Fabrication class: creating hollow shapes with die forms

I’m taking an Intermediate Fabrication class at Jewel Envy. In the last class we learned how to make a die form to create hollow-form shapes. After 3 hours of intense, focused work, I brought my work home to show my husband.

“Want to see what it took me all goddam class to make?” I asked as I walked through the door. THIS:



“That’s…it?” said Dave. (Now don’t get me wrong, Dave is amazingly supportive and encouraging husband, but both of us are pretty pragmatic and cynical, so we were both on the same page on this.)

Yep, that’s it. It’s a lame little triangle of copper, with one side slightly puffed out or domed and the other flat, and it’s hollow inside. Dave said, “I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t pay 10 cents for this.” Which is Dave’s slightly nicer way of paraphrasing Justin Halpern’s father (of Shit My Dad Says fame) when he said “Listen, I don’t want to stifle your creativity, but that thing you built there, it looks a pile of shit.”

Fair enough! Agreed. I don’t think I can even tart this thing up into a reasonable pendant for a necklace or something — which was the original intent…here’s my sketch; the drawing at the bottom right is what I had in mind:


Nonetheless, here’s what this ‘pile of shit’ copper puffy triangle actually represents…

I learned how to make a die form. This involved sawing a rounded triangular shape out of a sheet of brass then gluing the brass to a wooden block and, using a drill press, then a saw and files, creating a hole in the block the same shape as the triangle.



Having made the die form, I can now make as many puffy little triangles as I want! So if I wanted a whole necklace, say, with a matching pair of earrings, of little puffy triangles, I could do that. I could also create the triangles in other materials such as silver.

To use the die form, I placed a sheet of copper on top and put it into a hydraulic press. The extreme pressure in the press causes the copper to get pressed down into the hollow triangle of the dye form. The higher the pressure, the puffier the triangle, but you have to be careful not to put too much pressure or it can blow a hole through the copper. Then I cut the puffy triangle out of the copper sheet with a saw and filed the edges smooth. Next I soldered the triangle to another flat piece of copper, sealing all the edges, then cut the piece out and filed the edges smooth again.

Even though this first attempt is what Sam Halpern might call a pile of shit, it does mean I’ve learned a new technique for metalsmithing and jewelry making. And in the hands of an experienced artist like Barbara Bayne, this technique results in some gorgeous jewelry. Look at Bayne’s amazing pieces created using die forms:

Die form necklaces by Barbara Bayne

Or this piece by Judith Neugebauer:

jewelry by Judith Neugebauer

Or this cute Copper Puffed Heart Necklace from Michele Grady Designs on Etsy:

Copper Puffed Heart Necklace by Michele Grady Designs

As for me, die forming definitely isn’t my favourite technique I’ve learned so far in my jewelry-making classes, but, as always when I learn a new handcrafting technique, it certainly makes me appreciate how much work goes into creating the tiniest pieces that most take for granted.



Jewel Envy Student Exhibition

I’m actually pretty excited about this. Jewel Envy is having their annual Student Exhibition, showing pieces made by people who took classes there, and I’ve got three pieces in the exhibit. Woot!

Jewel Envy Student Exhibition 2014 postcard

That’s my blurry silver cuff there on the bottom left of the postcard. But check out that ring second from the left. I’m told that guy made that ring in his first class. How annoying is that? I love it! It reminds me of a ring I fell in love with about 20 years ago, but never bought, by a guy named Ivaan who had a small shop on Queen West with a sign out front that said “Getting Married? Come in here before he buys you a slice of pipe with a rock in it.” Yessss. He made really cool rings, one of which indeed became my wedding ring and it looks nothing like a slice of pipe. But the other ring I loved was a large calla lilly with a shard of purple amethyst crystal nestled inside as the stamen. It seemed far too delicate and fragile to actually wear. But Dirk Ave’s (Dirk Ave! — even his name is cool) has made a version that seems really wearable.

Anyway, here’s a better picture of my silver geometric cuff:

Silver Geometric Cuff

I made the cuff in a Beginner’s Fabrication class from a sheet of silver from which I cut out triangles, half circles, and a rectangle. I love wearing this piece.

The other two pieces I’ve got in the show are my Queen of Hearts rings (yeah, I know…they made me give them names when I entered them in the exhibit :P ) were from my Beginner’s Casting Class, in which we learned how to do the lost-wax casting process. I blogged about making these pieces here and here. I really enjoyed lost wax casting…something about pouring red-hot molten metal in a process that could go horribly wrong and destroy all the hard work you did carving the form makes me feel all bad-ass Lord of the Rings-ish. Lucky for me, these two rings came through the casting process really well.

Queen of Hearts rings

So Friday’s opening night should be a fun opportunity to hang out at the studio and have a couple of drinks and admire all the amazing work the artisans and students at Jewel Envy create. Come by if you’re in Toronto! Or, feel free to vote for your favourite piece. Do check them out! Lots of fantastic designs.



Sweater Rescue!

Six months ago I finished knitting the Crowberry Cardigan (pattern design by Sarah Alderson). It was almost a win — but there were too many things wrong with it for it to be something I would actually wear.

Crowberry Cardigan

The original Crowberry

I couldn’t stand the way the bottom half of the cardigan gaped open around my belly — who needs extra attention in that area? Here’s what I wrote in my Ravelry project notes at the time:

The gaping, rolled out edges on the bottom half is one hot mess. It draws attention to my stomach in a most ridiculous way. :/

Some notes to self:

1. stop kidding yourself that doing waist decreases on cardis is a good idea. Waist shaping only causes a fitted, open cardi to gape open around the middle. Not pretty.

2. always, always make the buttonholes smaller than you think you should. I’m considering a little post-knitting surgery to make the button holes smaller so they don’t gape as much.

The gaping buttonholes

Love those buttons, but they were a bit too heavy for this DK-weight sweater and the buttonhole gaping was ridiculous.

Detail of Crowberry motif

Detail of Crowberry motif

Crowberry Cardi - the back view

Crowberry Cardi – the back view

So this sweater sat in my drawer for 6 months causing me to feel irritated every time I opened that drawer and saw it, because I felt like it should have been a well-loved, well-worn garment.

But everything changed with a visit to the yarn shop! I dropped in to get an extra skein of yarn to finish another cardigan I’m working on, and I saw this amazing vibrant yellow Sadnes Garn Mini Alpakka yarn. I didn’t know what I would do with it yet, but I bought 3 skeins on a whim. I have been loving the grey-yellow colour scheme I’ve seen popping up everywhere lately, and I realized that this new yarn could save my Crowberry!

I got to work ripping out the applied i-cord edging all around the garment, and replaced it with wider seed-stitch button bands on the front that would help to close up that gaping.  A seed stitch border along the bottom and an applied i-cord edge at the neck, and voila! A cardigan I will definitely wear now.

Crowberry Redux

Sure, the button band isn’t perfect (I have yet to knit a cardigan that I think has a good button band that doesn’t distort when it’s buttoned up), but this doesn’t bother me in the least. I’m just elated that I saved this sweater!

crowberry_redux1 crowberry_redux3

How about you? Do you have any stories of triumph over a previously-not-so-great garment? Do share!


The Four Leaf Clover Coffee Table

Just gonna brag a bit here about my talented husband! Back in January I mentioned in a post that he was working on a wooden-slab table. I’m happy to report it turned out really well, and is an amazing one-of-a-kind creation.

Four-leaf clover coffee table designed & made by Dave Rose

Four-leaf clover coffee table designed & made by Dave

This table started life as our neighbours’ huge, old maple tree. Unfortunately, it had reached the end of its life and had irreparable rot in the trunk and had to come down. Our neighbours were kind enough to let Dave have a huge section of the trunk that wasn’t rotted out. They know he loves woodworking and he’s made them bowls and serving trays out of bits of their black walnut tree when it was pruned back. The table began as horizontal slabs of the tree trunk:

tree slabs to be made into table

He spent hours and hours and HOURS flattening those slabs out and sanding them down. Literally days and days on this part. I think at one point in the process he would have preferred to be poking his own eyes out with a dull spoon.

He carved mortise-and-tenon joins in all of the pieces so they fit together firmly without any screws or nails.



The legs were created from 2 sets of X’s…he and I spent quite a while discussing how criss-crossed legs could be put together. I’m happy I can be of help in the design process. Often all you need is to bat around some ideas with another person to finally hit on the right solution.



Braces were added to attach the table top to the base and ensure the legs are completely stable.


Finally, the table’s surface was finished with linseed oil to bring out the natural colour and shine of the wood, then sealed with polyurethane to protect it from wear and tear.

Four Leaf Clover Coffee Table

Gorgeous, isn’t it? The ironic thing is, it doesn’t really fit in our house. We both knew that would probably be the case as he was working on it; because the table’s got a rustic, natural look to it we knew it wasn’t going to go so well with our modern decor. So Dave’s thinking of selling it. The next challenge is figuring out how to price it. As with all hand-made creations that take weeks of work and a lot of skill as well as expensive materials — ok, in this case, the materials were free, but it’s not every day that an 80-year-old tree comes down in your neighbourhood — it should be worth a LOT of money. On the other hand, if you actually ask for what it’s worth, that usually seems way too expensive to most people in our Ikea-saturated world.  He’s thinking of asking $1000 for it. But then, how does he get it in front of the eyes of the right people? You can’t just post something like this on Craigslist and expect to sell it in your own city. Or can you? Maybe Etsy is the way to go, but I get the sense that Etsy sellers need to have an established Etsy business — in other words, maybe it’s weird to set up an Etsy shop just to sell one thing. What do you think? Does the price seem reasonable? What’s the best way to try to sell it? Dave will appreciate your advice!

What is the Sound of One Mitten Clapping?

Knitters, do you do this? I made this mitten over a year ago. It has been sitting alone, unused, and unloved, contemplating its own extinction like the unicorn on Noah’s ark. I don’t remember what size needles I used to make it, and I didn’t even make notes about it in Ravelry. I can’t imagine I’ll ever get around to knitting it a mate. (And now that I’ve anthropomorphized it, I’m feeling pretty damn guilty about that.)

Sad, lonely mitten

Sad, lonely mitten


In happier times. Sadly, and unsurprisingly, I find this single mitten to be of little use in winter.

I knit it using this free pattern for thrummed mittens. Thrumming is a technique whereby you add a tuft of fleece roving to the stitch in a regular pattern. This produces those contrasting V’s you see on the outside, and the loose ends of the fleece stay on the inside of the mitten which creates not only a puffy mitten of clown-like proportions but also a super-warm layer of insulation — it feels divine sliding your hand into that mitten full of fleece. The yarn is handspun I bought in Prince Edward County during an October weekend getaway and I bought the roving at a yarn shop on Main Street in Picton.

So, you do this, too, right? Maybe we should set up an online matchmaking service for single socks and mittens…

BTW, I see you eying my awesome chunky-knit hooded sweater. I knit that from the pattern Wilde by Melissa Schaschwary using Malabrigo Rasta yarn. Amazingly smooshy to knit; amazingly pill-y to wear. Ain’t it always the way.


Wearables: Fashion & Technology

I’ve become quite interested in ‘Wearables’ lately — that’s a term used to refer mainly to clothes/shoes/accessories that have some type of electronics embedded in them that can do various things such as respond to environmental factors or biometrics (e.g. sweater embedded with LED lights that change colour depending on wearer’s mood) or even display data. One nifty example is the “Twitter dress” by Cute Circuit, which is a great-looking dress that displays tweets that include the hashtag #tweetthedress in real time. You can see it in action in this video.

Twitter Dress

The Twitter Dress by Cute Circuit

There’s also a whole range of ‘e-textiles’ (electronic textiles or smart textiles) that include things like:

  • conductive threads and fabrics that conduct electricity and therefore the circuitry can be fashioned right out of these fabrics rather than having to use wires (see photo of samples of copper taffeta, silver lycra and others at e-Textile Lounge)
  • luminous fiber optic fabric (see examples here)
  • ‘muscle wire’ that flexes when heated with electrical current, and returns to its original shape when cooled — interesting possibilities for incorporating into garments

Lest you think wearable technology is something only for engineers and code geeks, there is a big DIY aspect to it and it’s not terribly difficult to create wearable electronics. I took a 6-week class late last year on wearables with Instructor Erin Lewis. One of her projects involved taking a simple pair of mittens and, using conductive thread, a small battery, and some LED lights, ‘hacked’ them so when the wearer put their hands together, the mittens lit up.


Erin Lewis demonstrates her responsive mittens. The LEDs light up when she puts her hands together.

The palms have decorative patches of conductive fabric, which essentially close the circuit when pressed together, allowing the battery power to flow to the LED lights.

The palms have decorative patches of conductive fabric, which essentially close the circuit when pressed together, allowing the battery power to flow to the LED lights.

As part of this class I learned how to use a loom to weave and incorporated fiber optic cable into the weave. Fiber optic cable conducts light all along its length, so I attached LED lights to the ends of the cables. My intention is to eventually hook those lights up to a circuit boards that, say, reads data from Twitter and changes colour when someone tweets me, and then incorporate that fabric panel into, say, the outside of a handbag. The possibilities, while not endless, are kinda neat to contemplate.

The prototype fiber-optic weave.

The prototype fiber-optic weave. The lit-up stripes are a bit hard to see.

What I really liked about the class was that it was the perfect blend of handmade and high-tech. I also made a pair of knitted wrist warmers that, when I placed my metal (conductive) ring on a patch of conductive fabric on the wrist warmers, sent an alert in the form of a vibration to someone else.

The wrist warmer with electronic circuitry to send a subtle 'nudge' to a partner wearing another circuit in their clothes.

The wrist warmer with electronic circuitry to send a subtle ‘nudge’ to a partner wearing another circuit in their clothes.

I have a tendency to fall down a rabbit hole while surfing the vast range of cool wearable technology out there, and I’m fallllling….faaaalllllllinnnnngg…. So to keep myself on track today, suffice it to say that I’ll likely be posting more on specific aspects of wearable technology over the coming months…and that a project on my Sewing To-Do list is to make a skirt that incorporates some LED lights that light up when I swing the skirt around, or maybe can even be controlled from my phone. Here’s some inspiration for that with this neat light-up skirt from PuzzleLightDresses on Etsy.


Right on Target?

Your advice needed! I picked up this cardigan and these pants at Target a few days ago, and I’m pretty sure I did a fist pump while I was trying them on in the change room. Tuxedo-style ankle pants in colour-blocked black and white! [Fist Pump!] Colour-blocked cardigan in black and white and bright blue with groovy mesh on the back and sleeves! [Fist Pump!] Cardigan by London-based designer Peter Pilotto for cheap! [Fist Pump! -- even though I'd never heard of Peter Pilotto before, if he wants to do a line of cool clothes with fun and colourful prints and colour-blocking for us plebes, please! -- feel free!] Cool outfit for less than $70! [Fist Pump!]

Peter Pilotto for Target cardigan, Massimo ankle pants

Peter Pilotto for Target cardigan, Mossimo ankle pants

I was visiting my folks in Florida so when I got it back to their place, I modeled it for my mom, who was very impressed and liked it a lot. A little later my dad came back from a walk and said — and I quote: “Oh…my…god….That’s…”  And that’s all he said. :|

Peter Pilotto for Target Cardigan and Mossimo Pants - back view

I swear I just spent 5 minutes with a lint roller on these pants and they’re STILL. COVERED. IN. CAT. HAIR.

So then I get back to Toronto and model it for my husband. “Whoa,” he said.
“Is it a bit much?” I asked.
“It’s just that it looks like you’re about to go race-car driving or something,” he replied.


The cat-hair culprit, skulking back from just having eaten a tray-full of bread pieces my neighbour put out for the birds.

So I turn to you, dear readers and friends. Is this outfit a winner or no? Please vote in my poll.

By the way, when I asked my husband to take photos, he said, “but you didn’t sew any of that” and I said “I’m doing a poll to ask if I should wear this”. He, still in his pyjies and robe, donning boots so he can come outside to take the pics, said, “I’m gonna take a poll to find out if *I* can wear *this*!” What do you think? Is his outfit a winner? :D


My fashion-forward photographer. He’s covered in cat hair, too. Ha.

Colour Therapy for Winter-Weary Eyes

I’m lucky enough to have been able to get away to Florida to see my parents for a few days over Reading Week. While the obvious welcome relief is being able to go outside without donning parka, scarf, hat, gloves, legwarmers, boots, and ideally ski goggles, the less obvious perk of going south is COLOUR. Colour! I haven’t seen colour outdoors for months! Toronto has been various shades of white, grey, blue-grey, and slush-brown, and while this can sometimes be beautiful in its own way, Colour, GET IN MY EYES!

This is what my day has looked like so far today. I hope to add to the colour pics with some shots of the sunset this evening. Enjoy!




















Project Sewn Challenge #3: If the Shoe Fits

It’s time for Project Sewn’s challenge #3: “If the shoe fits: use a favorite pair of shoes from your own closet as an inspiration for your outfit”.

My name is Lori and I have a shoe problem. And this happens to be my favourite of all 4 Project Sewn 2013 challenges (duh).

While I have dozens of ideas for projects based on this challenge, some of which I outlined in a recent blog post entitled Did Someone Say Shoes?, one week to choose a pattern and source the right fabric and get it sewn up isn’t realistic for me at the mo’. So I thought I’d turn this challenge on its head and instead of creating a garment based on shoes, I’ve designed shoes based on a garment I created. It’s no secret I’m a big fan of Shoes of Prey, an Australian-based company that lets you custom-design women’s shoes and ships them for free, anywhere in the world. (Bonus for duty-weary and currency-exchange-shock-weary Canadians and other non-US countries: prices are in your local currency, and the company takes care of all import duties.) Sorry if this sounds like an infomercial — I’m not shilling for the company, but I have purchased 3 pairs of shoes from them and I’m pretty excited about the fact that you can CUSTOM. DESIGN. YOUR. OWN. DAMN. SHOES.

Here’s the blouse I chose for inspiration, which I sewed and blogged about last August in a post entitled I Just Opened a Can of Whoop-Ass on this Blouse (yeah, I was feeling pretty smug about having tamed that slippery, flimsy fabric). It’s Burda’s 10/2011 Chiffon blouse with tie band #128B. I made it with a sheer fabric (not sure what kind?) with shades of dark blue, purple, turquoise, and white.



Burda blouse

Since it has a bit of a secretary feel, but it’s also a bit sexy because of the sheer fabric, I thought a pair of high-heeled oxfords would be just the thing. Here’s what I came up with using Shoes of Prey’s online design tool:

Shoes of Prey oxford in dark blue patent leather with turquoise toe cap and white snakeskin midpanel

Dark blue patent leather with turquoise accents and white snakeskin upper! With 4-and-a-half-inch heel! If I ordered these for real, I might go down to a 3-inch heel. But if I ordered them in my dreams, I’d definitely keep the sky-high heel.

Shoes of Prey high-heeled oxfords

They even have matching dark-blue patent leather shoelaces, and turquoise insole. LOVE.

I played around with a few other shoe designs but that oxford above is definitely my fave. Here are a couple of other options:

Shoes of Prey spectator pumps with silk rose flower & bow

The silk flower on the toe echoes the chiffon fabric of the blouse.

Shoes of Prey high-heeled sandal in blue, purple, & turquoise

Not sure about these ones, but I did manage to add a little purple to the design.

Now I’m having a really hard time not ordering up a pair of those lace-up oxfords. Must….restrain…..self……

If you want to order up your own pair of custom shoes, use this link to get $20 off your Shoes of Prey order. Enjoy!

Asymmetrical Striped Tunic

Burda, you had me at asymmetry. What’s with me and my strong attraction to asymmetry? I’m always drawn to asymmetric details in a pattern. Come to think of it, possibly even in husbands, too, as my guy’s got a wonderful lopsided grin.  Anyway! This tunic was on the cover of the January issue of Burda Style magazine. I love the stripes, I love sewing jersey, and of course, I love the asymmetrical hemline and ‘opposing’ bits of gathering at one shoulder and one hip.
Burda Style Striped Tunic

It came out more like a dress than a tunic–I didn’t think to make adjustments for length. The first Burda pattern I ever tried was this Paneled Sheath Dress, which was designed for Petites, and it came out fitting me like a glove. So I have to remember that Burda’s ‘average’ patterns are for gals who are taller than me at 5 foot 4 and a half. (Yes, that additional half inch is very important to me.)

Burda Striped Tunic

I want you to know the extreme peril I put myself in to take pictures of this! Minus 15 degrees Celsius as my husband was taking these pics, and you can almost see me muttering “hurry up! hurry up!”. Ah, life as a northern blogger.

For the record, I am completely OWNING those legwarmers. After having a pair of bright pink legwarmers around the time the movie Flashdance came out a million years ago, it took me a looooooooong time to consider them again as a reasonable possibility for a grown woman to wear. But I either arrive at work miserable and raging because my knees and thighs are frozen, or use those warmer-clad legs to strut around like I’m on a catwalk in the tundra. I choose the latter. (Although I must admit they don’t always prevent me from arriving at work miserable and raging, but that’s another story, and has more to do with the public transit system.)

I looooove the mod look the model is rocking in Burda’s pattern photograph. Anything 60′s inspired and I’m THERE. The black and white combo looks fabulous, too.


Burda Striped Tunic

I didn’t quite get the stripes matching up on the back left shoulder, but a girl can’t ask for everything from this universe.

The fabric is the same rayon jersey that I used for what turned out to be my favourite sewing project of all time (ok, in this case, “all time” means since I started sewing for real 9 months ago), this striped, asymmetric (shocker!) layered dress, Vogue 8904. The fabric is soft and drapey and really fantastic. I bought it from a store that reeks of skunk — no joke. The store is on a very busy street in Toronto, Queen Street West, and apparently some downtown urban hipster skunk sprayed at the front of the store one day last year and it has reeked ever since. It’s actually overwhelming when you walk in, as anyone who has ever encountered the smell of a skunk will know. Rather daring, possibly stupid of me to buy from there, no? I made sure to wash & sniff test the fabric before going ahead. I’m happy to report all’s well in the smell department on this one.

Burda Asymmetrical Striped Tunic

The pattern does lend itself to making one’s tummy look a little rounder than it needs to, because of the way the stripes & gathers flow around the midsection. Something to be aware of if you’re thinking of making this and you’d rather be camouflaging than emphasizing.

Burda asymmetrical striped tunic

Thanks for reading!