Loading...

Adventures in Shoemaking: Desert Boots at Art & Sole Academy

I haven’t been sewing much over the last month – between travelling to Prince Edward Island and Boulder, Colorado, I’ve really only had time to work on some gifts I had put off making. I did get in some great shoemaking, though – and it was the real deal this time.

For a long time, I had been wanting to take a class at the Art and Sole Academy in East Toronto. Eitan and I started by taking the Shoemaking 101 class, a quick 2-hour intro to the process of making shoes. It isn’t a class where you get to make anything, but you learn all about the materials and tools that make a shoe. I knew during that class that I HAD to take a proper workshop and make something. After a bit of nudging, Eitan agreed to take the Intermediate class with me starting at the end of June.

At Art & Sole, the classes are pretty small, and each student works on their desired “intermediate level” shoe – we had one student working on heels, three working on Oxfords, and I was working on desert boots. Jen, our wonderful instructor, would spend the class guiding each of us along individually, depending on what we were working on. The class was 5 sessions, but all but one of us needed to come back for several hours (fortunately, Jen includes this time in the tuition). That leaves you with a total of 35+ hours of shoemaking. Phew!

These are Eitan’s lasts – I forgot to take a picture of mine!

We all started off the same way – by making our pattern. This process actually took almost two sessions. You tape up your last (the wooden form on which the shoe is built) with masking tape, and then peel it all off and put it on card stock. You divide that into pattern pieces, and those are the pieces you use to cut out your leather.

I bought some lovely kid suede at Perfect Leather on King St., and lovely magenta lamb skin for a contrast lining. I had to cut pattern pieces from both of these, and then sew them together on the sewing machine.

Then came a process called lasting, which is basically stretching the leather over the last, and hammering it down on the bottom. Then you glue it all down where you nailed it (shoemaking involves a LOT of glue). Since all the leather gets built up and lumpy on the bottom, you have to do something called skiving. This involves taking a knife and shaving away the leather so the bottom is nice and flat. I struggled with this a bit, and my knife slipped and made a nice little slice in my arm. Luckily Jen had a first aid kit on hand, and she and Eitan bandaged me up.

My uppers before lasting

Anyways, I wasn’t letting a cut stop me! After lasting the lining and a layer of toe and heel stiffeners (a small piece of vegetable-tanned leather that helps keep the toe and heel of the shoe nice and strong), I had to glue on the midsole, which for a desert boot, you cut out extra large and cut away the excess after stitching is done. After glueing on the midsole, I had to glue the upper leather (the suede) to the midsole, and then I had to stitch it down. I did this stitching by hand, using a handy little stitching tool and waxed thread.

 

 

Hehe – they look like they’re being served up on platters.

Then I had to glue on the heel and the rubber treads. Using a belt sander, I sanded all the edges of the sole smooth, did a little cleaning up, added foam insoles, and they were done!

I tried them on, and they were a touch snug, but Jen told me that an easy solution is lightly wetting the insides and walking around in them for a bit. Leather becomes very malleable when wet, and will mould to the shape of your foot quite nicely! The only thing I don’t love about my new shoes is that the soles are a bit thin – I think just one more layer of leather would’ve made them perfect. As is, I can feel the heel through the bottom of the shoe. Still, pretty impressive for a first time shoe-maker!

I am already thinking about which classes to take at Art & Sole next! I would love to make sandals some day (which is easier than making shoes), and I’d also love to make ballet flats. I have the knowledge now to make shoes again on my own, but the tricky thing is that shoemaking involves a lot of tools (I may have a sewing machine and x-acto knife, but I don’t have a belt sander…). Lasts are also pretty tricky to find, and are integral to making structured shoes. But, maybe one day I’ll invest in a pair of lasts and sort out some way to make some shoes at home. Until then, I’ll have to stick to Sneaker Kit or going back to Art & Sole Academy!

Vintage Patterns: McCall’s 5142

love vintage patterns. I have been obsessed with 50s silhouettes since I was a teenager, and when I discovered vintage paper patterns, I couldn’t get enough.

I find that if I follow my high bust measurement and add a bit to the waist, vintage patterns usually fit me to a T. I also love that you can find patterns with special details that you don’t always find in today’s patterns. I tend not to shop (modern) Big Four (Simplicity, McCall’s, Vogue, Butterick) because the huge selection overwhelms me, and they can be expensive in Canada if they’re not on sale. I love Indie patterns, but lately they have been trending towards more relaxed looks. Vintage patterns really hit that fitted and feminine sweet spot for me, and, if you do it right, vintage patterns don’t have to make you look like you stepped out of a pin-up (if that’s not what you’re into) – Allie J. does a great job making vintage patterns look fresh and modern.

Anyways, sometimes I get sucked down a vintage pattern rabbit hole, and last summer I spent FIVE HOURS one day searching for the perfect pattern. I found McCall’s 5142 for sale on Etsy in the LastPixie’s shop, and I fell in love with it. I hadn’t seen a similar dress anywhere else, it was in my size, it had a sleeve length that I loved…but it was a bit pricey, once shipping from the States was included. I tried looking and looking for a pattern that I would love just as much, or another seller that had the same pattern (I found another, not on Etsy, selling it for 50 USD). I couldn’t. Somehow, though, I managed to convince Eitan to let me order it.

A few weeks later, it was mine.

I made some adjustments to get the fit just right, but I needed to find the perfect fabric. I was really in love with the envelope illustrations (I mean, isn’t that half the reason we buy vintage patterns?), and I spent a long time looking for just the right print. I needed a crisp cotton, and it needed a little more heft than cotton lawn. Also, the print needed to have a vintage floral vibe, and finding cottons (non-quilting cottons) with lovely prints on them in general is tough.

I finally found the perfect fabric on Minerva Crafts (uch, why does the UK have such a good selection of fabrics to shop from!) and once my birthday rolled around, I had the casheesh to order it. It is lovely – soft, slightly crisp, opaque, and with a vibrant floral print.

The dress pattern didn’t require lining, and while I almost always line my dresses, I felt that lining this one would add unnecessary bulk in the bodice. Instead, I followed the directions pretty faithfully. People often say about vintage patterns that they have very few instructions, which makes them difficult for beginners to sew. I’ve actually found that, at least with patterns from the late 50s onwards, they have really detailed, helpful instructions.

Without the lining, I felt the seams needed some extra protection. The instructions tell you to stitch some seam binding along the clipped seam of the kimono sleeve, just under the armpit. I actually carefully basted the binding along the entire seam (sleeve hem to waist), and neatly topstitched close to the seam on both sides. It doesn’t look that great on the inside, since I used purple bias binding (I wanted to use what I already had, and it happened to be vintage bias binding).

The only part of the instructions I didn’t follow was the zipper placement, which places the zipper at the middle of the back, with the back seam near the neck closed. I was skeptical that I would actually be able to get the dress on if I did it that way, so I sewed a handpicked zipper (one of my favourite vintage sewing techniques) the “normal” way instead. I also pattern matched the seams in the back, which wasn’t too tricky because the print is on the bigger side.

I finished the all the seams with pinking shears, again because it has a bit more of a vintage look. I hemmed the skirt using a folded hem and took a few hours to stitch it by hand.

Since it wasn’t lined, apart from sewing the hem by hand, it actually didn’t take me very long to finish this dress! I love putting it on with a crinoline underneath and some red lipstick and high heels. I just wish I had some white gloves to complete the look!

Following the Prince Edward Island Fibre Trail

So as you may or may not know, we just got back from a trip to the little island province of Prince Edward Island (aka, PEI). It was our first time there, and I was especially excited about the PEI Fibre Trail, which is pretty much a map of textile-related producers and artisans around the island. There are quite a few stops, and we were only on the Island for a week, so I had to narrow it down to a select few places.

Our first day in PEI was pretty windy and rainy, so it was a perfect day for yarn shopping, in my opinion. We drove out to Belfast, which is conveniently home to both Fleece and Harmony and Belfast Mini-Mills. I follow Fleece and Harmony on Instagram (I love their branding), and I’ve squished a few skeins of their yarn over at The Purple Purl in Toronto, so I was really excited to visit their shop and sheep (hehe). They have a lovely shop, with windows that look into their processing facility. It was really difficult not being able to buy huge sweater quantities of yarn, and it was heartbreaking knowing it might be a while until I get around to knitting what I did end up buying. Still, though my stash output is slow, I couldn’t leave Fleece and Harmony without a skein (or three).

Then we drove over to Belfast Mini-Mills, which is only about a 5-minute drive away. We parked by a little flock of shy and surprised sheep (and a donkey), which we later learned are more for show (not used for wool or meat). There are also some funny looking chickens (that run around loose), bunnies, and dogs on the property. Linda, one of the owners and our guide, also introduced us to their crow (whose name escapes me), who they had rescued and has become their pet. He likes hamburger meat and shiny things, as I assume all crows do.

We also had a tour of the facility where all the magic happens, and got to see all the wonderful things that go into making wool products (including their industrial felter!). I was too excited about the dogs saying hello to me during the tour, and failed to get photos of the machinery.

The shop at Belfast Mini-Mills is amazing. They stock a great selection of yarn and roving milled on-site, including exotic varieties such as qiviut (a type of yak, I believe), samoyed (the dog breed), angora, and more. Their superwash merino comes in beautiful colours and is very reasonably priced. I didn’t buy any yarn, as last year my FibreShare partner visited Belfast Mini-Mills and mailed me a skein as part of my package. I loved it so much that I called up Belfast Mini-Mills and ordered 4 more skeins, and made a Rock Creek pullover out of it. They also have all sorts of wonderful gifts – sheepskin rugs, mittens, slippers, children’s books and toys, even jewelry. I didn’t walk out of there empty-handed – I bought a sweet little felted sheep made in Peru, and some sheepskin teddy bears as baby gifts for my future nieces/nephews.

Our next stop was in Montague, where we visited Artisans on Main, which was a lovely gift shop in the small town of Montague. It’s stocked with beautiful items all made by artisans local to the island. While it was a lovely shop, I’m not sure it warranted a trip to Montague, as in the rainy weather we couldn’t walk around and find much else to do there. We did drop in Stitches & Crafts, which was just up the road, but as it stocked the same sort of things you might find at a Michaels, we didn’t find much reason to stick around.

The next day we visited Green Gable Alpacas, because I love alpacas and just had to see some up close. At Belfast Mini-Mills our tour of the place was free, so I kind of assumed Green Gable Alpacas was as well (I guess I didn’t quite do my research, because rates are on the website). The owner kind of mumbled something about taking care of admission when we went back to the shop, and then brought us inside the pen. We visited the pregnant female alpacas, who had been sheared just days before, and were showing off their new haircuts. To my disappointment, we were told that alpacas like their personal space, and we didn’t get to touch them much. We learned about the alpacas for about 10 minutes, and then we were brought to the pen where the males were kept, and we got to feed an apple to the one llama, and that was our tour. Both Eitan and I were both kind of surprised to be charged for it, but we didn’t mind supporting a Canadian farm. I didn’t buy any yarn, as, like I mentioned earlier, my yarn stash isn’t moving very quickly these days, and truth be told, I don’t especially love alpaca yarn. I was drawn to a skein that was made to match the incredible rusty red earth of the island, but when I learned it would cost about $60 I decided against it. $60 just isn’t worth the cost of a mere yarn squoosh, so I settled on a sweet little felted alpaca to go with my little felted sheep.

We also stopped at MacAusland’s Woolen Mill, though I didn’t really feel it was worth the stop for us. We had visited the Potato Museum, which is nearby, so I thought we might as well drop by, but it’s quite far from central PEI where we were staying. It must be worth the trip to some people, though, because it was quite busy, even though we only got there an hour before closing.

I think MacAusland’s is famous for their woolen blankets (which I’m not especially in need of), and their yarn was being sold at Belfast Mini-Mills, so there wasn’t much to see. I was hoping to see all the production and machinery at work, but when you walk in you’re brought right into it without any real explanation of guidance (the shop is up the stairs). It’s very dusty and noisy, and I kept worrying I would walk into some dangerous machine by accident. Upstairs they have piles of their woven blankets, and huge white sacks of their yarn. Their yarn could best be described as “woolly wool”, and is the sort of wool that makes you think of itchy wool sweaters you hated as a kid. One of the folks we met earlier on the Fibre Trail told us that they don’t use any “special” sort of sheep for their wool (pretty much the sheep used mostly for their meat).

An unplanned stop on the Fibre Trail that we made was at Ewe and Dye Weavery, and we popped in for just a second. We hadn’t intended to go, but we had some spare time on our last touring day on the Island, and decided to drive down to Victoria-by-the-Sea. It was an absolutely lovely little town – very picturesque – and we saw Ewe and Dye Weavery on the main street, so we popped in. It’s a sweet, tiny little shop (much like the town it’s in), but didn’t find that much caught our eye.

One of my FAVOURITE stops actually wasn’t “on” the Fibre Trail. I found Five Arrows Fabrics on Instagram months ago, and got in touch with owner Natasha just before our trip. I had assumed Five Arrows was a bricks-and-mortar store, but Natasha actually sells fabric from her own home to garment sewists on the island (as well as online). She began selling fabric because there was a real lack of garment fabric for sale on the island (though there are a few quilting fabric stores). There isn’t even a Fabricland/Fabricville, which you can find pretty much anywhere else in Canada. Anyways, I just HAD to go to the only garment fabric shop on the Island! Thing is, Natasha didn’t treat me like a customer, she treated me like a guest, and welcomed me and my husband into her home. She offered us tea and introduced us to her husband and boys, and we had a really lovely chat about sewing and life on the island. While she told me there was no expectation to buy anything, I knew that once I had seen the Nani Iro she had in stock, I wasn’t leaving without it (I bought some lovely blush pink bamboo french terry as well). Natasha is starting small, she says, but I definitely think it’s worth checking her out 🙂

Are you hoping to visit PEI soon? If so, I would be happy to share tips and must-see places that really made our time on the Island special.

Adventures in Shoemaking: SneakerKit Review

Lately I’ve been really into the idea of making my own shoes. When I looked up at-home shoemaking, I had a lot of trouble finding any resources. I found a few other bloggers who make their own shoes and have shared their experiences, but I’ve learned that shoemaking is generally a pretty guarded secret. What I did manage to find was a small brand called SneakerKit, which began on Kickstarter just a few years ago. They sell at-home sneaker-making kits, which include a sole, insole, thread, needle, and pattern. The shoes don’t need lasts or glue – they’re entirely stitched together. Their website is not terribly informative, and I found it hard to navigate. I also couldn’t find any reviews on the product (I love reviews) – but I convinced Eitan to just jump into it with me.

We each ordered a kit, but found it a bit stressful to choose a size – the website has no sizing guide and every European conversion guide we found online was different. We couldn’t find any information anywhere on the website on how to choose a size right for you, or what the difference is between their “slim” soles and their “regular” (or “Publico” soles). I managed to find this Kickstarter page (scroll far down), which had a conversion chart – we went with our Japanese size, which is really just based on the cm length of your foot from toe to heel (so straightforward!). In US sizes I’m generally a 9.5-10, and I ordered a 41.5. Eitan is a US 11, and he got the 44.5. I’d say both of our soles were the right size for us in the end.

Shopping for leather was a more frustrating endeavour than I had anticipated. SneakerKit does give you the option to order from their selection of leather, but I wanted to shop for it in person and know the feel of what I was getting. I had never shopped for leather before, and headed downtown to Perfect Leather on King St W. I don’t know if this is the case at all leather stores, but at Perfect Leather they only sell by the piece. I needed cowhide, which I thought would be the sturdiest and most flexible option for making sneakers – but that would mean I had to buy an entire cow’s worth – about 20 sq ft (leather is often sold by the square foot – Sneakerkit only requires 2 sq ft). A man working there showed me a selection of goat skins (which are smaller as the animal is smaller), and insisted it was perfect for shoe making. It wasn’t – it was much too thin and would’ve had my toes poking through the top of the shoe. He said they will not cut leather, so I could choose between the small goat skins and the gigantic rolls of cowhide.

Well.

Being the fabric hunting madwoman that I can be, I rummaged through the shelves of goat skin and found a few smaller pieces of cowhide (when I pulled them out and placed them on the table to measure them, the man would scratch his head and tell me “This is cowhide”. Duh.) I found a textured piece of seafoam blue leather that was absolutely what I was looking for, and I also managed to find gray leather for Eitan. While I was frustrated that I didn’t have the rest of the store available to me as an option, I was pretty pleased that I didn’t have to settle.

While I was on the streetcar I had a grand, ambitious idea to cross stitch my shoes. I knew it was too ambitious, but that didn’t stop me. I thought that if I pre-poked a grid of holes in the leather, it would be a cinch. It was NOT a cinch.

Leather is, well, skin. It kind of has this self-healing quality, and shortly after I hammered all the holes in with my awl, the holes slowly closed up. This made it incredibly difficult to get a needle through. Also leather is “sticky” (which is why you need a specialty leather needle for a sewing machine), and the needle often got stuck going through (granted, I was using a regular sewing needle. There may exist needles intended for this specific task). Many times I questioned if I should stop and start over with the leftover leather I had. Many. Many. Times.

But I’m stubborn, so I persisted. I decided it would be best to have asymmetrical shoes and have a smaller bud on the other shoe, so that I wouldn’t have to endure the same pain twice. After three days, my hands were cramped and I had blisters on my fingers, but I was pretty dang pleased with myself. As Poison sings, “every rose has its thorn” (or in this case, needle).  I Mod Podge-d the stitching on the inside because I didn’t want my foot to wear away at it too much.

Smaller, less painful rose bud.

Then came the construction. I was kind of lucky since I took so long to cross-stitch my shoes that Eitan finished his pair before me, so I kind of learned from him, rather than from SneakerKit’s vague online instructions.

The instructions are kind of hard to understand, and the videos don’t have any commentary. The trickiest parts were hard to see. Also, even when you get the gist of it, sewing the leather to the sole is kind of finicky. Both of us had to redo one of our shoes once. It’s pretty much all about getting the tension right. It’s easy enough to pull the stitches and adjust the tension, except that on both of my shoes, at some point the needle split the thread in one of the stitches and it became impossible to pull the stitches tight. I had to kind of bring the loose parts into the inside of the shoe and hope the insole hid them.

Eitan was so excited to wear his shoes the first day – and for good reason, they look great! He wore them for a day at work and when he came home he took the insoles out – the bottoms had completely crumbled. We are waiting for a response from SneakerKit to find out what’s going on, but in the meantime I cut a second pair of insoles out of scrap leather and placed them underneath the ones included in the kit, just in case.

Otherwise the shoes are pretty comfortable, but they don’t seem to be incredibly practical. When I bend my toe I can see the stitches and the holes in the leather, and I feel like anything could seep inside my shoes with ease. Anyways, I spent so much time on the cross-stitching that I wouldn’t want to wear them anywhere they’d get dirty, so for that reason alone they’re not very practical. Eitan is worried that the stitching will come undone, and I get that (we kept joking about his shoes spontaneously falling apart at the office).

In the end, I wasn’t really expecting that I would spend many days strolling for hours in the first sneakers I had ever made. I’m going to call these my art sneakers, more for show than for wear, but I do still hope to wear them once in a while. It is awfully satisfying to make the things you wear on your feet.

Tutorial: Make a Ruched Elastic-Waist Skirt

When I was a teenager, I pretty much only ever sewed one skirt pattern – a rectangle with a ruched elastic waistband. I made a version in cotton voile, which I wore on my first date with my husband. I made a version in flannel, before I knew how to choose appropriate fabrics for projects. I made a very bulky one out of cotton sateen, and one out of cheap cotton/poly batiste (which I am embarrassed to say, I still wear at home). It was just an incredibly versatile pattern.

I made all those skirts using instructions from Anna Maria Horner’s blog, where you can still find a PDF of the pattern for a lined skirt. I’ve since developed my own method of making this skirt, which I find quicker and uses less fabric (I found that most fabrics I used had no need for the lining). AMH’s pattern will work great for you if you’re using a very lightweight or sheer fabric.

Anyways, if you’d like to learn how I do it, please follow along! If you can sew a straight line on a sewing machine, you can make this super-easy skirt! The hardest part is inserting the elastic.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1.5-2 yds fabric of your choice (I like flowy fabrics like rayon, you can use any lightweight fabric such as cotton voile/lawn. You could probably use silk, but it’ll be a bit trickier to sew the elastic channels).
  • Matching thread
  • Safety pins (I like to have both regular ones and the tiny ones on hand)
  • 1/4″ wide elastic – enough for 3 times your waist measurement
  • Seam ripper

Measuring and Cutting:

The only piece you’ll need to cut for this skirt is essentially a large rectangle.

For the width, you’ll want to measure at least 10″ more than your HIP measurement. I recommend cutting more than that, though, because it will give you more gathers at the waist. I went with the width of my fabric from selvedge to selvedge – 60″.

If your fabric isn’t very wide (44″ for example), fold the fabric in half and cut two rectangles at HALF your desired width.

The width you choose doesn’t need to be precise – just choose less width for less gathers (just make sure it is bigger than your hip measurement), and more width for more gathers (I find between 60-80″ total width is ideal).

For the length, determine your preferred skirt length, and add 2 3/8″ (for the waistband) and 1″ (for the hem). For example, if you want a 25″ long skirt, your rectangle will need to be 28 3/8″ tall.

Sewing:

Start by sewing the side seams, right sides together (1 seam if you only cut one rectangle, 2 seams if you cut two rectangles). Finish the seam and press open (I like to serge the edges first, before sewing, using a 3-thread overlock stitch).

Then, you’ll want to fold over the top edge of your skirt 1/2″ and press. Then fold again 2″ in, and press well. You can pin the fold in place if you want, but if your folds are crisp I don’t find it necessary. Make sure to keep the fold the same width all the way around.

Now we’re going to stitch the elastic channels. Make sure the folded edge of your skirt is lined up with the 3/8″ mark on your sewing machine. You want to make sure that you stay at (or slightly, slightly past) that line – if you go below it, your elastic may not fit through. Stitch all the way around until you meet back up with the beginning.

Move the edge of the skirt to the 6/8″ mark, and stitch around like you did before. We will be creating a gap between the first elastic channel and the second one.

Repeat this step one more time to create the second elastic channel. At this point, I’ll have run out of lines on my machine to measure by. You can either mark your machine with a line of tape, or do what I do, and keep a careful eye on the distance between the presser foot and the previous line of sewing (for me there is a 1/8″ gap between the edge of the foot and the stitch line).

Then, flip your skirt over so that you can see the bottom fold of the waistband. Carefully stitch right along the folded edge.

It should look like this.

Now for the final row of stitches. Line up your needle between the last two rows you stitched, and sew all the way around. I flipped the skirt back to the right side, but you can do this from whichever side you prefer.

The elastic channels are now finished! Your waistband should look like this.

Now we can actually insert the elastics. At the back/side seam, on the INSIDE, carefully seam rip the first, third, and fifth channels. Make sure you don’t seam rip the seam at the right side of the skirt.

You’ll have three little holes through which to thread your elastic.

Now, cut off three lengths of elastic, each the length of your waist measurement (you can subtract 1-2″ if you want a tighter waistband. You can also tighten the elastics before sewing up the casing).

Attach a small safety pin to one end and a large one at the other. Make sure the pins aren’t pinned too close to the edge of the elastic, otherwise they might tear off in the middle of the channel, which is pretty frustrating – trust me.

Insert the end with the small pin into the first open channel, and use the pin to inch the elastic through.

Push the elastic all the way around the skirt, until you reach the opening again. The large safety pin should act as a “stopper” and keep the elastic from being pulled all the way through.

Once the elastic has been pulled all the way back to the beginning, pin the elastic ends together so they don’t slide into the skirt.

Repeat this process for the other two pieces of elastic. Your waistband should look like this.

Make sure the elastics aren’t twisted, and sew the pinned ends together. I like to sew back and forth several times to make sure it’s secure. Trim the elastic ends about 1/8″ from the stitching.

Pull the waistband to help ease the elastic ends inside the channels. Try on the skirt and make sure you’re happy with the snugness, and make sure the gathers are evenly distributed.

Use a ladder stitch or whip stitch to stitch up the channel openings. I find that after all the stretching, the gaps between the channels have opened up a bit as well, so I stitch the whole seam closed to make sure everything is secure. Sometimes the first channel opens up on the right side as well, so stitch that closed if you have to.

Then, lay your waistband flat and stitch in the ditch at the seam to secure the elastics and keep them from twisting around too much in their channels.

To finish, turn up and press the hem 1/2″ twice, and sew. You’re done! Try on your new skirt and give it a twirl!

If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below!

The Ultimate Guide to Online Fabric Shopping in Canada

I think something a lot of us Canadian makers struggle with is online fabric shopping. There always seems to be such a great selection of fabric available online on American or European-based websites, but it never seems worth it to pay high shipping fees or risk hefty duties. Also, isn’t it nice to support Canadian businesses?

Over the past year, I’ve been doing a lot of research on fabric shopping in Canada. There’s actually more out there than you’d think. There are many, many shops that sell quilting fabric, and some of them sell garment fabrics such as rayon, knits, linen, and flannel.

There does exist a similar list on The Finished Garment, (do check it out, as it is more extensive than what I have here – I just found it difficult to remember which shop sells what, and I wanted a list more specific to the types of fabric I find myself looking for), as well as a Pinterest board, but I wanted to provide more of a guide than a list, with a bit more information about individual shops, to help you find what you’re looking for. Also, this list includes primarily apparel fabric stores, as well as a few quilting shops that stock some great apparel-friendly fabrics (which isn’t to say you can’t make great garments out of quilting fabric!).

Do you know some great apparel-fabric websites? Please let me know, and I’d love to add them to the list!

DISCLAIMER: I’d like to note that this list is not sponsored in any way. I simply wish to share these great shops with you, so you don’t have to do the research yourself! I’d also like to point out that I haven’t shopped from all these stores, so I can’t speak for the service/shopping experience for all of them.

My Favourite All-Around Amazing Fabric Shops:

  • Blackbird Fabrics – knits, twills, printed viscose and cotton, etc. Caroline curates her shop amazingly – you won’t necessarily find loads and loads of fabrics, but it’s about quality, not quantity. When I order from Blackbird, I know that whatever I’m getting will be of amazing quality. She also sells patterns and notions.
  • Matchpoint Fabrics – deadstock/sustainable fabrics. Michelle only just recently launched Matchpoint, so the stock isn’t the biggest, but again, it’s quality over quantity. I love the idea of sustainably sourced fabrics, and buying local is a big plus as well.
  • Spool & Spindle – knits, flannels, cotton & viscose prints, lining, Japanese fabrics etc. I love Spool & Spindle. I almost always find something I want to buy. Spool & Spindle is also a bricks-and-mortar store based in Waterloo, Ontario (sometimes I have my friend at U of Waterloo pick up my orders for me). They stock high quality fabrics as well as notions, patterns, and thread (I love a one-stop-shop).

Brick-and-Mortar Shops with Online Ordering:

  • The Workroom – quilting cottons, lawn, rayon, knits, notions, books. The Workroom is one of my favourite shops to visit in Toronto. The store itself is gorgeous, and they stock a lot of “designer” fabrics (Robert Kaufman, Nani Iro, Cotton + Steel, Liberty of London, etc.). They also sell Bernina machines and accessories, lots of books and magazines (such as Japanese sewing books and Making magazine), tons of indie and vintage patterns, and amazing notions and tools.
  • Needlework Hamilton – quilting cottons, knits, rayon, lawn, etc. Needlework is a great little shop based in – you guessed it – Hamilton, Ontario. They sell a lot of great apparel fabrics such as Robert Kaufman and Nani Iro. I always like to keep an eye on them and see what they get in stock (for example, they just got in tons of colours of raw silk noil!).
  • Fabrications – quilting cottons, rayon, knits, lawn/chambray, etc. Fabrications, based in Ottawa, has a pretty solid stock of apparel fabrics. They stock lots of knits (solid and print), Nani Iro, double gauze, chambray, and more.
  • EweKnit – quilting cottons, lawn, rayon, chambray, knits, etc. I love EweKnit, another Toronto-based store. The actual shop is gorgeous and full of colour. They stock great fabrics such as Liberty of London, Merchant & Mills, and Cotton + Steel. Also, as the name suggests, they stock a huge amount of yarn!
  • Threadcount Fabrics – quilting cottons, rayon, canvas, knits, lawn, double gauze, etc. Threadcount was originally online-only, and only just recently opened up a bricks-and-mortar store based in Souris, Manitoba! I am always tempted by the prints sold by Threadcount – lots of Cotton + Steel, Dear Stella, and Art Gallery Fabrics!
  • European Textiles – various apparel fabrics (cotton, knits, lace), quilting cotton, upholstery fabrics. European Textiles is based in Hamilton, Ontario. It’s one of the few online shops I’ve found that sells stuff like satin, silk, lace, etc. If you need something a lil’ fancy, this might be the place to check out!
  • Patch Halifax – quilting cottons, rayons, knits, etc. Patch Halifax has lots of great “designer” fabrics from companies that produce garment fabrics as well as quilting fabrics, such as Cotton + Steel, as well as Nani Iro and various knits. The only frustrating thing is the cottons aren’t organized by type, so it’s a bit tricky to sort out lawns and canvas from the quilting cottons.
  • Fabric Spark – quilting cottons, lawn, rayon, knits, yarn-dyed, etc. Fabric Spark is based in east Toronto. They primarily stock quilting cotton, but have a handy little section of garment fabrics that includes Robert Kaufman Essex Linen, Nani Iro, knits, and boiled wool.
  • Five Arrows Fabrics – knits, cottons, linens. Five Arrows is a PEI-based fabric shop, and they pretty much only stock Merchant & Mills fabrics as well as some knit basics, but gosh, the Merchant and Mills stuff is lovely!
  • Maiwa – handprinted/dyed cottons and linens. You may already know Maiwa, which is based in Vancouver, BC, for their natural dyestuffs. But they have some incredible vibrant handwoven and block-printed fabrics, as well as white/undyed natural fabrics for dyeing.
  • The Make Den/The Woven Wolf – The Make Den is a bricks-and-mortar sewing studio based in Toronto, while The Woven Wolf is a website that hosts online classes. Fabric and notions stocked by The Make Den can be ordered online via The Woven Wolf. Currently they are moving locations, so there is no stock online, but they still have fabric available in store.
  • Spool of Thread – cotton chambray & lawn, rayon & bamboo, knits. Based in Vancouver, Spool of Thread is a sewing studio with a small but lovely stock of fabrics and patterns online. They stock Lady McElroy fabrics, as well as Atelier Brunette, which can be tricky to find in Canada.

Specializing in Knits/Jerseys:

  • Watertower Textiles – activewear knits, scuba, bamboo, etc. I recently stumbled upon Watertower Textiles when looking for fabric online. They stock tons of knits, including prints and knits great for leggings!
  • Prairie Love Knits – jersey, sweater knits, quilted knits, European knits. Another stumble-upon, Prairie Love Knits has a nice variety of knits, including stretch lace and notions.
  • Sitka Fabrics – jersey, minky. Sitka Fabrics has lots of great printed knits I haven’t seen elsewhere, as well as some great Euro knits and organic cotton knits. They also have actual knitted fabric, which is beautiful!
  • Fabric Crush – jersey, swim knits, quilting cottons. Fabric Crush has a large variety of knit basics and lovely prints. Be sure to check out their swim knits if you’re starting a swimsuit project!
  • Simplifi Fabric – organic fabrics; jersey, terry, fleece, athletic knits, thermal knits, wovens. Simplifi is a bit pricey because they stock organic fabrics, but they have a lovely selection and stock knits you might have trouble finding elsewhere.
  • L’Oiseau – sweatshirt knits, bamboo, jersey, wovens. L’Oiseau stocks some great prints that I haven’t seen elsewhere, as well swimsuit knits, bamboo, and merino. They also stock some great wovens, including poplin and eyelet.
  • West Coast Fabric Boutique – jersey, double brushed poly, swim knits. West Coast Fabric Boutique has a lovely selection of knits and jerseys, with lovely prints and sweatshirt knits to choose from!
  • Fringe Fabrics – jersey, sweater knits, quilted knits, ribbing. Fringe Fabrics has an amazing selection of knits – there are some great jacquard knits, legging knits, and cuffing, as well as a huge range of solid basics. I particularly love the Hamburger Liebe brand for something a little different!

“Chain” Stores/Brands:

  • Club Tissus – various garment fabrics (silks, lace, cottons), upholstery fabric, quilting cotton, notions. Club Tissus is only in Quebec, but they ship all over Canada. It’s another one of the few websites that stocks “fancy” fabrics, and they have quite a nice selection and a beautiful website. They also have all the notions and tools that you’ll likely need for your sewing project (like I said, I like a one-stop-shop). My main issue is that they don’t have free shipping deals like most online shops do, and prices are presented with the member discount (the “regular” price is in small), which you have to pay for. Also, only members get to take part in sales.
  • Fabricville (Fabricland) – pretty much everything sewing-related. Just about anyone who lives in a Canadian city knows Fabricville (or Fabricland outside of Quebec). They stock all sorts of fabric, but I’m not a fan of their selection. I often buy notions or tools here, since few other shops sell zippers, thread, etc. Like with Club Tissus, they offer no free shipping deal – in fact, the more you spend, the more your shipping costs.
  • DailyLike – oxford cottons, sheeting, canvas, knits. DailyLike is a Korean lifestyle brand, and DailyLike.ca is based out of Richmond BC. This is the website to check out if you love cute floral or animal-print cottons. They also have notions, stationery, and washi tape! How can you resist?

Shirting/Suiting Fabric & Menswear:

  • Sultan’s Fine Fabrics – wool, suiting, shirting cottons, linings. Sultan’s is a brick-and-mortar store in North York/Toronto, and he stocks stacks on stacks of high quality fabric. I have yet to find true dressmaking fabrics here, but doesn’t mean it’s not there. I recommend checking out the store in person, as the online selection isn’t anywhere near as impressive.
  • Thread Theory – jerseys, linings, some wovens. You may know Thread Theory for their patterns, but they also sell a small number of fabrics and notions in their online store.

Liberty of London Stockists:

  • Hyggeligt Fabrics – quilting cottons, lawn. Hyggeligt stocks tons of gorgeous quilting cottons, but if you’re seeking the much-sought-after Liberty Tana Lawn, you can find it here.
  • Dinky Doo – quilting cottons, linen, lawn. Don’t let the cutesy name fool you – Dinky Doo sells a great variety of the classy Liberty Tana Lawns. They also stock tons of Robert Kaufman Essex Linen and Cotton + Steel rayons.
  • EweKnit
  • The Workroom

Quilting Shops with Garment-worthy Fabrics:

  • Weave & Woven – quilting cottons, knits, oxford cotton, faux fur. Weave & Woven is based in Dundas, Ontario. I often find myself drooling over their selection of adorable oxford cottons and Nani Iro fabrics. They carry very fun printed knits and some rayons as well.
  • The Fabric Snob – quilting cottons, knits, fleece, flannel. The Fabric Snob has a lovely selection of knits, fleece, and flannel. I can also tell you from experience that Lindsey will package your order very lovingly!
  • Pins and Needles Fabric – quilting cottons, knits, corduroy, double gauze, rayon. Pins and Needles has a nice selection of prints (including Art Gallery Fabrics and Cotton + Steel), as well as notions such as Aurifil thread, ribbon, and print bias binding. They also sell patterns and adorable doll clothing kits!
  • Fridays Off – quilting cottons, linen, knits. Fridays Off has a small but nice selection of apparel fabrics including Robert Kaufman Essex Linen and solid knits.

Notions & Tools:

  • Sussman’s Supply Co. – zippers, ribbons, gemstones, feathers, etc. Based in Hamilton, Sussman’s is the place to find any trims and notions you’re missing. I happen to love them for their selection of invisible zippers, which can be hard to find online elsewhere.
  • Bra-makers Supply – pretty much speaks for itself! Based in Hamilton, this is the place to stock up for your bra- or corset-making endeavors.
  • Farthingale’s Corset Making Supplies – again, speaks for itself. They also carry millinery supplies, hoop steel, and tutu making supplies!

Used/Vintage Fabric:

  • Ian Drummond Stash – assorted vintage/rare fabrics. Ian Drummond has a vintage clothing shop, but he also collects and sells an amazing selection of vintage fabrics. I love to follow his Etsy shop and see any new finds that have been added. Also, if you’re based in Toronto, you can choose local pick-up and save on shipping!
  • The Old White Cupboard – vintage fabrics, linens, and trims. A lovely selection of vintage fabrics, mostly cottons, but you can find some quilts and linens as well.
  • The Fibre Trade – cut/pre-owned fabric, yarn, unfinished projects, quilting cotton. The Frade is a new and amazing website for selling, trading, buying, or donating fabric or yarn from/for your stash. Check them out and find some previously unwanted fabric a home! You can search listings by location if you want to shop local.

Tutorial: Low/High Bust Adjustment on an Empire Waist Bodice

If you’re like me, you hate making muslins and just want to get on with making an actual garment. I have little patience for muslins, and I always want them to magically work on the first try. Though we all know this is rarely the case, I always get frustrated when something needs to be fixed – especially if it’s complex enough that I’ll need to make another muslin after making the adjustments. Since I have many upcoming projects that require muslins (all of them are from either Japanese pattern books or vintage patterns – both of which aren’t tailored for the average 21st-century American figure), I decided to just do all my muslins at the same time, and then have them out of the way for a while.

I have been most excited about my vintage McCall’s 5142, which was a bit expensive for a vintage pattern, but I couldn’t stop thinking about it and had to have it. I’m lucky, with vintage patterns, because I have a B-cup (in patterns but not really in retail size, meaning the measurement taken above the bust, just under my armpits, has a 2″ difference from my full bust) and if I buy a pattern marked with a 34 bust, the only adjustment I have to make is for the waist (because vintage patterns seem to always have impossibly tiny waists).

With most patterns, my bust tends to be a bit lower than on the pattern. Usually this is fine, and worst case I just have to lower the darts. With my vintage McCall’s, since it has an empire waist that is cinched just under the bust, my muslin was not looking good (the midriff “band” wrinkled upward toward my bust). In my internet research I couldn’t find much on a low-bust adjustment (LBA from here on out) for an empire waist dress – so here’s how I managed to do it. I’ve seen a lot of vintage patterns in a similar style, so this probably won’t be the only time I have to make this adjustment.

Start by tracing off your pattern pieces (ESPECIALLY if you’re working with a vintage pattern). Make sure to mark the grainlines on both pieces, and if it’s marked on your pattern, trace off the lengthen/shorten line as well (marked in pink). If this line isn’t marked already, you can approximate it somewhere between the armscye/armpit and the bottom of the pattern piece. Note that the marking is perpendicular to the centre front, not the grainline.

Cut along the lengthen/shorten line.

Next you’ll have to lower the bottom half of the pattern piece by the amount you need to lengthen the bust. Ideally, the bust point would be labelled with a + with a circle around it, but my pattern didn’t include it. If the bust point IS labelled on your pattern, determine your bust point by measuring from the top of your shoulder to highest bust point (the nipple in more common terms). Now measure from the shoulder to the + on the pattern (don’t include the shoulder seam allowance) – the difference between your body measurement and the pattern measurement is how much you’ll need to add.

If you don’t have the + mark on your pattern, you can do what I did. I slashed my original muslin horizontally across the bust, and pull the midriff band down to fall under my bust (just warning you that this will look a bit funny). I measured the gap created where I slashed, and used that measurement (for me it was 1.5″).

For our example, I’ll use 1″.

Make sure the grainline stays lined up. Place a piece of scrap paper underneath and tape it down.

Using a ruler (or a french curve if the seam line is curved, as it is on the right side of my pattern piece), true up the side seams.

Trim away the excess paper and the main bodice piece is done! The same process will have to be repeated for the back bodice piece so that the side seams line up.

The same length we added is going to be taken away from the midriff band. For my pattern, there were notches indicating where the band is to be matched up with the bodice. I drew a line above these notches, perpendicular to the centre (marked in pink). Then, measure up, using the measurement you added to the bodice, and mark a parallel line across (marked in black). Since our measurement is 1″, there is a 1″ gap between the lines.

Now, fold the pink line to meet the black line (make sure you fold evenly the whole way across) and tape the fold down.

The curve will look pretty jagged, but we’ll fix that. Tape a scrap piece of paper under the top of the pattern piece.

Now true up the curve – you may have to chop off the part where the notches are, but just make sure that the line blends into the original curve before you reach the side seam – ideally you don’t want to shorten the side seam.

Mark the new placement of the notches (marked in pink). Trim along the new line that you’ve drawn.

And you’re done! Make sure you make a muslin to be sure that it fits.

It’s important to note that this process will lengthen the bodice – I’m pretty tall, so lengthening patterns is often a step I have to make anyways. If lengthening the bodice will bring it below your waistline, I wouldn’t recommend this process – unless the midriff band in your pattern is quite wide at the side seam. In that case, you can probably shorten the midriff band at the side seam. In my case, I didn’t have the width to spare.

This adjustment is also meant for those who don’t require a small/full bust adjustment – in fact, a full bust adjustment also requires the pattern to be lengthened slightly, so it should also help with the low bust issue. (You can find a tutorial on a FBA here).

This adjustment should also work for a high bust adjustment, if you shorten the bodice and lengthen the midriff band.

If you have any questions, please let me know!

Sewing a jacket isn’t always a snap

Photos by Ariel Markus

Pattern: Kelly Anorak by Closet Case Patterns

Fabric: Outer – Robert Kaufman Hampton Twill from Matchpoint Fabrics 

Lining – Nani Iro Brushed Cotton & Navy Bemberg Rayon from Spool and Spindle

So I hopped on the Kelly Anorak bandwagon, and finally made my first ever handmade jacket.

I gotta say, I was pretty nervous about it. There were a lot of techniques I had never done before, but I really wanted the challenge. I figured, though, that if hundreds (thousands?) of people had managed to make it successfully before, then with the help of the sewalong I should be just fine. I made a trip downtown to the Leather and Sewing Supply Depot and picked up all the tools and notions I would need for the project (I was hoping to buy the kit from Closet Case directly, but alas, they were sold out).

I was really nervous about my fabric choices, especially since I ordered everything online and couldn’t get a sense of fabric weight. I wasn’t sure if the Robert Kaufman twill (Hampton) I chose would be heavy enough, as other projects under the Kelly Anorak hashtag had used the heavier-weight Robert Kaufman twill (Ventana, which Closet Case Patterns recommends for this project). Still, I had faith that along with some lining (and potentially underlining), all would work out fine.

I actually ordered some flannel to underline the jacket for warmth, but opted not to use it in the end, as the outer fabric and lining combined felt sufficient for the spring jacket I was going for. Even without the underlining, it took me two days to cut out all the pieces (outer, lining, and interfacing) – there are a lot of pieces, and the instructions recommend that you write down and keep track of which pieces you’ve cut (of course, I didn’t do this).

Now, I bought the printed pattern of the jacket, and bought the PDF of the lining expansion. I didn’t have paper at home to print the PDF right away, so I thought I’d be smart and cut out the lining later when I had more paper, so that I wouldn’t waste time waiting for the day I made it to the office supply store. Well, I cut out the outer fabric using only the printed pattern pieces, not realizing that the lining expansion included different sleeves! (These are quite a bit roomier and don’t have a cuff or placket) I had already cut the original sleeves out, and they wouldn’t match the lining sleeves (luckily I realized this before cutting my lining). So, I had to cut out the sleeve lining from the original pattern, with the cuffs and little sleeve placket. It was really difficult to line sleeves that weren’t meant to be lined that way, and I don’t really think I did it properly. (If you’re interested, I didn’t “turn” the coat as per the instructions, but rather slipped the sleeve linings inside the outer sleeves and basted them at the raw edge before sewing on the cuffs as usual). But you can’t tell looking at it from the outside, so it is what it is. It’s just important to note, if you bought the lining expansion, that the sleeves have to be cut from the lining expansion pattern pieces. Lesson learned.

I lined the jacket body with a lovely, thick Nani Iro brushed cotton, which is soft like flannel but kind of feels like a tablecloth in weight (I don’t mind). I’m very pleased with how the print on the Nani Iro coordinates with the slate grey twill. I chose Bemberg rayon to line the sleeves so my arms could slide in without the sleeves of shirt riding up to my armpits.

Sewing the jacket went pretty smoothly overall, but I found at times the sewalong gave wrong or different instructions to those that came with the pattern (for example, one or two times the sewalong tells you to sew fabric right sides together as opposed to wrong sides together or vice versa). It’s best to follow the paper/PDF instructions and turn to the sewalong for visual aid (especially when it comes to the many tricky and confusing seams).

The entire time I was sewing, I was dreading the installation of the snaps at the end. When I practiced, the snaps sometimes would get completely hammered out of shape or the awl would not make a large enough hole to fit the snaps into. The tool for installing the snap studs would smoosh the heads of the studs flat every time (they were supposed to be rounded) – visually this was fine, but it made it very hard to snap and unsnap them. Since I could not find a creative solution to this, and did not wish to go back to the store and complain (or possibly have to buy a new tool), I settled on installing the snaps as an aesthetic choice rather than as a functional one. The snaps are so difficult to pull apart that I’m afraid if I close them I’ll tear the jacket. Luckily, the zipper works well and I can open and close the jacket anyways. Since the snaps made me angry, I opted not to include them in the hood, since I had no patience or use for them there.

I think some day a long time from now I’d love to try making another Kelly, because I found it incredibly satisfying to finally make my own outerwear. It’s perfect for these in-between spring days, and the fit was fantastic right out of the envelope (though I did make a muslin first). I can definitely see why everyone loves this jacket so much! I think I’ll get a lot of wear out of it this season.

Have you made the Kelly Anorak yet? Have you been thinking about making it but just haven’t managed to jump in?

Elisalex + Emery

Pattern: By Hand London Elisalex + Christine Haynes Emery

Fabric: Liberty of London Tana Lawn

I generally try not to rush my sewing, and I find that when I give myself deadlines of any kind I have a lot of trouble getting through a project stress-free.

I made this dress in the midst of a very busy time – Passover cleaning. It was my first time cleaning our apartment for Passover (usually we go to family for the entire eight days), so it was extra stressful. Still, I was convinced that I had to finish sewing the Kelly Anorak I had been working on (more on that in the next post!) – and, miraculously, it was finished just within a week of starting it. And, of course, I cannot be without a project, so as soon as I finished my Kelly, I got started cutting out the next piece of fabric in my stash.

Of course, in order to avoid deadline stress, I told myself I was just trying to make progress, and not to expect to finish anything before the holiday (as you’re supposed to avoid doing any “handiwork” during Passover). I do hate starting things and leaving them unfinished for a long period of time, but I told myself that I would rather get something done rather than leave it.

And, well, by Friday (the first night of Passover), I had finished all of the dress except for the zipper, facing, and hem. At that point I had to finish it! So I spent the entire day sewing away (at a surprisingly calm pace), until I finished the dress a mere three hours before the start of the holiday. Isn’t it nice when things work out that way?

This Liberty Tana Lawn was actually not intended to be a dress. At Liberty’s, I wanted to buy two different fabrics, but it was too expensive to get 3 yards of each (3 yards is my standard yardage for sewing dresses) – so I bought two yards of one, thinking I would finally sew my first blouse out of it.

Well, once I laid the fabric out on my dining table and played around with my pattern pieces, I discovered that I could actually squeeze a dress out of it (will I ever make a top??). I combined the Elisalex bodice with the Emery skirt, since I know both those patterns work well for me and I wouldn’t have to deal with a muslin. I spent a long time toying with the idea of making the sleeves puffed, and in the end settled on easing the original sleeve pattern into a cuff (giving the sleeves just a slight puffiness). I shortened the sleeves considerably to fall just above the elbow, and then cut out two rectangles that were sewn into cuffs.

Since this Tana Lawn print is quite translucent, I underlined the bodice pieces with white cotton lawn. The skirt is lined with Bemberg rayon so it won’t cling to my legs too much (but also mainly because I didn’t have enough of the cotton lawn left). I serged all the seams because I wanted to keep things simple.

I also cut out fabric to make a matching sash, but I was really impatient to have a wearable dress ready, and so I may make and add the sash later. I am really pleased with the dress on its own though, and am still waiting for warmer days so I can wear my light and cotton-y dresses. Shouldn’t be long now, should it?

Liberty of London Zoe Dress

Pattern: Zoe Dress by Schnittchen Patterns

Fabric: Liberty of London Tana Lawn

My thought process throughout making this dress certainly had its ups and downs, as the pattern I used had its…mysteries. This was the first time I sewed anything by Schnittchen Patterns, a German pattern company with some really lovely modern designs. I bought the German-language pattern as a PDF (I actually thought I was purchasing an English-translated one. Turns out only the pattern pieces were labelled in English), figuring that regardless of the language barrier, I could interpret the instructions, IKEA furniture-style. Well, this was the first time ever that I got a pattern with text-only instructions. Nevertheless, I figured I’d just follow the sew-along linked to somewhere on the website. Well, the link was broken, but using the magical powers of Google, I found it. By using Google Translate (which offered some laughable translations), the sew-along helped me enough to sew up the dress.

Something else mysterious about the pattern was that nowhere on the internet – not in Google searches in English or German, not on Instagram – did I find more than three photos of a finished dress. Two of them were posted by Schnittchen (one on the product page and one in the sew-along), and one of them was posted by Tassadit on her blog, Rue Des Renards.

Do people not make this dress? I scoured Instagram – first I tried the English hashtag, #zoedress – which was much too vague and gave me hundreds of children’s dresses. Then I tried in German – #kleidzoe – turns out there’s another German pattern company that has a “Zoe Dress”, because that’s all I saw. I didn’t find anything else. It surprised me, because it’s a nice enough dress, and it’s beautifully photographed on Schnittchen’s website.

But I didn’t let the lack of photos stop me, and I figured it would be a bit of an experiment. Of course, since I used the precious Liberty Tana Lawn that I bought at Liberty’s this past October (I was drawn to the little orange frogs and peaches!), I made a muslin first. I was a bit worried, because the shaping of the pattern looks pretty unusual (the centre back dips upwards and the back neckline is quite high, and the sleeve cap looked especially curvy) – but after making the muslin, the only change I made was adding a bit of ease at the side seams and centre back. The dress doesn’t have a lining, and I opted to pink the seams and bind the armholes with matching bias binding.

There were a few things in the actual pattern that bugged me, but they aren’t really problematic if you’re familiar with garment construction. One was that there weren’t notches in a lot of places that I felt needed them (in the waistband side seams, and the notches in the armscye are the same in front and back), so I had to add them myself. Another was the French cuffs on the sleeve – there was too much excess fabric in the sleeves to sew the cuffs down without puckers, so I just cut them off and hemmed them as I usually would. Not adding the collar was a personal choice, as I didn’t really feel it suited me.

Also, you can’t really see the pintucks because of how busy the print is, but the pintucks in the skirt don’t line up at the skirt side seams. I considered sewing the skirt pieces and then sewing the pintucks, but I decided to follow the sew-along’s instructions. Since my pintucks were folded just a few millimetres off, they don’t line up with each other (if you’re a perfectionist this would really bug you). Luckily, the print hides it and I can barely see the tucks in the first place. These are just little things you’d want to be careful with if you were sewing the dress in a solid colour, or if you’re a bit more nitpicky.

That said, I wouldn’t say the fabric I chose was the right choice for this sort of pattern. There are so many lovely little details that just get hidden in the print. I do love the print, so I’m still quite pleased with the dress, but I don’t think it was a match made in heaven.

The dress overall is quite well drafted, but I also don’t think that the shape of it suits me. It has quite a high waist, and together with the gathers, it’s a bit too “baby doll” for me. I like a dress that comes in at the waist. I considered lengthening the bodice so that it would fall at the waist, but the pattern was intended to be high-waisted, and I really wanted to give a different style a try. I probably wouldn’t make it again, but I would certainly recommend the pattern to someone who’s a fan of the high-waisted/empire look. Also, the neckline is really very high. I actually sewed the neckline facing 1/4″ deeper to make the neckline a bit more open – it didn’t require any adjustments, just a matter of sewing a 5/8″ seam allowance instead of the 3/8″ the pattern calls for.

In the end, it’s the beautiful Liberty fabric that makes this dress feel truly special, and despite the parts that aren’t just right, I’ll probably wear it quite a bit if (when?) the weather ever warms up.