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.

Are basics boring?

Pattern: Half Circle Skirt tutorial from It’s Always Autumn

Fabric: Rayon Ponte Knit in Charcoal from Blackbird Fabrics

Let’s talk about basics, shall we?

I have a weird love/hate relationship with sewing basics for my wardrobe. I love the satisfaction I get from whipping something up so quickly, and creating something I could wear all day, every day. Also, I need more basics in my wardrobe. Most of my casual wear is RTW stuff I bought about five years ago, and I wear the same things over and over even though they’re pretty much at the end of their life cycle (well, according to me. I think H&M intended for me to replace my tops a few years ago). Meanwhile, the pretty dresses I’ve sewn up sit in my closet ’till springtime.

The reason I hate basics, even though they can be made in an hour or two (compared to my dressier pieces, which on average take 8 hours), is because they’re, well, so basic. Solid neutrals never excite me, so I often prioritize the colourful florals in my stash over the solid blacks and greys. I actually often dread sewing them, even though I feel so proud of myself when I’m done.

My husband is usually pretty strict with my fabric-buying habits, and he wants me to get through my stash (don’t worry, it’s not that big) before I buy anything more (surprise, surprise) –  but he made an exception for fabrics I’d actually wear. I excitedly ordered a bunch of knit solids from Blackbird Fabrics, knowing I’d gotten away with yet another purchase.

And here’s what I did – I left those fabric bundles piled on my desk. I hate clutter when I’m about to start a new project, so I forbade myself from packing my new purchases in with the rest of my stash. I knew that the pile would bug me until it was taken care of, so I pushed through, sewed up some great basic skirts, and gave myself a pat on the back.

love circle skirts of any kind, and doing the measurements for a half-circle skirt was quick and easy. Add an elastic waistband, and voila! (Well, not quite. I had to hem the darn thing, and I find hemming flared skirts downright frustrating). Perfect for twirling in.

(If I look tired, it’s because I photographed this on Daylight Savings, ok?)

Pattern: StitchWitch M202 View C

Fabric: Rayon Ponte Knit in Black from Blackbird Fabrics

I also made this. This skirt was an interesting one. I got the pattern from my mother-in-law, who’s South African and had tried to get into sewing back in the old country. She brought with her piles of sewing books and patterns which I don’t think she ever touched, and she let me take my pick. One of them was StitchWitch M202 “Easy pull-on Skirts”, and I actually gave View C a go. The instructions were terribly illustrated (in a quaint way. It’s from the early 90s – I’ll let it go) and very vague, and the skirt had way too much ease for my size (I think the waist measured 40 inches before the waistband was attached). Luckily, it’s a stretch skirt, and the waistband sorta gathered everything together so it actually stays on my waist (though there are some awkward puckers that are easily hidden depending on the top I wear). All in all, though, I actually really love the skirt I got out of it. It flares wonderfully, and it is insanely comfy, so, kudos to StitchWitch in South Africa!

Ahhh, so now that those are out of the way, I can finally get to my beautiful cotton lawns for spring sewing (and the #alittlelawnparty Instagram challenge!). Basics, it’s been fun, but my florals await!

Zeena Dress in Nani Iro Double Gauze

Pattern: Zeena Dress by By Hand London

Fabric: Nani Iro Suzuran Field – Double Gauze

I don’t know what took me so long to get around to this dress. Sometimes there’s this one little hurdle to just get over before you can get sewing. Either you’ve lost your sewjo, you just didn’t buy a matching zipper or thread, you don’t feel up to tracing/cutting the pattern…we’ve all been there.

For me, it was the fit adjustments. I have forward-thrust shoulders, and adjusting for it is always pretty straightforward with set-in sleeves (it involves taking a wedge from the front of the shoulder seam and adding it to the back). I struggle a lot when it comes to kimono sleeves though (which is annoying because half of my vintage patterns are kimono sleeves). Since the sleeve and bodice are one piece, I can’t make an adjustment to the shoulder without having to adjust the entire sleeve. Yes, I found one or two tutorials, but they involved cutting an impossible-to-shape triangle out of the shoulder (comment below if you know of other solutions!).

So when I sewed up an adjusted muslin, I moved the entire shoulder seam (neck to sleeve hem) forward more than an inch! I tried on the original muslin and then the adjusted one, and they both looked exactly the same. I felt so dumbfounded that the pattern sat gathering dust atop my scrap bin for about 5 months.

Last week I finally mustered up the courage to try again – I still felt conflicted, but my gut told me not to make any adjustments to the original pattern.

After all that, the whole dress (minus hemming) was done in a day.

I love it, though. It was my first time working with double gauze, which I found to be surprisingly “sticky” (for lack of a better term) – easy to sew, but trying it on over leggings wasn’t a good idea. But overall, it’s soft, lightweight, and just opaque enough that I could get away without a lining.

I almost always line my dresses, so since I wasn’t lining this one, I opted to do French seams for all the seams except the zipper and waist seams (I had to serge those. I didn’t want to, but I had gotten impatient at that point. It got the job done). I would recommend French seams if you’re working with a lightweight fabric – my fabric was borderline thin-enough to get away with it. Since double gauze has two layers, I was also able to slip stitch the neckline facing down all the way around.

After all my non-adjustments, I found that the fabric still pulls kind of weirdly around the neck. I’m not sure if making my shoulder adjustment would have changed that. All in all, the fit is perfect around the waist and I love the pleats that go all the way around the skirt. It’s cozy but flattering. I also cannot get enough of the fabric – the colour, the print…I couldn’t even tell till I started sewing it, but the little white dots are actually bits of silver! Ah, Nani Iro, you have me under your spell.


There’s a first time for everything

Hi there! I’m Rebecca, and welcome to Of Cotton and Wool.

I learned to sew and knit when I was about eight years old, and I don’t think I ever really stopped. I very seriously dabbled in cake decorating (like going-to-real-cake-design-school serious) before realizing that I was slightly more obsessed with fabric than cake (don’t worry, I still make and eat plenty of cake). So I carried that with me into university, and graduated from the textile design program at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto, Canada.

I spent the summer after graduating telling people I would start the job hunt soon, when really I was just busy sewing dresses and knitting sweaters. It felt really, really good. I became obsessed with sewing and knitting podcasts as well, and I’ve been learning more about the incredible, global maker community that exists on Instagram and blogs. Historically, I was one to sew “special” dresses – clothes for wearing to weddings (I don’t go to that many) and other special occasions (there are a lot of Jewish holidays, but not that many). Enough research taught me that I could actually make clothes for everyday. Things that scared me, like sewing knits, were actually so straightforward (and really quick). In reality, there was nothing sewn that I couldn’t make if I put my mind to it. Sweater dresses? Sure. Collars and cuffs? You bet. Jackets? I don’t see why not!

Not only could I make whatever I want, however I want, to fit my body, I also could have complete quality control. While the concept of fast fashion has been bothering me for quite a while, what with the global decline in ethical manufacturing processes, I was also growing tired of the quality of clothes available to me in shopping malls. I haven’t really been able to afford the “eco/ethical” brands out there, nor have I really found brands that mesh with my style. I felt I needed to know exactly what was going into the production of my clothes, and realized the best way to know is if I make it myself. Not only that, but in constructing a garment myself, I become so familiar with how it’s built that I find I’m more comfortable with mending it down the line.

So now, it has become my goal to knit and sew my own wardrobe. Such a wardrobe makeover is hardly innovative, of course, but it’s still new to me and it’s been opening my eyes to all sorts of possibilities. It’s a whole new adventure in making clothes, and I’d love for you to come along for the ride.

Along the way, I also hope to share some resources that have really helped me. As a knitter, I have been striving to support Canadian-farmed/milled fibre, but I’ve found that those farmers can be difficult to track down online. As a sewist (sewer? seamstress? Does anyone really know?), I try to source my fabric from small Canadian businesses that provide quality fabric and service (and domestic shipping!). I look forward to sharing my discoveries with you as I go.

Lambs’ wool yarn from Lickety Spit Fibre Farm in Ontario