre shot on Instastories haha) and will likely round up everything at the end of the month.

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!