Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tiny houses are awesome!

My blog reader is telling me I have 220 unread blogs. Is it even possible to catch up at this point? I was only gone for 12 days!

I had an amazing trip, and I just have to share a few things. I spent 5 days at Esalen in Big Sur, California doing a group workshop, and I just have to say, Esalen is magical. It’s a gorgeous location on cliffs by the ocean, and it’s full of educated hippies working on self-improvement. Organic food, yoga, hot spring baths, Tibetan bowls, and plenty of interesting, weird, and awesome people. I actually randomly ran into a guy who was in the process of making shoes and had a nice discussion about various methods with him. True story. That would never happen at home! Anyway, if that sounds like paradise to you, you should definitely check it out. I’m already trying to figure out a way to go back as soon as possible!

Also cool: tiny houses. I heard about these things about a year ago and I’ve been wanting to see one in person ever since. Of course, Portland just happened to have a Tiny House Caravan Hotel. Check out these adorable little things:

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Fire pit and gathering area with all the tiny houses around it.

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This is the entire house! I need a tiny house in my life!

Ah, but what you really want to know is what fabric I bought, right? Here’s the haul:

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The middle pile is Khadi cotton from A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland. This place was really cool and had a rabbit. I only bought one yard of silk at Britex (lower right corner). It’s a huge store with gorgeous fabrics that are mostly way out of my price range. The huge pile on the left is from a surprise find in Eureka, California, Eureka Fabrics. I saw a sign that said “fabric” so of course I had to check it out, but I was fully expecting a boring quilting fabric store. Instead, I found a store stocked full of fair trade, handwoven, natural, and organic fabrics! And they were really affordable ($10-$14 a yard for handwoven, fair trade) because the owner takes trips to India to work directly with the makers! So I stocked up on the handwoven fair trade stuff, and got a few organics as well. The top piece is hemp/silk. They don’t have nearly as much on their website as they do in the store, but apparently the owner is happy to receive email requests, so when I’ve used up this pile, I will definitely be contacting them for more!

By the time I got to Portland on my way home, I’d spent all of my fabric budget, but I checked out a few stores anyway. The two silks on top of the pile on the right are from Mill End. I also got some yarn to make this sweater, but unfortunately they sold the last green just a few hours before I got there, so now I have to try to find someone on Ravelry who wants to sell theirs. And of course how could I go to Portland without picking up a couple of Colette patterns plus the knits book 🙂

Thank you to everyone who gave me recommendations! Especially to Kelly – Harlow and Portobello were incredible!

I can’t wait to start sewing!

 

Me-Made-May ’14: outfits + reflections

This year, Me-Made-May has been a real eye-opener. Technically, I met my pledge of 15 completely me-made outfits (posted on Instagram), and some definite patterns emerged. I learned that May has three types of days where I live: sunny & warm, cool & dry, cold & rainy. So I’ve broken down my outfits into those three categories.

Sunny & Warm

These days were easy! My Midsummer Night’s Dream dresses 1 and 2, Cascade skirt, Chardon skirt, and Belcarra blouse were the items I reached for first. I also have lots of RTW dresses that fit this category, so I’m definitely not lacking here. I made a linen Sorbetto with wave pleats which I’m not super happy with, and I wore my Hawthorn blouse and skirt, but I’m not happy with the fit of those either. My alpaca sweater was cozy on cooler mornings.

Also, I wore my handmade shoes a lot! Even though they look about 10 years old now because I never got around to fixing the glue issue and the wax coating seems to be a dirt magnet, they’re so, so comfy!

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Cool & Dry

I wore my grey jersey maxi skirt several times (but only took one picture) with various Renfrews. I quickly realized that this is the perfect outfit for cool, dry weather. Maxi skirts are great for keeping the cold wind off my legs and they’re so comfy. So I made a second one out of some linen jersey I’ve been saving for a year and I love it! I just need maybe one more maxi skirt or dress plus a few jersey Belcarras which I think will look nicer with the maxis than the Renfrews.

I also wore my Field Study Hawthorne skirt and handmade shoes while foraging for wild asparagus. It worked perfectly! The blue cardigan is also hand-knit.

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Cold & Rainy

I wore my Tiramisu dress with a hand-knit sweater, leggings (both my self-drafted early attempts and my Ooh La Leggings), four Renfrews (most are unblogged), and Minoru jacket. Also hand-knit socks, hat, and fingerless mitts.

That last picture is a Plantain tee (unblogged) that was way too tight through the shoulders, so I hacked off the sleeves and turned them into a band at the bottom. At least it’ll work for yoga now.

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This is where my wardrobe is seriously lacking. On a cold and rainy day, all I want to do is wrap myself in cozy knits, but I can’t wear my maxi skirts because they’ll get wet. I ended up wearing leggings most of the time, but I don’t really feel comfortable going out in those, especially since I only have Renfrews to go with them, but most of them aren’t long enough for decency and I feel like a bit of a slob in these outfits (especially since I made the leggings out of non-stretch so the knees bag out). I think the Moneta dress or a jersey wrap dress would be great to fill this gap, but I don’t like wearing tights in the spring (maybe thigh-high socks that I can scrunch down or take off if the sun comes out?). Narrow leg pants could work, but if they’re not comfy enough to wear around the house I probably won’t end up wearing them. And if I make them out of a knit, do I really want to go out in sweatpants? I can’t seem to solve this problem. What do you wear on rainy days when you want to be comfy but not feel like a slob?

 

So, for Back to Basics week this week, here are the major gaps in my wardrobe:

– Slips, undershirts, and tank tops. I was way too dependent on RTW for these items since I don’t have any me-mades.

– Belcarra blouses, jersey and woven.

– Hoodie. Confession: I sort of cheated by wearing a RTW hoodie around the house when I was cold and didn’t feel like dealing with alpaca fluff everywhere. I have one RTW hoodie that is old, paint-splattered, and has sleeves that are about two inches too short, but I wear it almost every day because it’s all I have. This needs to be a priority.

– Rainy day clothing. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything about this soon because I have no plan. I need to collect inspiration first.

– Shoes. I really need to make another pair with the new soling I got so I don’t look like a homeless person. #cantstopwearingcomfyuglyshoes

 

So how did Me-Made-May go for you? Any shocking revelations? Or big plans for Back to Basics week to fill the gaps?

 

It’s been a year already!

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I started sewing again (and blogging)! I was going to do some sort of reflection post with the best, worst, and most worn items like some bloggers do, but then I realized that I am the slowest seamstress of all time. I’ve hardly made anything! And I haven’t really blogged much either… but that doesn’t mean I don’t really enjoy being a part of this wonderful sewing community. I’m so grateful to be a member (albeit more lurker than active participant) of the most supportive and creative group online, and I’ve learned so much from all of you, so thank you for sharing all of the nitty gritty details of your projects – it’s so inspiring!

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Goals for the next year:

1.  Sew items that fit my actual life, not my imaginary life. The Wardrobe Architect Project is really helping me plan out a strategy, so I’ll share that with you soon. (You can sneak a peek at my moodboard on Pinterest). I’ve really enjoyed looking at what everyone else is planning for theirs!

2.  Learn draping and/or pattern drafting. So much freedom to create anything I can imagine. I need to let the ideas out so my head doesn’t explode!

3.  Experiment with dyeing and painting fabrics. Again, so many possibilities!

Pledges:

Looking back over the past year, I realized that I haven’t really bought any new clothes. One pair of winter boots and a ski jacket, both much-needed. That’s it. Buying clothes used to be my favourite pastime, but now I don’t miss it at all. Every time I’m tempted, I think about the awful factory conditions and environmental impact, and I think, “I could make that – out of organic cotton!”

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So, I’ve decided to keep it going and take the Seamless Pledge to not buy any new clothes for the next year. I desperately need some yoga/workout clothing, but I’m going to make that a priority over the next month and keep wearing my ratty old stuff in the meantime.

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Me-Made-May is back! I’m so excited about this year even though I still don’t have very many items. But that’s not going to stop me from making super-ambitious goals!

‘I, Chantal of A Handmade Wardrobe, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavour to wear an entirely handmade outfit for 15 days of May 2014’

I’m even hoping to have a wearable pair of shoes in time for May 🙂 Repeats are okay, though. I’m not one of those people who is bothered by wearing the same outfit twice in a month. A weekly rotation seems about right for me.

This year, I’m just going to post outfit pictures once at the end of the month, but I’ll probably post pictures to Instagram. I joined a few months ago but didn’t really do anything with it. I’m hoping it will be good for posting in-progress pictures when I want to share but I’m feeling too lazy to blog. Do you use Instagram? If you do, do you find that it adds to your experience, or is it just another thing to keep up with?

Knit City 2013!

Knit City 2013

I just got back from Knit City in Vancouver, and it was so incredible! Amazing local yarn and fibre everywhere! And everyone was wearing gorgeous hand knit sweaters and shawls. So much eye candy. We were all just ogling each other, ha ha! I was there to help my friend, Sylvia, with her booth, Sheepish Grin Knit Company (she dyes all of the yarns herself in delicious colours), and it was so much fun! The only picture I have of the event is this blurry one that I took with my phone:

Sheepish Grin Knit Company at Knit City 2013

Sheepish Grin Knit Company at Knit City 2013

We went to see Stephanie Pearl-McPhee on the first night and she was hilarious. By the end of the show we had actual tears streaming down our faces from laughing so hard. Seriously, I must buy all of her books now.

And I met Tasia! I was a bit star-struck, and I’m pretty sure I sounded like a complete gushing idiot. And she was wearing an awesome new hand knit sweater! No pictures 😦

So here are the latest additions to my stash. From the looks of it, you would think I’m an avid spinner, but I’ve only taken a beginner spinning course with a drop spindle. I guess there will be more spinning in my future!

Knit City 2013

Spinning fibre: top right The Wacky Windmill, right Sweet Georgia, bottom two Muse
Skeins, from left to right: three grin deluxe by Sheepish Grin, organic Cotton dyed with indigo by Vegan Yarn, merino silk aran Sweet Georgia
Buttons and shawl pins from Pollika
Hand-spun by Spincycle (they weren’t even at the show, but we couldn’t resist stopping at a local yarn shop on our way out – yarn is more addictive than crack!)

Knit City 2013

And gourmet doughnuts to top it all off! Yum!Knit City 2013

Adventures in dyeing – plus Hawthorn sew-along!

I’ve had some plain organic cotton in my stash for about half my life. I tried sewing as a teenager and planned to make an entire wardrobe out of organic cotton. Back then, you could pretty much only get organic cotton undyed (not that it’s that much better now), and I had big plans for dying it all myself with natural dyes. Unfortunately, reality got in the way. I found out that natural dyes are actually more toxic because of the heavy metal mordants, and sewing patterns were so frustrating because of all the extra ease, so I soon gave up on sewing altogether. But I just couldn’t part with my two bins of plain organic cotton, thinking, one day, one day!

Undyed Organic Cotton

Indie pattern companies have solved one half of the problem (thank you to all of the amazing designers out there!), so I decided to give dyeing another try so I could finally use up this fabric. I ordered some Fiber Reactive Procion dyes from Dharma Trading Co. (such a hippie store – I love it). The basic idea with these dyes is that they react to the fibers at a molecular level when the dye bath is made alkaline enough.

I started with a piece of color-grown green cotton. I meant to take a picture of this before I dyed it, but I forgot. It’s not so much a green as a light muddy greenish brown – not the nicest colour, in my opinion, but I prefer blues over earthy tones, so I’m biased. You can see a piece of color-grown brown in the picture above.

Anyway, I started the dyeing process in the washing machine, as they recommend for the most even results. I poured everything in and most of the water was below the basket so my piece of fabric was not fully submerged (I used 1 lb of fabric, 3 gallons of water). It wasn’t possible to pull it out at that point, so I decided to forge on. I set the washing machine to agitate, but after two minutes, it started draining! I tried to salvage it and reset, but the washing machine just kept on draining!

I didn’t know what to do at that point, so I tried to find a bucket to transfer the cloth and add more of everything else. The only bucket big enough had been sitting outside for ages and was beyond nasty! So my boyfriend ran out to buy a bucket while I stirred the fabric in what was left of the dye bath.

I started the process again in the new bucket, but I wasn’t sure how much dye to add since there was still some left in the fabric. I guessed 3/4 of the original amount. So I stirred the fabric for a solid hour (so boring!) but at least it was a nice day, so I could just sit on the back porch instead of in the basement watching the washing machine. I wish I had pictures of the process, but it was just so chaotic!

Here is the final product:

Dyed Organic Cotton

Dyed Organic Cotton Dyed Organic Cotton

I’m amazed it actually turned out smooth and not blotchy, considering all that went wrong! The only thing I don’t like are the “lint-ball” type things all over the fabric. I can’t remember if the fabric was like that before, or if all the agitation caused it, but it makes the fabric look old, which I guess it is! I used Peacock Blue, but I have no idea how much 😮

I do plan to try this again sometime since it wasn’t so bad once the washing machine was out of the equation. I will at least dye the fabric I already have so that I can actually use it!

Hawthorn Dress Sewalong

I could not be more excited about the Hawthorn sew-along! As soon as this pattern came out, I fell in love with it. It’s so “me”. Fitted bodice, flared skirt, and buttons (I’m one of those crazy people who actually prefer buttons to zippers)! There’s another contest for this pattern, but I’m not even going to think about that this time because I really want to take my time, follow the sew-along posts, and get this pattern right so I can make many more in the future. For my first version, I’m just going to follow the pattern exactly for version 3 (the sleeveless dress below) using the fabric I just dyed. I can’t wait!

MMM ’13 – Weeks 3 and 4

So I didn’t quite meet my challenge of three days a week for Me-Made-May, but it’s not entirely my fault. I got a nasty stomach flu last Sunday, so I’ve been in pyjamas and sweatpants all week. I haven’t been this sick in over a decade! Hopefully I’ll be able to build up some immunity to all those child germs now that I’ll be seeing my nieces and nephew more often 🙂

Truth be told, I would have had trouble anyway even if I hadn’t gotten sick because I just don’t have enough items yet. I was planning on making some during May, but it’s just been such a busy month! Anyway, enough excuses. Here are my last three outfits for MMM ’13, all hand-knits and repeats because I haven’t had time to sew.

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May 18th: Hand-knit diamond lace cardigan, skirt – Heartland Skirt by Simon’s Rose on Etsy, necklace3dots on Etsy, cami – some discount store at the mall (I can’t remember). Worn to the fair with my nieces and nephew.
May 21st: Hand-knit cashmere wrap sweater, top – me-made, skirt jersey maxi. Worn to Stitch ‘n’ Bitch.
May 23rd: Hand-knit Henslowe Shawl, topRenfrew, skirt – Anthropologie. I think I went to the yarn store on this day, but I can’t remember.

I really enjoyed seeing everyone else’s outfits for MMM! It’s so fun to see how real people style their hand-made items as opposed to unrealistic magazine photo shoots. Hopefully I’ll have better luck for the next challenge!

MMM ’13 – Week 2

I did better this week because I went to Albuquerque on the weekend for my brother’s convocation, and airports are freezing, so I was able to wear more me-mades! I’m one ahead now!

May 10th: Teal Tiramisu and hand-knit sweater (pre-blog, Ravelry notes here). The Tiramisu was so comfy for 12 hours of travel!
May 11th: Raindrop Laurel, worn to my brother’s convocation
May 12th: topBasic Renfrew, skirtHeartland Skirt by Simon’s Rose on Etsy, worn while packing up the moving truck since my brother and his family are moving within driving distance now that he’s finished school (yay!)
May 14th: cardigan – hand-knit (pre-blog, Ravelry notes here), skirt – Anthropologie, worn to Stitch ‘n’ Bitch

The weather is no longer summery here, so I should be able to find more me-made items to wear for the next week. Mixed blessings, I guess.