Summer Perfected // Indigo Sway Dress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kitty Kenedy Top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dreaming of Summer // Vogue 1236

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two is Better than One // Zadie Separates

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

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

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

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

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

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

Zadie Separates // Boots and Cats

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

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

Lots of Lindens!

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

So many Lindens! Okay, well…two Lindens!

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

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

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

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

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

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

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

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

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

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

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

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

Embellishing the Linden Sweatshirt // Boots & Cats

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

Festive Luxury // A Stretch Velvet Wrap Skirt

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Sewing with Velvet // Boots and Cats

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

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

Adventures in Fabric Marbling

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Hooray for marbling!

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

A Halloween Hemlock Tee // Boots and Cats

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

Happy Halloween!

First Skirt of Fall // Les Fleurs

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

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


Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

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

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

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

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

Rifle Paper Co Les Fleurs // Boots and Cats

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

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