Adventures in San Francisco

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

I really don’t want to be that person but…where the popsicles is summer going?! It gets hard to keep track of the time and take it in when everything is just go go go for months on end. Example; we went to San Francisco two months ago and it feels like it was only a few weeks ago. To be fair, I have been doing lots of sewing and soaking up the sun outdoors, so I felt no immediate rush to post about our trip, but now as July winds down I need to step it up.

And what, she made a video!? How’s that for being worth the wait. It’s been a number of trips now that I set out with the best intentions and¬†took lots of video clips in hopes of making little montage videos when I got home. But most (read: all but this one) still sit in a folder full of micro-glimpses into our adventures. This time though, I told myself I wouldn’t let that happen…and I didn’t. So for that alone I am very proud, but I do hope you enjoy. (There are many of Rory’s antics to enjoy in there too. For those just wanting to see cats, they start at the 2 min mark ūüėČ )

 

As with our last trip to California, we began by attending the Bay Area Maker Faire. Because I wanted to attend my friend’s wedding, I arrived late and only had one day to take in the expo. I knew what I wanted to see and what I knew I could skip, so one day turned out to be plenty. As always with this type of event, you are completely surrounded by creativity and really cool things. It’s hard to know where to focus!

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

I was pretty impressed that I spotted a fair number of textile artists and engineers hiding in the nooks and crannies. I also caught the MakeFashion show and spent some downtime in the fiber booth. I first learned crochet in that booth 2 years ago, and was stoked to see weaving now included. Using a mini loom I took some time to chill and made myself a little piece to take home.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

After the faire, we made our way into San Francisco proper. We had the pleasure of once again spending lots of time with our friend Dat, who knows more than anyone about the cool and interesting things to do in the city (last time, he brought us to roller disco). This time though, we spent more of our time relaxing in our Airbnb, particularly designing and shooting a video for his latest art project.¬†The piece consisted of translucent origami cubes filled with LED lights where¬†the hues¬†and intensity were controlled by the movement of your hands. It’s so mesmerizing, you could stare at it all day long.

Of course, when you spend hours playing with light sculptures, you get quite hungry.¬†Dat taught us the method of sous vide cooking, which is essentially cooking your food (in sealed bags) at a¬†consistent temperature in water for a set amount of time for the perfect outcome every single time. We quickly mastered the art of the ‘poached’ egg (hence the random, but perfectly-gooey egg in the video) and later set out to cook the tenderest, most delicious steak and chicken (which then of course went on top of home made pizza. Hungry yet?)

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

When we weren’t cooking and filming, we tried to cram in as many new sights into our four short days as possible. We started with the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (which was steps from our Airbnb). I had my sights set on the Oscar de la Renta retrospective exhibit since we were planning this trip and was so intrigued to go see it.

De la Renta’s work was so globally influenced, they actually had most of the exhibit divided by his inspirations, rather than by era. From lacy flamenco dresses, to fur lined Russian-inspired coats, his attention to detail (and the work of his atelier) was incredible. Rory even noted that even though his work spanned decades, you couldn’t place the era for an individual piece. A dress from the 70s would be positioned next to a dress from the late 90s and you wouldn’t be able to tell which was which. He had such a talent for creating elegant, classic pieces and it was really cool to see them all up close.

When I was studying fashion history, I found myself intrigued and obsessed with watteau pleats in 18th century dresses (I even wanted to include them in one of my designs for¬†intro to pattern drafting, but couldn’t wrap my head around where to start haha).¬†So naturally, these Marie Antionette-inspired gowns were my absolute favourite. The green striped off-the-shoulder dress was my favourite of the entire exhibition. It was in a funny place and hard to get a photo of, but I just love the swaths of fabric in a¬†that beautiful green hue. Delightful.

Most of our transportation was by walking, since we were approximately 30 minutes from most of¬†we wanted to do. Of course, it feels like no time at all, because the architecture is such an exhibit in itself and you¬†really can’t get tired of it¬†(maybe if you live there, but I still find it fascinating). As we walked the streets, we would point out¬†places with cool features and play “would you live in that one?” choosing to ignore how much money we would probably need to do so.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Wrapping up our first full day, we headed to Workshop SF for a block printing class. Social and creative classes are few and far between here so I wanted to be sure we got to do something crafty in such an abundant community. Workshop is a really cool studio that offers a myriad of classes from floral arranging, to makeup, screen printing and more. We only had a limited selection due to the dates we were there, but textile printing just seemed like a wonderful fit.

We were tasked with coming up with designs, carving our blocks and printing our fabric within two hours, but we learned lots and our group was really fun. Rory mastered the carving tool and different tips to meticulously create his bumblebee, and our instructor Danielle taught us a simple-now-that-I-know-it-but-mind-blowing-at-the-time technique of not totally blending your inks to create a gradient effect.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Since it popped up in my feed over a year ago, I had been following Kittea on social media. Knowing there would be a cat cafe in San Francisco while we were visiting was too good to be true and I cleared a morning in my schedule for a nice cuppa and some cuddles. A lot smaller than Kopjes in Amsterdam, there was no level of ‘pretending to be here for the tea’ with the guests. It was ALL about the kitties. Many of the (adoptable) cats were quite young and very playful, so it was easy to interact with them. I did make a friend who was down to just wander into my lap for a few minutes then¬†head back to his bed, and repeat.

I don’t think I can think of a better way to kick off a morning.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

From there, we hopped an Uber to Union Square and Britex fabrics! I know I self-imposed a fabric shopping ban, but when high quality fabric stores are available to you in person, you take that chance when you get it. I went in with nothing in particular in mind, hoping to find some fabric that ‘spoke to me’. I had no idea we’d be spending the next two hours wandering the floors and failing to not¬†get distracted by shiny things.

I loved the vibe of the place, and everyone there was so nice. Many people commented and appreciated the print of my Laurel dress and were keen to give me a hand with everything I needed. I have seriously never seen so many notions so beautifully laid out in one place before. I am seriously envious of those who have places like this to gather, relate to people, and find amazing textiles in your own city.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

I made the rounds though all the floors, mentally picking out the things I’d like to circle back to. Finally on the top floor ‘sale’ section, this neon pick paisley brocade jumped into my arms, soon to be a pencil skirt for fall. On the way back down I grabbed a few interesting trims for ‘just in case’, then finally some fun prints to top it off. I made my first Liberty print purchase after much deliberation for a light summer top and grabbed some light grey striped seersucker for some high-waisted shorts. I also could not have left without this interesting and dainty border print fabric and impulsively grabbed the softest fabric ever in the abstract floral print. I should have grabbed some solids I know, but without a project in mind and a whole rainbow at my fingertips I just couldn’t choose.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

We were also lucky enough to stumble into the Minted pop-up shop (it had just opened the day before). Before I saw the name on the sign, the bright and happy pillows and prints in the window sucked me in. I am a sucker for stationery so wandering in may have been a mistake for my budget. It was really cool to see the collaborative design concept brought to life and curated together in such a beautiful way. I managed to only wander out with some pens, gift tags and one roll of wrapping paper thankyouverymuch.

It was also a nice reminder of my surface pattern design motivations and was really inspired to see the creative work from so many people in one beautiful space.

Crafty Adventures in San Francisco // Boots and Cats

The rest of the few days consisted of sitting¬†and reading on the beach (and watching crazy people swim in the frigid water), climbing trees, eating churros at the wharf, and walking until our feet could walk no more. If I had an extra day or two I would have loved to do some vintage shopping since we were so close to all the good stuff in Haight-Ashbury, but we were so exhausted I’ll just have to save it for next time (and there will definitely be a next time).

I hope your summer isn’t flying by too quickly and I hope to share some summery frocks soon.

The BlogPodium Dress // A V8766 & B5982 Mashup

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

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

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

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

Beautiful lettering of Justine Ma Design

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

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

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

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

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

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A V8766 & B5982 mashup // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

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

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

Our Trip to Europe // Paris

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

Our Trip to Paris // Boots & Cats

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

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

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

Our Trip to Europe // Amsterdam

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

When deciding on what cities to visit on our trip we knew Berlin and Paris would be our must-sees, but we had room in the itinerary for one more place. We tossed around a few ideas and landed on Amsterdam not knowing too much about it (besides the canals) or what to expect. This was also the shortest stop on our trip. To say we were enchanted would be a bit of an understatement.

After another lovely train ride through the countryside (and Rory’s game of ‘count the windmills’) we arrived in¬†Amsterdam and once again managed to easily navigate to our Airbnb using public transit (Can I seriously tell you the love affair I had with the transit systems over there?! I was constantly in awe of the simplicity and intuitiveness of getting around. It makes me feel just a little more dissatisfied with the system at home…). When looking for places to stay, we found that Amsterdam had the least available options without going way over our price range, so my tip for those looking to travel here would definitely be to find your accommodations early!

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

Our apartment was located just north of the Jordaan, in Westerpark. It was a charming ground-floor suite that was beautifully decorated. The big draw was access to the garden space. It was total bliss to eat breakfast on the deck in the sun.

Westerpark itself was a 2 minute walk away and was a refreshing and open green space. It was nice to walk around and explore and so many people were out enjoying the summer, with picnics and lawn games abound. It was perfect to have this little oasis so close to our place.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

As we told everyone before our trip, Rory and I didn’t want to plan in too many things. We wanted to take it one day at a time and not live to a structured schedule. However there was one big exception¬†that I made sure to reserve months in advance: A coffee date at a cat cafe!

Kattencabinet Kopjes was adorable, trendy and full of happy kitties. On our way over, we got slightly off track and I was so worried we would miss our reservation, but I had nothing to worry about. The ladies there were so friendly and didn’t mind¬†that we arrived a few minutes late.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

The cats themselves were so chill and seemed to take advantage of the sprawling network of bridges, stairs and beds expertly designed and placed in the space. Most of them were sleeping but every once in a while a cat would saunter through the space and soak up the attention of everyone’s eyes on him. All the cafe guests were trying¬†to be aloof about the cats, pretending¬†to focus on their company and beverages. But soon enough someone broke the ice and we were all wandering about taking photos and dangling toys for the cats who were game.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

Luckily, allergic Rory wasn’t bothered by them and could stay with me to enjoy some refreshing iced tea and delicious homemade desserts. There was however, one incident that took place. At one point I went to the washroom and Rory was left alone, a sneaky kitty decided he wanted some pie. That being a definite no-no, he now had to protect both our plates and tea from the feline’s¬†grasp. He guarded them valiantly as the onlookers giggled at the scene. He let out a cry for help and I came running back to¬†remove the little thief and we enjoyed the rest of our desserts in peace.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

It was an Instagram paradise and just a cool place to hang out. They even had a shelf full of cat books, comics and colouring pages. Seriously, if you like cats even a little bit I HIGHLY recommend this place if you are ever in the city.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

We flirted with a few stops in the museum district but settled on two places to explore. First, the FOAM photography museum. The exhibits they had in place were really cool. But the feature exhibit, Swinging Sixties London, definitely piqued my interest and was so fascinating to me. I absolutely LOVE vintage photography, especially in the 50s and 60s, so it was just perfect. The museum had multiple stairways and we accidentally entered the exhibit from the back entrance and saw the decade in reverse, which was fine. I also didn’t see the ‘no photos’ sign at the door.¬†Whoopsie.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

Just a block away, we HAD to stop at the Kattenkabinet, a very strange but also awesome museum featuring all-cats-all-the-time type art. It was housed in what appeared to be someone’s home (we couldn’t go up the stairs), but it was ornately decorated and even had two feline residents. It was short but very fun to see.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

As for the shopping, I found that Harlemmerstraat had just the right vibe I was looking for. There were many vintage inspired dress shops, fabulously decorated independent stores and shops featuring local artists like Restored and Sukha.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

I attemped to get some fabric shopping in at the famed textile Noodermarkt on Monday, but it was wayyyy to crazy for me to look closely at anything and the quality didn’t seem¬†very high. I probably could have found some hidden gems but seriously could not handle constantly being shoulder to shoulder with people.

We also took a canal tour that was interesting but more than anything was really relaxing. We also stopped by Museumplien for a picnic (and to take a nap), though the I AMsterdam letters were swarming with people to get a decent photo.

Our Trip to Amsterdam // Boots & Cats

Of all the cities we visted I found Amsterdam was the coolest place to just walk around. It was the most dynamic and interesting to explore without purpose. Everything felt so close and accessible. There were clearly a lot of tourists but it never felt ‘touristy’ to me which was nice. The cafes and restaurants felt authentic and accessible and it was perfect summer weather.

I’d love to come back and spend a few more days (and have another¬†afternoon at Kopjes) and think it would be beautiful in the spring to wander the tulip fields.

Our Trip to Europe // Berlin

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

After an astounding 10 days in Copenhagen it was time to depart for the next leg of our trip! An early Monday morning brought us off to the train station to begin our journey to Berlin.

Using the train system was actually so simple and was relatively stress free for us. Though Rory had the unexpected experience of having to pay a few kroner at the station to use the washroom. Once we boarded it was so relaxing to just sit back and watch the countryside roll by for a few hours until our destination. On this route, we had the added pleasure of taking a ferry across from Denmark to Germany. Standing on the deck taking in the sea air was so refreshing.

The moment we got off the train at Berlin Central we noticed a definite change in the weather. While Copenhagen was blissfully temperate and overcast, it was clear that here, we were in for a very hot mid-summer week.

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

We navigated our way to our beautiful Airbnb apartment in Prenzlauer Berg. It was so crisp and well designed it immediately felt comfortable (and cool!), but the pièce-de-résistance of this place was the secret rooftop patio entrance.

When the sun went down and it would start to cool off, we could climb up a squeaky ladder to a small landing and could sit there, watch the sunset, and relax with a good book. This little place was probably our biggest highlight of Berlin. We could see across the rooftops and watch the clouds dance in the sky. It was the perfect place to slow down, reflect and feel inspired.

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

The neighbourhood itself was cute and quiet, we spent quite a bit of time taking in the shops and restaurants within walking distance. Jubel patisserie was a definite highlight, introducing me to a nectarine and hazelnut tart I will never forget.

On one of the cooler days we ventured a little further walking for hours through Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte discovering all the little shops that dotted along the way and enjoying the architecture. We started by taking in an adorable brunch at Anna Blume cafe (and flower shop), which was a delicious assortment of everything on a tiered platter. It was kinda like a breakfast charcuterie board and creating our own unique flavour combinations was gratifying.

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

From there we did pretty much all the window shopping imaginable. I especially loved the bright eclectic feel of VEB Orange and the local goods at Konk. I was delighted to find fabric at Frau Tulpe Stoffe and managed to restrain myself, acquiring only one new textile and a few accessories.

It was seemingly endless, with more to see the further we went. Even as we intended to head to our next destination, we would get a little off track, spotting a bunch more shops to  pop into, like Type Hype, R.S.V.P and Claudia Skoda. It became addicting to try to see it all.

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

Through footbag, Rory had a few friends¬†in the city that we were able to meet up with and hang out at¬†G√∂rlitzer Park and then later at his friend’s studio, which was located under the trains along¬†the Spree. He refurbishes industrial furniture from old east Berlin warehouses and sells them to retailers, restaurants and collectors. It was really interesting to see the studio space and admire the assortment¬†unique lights, chairs and playground equipment.

We did play tourist and took a hop-on-hop-off bus tour one afternoon. The 30 degree heat made it a little unbearable at the stops, but it was the perfect way to see everything in one succinct go. Afterwards, as much as we wanted to enjoy the atmosphere and food outdoors at Alexanderplatz, we ended up having dinner at a department store cafe because OMG  they had air conditioning.

Our Guide to Berlin // Boots & Cats

Having the weather be so hot kind of made Berlin difficult to enjoy, everywhere was stuffy and walking places wasn’t always fun. On our last day it was 37 outside and we decided to visit the¬†German Museum of Science and Technology because we thought it would be a cool in more ways than one. However when we arrived we learned the museum was housed in a¬†refurbished train station. It was really neat vibe (we walked up a ‘horse stairwell’ between floors) but it basically meant that was not outfitted with modern a/c. Now don’t get me wrong, I love summer and being warm, but it was really too much.

Beyond the heat, Berlin was a charming city and I know we barely made a dent in what it had to offer. It was the perfect place for us to relax and recharge for the second half of our trip. After five short days we were already onwards to Amsterdam.

Our Trip to Europe // Copenhagen

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

This summer Rory and I had the chance to explore a little piece¬†of the world. For 25 days we got to travel to four cities in Europe…the first time over there for both of us!

We had a truly amazing time.¬†Though now it seems like a distant dream, when we were there the days felt long, deliberate and never-ending (in the best way possible). I’ll break up each city into it’s own post over the next weeks here on the blog and share my personal guide¬†to the places we discovered, though I know we barely scratched the surface.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

Our journey began in the beautiful Copenhagen. Why Denmark? Well, besides my love of Scandinavian design, the city was host to the World Footbag Championships (I bet that makes everything much clearer…)

Footbag is a unique sport that Rory plays. In essence, it’s the amped-up version of hacky sack, complete with tricks, routines and more. Really, this topic could be a whole post in itself. Rory was competing this year, which lead us to Copenhagen for 10 days¬†as our first location on the trip.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

We stayed in an Airbnb in the neighbourhood of N√łrrebro. If you’ve never tried Airbnb I can’t recommend it enough. It gives you the chance to live more like a local¬†in the trendier¬†areas that don’t often have hotels or hostels nearby. Plus you can save money by cooking your own food in the kitchen, and you often have access to laundry. Just do your research, read reviews, keep in touch with your host and it should all go smoothly. In all the¬†accommodations we stayed at this trip, we didn’t have¬†a single issue.

Our apartment was adorable, with lots of personality from cute knick-knacks and interesting art. There was so much natural light and the furniture was all mid-century influenced.¬†It was the¬†perfect place to call ‘home’ for the week.

The neighbourhood itself was also beautiful. It was quite quiet, but we were 2 blocks from a main street that had everything we needed. Fun fact, the Danes love their shawarma. I kid you not, every third business on the street was a little kebab restaurant. We stopped at a new place for¬†many of our meals (when we weren’t cooking at our apartment) and it was delicious. The only downside to this was that we missed out on the chance to try some traditional Danish fare.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

On our last day we managed to have a lovely brunch at M√łller, which was a trendy little place that had amazing food. When you arrive they hand you a tiny paper menu and you check off what you’d like and hand it in a the counter. The dishes were small, so you could try a variety of things. Your own mini buffet!¬†It was only a few blocks from our place and I kind of wish we’d tried it sooner so we could have gone¬†more than once and tried everything.

I, of course, had a blast hitting up all the shops. I did a bit of research on where exactly to go because I am pretty picky about shopping when I travel. With the rise of online shopping and globalization it is getting harder and harder to find things that are truly unique to a place you are visiting. I make an effort to find local artists and designers, independent shops and locally made goods wherever possible. This way I know my souvenirs are truly unique.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

Luckily, an amazing shopping street J√¶gersborggade was a 5 minute walk away. Along this street I found the ceramic studio of Inge Vincents, which was breathtaking work, and some quirky home goods shops like¬†H√ėJ Copenhagen. The street was also dotted with outdoor cafes and candy¬†shops. It was a dreamy few blocks to get away to, but only took an hour to cruise the whole thing.

On one of our free days, we also ventured to the other side of town to the Vesterbro neighbourhood. I found another shopping street Værnedamsvej which was filled with trendy little boutiques like Dora and Playtype. The street was narrow and a little winding, which made it a unique expereince to just wander through.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

I had one store that was recommended online that I really wanted to visit, Girlie Hurly, which was about a 10 minute walk out of the way from where we were. The street we had to take to get there appeared to be mostly residential, filled with tall buildings lined with bikes and greenery, but was we glanced down at the basement windows we noticed there were many little artist studios hidden away. Some were even open as little shops too.  We visited a few print shops and walked by sculpture and furniture spaces, but we were especially enchanted by Virk Varftet, and had a wonderful time chatting with the owners.

(It was also on this street we saw someone using a blowtorch to rid the cobblestones of weeds, which was a very strange sight).

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

When we travel, Rory and I like to explore at our own pace, allow ourselves breaks to just hang out and be lazy, and enjoy the smaller, quieter areas. That doesn’t mean we avoid the tourist-y things altogether, though! We made time to climb the winding ramp¬†up the Rundetaarn (round tower), strolled along the waterfront, had dinner in the meatpacking district and took a canal tour.

The tour was a lovely way to see everything all at once, and it was perfect as we went on one of the only sunny days we had there. The famous Nyhavn harbour was stunning and picturesque, and it was fun to squeeze underneath the tiny bridges. We briefly passed the little mermaid statue but we were pretty underwhelmed by her.

Copenhagen City Guide // Boots & Cats

Overall, one of the things that stood out the most to me about Copenhagen was the bikes! It was amazing to see how many people would travel that way and we were repeatedly gobsmacked at how many bikes were just parked and waiting for their patrons. At home, we never ride our bikes because the rules on the road are so unclear to everyone, but here we felt so comfortable using it as a means to get around. On a few occasions we rented bikes using the Bycyklen system, which had bikes docked around the city that you can just check out and pay by the hour to use them. They also had handy little GPS tablets on them which took all the stress out of navigating.

I can’t tell you how liberating it was to just take off and get exactly where we needed to by bike. It was especially fun in the evening when traffic slowed down and we could just go nice and slow and take it all in.

Because of the length of time we spent here, plus the friends we had to hang out with from the competition, Rory and I both enjoyed Copenhagen immensely. We loved the atmosphere, parks and bikes and could see ourselves coming back and exploring more of Denmark and maybe Sweden and Norway too. But this trip we had other plans. Our next stop was south to Berlin.

Learning Calligraphy

Learning Calligraphy // Boots & Cats

There’s something¬†amazing about creating. There are infinite ways to make things, and infinite things to make. The sad thing about this phenomenon is that there is no possible way for you to make ALL¬†the things.

That doesn’t mean I won’t stop trying to make all the things. Learning a new craft can be a fun and obsessive experience, but it can also be a challenge to motivate yourself to move forward when you aren’t quite sure how to get started. That’s why I love a good workshop. In-person, hands-on, let’s-make-a-mess activities make my life complete.

Learning Calligraphy // Boots & Cats

I’ve attended workshops for silk dyeing, letterpress¬†and earlier this summer¬†I had the chance to dive into the world of calligraphy. I briefly attempted calligraphy at the start of this year, but I was totally winging it. At one point thought I broke my nib when in actuality it was doing exactly what it was supposed to. I decided a more formal approach was perhaps in order if I wanted to learn the art of lettering.

The class was taught at the new 104 st gem, Habitat Ect. and was lead by Justine Ma. I had been following Justine on social media after first spotting her beautiful hand-lettering work at the Royal Bison last winter. One day she posted on Instagram that she would be offering her first-ever workshop. I jumped on that as fast as possible but I was already too late, it was full. Luckily a second date was added a few days later and I was in!

Learning Calligraphy // Boots & Cats

When I arrived at the space (20 minutes early like a keener) I was so delighted! Justine had tables set and beautifully decorated, with assigned seats at which she had thoughtfully provided personalized blocks and water bottles for everyone attending. Also included was all the paper, ink and nibs we needed to get ourselves started on our lettering journeys.

Learning Calligraphy // Boots & Cats

There were 12 ladies at this two hour workshop, and although we were excited and giddy to learn, once the ink pots opened the room was full of concentrated silence. Justine walked us through some basic techniques to put the pen to paper and then just let us experiment and create.

It was brilliant to watch the various learning styles in the room. Some people simply wrote the alphabet over and over, perfecting each letter as they went, others picked some key phrases to repeat. I admittedly get¬†bored easily so once I understood my ink flow, I wrote whatever random words popped into my head as we went along. I got a few odd looks for writing ‘peanut butter’…’pickles’…’confetti’…’party hats’…’popcorn’… but I’m gonna say that the best way to learn how to style words is trying different words to see how they look. Ha.

Learning Calligraphy // Boots & Cats

I’ve always had a bit of an interest in hand-lettering and this workshop sent me into full obsession mode. I’ve filled multiple notebook pages with more random words and am constantly looking for excuses to write on things. Luckily this hobby doesn’t require a huge time or space commitment so I can pick it up here and there when I am able. Which is the best kind of side hobby to have, don’t you think?

Be sure to follow Justine’s social media pages as she will announce future dates for this amazing workshop so you can¬†get in on this!

The Great Sewing Day

Sewing Day! // Boots & Cats

This whole past month was about sharing and connecting with a community of like-minded creatives from around the world. I LOVED it, but it was another reminder that locally, I have a very limited supply of sewing friends. There are only a few of people in town whom I can rant about the scarcity of good knit fabrics, or titter excitedly about new indie pattern releases with. With that, the chances of attending a sewing meet-up are practically zilch.

So I decided to change all that.

When I talk to people about sewing, I¬†will most frequently¬†hear “I wish I could do that”, “I haven’t sewn since high school”, and ¬†“I can barely fix a button!”. It seemed like there was¬†interest, but a lack of confidence and skills to pursue the hobby.

Enter the Great Canadian Sewing Day!

(I’d decided to¬†call it that after a month-long binge watch of all 3 seasons of the Great British Sewing Bee). I¬†gathered up a handful of¬†interested friends and family members, booked a party room, and planned out 8 hours of Sewing 101¬†fun!

Sewing Day! // Boots & Cats

In reality the day was nothing at all like the Bee. Pretty much the exact opposite, in fact. I wanted a low-pressure, fun, sew-along type afternoon that focused on fundamental skills and basic fit and customization.  I narrowed down two patterns that my seamstresses could choose to make, both from Sewaholic Рthe Belcarra blouse or the Hollyburn skirt. Two people chose the blouse and three chose the skirt, so it was an even mix.

How it worked was that I would demonstrate¬†and explain a step for one pattern, and had the gals execute that step on their own. Then I demo-ed a step for the other pattern, let them work on that and repeat. I also circled the room¬†and helped guide and get people out of jams (literally – some sewing machines weren’t too happy with us). It was all about patience and baby steps.

Sewing Day! // Boots & Cats

This was the first time I had ever attempted something like this. Being the center of attention is not my strong suit, but I was glad to dip my toes into the world of teaching sewing. I think I communicated well and it was really fun. The best was to see people excited when they finished a step well and could see the project coming together.

I did not, however,  anticipate how exhausting it would be to constantly jump around between two patterns, helping people and finishing the demo steps. By the end of it, I had abandoned both my teaching garments and finished them at later days.

I also completely underestimated the time commitment. (I can barely tell how long I’ll take on a project just¬†myself, I don’t know why I thought I could predict how long it would take teaching 5 people two patterns…but I digress). The anticipated 6-8 hour workshop devolved into a manic 13 hour marathon. Complete with exhaustion and relentless determination to just FINISH the dang things. By 1 am we were all just ready to go to bed and never look at a sewing machine again. Woops.

Next time I will make it a 2 day affair.

I had a really fun day spending time with my friends and giving them a little taste of my hobby. I hope I imparted some tips and tricks and I really look forward to seeing what my new seamstress friends make in the future.

Sewing Day! // Boots & Cats

Tips for hosting your own Sewing Day:

  • Sugar, caffeine and pizza are a must.
  • Bring lots of extension cords and power bars for everyone’s sewing machines and irons.
  • Have lots of space for sewing tables, cutting tables, and ironing boards.
  • Have an extra machine on hand if possible in case someone’s machine acts up or breaks.
  • Focus on teaching ONE pattern.
  • Break down the sewing time into smaller chunks to avoid exhaustion.
  • Have finished garments from the pattern on hand to help people see the ‘bigger picture’ when doing funny-looking steps like pockets or closures.
  • Pump up the jams! (But not so loud they can’t hear you explaining something).
  • Encourage creativity with the pattern but also focus on keeping things simple enough to complete.
  • Have everyone take measurements in advance so you can be prepared for any sizing/grading help they may need.
  • Keep it fun and lighthearted. Be sure everyone knows not to expect perfection on their first garment.

Have you ever taught a sewing workshop before? Have you ever had a friend teach you? I’d love to hear your stories.

 

Learning Letterpress

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

I have an unhealthy addiction to stationery. Cards, notebooks, prints, calendars, you name it, I want it. I am getting better at resisting cute paper works but anything with a clean letterpress design? I just can’t help myself. It is just so beautiful and something I just can’t recreate at home, which makes it more magical, right?

Can you imagine my joy and glee when a local letterpress artist I followed¬†started advertising for small workshops? It apparently is the trendy blogger thing to do here in Edmonton after all. I have wanted to try letterpress for some time and this was a really exciting opportunity. After many months of dates that just didn’t work, Rory and I found ourselves in the small Uppercase Press Studio on a snowy afternoon a few weeks ago.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & CatsSince there was only two of us at a time, Rory and I got a real hands-on experience trying our hands at typesetting, mixing ink and pressing our own works.¬†Lu was super helpful and made the afternoon so much fun. Beyond the basic techniques, she taught¬†us¬†some really neat stuff about the history of letterpress. (Like did you know that they don’t make presses anymore? You can’t just walk into Micheal’s and get one, you have to hunt down machines from 100 years ago if you want to do serious pressing. Maybe you knew this…I didn’t). I walked away from the afternoon feeling more knowledgeable, accomplished and inspired.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Once you have it all set up, you can print as many copies of your print as time allows so¬†I wanted to make sure I made things I could get use from (the craft drawer of pretty paper things is growing everyday with stagnant projects). The soft feathery flakes floating from the sky that afternoon inspired some festive holiday cards, and then some ‘cheers!” tags for gifts at any time of the year.

When typesetting, all your ‘stamps’ had to be snuggled up tight to hold together. I never knew how tricky that¬†could be. I may have been a little over ambitious with my projects for a beginner. I did some serious MacGuyvering to get the diamond embellishments on the cards to stay put, and Lu had to show me some ‘cheating’ methods¬†to get my ‘POP’ bubbles¬†to sit still. I like to think it was worth it though!

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Rory had fun typesetting his own little poem which he printed and is going to illustrate in the future. On his first print we realized he only had ONE typo. Pretty impressive seeing as you are spelling words with backward letters.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

Learning Letterpress // Boots & CatsWe easily agreed on ink colours, and though we both thought we were pros at colour mixing, we used WAY too much ink getting the perfect blue. Luckily, you don’t actually need that much ink to print, so in the grand scheme of things we didn’t waste that much.

After hours of printing, talking, laughing and even enjoying a spot of tea, we had created some pretty awesome things. I can imagine the work it must entail to do this day in and day out as part of a creative business. Lu was a wonderful teacher and knowing the methods of craftmaship makes me appreciate the letterpress process so much more.

Learning Letterpress // Boots & Cats

You can check out Lu’s work for Uppercase press at the Royal Bison both weekends of the show coming up and I can’t wait to give out my holiday cards!

 

Edmonton International Cat Festival

Catfestthisway

Edmonton is known as the festival city, with an innumerable amount of attractions, events and gatherings happening at any given time of the year, but especially in the summer.

But among the street performers, theatre and arts events, I never expected to be attending a festival centered around the love of¬†our feline friends! ¬†Armed with my cat-themed ensemble¬†and a sense of curiosity I ventured¬†out to Edmonton’s first international Cat Fest.

fluffyblueeyes

The event was organized as a fundraiser for our local humane society. It was a lively afternoon filled with cat video screenings, academic discussions about WHY cats are so trendy right now, and if it will just pass as just a fad, talks about cat personality types and even a photo-contest beauty pageant.

cattalks

Sprinkled with food trucks and cat-themed market vendors, the event was a really great atmosphere…especially since we got to actually visit some furry friends! Some from the Humane Society, others from local breeders and show¬†societies, it¬†was a perfect opportunity to sneak in some fuzz therapy.

bengal

I am looking forward to next year’s event and am excited to see how the event grows and evolves. Who knows, maybe in a few years¬†it will grow to be that we’re known as the CAT festival city. A girl like me can dream.

Spcakitty1