Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Not to Wear...

Stacey and Clinton continue to rescue women from their poor taste in clothing. Last night a beautiful, tall 47 year old woman who was comfortable in her khakis was transformed into a beautiful woman who looked totally uncomfortable in her own skin. Maybe she looked a little plainer before but her natural beauty shone through. Her clothes fit well. Did they really have to all go into that trash can? Wouldn't it be a real challenge for Stacey and Clinton to take her existing wardrobe, add a few accents, build on it and come out looking great. Or that just wouldn't make for great tv? Now that woman has to contend with trips to the hairdresser once a month to keep up the colour and trim the bangs. She looked great in her blonde blunt cut that would look good for several months at a time. And she has to learn to walk in those heels. I hope she has the strength to take from that experience what she's comfortable with and able to maintain and ditch the rest.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Islander Course: Shirtmaking Magic! June 1 & 2, 2011

Make shirts like magic! Learn how to make a shirt the professional way. Spend two fun and informative days with Islander Sewing System owner, Janet Pray. She demonstrates each step; then you do it yourself. The skills you develop while making this handsome shirt will happily translate to greater successes in all of your sewing projects.

You'll use the Islander EASY SHIRT pattern, selecting casual or dress shirt fabric to suit your guy's lifestyle. The industrial sewing techniques you will learn in this class include: Fine topstitching, how to create a lined back yoke without hand stitching, how to sew a two-piece collar, how to sew a sleeve and attach a cuff, all without pins or basting. That's right! No pins! No basting!

Supply List and pre-class preparation. Students will need the Men’s Easy Shirt pattern ($19.95), garment fabric and notions as part of pre-class preparation. Sewing machines are required.

Invitations will be going out shortly to anyone on the DSS email newsletter list. To be added to the list email You may unsubscribe at any time.

The Perfect Pant - Guaranteed! May 30 & 31, 2011

Altering a ready-made pant pattern is nearly impossible and more time consuming than drafting your own personalized pattern. Join Janet Pray, owner of Islander Sewing Systems, as she takes you step-by-step through the process of drafting your own pant pattern using the easy Islander method.

In this comprehensive two day course you will not only draft the pattern, you will also make the muslin to ensure you leave with the “perfect pant pattern” made just for you. It’s easy and works every time. Janet will show you how to make any style pant or skirt and you’ll never again worry if it will fit.

Supply List. Bring your own sewing machine. Students will need the Pants, etc. workbook which will be available for sale in the classroom for $24.95. Students may choose to purchase the Pants, etc. DVD for $41.95 (workbook included) instead.

This course will be held in Oakville, ON. Invitations will be sent out shortly. If you wish to be added to the DSS email list, email You may unsubscribe at any time.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Wealth Defines a Person's Character... or not.

Fortunately in Canada we have CBC radio; to me one of the rare sources of intelligent media, with absolutely no commercials, sponsorships or pleas for funding.

This morning, I caught part of a CBC radio interview with a former editor of a Dublin publication. This man was talking about what happened to Ireland's economy; the same sad bleak story as we have seen in the U.S. Everyone consuming more than they can afford, business leaders and politicians denying the signs, followed by the financial collapse and bankruptcy of a nation and many of its people.

He did not advocate a return to the good old days. No he said that it was an era where consumption was conspicuous, where a person's reputation was defined by their material possessions. His position was that we have to find a better way to build character than by economic status.

I like that. I saw a lot of Armani and Boss suits on Bay Street; $1,000 shoes, Rolex watches, Mercedes Benzes. If you are a pensioner or a shareholder who just lost a lot of money, that's where some of your hard-earned savings went and possibly are still going.

So I say, the heck with all that ostentatious stuff. Sew your own clothes, drive a moderately priced vehicle or take public transit and appreciate people for who they really are, or are not.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Copyright and Doing the Right Thing

I love doing consumer sewing shows. As an online business, the shows are where I get to meet creative people face to face. It's also where I see people taking advantage of the independent designers who have worked hard to develop their own techniques and are making a living by sharing them with consumers who purchase their products.

This is a true story.

I usually do a trunk show at the fashion theatre where there are sample garments made from independent designer patterns and my fabrics. In order to educate the consumer about the patterns and help them make good choices, I describe the product for them.

At one show there was a person who approached our booth three times. Each time she asked to be shown the garments and have the techniques described in detail. The individual seemed to be struggling with the concepts, so each time we did our best to assist. After the third visit we said, all this information is in written out in detail in the pattern for your reference, with illustrations to guide you. The person said " But I'm not buying the pattern."

The sad thing is, it's not the first time it's happened to us. I always like to think the best of people, especially people who sew. Don't do this to vendors and designers. If you want to have the information badly enough to spend this much time getting it, just buy the product.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Islander Sewing Systems - Pants, etc. and Shirts, etc.

Well, you heard it hear first! Janet Pray, president of Islander Sewing Systems is returning next year to teach two back to back courses for us.  The first is a two day pants drafting course which will take place Monday, May 30 and Tuesday May 31, 2011. Students will work in pairs and class size is limited to 12 to ensure adequate time and attention.

The second course is a two day shirtmaking course which will take place Wednesday, June 1 and Thursday, June 2, 2011. Students will work on a man's shirt and class size is limited to 20 students.

Janet is an incredible teacher and students will learn how to sew their garments using techniques from the garment industry. No pins! No basting! No dreaded homemade look! So save the dates so you don't miss out.

It's early days but details will follow in the New Year. The course will take place at a location in Oakville, ON. Anyone who wants to be notified about the course, please send an email to

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Invisible Zippers - Don't believe everything you see on YouTube

The great thing about the Internet is that you have access to lots of information about sewing. The bad thing about the Internet is that you have access to lots of information about sewing. I just viewed a very long and detailed video by a well meaning individual on how to insert invisible zippers. It made the whole process seem truly daunting and was fraught with techniques that result in the dreaded homemade look. So yes, there's some great videos out there but be careful!

I can't say enough good things about Janet and Rosebud's video Easy Zippers. And Rosebud has worked in the garment industry and sewn hundreds of miles of zippers so she knows zippers inside out and backwards!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Word about Copyrights and Sewing Patterns

I see copyright infringement all the time in my business. There are lots of grey areas and there are some hard and fast rules. I am probably even guilty if ignorant of my own infringements. But I try to be careful in this area to respect the property of others.

I sell sewing patterns that are developed by independent designers. I usually deal directly with the designer and producer and I have a personal or at least business connection to that person. Contrary to popular belief, these designers are hardworking individuals much like you and I. Many of them are popular, even celebrities in the sewing world--but none of them are making a killing at it.

Their patterns typically cost more than those of the major pattern companies because their production costs are higher and they don't have the same clout and distribution. But if you like their designs for the uniqueness they offer, then you may be willing to pay that higher price.

When you buy a sewing pattern, you are usually buying the right to make as many garments or sewing projects as you want for your own personal use. That's pretty straightforward. You can't make it and sell it and you can't claim it as your own design.

Major pattern companies have the resources to check online, at craft fairs and so forth and to fine violators. Independent designers typically do not.

If you make clothing for others and want to use a commercial pattern or a pattern of an independent designer, you must purchase one pattern per garment. That is part of the cost of that garment. And to avoid temptation of reusing that pattern, you should give the pattern to the purchaser or destroy it.

Legally if you obtain written permission from the copyright holder to reproduce and sell goods made from the pattern you are OK.  Major pattern companies have not to my knowledge ever given that permission.

Independent designers might give you permission or sell you limited rights but you must ask and you should get it in writing and if you do get permission you still may not claim the design as your own.

Tempting as it may be, don't share your patterns with others. Keep to the rule, one pattern per person.

Think of it as if you were in the designer's shoes.  Would you like to have several strangers take $5 or $6 dollars out of your paycheque or savings account every week? No? Well that's exactly what you do to the designer every time you copy and share sewing patterns.

When a friend asks if I will share a pattern, this is what I say.

I don't feel comfortable sharing this pattern because of the copyright. I know how hard the designers work on their sewing patterns and if you purchase your own copy, it will help them stay in business.

If you see someone distributing copies from books, patterns or websites, don't accept them. It's OK to distribute the sources but not the materials, unless you have obtained the rights to do so.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Stop the Busywork! Do something meaningful.

A facebook friend brought to my attention that there's a new book on the market--Do More Great Work by author Michael Bungay Stanier. It's about stopping the busywork and starting to do work that is fulfilling. I haven't read the book so I'm not endorsing it, just commenting on the topic.

Well busywork isn't news to me but I am glad to see that some young consultant is making a living at educating the corporate world. And hopefully succeeding at it.

When I worked in the corporate world, the more enlightened executives all knew that busywork was wasteful and annoying to boot. But we were powerless against it. The old guard believed that you had to be on your computer or Blackberry responding to email as they hit the inbox. If it was at 3:00 a.m. in the morning, even better because that meant you were really a "team player". Coming in early, working late and weekends--ooh, you must really be good. Were you wearing Armani suits and playing golf? Even better.

Of course, you would only respond to the emails of the "important people" right away. The rest who were actually trying to achieve something were best ignored, waylaid or put in their proper place by the "chain of command". Heaven forbid you actually came up with a good idea that wasn't your bosses'. Of course, all would be forgiven if you were male or a very attractive female, loved hockey and went to the "right schools".

The standard answer to the morning greeting, "How are you?" was "Busy". So some people starting asking, "How are you? Besides busy?" Hhmm, well hard to come up with a good answer. People were always in meetings (secret meetings meant you were special), and dealing with endless emails. Busywork, useless, wasteful and unfortunately, boring--unless you had a shiny new Blackberry to use conspicuously in front of your co-workers, at client functions and on the golf course.

It's hard to turn something like sewing garments and selling fabrics into busywork. I just love it and it takes a wonderful blend of planning, execution and creativity.

So my advice to any of you who are still in the corporate world is this. Don't get caught up in that game. Have the confidence to stand on your own two feet and do great work that matters to you and your job. Stop going to meetings where nothing is accomplished or intervene and make them shorter and meaningful. Refuse to answer those emails that come in at 3:00 a.m. If it's really urgent, someone will call you.

"Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work … If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.” - Steve Jobs

You won't die wishing you'd sent or answered more emails or spent more time in meetings. But you will regret not spending more time on the things you love and if it's sewing, then that would truly be a shame.

Invisible Zipper - Again

Lotus Skirt
Having sewn an invisible zipper recently, I thought I'd just put another one in based on memory. You see, my husband was working on my website and I didn't have access to my computer's DVD drive to play my Easy Zippers DVD. And I was too lazy to go and put it in the DVD player and watch it on television. I was working on another Lotus Skirt from The Sewing Workshop Collection. The zipper is inserted in the side seam which is has a curve and a cross seam due to the yoke. You want the zipper to match exactly the cross seam and follow the curve without gaping or rippling; and match up at the waistline.

Well my memory wasn't that great and although I was too lazy to play the DVD, it turned out I wasn't too lazy to rip out the zipper twice after making a mess of it. I set the whole thing aside and this morning, got up, played the Easy Zippers DVD. There were Janet and Rosebud showing me the correct way to do it. I followed the instructions and I got a perfect result, first time. Duh!

But I learned something else in the process. The skirt called for a 9" zipper. My local fabric store only sells 8" and then 15" invisible zippers.  I should have gone for the longer rather than the shorter version. In the sewing process the 8" becomes a 6.5" and it may be difficult for the wearer to get it over her shoulders or coming the other way, over her hips. Next time...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Silk Screen with Gunnel Hag Images

My teenager likes to wear garments with skulls and I thought it would be fun to sew some shirts and silk screen some skulls on them. These are my preliminary strike-offs and now that I know how to get clear images very simply and quickly (sorry, you have to take the course to learn the secrets) I am confident I can do this and get teenager approved results.

Camo Skully
For the black on white image I used Colour Vie black pigment in a polymer base with some pearl for a bit of shimmer. The black is transparent although the pearl is not. However, there was not enough pearl to make the image opaque.

For the "green" skulls, I painted and textured some Colour Vie pigment on cotton and let it dry. Then I silk screened a negative of the previous skull image onto the fabric. Looks nice and creepy.

The third image is a hand-dyed rusty coloured silk chiffon scarf. I silk screened a yellow gold pigment that doesn't show up very well and then a purple with some pearl added.  The image I used was royalty-free from Dover publication Ornamental Forms from Nature. It is a botanical image but I call it "sketchy branches" as it is a little reminiscent of bones the way the branches join.
Sketchy Scarf

This workshop was just too much fun. I went to Curry's yesterday and purchased a jar of "glow-in-the-dark" fabric paint. Those skulls are going to be a hit!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Who Knew?

There's a plethora of sales out there right now aimed at getting consumers to open their wallets. They are tempting us with unbelievable markdowns. Purchases we wouldn't otherwise make. Or if we are lucky, a needed item that we have been holding off on.

Today McCall's and Butterick patterns are on sale for $1.99 each. Vogue patterns are priced at $3.99 each. And shipping to U.S. and Canadian addresses is free for orders of $15 or more. Very tempting...

But maybe, just maybe, that $15 could be put towards a purchase that you will definitely use and enjoy.

I spent a day recently going through my pattern stash.  There are many loved and much used ones; but there are many times more patterns that I bought on sale, just because they were on sale. It hit me in the pit of my stomach that I had wasted a lot of money, hundreds of dollars in fact. It was very sobering.

I love to sew and I will continue to purchase sewing items, but I'm going to think twice before I buy something just because it was on sale.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Silk Screen with Gunnel Hag

Today was the first day of the two day workshop with Gunnel Hag in Toronto. Gunnel is an amazing artist. On top of that she is a wonderful teacher. Having taken a course from her before I knew I would have a good time. But I have to say I learned so much about silk screening. And I have taken silk screening before.

Gunnel Hag owns Colour Vie and you can learn all about her, her products and her workshops at

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2010 Threads Archive DVD-ROM - Taunton Store

2010 Threads Archive DVD-ROM - Taunton Store

Another great Christmas wish list idea. Every issue of Thread magazine on DVD-ROM. Find articles quickly by keyword searches. No more flipping through 100s of pages. Give your old magazines to a friend to doesn't use computers and free up some space on your shelves.

Pattern Magic - Tomoko Nakamichi

Pattern Magic - Tomoko Nakamichi

Two for the Christmas Wish List

You get to a certain age and the inevitable answer to the question "What do you want for Christmas?" is "I can't think of anything." I never want clothes because I am very particular about what I wear. Same goes for jewellery. When I was in the corporate world I used to say I wanted stockings because they were expensive and I went through a couple of pairs a week. But I don't have to wear those anymore (except on special occasions). Red wine and a good tapenade will always be appreciated.
But now that I have garment sewing as my one true activity that I engage in almost daily, I can come up with a decent wish list. And my wish list on Amazon books is one way that I let people know what I want. (Actually, only a few immediate family members exchange gifts anymore, thankfully.)

So there are two books that are top on my list (highest priority on Amazon): Pattern Magic and Pattern Magic 2.  Both are by Japanese author Tomoko Nakamichi and based on her research into garment construction. I wish I could put up some pictures of the book covers here but they are copyrighted images. (To my dismay I have found people are putting images of the book pages on the Internet. Buy your own copy and lend the book if you must, but don't copy it!)

I decided to visit Amazon and put it into my wish list and that's where I found out about the pre-orders for Pattern Magic 2. Not surprisingly the first book is out of stock. I can wait.

Santa, I've been good this year... really.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Easy Zippers DVD - Worth the Dollars

Lotus Skirt
My latest sewing project is the Lotus Skirt from The Sewing Workshop Collection. The Lotus Skirt has been around for many years and I have had the pattern in my stash for some time. I decided it was time to make a sample garment and see what it was all about. I chose a Size 16 although there is no way that it would fit me. But I make samples in various sizes for my customers to see at the shows.

I chose a teal stripe on very dark (almost black) navy wool blend. The fabric is washable with almost no shrinkage. Stripes are great for this pattern as you can see from the photograph.

There is a zipper in the left side seam and I prefer an invisible zipper for this design. But I hadn't inserted an invisible zipper for ages. And I don't remember how to do it off the top of my head.

Easy Zippers DVD
No worries mate! I have the Easy Zippers DVD by Janet Pray and Rosebud. I've already been taught by
Rosebud on how to do the invisible zipper but seeing her do it again on this DVD is a perfect reminder. I run through the DVD and pause it. Sew. Come back to see what's next, etc. The result is a perfectly sewn zipper.

Better than many notions I have purchased to help me put in zippers.  It is well worth the money at $41.95. I have reviewed this DVD time and time again and avoided a lot, and I mean a lot, of ripping out and resewing. Zippers no longer scare me, because I have Janet and Rosebud here to help me through every one of them.

Open House at Bonnie Glass's Studio - Nov. 27 & 28, 2010

Bonnie Glass is a talented and accomplished fibre artist.  Visit her website at for a taste of her wide range of wearable art.

Luckily for those who live in Southern Ontario, Bonnie and her studio mate are hosting an Open House next weekend. If you are looking for inspiration or a fabulous creation for yourself this is your chance.

The address is 109 Joseph St. in the village of Glen Williams, L7G 2X2; the same village as The Williams Mill Creative Visual Art's Studios and Gallery. Saturday, November 27 from 10:00 to 5:00 and Sunday, November 28 from 12:00 to 5:00. It's a very eclectic place and Bonnie's studio mate is visual artist Janet Bailey. Their studio is called "House on the Hill Studio". It is less than a one hour drive from the GTA.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sewing findings on securely - Threads

Sewing findings on securely - Threads

Dark and Rainy, Yet They Still Come Out

Last night it was dark, pouring rain, windy and not an easy drive to come to Oakville Sewers Forum. And yet, many members still made the trip. As the weather turns nasty in the Northern Hemisphere, getting together with your sewing groups and friends can be more challenging. If safety is a concern, then you have to stay home but getting out during the dark days of winter can be very uplifting and inspiring.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Set Yourself a Play Date

I had a really good time last Sunday. My friend Lucy invited me, and some of her other sewing friends, over for a sewing play date. Each of us brought a sewing project or two to work on, plus something to contribute towards our "pot luck" lunch. Lucy has a very organized and well equipped sewing studio with lots of room to work.

Sewing can be so solitary and so it was nice to have company as we worked on our projects, and discussed our sewing ideas, challenges and adventures. The time flew by and each of us accomplished quite a bit.

We've already set the date for our next get together. Take the time to set yourself a sewing play date with some sewing friends. You won't regret it.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Bethany Dress Revisited

In my earlier post on this garment I didn't have a picture; so here it is. I was proud to display this garment at the Distinctive Sewing Supplies booth at the fall 2010 Creativ Festival in Toronto.

I certainly took liberties in machine embroidering the garment rather than the traditional handwork. And I used red rickrack instead of the delicate point work around the Qabbeh.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Cover Snaps - Threads

How to Cover Snaps - Threads
This is a great technique to add a finished look to snap closures.

Fantastic Fantasia Jacket - Pictures!

Well, I never did find the cable to my digital camera, but I found out that my new Blackberry takes some pretty decent photos. While I was putting away my sample garments from the Creativ Festival it occurred to me I should take some photos and display them here.

This is the Fantasia Jacket from the Modular Design pattern collection by Kayla Kennington. I made the standard version without the bustle option (centre back bustle) in a silk cotton jacquard and silk cotton sateen. The jacquard is a striking Mackintosh-style rose that is surprisingly light. The silk cotton sateen has a nice sheen and is semi-sheer making it perfect for layering. I interfaced the silk cotton sateen for the lapel to give it some body and stability.

This pattern is not for the faint of heart. There are 28 pieces to cut out on this version and 32 on the bustle version; add to that two more pieces for ties if you make the cross-over version. There's nothing too difficult about the construction other than keeping track of the garment pieces. So marking with painter's tape on the wrong side of each piece is a good idea.

I used Kayla's signature rolled hem seaming technique which gives the seams a lovely piped look and a lettuce edge to the godets. I sewed Chinese knot buttons at the apex of each godet and cinched in the centre back panel with a Chinese frog closure.

This jacket pattern is flattering because the godets float over the hips and accent the waist. It is a great pattern for creating a stunning and unique garment. Fabric choices will greatly influence the look of the garment.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Retail pricing on major company patterns a myth?

Does anyone ever pay retail price on Vogue, Butterick and McCall's patterns? Is the retail price just a big myth? Do these pattern companies really think that we believe their patterns are worth the stated retail price?

I subscribe to Vogue patterns and I really do like them, especially designers like Koos and Miyake. But come on. Visit their website and they list a designer pattern as retail $30. But it's always crossed out because if you order online the regular price is $18. They have sales about once a month where the patterns are $4.99 and if you are a BMV Club member, your price is 50 cents less.  Sometimes they sell to members as low as $3.88 each. So tell me then, who is ever going to pay $30? or even $18 for a designer Vogue pattern? Please just price them reasonably and stop with all the so-called specials! It will prevent pattern hoarding and stashes of patterns we will never actually get around to sewing.

And what about the poor independent retailer? How could they ever compete when their supplier is undercutting them by selling below their cost? For example if you shop Vogue patterns at the Pattern Review website, you get 10% off retail if you are a member. That $30 pattern will be $28. Why would anyone do that?

There's something fishy here in the land of sewing patterns. So based on what I have observered thus far, I would say that the true retail price of a designer Vogue pattern is about $5.00. Is there a watch dog out there in the land of retail marketing that can stop this madness?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Selling Sample Garments in Oakville, ON next weekend

I have a table at the upcoming Craftstock 2010 at White Oaks Secondary School, South Campus, on Saturday, November 6, 9:00 am to 3:00 pm.  The address is 1330 Montclair Drive just off McCraney. I have so many lightly worn sample garments that I have to sell them off at incredibly low prices. Don't miss out on a chance to buy one of a kind garments. I take cash, debit, MasterCard and VISA. Most garments are made from hand dyed batik rayon from Bali. Arrive early for the best selection.

It's not paranoia if the world really is out to get you

First the printer, then the computer, then the telephone. The printer won't print because it thinks there's no paper in it, even though there is. The computer attacked by a particularly nasty virus stops functioning and then crashes. All diagnostics say it's fine, but it won't boot. The telephone connection is broken because it relies on the modem in the crashed computer.

In the meantime I am borrowing a computer to get my emails, post on this blog and on facebook, etc. Yesterday, I decided to go onto the Internet and get ideas for pumpkin faces to carve for Hallowe'en and boom, that same nasty virus attacks this borrowed computer. Arrghh!

We caught it in time and it's been cleaned up but it took me out of business for several hours. Now I am really paranoid because maybe, just maybe, the world is out to get me.

Colouricious - A source of unique stamps

I was exhibiting at the Creativ Festival last month and since it was a very busy show, I didn't have a lot of opportunity to walk around. However, my friend, Joanne Thomson of Joanne's Creative Notions, pointed me to the Colouricious booth because she knew I would very much like what they were selling. And she was right!

Colouricious came all the way from the U.K. to sell hand carved wooden stamps from India. If you were at their booth you would have seen the table cloths with lovely decorative borders, all hand stamped. They used Colour Vie paints, which is a Canadian company, for stamping on fabric.

I can't wait to try these stamps out.

Friday, October 29, 2010

New Computer on its Way

My computer, despite many attempts, cannot be revived--at least not anytime soon. So I have ordered a new one and hopefully it will arrive next week sometime. I am still trying to recover all the information on my hard drive as I will need it to get back to normal operations. But I will be happy to have a faster computer to work on.
I also purchased a new Blackberry. My telephone contract expired last July so I knew I could get a new Blackberry at a reduced price with a new contract. I had a Blackberry back when I was in the corporate world and enjoyed being able to get my email while I was travelling. Technology has advanced so much in two years so it will take me some time to learn to use it properly.

In a couple more weeks I should have things back into some semblance of order.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sewing and Politics

Members of the Oakville Sewers Forum may be pleased to know that Rob Burton was re-elected mayor and Ralph Robinson re-elected councillor for Ward 1. Both Burton and Robinson are the architects of the QEP Community Centre which will house the first creative arts facility for the Town of Oakville. If all goes as planned, the Oakville Sewers Forum and other fibre arts groups will have a home in the facility to be known as the Fibre Arts Room. The Fibre Arts Room will be equipped with electrical outlets to handle several sewing machines and irons. The separate "wet room" will be equipped for dyeing, felting, washing and drying fabrics and other fibres. The facility is currently scheduled to open in 2012. Oakville has sadly been very behind its neighbours Burlington and Mississauga in creating an centre for visual arts.

Computer Viruses Attack Again

As a small business owner, I am careful to keep my computer well maintained and virus free through anti-virus software and continuous software updates. A well functioning computer is the lifeline of an online business. But despite my diligence, my computer was infected with a very nasty virus that not only was disruptive but attacked my website and email making it impossible to communicate with my customers or to receive orders. And it came at a time of the Creativ Festival. I wish that people had better and more positive things to do with their time than wreak destruction on innocent people trying to make an honest living. I have access to a borrowed computer while I try to work out this problem. In the meantime, I am able to periodically read email at I appreciate everyone's patience.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Creativ Festival 2010 - Another great show is over..

The Creativ Festival was a great success for me as a vendor and I heard very good things from my customers who dropped by the booth.

It's a hectic three days of seminars, shows and shopping, even longer if you take classes on the Wednesday or Thursday before the show floor opens. I've always enjoyed the Creativ Festival, even before I became an exhibitor. It's inspiring and fun.

Now I have to get back to work, unloading my products and putting them away; returning the rental truck, processing the back orders and catching up. It's all worth the time and effort.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Does that Fabric Wrinkle?

I rarely sell acrylics or poly fabrics simply because I don't like the feel of them. The initial touch might be soft but then there's that weird kind of squeaky texture that gives me the willies. I also find them too hot to wear.

Most of my fabrics are cotton, linen, silk, rayon, hemp, etc. Sometimes there's a poly blend or nylon if the quality is very high and passes the touch test. I don't carry fabrics that are treated to be stain resistant, or wrinkle resistant because that adds chemicals to the fibres which can be absorbed by the skin.

How much a fabric is going to wrinkle depends on the fibre content (linen wrinkles a lot, cotton not quite as much, rayon is better, poly not much at all, etc.) and the weave. All fabrics wrinkle to some extent.

I wonder then why people expect my fabrics not to wrinkle at all.  Even when I look at what they are wearing and their own garments have wrinkles at the elbows, knees and crotch. I've never worn anything that didn't wrinkle to some extent.

Here's my advice. Take a corner of the fabric in your hand and crush it.  That will give an indication of how much it will wrinkle or crease.  But if you want wrinkle free, you'll have to check out the polyester fabrics at the local mass merchandising fabric store.

The Creativ Festival Starts this Friday, October 22, 2010 in Toronto

I can't believe it's less than a week away.  I am packing up fabrics and patterns into boxes.  Moving stuff around is not the fun part for sure.  But three days of meeting customers and talking sewing sure is.

This show gets better all the time, in my view. It's not all about sewing, but there's a lot of creativity to explore.

I hope to see lots of you at Booth 830 and also at the Modular Design Trunk show held daily on the Fashion Arts Stage (2:30 pm on Friday and Saturday, and 1:30 pm on Sunday). There's many new sample garments to show you in lots of different fabrics.

Visit for information on exhibitors, events and show times.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

My Bernina's Back and There's Gonna be Serging

It went away to be repaired
It bothered me, every night
And when I had to do without
I said things that weren't very nice

My Bernina's back, and there's gonna be some serging
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back
I've got it home and set it up on the double

(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)
While it was away I was feeling awful blue
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)

But I've tried it out and it's working just like new

(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)
(Hey, without it has been tryin')
(And there was a lot of sighin')

It's been gone for such a long time
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back
Now it's back
and things'll be fine
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)

I'm sorry I left its servicing so long
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)

Cause it's kinda smart and it's awful strong
(Hey-la-day-la my Bernina's back)

(Hey with all the fabric it's been eatin'!)
(I work it so hard it really takes a beatin'!)

My Bernina 800 DL serger makes terrific rolled hem edges. This is an edge I use all the time on Kayla Kennington garments. It takes some getting used to but after a bit of practice (and if your machine is properly serviced) it's a great construction technique. The Bernina 800 DL is known for making a great rolled hem. While it was in the shop, I used my old Kenmore machine and while I finally got a respectable rolled hem out of it, it was no picnic. So when Linda of Oakville Sewing Centre called to say "Your baby's ready for pick-up" I was out there like a shot.

Also Linda said that there's going to be a sale on Bernina's starting October 15, so if you are in the market for a new serger, give her a call or drop by to test drive one.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Waisting away in Margeritaville with Pattie Otto

Pattie Otto
Pattie Otto is the owner of Great Copy patterns and delivered an excellent seminar on sewing elastic waistbands at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. She was well organized and had samples of every type of elastic waistband to illustrate exactly what she was talking about.  The samples were passed around so we could see up close the details. She also had a handout but all the details are contained in her booklet for the sum of $8, which I purchased at her booth.

Not everyone is a fan of elastic waistbands and I wasn't either until menopause changed my figure significantly. Although I am of medium height, I have a short torso meaning my waist was never well defined. Now it is non-existent. Being tall enough to wear longish jackets, vests and tunics, the elastic waistband pant is perfect for me. Now I know which waistband technique to use depending on fabric and style.

I just finished the Perennial Pant by Kayla Kennington in a hand dyed rayon and used one of the casing techniques.  It's not perfect but it's pretty good.  Next time I have to remember to add more fabric when topstitching the crease at the top fold in the casing.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Creative Collage with Koos

I attended this two day course last month with Koos van den Akker at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. I've always loved the look of collage in art and garments but was rarely good at it. This was the course for me.

My sewing friend, a custom clothier, attended a five day course last year with Koos at the Academy of Fine Sewing and Design in North Bay, ON. With the benefit of her experience, I felt I prepared to learn some pretty amazing things. I was not disappointed.

Learning from a 70 year old designer from New York, who is confident and strongly opinionated, who has weathered the ups and downs of fashion and has stayed true to his style, who actually works and sews every day in his studio, is a great experience. To obtain some insight into this man, read the interview with VBS, TV/Vice Magazine posted on the Koos website. Anyone who is easily offended by a critical assessment of their work and the "f" word, be warned. But if you are willing to look past that and listen, you are likely to benefit from a course from Koos.

Here's what won't happen in a Koos class:  hand holding; step-by-step instructions, handouts, slide shows, kits or formulae. But he will explain how to get started and come around to ask how you are doing. He also will help you when you ask for it. You need to be able to dig in and work independently on your own collage. Koos will demonstrate lots of techniques used in creative collage, but it's up to you to lay it out and stitch it down.

He brings templates of his "cut-outs" that you may copy and use, He also has his own garments on display for students to examine and learn from. He shared with us a pattern for a trumpet flower scarf and a cloche hat, items that are made and sold in the KOOS store in New York. He showed us how to make a beautiful belt from a mobius. He doesn't seem to mind sharing his designs freely.

Section of Collage
There is a book Koos Couture Collage written by Linda Chang Teufel. It contains colourful photos and collage techniques. I've had the book for years having picked it up at a sale, long before I really knew who Koos was. I think that once you have an eye for creating collage, the techniques in the book will guide you on construction.

I now have a one metre collage that I am very pleased with. The background is black quilter's cotton. A thrift store find sits comfortably next to a $29 a yard designer animal print from Haberman's of Michigan. My creative collage will likely play the starring role in a jacket. For now it hangs in my studio as a reminder of a terrific learning experience with a most talented designer.

Monday, October 4, 2010

I'm sewing but I'm not entirely happy...

The Angel Top
I have been sewing today, working on the Angel Top, the Perennial Pant and the Kwan Yin Kimono, all garments from the Modular Design pattern series. You see, I am sewing sample garments (some day to be "my garments") for the upcoming Creativ Festival (Oct 22-24) in Toronto. I have an exhibitor's booth there (No. 830) and I do a daily trunk show about the Modular Design pattern collection by Kayla Kennington. I like to feature new creations every season.

And two of my favourite machines are in for servicing at the moment; my Bernina 800DL serger and Brother Nouvelle 1500S. I love my Bernina 800DL for Kayla's signature rolled hem edge with rayon embroidery thread. But I also need it to finish seam allowances in the usual way.  I can't really complete any garments without it. I know I should have two sergers, but that's a big purchase and I can't afford that right now.

The Brother is a workhorse industrial-like machine that straight stitches only. It is perfect for accurate and quick straight stitched seams and topstitching.

Luckily I still have my Bernina White Pearl here which does the zigzags, buttonholes and other fancy stitches that I need. And a decent straight stitch when required.

I'm anxiously waiting for the phone call from Linda at the Oakville Sewing Centre to tell me my machines are all in top form, so I can rush off and get them. When they are back home safely installed in their custom sewing cabinets, I'll be in my happy sewing place again.

If you love Retro, you will love Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing

Inspired by Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing, published in 1952, this blog is for anyone who loves to sew retro inspired garments or recreate fashion from the 1950s. More than just a homage to that era, Gertie sews retro garments and and wears them.

This book was published before I was born (barely) and decades before Gertie was born for sure. It is great to see a young woman who is so passionate about sewing fine fashion clothing. Definitely one to follow.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What would Nandini do?

Katherine Tilton (Nandini)
At the American Sewing Expo I had the pleasure of meeting Katherine Tilton (aka Nandini) and attending her seminar "The Arty T". She is a delightful and talented artist who is so sharing of her ideas and work. Katherine's slide show was full of great ideas on how to transform T-shirts or to make fabulous designer T's inspired by Paris originals.
Her booth was constantly a buzz of activity with buyers snapping up coordinated designer knits and Marcy Tilton's fabulous silk screens. I was lucky enough to catch a demonstration of how to use the silk screens. It is unbelievably easy and requires only a sponge brush, Lumiere textile paints by Jacquard and fabric.

Katherine helped me pick out three silk screens that would work well together and now I am playing with them on scraps of an Annabelle viscose lycra knit slate blue fabric. I am making The Olive Top from The Sewing Workshop Collection--their latest pattern. I plan to screen the top to make it more interesting.

You can purchase the designer knits and silk screens from Marcy Tilton's website.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Fantasia Jacket - It's Finished

I can't find the cable that I need to download pictures to my computer. I've obviously placed it in a very safe location... again. Otherwise I would have a picture to show you.

I topped each godet with a chinese knot button (a real one, not a plastic molded button) that I was fortunate to find at the Soutache booth at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI. As I chatted with Maili, the owner of the business, my eyes rested upon the very thing I had been looking for for weeks. The moral of the story is that it never hurts to stop and engage in a conversation at a booth, even if you think they have nothing you want or need. I also picked up a very good skull button, for my daughter--maybe.

Soutache is located in Chicago, IL and they will do mail order, but you have telephone first.  Here is the URL They have lots of buttons, trims and ribbons, and chinese knot buttons in black and white. And you can watch Maili on YouTube speaking about her store, products and services.

The New Dressmaker

The New Dressmaker
It's 1921. Before the great depression. After WWI. King George V is on the throne. The Butterick Publishing Company has just released the new, revised and enlarged third edition of a comprehensive guide to dressmaking and tailoring for the home seamstress.  Over 160 pages describe in detail how to achieve a custom garment. The preface provides some insight into life in the early twenties, when sewing was a way to save money.

Because The New Dressmaker is long out of print, and the copyright has expired, it has been scanned and is available legally for viewing at on the Internet Archive website. You can download a a PDF, read it online, read it on your Kindle and other formats.

What a wonderful find.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Every Action has an Equal and Opposite Reaction - Newton

Sir Isaac Newton
I love to hear how people have taken and refashioned used or vintage garments or textiles. When we reuse, we reduce waste and that's a good thing, right?
But what happens to the jobs of those who sell new fabrics or those who weave or create new textiles? And the farmers or growers? And the seamstresses and designers, and on and on...

I'm not saying conservation isn't good. But there are consequences.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Paintstiks and Laura Murray Designs

Laura Murray
While at the American Sewing Expo in Novi, MI,  I was fortunate enough to attend a Paintstiks class by Laura Murray. She is an absolute expert on designing with Paintstiks on fabrics. And what I love the most about Laura Murray is that she uses Paintstiks on garments. Her booth display had so many gorgeous garments sewn from patterns of independent pattern companies such as Kayla Kennington, Diane Ericson, Lois Ericson and The Sewing Workshop and embellished with Paintstiks. Laura Murray is also an excellent speaker and teacher; she has lots of interesting stories she uses to share her experiences with students. I am very inspiredto go forth make fabric with Paintstiks using rubbing plates, stamps, stencils and freehand strokes.

If you are attending the Creativ Festival in Toronto next month, you can purchase Paintstiks and Laura Murray stencils at Joanne's Creative Notions booth.

Monday, September 20, 2010

American Sewing Expo, Novi, MI

I am heading off to the American Sewing Expo tomorrow for five days of sewing fun.  I am going with my sewing friends and hope to catch up with some more while I am there.  The American Sewing Expo is the largest independent sewing show in the U.S. managed by Janet Pray of Islander Sewing Systems. It is only a five hour drive from Toronto, ON.  Visit for details. Classes begin Sept. 22 and the show is Sept 24-26. Well worth the drive.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rolled Hem Seam Technique - Kayla Kennington

If you want to try out Kayla's unique rolled hem edge, she has two videos on YouTube that demonstrate how to do the rolled hem. It takes some practice, and every fabric behaves differently so testing and retesting is very important. The result is a seam that looks like fine piping with no seam allowances to finish or worry about showing through.

Kayla Kennington on Serging a Rolled Hem Edge Part I

Kayla Kennington on Serging a Rolled Hem Edge Part II

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Richard & Cosmos Wise - Rag Dealers

An interesting Spitafields Life article about a father and a son who deal in worn clothing from pre-WWII that is well worth the read:

This is a quote from that article that struck a very deep cord in my soul.

“At a certain age, you realise that what you do is who you are.” said Richard recalling his life working in finance. “I think the office is the most evil invention of the twentieth century, worse even than a factory.”

At the ripe older age of 57, I had worked in the corporate world for more years than I can easily recall.  A long part of that time was spent in the legal, technology and then like Richard, finance sectors. I tried in my own way to make a difference.  Like other quiet radicals, I tried to make the work environment a kinder, gentler, fairer place for all, not just those with blind ambition and little conscience. Several years ago I came to the realization that the corporate world was winning and I needed to do something that mattered. And with some inheritance money from my mother's estate, I started Distinctive Sewing Supplies on a part time basis. I deal in fabrics and garment sewing supplies because that is what inspires me and reflects best who I am.

The corporate world and I parted ways about two years ago. I am continuing on in my new world of textiles, sewing and crafting. And I find myself very pleased to be where I am. I sometimes regret that it took so long to get to this space but I am very happy to be here.

And this additional quote from the article, sums it up for me.

“For the first time in my life, I can like the face I am putting on,” admitted Richard with quiet grin of reflection, “because in this line of business you can be yourself. You are your own master and your time is your own. We buy what we like, not what we think we can sell. So you are exposing yourself, showing your own taste and you’re trying to convince people to share your passion.”

Well said, Richard Wise, well said.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fantasia Jacket - The Journey Continues

Silk Cotton Jacquard
I chose two fabrics for the Fantasia Jacket.  One is a silk/cotton jacquard in black and white. It has a little drape to it and it is very easy to work with.  For the godets and lapel I am using a silk/cotton semi-sheer sateen.  It is shiny on the right side and matte on the other side. The sateen is drapey, making it perfect for the godets but not so perfect for the lapels.  I have decided to line and interface the lapels for stability and strength. The seaming technique uses a rolled hem on the serger.  For that I am using three spools of black rayon embroidery thread.  I like the sheen of the rayon thread. Black rayon embroidery thread is also used to join the seams with a multi-stitch zigzag.  I butt the rolled hem edges together, right sides up, and stitch them together with the multi-stitch zigzag.

Just for Us Originals - Sept. 24 & 25, 2010

The Just for Us Originals show takes place at The Living Arts Centre in Mississsauga, ON on Friday, Sept. 24 and Saturday, Sept 25, 2010. This show and sale features 40 Canadian artists specializing in wearable art; jewellry, clothing, hats, scarves and purses. There are two fashion shows per day.  Parking is free and admission is free. What a great way to support Canadian artists, get inspired and have some fun! Visit the Just for Us Originals website for times, artist bios, pictures, direction and more information.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Lesson Learned from Mother Teresa

I came across a story some time ago about a person who was travelling with Mother Teresa. I don't remember all the details but their flight was delayed and they had some rather urgent business to attend to. Rather than fretting as other passengers were doing, Mother Teresa pulled out a book and calmly began to read. When asked if she was disturbed by the delay with her busy schedule, Mother Teresa replied, "It is a gift." She explained that she rarely had any time to enjoy a book and now she would be able to. Since I read that story, I often try to look at delays and set-backs as opportunities.
I spend a lot of time planning garments to sew for upcoming shows. I keep a small notebook with me at all times to jot down thoughts that could strike at any time.  If I'm delayed by circumstances beyond my control (a signal problem on the GO train, the doctor or dentist running late, a delayed flight), I always feel better when I have my fashion sewing to focus on.  No longer do I a pace or fret.  These moments are like gifts and with my notebook and pen in hand, I use them well.

Fantasia Jacket - A Journey

Fantasia Fleur du Soleil
The Fantasia Jacket by Kayla Kennington is based on her award-winning garment Fantasia Fleur du Soleil. Kayla has made this garment in silk organza, drapey rayon, silky velvets, silks and lace.  It is extremely versatile while being very timeless in style.

Recently I decided to make the Fantasia Jacket in a silk/cotton jacquard print with a silk/cotton semi-sheer sateen for the godets. The pattern has different versions that you can make depending on the style you are going for.  There is a cross-over tied version or a straight front version which can be joined with buttons and loops, frogs or left open.  The "bustle option" includes a set of godets at the lower middle back of the jacket. There are triple layers of godets, but you can vary the look at using one or two layers.

Fantasia Jacket Diagram

 I have opted at this point to make the straight front without the bustle.  There are 21 pattern pieces to this version. And since I have decided to line the lapels, I will need to cut 42 pieces of fabric plus 4 more to interface the lapels.  With this many pieces to keep track of, I have carefully labelled each one on the wrong side with some painters' tape.

I will be using Kayla's signature seaming technique of rolled hem edge joined with a multi-stitch zigzag. When using this option, I like to sew a straight stitch with regular poly sewing thread at the 1/4" seamline.  This takes some time but I find it stabilizes the edge and gives me a guide for the rolled hem.  I fill two bobbins as this straight stitching uses a lot of thread. This step allows me to familiarize myself with the pattern pieces and gives me time to reflect on how they will all come together.

The pattern pieces are geometric and therefore not necessarily intuitive as to how they will go together. Also, when constructing the jacket, they are some guidelines to be followed.  For example, the rolled hem has a right side and therefore the rolled hem edge must be sewn with the right side of the fabric facing up. That might seem obvious but when the right and wrong sides of the fabric are similar, it's easy to make a mistake and rolled hem is almost impossible to remove. In addition, the pieces are joined in a specific sequence and it's not the traditional way to sew a jacket.

Today I am going to finish off the straight stitching to stabilize the edges and to interface the collar to give it more strength.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

One of A Kind Show - Toronto - Nov 25 to Dec 5, 2010

I love to spend a day at this huge show featuring artisans of all kinds.  Visit for information. For someone who loves to sew, there is much inspiration to be found in the fashion section. Often I am lucky enough to catch a fashion show. I also love to see the accessories, jewellry, dolls, food (yum!) and so much more. A great place to find a unique gift for someone special.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Oakville Sewers Forum: Paintstiks with Joanne Thomson

Oakville Sewers Forum kicks off the new 2010/2011 year with guest demonstrator Joanne Thomson of Joanne's Creative Notions. Joanne will be showing us how to use Paintstiks with tools such as rubbing plates and stencils to create wonderful effects on fabric. Then attendees will have the opportunity to try their hand at it.

Although we normally meet on the third Tuesday of the month, September's meeting has been changed to Tuesday September 14.  It takes place at the Glen Abbey Branch of the Oakville Public Library at 1415 Third Line, North of the QEW and South of Upper Middle. Meetings are free with membership ($40), first time guests are free, and returning guests pay $7 per meeting. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. and the meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. sharp.

If you are not yet a member and plan to attend, please email so we can be sure to accommodate you.