Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Bunny Hopping

Hey Y'all: Between big time work responsibilities, a short week, daughter's 10th birthday on Friday, parents coming into town and Easter, I am going to be taking a little break. Well, a break from blogging - it's going to be full-on everything else :-).

I have had some wonderful TFW (Toronto Fashion Week) adventures and photos (of me at TFW, not models!) that I can't wait to share.

See you next week. Kxo

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guest Post Extravaganza

A while ago, one of my favourite bloggers and internet peeps, emailed to ask me (and some others, all of differing ages and stages) to give her some feedback about how our style and self-image have changed through the decades.

Please check out Already Pretty - I know I'm going there first thing today! - to see the compilation of our responses.

Thanks, Sally, for putting together such a complex post - and for giving me the chance to talk about myself :-)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lingerie Doubts

Perhaps the title pun is a little obtuse?

At any rate, the message is clear.

Of course, it's unsurprising that, to make a bra that fits is a big undertaking (haha). I mean, if constructing a shirt that fits is tricky - and that has skim, I'm whack to expect perfection in the first, third, maybe even 5th attempt.

And yet I am so abstractly confused and frustrated with every muslin.

The last bra I cut seemed like it might fit in the cups (finally) but the back was so small I had to do surgery on it. The result is a crappy rework, that confirmed the right back size and informed me that it's not quite there in the cups. I mean, it's close - or closer - but it's not there yet.

I belong to a closed lingerie sewing blog wherein members make - and then post photos of their efforts - in the aim of gaining feedback and strategies for improving cut and fit and design. Until now, I haven't posted my photos there. I didn't have something that fit well enough.

I find it interesting that, instead of feeling great about having got to this stage - and incredibly grateful to have a community that cares to help - all I can think about at this moment is that I took some really unflattering photos of my boobs in a bra that doesn't fit well and now I'm asking for constructive criticism.

Of course, I post photos of myself on this blog. But, in those pics, I am tremendously careful to preserve my image (such as it is in my own mind). Maybe it's one of those things (like religion and politics) we shouldn't discuss, but I do aim to look as slender as possible, as healthy, as young, as chic... Half naked (and I don't mean that in a burlesque dancer kind of way), I sure as hell can't rely on a) good angles or b) good clothes or c) a friendly smile or d) a sweet pose.

It strikes me that I'm either vaguely self-loathing or very vain to be feeling this push/pull.

So here are today's questions:
  • Would you ever post a photo of yourself in a forum- on a private site composed of vetted, women-only and without your face showing - if it meant you could glean constructive criticism in an effort to construct a bra (presuming you wanted to construct a bra)?
  • Do you carefully compose yourself - protect your image, as it were - in the name of perfectionism?
I'm really curious to hear your feedback on either or both of these.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Space Aged

The Young Budgeter, no doubt, required the special machine presser feet to accomplish her every sartorial whim. My MIL chose to purchase only one:

Seriously, I cannot begin to imagine how this is going to work. But very "we can send a man to the moon", yes?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Night and Day

You know I love to dis TO. It's a cool place but it's frequently ugly.

Well, here's a shot (looking west over Lake Ontario) I can't take umbrage with:

Photo courtesy of Blog TO, by EvidencE

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Not Mine Either, But it Should Be...

The incomparable Drollgirl recently profiled one of the most gorgeous California mid-century specimens that I have seen in a LONG time.

I will be utterly shocked if this doesn't thrill you.

Oh, look, it's a pool!

So, watcha think??

Monday, March 22, 2010

From Muslin to Reality

I appear to love crafting things in navy blue, which is just fine if you see my handmade items up close and personal, but it's challenging to see the nuance in photographs.

Here's the finished Vogue8640 jacket:

Yes, that is my own little label!

The lining freaked me out, but it was not so difficult - I mean, not compared to figuring out how to slip stitch aka blind hem aka "thing I had to read 3 books and watch 2 videos to learn". Note: Slip stitching isn't that hard (all things considered) either. But man, did I have a mental block!

It hangs very chicly, I think, although it does look a bit shapeless in this post.

I have a "matching" skirt, made in the same fabric. I do intend to model this with jeans and the skirt and whatever else I come up with. Just need some time to take the pics.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Young Budgeters, This is For You

You MUST watch this hilarious piece of vintage advertising for the Singer 185J. Savvy homemakers, note, for $119.50 in 1959, this little baby could have been yours.

And now, my friends, it is mine!

My husband, who went to visit his mother in Oakville yesterday, brought me back her model of this machine, languishing in the basement since the '60s. It weighs about 25 lbs so that was no small favour. He lugged it on the train and subway for more than an hour to surprise me. I do appreciate my MIL's generosity.

Of course, I will post many photos. It's minty green adorable with space-age features. It merely straight-stitches; that's all machines of this vintage ever did, but I suspect it will go through 10 layers of any fabric and top stitch with utter precision.

Although I am not a collector by any means (and although this thing is not small), it's a compact piece of history and it may actually become something I use on a regular basis. When not in use, it will live neatly in its leather and Tolex case so the clutter factor will be minimal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Monkey Business

My great blogger friend Dr. Monkey tagged me with this fun award:

The rule is that I have to tell you 7 things about me:

  • The only blood relative I have in Canada is my daughter.
  • I am Canadian by choice (and good fortune). I have dual citizenship US/Can.
  • My father is also a dual citizen. None of my other relatives is.
  • I don't like talking about the personal experiences of my past.
  • Having said that, I threw up practically every day for 7 months when I was pregnant.
  • It was utterly depressing and, by the end of my pregnancy, I was convinced I'd be consigned to nausea evermore.
  • Remarkably, 5 minutes after my baby was born, the wretch-y sick feeling entirely disappeared.*
I'm terrible at passing these tags along - almost as bad as I am at recognizing them. But I offer this award to all of my blogger friends. Please, if you like, give this a go. I'd love to read 7 interesting things about you.

* Admittedly, not my most cheerful 7 facts...

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Couture Allure does a great regular segment on vintage clothing, priced for today - in light of inflation.

For example, these lovely dresses - which sold for $20.00 (left) and $15.00 (right) in 1961, would sell for $144.00 and $108.00 in today's dollar.

I imagine they are beautifully constructed (though what do I know, the photo doesn't clarify that) and, if I were to find them in Holt Renfrew new, I'd be paying 4 or 5 times that amount.

Nonetheless, it's fascinating to realize that $15.00 wasn't a cheap sum for clothing back then.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Anything and Everything

A few days ago I read this post by Peter aka Male Pattern Boldness. For starters, I have to admit that I am freakin' impressed by this guy. He sews (expertly) despite having only started a couple of months before me. He's hilarious. He has an amazing alter ego (identical twin cousin) named Cathy. Somehow, she is entirely believable. Seriously, Cathy lives. In NY.

(Secretly, I'm entirely curious to know about his day job. Of course, it's rude to ask these things...)

At any rate, in the post (about what motivates him and how), Peter asks the genius question: Is the way you do anything, the way you do everything?

Um, hell yes.

I've written before about my own style of being. Very oddly, in terms of brute enthusiasm, it's quite similar to Peter's. Of course, unlike me, he's a collector. He's amassed 9 machines in the past 9 months. Don't rely on my math skills, but that appears to be 1 a month. Meanwhile, I'm afraid to bring fabric into the house because I CANNOT bear to contribute to clutter. (Note: The love of fabric is practically as strong as the fear of clutter.)

Nonetheless - dare I speak for the both of us - we have found meaning in the art of sewing.

Nevermind that I'm an utter newbie. When I took up this craft, I was instantly in its grip. I can't go hours without thinking about principles related to it. I want to know everything. I recognize, alas, it's going to be a long time before I even know most things.

But enough about me. What do you think? Is the way you do anything the way you do everything? Please do tell!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Inch By Inch

OK, so I'm about to show you a photo of my latest handmade bra.

First, though, I'm going to disclaim to high heaven because, while it certainly looks like a bra, it sure as hell doesn't fit. Again.

This is the third time, in case you're counting.

In fact, I'm gonna show these photos, just to prove to you I'm not lying about having taken up lingerie-making.


It doesn't fit because, for the third time it's too small. You might be thinking: Kristin, you've been wearing bras for 25 years, what up with not being able to do a pattern in the correct size. Um, don't you take measurements before starting each project??

The answer is a resounding YES. First time I worked with a 2 piece cup (the one above has 3 pieces, which you can see in the bottom photo). That one was too snug, because the cup configuration wasn't generous, I thought. The second time, I made a pattern from a pre-existing bra I own. Yeah, it was a disaster 6 different ways. Seam allowances, they are a nasy to figure out on a freakin' bra. So that one was too small for its own reasons.

This time though, this time I think I may have actually figured out what the hell is going on (please). I'm using a fabric called duoplex. It provides excellent support because it does not stretch at all. Hmmm. Turns out all but a couple of my RTW bras have, wait for it, stretch in the cups?! So I've been making bras with utterly no give room (or ease). Stands to reason that I'm going to have to go up in cup size. But how much, I really have no idea. And man, experimenting is a bitch!

Here's what I learned from this experience (recording this as much for me as you):
  • I really like the pattern I'm working with. (It's European.)
  • I think I need to make the back a bit bigger, though not a full 2 inches.
  • I think I'm going to go up one or even 2 cup sizes. I've got to remember to grade the band so that the openings for the cups are in the larger size while the band width stays at a 70 - or maybe I'll grade it to a 72). That's cms.
  • The strap method I used this time worked really well.
  • I have to remember, if I'm going to use picot on the neck edging, to use the thread colour of the background, not the picot.
  • I can reuse: the bow, the strapping/clasps, hooks/eyes. That'll save me some time...
My friends, I am not a patient person. That I have spent upwards of 50 hours making 3 garments that are totally unwearable, does not sit easily. I can barely believe I'm going to try this again - maybe next weekend. My back hurts. My eyes are tired. I feel like crap and I have nothing to show for it. But I will keep on. I'm determined to succeed.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It's Not Vintage if You Were There The First Time

I realize I profile a reasonable amount of 70s design (clothing, interiors, furniture, art etc.). In light of this, you might think I'm a lover of that decade from way back, but it's really not the case.

I was born in 1970. I mean, I lived through that decade and it was drab. I've seen my share of avocado kitchens. I'm burnt out on burnt orange. I remember eating from a dining room table 2 feet off the floor on mustard-coloured, tassel-bearing, caster-having cushions?!?! What? It's was "oriental".

I don't love the 70s I remember. I love the uber-chic 70s that were going on in Scandinavia.

To wit:

Photos courtesy of Design Sponge

Seriously, the best things about this era were the saunas and fondue.

PS: I do realize they didn't have microwaves in the 70s...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fritter-Free Zone

You know I've been working on that no fritter challenge now for, oh, almost 3 months now. Yes, peeps, it's due to end in less than three weeks. I'm a bit amazed I've managed to last without buying a single new piece of clothing, but before you have a party for me, I should confess that the pain has been exceedingly minimal because:
  • I have no ban on sewing supplies, patterns or fabric.
  • I buy books and mags as I please.
  • I get to shop for a kid who needs things like cute clothes re: latest growth spurt. (I'm not excessive, note.)
  • I have no ban on buying lunch or eating out. I do these things as normal.
  • The weather's been crap, who wants to go out.
  • I haven't actually convinced my psyche I'm on a ban, so it's just "regular times" in my brain.

Who are we kidding: I sense I've merely diverted the funds I would have spent on clothing (I arguably do not need). Predominantly to sewing supplies, patterns and fabric.

Now, is that a bad thing?

Not in my books.

I've managed to make about a dozen garments from bra to skirt to suit jacket to yoga pants and more. OK, some of them haven't worked out so well - we might look at this as wasted money - but I've learned a lot.

I set up a sewing room without buying a single new thing. Yes, I desperately need a decent task light and a chair that actually fits my table without piling foam blocks onto it, but I've got a system going and it's essentially free.

I haven't stepped into my fashion traps with the expectation of a quick (read: expensive and potentially disposable, most definitely unnecessary) fix.

I've developed a new solidarity with my fellow blog ban experiencers (Sal, Enc, Kate etc.).

It's helped me to reevaluate why I spend money, rather than how - Here's the deal: I love shopping and the joyful high that comes with making a purchase. I don't like finding a place for said purchase, or paying for it or wasting resources. Of course, I enjoy using the purchase.

The reason that spending on food and wine is so appealing is that it is utterly functional. I use the chocolate and it's gone. Yummy, and I get to go back for more of the same buying experience! No storage required.

It makes me feel viable, alive - dare I say it, affluent. It reminds me of a time when beautiful things were an easy gesture of love. By association, it's a gesture of love to myself.

But let's get with the times. The girl I am today would rather turn her brain cells onto new artistic pursuits than fritter the time away. I'm going to stick with the ban, I think, for the next 3 months (till my 40th birthday). I believe Kate will join me for part, or all, of that time.

Let's see if it appeals to me to continue because a) if it doesn't, you know I'll find a work around... and b) I may finally be able to realize cost savings - I've bought most of the fabric and supplies a human could use for the next 3 months. I may choose to buy one RTW garment at the beginning of April, but not unless the mood strikes me.

Feel free to join. It's kind of fun. Or do let us know what you think of the whole ban idea.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Thing I Love

Is this NoƩ Duchaufour-Lawrance chair not a thing of excellence?!? It manages to be sexy and puritanical all at the same time.

Photo courtesy of Things I Have Seen

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Floral Geometry

This is SO not my style, but I love it nonetheless:

Photo courtesy of desire to inspire

And you?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oliver Twist

You know Spring is right around the corner (ok, unless you live south or in another hemisphere). But that still leaves enough of us looking for ways to spice up our wardrobes after a bleary winter of muted tones and being bundled.

Which is why I hope you're going to love a little treat: stylish, flattering, versatile clothing on special sale just cuz you know me!

Well, Isabella Oliver has a little something to do with it :-)

The lovely people in PR have offered us all an opportunity to save 15% on any order* - and that includes maternity wear! - anywhere they ship (which is most everywhere, I believe) between today and March 19. (Note: Canadians - IO pays the duty! It's in big, happy writing in the banner. And US customers get free shipping for orders over $89.00, AU/NZ customers get free shipping on orders over $99.00.)

There are some great spring basics you might be needing. Basics in sassy colours that cheer me up...

A few of my faves:

The dresses are made of beautiful stretch jersey. You may recall, I wore one recently.

Here's how it works:
  • Shop online to your heart's content. Include daydreaming about events the outfits might take you to.
  • Enjoy the excellent website.
  • Use the code "line4line" when you check out with tons of new things.
  • Definitely let me know when you buy something because I want to live vicariously (technically, this is optional).
*Offer ends Monday 19th March and is not valid with any other offer, promotional code or non-Isabella Oliver branded goods.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Meet the Muslin

I'm sure it won't shock you to learn that the methodical aspect of sewing, while it suits my inner organizer, really kills my "get it done NOW and celebrate with some booze" buzz. Honestly, I don't know how those ladies in the '50s (and '40s and '30s and so on) did it. I can't imagine listening to my radio shows while working on a machine with one straight stitch that might not even have backtacked. It would have turned me into a nutcase in no time flat. (I mean, those gals also had fluffy mashed potatoes and rack of lamb to prepare by 7 pm?! Who has time for this shit?)

And you know they were making all the newest things. Even the wives of young business tycoons-in-the-making probably couldn't have afforded the New Look (9-plus yards of fabric per tea dress?!) straight from France. Ready-to-wear wasn't the standard yet so, if you wanted something elegant and you couldn't afford a great tailor, it was on you and the Singer.

Imagine if you had lived early in the last century and really couldn't get with sewing. I mean, imagine you'd been trying since the age of 5 and you still couldn't wrap your brain around it. Imagine looking kind of like crap all the time as a result. Sort of makes you grateful for Club Monaco, no?

Anyway, enough of the tangent. Here I am, a modern lady, working with a vintage-feel Vogue pattern. It's a Vogue Very Easy (don't have a heart attack), and the experience has a retro feel. I've read that you don't fuck around with Vogue. The lazy sewist doesn't have a nice time with this line - the instructions are laborious, when they aren't lacking in detail (so I've heard). So far, I'm feeling alright, but then I've only got to the muslin:

Yeah, I made a whole fake garment, or 80 per cent so far anyway. Like I don't have about 30,000 other things to sew in my cache at the moment. I'm not big on the muslins (they're so painful prelude to a kiss) but a girl's gotta do what she's gotta do in order to assess fit. Of course, what I do to fix bad fit is more or less beyond me... (Everyone will tell you not to panic. There are books.)

I already have a hand-made high-waisted pencil skirt in the 3-season navy wool that I will use to make this final garment. Wouldn't it be great if they worked together like a suit? Wouldn't it be awesome if I actually made a suit? That would so impress the crap out of me.

Saturday, March 6, 2010


I've hit that moment of seasonal ennui that precludes me from doing anything lightly. I wander around in a bit of a stupor: the light says spring, the dull weather disagrees. It's all I can do to haul ass to the flower shop to spend a fortune on tulips which still aren't in season.

Although, sometimes when I look at them, I feel that bubbling solstice energy for a moment or two...

Update / Fabulous turn of events: Today is awesomely beautiful here and it's going to be warm (9 degrees C). I've got to go buy some more flowers and soak up the sun! With sunblock on, of course.

Not so hard to thrill me, yes?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Special Secret Fun Thing Coming Up

I have a great trick up my sleeve, peeps. And all you have to do is wait a few days to find out more.

Hint: It may benefit each and every one of you.

Other Hint: It involves shopping.

Have I said too much?? (Monday you can tell me if you guessed.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Springtime on a Dress

Thanks to Erin at A Dress A Day, I have had the pleasure of imagining myself walking the sun-dappled streets of Rome (on my way to an inexplicably delicious meal including copious amounts of affordable, yet superior, red wine) in this gorgeous vintage number, available here:

In addition to being crepe, appliqued and navy - 3 of my fave attributes! - it's also a size large, which is rare (as we know) with the vintage finds.

If the measurements accord, then snap it up. It's a beautiful piece of living history.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Stash

This arrived in the mail for me yesterday:

It's my latest batch of lingerie loot from Bra-Maker's Supply and ELingeriA (that's where the pattern is from). Note: I ordered one more bra pattern from ELingeriA, on back order, and the Kwik Sew 2100 undies pattern.

You can only assume I'm a total idiot for having spent a hideous amount of money - and, trust me, it was hideous, on supplies to make a garment which I've tried (and failed) at twice. At this rate, it would be cheaper to go and buy a Freya set and call it a day.

But I will not be daunted.

Nothing like having adequate supplies and patterns to give it another go when the inspiration strikes.

PS: Note that I have set myself a "no frittering challenge" which started Jan. 1 and will end April 1. The ban, such as it is, does not include sewing supplies, natch, or I would have had to break it 63 times so far. Truthfully, I don't really see the need to start clothing shopping even after April. I mean, I have as many clothes as I can bring myself to make - which is quite a few. Sewing goddess willing, pretty soon I'll be liberated even from the need to purchase sexy, structural bras and undies.

I spend as much as or (frankly, probably) more on fabric, patterns and notions as I ever did on RTW items. Of course, as I improve at sewing and figure out how to minimize the costs, the price of sewing will decrease substantively. Not the labour, mind you, but the cost of fixed variables. The day you go out and buy $150.00 on fabric(?!) (i.e. clothing before it becomes clothing) is really a trip. It's an extremely hopeful action.

Or crazy. :-)

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Stair Styling

Look, this pattern works absolutely everywhere!

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

What's your take? Would you ever wallpaper your stair risers? In zebra?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Spring, where are you?

Let's try to find spring spirit - aka some energy - with this masterpiece of clean lines:

Photo courtesy of

Oh, shock!, it appears to be a gorgeous urban garden...

Photo courtesy of

Seems I'm very interested in dining tables right now.

How are you managing the end of winter, northern hemi friends?