Help Me Get Flamingos Into My Life

Help! What do I do with this flamingo fabric? I’m in love with it but I’m afraid I’m going to sew something that will make me look seven years old.


It’s one meter of mid-weight cotton jersey. I’ve photographed it with some leftover modal jersey I used for my Plantain Tee that seems to be a good match…because maybe all-over flamingo would be too much? Maybe colour-blocking is the way to go? The background is a pinkish cream colour (hard to photograph correctly), so finding a solid coordinating colour has been difficult.

Is there a pattern for a top that you think I could pull off with this fabric? The fact that it’s cotton jersey increases the odds that I’ll look like I’m wearing kids’ clothing. I’ve seen some great flamingo-print tops like this one by Lauren of Lladybird, or this one featured on Sweet Shard’s blog, but they’re made of floatier, more sophisticated fabrics.

Should I throw caution to the wind and go for a basic tee, and hope it looks something like this Kate Spade silk-viscose tee below? I suppose it could always be worn as a pyjama top if my unrealistic, high-end-on-a-dollar-budget expectations aren’t met. 🙂

Any suggestions you have would be most appreciated!

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 7.57.51 PM

Thanks for stopping by.




Check out Episode 3 of the Clothes Making Mavens podcast

Hi friends! Just a quick note to let you know that episode 3 of the Clothes Making Mavens podcast is now available for your listening pleasure!

Clothes Making Mavens podcast episode 3: Sew Small Talk - Fabric Zeal

Helena and I are also happy to let you know that you can know subscribe to the podcast on all your favourite podcatching platforms, including iTunes. See for more info.

I’ll be back soon with my contribution to the Sew Ready for Fall blog tour.

Shoe Making at the Make Den

leather sandals - all the parts ready to be put together

I’ve been taking a leather sandal making class at The Make Den here in Toronto for the past few weeks. Every once in a while, as I was concentrating on cutting or bevelling or skiving or some other task that was causing major repetitive strain (my right middle finger has been numb for two days), I’d suddenly think:

I’m making SHOES.
I’m MAKING shoes!
I’M making shoes.

I don’t think it even occurred to me for most of my life that shoes are things that actually get made by people. Thought they just showed up in stores like everything else, y’know? 😉

The course was one 2-hour class per week for 4 weeks. Not enough time to finish the shoes — nobody in the class was able to finish in that timeframe. We’re all heading back in July for a make-up class to try to get them done.

The Make Den is mostly known for sewing; they do sewing workshops and they carry a good selection of quilting-type fabrics. While not usually my bag (show me the knits!), I couldn’t walk away without taking these lovely yardages home with me. I mean, look at that guy with the glasses! These are cotton canvas by Echino, and are rather pricey but there’s a sale on so they were 40% off. The sale ends tomorrow, June 24 — sorry for not telling you sooner! Also, if you’re in the area, they’re having a party tomorrow evening to celebrate the launch of their new website, The Woven Wolf, which features online sewing classes & tutorials. The party is from 7 to 11 pm at The Make Den’s 1244 Bloor Street West location. The lovely Irene Stickney, who taught the sandal making class and owns the place, tells me there’s goody bags for the first bunch of people who arrive. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Echino cotton canvas

Full disclosure: while I paid for the sandal making course and the fabric mentioned in this post, I was offered a free class at the Make Den in future to tell you all about the launch of The Woven Wolf and their launch party. We’ll see if my numb finger comes back to life before I decide to take another class! 😉

Also, did you hear the news? Helena from Gray All Day and I are launching a sewing podcast!

Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

While I was on vacation in Italy last month I got a little obsessed about finding fabric stores wherever I went. Yelp was being cheeky and sending me to anything from card & gift shops to a grungy little hole-in-the-wall where a couple who should’ve long since been retired were presiding over some dusty old packages of sheet sets and were NOT happy when I wandered in asking “Tessuti? Avete tessuti?” (fabric? do you have fabric?) in broken Italian. Despite that, I managed to find some fabric shops and I thought I’d share my adventures with you.

I visited three fabric shops in Rome, all within a couple of blocks of each other.

Basetti Fratelli Tessuti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 73)

This was the most extensive fabric shop I visited….room after room after room of fabrics stacked to the (very high) ceilings:


Bassetti Fratelli fabric shop: view from one room into another


Another room choc-a-bloc with fabric


I’m getting sucked into the Bassetti vortex here…it just keeps going.


A stack of designer fabric. Versace, anyone?


The old-school ‘cashier’.


My long-suffering husband kindly colour-coordinated himself for the shirting room.

I was actually way too overwhelmed to buy anything in this store. Option paralysis overcame me and I wandered out in a fabric overload haze.

Azienda Tessile Romana (Via S. Nicola Dè Cesarini, 13) & the The Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins

Just a short walk away from Bassetti Fratelli was Azienda Tessile Romana.


This was a much more manageable store, although I also left here empty-handed.



The most interesting thing about this shop for me was its location directly in front of a giant hole in the ground containing, oh, you know, ho-hum, ancient Roman temple ruins over 2,000 years old — the Largo di Torre Argentina. Apparently Julius Caesar was assassinated on or just adjacent to this site. NBD as the kids say ironically, or as as us oldies translate, No Big Deal.


The Largo di Torre Argentina, ancient ruins just hanging out in the middle of a busy Rome intersection.

This archeological site is in the middle of a fairly large and busy intersection, and you can wander around the edges having a look without buying a ticket or anything. It’s also home to a big feral cat colony who took advantage of all the nooks and crannies and respite from people and cars. You’re allowed to go in to a small area to one side during certain hours to visit the cats, and there’s a small shop of cat toys and souvenirs that help fund the cat shelter.


Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

If this were anywhere else but Rome, this spot would be a VBD (Very Big Deal), complete with lineups of tourists anxious to part with their Euros to have a look around. But because it’s Rome, there seems to be something like this on just about every street corner. It’s an amazing city.

Oriani Gioielli Shop, Rodeo Belt Shop, and Discount Italian Shoes

If you were to draw a straight line from the front door of Azienda Tessile Romana right through these ruins and across the street, you would find this little shop that sells jewelry, gloves, and custom-made sandals — pick the style, flat or heel, and the colours and they’re ready within an hour or two. I’m told this style of sandal was popularized around Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.


But I digress. (I always digress where shoes are involved.) From here I wandered a couple of blocks south and wound up on Via di Sant’Elena, where I found the Rodeo Belts Shop. Here I bought the elusive yellow leather belt I’d been looking for for a couple of years, as well as a black suede wrist cuff.

Just a little further along the Via di Sant’Elena was a discounty-looking shoe store where I bought a really cute pair of ivory-coloured leather high-heeled oxfords for just 39 Euros. The sign outside says “Calzature Donna – Tutto a 39 Euro” and they take cash only. This is the only pair of shoes I bought while I was in Italy, and those who know me personally will know that I exercised jaw-dropping restraint!

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant'Elena

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant’Elena

Fatucci Tessuti

Around the corner on Via dei Falegnami (#63/64) is a much smaller, more manageable fabric shop than the other two I visited earlier — this one was just my speed. Fatucci Tessuti doesn’t have a sign outside so it’s easy to miss; just look for the red-framed door and the number 63 on the wall.


The fellow running this shop was very helpful (but camera shy). Lots of lovely silks at reasonable prices, starting at 8 Euros per meter, like this one that the shopkeeper insisted I take a photo of…


…but it was this cotton print featuring cranes (or maybe geese?) for 12 Euros per meter that I fell in love with.  It has an incredibly fine thread count and it is truly very ‘crisp’ feeling. I love the contrasting orange dots sprinkled on the periwinkle-blue background.


Jackpot! This crisp cotton print is coming home with me.

I have since made a dress with this fabric, which I’ll share with you in my next post.

If you’re in this area you’d be remiss not to go another few blocks to the “Jewish Ghetto”, centred around the Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where you’ll find the Forno del Ghetto (Bakery of the Ghetto). This is another business with no sign at all out front, so look for the window with the burnt-looking cakes.

The window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D'Ottavia. Don't let their appearance fool you.

Cakes in the window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D’Ottavia. Don’t let their appearance fool you.

The appearance of these cheese cakes belies their absolute deliciousness! Don’t even let the super-grumpy women gruffly serving the cake deter you from sampling them. Stand your ground when they glare at you when you walk in, and do not waver in your resolve when they bark at you whether you want chocolate or berry! You will be duly rewarded for your courage.

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM!

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM! I’m only a little shaken after interacting with the shopkeepers. 😉

Have you been fabric shopping in Rome? What treasure troves did you find?

McCall’s 6752: Oversized top with cowl neck

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

This is McCalls’ 6752, a super-baggy top with a cowl neckline and gathered waist with zipper.

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.26.27 PM

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 5.26.17 PM

I made it with “Patriot Blue Ikat Cotton-Viscose Jersey” I ordered from Mood. I thought I was getting 2 yards but I got 2 ‘panels’, which meant two separate, small pieces of fabric that barely made this top. I have a love/hate relationship with Mood. Love the fabrics. Hate the expense of ordering from them, and I especially hated the surprise of receiving this fabric hacked into two measly little pieces. It made it really difficult to not only find a pattern that I could eke out of it, but also to work out how to place the pattern pieces to fit them all in while still having some sense of order as to where the stripes would fall on the top.


Have you ever seen Lily Sage & Co’s blog? It’s a must-view — Debbie is a garment engineering genius, not to mention that she always looks drop-dead gorgeous in her photos. She makes unique, gorgeous garments, often self-drafted or at least heavily modified versions of commercial patterns, and always finds the best way to show off a patterned fabric. Look at her Chanel-inspired dress using the same fabric I used:


“Chanel Inspired Dress” by Debbie of Lily Sage and Co. Photo used with permission.

Read through her posts and have a look at the other two dresses she made with the same fabric. I’m such a fan. Everything she makes is breathtaking. The only drawback is now that I have made something using the same fabric that Debbie has used, I feel a bit like the “nailed it!” side of one of those Pinterest Fails pictures, you know, like this:

Pinterest fail

While I have worn this top a couple of times and I’m happy enough with it, I feel like it might have been more successful in a solid fabric…the gathered waist area is too busy and although I did my best to pattern-match given the limited fabric, it’s all just a bit wonky.  The zipper detail gets lost in the chaos. I realize now how I could have altered the pattern pieces to avoid having those stripes at the waist sitting at an angle. But hindsight is 20/20, and I chalk it all up to part of learning how to work with patterns & stripes.

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

Here’s a little more hindsight for ya:

McCall's 6752 baggy top with cowl neck

I do like the design of the top, and the pattern itself has four options: two tops (this one and a crossover front top) and two dresses. Great summer options for lightweight knits, and easy to sew.


I added this top to the Link Up that Helena of Gray All Day kindly hosts each week as part of her challenge to “Sew it Chic in a Week”. Go check out what people are sewing each week!

A Tour of my New Fabric Stash, in Which There Are No Fewer than Two References to Farts

I picked up a few new fabrics! Let me take you on a tour and maybe you can help me decide what to make. I found them all at Designer Fabrics on Queen Street West here in Toronto while on a BLIND FABRIC DATE with someone from Vancouver! I’ll keep you in suspense about that until the end of the post. 😛

Also, hello and welcome to new readers who kindly popped by this way last week for a look, after Rhonda of Rhonda’s Creative Life did a lovely review of this blog for her Wednesday Showcase. What a wonderful surprise that was! 🙂

Right, so let’s tour the latest additions to my fabric stash:

Some new fabrics I bought recently

1. “Dolce & Gabbana” rayon knit with Roman floral print ($10.99/yard).

Just turn your head sideways to enjoy this. 😉

I’m almost finished sewing the Burda Long Blouse below (05/2015 #111) with this material.  The blouse turned out to be a 4-person tent and needs some serious reduction surgery, so pics to come once it has come out of the operating room. (I’m also in the midst of sewing those “joggers”, which I can tell already I’m going to regret…but there will surely be a laughable sad-sack blog post to come out of it.)

Burda 05/2015 #111 Long Blouse #114 Joggers

But I still have plenty more yardage! I went back for seconds when I discovered how hard I’d fallen in love with it. What on earth will I do with all that loud fabric?? Perhaps an actual tent is not a bad idea.

The fabric was labeled as Dolce & Gabbana in the shop, but I’m guessing it’s simply some non-designer fabric “inspired” by D&G’s Spring-Summer 2014 collection, which featured images of roman ruins, roman coins, and florals:


I’m thinking I might make a summer dress with a bit of swing in the skirt. Not too many seams so as to show off the print to its best advantage, yes? But I don’t have anything in mind yet…do you have any suggestions?

2. Black, white & pink lightweight polyester knit, $6.99/yard. I’m thinking I’d like to incorporate a panel of this into a mostly black garment…maybe use it for the side panels of V8871? Or maybe just do the whole dress in it? It would also make a nice infinity scarf. I love the pops of bright pink.

3. Off-white textured stretch polyester, $6.99/yard. This one’s got a bit of body to it. The textured, blocky pattern made me think “mod”, so maybe a short 60’s-style shift dress? I do have this vintage pattern which could work:

But I think I’m leaning towards making another one of Burda’s popular Wrap Blouses (04/2014 #115). The one I made below is 4 inches longer than the pattern calls for, but perhaps I’ll make the white version more cropped & boxy, as I think that might suit the fabric better.  Never mind whether or not it would suit my aging pot belly better! But I’ll keep it covered with a white t-shirt underneath anyway, as those front flaps fly in fluttering flatuses*, flagrantly flashing flabbiness otherwise.

4. Black and white textured “animal-ish” print, which  is definitely going to turn into this diagonal-seamed shift dress, complete with exposed zipper, from Burda Easy magazine Autumn/Winter 2014 #4G:

5. Japanese printed cotton. Sorry about the wrinkly pic! This has an almost hand-painted look to it and was $13.99/yard.

I’m not usually a big fan of sewing with wovens (it’s more about wearing than sewing, actually — I much prefer to wear knits) but this fabric was pretty inspiring, especially because it has two ‘good sides’ with slightly different colours on each side. Immediately I thought of this halter dress that exploits both sides of a fabric in the design — most of the dress is wrong-side out except for the swoopy thing across the front & shoulder. I’m not sure this style of dress is something I’d be comfortable wearing, but I’m tempted to just sew it anyway because I’m feeling inspired.

If I chicken out on the halter dress — and I probably will; who needs to be farting around with strapless bras in a summer heatwave, anyway? — I think this Lynn Mizono pattern, V1410, would suit the fabric quite well. This is one of those patterns that I bought precisely because it’s a bit weird. Which is also precisely why I am unlikely to wear this one either, but highly likely to sew it.

Right, so the BLIND FABRIC DATE.  Vancouver Barbara is someone who comments on this blog every once in a while. She wrote that she fell so in love with the fabric I had used on this dress that she called up King Textiles in Toronto to buy some, but it turns out they wouldn’t agree to ship any unless she bought some huge amount like 12 yards or something. So she did! I thought that was awesome — she’s a woman who knows what she likes! Anyway, Barbara was passing through Toronto recently on her way to exciting places in Europe, and decided to invite me out for a coffee. Am I ever glad she took the chance! What a lovely lady. We chatted about our shared interests in sewing and art and jewelry and then popped into Designer Fabrics and the Workroom to ogle fabric. She was wearing an extraordinary patterned grey & black jacket she sewed with hot pink topstitching all over the intricate pattern — what a showstopper! Anyway, it was great to have the opportunity to meet up with a fellow sewing enthusiast and have it turn out to be such a delightful time. Perhaps when Barbara returns from her travels I’ll convince her to send me some pics of her jacket to share with you.

Thanks for reading! Do let me know if you have any suggestions for what to sew with these new fabrics!

*Most dictionaries will tell you this means fart, but I found one that gives an alternate definition of “a puff of wind”. I was desperate to milk that alliteration for all it was worth. 🙂

Excuse me ma’am, there’s a little sumthn sumthn on your shirt

Notice anything unusual about this fabric? Look carefully. Or maybe not even that carefully.

Yeah, that. I think it’s supposed to look like a knot in the wood grain. Alas, it calls to mind something else entirely.

I didn’t notice this when I bought the fabric…I was just excited about the ombré effect and the wood grain pattern. It wasn’t until I got it home and I stood draping it around myself in front of the full length mirror that I noticed a problem. In that moment, my pattern placement was, let’s say, bang-on.


I’m bravely forging ahead regardless, making a romper using McCall’s 7099 — just placing the pattern pieces very carefully. I’ve got most of it sewn up and it should be ready for primetime after the usual hacking down by several sizes that seems to be a standard part of my sewing process. Details to come!

McCall's 7099 View A - Romper

McCall’s 7099 View A – Romper

Circles, Stars, Bombs and Flowers – for Jen

Is it weird to create a fabric in honour of a friend who passed away? Fuck it, I’m doing it.

Jen was a friend of mine at university — many years ago — who died when she was only about 22 years old. She was a poet who wrote a compendium of poetry called Circles, Stars, Bombs, and Flowers. I think that’s such a lyrical title and it has stuck in my head over all those years.

So I screenprinted some fabric using that title as inspiration. You can also read a bit more about what inspired this in my previous post.  I intend to make a fitted t-shirt out of it that will remind me of Jen when I wear it.  Here’s how it came together:

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac

Silk screen layer #1: circles and stars in lilac.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #2: peach circles.

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers

Silk screen layer #3: light pink flowers.

Cutting the flower motif out of my 'outdoor studio'

Cutting the flower motif out of mac-tac…in my ‘outdoor studio’

Blending the ink

God I love mixing ink! Watching the colours blend is happiness-inducing.

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

The finished fabric, after layers 4 & 5 (gold bombs and purplish-grey circles).

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it's covered in black cat hair. :|

My cat was kind enough to photobomb the picture to give a better sense of the scale of the pattern. Now it’s covered in black cat hair. :/

FYI, in case you’re thinking of trying silk screening yourself, I used a screen printing kit by Speedball that I got from a local art supply shop. It was a very reasonable price and did the trick well. It’s a very easy process, but I am glad that I took a short course on screen printing before I tried this…the kit came with instructions but I think I might have screwed up a bit if I had just gone by those, especially the part about setting up the silk screen frame, where you have to block out the edges with tape or by some other method. Glad I was shown what to do by a pro at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). If you’re in Toronto, the Make Den has screenprinting classes (in addition to their sewing classes) and as of today, July 24, 2013, there’s a Groupon available for their sewing & screenprinting classes for more than half off. Wish I’d seen that before I signed up for the AGO classes!

60’s Revival: mod dress & fabrics

This amazing vintage pattern just arrived in my mailbox, and when I find the right fabric I’m going to sew the shit out of it!

60s Sheath Dress from vintage Butterick pattern

60s Sheath Dress from vintage Butterick pattern

Props & gratitude to Colleen from Proctor Creations on Etsy, as not only did she wrap this up in the cutest package, AND enclose a lovely thank you card that was made from what appears to be an original photograph she took, she also sent me a second vintage pattern for free! What a nice gal. That would only happen on Etsy.

I love the drop waist and contrasting wide belt, and the contrasting collar on View B. I’ve been trolling the interwebs for some mod fabric for this. Here are some options so far. Which one would you choose?

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 2.09.01 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 2.08.48 PM

Screen Shot 2013-06-17 at 2.09.24 PM

Maybe these are all a little too loud, too “hey look at me–I’m a 60s mod dress!”.  Maybe I should just stick with a solid colour. But it would be so hard to do that with these awesome mod prints in front of me! Advice needed!

If this project turns into a sewing disaster, like so many other projects that were brilliant in theory and poor-to-awful in practice, then perhaps I’ll consider buying a frock from instead. Have you seen their amazing 60’s dresses? I had a bit of a major squeeeeee when I came across their website.

marmalade-shop dresses

marmalade-shop dresses

Fabric shops in Toronto

Why are they all a jumbled mess?

Most of the shops along Queen and Spadina are dusty, dim, crammed-to-the-rafters kind of places. The selection is great, for the most part, but when you’re feeling a bit like you need to keep one eye out for mice while you’re looking for a great print for a new sundress, that’s a bit, um, off-putting. Part of me likes the jumbled flea-market feel of some of these shops: you know, no pretension, no wondering whether you’re paying more for the ‘ambience’, blah blah. But I’ve been yearning for a, well, prettier place to shop for fabrics where I can find a little inspiration. Do you know of any such fabric shop that I should check out in Toronto? And please don’t send me to a quilting store where everyone is encouraged to sew some kind of mimsy apron, or where they only carry patterns that cost upwards of $20 and only feature dress designs for librarians. (Sorry, librarians, I know you can be a cool lot.) You know the ones I’m talking about.


Photo from BlogTO. This is one of the more spacious showrooms. And no, this definitely isn’t how I want to shop for fabric.

Last month I went to Portland, Oregon for a conference and came across a very pretty fabric shop downtown called Josephine’s Dry Goods. I’d like to post some pics of the interior of the store, but I was asleep at the switch and didn’t think to get my camera out. Unfortunately they haven’t got many pics even on their own website. But it’s a light-filled, spacious place, with fabrics laid out so you can see them, and plenty of gorgeous garment samples throughout the store for inspiration. We could really use a place like this in Toronto.

A shot of Josephine’s Dry Goods by Amy Hodge

Oh, and don’t even get me started on the inexplicable fact that there aren’t any stores within 10 km of Toronto’s so-called ‘garment district’ — where there are scores of fabric stores — who carry patterns. WTF?  Business opportunity, people!