A Bright and Bold Gabriola Skirt

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

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

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

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

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

Geometric Gabriola Skirt // Boots and Cats

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

Scattered Creativity

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

I am constantly in amazement of the talent in the online sewing community. Actually, I am in awe of the whole creative community. You follow along on blogs and Instagram and you see people pumping out projects like clockwork. Seamstresses have a new garment (or two, or three!) each week, knitters who complete socks in an afternoon, painters, photographers, weavers constantly making beautiful things come to life every day. You can’t NOT marvel at their impeccable skills, patience and creativity.

I envy them, I truly do, because that level of productivity and skill eludes me. No matter how much time available, how many stacks of fabric and patterns and ideas at the ready (trust me, there are loads), I will likely only get a garment or two done a month. Now here’s where, when I observe others, I am tempted to call myself lazy, chastise myself for watching too much Netflix, but when I really look at it, that isn’t the problem at all.

I just want to make ALL the things.

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

In the past year I’ve taken up knitting and weaving, while still dabbling in hand lettering, photography, scrapbooking, graphic design and any other crafty thing that happens to catch my eye. It brings to mind that old saying; Jack of all trades, master of none.

When you make things, and try new things, the easier it becomes to make and try NEW things. You learn to observe and reverse engineer, you build transferable skills that make it easier to understand what is happening. In short, it’s really easy to fall into that “Wow, [insert fancy craft here] is pretty easy and fun! It only took a few hours”.

But soon, as with all things in life, in order to level up from that excited beginner, you need to invest more time to get to level two. And here’s where I usually weigh my options. Spend 30 hours learning intermediate and advanced skills in craft A OR spend 3 hours messing around with the basics of craft B?

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

Time goes on and I hop hop hop around. I see an inspiring weaving online and decide to sketch it out, buy some neon yarn and enjoy a few peaceful hours with my warp and weft. I take a break from that to look at Instagram to see that Justine is hosting a watercolour lettering class, so sign me up! On my way to the class I’m texting a friend and we decide to marble some fabric, so I’ll stop and go pick up the paints. (Okay, so I am dramatizing the pace a bit here, but you catch my drift).

In many ways, I feel like this has enriched my creativity, allowing me to pull from many influences and gives me the ability to do so many different things. I can play and adapt, solve problems and copy things I see on Pinterest, in my own little way.

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

But sometimes I feel frustrated. Why have I not mastered invisible zippers? Why do I still mostly shoot my camera in Auto mode? Why have I not finished my design for Spoonflower? I feel stuck and plateau-ed in many of my favorite things, just leapfrogging between the plateaus, like stones on the water.

I grow a sense of longing as I observe others perfecting their test garments before moving onto their good fabric ( I don’t often sew voiles because I am worried my limited sewing quota will be spent by the time it’s done), or see someone make 3 t-shirts in one day. I feel left behind. Then I remember all that I HAVE accomplished, in all different ways.

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

I don’t really have any answers for which way is best, or if a way IS even best. Depending on what your goals are, focusing on one thing could be what you need, or it could be the opposite. Right now, personally, I don’t need to have really deep skills in any given craft. I can play shallow in anything that interests me because this is my free time, my creative space, and there are no rules or limits.

One day I could change my focus and this all will change too. Right now I will try to ward off those feelings of inadequacy and revel in the joy of dabbling. And if, one day I fall down the rabbit hole and want live in one craft only, that will be okay too, and I will fight off the feelings to go run to something new.

When your creativity is just all over the place // Boots and Cats

They say comparison is the thief of joy and I wonder if that is the moral of the story. For all those skilled craftsmen I feel inadequate against, perhaps some of them envy my freedom to try everything. We all have our own strengths, our own goals and our own time, so maybe it’s not worth it to try and play apples to apples at all.

Do you ever feel like you could level up your skills in one area or do you wish you could try more things? At any given time do you tend to focus on one craft, or many?


In the breeze, Sway with ease

Bright Sway Dress // Boots and Cats

The dog days of summer are in full swing. Sunshine! Humidity! Thunderstorms! The intense desire to avoid wearing pants!

No? Is that just me?

As we settle into the heat of August there is nothing more unpleasant than putting on anything tight when the air around you already feels like a thick, woolen hug. It’s at precisely this point every year when I realize I have exactly two casual free flowing dresses on hand for at least a week of sweltering weather. Luckily THIS year, I also happened to have the Sway dress pattern plus some brightly-coloured floaty viscose unassigned to any other project.

I have been wanting to make a Sway dress for some time now, loving the versatility of the pattern. I had a few fabrics on hand that were sort of earmarked for this dress but there was just something about the combo that wasn’t exciting and I avoided the project for months. As I felt the heat and pondered my Sway, I glanced at my pile of newly acquired pretties from San Francisco and this floral popped right out at me.

When I was fabric shopping, I really liked this fabric but didn’t have any projects in mind for it, so I decided just to get my standard 1.5 m that I get for any I-love-this-but-unsure-of-what-to-make-with-it fabrics. I found that with amount I can make a sizable number of patterns without having tons leftover. As I locked into making a Sway dress however, things were tight. It didn’t look like it was even going to happen.

Bright Sway Dress // Boots and Cats

According to the sizing, I am an XS, but since the pattern is anything but fitted, I traced the XS sizing for the bodice/bust area, and then graded down to the XXS on the sides to squeeze both pieces onto my fabric. I am also quite thankful the print is didn’t have an obvious direction so I could invert the front and back pieces. I also saved 3 cm by eliminating the seam at centre ‘front’, which I opted for the round neckline. The design of the sway dress allows so you can wear it forwards, or backwards, depending on what neckline you want.

Bright Sway Dress // Boots and Cats

For some reason, v-necks and I don’t get along well so I knew I’d almost always wear it at the back, leaving the seamline there, and cutting the ‘front’ on the fold. After I sewed the dress up I realized there is now another reason I probably won’t wear it the other way around. There is some…unfortunate…flower placement in the bodice region.

As has been mentioned by many before, Papercut Patterns are quite short. I didn’t have the luxury of adding any length as I usually would have, but just enough to cut true to the midi length version of the pattern. It actually works out to be the perfect length for a hot summer dress, just landing above my knees. I am fairly sure the mini version of the dress would be more like a shirt. (Actually…a Sway shirt would be super cute…writing that idea down now).

I barely managed to get the waist tie and pockets cut out of the fabric, and had to resort to an ivory cotton I had on hand to cut the facings, but I got everything out!

Bright Sway Dress // Boots and Cats

While on the topic of facings; usually you will find me firmly on team bias binding, but I forgot about all in one facings for sleeveless garments. I had only ever done this once before and OMG I LOVE how it turned out. It’s so crisp and has such a neat finish. So if anyone now asks, I am on team bias binding* (*unless I can use an all-in-one facing.)

What I was most impressed with in making this dress was how quickly it came together. It is very rare for me nowadays to have the attention span to complete a garment in one go. Not counting the fabric tetris to get it cut out, I think it took me 2 hours from start to finish in one sitting. It was SO satisfying to go from pieces to a garment in a single stretch.

Bright Sway Dress // Boots and Cats

I have happily worn this dress so many times this summer! It’s become my new go-to on those days where it’s just too warm. It’s the perfect blend of breezy, cool and still a lil’ fancy. Because the fabric is so light and flowy, I love the look of it worn with the belt, but I think as the weather cools down it would be super cute with some tights and full trapeze shape.

Here’s to those projects that just seem to be a success; easy to make, uses up all the fabric, fits a need in your wardrobe and gets lots of wear time. Have a sunny week, friends!

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 😉 )


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.

A Swingy Sundress // Vintage Butterick 4634

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

Ahhh! I am finally back in the land of the living…er blogging. After being away in California for a week, we then celebrated Rory’s 30th birthday (with a robot-themed costume party) and the wedding of one of my closest friends, all in a short window of time. It was totally exhausting, to the point that I barely wanted to move, so it took a little while to recoup.

Luckily, I sewed up this summery frock right before the madness, just in time to wear for another wedding the day before departing to Cali. The perfect kick-off to my summer sewing.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

Amazingly, some of the balloons from Rory’s birthday are still floatin’ around so I thought I would take them with me for the photos. It was pretty funny, this shoot. I decided last minute to venture out and in the morning everything looked beautiful and sunny. I went and curled my hair, did my makeup and and set up my camera remote, and as soon as I got dressed to go…it was raining. AH the most frustrating feeling, no?

Luckily it was one of our usual summer rains and was gone nearly as quickly as it came…but it left the wind behind. My normally peaceful walk to the university campus was, as I am sure, wildly entertaining for any passerbys. These balloons deserve a medal for their fortitude. Whipping around, getting tangled, and getting pulled by the wind at full force. I basically had to hug them to keep things under control.

At our destination, they were mildly better behaved, though when I wanted to take shots without them my weight wasn’t weighty enough and I had to run down the sidewalk chasing them like a loon at least 3 times. But look how cute they are!

The things we do for our blogs, eh?

But I digress. About 5 years ago, I raided the sewing spaces of both my grandmothers leaving with a huge file box full of their old sewing patterns. I remember that summer, sitting on the floor rifling through, knowing I couldn’t take them all and trying hard to choose what to keep. I immediately grabbed dresses, both full skirts and shift dresses, mostly from the 60s and early 70s. It was, however, easy to leave behind a large stack of frothy garments from the 80s.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

This was around the time of my sewing renaissance, near the end of high school and my skills were definitely lacking. The first pattern I made from the stash was a late 50s circle skirt and was way too heavy with the fabric I chose, and I did not know how to properly fit the waistband. I wore it once. The second was a cute 60s shift that I made in a pink plaid… quilting cotton. I wore it twice. (and years later noticed the bias binding was done laughably wrong and I managed to fix t up a bit for MMMay ’15). After that, the vintage patterns lay dormant.

When I was fabric shopping for Martha, I came upon this blush floral fabric and fell immediately smitten. It has a crepe paper-like texture that I hadn’t seen before. Though it didn’t make the cut for Martha, I asked for a humble 1m, knowing I would find something for it this summer. Around this time, summer wedding invites flowed in, and I couldn’t help think that this fabric would be so nice for a wedding. I stared at my pattern shelf and couldn’t see anything that suited the fabric or what I had in mind. I dug out the file box and this tent dress jumped out at me. A match made in heaven.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

The pattern is Butterick 4634 and from what I assume is the late 60s. I scoured the envelope and instructions to find a printed copyright date, but for some reason Butterick and Simplicity patterns don’t seem to have it. It is a one-piece dress, meaning that it is cut on the fold and is seamed at the shoulders and centre back. The pattern has lots of options, such as a high collar and various sleeves. I opted for view F, sleeveless with the collar.

Now, tent dresses like this eat up a LOT of fabric, which at the moment, I did not have. I measured the width of my fabric and carefully took in volume from both sides and under the armscye until I could squeeze it onto my fabric. This left the dress with a softer, more a-line shape. I also just squeezed out the collar, leaving nothing but fluttery scrappy bits behind.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

The sewing itself was a breeze, and at this point I find I can intuitively figure out most of the steps (especially now that I understand how bias binding works.) The instructions for sewing on the collar were really helpful and easy. I really like the finish. I did have to adjust the size of it though, because the collar was HUGE. It was so tall it looked like a neck brace and I shaved off about half the width. (As I look at the pattern envelope now, I realize you are probably supposed to fold over the collar. D’oy).

The pattern  called for a zip closure at the upper back neck, but since my fabric was so light, I opted to leave it open as a keyhole, and just close the collar with two buttons (and Tilly’s elastic loop trick). At the end, I noticed the dress had a slight high-low hem effect happening, which was a happy surprise and played well with the overall shape. I attribute the shift because of my pattern meddling earlier.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

I am so happy I was able to eek this dress from the fabric I had. I have two more weddings this summer that I don’t need to worry about finding a dress for. Ha.

After my month-long stitching hiatus I feel like I have my sew-jo back, just completing a Papercut Patterns dress yesterday and another project cut and ready to go! I know some sewists find it hard to make things in the summer, but I really enjoy that there are usually plenty of occasions happening to wear new creations almost immediately.

This has really helped me get motivated to look back into the vintage pattern box more frequently. I was pleasantly surprised to notice that I have the pattern for the jacket Jade made for 1960s week on the Sewing Bee… I smell an autumn project on the horizon.

Vintage 60s Tent Dress // Boots & Cats

Me Made May 2016

Me Made May 2016 // Boots and Cats

Welp. We did it everyone, another Me Made May come and gone. It was a different experience for me this year, as I chose not to take the photo aspect of the challenge as seriously as I did last year. Partly because this month was quite busy and the time did not exist, but also in part because the creativity and gussying up required to take photos up to my standards takes a lot out of me, and I can STILL feel the exhaustion I was left with after last year.

On the flip side, because I wasn’t as dedicated to the daily ritual of documentation and thinking up new places for photos, the month went by quite quickly and didn’t have the same mindfulness attached to the challenge as before.

Having sewn quite a few new goodies in the past year, I knew I would have a decent time of finding things to wear. Strangely though there were a lot of mornings that I felt at a loss. I actually referenced last years photos more than once to get some outfit ideas. I also had a unique curveball of travelling to San Francisco for 7 of the days. The weather provided a strange middle-ground of warm but cold that my me-made wardrobe needed some fanagling to accommodate.

Lessons learned:

  • I need more tops! I couldn’t believe how many mornings I was longing for pants but couldn’t because my selection of tops had already been depleted.
  • Solids. Solids. Solids. Nearly all my me-mades are made with a delightful printed fabric, usually bold in colour or design. This mean’s they don’t play nicely with one another. I need some basic cardigans for the dresses, and skirts to go with the tops I do have and general other layerable bits.
  • High-waists please. I am loving the short top trend, and have a few already, but I don’t have many bottoms to pair with them without showing skin. I have a grid print cotton that’s just begging to be a 60s crop top that needs something to go with it.
  • I should take more time to discover new outfits and pair the items I have with each other in creative new ways. I found a few winning outfits this month because I took the time to play.
  • I think it’s time to try to make jeans. It really it would make this whole month a lot easier 😉

In case you were curious, this is what my month ultimately ended up looking like (with the limited photos I do have):

Me Made May 2016 // Boots and Cats

Day 1- Unblogged knit Belcarra blouse. Fabric is so comfortable but the neckline is droopy because I didn’t accommodate the pattern properly for the drapey knit. Perfect for Sunday lounging about, though.

Day 2- Vogue 1236 ‘paperbag’ dress. We were spoiled with a very warm May, so this summery dress was perfect.

Day 3- Lace-backed MC6359. Still one of my favourite casual pieces. This is one of those pieces my future tops should aspire to.

Day 4- Vintage floral print Belcarra blouse. Still a soft, comfortable favourite.

Day 5- Geometric canvas Hollyburn skirt. I made while demonstrating the pattern to some friends last May. I discovered I could pair it with a cropped swing sweater and it was probably one of my favourite ‘new discovery’ outfits this month.

Day 6- Cat Nap print Laurel dress. I like wearing this dress when I will be around people because it’s a great conversation starter.

Day 7- My new Martha dress! I had just finished sewing it and wore it to take photos for the blog, then continued to wear it out and about, until it popped a seam I didn’t reinforce properly. D’oh.

Day 8- Cat Nap Sorbetto tank. Great for layering, noticing it fits a bit small.

Day 9- Julia Cardigan. Only a matter of time before this one hit the scene. I think it was a Monday thing. I almost count this as a cheating piece because it is so comfortable and goes with everything. I wear it all the time, so it doesn’t really need the boost of love Me Made May is intended to give to our clothes. Ah well.

Day 10- Striped Plantain Tee. Another awesome basic. Should make a few more in solid fabric.

Me Made May 2016 // Boots and Cats

Day 11- Shiny gold Laurel dress. I needed to have a photo taken for work and it was a great opportunity to wear this dressier dress.

Day 12- Grey cotton Belcarra. Made of the same fabric as my Vogue 1236, it’s a bit stiff and needs to be broken in a bit still.

Day 13- Knit Belcarra, again. I just wanted to wear something soft again.

Day 14- Yellow Lace Skirt. I was attending a bridal shower and wanted to wear something bright and girly. I had a fun discovery outfit with this one too, pairing it with the stripes worked better than expected!

Day 15- Blue Coco Top. The style is great but the fabric is not. I have an ivory one planned on the way.

Day 16- Self-drafted (copied) Batwing top. I loved this fabric and decided to try and copy a batwing sweater I had bought. I traced it out and juuuust squished the pattern onto the fabric. Then I realised this fabric has far less stretch than my original, meaning the sleeves are hella tight. Love the chevron on the sleeve though. Live and learn.

Day 17- Gabriola Skirt. Flowy, floral, fantastic.

Day 18- Julia Cardigan. Crossed the halfway point, feeling lazy.

Day 19- Senna Dress. The fabric has a coolness to it which is perfect for spring. I tossed it with a new cardigan and really liked the combo. Secret work pajamas!

Me Made May 2016 // Boots and Cats

Day 20- New vintage tent dress. Will be blogging soon! Made from a vintage pattern from my Grandma I sewed this up real fast (only 2 pattern pieces!) just in time for my friend’s wedding.

Day 21- Stripe Coco Top. Classic and cool for a (unexpectedly long) day of travel.

Day 22- Stripe Coco Dress. Wanted something bold to wear to Maker Faire, as well the ponte was the right amount of warm for the cool Bay Area air.

Day 23- Lace-backed MC6359. Comfy repeat.

Day 24- Saiph Tunic. Needed to play with some layering, but worked out nicely for walking through museums and parks.

Me Made May 2016 // Boots and Cats

Day 25- Cat Nap Print Laurel Dress. I visited a cat cafe this day. There is no way I could NOT.

Day 26- Polka Dot Linden. Comfy, warm, casual.

Day 27- Julia Cardigan. Lazy travel day.

Day 28- Knit Hollyburn Skirt. Not sure what to pair it with for a warm spring day. Tried to strike gold again with the striped shirt- had limited success compared to the yellow skirt.

Day 29- Striped Plantain Tee. Laundry day.

Day 30- Knit Peggy Dress. Felt like wearing something more outlandish nearing the end of the challenge. Almost forgot to take a photo. Was worn while enjoying cookies.

Day 31- Ice Cream Airelle Blouse then floral print Belcarra. It was a warm, summery day and I decided this make needed some love. I wore it for about an hour, but the shoulders were so tight I couldn’t focus on anything else. Changed into my trusty Belcarra and tossed it into the ‘something needs to change’ pile. C’est la vie.

I am surprised at how often I felt the need/laziness to repeat tried and true makes instead of venturing into other me made’s I have but didn’t wear at all. Luckily, my to-sew list has just grown by a LOT and I can’t wait to dive in.

Have a happy June, and enjoy some guiltless freedom wearing a few non-me-mades this week hehe.


Flower Power // Tilly and the Buttons Martha Dress

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

Blooming, bright and frolicky is exactly how you’d describe the light sunny days of May this dress.  That’s right folks, spring (aka dress sewing season) is upon us in full swing and I am thrilled to share another bold 60s-inspired frock to kick it off.

Last month the lovely team at Tilly and the Buttons reached out and asked if I would be interested in previewing a new pattern. Unlike anything I had ever seen before from an indie pattern, the Martha dress is a princess-seamed, bell sleeved, bias-skirted wonder. I instantly fell in love with the high collar and heavy late-sixties vibe. I did not hesitate to accept.

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

This is probably one of the most vintage looking new makes in my wardrobe (though I think Peggy comes close) and not something I’d be likely to find elsewhere, which makes me quite happy. Thankfully my friend let me take photos in her mid-century wonderland of a house to complement it. I could not imagine a more perfect setting to play and swish around in this dress.

I knew immediately I wanted to go all out California-girl with the fabric and went to the store in search of the brightest floral I could find. Luckily this neon polyester crepe had no trouble jumping out at me. I also purchased some matching yellow crochet trim to play with, but I ultimately left it off because this fabric won’t let anything else share the stage. My second design choice was a mint lace with underlay, based off a long lost sold-to-someone-else Etsy find, but I didn’t want to sew multiple layers together for a summer dress. Perhaps in version 2.0?

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

I also toyed with the idea of making a sleeveless version, which would probably be more comfortable on hot days, as well as more practical for cool-weather layering. After much debate (and Instagram feedback) I decided to leave them on. I really need to accept that I need more sleeves in my life. The bell sleeves also cement the vintage vibe. A sleeveless version probably would have a skater dress feel, which really opens this pattern to different styling opportunities.

If you are on a fabric budget, or have a great textile in your stash, I will say that the fabric requirements are quite generous and you can do a lot with less. The envelope suggests over 3m of fabric (to accommodate the bias cut skirt pieces, and long skirt version), but since I made the mini skirt in one of the smaller sizes, I was able to arrange and cut my pieces and was left with a solid meter of fabric leftover.

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

Because of the crepe texture of the fabric, it was great to sew with, sort of ‘sticking’ to itself and keeping still. However in cutting out the pieces, this was one of the few times having a cutting table would have been ideal. I do all my fabric cutting on the floor of my living room and while it works for thicker, stable fabrics, the soft flowy nature of this was not having it. I used my rotary cutter and 3 small cutting mats strategically placed underneath piece by piece to get the job done.

This haphazard cutting method left me with a few errors in my pieces. Things shifted and slid, as they do. For example,  when I went to attach the skirt to the bodice it was far too long! I could have gathered the skirt to make it fit but it would have totally ruined the dress’ silhouette. After some frustrated pondering, I opted to let out the side and princess seams to a 0.5 cm seam allowance to get them to fit (perfectly with aligned seams, I might add).

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

I am not a fan of facings on the best of days and for this project in particular I felt it was a bit superfluous. Because my fabric was so light and flowy, it added visible bulk to my neckline, so I removed it (with the exception of a small triangle bit to keep the zipper faced), and simply overlocked the collar piece to the bodice. I’ve said before that the beauty of the insides of my garments isn’t my #1 priority so this was an easy decision to make. I’m sure with a sturdier fabric the facing would add a nice finish and support the collar well.

The small tip of using a hair elastic for the button loop closure was one of those mind-blowing sewing hacks that make life so easy and make you say ‘now, why didn’t I think of that?!”. I felt a little guilty at first, cutting into a perfectly good hair tie, but since only a small portion (~5cm) is needed, I saved the remainder for future loops. It has lots of stretch and looks so good. Total win.

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

Size wise I cut a straight size 2 from Tilly’s size chart. It is a pretty spot on fit, though I could have graded out a little at the waist I think (my measurements sit between size 2-3) to allow extra room for pizza parties. Since the pattern has a natural waist seam I added my traditional 4 cm bodice lengthening (which as I now type this, I think also had probably something to do with my bodice/skirt alignment issues…)

What I really enjoyed about making this dress was the inclusion of new techniques that aren’t difficult, but things I simply hadn’t encountered before in a pattern. The bias cut skirt pieces and the high collar were new things to play with and learn from, without feeling scary or unattainable.

Swingin' Martha Dress // Boots and Cats

I am looking forward to picnics and patio parties and all other excuses to wear bright summery frocks. Not to mention even more summery frocks to sew sew sew. Ahhh I love this time of year.

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

A Shiny Shift // Colette Laurel #2

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

We’ve had one heck of a beautiful spring this year. The snow has been long gone for weeks and there have been numerous picnic-worthy afternoons. So my bright idea was to make something heavy and dark! Ha. I’ve had this beautiful metallic fabric staring at me since November and it needed to be dealt with.

During the holidays, I was mildly obsessed with finding shiny, sparkly, metallic fabrics to suit the season and pretty much grabbed any that I saw. I wanted to make this dress around New Years, but with the whirlwind of holiday sewing, then making my dresses for my 60s shoot, it got a little delayed. I felt bad about leaving it behind until next holiday, so I quickly made it up before diving into more flowy, flowery things.

I bought the fabric because of it’s unique texture and metallic finish, but at first wasn’t sure what to do with it. Then at a local fashion event a friend wore this amazing metallic shift dress. What are friends for, if not to copy their cutest clothes? Since I had such success with my cat print Laurel, I knew this would be a great pattern to use and let the fabric shine (har har).

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

The fabric has a chunky knit-like appearance, which included open spacing. To avoid any wardrobe malfunctions it needed to be fully lined, except the sleeves. Luckily View A of the pattern was meant for sheer fabric and a lining, so there was zero guesswork putting it together. Colette recommends attaching the outer and lining pieces together first, and sewing the dress as though they are one. You don’t get the separate overlay effect, but you also don’t see the darts and seams through the sheer fabric (though you’d probably not notice with this fabric anyway). It saved a lot of time (and hassle trying to attach separate layers) and I am rarely picky about what the insides of my projects look like, so it’s likely I will use this method in the future.

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

I didn’t want to line the dress in black because I felt like it made the dress too dark. I wanted to keep the warmer essence of the gold and hoped to line it with something in that tonal range. I didn’t have anything in my regular stash (that wasn’t super itchy or bulky) in the right colours, so instead used an old bed sheet from my muslin pile. I am trying to actively avoid buying more fabric when I already have so much, and what better way than to upcycle! The cotton was the right brown and already super soft. It was the perfect choice for this type of project.

I was lucky enough to find a gold zipper in the perfectly matching shade as the fabric, and knew a bold exposed zipper would be the perfect complement to the overall feel of this dress. I had to do a bit of mental math to make sure I accommodated for the width of the zipper since the pattern calls for an invisible zip (approx 0.3 mm on each side), but it went in super smoothly and it’s my favourite detail on this garment.

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

Sizewise I cut a 4 in the waist and hips but made sure to grade down to a 0 at the bust to avoid the excess fabric problem I had last time. People have talked about the armscye being a bit small in this pattern, and while I noticed it a bit in the kitty dress, I didn’t make a note of it and definitely noticed it on this one. Most likely attributing it to the thicker fabric + the lining. You can see the fabric pulling from the arms around the neckline in some of the photos. It’s not uncomfortable, but noteworthy for future projects.

I also opted to just stitch down the bias finish on the neckline instead of hand-sewing it with an invisible stitch. It was more a choice made because of time (I want to make more springy thinnngggss) but seeing the images, I like that it gives an extra bit of dimension and moves the light on the fabric. I know some people like the clean finish, (and sometimes the fabric demands it), but for something like this I didn’t feel it affected the outcome.

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

For these photos I was lucky enough to work with my friend Myles. After a beautiful and sunny past few weeks, our scheduled day turned out to be a chilly, gloomy, rainy day. I’d like to think it worked out in favour of the moodier, cooler weather design and fabric of the dress and that the cold weather was worth it. So yay for happenstance.

Even though mentally I felt like I grumbled through this project (like, why aren’t you a flirty warm weather garment, you silly thing?!) I am stoked on this dress. It’s gratifying to know it emerged complete from the seemingly endless queue of projects. In all likelihood, it won’t get worn much until next fall/winter when it seems to better suit the mood, but you never know when the right event might just come along.

Metallic Colette Laurel Dress // Boots and Cats

And speaking of spring things, whose gearing up for Me Made May?! I am definitely going to partake again this year, loving how much it reconnected me with my handmade wardrobe last year. This year though, I don’t think I will have the time to properly document my outfit daily.

Taking interesting photos every single day is exhausting and totally drained me creatively last time, so though I will be wearing a Me Made everyday, I will only really post when the inspiration strikes. I’m so looking forward to following along with everyone else, that’s the best part!

Imitation vs Inspiration // Authenticity in Style and Sewing

Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

Have you ever seen a photo of someone and just wished you could be them? Whether it was their on-point style, their illustrious setting, or their radiating confident attitude. This can lead to jealousy, but oft lends itself to ideas and inspiration. Pinterest has opened the doors to every image of every style imaginable perfect for each person’s tastes. Personally, I can’t get enough of vintage photos and styling, especially from the mid-century. I want to be transported to that era of designer dresses, flawless eyeliner and sculpted to perfection hair. I imagine the feeling of exuding youthful coolness and fun, so effortlessly.

Style icons, muses, and inspirations do come from all eras, times and places for me, but ever since I opened a John French Photography calendar when I was 15, model Jean Shrimpton became one of those women captured in time that I’ve always wished I could be.

I guess what all this is getting at, is that the real reason I arranged a full out sixties photo shoot was that I wanted the opportunity to be Jean for a day. There’s a photo from a 1965 issue of Vogue that just captures the essence of everything I love and admire about the decade. I’ve always wanted to step inside that photo and live a bit of that reality. While that isn’t possible, I looked to the talented friends around me and thought, if I was going to make it happen, we could do it right.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

The whole experience was a dream, a day full of laughs, inspiration, (and a few dresses thrown in for some good blogging measure). I could not be happier with everything that came as a result. But as I started to share and post the photos, I felt a twinge of apprehension.

If you know me in real life, you know this isn’t how I dress and look everyday. In fact, I appear very 2016 casual. I am by no means committed to vintage style regularly. I love it, but it doesn’t always work for me, and takes more time and effort than is usually available. I worried that people who knew me thought I was simply wearing a costume, or those who found me and the blog through these photos would find some of my other sewing projects and feel like I’ve deceived them, thinking I was a mod-girl 24/7.

It’s really a shame that in this day and age, with access to so many influences and muses, there is still the prevailing idea that we are supposed to be committed to a single style persona. We’re encouraged to explore and develop our personal style, but there’s a catch; “It’s totally okay to be anything you want to be, but as long as you stick to that one thing.” I understand why we think this way, if someone presents themselves consistently, it’s easy to understand and relate to them.

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

I, and so many people I know, have such an array of interests and fashion muses that it seems inefficient (and boring!) to stick within that box. It can be hard, because to people who don’t know you, it creates a dissonance in who they’ve assumed you are, but I think we need to work toward allowing ourselves to take on a new persona as frequently as we like without fear of being judged as fake, or a poseur, because you fail to commit to a single definition of how you look everyday. I don’t want to feel uncomfortable to be a 60s girl one day, to a J. Crew girl the next, and a fluffy skirted fashion blogger the day after that.

The way I see it, there are so many ways to draw elements of your style in different ways, and those may change depending on the aspects of your life. Sometimes certain things don’t fit the situation , but it’s a balance of your mood of the day, convenience and practicality, your environment, your dream self and your aspirations that all work together to create your style output. And sometimes that means you appear radically different each day to the next.

And then, if that wasn’t enough, you have to wonder, no matter how you choose to present yourself, where are you drawing your style from? How is it influenced from those you admire – by drawing your look from someplace else, where is the line between imitation and inspiration?Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

These photos, for example, were planned out down to the colour and size of the flowers to directly reflect the photo in Vogue. Does that mean I wasn’t creative enough? Is my choosing to recreate something that brings me joy celebrating the influence it’s had on me, or does it display a lack of individual creative thought?

In the world of sewing, I often ask myself if choosing to make a dress exactly how it appears on the pattern envelope makes me less of a creative person than someone who hacks, slashes and reinvents the design or even drafts their own concept from scratch? Sometimes, the way a garment is presented by the designer is exactly what I want to have in my life, and I shouldn’t feel guilty for not re-interpreting it.

Can you even compare someone looking for something relaxing and straightforward make with someone who had the desire to inject their own elements based to grow their skills and techniques? Maybe it’s not something we should consider at all, and instead look at the act of creating ANYTHING as a marker of expression and leave it at that?

Authenticity in Style // Boots & Cats

To me, creativity is a spectrum and there’s no wrong way to do it. Following the steps 1-2-3 can be an entryway to learning something new, or even a relaxing way to keep moving forward. I didn’t stray very far from the envelope my first few patterns, and I stick pretty close when I entering new territories (sewing with knits, or tailoring) or even trying a new craft altogether. It’s okay to make the decisions and play out your work in the way that speaks true to you.

Recreating these photos brought me, and those who helped me bring it to life, a lot of joy. The fact that we had to plan, collaborate and bring everything together was enough of a journey that, even though we were quoting the source material, lent itself a voice of it’s own.Jean Shrimpton Photoshoot // Boots and Cats

I believe the reason the online sewing community in particular is thriving is because of the concept of inspiration. I don’t know about you, but before I purchase any new pattern, I have to do an image search for every possible version I can find of it made online. It helps me visualize what can be possible, and what options are open for me to explore. I enjoy seeing how everyone infuses their own elements of style. I find things that have been made the exact same way I want to make it, and I am sometimes pleasantly surprised with twists people have put on things that I hadn’t even considered before. There is so much to be gained by just being open to the ideas and concepts from everyone, and getting to know all sides of them, and embracing the style they present.

Something as simple as a few fun photos can open up so many questions! I definitely would love to hear any thoughts you have on the subject as well. Do you feel comfortable deviating from your ‘normal’ style, and does sewing allow you to do that more easily?

And when you are creating something, how closely can you draw from others before it becomes more than just inspiration? Have you ever felt nervous to share something you are afraid people will judge as inauthentic or copied, even if your journey to that result was completely you own?

A Taste of the 60s // Striped Coco Dress

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

I’ve got another really fun one to share with you today. For the second look capturing the fun and bright spirit of the 60s, how could I deny you the most perfect retro-made-modern dress that is the Tilly and the Buttons Coco?

I realized that I don’t really have much to say about this dress, yet it’s one of my favourite makes to date. It’s funny how that works out that way. When I initially got this striped fabric, I knew right away this was exactly what it was going to be. A striped Coco has been on my sew-do list since I first laid eyes on the pattern. I talked about my finding-a-good-striped-fabric woes in the post about my Coco Breton top last month, but if you got any good stripe sources, hook me up!

Both striped Coco projects were actually cut out at the same time. I cut out the dress, then noticed I had enough left to make the breton top too. Probably because it was still pants weather at that point, the top got made first.

On that note about pattern cutting, I have to ask, what’s your process with sewing projects? Do you work on a single garment, start to finish before starting something new, or do you have multiple things on the go? I used to be strictly one-at-a-time, but I found I ended up sewing less frequently because of it.

Cutting out pattern pieces is definitely my least favourite part of the process (it doesn’t help that I don’t have room for a table and I work off the floor) so it takes a lot of inertia to get started on a project, especially if I am short on time. I have started to cut out a few projects in bulk when I have lots of energy, so I have at least one or two projects ready to go when sewing time is scarcer. I do have to be careful not to prepare TOO many projects or else they stare me down and make me feel guilty they aren’t done yet, but so far this is working pretty well. I’d love to hear how you work around your projects and prep things to sew. I’m all about streamlining.

Anywho, back to Coco.

I was trying to think about why this dress just worked for me. It was hard to narrow it down to describe. It’s this perfect blend of simple yet bold, classic yet unique, different but everyday wearable. It’s everything all in one, and it just ‘clicks’.

This makes my third Coco overall. I said it before, but I think this pattern will be my ultimate TNT. I remember when I first started thinking about what I truly wanted from my clothes, I was often pinning styles that had the 60s funnel neck collar, without pinpointing that was a design element I loved. Once I discovered Tilly, it totally made sense to me, and it was one of the first indie patterns I bought. Unfortunately my first top was made of a poor quality fabric and hasn’t worn super well over time.

Construction notes are super basic: Straight cut in size 2 with usual waist length added. I wanted to play with the graphic nature of the stripe so I opted for the option with contrast cuffs. I thought of adding in the pockets too, but it was much too busy. It was all sewed with the overlocker except for the hem.  Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Tilly and the Buttons Coco Dress // Boots and Cats

The thick ponte makes this dress the perfect transitional piece for this strange winter-spring (winting?) hybrid season we are currently having. It’s soft and snuggly with a print that says bring on the sunshine. I also want to make more Coco tops in a selection of basic solid colours (though my stash is currently lacking in the solid color department…) to wear year-round so keep your eyes out for more retro goodness.

One more look coming from this photo session with Breanne Marie Photography comin’ atcha next week.