On doors

School starts in a few days. Despite this fact, I have only just returned (four days ago) from a brief sojourn to Amsterdam and Brussels. It made preparing for Tuesday a bit hectic, but travel is never to be regretted. I told my brother that I travel for art, books and beer, and this excursion provided a glut of all three! I should add cheese to the list, as I feel I have come back to a cheese desert.

If one needs a reason for travel, and I am not sure that one does, mine is always art. I am a museum junkie when I travel, and it is all I really do, apart from glorying in the cheese utopia that is Europe. I had four days in Amsterdam and four in Brussels, happily spent visiting as many museums as I could. Both cities offer excellent museum and transit passes that allow one such as me to revel in art for 72 hours.

For this trip, it all started with Vincent Van Gogh. A book was released this summer, coinciding with an exhibit in the Van Gogh Museum (entitled On the verge of insanity), about the last year or so of his life. This was the year in which he cut off his ear after an argument with Gaugin, was in and out of asylums (asyla?), and ultimately committed suicide on July 27th, which is my birthday. (He shot himself in the chest on the 27th, and died of his wounds on the 29th.) The book contained the examining doctor’s illustrations of the ear incident. I had always understood that he cut off the earlobe, but the illustrations show that all that remained was the earlobe.

I had just read two biographies of Egon Schiele (over whose painting The family, shown blurrily below, I sat silently weeping at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna eight years ago),

and was in a tortured artist kind of moment when I decided that I had to go to this exhibition. Also, cheese! And the many other delights of Amsterdam! I booked my ticket and hotel, decided to go to Brussels as well, and bought new suitcases.

New suitcases

Aren’t they cute? The design across the cases makes a world map!

Suitcase for trip

I went for the middle suitcase. It weighed 12 kilos at Pearson and 22,9 kg at Schipol on my return. Maximum is 23kg, so I just made it through without excess baggage charges!

I am afraid that I took no photos in Amsterdam. I never brought my camera with me, although I always had my phone. Amsterdam is quite photogenic, unlike me, but I was too busy to stop and take photos, I suppose. Readers will have to bear with my photos from my trip journal.

After an overnight flight, I did very little the first day, apart from checking in to the hotel, taking a nap and walking around the neighbourhood. I found a gelato stand and enjoyed a lovely mango gelato as I walked through Sarphatipark, which was across the street from the hotel. I got started the second day visiting museums, with the Van Gogh Museum and Stedelijk, a contemporary art museum in the same quarter. Rijksmuseum is also there, but I did not go. I find I am more interested in art that is slightly more contemporary. Also, it was not included in the pass, apart from a discount. And it is a big museum. It will be there for my next visit.

Amsterdam Van Gogh ticket

My tickets. Chagall is my absolute favourite artist, so I was obviously very excited to find two of his paintings at Stedelijk. I am looking forward to the Chagall exhibit in Montreal in the new year. It will relate his art to music, which is so very apt.

I loved that the Van Gogh museum is dedicated to a single artist(I had only been to one such museum before: the Chagall museum in Nice, France.), although the collection includes some contemporary (to him) artists. The exhibition on his final year was amazing, but it was equally amazing to see his development as an artist. He was really only active for about ten years, and what a decade. Although it was difficult for Van Gogh to have only sold one painting in his lifetime, how fortunate that the family was able to maintain such a complete collection of his entire oeuvre for us to see now. Only a very few major paintings are not at the museum in Amsterdam.

Van Gogh iPhone Champs de ble avec corbeaux

This one, Champs de blé avec corbeaux (Wheatfield with crows), is in the collection. And my iPhone finally has a case!

Some of my other favourites: Flowering plum orchard (after Hiroshige)Butterflies and poppies (I almost bought this iPhone case as well, but thought it would be excessive) and Almond blossoms.

On that first day, I really only had time for these two museums. There was so much to absorb: Van Gogh had a prolific correspondence with his brother Theo and I had to read everything! There are many other museums in Amsterdam, and on my third day, I visited three.

Amsterdam Hermitage, Verzetsmuseum, Rembrandt tickets

Verzetsmuseum (Dutch Resistance Museum), Hermitage, Rembrandt House tickets.

I am not a history museum person. Nor am I a war museum person, but I went to the Dutch Resistance Museum anyway. It was terrific! So interesting to learn about the little ways in which the Dutch rebelled against the German occupation. My notes are messy, but I was impressed with the way in which the museum laid out the history of this difficult time. This museum also helped absolve me of the guilt I felt in not going to Anne Frank House, as it detailed the Jewish experience during the occupation.

Who knew the Hermitage had a branch in Amsterdam?   I was toying with going to St Petersburg this summer, until I found out about the Van Gogh exhibit, and I got to go to the Hermitage anyway! There were two main exhibits: one on Catherine the Great and one on portraits of important people in Dutch society. Very well presented and interesting commentary. The Hermitage, in Russia, will be a future voyage.

On the last day, I went to two museums: FOAM and Tassen Museum.

Amsterdam Tassenmuseum ticket

Tassen Museum ticket. FOAM did not issue one.

FOAM is a photography museum. The museum had a temporary exhibit on Helmut Newton, who did a lot of fashion editorials. Amazing photographs! And on the top floor were contemporary fashion photographers. Tassen Museum is a museum about handbags. It is quite a collection! It tracks the movement of handbags from men to women and from function to form. Very interesting collection and commentary.

After this, I went to Brussels. I took a bus and arrived at 6:30PM. Everything was closed. No map! I used my phone to find my hotel, as I knew it was not far from Gare du Nord. My data roaming cost me 25$ for those 10 minutes (Bell sends helpful texts whilst traveling, including fees incurred!). I did very little, apart from checking in and going to Proxy, a small grocery store next door (cheese utopia!) for something to eat. I love going to grocery stores whilst abroad. I like knowing what people actually eat and can find in their stores. I ended up having to buy a bottle opener so I could try a raspberry beer: lovely! And I have a Belgian bottle opener now!

Brussels ouvre-boite

A functional and beautiful object. Much nicer than the one on the top of my corkscrew.

I made my way to the Grand Place the following morning, in order to obtain my Brussels card and start my museum visits. My attempt at a panorama of the Grand Place:

The left is the city of Brussels museum, centre is the tourist bureau and the right shows cafes. There was a fourth photo, between the museum and the tourism office, but it was heavily shadowed. Newly armed with my Brussels card, I set off for the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. The site contains four museums: Musée Fin-de-siècle, Musée Modern, Musée Old Masters and Musée Magritte. I skipped the Old Masters (as I generally do), and went through the others. They are primarily art museums, although the Musée Fin-de-siècle contains decorative objects as well. Brussels, along with Paris and Glasgow, were major centres for Art Nouveau.

I was particularly interested in Magritte. There are two Magritte museums  in Brussels and I went to both. This one contains the major works, and is amazing! It includes many of his articles about his work, which make for fascinating reading and a deeper understanding of how he viewed his art. I amassed a small Magritte library!

Magritte Mots et images

This is a large postcard of an article Magritte wrote about the representation of objects using words and images. It clarifies Ceci n’est pas une pipe, a work that baffled and enraged many viewers.

There is always a particular museum that I treasure on a trip; in Vienna, it was the Globe Museum (and the Esperanto Museum, in the same building). In Brussels, it was MIM, the Musée des instruments de musique (Musical Instruments Museum).

Brussels musee royale MIM tickets

MIM is in a glorious Art Nouveau building. I didn’t bother taking a photo when I saw it on the ticket!

MIM closes at 5PM, and I did not get there until after 3. It was not enough time, and I went back two days later to complete my tour. There are four floors of musical instruments to experience, and it takes awhile. The audio guide contains extracts of music featuring many of the instruments in the museum. Numbers on the floor in front of the instruments indicate the track on the guide. This is a delightful museum! My favourite floor was the fourth: the keyboard instrument gallery.

Brussels MIM keyboard gallery

The introduction to the keyboard gallery. There were also signs in French and Flemish.

These instruments are pieces of furniture, and beautiful ones at that. I took several photos in the keyboard gallery, and of harpsichords and a geigenwerk in the other galleries.

Brussels MIM harpsichord

This one is so interesting, with a second, smaller keyboard. These instruments are beautiful objects in and of themselves.

The decorative aspect of pianos and their role as a piece of furniture are what make me love them so much. Many of the pianos on display were quite ornate.

Brussels MIM fancy piano

A very fancy piano! My MIM piano book tells me it belonged to Queen Marie-Henriette and dates from 1865.

Brussels MIM arched piano

This one is a cabinet piano from 1830. The arch made me think it was more 20th century…

Brussels MIM piano round keyboard

I wonder if the curved keyboard makes it easier to play? This is from 1882 and has only two pedals (difficult to see because of the barrier).

There was also a Theremin in the mechanical instruments gallery. I am fascinated by the Theremin, with its eerie sound. The Ondes Martenot was another instrument that intrigued me. So, I bought the book and CD to help me remember these instruments and their unique sounds.

On this first full day in Brussels, I only managed these two museums, as I spent a lot of time getting to know my way around. (Some may call it getting lost; I prefer to think of it as getting to know the city.) I do my utmost whilst traveling to not look like a tourist: I dress nicely, speak politely, keep my camera hidden and, although I  carry a map, I only consult it away from others. I hate asking for directions and prefer to muddle my way through until I recognize something: a landmark, a street name, etc. It always works out, somehow! It was also a distinct advantage in Brussels to speak one of the languages well enough to not be immediately pegged as a tourist. I am so afraid of being seen as that worst kind of tourist: belligerent, sloppily dressed and unappreciative. So, I end up wandering a bit the first day, but then I am able to navigate successfully on subsequent days.

The following day, I navigated the metro! I went to Musée René Magritte in Jette. This museum was his house for a 25 year period. There are no paintings there, but it was interesting to see the house. A delightful Belgian woman gave us (me, a Russian couple, a Korean couple and an Englishman) a tour of the Magritte apartment, replete with anecdotes about the artist and his wife, Georgette. In the neighbourhood, there were many mosaic images in the style of Magritte, on the sidewalk and in front of a school.

Brussels school in Jette

Wouldn’t you like your school to have this on its gate?

I returned to the centre of Brussels to visit the Musée du costume et de la dentelle (Costume and lace museum). The temporary exhibit was all about wedding costumes and was beautifully displayed. The guidebook was very well-written.

Brussels musee de costume ticket

Pretty ticket! Museum tickets have become souvenirs, too.

A few doors down from the museum, on Rue de la Violette, is a children’s bookstore, Le Wolf. I travel for art, books and beer, remember? I bought some books for my classroom, including two that reimagined Little Red Riding Hood and The three little pigs. The wolf family role plays the story of Little Red Riding Hood and it is hilarious! Of course, all of the books were hardcover, which explains my suitcase gaining 10 kilos…

Around the corner from these two sites was Éditions Jacques Brel, which I went to the following day (after revisiting MIM). There are two parts to this museum: the museum itself screens films by and about Brel, there is a room reproducing his writing process (he wrote all of his songs on graph paper!) and the audio guide contains interviews and songs as you go through. It’s very small, but it still takes about 90 minutes for a completist like me! The second part of the experience is the Promenade. For this, you are given another audio guide and a map, and are sent out into Brussels to see sites important in his life and career.

Brussels Jacques Brel walk

Éditions Jacques Brel museum guide and map of the promenade.

The walk takes about 2,5 hours and is very interesting. It is again accompanied by interviews and his songs. I skipped the yellow part of the map, as I was tired, but it was a great excursion. Only two wrong turns (but the songs were playing long enough for me to right myself!). A few videos to acquaint those unfamiliar with the brilliance of this man, especially in performance:



Les bourgeois

La valse à mille temps

My final day in Brussels was spent buying chocolates and macarons at Pierre Marcolini in the Galeries St-Hubert. I’ve had a few macarons; so far, my favourite was salted caramel.

I visited another bookstore, Anticyclone des Açores, which is a travel bookshop! I found some interesting books for my classroom as well as inflatable globes in French!

My last museum was the Musée de la bande dessinée (Comic strip museum). Brussels comic museum

It was very interesting, particularly the first floor explaining how comics are made. The second floor had two exhibits on perhaps the best known Belgian comics: Tintin and the Smurfs. The third had a temporary exhibition on current comic artists.

In all of my wanderings around Brussels, I encountered marvellous architecture. (I am finally getting to the title of this post: on doors!) As someone who will probably never get to choose a front door, I am obsessed with them (and highly critical of those I see around me). Brussels has some beautiful doors, due to its importance as a centre of Art Nouveau. The houses may be small, but the entrances have impact.

Brussels door circular

I love this door! It was in Jette, and I snapped it on my way back to the metro. It is unfortunate that the mail had not been collected…

Brussels door arch

This was also in Jette. I love an arch and the curves and wonky lines add such interest. The glass adds further texture.

Brussels door deco

Again, the curves and the glass have presence. The handle is not overbearing, and one can really make an entrance (or exit!) with this door. This was somewhere near the Grand Place.

Brussels door green

Here is another arch. This was a larger building, near the Grand Place. The ironwork is so intricate, and, although green typically makes me look ill, I would stand in front of this door gladly.

The list of sites I did not see in Amsterdam and Brussels is at least as long as the list of things I did see! Anne Frank House, Rijksmuseum, European Parliament, Atomium were all missed. So were Mini Europe and Bruges, both of which I had every intention of visiting. Time is never on my side when I travel, and it is just not possible to do it all. I am, as mentioned above, a completist and want to see everything in the places I do go, which takes time. However, I never go anywhere just once, so there will be a next time.


Sartorial considerations

I had to change the name of this quilt; it was to be Sartorial considerations, but my fabric for the label was not wide enough, so I dug out my dad’s thesaurus (my second favourite type of book, after French dictionaries from the early twentieth century) and settled on Sartorial matters.Shirts lower left back prewashNot to worry: I fixed the “m” in Jim’s name, after not leaving a long enough tail to pull through to the back. This photo was taken before the label was adhered to the quilt, and before the final wash which made it nice and crinkly. I cannot tell you anything about these two fabrics, except that I purchased them in Henniker, New Hampshire, on my way back from Nova Scotia in 2013. I think they look terrific together and believe them to be part of a line of fabrics.

Sartorial matters (né considerations) is the culmination of my work in paper piecing. I used the Shirts quilt pattern by Carolyn Friedlander and learned this time consuming technique.

I made some changes (don’t I always?!?), reducing the number of blocks from sixteen to twelve and adding sashing and borders. I like the separation and framing of the shirts that was achieved. I wanted the shirts to look like they were in a closet, since I chose brown for the sashing and borders. I find that I am becoming increasingly deliberate in my quilts as I use more pre cuts. The shirts were made from five charm squares, which measure 5 inches. Each shirt and background took two, while the trim used one.

I spent a long time choosing fabrics for the shirts. I opted to have the trims in solid fabrics and the backgrounds in a crosshatch. I did change the layout and fabrics from my initial plan, but I am happy with the outcome.

Paper piecing is very fussy! Each of the shirt blocks was composed of four templates, which were then assembled to make the block.

I ended up labelling the templates after a disaster that necessitated recutting most of the top two components of the block.  After several evenings and some mornings (4:30 is the new 5:30 for me, whether I wish it or not), I completed the twelve blocks.

I realize that only eight are pictured here, but I failed to put the final four in their own photo! After the blocks were done, the sashing and borders were quick.

I knew that I would not quilt within the blocks, but I wanted the shirts to be defined, so went on to ditch stitch all those little seams. That took several evenings and some of those early mornings! Finally, the quilting. I wanted to densely quilt the brown, but how? I kept coming back to the idea of a closet framing the shirts, but I though it might look weird if the woodgrain changed direction. I also thought about pebbles, but that takes forever (and a lot of thread!). I dutifully made four quilt samples: two to reacquaint my muscle memory with these stitch patterns and to test a variegated thread that I was considering, and two with shirt blocks to see if it all looked too weird.

Shirts pebble sample

Pebbles: The variegated thread was the first casualty. It was just too light for the brown background fabric.

Shirts woodgrain sample

I love woodgrain, but worried about it in the narrow sashing, and changing direction.

Shirts pebble block sample

The pebbled block was OK…

Shirts woodgrain block sample

… but I liked the woodgrain so much better!

So, woodgrain it was! The ditch stitching took forever, but the woodgrain only took about three hours. I think it works, even with the narrow sashing and the directional changes.

Shirts centre prewash

I captured most of the quilt here. This was before it got nice and crinkly in the wash.

Two winners here: I got to learn a new skill and Jim got a retirement quilt! I will miss our sartorial and musical discussions, but maybe he will get some ideas from this for his retirement wardrobe…

Catching up: tops!

I find that this is a very apt topic, as I am again working on the Shirts pattern, this time for a quilt. As my little shirts go together on their paper templates, I wonder whether these are fussier than actual shirts.

Even so, today is about people tops, not inordinately fussy quilt blocks. I have been doing a lot of reading and fretting about wardrobe planning over the last several months. What became clear was that mine lacked tops and blouses that I actually wanted to wear. I had several cuts of beautiful fabrics that were sitting unsewn because I had not yet figured out what they were to become. (I continue to suffer from this issue, although I alleviated myself of the stress of some 30 metres of suiting last week, partly in preparation for my move this summer, but also as the result of a rather ruthless assessment of what I really want and need in my wardrobe.)

I had (and have!) several knits intended for tops. I like to wear knit tops with trousers or skirts. The old standbys (Sewaholic Renfrew, Angela Wolf’s ruched tee and Jalie  2794) had been made in horrific polyester ITY that was unwearable. I also really like cowls, so I tried a PDF pattern (so much taping!!) with viscose (rayon) knits.

I actually made two, but only one is still with me. It is in a striking fabric, called Recollections, from Sawyer Brook. I added sleeves from another Maria Denmark pattern to make it a multi-season top. It takes me out of my comfort zone (so much orange!!), but I love the print and the dramatic cowl. Although my measurements aligned with a small, I ended up making a medium due to the negative ease, particularly at the bust. My test garment screamed “Boobs!”, and I was a bit distressed with respect to dressing appropriately for work! Sizing up helped, although the top is still quite close-fitting at the bust.

Despite there being a year and a half between these makes (I made the following items whilst performing jury duty this winter), I feel it makes the most sense to continue with knit tops. I am late to the discovery of Ottobre magazine. It is a Finnish publication that contains patterns, along the lines of Burdastyle magazine. It is great for basics, such as knit tops. I ordered some back issues last fall, which arrived promptly, with instructions in Dutch and Swedish! (To be fair, I did get to download the English instructions for certain issues.)

Ottobre 2.2006 & 2.2009

Ottobre 2.2006 and 2.2009, with Dutch instructions! My mum gave me a subscription (to the English version) for Christmas. Thanks, Mum!

I started with the most basic of knit tops, pictured in pink, from the 2.2006 issue. The photos showed a very close-fitting top, so I sized up when tracing the pattern.

Ottobre 2.2006.1

The line drawing shows a neckband, but when I made my test garment, I disliked the effect. I decided to use a facing at the neckline instead. I ended up making three tops.

The blue print on the left was my first iteration. I ended up making quite a few alterations. It was too long and too big. It is still a little looser than I would like, so I may revisit it once more. For the moment, it works. It is a viscose knit from Emma One Sock. The brown and black tops are bamboo jersey from Queen Textiles. I decided that I prefer an elbow length sleeve in this style of top, and they are considerably shorter than the blue print. The side seams are much more curved as well (harder to see in the black version, but quite evident in the brown). This is a great base for solids and busier prints that would obscure design details. I think this is my new go-to knit top pattern, as it also includes a V-neck option.

The other issue of Ottobre pictured, 2.2009, has the Waterfall top. I love a cowl, so I had to try it.

Ottobre 2.2009.5

Ottobre 2.2009.5 Waterfall top with Dutch instructions, but an English name…



I really like this top. The cowl is not as deep as in the Maria Denmark top, but it works. I learned how to change the shape of the cowl from Pam Erny’s tutorial about this very top (scroll down to Fold and Flip Facings). By changing the shoulder gathers to a pleat and playing with the placement of the pleat, the cowl deepens or becomes shallower. I had fun experimenting. Again, I made three, all out of beautiful prints that had been aging in my stash for about two years.

I tell a lie: the grey patchwork print on the left was purchased in November 2015! The two brown prints have been around for awhile (grey and pebble prints from EOS; watercolour floral from Marcy Tilton). The centre top is the first iteration; I can tell because it is so much longer! Although I make test garments for every new pattern, the length is not always an issue until I get to the fabric. Fabric content and degree of stretch play a role in making further length adjustments necessary. These tops get a lot of wear! I love the prints and they work with jeans, trousers or skirts. Another keeper!

I bought three yards of the brown pebble print from Emma One Sock, intending to make a twinset. When the print arrived, I felt that it was too lightweight for a cardigan, and a little too busy. I toyed with the idea of making a dress, but felt it would be awfully clingy. So, it sat. Until I came across the Debra Zebra top from Style Arc.

Style Arc debrazebratop

Style Arc Debra Zebra top

There is a theme here: I tend to prefer autumn and winter clothing. I prefer sleeves to sleeveless or short-sleeved garments. I like interesting necklines. As the cardigan queen, I need tops that work as layering pieces.

Style Arc Debra Zebra

Style Arc Debra Zebra top. Look familiar? I made this before the Ottobre top.

It does not really fit my dress form well, but it is difficult to show these things without arms to fill out the sleeves. This one does not get as much wear as the cowl top, but the funnel is not my preferred neckline.

I made only one blouse that gets regular wear. It is from a pattern that I bought while travelling through Maine last summer. I always stay in Bangor en route to Nova Scotia (coming back home to Ontario, I always stay in or near Freeport so I can go to LL Bean!). We no longer have New Look patterns available in Canada, so I purchased a few at a JoAnn store in Bangor. I had never worked with New Look before, but I liked the look of this blouse.

New Look 6407

New Look 6407

The funny thing is, I actually wear mine exactly as in the photo! This is a casual blouse that looks great with jeans, although I have worn it with cotton trousers that read as trouser jeans. It is too casual for skirts, in my iteration.

Cuffs up or cuffs down? I prefer cuffs down when I am the cardigan queen. I also prefer my shirts well-pressed. Oops.

The navy gingham is a stretch cotton from Queen Textiles (leftovers of which were added to Bleuet). It allows a casual look to be a little more polished. In a shirting, it could probably work in a dressier context. I had to do a lot of work on the pattern: the waist had to be raised, as did the neckline; there was a lot of length to remove above the bust, at the hem and at centre back. It was worth the effort, as I wear it a lot. The neckline is not my favourite, which is why I have not made more versions. I am still working out what my ideal blouse looks like and trying different patterns in an effort to attain the holy grail of blouse-ness.

The back has waist and shoulder darts. I am learning that I need shoulder darts! I love the buttons on this blouse, bought locally at Capital Buttons.

Enough tops for now. In the time that I spent writing this post, I have completed five more shirts, made a batch of applesauce and my lunches for the week. (I take a lot of procrastination breaks!)

Shirts 5 blocks

Shirts quilt. Eight blocks done, four to go!

Catching up: skirts!

The dresses last week were just the beginning, as I have skirts and tops to catch up on as well. Let’s start with skirts!

I have made several over the last two years, although I only put them into regular rotation this year (last winter was way too cold to don such garments!). Skirts are great: they use very little yardage, they are easy to fit and construct and they have become easier to co-ordinate as I move toward purchasing more basics (as opposed to fabrics that are beautiful, but destined to become orphaned garments).

The Patterns: Burdastyle 8/2013.130, Silhouette 2913, Simplicity 1322, Burda 6835, Hot Patterns Lantern, Liesl & Co City Stroll, Style Arc Janet and Mary-Ann.

Skirts can be kind of boring. I am always looking for interesting shapes and details, and I found them in many of these skirts. My most recent skirt was from Burdastyle magazine and I loved making it. There is a front zipper closure, a wide waistband and an overlap at the centre front. It has a kind of eighties bell shape with slant pockets and sits near the navel. Burdastyle 8.2013.130 frontThe hem does line up, I promise! It is difficult to fit skirts on my dress form, as her waist is much smaller than mine.

I used a beautiful wool for this skirt, in blue, of course, since most of my fabrics are blue or brown. I usually avoid pleats or tucks at the waist, but these ones are not so bad. They add interest to an already interesting skirt.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 waist

I used a cotton for the waist facing to reduce bulk. Also pictured is the front zip closure, akin to a fly front, but much easier to construct using a separating zipper.

I used the same cotton for the pocket facings. The skirt is unlined, which is unusual for me, but it is not strictly necessary here. You can also see my hand stitching to keep the front facings in place. I did the same herringbone stitch on the hem.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 closure

A view of the front closure. I used a large snap and hooks and eyes on the waistband overlap. The zip is angled quite steeply.

Burdastyle 8.2013.130 buttons

Buttons are just for show.

I really like this one. It is quite unique and fun to wear. Isn’t that why I do this?

Silhouette 2913: I made this one before in denim, but always planned one in a faux leather that I had purchased from Emma One Sock. It has been in my wardrobe for quite some time, but I had never worn it, until this winter.

Silhouette 2913 faux leather

Silhouette 2913. I still love the panels in this one and I still dislike the waist treatment.

I had to shorten this one quite a bit, which I did in the top panels. I like having the longer panels below. This was an exercise in extreme care whilst topstitching the faux leather. As with velvet, there are no second chances!

Silhouette 2913 faux detail

Topstitching detail.

The waist treatment is something to consider if I take this one on again. I hate it. The pattern calls for fold over elastic, which is not widely available here, and certainly not in colours. I would much prefer a waistband, but that is for another day. Not sure if I would make this one again: it is quick to construct, even with the lining that I added. The shape may just be a bit too unique, although I have a beautiful brown (naturally!) faux suede that would work well.

Simplicity 1322: It turned out so nice, I made it twice!

These are view F. In hindsight, the A-line is a little wide on me. I may revamp the side seams a bit to bring in the excess width. The grey is a J. Crew suiting while the houndstooth is a lovely wool, leftover from the Style Arc Odette skirt. (I could only purchase full yards and needed more than one for that skirt). I lined these skirts, which complicated the construction somewhat, but was necessary. The finishing called for in the pattern would have been ugly.

The wool needed a cotton waistband facing in order to reduce bulk. I had leftover fabric from a quilt I made for my mother that I thought would be fun. And it is!

The second Burda skirt, also made quite recently, confirms my love of all things Burda! The patterns go together beautifully, they fit me well and they have details with a bit of an edge.

Burda 6835 front

Burda 6835

I love this skirt! I love the exposed zipper on the front (although it makes driving a little inappropriate!) and the shaping of the panels. There are seven panels in this skirt and it has a centre back zipper. Amazingly, I did not have to shorten the skirt panels! View B hits exactly at my knee. I did have to find a shorter separating zipper than called for in the pattern, as I did not want it to be wrapped around the hem. So, I have some extra zippers hanging around!


The skirt is fully lined, which I did by hand at both zipper closures. The fabric is called Galileo, a cotton brocade, purchased from Sawyer Brook in 2014. I purchased four yards, with the idea of making a dress and jacket. The dress was a major fail as the pattern was overwhelming. I sat on the remaining fabric for a long time before finding the Burda skirt in the 2016 spring release. I believe it to be a great match of pattern and fabric.

Burda 6835 Galileo detail

Galileo cotton brocade in blue (of course!). Stunning!

In the pursuit of interesting shapes, I came across Hot Patterns’ Lantern skirt. It has a hem band that gives it a unique shape that is difficult to capture on my dress form. I call it my Hallowe’en skirt (even though I made it last summer), due to my fabric choices: black linen from Designer Fabrics and orange bemberg lining (I have a lot of this for some reason.).

My linen needs to be pressed! This was an easy make, although I had to shorten it considerably. It is very loose at the hip and the waist is a bit too big for me. This probably explains the fact that I have worn it just once, to my Shakespeare book club last fall. I may give it another go, if I size down and shorten further.

Liesl & Co puts out great patterns that are easy to wear. I made the Maritime top last summer, and purchased the City Stroll skirt at the same time. I really like wrap skirts, or mock wraps (as shown above, with Simplicity 1322). I used a beautiful linen that looks a bit like denim.

The overlap is rounded and uses a facing to finish the edge. There are slant pockets and buttons used as a closure on the inside. It is unlined, although I used lining for the pockets. It is a cute, casual skirt, great for summer strolling. I tend to dislike summer styles, as they are often a bit sloppy, but this one allows me to appear a bit more pulled together.

Style Arc is one of my favourite pattern companies. Their patterns are classic yet current. I had a fabulous cotton from Marcy Tilton that was reversible.

Style Arc Janet reversible

Inside the Style Arc Janet. The gridded side of the fabric is a bit overwhelming, but works in the godet.

The Janet skirt offered the chance to use both sides of the fabric in a fun way. I like the godets and the interest they add to a basic panel skirt.

When I traced the pattern, I wondered if it was a doll skirt as the pieces were so tiny! Because of the wide waistband and the godets, the panels are quite small. The waistband took quite a bit of work to fit, but it fits well now. I lined in bemberg, as ever, this time in hot pink!Style Arc Janet lining

The Mary-Ann skirt has been made before, in what I call my non-threatening librarian look. I love this skirt, although I have yet to actually make it with the pockets! Neither of my fabrics would work with the pockets, as they were too thick.

Style Arc Mary Ann faux suede

Style Arc Mary-Ann in faux suede.

I have worn this one a lot this winter. It is a great shape on me and I love this fabric (even if it is polyester!). The neutrals of the fabric make it easy to co-ordinate with tops and the length is perfect. I made it ages ago, but it is another that just started to be worn this winter.

Style Arc Mary Ann faux waist

Waist facing in quilting cotton and a gorgeous grey bemberg lining. I love the stitching detail around the checkerboard squares!

The fabric was too thick to make nice pockets, which is why I left them off. The waistband had to be faced with cotton to reduce bulk. I believe the lining is hand stitched to the zipper and I am building better waistbands, although the corners could be tidier!

So, skirts! I have to say that my favourites are the two Burda skirts. They are just so unique and push me out of the non-threatening librarian zone. All eight skirts have been worn this winter, some more than others, but all are still hanging in the wardrobe.

Clearing out and catching up

Delinquent again! Almost two months this time, so at least I’m being consistent in my absence. I have spent the week-end cataloguing my fabric stash. I have always kept a running spreadsheet of fabric as it comes in, but I added photos to help me remember what it all looks like. In doing so, I managed to relieve myself of 13 cuts of suiting and two unfinished projects that were never going to get back onto my roster. This is good, as I will be moving in the summer and I hope more of my fabric will be moving as finished garments, in my suitcase, rather than as yardage.

Since I had the camera and the necessary light (it was sunny in the mornings), I opted to take photos of all the garments I have made but not shown in the last two years. Quite a job! It would all be too much for one post, so I propose breaking it up by garment type. Today will be dresses. There are three and I’ve only had one nap today (it is Sunday, after all), so I feel that I can manage.

SA Layla, M6187, D&D Bleuet

Style Arc Layla, Deer & Doe Bleuet, McCall’s 6187

I completed these dresses over the past two years: I believe Layla was finished in summer 2014, Bleuet in summer 2015 and McCall’s was my Halloween costume in October 2015. Shall we go in chronological order?

Style Arc Layla

Style Arc Layla I love how Style Arc includes a swatch with the patterns!

I wrote a post last fall about my rules for dresses: no waist seams! Layla seems to scoff at this rule, but I scoff at making patterns as they are. The test garment revealed that, indeed, a waist seam would not work for me. The skirt and bodice darts, moreover, were virtually impossible (for me) to align satisfactorily. The beautiful thing about Style Arc is that there is almost always a separate lining pattern. That was the case with Layla. I used the lining pattern, with fisheye (contour) darts as the dress exterior (and as its lining!). It worked well.

Bear in mind that my dress form only shares my bust measurement, so the shaping of the darts is not remarkable on her. Layla is a great office dress, not so great for working with little kids in a classroom. I had a bit of a panic attack after completing the back vent and was almost resigned to hand sewing the rest of the lining. (I always do back vents first, even when it says otherwise. It is easier before the entire dress is assembled.)

Style Arc Layla vent

Style Arc Layla vent

I sought advice on a sewing forum and got my head around machine installation. Linings are tricky; I have developing spatial sense (yes, I did use report card lingo!) and there is a lot of mirroring in the process. I got there in the end and am quite pleased with the result, although I have not yet worn the dress.

Style Arc Layla back lining

Style Arc Layla I did it all by machine!

The sweetheart neckline is not quite as pronounced as in the line drawing, but I think it may be some of the unpicking/restitching that had to happen in order to get the lining in. Style Arc Layla sweetheartCap sleeves are also not my favourite. The fabric is a poly/rayon suiting from Sawyer Brook. The rayon content makes it wearable for me and the poly helps prevent wrinkling. The lining, as ever, is navy rayon bemberg from Downtown Fabrics.

Deer & Doe Bleuet

Deer & Doe Bleuet Will you recognize it in my version?

Where to begin? I love shirt dresses. I needed one in my life last summer. I had a fabulous navy stretch cotton woven that needed to be a basic dress that I would actually don. I love this dress! It ticks so many boxes for me: no waist seam, princess lines that elongate my non-tall form, gentle A-line in the skirt and a whimsical bow. I did not love making it. I made four versions: two test garments and two dresses before I almost got it right. Mine does not look like the line drawing, as you will see.

Deer & Doe Bleuet front

Deer & Doe Bleuet Wrinkly because I had just worn it!

The first major difference is the sleeve. I have broad shoulders. Puffed sleeves are not an option. That aspect of the pattern was a non-starter from the outset. I redrafted the sleeve, not entirely successfully, as there is still just a bit too much ease for a truly smooth installation. But it works well enough. Done is better than perfect is becoming my mantra.

The major issue at the beginning was sizing. My initial test garment, made in a size 40, according to my measurements, would not even close at the front. I sized up to 42 and tried again. Still a bit too close fitting, but I went ahead and made it in some black stretch cotton. The collar and neckline were ridiculous! In this navy version, I used a 40 for the upper torso, grading to a 44 through the waist and hip. I prefer a silhouette that skims my body, unlike the version pictured on the Deer & Doe website, which is a little small for the model. I also opted for a contrast bow.

I love the bow! I used a gingham stretch cotton from Queen Textiles (the navy was from there, too) and it worked beautifully. I used it on the inner collar stand and hem facing as well.

In the collar photo you can also see where I used stay tape to stabilize the shoulders. I love hem facings! They make a hem so crisp. This may be a new practise for me going forward.

Although I love this dress, there remain a few issues: the sleeve head needs less ease, the collar is a little skimpy and the bow is perhaps too whimsical to employ in subsequent versions. The shaping in the dress is wonderful for my columnar body and I foresee making more Bleuets, after working out these changes.

McCall's 6187

McCall’s 6187 Usually I just disguise myself as a teacher for Halloween, but this year I made a costume!

Halloween at school is kind of a nightmare. This year, however, I decided to join in the madness (after lunch). I am fortunate to teach Grade 2, as the major thrust of the Social Studies curriculum is multiculturalism and celebrations. So, in the morning, we can talk,  read, and write about Halloween and how it is celebrated before embarking on our parade and structured celebration in the afternoon.

Early in October, I picked up the McCall’s pattern and the requisite fabric and notions to become Little Red Riding Hood. I read some great books with my class that contained variances on the theme.


Lili rouge

The lion has a plan for dinner. It’s great for teaching procedural writing!

Arrete d'interrompre

Spoiler alert for several fairy tales! Interrupting chicken is hilarious; his advice to Red: Ne parle pas aux étrangers (Don’t talk to strangers!)!

The pattern is pretty straightforward and sized S-M-L for adults. I made the medium without any alterations, because I was in a time crunch. It went together without issue and I used poly/cotton broadcloth from Fabricland for most of the costume. The apron and sleeves are a cotton I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics while passing through Maine last summer.

I opted to not do the ribbon across the centre front bodice. The dress is actually a black gingham (are you sensing a theme? You’ll see more when I get to the tops I’ve made!). Then there was the cape.

McCall's 6187 cape

Cape over a different dress!

I decided to go fancy on the seam and hem finishes. I had no red serger thread, and you may have noticed I’m a little matchy matchy on these sorts of things, so I had to choose a different seam and hem finish. Did I mention that there are 4 metres of fabric in this cape? That makes for a lot of long edges to bind, which is what I did.

This process took ages! I had the dress done, and, thinking the cape would be really quick to assemble, left it late. I was scrambling to get all the seams bound before I had to wear it. I also used the gingham for the hood lining.

McCall's 6187 cape back

The cape is a bit wrinkly after wear.

So ends the dresses I have made and mostly worn since the summer of 2014. There remain the tops and skirts made in that period, and Coco is finally done, too, with trims and chain but no pockets.

Winter endeavours

Winter 2016 has been most interesting. As ever, it started off quickly, with a return to school on January 4th, and all that that entails. On the 5th, I had to report for jury panel selection. That case was cancelled, but, in Toronto, jury panels must be available for one week, so I had to go back two days later for selection in another case. And I was selected as juror #2! For four weeks, I was a member of a jury. It was fascinating to have this glimpse into our justice system, not to mention playing a role within it. Sequestration for three days of deliberations was not so fun, but the process was illuminating. Throughout, I amused myself by engaging in a new hobby: knitting!

My neck warmer, made of Malabrigo Rasta.

My neck warmer, made of Malabrigo Rasta.

I took a class at Eweknit in December, just before Christmas, and completed my first knitted project: a neck warmer. It has been very cozy and much less bulky than a scarf. I made one for Mum, too. I subsequently decided that I wanted to make hats. I love hats! They use small amounts of yarn and time, and are very useful for one whose head is always cold!

Completed hats

Completed hats (and my neck warmer!).

So far, I have made seven hats. (I have actually made eight, but my hat class hat is hidden so well that I have failed to locate it.) It was tremendous fun to make all of these, and I have learned so much in making each one. I have made repeats (and a three-peat) in my ensemble of hats. The first hat I made was a Barley hat, from Tincan Knits.

My first hat! Using Cascade Eco Duo in Chicory.

My first hat! Using Cascade Eco Duo in Chicory.

It turned out well, if a bit large for me. Still, I’ve worn it many times and it is very warm. The yarn is an alpaca and merino blend, which is very soft. I love how the yarn striped in the body of the hat, but that the colours remain neutral enough to wear with either of my winter coats (one is black, the other camel). I learned how to use my gauge swatch to get more accurate sizing for my particular measurements, although I really did not need to do so with this yarn. I did the math correctly, but the yarn is more elastic, so the hat is a bit large. Oops!

I liked the Barley so much that I made two more! In Riverside Studio Merino (blue/brown) and Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.

Barley three-peat! In Riverside Studio Merino (blue/brown) and Brooklyn Tweed Shelter. 

As with so many of my garment fabrics, my yarn choices tend to be in shades of blue and brown. I am not, however, exclusive to those colours.

A pair of Sweetpea hats in Loops & Threads Charisma.

A pair of Sweetpea hats in Loops & Threads Charisma.

I made the Sweetpea hats as part of a Craftsy class. They are very cute and I may make myself one in a non-acrylic yarn. I really disliked the feel of these yarns as I was working with them, but they served their purpose of helping me in my knitting journey. These will likely go on our hat/mitten tree next winter at school. For these, I learned how to do an eye cord (I cord?) tail. I think the tail is my favourite part (if a bit eccentric for a woman of my age to don!).

Colourwork! Insulate hat in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (grey/fuchsia) and Baable in Debbie Bliss Blue faced Leicester aran.

Colourwork! Insulate hat in Berroco Ultra Alpaca (grey/fuchsia) and Baable in Debbie Bliss Blue faced Leicester aran.

I decided to try stranding. The Baa-ble hat is tremendously popular and for good reason: it’s so adorable!


Baa-ble unfolded. 24 rows of ribbing!!

Baa-ble unfolded. 24 rows of ribbing!!

I love the little sheep grazing in the meadow. This hat was fun, once I got past the enormous section of ribbing. It is very warm, and the Blue faced Leicester yarn was lovely to work.

Insulate! My Dalek hat.

Insulate! My Dalek hat.

I may not have made another Baa-ble, but I tried another hat with stranding. You may remember that I am a Doctor Who fan, so when I saw this pattern, a Dalek hat was inevitable. I learned a new decrease and really enjoyed making the hat. The Ultra Alpaca was a pleasure to work with, and the hat is so soft and cozy!

Thus ends the hats of winter 2016. I did knit some washcloths as well, as a way to practice stitch patterns.

Washcloths for practice.

Washcloths for practice. The blue one is a TARDIS!

Starfleet washcloth.

Starfleet washcloth.

These were early projects, so my finishing is not great. Corners are a little wonky, but they are usable! Again, we see the blue/brown trend in my colour choices.

So, knitting! It has not supplanted sewing, but I do have to balance my hobby time among the different types of projects that I wish to pursue. I like the fact that, in knitting, not only am I making a project, but I am also making the fabric for it! However, I see myself staying small in my knitting projects, due to the time involved. (Having said that, I DO have a sweater quantity of Malabrigo Rios in my yarn basket…)


Happy New Year (22 days after the fact)! I have been remiss in keeping up to date on my projects, but here I am, with one of them. This post is about a Christmas present for my favourite sister-in-law! I have made quilts for several family members, but she was the only one who had not yet received one, and I felt really, really bad about that fact. For the record, my mum has three, my nephews (SIL’s sons) have three, my aunts each have one, my cousin’s sons (except the latest, but I’m on it!) each have one, even my brother and my dad (via my mum!) have one each. This was not entirely neglect on my part; I was waiting for the right pattern and fabrics to speak to me on my sister-in-law’s behalf. And it finally came together this autumn.


The Kittens by Elizabeth Hartman

I love Elizabeth Hartman’s animal patterns, and have already made Fancy Foxes and Hazel Hedgehog. When I saw this one, I immediately thought of my sister-in-law and downloaded it. I knew that I did not want to make it as a 30 block quilt and plotted it as a baby sized, 12-block quilt. Until I found two things:

1. all of the kittens have names, one of which is shared by my sister-in-law

2. the ideal fabric


Zen Chic Reel Time

There is a pair of adorable, friendly cats in her household. There is also a great love of movies. There is a block with her name in the quilt. Could this combination be any more perfect? Her block, then, had to be the centre block, which meant an odd number of blocks. There were four other kitten blocks in the pattern, which meant I could not get the balance of blocks I like to have in a baby sized, 15-block quilt. So, I went up to 25 and decided on five of each block.  But, that wouldn’t work with only one of her block! Luckily, the pattern had a solution.

Plain cats

Plain cats

There is a plain cat block in the quilt pattern! These four blocks became the four corners of the quilt! I used these larger scale prints because I felt that they wouldn’t work as well in the more detailed, named blocks, which have many little pieces.

Before I got to the point of construction, however, I spent a long time (3,5 hours!) plotting the layout. If you have read one of my quilt posts, you already know how obsessive I am about balancing colour and blocks in a quilt. This one involved six different blocks (5 named kittens and the plain cats above), so I could not simply run up the blocks and hope for the best.

Kittens fabric plan

This was the fabric layout I came up with.

I attempted to get all of the main background colours into each row: white, orange, grey, green and black. I also tried to get a balance of print: the little x-print either side of the centre, the dots diagonally around the centre, the TV print and film reels on the corners, the film strips print at the centre of the top and bottom rows and so on. Once the fabric was chosen, I plotted the different blocks to get a balance of kittens.

Kittens project box

Difficult to read, but I drew the quilt, naming the blocks and fabrics, as well as the position of each in the quilt. This was my bible during this project!

Kittens block organization

These are all the same block (Mr Snuggles). The number on the bag indicates its position in the quilt. Yes, I drew each block during planning! I pinned those little drawings to the finished blocks until they were in their rows!

I constructed blocks five at a time, as there were five of each. Here is one (Mr Snuggles), laid out before construction.Kittens blockAnd here are the finished Mr Snuggles blocks:

Mr Snuggles

Mr Snuggles

I worked in this way for all of the blocks, constructing them five at a time until all were finished. I constructed the four plain cats with the centre block.





Bacon Bits

Bacon Bits



I should have used a colour other than black for the eyes and nose on this block. When it was complete, I noticed that the darkness of the background makes it difficult to discern the little facial features. Oops!

And, that is where the photos end! I was absolutely convinced that I had taken a picture of the quilt top, pre-quilting, but I am, apparently, not that clever. I took all these process photos to help with playing “Spot the kitten” on the finished quilt. Again, oops! Maybe my favourite sister-in-law will be a dear and snap one for me…

Kittens for Chrissy courtesy of herself

Kittens for Chrissy

Back of quilt Thank you for taking and sending the photos, Chrissy!

Back of quilt
Thank you for taking and sending the photos, Chrissy!

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