Easy Origami Advent Calendar

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Advent calendars have really become all the rage in recent years, especially for adults. You can find calendars filled with fancy chocolate, wine, gin, beauty products…you name it! For the past 3 years (alongside my fancy chocolate calendar) Rory and I have had a calendar full of Christmas-time activities to get us into the spirit of the season. It has lived in many forms, including a scrapbook and hanging ornaments, and needed a fresh face for this year.

I wanted something bold and pretty (geometric has also been my jam lately) but also very quick and easy (all honesty, I put this together 2 days ago). I was toying with the idea of origami boxes or the like, then Rory suggested folding ‘fortune tellers’ that we used to make in school. This would also make the calendar into a bit of a daily game and adding to the surprise of what we reveal each day.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

December snuck up on us quickly this year, so no judgement if you didn’t have time to make one of the many beautiful crafty calendars Pinterest can provide. This one is quick, easy and full of things that will bring you closer together with friends and family and fill you up with holiday cheer.

You can totally whip this up this weekend in an hour or so and you can join in on the fun!

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

You’ll need:

  • Christmas-coloured card stock (whatever Christmas colours means to you and your decor)
  • Scissors
  • String
  • Pens
  • Hole punch

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Begin by refreshing your grade-school memory on how to fold ‘fortune-tellers’. I made sure to practice on a scrap piece of paper before moving onto the good stuff, but it turns out, it’s just like riding a bike. Each one will hold 4 activities, so for the 24 days til Christmas, you’ll have to make 6 of them.

This is an opportunity to play with your paper colour selection. You can make all 6 from the same colour, multiple colours alternating in a pattern, or sort of a gradient effect like I did. This is the most ‘design-y’ part of the project. (For me personally, finding good card stock in a variety of pretty, saturated tones was always a challenge, until I found this!). If you enjoy the simplicity of the folded lines, leave them as is, but if you’re all about the holiday bling – go nuts with glitter, ribbons and any other ‘accessorizing’ you can think of.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Once those are folded up, brainstorm 24 activities, treats and things to do each day that will bring festive excitement and merriment. Some of my favourites we use are “go out for tea”, “go tobogganing”, and “watch Christmas cartoons”. If you are bold, you can go for an activity each day, but I am not gonna lie, about 12 of our activities are “eat chocolate from the Christmas stash” because as delightful as these things are; December is a busy month! We’d be exhausted (and not to mention probably resentful of our calendar) if we forced ourselves to do something every single day. This is an unfortunate side effect of adulthood.

Once you’ve narrowed down your activities (and chocolates) it’s time to fill up your calendar. On the inside, on top of the flaps, write a word or symbol (Christmas related is preferred) that will act as the ‘door’ that will reveal your treat for the day. Underneath, write down one item from your list. Randomness is totally valid here, as your daily activity will be chosen by surprise chance. I did keep a bit of balance and wrote 2 activities and 2 chocolate treats on each one.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Once all 6 are filled in, you’re done! If you’re ambitious like me (and still have a giant stick from years past) you can punch a small hole in each ‘fortune teller’ and hang them on the wall, but these are cute enough on their own, or stashed in a festive bowl or basket.

Origami Advent Calendar // Boots and Cats

Now it’s time to play! If you remember playing these on the school yard, you’re ready to go. If your memory is a little foggy; it goes a little something like this: Hold the fortune teller in two hands, thumbs and fingers in each section so you can move it around, kind of like a puppet. For the first round, switch the sides the number of times as the date of the month (Eg. today is the 2nd, so we’d move it twice; once forwards, then again to the sides). Then from the two visible symbols (or words) on the inside, have your friend or partner choose one and count out again the letters of the word. Eg. Candy cane would switch 9 times c-a-n-d-y-c-a-n-e. From there, they chose one of the two visible symbols, then lift the flap they chose and voila! Your treat for the day.

I hope you all have a magical and crafty December. Cheers.

Adventures in Fabric Marbling

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

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

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

Fabric Marbling // Boots and Cats

Hooray for marbling!

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

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.

Ahem.

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  ☕.

The Flyaway Anna Dress

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

It’s time for the fall frenzy! Thick linen skirts, cozy knitwear, LONG SLEEVES! Well…not quite yet. Snuggly, warm-hued clothes-to-be are being cut as we speak but there are still summer makes left to share. It feels awful rushing these end-of-season projects along. I mean, had they been made just a few short weeks earlier they would have had more than a few seconds in the spotlight. I guess it happens to all end-of-season makes, but it’s extra tragic when our victims are pretty summer dresses. I hope they will forgive me when I wear them all the time when spring rolls around.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

After our little week in Banff, Rory and I took our real vacation south to Waterton and Nelson, BC. It was our first time venturing to that part of the mountains and we were so glad we opted to visit. The mountain views and hikes in Waterton were so stunning and unique, plus there’s nothing like sitting lakeside eating a hot dog after a day exploring waterfalls and trails. Nelson was a charming little town filled with heritage buildings, beautifully designed and unique parks and not a chain store in sight. We ate delicious local food, took a vintage streetcar to the beach and danced at a night market that appeared to have the entire town present. It really reminded me that some of the best travelling doesn’t need to be that far from home.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

Anyhow, back to the dress. This is my second Anna dress and it has been sitting in my to-sew pile for a good long while, and only after planning the trip did it shoot to the top of the pile to actually get finished.

The fabric is from my Paris visit to Anna Ka Bazaar (it only took a year to get to that stash, but I am working my way through it now and it’s very exciting). It’s a buttery soft rayon fabric and has a gentle stretch that makes it super comfy to wear. I love the subtle abstract print that many people think looks like a flock of birds. When we were taking the photos we were secretly hoping a bunch of birds would fly up from behind me to match, but it was far too windy for any feathered friends to fly.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

As you can see the wind made this shoot kind of tricky, but I was determined to utilize that beautiful view. I guess I am stubborn that way, but it also made for a creative challenge which is something I enjoy. I always want to think of different ways to present my makes on the blog that is visually interesting but still useful for people looking for inspiration and information about the garment.

With my first Anna dress, I find that the waist is very close fitted, and actually a smidge too tight after a wash. I decided to cut this one a little generously around the pattern pieces, which naturally meant I was totally swimming in it. After taking it all back in, I found a fit I was happy with, but the fabric was shifty and hard to press, so my seamlines no longer match up. C’est la vie.

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

Since I made this dress on relatively short notice, I didn’t have time to head to the fabric store. Luckily I had a cream zipper from my stash. It’s a vintage metal one from a random bag of zippers my grandma gave me. It’s a little worn down and if I simply pull the two back pieces apart it will just slide open. After wearing it twice I haven’t noticed it open much with movement which I am happy for, but it’s still not an ideal situation.

I find that stocking up on notions to be a challenge for me. When I am at the fabric store I only grab the zippers I need for projects I have immediately in mind. I don’t know how to properly anticipate which ones I might need later on. I don’t drive and there are no shops nearby, so trips to the fabric store only happen once every few months. Sometimes I want to make something spontaneously but get stuck by the fact that I don’t have a zipper in the right length or colour or style. Any tips for stocking up on notions in advance? Do you just buy one of every type and colour and stash them like a squirrel preparing for winter?

By Hand London Anna Dress // Boots and Cats

About making this dress, there’s not too much else to say. Anna is a beautiful pattern and I love that I don’t have anything else quite like it. It’s perfect for making in soft, floaty fabrics and has a dressier vibe while still being totally wearable any day. I hope I can transition this dress a little further down the calendar with some layers, but it can sometimes be hard to blend in light, wispy (unlined) garments. Many times the skirt fabric just sticks to my tights! Nothing like walking to work and having to tug at your skirt every few steps.

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