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.

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

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

Welcome, 2016 // Resolutions and a New Calendar!

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

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

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

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

DIY Calendar and thoughts for 2016 // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

Have a beautiful wintry week!

Creative Gift Wrapping // Fabric Scrap Ribbons

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

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

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

You’ll need:

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

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

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

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

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

Creative gift wrapping with fabric // Boots & Cats

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

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

Hand-painted Gift Mugs

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

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

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

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

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

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

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

You’ll need:

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

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

The steps

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

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

Handpainted Gift Mugs // Boots & Cats

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

Halloweaving

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

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

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

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

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

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

A Halloweaving // Boots & Cats

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

Now I just need to get ALL the yarn! Muahahaha