Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kristin Shrugged

Meet my fave homemade garment to date:

It's so comfortable, it's incredibly warm. Um, it's machine washable peeps!

Now, this one cost $15.00 and took 3 hours to make (ok, and then another hour in reworking, but still). That's quite a deal for something I enjoy many times a week. Honestly, none of these photos shows it to its best advantage, but if I don't post these pics, who knows when I will be motivated again...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Honestly, If You Want to Buy This For Me, I'm Game...

It's clean, it's bright. It brings the lush outside world together with an austere, but comfortable interior.

The older I get, the more I realize the worth of a view...

Photos courtesy of, as usual, desire to inspire...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Terrific Twos

Hey, y'all, I'm not big on the anniversaries, but I just realized that my blog turned two on January 25. Wow, time flies. For kicks, you might want to check out my very first post.

Intriguingly, everything I wrote there is still pretty accurate. And I didn't even cringe re-reading it.

It goes without saying that you make blogging an utter pleasure and I love hearing from you via comments and email. Thank you for continuing to read and share your thoughts.

Sometimes bloggers do those "ask me anything" free-for-alls. Needless to say I have probably told you 5x more about me than you ever wanted to know. I mean, I'm not exactly a closed book. But, maybe there's something about K you're still itching to discover. (My fave colour? :-)) If yes, please email or leave message in the comments and I'll do a follow up post with feedback.

Much love, Kxo

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Why do they call these scalloped potatoes au gratin? Cheese doesn't factor in at all. But, happily, there is lots of butter and heavy cream.

Just so we're clear: I don't understand potatoes unless they're coated in fat.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I Want To Go To There

When you grow up in Southern Ontario, arguably the only exciting geographic element is the Canadian Shield. We spend our time machinating to get to the cottage - our own or someone else's.

I could really handle having a friend who'd invite me to spend a weekend surrounded by this:

Really, I cannot say how tremendously I appreciate the team at desiretoinspire, from whom I have discovered these and zillions of other great photos . I derive so much pleasure from visiting the site and seeing what beauty they have managed to find for us in numerous fantastic posts each day.

No question, the blog is a "must bookmark".

Monday, January 25, 2010

As Requested...

Here's the polka-dot pink dress I made - on me!

Gotta say, I'm really enjoying it. I've worn it three times since I made it a couple of weeks ago. Oh, and it cost $10.00 in material (eeek!). Ok, it also cost 14 hours in labour, but I'm ok with that.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Toga Party

So hear it is, my lovelies - the Isabella Oliver Toga dress:

This toffee-coloured dress is utterly beautifully constructed. It's lined with a same-tone tricot slip, the drape is spectacular and the asymmetry of the neckline and sleeves appeals tremendously.

Gotta say though, it's not a garment for the faint of heart. It emphasizes every curve, and as you know I am not short on those. I can't wear it to work, it's simply too, well, distracting. However, if you were of straighter proportions than me, I think it would play up the curves you're seeking and be extremely chic.

Scott, my photog, could not stop talking about its elegance.

I will totally purchase from this brand again. But, next time, I will choose something a smidge more conservative, to get as much use out of it as possible!

Secretly, this is my dream purchase du jour:

I think it's extremely unlikely that it will still be available on April 1, when my no-shopping moment has passed. But if it is, this is my next splurge.

Thanks, Lucy, for giving me a chance to see this beautiful line up close and personal!

The Shopping Strategy

What makes shopping valid?

I've spent a lot of time considering this lately - well, for years actually - but even moreso recently because a) I have every item of clothing I could ever need to put together attractive and functional outfits each day, b) because the better I get at sewing, the less I feel like purchasing a finished product. I want to create it! and c) because there's a lot of waste in this world that I don't want to contribute to. The money I don't spend on clothes I don't need or that I could make, is money I can apply to other endeavours. Eating, for example.

Here's what happens to me everytime I decide to leave the fashion shopping alone for a while:
  • I discover a great new boutique.
  • One of my fave stores opens a warehouse sale location.
  • One of my fave stores has the sale of the century.
  • An item I cannot live without jumps into view.
  • Every fucking thing looks great on me.
I know, it makes you want to cry for me.

In light of this - and btw it started happening as soon as I decided merely to consider not shopping for the next couple of months - I have had to determine my core, legitimate justifications for purchasing new clothing in general.

Thing is, it's not good enough to say "I'll get a lot of use out of it". I'm a pretty experienced, dare I say talented, purchaser of clothing. I use everything I wear because I don't have so much of it that I can't get through it all - and because I don't buy things unless they are practical and desirable enough for me to wear them constantly.

Nor is it ok to say "It's on mega-sale". Yeah, a good deal is thrilling, but I'm starting to feel so awful about the cheapness of labour and how I contribute to the cycle (keep in mind, I am my own sweatshop lately). I just can't go there with abandon any longer.

The notion that I cannot live without something, so awesome is it and perfect on me, is a compelling one. Of course, it's one I wouldn't have so many opportunities to exploit if I weren't a stealth browser. But one could have umpteen such things, were she to find herself in a lucky patch, and at some point it's just more of the same.

So here's what I've decided - and this is for purchases after March 31 or whenever I decide I want to buy something next (see how I'm emotionally leaving my options open). I will not buy unless:
  • It's totally useful.
  • It fits very well.
  • I love it to bits.
  • The price is right i.e. I can afford it comfortably, whether or not it is on sale.

What's your take on things? I mean, we who read the fashion blogs are peeps who tend to love all elements of shopping as, if nothing else, a means to an end. There's the hunt, the feel, the kill, wearing, taking photos, collecting and the list goes on.

Do you feel controlled by your impulse to shop? Do you have new or standard systems in place to keep you confident that what you purchase is right for you and your lifestyle? Do tell.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Make / Do Style

On Jan. 1, fabulous Kate, of Make Do Style, issued a new year challenge. It advocates a 3-month save, culminating (if you choose) in a high-quality - and fiscally guilt-free - splurge. The idea is that many consumers, such as those who love clothing and fashion tremendously, tend to fritter their money away on impulse and/or disposable purchases, and then lament the lack of funds to buy those beautiful dream-items they've been wanting forever.

How many times have you said you want some Manolos "but they cost $700.00", only to discover (or to stringently avoid discovering, by hiding the credit card bills) that you've spent practically the same amount in a month or two on skimpy object A and impulse-buy B. (This example can be recreated at any price point.)

Now you know my take on the New Year's resolution. It's way too high on the scale of commitment. By its very nature, it encourages the late-January (col)lapse.

And yet, I appear to be following this challenge. (Mega-disclaimer: I reserve the right to change my mind and buy everything withing walking distance at any moment according to my whims.)

Of course, I've put my own spin on it. In my universe, fabric and patterns don't count as fashion expenditures. I figure, if I want new things between now and March 31, no prob. I simply have to get out my machine and sew them.

Yes, my friends, the use of the word "simply" is completely tongue-in-cheek. We all know how easy I find making things, what with my excess of experience and incredible degree of patience. :-) But, except for newbie element, and maybe the passionate nature, I am optimally positioned: I have the machine, the patterns, the fabric (what? I have a little stash), the interest, the love of finished products, the sew-in labels - they arrived!

In fact, my sewing obsession has effectively done away with any time I might spend shopping. Um, I'm not exactly fast like lightning.

So far it seems to be working out well. No doubt you'll see 83 more posts on this topic before the end of March.

PS: To those of you asking about the Isabella Oliver dress - ok, I'm giving away the secret that it's a dress - I'm going to a party on Saturday, and I intend to wear it then. Photo shoot coming up. Thanks for being interested!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Urban Jungle

I love how density and privacy interact here...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Little Thoughts

Many of you know the fabulous blogger Yulanda. She writes a great post, takes an incomparable photo - and has some of the most effortless style ever (trust me, I've spent time with her in real life). Some of you may also know - and she has discussed it openly, I'm not talking out of turn - that Y's been fighting a fairly significant battle for the last few months.

In addition to her many delightful qualities, Yulanda is one of the bravest people I know. She has uncomplainingly managed through numerous procedures, not only recently, but as a child when she encountered serious illness for the first time. And lately, as I understand it, it's been a pretty dark night of the soul kind of moment, one of those times when exhaustion and the unknown are hitting hard.

So I have an idea.

To disclose, right off the bat, I'm one of those children of hippies who's been brought up believing that the power of optimism is inestimable. As a long-time practitioner of yoga, I am convinced (because I've seen occur often enough) that thought is energy, and energy transforms things. I've been giving Y a lot of thought for a long time now. When I walk to work, she pops into my mind. When I read her tweets about hospital visits, I consider how she's feeling. When I check out the latest issue of FASHION (a publication where she interned last year), her image is close at hand.

I wonder how great it would be if we could all take some time, when the moment is right in our own (over) schedules, to think about this terrific woman - and to consider her challenge in the context of our optimism. I mean, why not bring the entire blog community to bear? Aren't we more together?

Furthermore, I'm sure that Y would love to know you are thinking about her (if she hasn't heard from you recently) and wishing her speedy recovery. I know I'd want to hear from you! So, may I suggest that you head on over to her blog and write her, well, a little thought?

I for one, am not tired. And I'm sending some bright energy her way.


You have got to check out this post, which provides extremely cool photos of a small space, egg-shaped dwelling that offers all you need to live comfortably - if austerely - in 20 metres squared. McMansions, beware!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday Lunch

While I'm still feeling meh (I think I may have some kind of sinus thing - and I've never had a sinus thing before), I am trying to eat well (as opposed to everything in sight).

Have a look at this modified Real Simple recipe I made. The recipe is in the current issue...

Poached eggs with sauteed tomatoes and wild mushrooms, served on top of multigrain bread, toasted - I like my toast rather dark!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

It Arrived!

Here's a little teaser of my new Isabella Oliver mystery item, which is just gorgeous. I'm not going to tell you exactly what I got, I'd rather prolong the suspense until I can take a nice, styled shot of it. Of course, that presupposes that I'm going to somehow get in the shower and put on some lipstick.

It will happen soon.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where is Kristin

I have been stuck either a) under blankets or b) in front of the new fancy cable watching questionable programming for the last 3 days. I guess that means I am officially under the weather.

To wit (and I write this with a raging headache so it may not make much sense): I decided that the only thing that might help said headache would be an extra strength ibuprofen and a coffee. Needless to say, leaving this house is not an option. Which means I had to make the coffee. That in itself almost threw me over the edge. Eventually, when my espresso finished bubbling to the carafe, I poured it into a cup, opened a carton of cream (which I smelled, I do this reflexively), and added some in.

Of course, I can't freakin' smell anything, which means the iffy cream bits floating in the top of my coffee, made it past my razor-sharp detection methodology. I mean, I had another cream in the fridge. It's not like I couldn't have opened a new one if the old one smelled off!!!

But I'm not proud. I skimmed the surface of the cup and drank that shit. You gotta pick your battles.

PS: Cream was nowhere near best before date (still 2 weeks away) and on reviewing rest of contents I decided it wasn't really bad, just maybe moving in that direction. Still, I'm a freak. I mean, sick.

PPS: Upshot is you may not see too much action here as I finish with my pre-posted material and haven't yet had a chance to develop more. Let's see how the weekend plays out.

PPPS: The Isabella Oliver dress arrived and I'm a) so blah I haven't even managed to try it on (afraid to look in mirror) and b) so wanting to try it on and look good and write a post about it. Wish me luck.

PPPPS: There's another new post below this one. And it's actually interesting. So read it, ok?

Bubblegum Chic

In case you thought I had a problem with loud patterns, this post will disabuse you.

This is the latest dress I have made, using a pattern from Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin (aka Built By Wendy).

Although it looks shapeless here, it is actually attractively form fitted on my (curvy) frame. In fact, I do wish I'd waited to cut 10 inches from the hem (on the pattern's suggestion - it was a variation on the "basic dress") till I realized that it wasn't going to fit loosely like it appeared to in the picture. Alas, it's vaguely sexpot. I will need to tone that down with some lame leggings (or jeggings - Lord I hate that term) and maybe an asymmetrical cardi. In the summer, with chic slides, it will be a perfect weight.

Speaking of weight (or gauge), this fabric was a bitch to sew. It's so thin it's ridiculous (yet another reason it fits so closely). So next time I make it, I will use a more assertive jersey. Oh, and I'll probably make it 5 inches longer.

Note to anyone who may buy the book and make the dress pattern enclosed: It's cut small. I mean, not insanely small, but when working with knits - which I sew most often - I have found that I need to go down a size - or at least I must be much more conservative than with woven patterns (sometimes, in which, I can be 6 sizes higher than I would be in RTW). This pattern I cut in a medium, and I wouldn't want to go any smaller. So happy to see that, unlike my last pattern, this one is cut for a narrow frame.

Here's the belt I made - to which I added a button, because I wanted to try a buttonhole on stretch fabric. BTW, it's pretty finicky, just as the experts advise, but by no means impossible. Mine's not even because I had some issues with my machine (you can't use a walking foot with a button foot and this button hole really required both). The belt is interfaced because the fabric has no structure of its own. Still, you can see gravity dragging the button hole down here...

See, you live you learn. Stay tuned for the next go 'round...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Waist Not Want Not

I made a dress, recently, from one of the patterns I requested for Xmas, and I was dismayed to find that it completely didn't work on me. I used the correct size, the right (jersey) fabric. I followed the directions to the letter of the law. I even watched a video made by the designer of the pattern. Twice.

And when I finished, I felt the armscye was entirely too large, the neck too wide (my frame is narrow), the waist unflattering - it just didn't hang. I tried reconstructing it - for 4 hours. Alas, the bodice had a raglan sleeve and my abilities are not yet up to reworking it. Of course, it gave me a good excuse to get a French curve, on the assumption that I'd be able to figure out the geometry.

After waging a little battle with my inner critic, I decided to cut the top from the bottom. You know jersey doesn't unravel, so I knew I'd be alright. I gave the top - with elastic still attached, to my daughter and she wears it with fantastic Flashdance aplomb. Really, that child has natural style in spades.

When she wore it to school, her friends all wanted to know where she got it, and when she told them her mother made it, the were incredulous. (Note: This is not because of the garment's incredible quality, but because nobody's mother sews anymore.) M convinced them by advising them to look for a label. Apparently, when you're nine, the absence of a label is total evidence of an item's home construction.

But that left the skirt to contend with. The skirt was actually the most attractive part. It has a nice, thick hem rib and it hangs nicely. I decided, instead of throwing it away, I'd try to create a rib waist (from some ribbing I had left over having done my shrug - I really should show photos of that item. It's the most successful thing I've made to date...).

I didn't have a pattern, needless to say. But I've read that the amount of rib you use should be 2/3 the circumference of the item you are ribbing. I could only make it so thick - not thick enough, on balance - because that's all the ribbing I had to work with. Nonetheless, I did end up with something one can wear...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Thing I Love

My friend Nicole, fellow sewist, made some utterly gorgeous zipper pouches for her friends and family this Xmas. Honestly, this workmanship is incredible. It's a freakin' work of art.

When an item looks as good on the inside as outside, you know you've got talent. Now I have the best new makeup bag!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hide and Seek

I had the most fabulous breakfast with our fave, mid-Atlantic island-dwelling Seeker, and her terrific husband and sister.

What a pleasure to meet her after having read her blog for such a long while. Of course, I suggested that our meeting would have been entirely more fun in her 'hood - but there's always next time :-) Strangely, the sun has come out (though cold is dreadfully persistent), in honour of her visit. Um, I live here all the time - doesn't the weather owe me a thing or two??

I'm vaguely traumatized that these photos inadequately express Seeker's incredible, gentle - but assertive - chicness. She was wearing leather pants, peeps - and she rocks them!

I hope that she has a terrific rest of visit, relaxing and enjoying some time with family. This is one woman who deserves it!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Potential Copyright Infringement?

My daughter, sporting some of my handmade items today, advised me that she was wearing her new "Club Momaco". Hmmmm... :-)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cold War

January and Toronto is one of the most miserable combinations imaginable. It’s dark (so dark), freezing, damp (if not outright wet), grey and (often) icy. During this month – and, in truth, through much of February – I wonder daily about why I live here. I mean, there are other northern climes that bring charm along with colder temps (Montreal, anyone?)*. I can’t tell you how fast it gets old, wearing wool socks with shearling slippers, jersey knit pjs, a sweater and a scarf to watch TV in the evenings! And we have the heat on. It just doesn’t seem to penetrate the dreary meteorologic reality. And, apparently, century homes have their detractions.

One thing keeps me sane though: walking. And I’m not talking about ambling along in a swing coat, catching snowflakes on my tongue. I mean, bundling up like some arctic explorer and kicking ass to get somewhere by foot - before said foot falls off from frostbite. To wit: The evening walk from work to daycare (to pick up M) takes an hour mid-summer. And I’m not going slowly. The January version takes 40 minutes. Sometimes I sweat despite the sub-zero temps. Because I’m practically running, you know. Running to beat the cold.

Because it’s so fascinating, here’s an example of my midwinter walk-wear for your reading pleasure: I start with wool socks. I wear an underlayer (cami or T shirt) which might or might not be partially visible under the merino or cashmere sweater I drape over top. I always wear a long, sweater-weight cashmere scarf. Where I fall down, I’ll admit, is on the pants front. I refuse to wear leggings underneath my jeans. Leggings and tights are for dresses and skirts. I don’t care how cold it is. But, as it’s often too cold for regular pants (never mind dresses or skirts!), thick denim has the edge. Of course, I make it dark and accessorize it chicly, as if I work in some fun creative environment. J

For the outerlayer: I go with fur (the warmest fabric on earth) or a combination of down and fur. For example: Canada Goose parka with fur hat. My boots are waterproof, flat (for the most part), and lined with shearling.

That, my friends, is how to spend 2 hours a day outside in TO in the winter.

Yesterday, I had the faintest glimmer of hope encouraged by a) a vague evening increase in temperature and b) the dimmest edge of daylight at the horizon, for almost my entire trek! Another trick in my arsenal of “northern maintenance of sanity” is vitamin D3. I’m not talking about wussy doses. Nor am I suggesting you follow my strategy, as it is naturopath prescribed/montiored and temporary. I take 4000 IUs of the stuff a day. Just for 6 weeks in the darkest part of the year. I’d like to tell you it makes me buoyant with energy, despite the hideous lack of light, but I suspect it’s just forestalling the suicidal impulse :-)**

*Necessary disclosure: People everywhere else in Canada despise Torontonians, for a variety of reasons (many of them inaccurate). All of them can agree, however, that we are soft and pathetic in our response to winter. And that, in TO, we don’t get real cold, thank you very much.

** If ever I am truly suicidal, I assure you I won't talk about it.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jersey Girl

You know I am a not-so-secret fan of Isabella Oliver. I think the brand does drape - and elegant fluid fabrics - just perfectly, but that's not all. Its product is sold solely online, which seems so modern given an extensive - and rather luxurious - collection. Maybe I'm just drawing a blank, but I can't think of another fashion company (excluding the grassroots ones, natch) that runs its entire business over the web.

Which leads me to my next point...

Recently, I have been predisposed to look at the site, not only as a stage for the lovely eye-candy, but also as a vehicle of commerce, because the fab PR peeps have suggested that I might want to choose a piece and tell y'all what it's like in real life. I know, I know, but don't girly-scream too loud. It will freak out your neighbours (she says, speaking completely theoretically).

Of course, you will hear about that at length - when it arrives, but let's get back to the website.

I look at a lot of sites. I'm sure you do too, but my consideration is based, in part, on my professional experience of them. They factor into my work life so I do know a thing or two about how they're supposed to function. Isabella Oliver's my lovlies, is top of the line, IMO.

For example: Sale items are clearly marked, easy to find and searchable by discount percentage. You have easy access to the chic online magazine, each product in which is linked to the actual item. But, let's cut to the chase, when you visit said item (which will take you admirably from day to night), you are treated to numerous excellent photos, a video of the garment being worn (by an admittedly very gorgeous and thin model), a sketch view of the item (revealing seam lines) and a matrix providing info about what the garment is made of, how to style it, various detailing and sizes.

Ah, about sizes... It may be gimmicky, but I really appreciate how the clothing is sized by letters. It's not like they're pulling the wool over your eyes (ha!), but it's nice to enter a world of beautiful jersey fabrics, all of which integrate so nicely together, and which use a fairly uncommon sizing system. Takes the edge of preconceptions about how number sizes and measurements interact. And it's kind of novel. (Note: If British companies size like this routinely, you have to let me know. I haven't seen this often before.)

One other thing I really enjoy about the product is that it's ageless. The adolescent, who raids her mother's closet, will look hip. The working woman - from day's meetings to a dinner date - is well-outfitted and elegant. Mums of young kids can bend and stretch in this stuff (although they should avoid children when they are eating!). My own mother, in her early 60s, would look great in many of these pieces.

I can't wait to touch the fabric and try it on. Please stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Can I Say...

...I'm a girl who likes a good breakfast nook.

Photo courtesy of desire to inspire

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Public Pool Chic

Now this is a community space I can get with! (If you'd like to assist - plane fare to France and membership are appreciated :-))

Les Bains des Docks, Le Havre, France photos courtesy of things I have seen

Monday, January 4, 2010

How Do You Measure Up

I gotta say, secretly I love this product... I realize it's not in vogue to approach the new year with diet-oriented resolutions, but - as anyone who reads this blog knows - I am a portion measurer (a calorie counter, even, via my online food diary, which I've been keeping for years) from way back. Don't worry, I take the holidays off. And, for me, this isn't a resolution. It's a lifestyle.

The diary is a way to encourage my accountability. I am, by nature, a list maker, an organizer. I love to see how input and output correspond. On some level, I view myself as a cool science experiment, peeps :-) Of course, I know that some people should avoid this method at all costs. It's not healthy for them. Or, it's cumbersome and unpleasant. But I find it very comforting. It suits my nature. Oh, and I love to eat so tremendously, that left to my own devices, a "serving" is synonymous with a "carton of ice cream".

I'm considering buying this item because I measure out a reasonable amount of my food as it is. (Much of it, I can eyeball at this point, but when I'm dealing with junk food or new food, I do like to apportion with a scale.) I also find it ingenious. I think it's practical design and I'm all in favour of that. Apparently, the woman who developed the Measure Up products, did so because she got sick of spending so much time with measuring cups, as she used a food diary to help her lose a substantial amount of weight after the birth of her children.

But let's get talking about this: What do you think? Do you think food measurement is a good idea? Do you hate it? Have you tried it? Would you purchase this product? Curious to know your perspectives.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Way To Bring In the New Year

I decided that, to match our wild mushroom brie fondue tradition, I'd go retro with the outfit.

Yes, that is me wearing an orange-esque vintage scooter dress with fuchsia tights. It's made in Italy, doncha know. And it's hand stitched along the button placket at the front of the skirt. I really wanted it just to see how it was put together :-) But I'm so thrilled this garment fits. I have never bought a vintage dress, sight unseen. Cherie gives very good sizing information on her site. And she has a return policy!

Oh, and those shoes, my favourite taupe suede YSL - they're ones that never make it outside (they're not outrageously practical) but which really give impossible chic to any ensemble.

On a related note, I'm really enjoying The Beautiful Fall by Alicia Drake. It's about Paris fashion and the careers of YSL and Karl Lagerfeld. Those two were worthy rivals!

Friday, January 1, 2010


What better way to ring in the new year than with a dress so neon that it is sure to get you over that hangover? I mean, it is veritably the colour of Tang circa 1962!

Of course, the outfit post will follow, but I couldn't resist showing you a little preview...

PS: Here, as on Cherie's website, the oufit looks red/pink. But in real life, it is definitely orange. Fortunately, I'm one of the 8 people in the world who actually thinks orange flatters her and who wears it, in all hues, rather regularly. Let's just say I'm going to get a lot of comments on this one :-)