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.

Drawing with Scissors: Molas from Kuna Yala

This is a not-to-be-missed exhibit at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto, ON. Curated by Max Allen, it runs until February 13, 2011.  This Sunday (September 12) at 2:00 p.m., tapestry artist Ixchel Suarez will be touring the exhibit.

The history of the Mola, a reverse applique method practiced by the Kuna tribe in Panama, is a fastinating one. Using many layers of cloth, a needle and thread, the Kuna create colourful geometric and pictorial panels. Visit the exhibition web page and plan your visit for this Sunday or soon.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Gunnel Hag and Colour Vie

Fabric Painted with Colour Vie

This past July I had the pleasure of taking a five-day course from Gunnel Hag at the Haliburton School of the Arts. I had seen Gunnel at her booth at the Creativ Festival many times in the past and was intrigued by her products and her printed fabrics. When I saw she was teaching at the school near our cottage, I decided it was time.

I had the pleasure of taking the course with my sewing friends, Joanne Thomson of Joanne's Creative Notions and Lorna Rae, a talented custom clothier and fibre artist from Harrowsmith. Gunnel is an amazing artist who is not only talented but so giving of herself and her art. We were so inspired and had such a good time.

You don't have to wait until next summer to take a course from Gunnel.  She has just posted her fall workshops online. Visit and click on the "workshop" link.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Qabbeh and The Bethany Dress

All sewers have projects that remain unfinished for one reason or another. When Folkwear patterns reintroduced The Bethany Dress to celebrate their 30 year anniversary (2006), I thought I would make it for display at my booth at the Creativ Festival that year.  Four years later, I stumbled on the incomplete project (while cleaning up my studio) and decided it was time.

The dress is traditionally  made from strips of silk. I decided to use Kirov silk dupionni in the traditional colours of red, green and yellow.  I carefully chose a red shot with green, a green shot with red and a yellow shot with red so that the fabrics would all work well together.

The traditional gown was hand embroidered with faggotted seams to connect the strips of silk and the embroidered panel known as the Qabbeh was also elaborately embroidered by hand with couched gold thread and filled in with satin stitch.

Knowing that I would not have the patience or the talent to do all that handwork, I set out to create the dress using my sewing machine with embroidery stitches.  Here is a scan of the Qabbeh which I am now preparing to attach to the garment.  I transfered the main elements of the design to the stabilized silk panel and machine couched some gold thread.  Using the diagram of the Qabbeh as a guide I free-form stitched the vines and the flowers using a variety of rayon embroidery threads.  And then I did something very non-traditional. I hand stitched some beads around the designs and in the centre of the flowers.

As soon as I clear up the clutter around my sewing machine, I'm going to attach the Qabbeh to the dress, face the neckline, and finish up the side seams and the hem. I plan to have this dress on display at the fall Creativ Festival (Booth 830) this year!

Weaving inspiring sewing

I am not a weaver, but since most cloth is woven, I am fascinated by weaving.  Jane Stafford is a Canadian weaver who has a Louet loom named after her.  I love the pictures of her home and studio, and wish I too had such a place, for sewing that is. I have posted a link to her website to the right. She's an inspiration.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eyewear is all part of your look

I have been wearing glasses a long time. A few years ago, I realized  (slow learner, I know) that for something that was going to be on my face all day, they would be important to my look and personality. So I started spending a lot more time and effort and consequently money on them. But it wasn't until I found an amazing optician that I was totally satisfied with my glasses. People always comment on my glasses, so I'd like to tell you about her.

She is a travelling optician and image consultant for eyewear. She knows the technicalities and the aesthetics of eyewear.  My glasses look and feel great.  She is Wendy Buchanan and her company is Perceptions Eyewear. ( When I meet with Wendy she knows exactly what I'm looking for. It's never a matter of not finding a suitable pair.  It's about narrowing down the choices.  Last time I visited I came away with two pairs.  Plus I have my fun "Hollywood" style prescription sunglasses for driving and the cottage.

My glasses were an investment but they are going to be with me for the next two to three years--every day! And I love them. So when I'm putting together a garment, I know that I have the eyeglasses to complete my outfit.

In fact, here's a pair of BOZ eyeglasses that I have my eye on and for the right occasion, I'm going to go for it!

I love Kayla Kennington's designs!

Here's some great eye candy for the sewing diva in us. I never fail to be amazed and inspired by Kayla's designs. These pictures are posted by Waechter's Fine Fabrics.

Kayla digitizes her own embroidery designs. Such a talented artist.


I have a beef. Or maybe beefcake...

I love to sew and as with any creative industry, there's always the celebrities. In the sewing industry, fortunately, celebrities are more accessible than perhaps the movie industry. (No kidding!)

So when a man decides to sew (or knit or stitch or decorate), it's a novelty. Think Ron Collins, David Page Coffin, Kaffe Fasset, Terry Edward Briceland and John Willard. At sewing conferences I have witnessed women as they ooh and go gaga over them. (I might have been one of them.) Fair dinkum.

Here's the rub.  When a woman enters a "man's" industry, look out! Think banking, military, engineering, aerospace, medicine, and construction; even fashion design.

I like that the sewing industry is so welcoming; I just wish the rest of the world was.