Sewing Workshops at Rebel Waltz TattooFebruary 6, 2016

Do you have a pile of clothes that you would like to wear, but don’t quite fit right?
Do you have a regular problem with the sizing of mass produced clothing?
Are you bored with the fabrications that are offered in stores, and put off by the poor quality in construction?
Join me for an evening or a few of sewing practice, and leave with something new to wear or use! Chip away at those alterations that need to get done. Repair your favourite well worn garments. Learn ways to alter clothing to make it smaller or bigger in size. Use a commercial pattern or make your own custom fit design. Make something that you will use and love, and reduce your demand on the mass clothing market.

I hope to make accessible the skills and means to be more self sustainable. Even if you have your own machine, sometimes there is just no space to set up and get things done. Ever thankful to Rebel Waltz Tattoo for the use of basement space, I have a changing area and full mirror for fitting, a large cutting table to lay out fabrics, a selection of thread, scissors, handsewing needles, stitch rippers, and other things, to help you get your projects done.
If you have no machine or materials but just want to learn and practice sewing, I have a selection of knit and woven fabrics to make almost anything you want. Please email me beforehand if you want to make something specific, so I can be sure to have what you might need.

fix holes


remove old bumpy zippers


make sleeves into pockets


use old tshirts, one or many




Feature Friday: The Needle and Thread NetworkNovember 27, 2015

It’s a very exciting day! I was asked by an former professor of mine to be featured on The Needle and Thread Network, a website she is currently hosting. What a chance for me to reach a larger audience, and let the world know what I am about. If you are visiting my site because of this feature, welcome!! If you just happen to be reading this, please go check out what I have written at TN&TN website.

Please take a moment to peruse my previous posts, if you’d like an idea about other work I’ve recently completed, and the work I would like to do more of. Do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like help in creating a sustainable wardrobe, either by learning how to do your own alterations and repairs, getting a custom made piece of clothing made that expresses your personal taste, or having some special materials repurposed or reworked in a way that keeps them in use and out of the landfills.

Thank you to my readers, old and new, who are interested in the work and ideas I am putting out there!


Reworked coat: colourful upgradeNovember 14, 2015

This coat upgrade was a selfish sewing project, to uplift my spirits with some of my favourite colours, and prepare myself for the impending winter season. It’s transformation began with a broken zipper that needed replacing. I will tell you, replacing zippers is my very least favourite sewing task, especially in a heavy coat. So I will admit, the first phase of this fix was a shoddy bandaid solution, which involved cutting the zipper teeth off very close to the fabric (instead of stitch ripping it out) and hand stitching a new zipper to the front. It didn’t work out well, so when I decided to take the time to do it properly, I got inspired to REALLY fix this coat. After actually ripping the original broken zipper out and sewing a new one in, I continued improving on my new winter coat.

I adjusted the fit in the back waist by adding some pleats and a small piece of belt I had started to cover with variegated rainbow yarn. It gives the coat a more shapely silhouette, and puts to use this labour intensive piece of colourful hand stitching. (The story behind the belt: I had originally planned to cover a dingy white slide buckle belt with needlepoint, and use it as a full belt again, but it turned out to be very difficult to stitch because the belt was SO thick, and it hurt my fingers and hand muscles. So I quit, hoping I would find a use for the bit of stitching that I did complete. So here we are!)
The original light pink lining fabric was starting to break down, and it was very dirty, with some marker writing on the back. I went looking for red quilted lining to replace it, but this beautiful mustard yellow caught my eye and is a little more unexpected. Also, the batting is obviously made from recycled textiles instead of new white polyester fibres, so I feel good about that. After stitch ripping out the dirty pink, I used it to cut an identical pattern from the yellow.



I am very pleased with this coat upgrade, as it fits better, functions better, displays some difficult hand work that I am proud of, and reflects my personal colourful taste to cheer me up every time I need to step out into the frigid cold. It feels like a brand new coat that I would never be able to find mass produced.


Reworked Coat: tailored fitNovember 9, 2015

The chilly weather has arrived, and a few of us needed to get our coat situations in order! There are a few coats moving through my work room, fixed for individual fit and authentic self expression.
This one is an example of a beautiful vintage coat, from 1969 i believe, that was found at the back of Palmira’s mother’s closet. The materials and construction are impeccable (as it was made and bought in Italy! Ohh la la), and although the size didn’t fit Palmira right, she was hoping to salvage this quality garment and continue it’s use in her family. I wish I had gotten a before picture, it used to be a straight cut, but you can trust me when I say she was swimming in it. The shoulders were too wide for her petite frame, and she prefers a more accentuated waistline.
Since she likes the look of a belt, I offered the idea of a sewn-in band on the sides, which I constructed from a bit of fabric taken from the hem. I took a bunch of fabric out of almost all the seams in the sleeves, back princess lines, and sides, but left the front seam lines alone, because I didn’t want to mess with the button closure or the pockets in the front princess seams. Instead of moving the armholes in to get the shoulders in the right spot, I just made a tiny pleat in the shoulder seam, which is hidden by the large, lovely collar. I did my best to maintain the integrity of the garment, and actually learned a lot in taking it apart about how a quality coat should be made. So many hand stitched details are hidden between the lining and shell fabric that just make a coat sit properly!
I loved working on this project. I love examining vintage clothes up close, and I love keeping a loved garment in use, to pass down through the family. I also love updating clothes to better reflect proper fit and self-expression.


Memory quiltOctober 25, 2015

Recently completed is this extra special memory quilt, made from fabrics belonging to my late Auntie Jowana, who was always the brightest smile in the room. The colours in this quilt reflect that quality of hers, and pay homage to where she grew up in Fiji.
My favourite element of this project is the middle square, which my Aunt quilted herself before she was taken by cancer, that would have been part of a group quilt she would put together with her friends. It’s nice that her hand was a part of this blanket, as well as the hands of my cousin, one of her three daughters, who helped me stitch the squares together. I also love the beautiful painted scene at the top of the quilt. Somehow the other fabrics ended up matching in colour to the painting and to the hand quilted square, making a beautiful cohesive whole.

Making a blanket from materials handled or worn by someone special who has passed, is one of the easiest ways to keep a tangible piece of that person in your life. It is also a comforting, warming device that can perhaps alleviate some of the grief that comes with the death of a loved one. I am always so happy to do such meaningful sewing, especially for my family.


Integrating Integrity: Wear No EvilSeptember 24, 2015

When you think about ethical clothing, what comes to mind? Drab earthy colours, baggy fit, lack of interesting design details…?
I recently read the book “Wear No Evil” by Greta Eagan, a guide to shopping sustainably without sacrificing your personal style. After all, what good is an ethically made garment if you hate wearing it because it doesn’t reflect your personality? The author outlines fifteen different ways that a garment can be ethical, which she names The Integrity Index. I will share them with you here, so you can consider these things while you shop!
1. *Natural fibres– Clothing originating from plant and animal sources (cotton, linen, silk, wool) are biodegradable. Synthetic fibres (polyester, acrylic, spandex, nylon) will persist in the environment and never degrade back into the earth.
2. Organic fibres– taking the natural fibre choice a step further, is choosing one which is grown organically, omitting the use of harmful chemicals in their production.
3. Natural/low impact dyes– The waste water from chemical dye processes is one of the most polluting elements of the clothing industry, and is mostly outsourced to overseas factories. Dyes derived from natural plant sources can be hard to find in the mass market, and you can assume if the company does not advertise a low-impact dye, it is made with a polluting chemical. One Winnipeg artist/clothing designer who hand dyes all her own (natural fibre) fabric with plants from her garden is Kelly Ruth.
4. *Fair trade– These are goods which ensure the people producing the goods are paid fairly, with a wage that can support them and their families. Sweatshop free!
5. *Recycled/upcycled– Two excellent ways to save textile waste from ending up in the landfill. Upcycling clothes is something that I love to do, especially with old vintage materials. Some fleece fabrics are made out of recycled plastic, and old clothes can even be recycled back into fibres and spun into new yarns and fabrics, giving them a second life. H&M offers a clothing collection service for just this purpose!
6. *Secondhand– Thrifting is my favourite way to reduce demand for harmful production processes. There is no shortage of perfectly wearable clothing floating around.
7. *Local– Locally produced goods require less fuel in transportation, and are also more likely to be made in a socially responsible way, since we don’t allow such blatant disrespect of human and environmental resources in our OWN country.
8. Social– some clothing and accessories are produced and sold specifically to support a cause, with most of the profits going to a charity or organization that needs funding, such as FEED bags or TOMS shoes.
9. *Zero waste– This is when a designer makes a pattern that uses all the material in the production of a garment, without leaving any scraps, sometimes called jigsaw puzzle patterning. I like to save all the loose cuttings from my projects and use them as textile stuffing for my log draftbusters.
10. Convertible– When a garment can be worn many different ways, it fulfills multiple functions and reduces clothing consumption.
11. Vegan– There are synthetic non-leather non-fur options out there that save the lives of animals, but there is also the debate about which materials are less harmful. Synthetic materials persist in the environment, and often don’t age well, requiring the purchase of new things sooner. Real quality leather goods age gracefully, allowing the garment to be used for longer. This one is a personal choice, with pros and cons for both sides of the coin.
12. Low water footprint– I found out from this book that cotton growing, fabric production, and finishing processes require 6800 litres of water for an average pair of jeans, and 2650 litres for a t-shirt. With fresh drinking water in high demand, Levi’s has started offering jeans with a smaller water footprint, to address this issue.
13. *Transparent– When a company is upfront and forthcoming about all the behind the scenes workings, they can be held accountable for their actions, and consumers can reward them with their spending, increasing demand for ethically produced goods.
14. Cradle to cradle– This is when a company plans for their products to have somewhere to go at the end of their life cycle, keeping the resources in use. H&M recycling program is an example of this.
15. *Slow fashion– The polar opposite of fast fashion, slow fashion “implements modes of sustainable fashion development through local sourcing, production, and distribution on a timeline that honours craftsmanship, and original designs that embody quality and timelessness.” I couldn’t have said it better, Greta. This is a movement not found in the mass market, but offered by small scale designers and craftspeople (such as myself!).

Greta Eagan suggests we each choose four or five of these integrity factors that are most meaningful for us personally, and focus on those. It is impossible to satisfy all of the factors at once, but reasonable and manageable to consider a few with each purchase, speaking to the clothing industry through our consumer behaviour. The ones with stars are the ones I either implement in my business model or try to uphold when I go shopping. I challenge you to partake in “considered fashion!” Pick up this book for more details and facts on the harms of the clothing industry and guidance on specific companies to look for.


Dance Costume in CompetitionSeptember 12, 2015

Earlier this summer, I completed a custom made dance costume destined for the National Pole Dancing competition in Toronto. Virginia brought me a drawing of what she was looking for, and I did my best to recreate it, within the costume constraints that the competition outlined in the rules and regulations. Things to consider were the amount of coverage in key areas, such as cleavage, side boob, and bum (shorts no higher than a 60 degree angle and a minimum 1″ inseam required). Very specific guidelines!
After I sewed it up, Virginia embellished it herself with swarovski crystals along the seamlines and edges, to really make it stand out on stage. Good team work :)
Here is the finished product!


The photo credit for the dance picture goes to Melanie Webster Photography

Click here if you’d like to view Virginia’s dance routine, which she choreographed herself. The costume really looks great on stage, and I was amazed by her incredible flexibility and strength. She won bronze in her division. Way to go!


The disintegration of my educational roots and What Human Ecology Taught MeJuly 22, 2015

As a youngster at the career fair, sick of my mall job and certain I had to get out of meaningless labour, I inquired about where I could study to sew. They directed me to the clothing and textiles program, through the department of Human Ecology at the University of Manitoba. This educational path had found me by accident, but it ended up fitting so well with my own personal philosophies.

As of this year, the Faculty of Human Ecology no longer exists, and the department of Textile Sciences been integrated into the department of Biosystems Engineering, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences. The news spurred me to reflect on what I took from my education, and what it’s absence might mean in the world, and it’s gotten me a little more upset than I thought it would. I was in the last class to graduate from the Clothing and Textiles program before the name changed to Textile Sciences. A fact I am proud of, because I see this name change as a first step in devaluing what Human Ecology stands for, ie: a holistic approach to problem solving involving history, psychology, sociology, and good old experiential knowledge. The name change happened in tandem with the other two departments being renamed Nutritional Sciences and Family Social Sciences. The faculty was obviously trying to mould itself to suit what jobs are being valued financially,(SCIENCE). But what are the ramifications of ignoring the whole picture? By only focusing on one dimension, we are ignoring knowledge that will help expose the root of a problem.

When I tell people I have a bachelor of Human Ecology, I am met with many a blank stare. What IS Human Ecology?….

Originally named Home Economics, the faculty was meant to educate and prepare an individual to manage the home and community, especially in a rural setting. With the main goal of improving the quality of life for the majority, the name change from Home Economics to Human Ecology was intended to lessen gender-biased perceptions of the discipline, and open up applications to consider the growing global economy. Generally, ecology is the study of relationships between groups of organisms and their environment. Specifically, Human Ecology examines human relationships with their three environments (natural, built, and social environments), and remind us of their interconnectedness. The increasing effect humans are having on their environment, demonstrated by urban-rural differences, is related to our values/ beliefs about wealth and resources. To achieve the goal of a high quality of life for the most people/ animals/ ecosystems in the global economy, I believe as a world population we need to focus on the following concepts found in the teachings of Human Ecology:

A holistic perspective– This is a recognition of the intricate web of connection with other living beings and our environment. The full cost of our behaviour is hidden in a capitalist global economy, where production and consumption take place on opposite sides of the earth. Whole awareness prevents unintentional harm to third parties in decision making. It’s up to us to consider how our attitudes and consumption patterns impact others and acknowledge all the consequences.

A general education– When knowledge is not obstructed, undesirable consequences can be avoided. If people are unaware of the harm their actions are causing (to themselves and others), there is no motivation to change their behaviour. A lot of the information we’re fed through the media is chosen for us and crafted to show a certain point of view. When I talk about general education here, I’m referring to the sharing of objective information known to be true, obtained from a credible source or acquired through personal experience.

Value Establishment– If we are to bring about positive change in the world, we need to develop ethical values in the population (especially the youth!), and also, to empower people to change what dissatisfies them. We each need to demonstrate that you can work to make things suit your needs and values, and that small actions DO add up to visible change. We need to connect with like-minded individuals in solidarity to fight oppressive forces such as the global capitalist economy, our patriarchal society, and the belief systems that uphold them. These forces are well established in our daily reality, but are not nearly as strong as all the people who oppose them.

Taking it back to my outdated education…

After gaining relevant knowledge from my Human Ecology degree, I was ready to make my mark on the world, by making clothes on my terms. I had learned how the clothing industry ran, and about the negative impacts of growing production and consumption. I am thoroughly convinced there is a better way to do things, but it will take cooperation and time to halt and reverse the harm we are doing. It will also require a widespread reevaluation of our perceptions regarding “What contributes to a high quality life?” Everyone will have a different answer to this question, but there will certainly be overlap. It is these points of connection that we need to work together on, to achieve the results we want to see.

It seems that in any discussion of Human Ecology, there is a tendency to gloss over the clothing and textiles aspect. Lots of people recognize the importance of nutritional well being, and the positive effects of a healthy family life. (Family defined here as your closest relationships, those you live with, blood relation or not.) But we ALL wear clothes every day, and make decisions about how we want to (or can) present ourselves. We as a population spend a lot of time and/or money dressing ourselves, and our clothing decisions (literally and metaphorically) touch us daily.

We should consider the reciprocal influence between our clothing decisions, and our social, built, and natural environments. What we choose to wear is influenced by our geographical climate, financial means, cultural beliefs systems, personal perceptions of what is pleasing to the eye and touch, and social pressures. Obviously, when someone is wearing something that they feel good in (physically and stylistically), it affects their mood, their interactions with others, and contributes to their general feeling of well being. What we choose to wear affects the larger world as well. In terms of production processes affecting others, yes, but also in terms of how the world perceives us and treats us based on our appearances. This relationship with the world can have grave effects on our mental well being, which can eventually start affecting our physical well being.

Our clothes are the first things that speak for us in a first impression, before you’re even close enough to take in facial features. The colours, fabrics, state of disrepair, or stylistic choices of our clothes put us in a category to everyone we meet. Our clothes give clues to our economic status, affiliated groups, and personal interests. We all make judgments about someone based on their appearances, and it’s how we choose to interact with that person (or behind their backs) that influences the world around us. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Treat people how you want to be treated. In trying to teach these simple lessons to my own children, I realize that there are a lot of grownups who still have yet to learn them.

In this extended rant on what’s wrong with the world and how I think we should fix it, I don’t mean to lay a guilt trip on anyone, or make it seem like I don’t participate in physically or psychologically harmful behaviour. I don’t have the means or energy to make the most thoughtful decisions all the time. But the point is to be conscious and aware, and function on intentions and effort. Little by little we can tweak our behaviour to have a more positive influence on the world.

So my life goals in general are to spread truth, positivity, and concern for others. These are my clothing and textile work goals:

1. To help people feel good in what they’re wearing and contribute to higher feelings of self worth (which spreads positivity in all directions).
2. To encourage diverse personal expression and appreciation for other points of views.
3. To provoke thought about our consumption patterns and perceptions of quality, and make it easier for people recycle or reuse textiles in another productive way.
4. To educate and empower people to repair, alter, and DIY to construct their (textile) environment to suit their specific needs and become more self sustainable.

Here is another idea: I propose a gift economy to lessen our dependance on the capitalist economy, to take some power from an affluent population that isn’t concerned with the rest of the world. When appropriate, and both sides benefit from the other’s gifts/ talents/ goods/ services, we can leave money out of the equation. Each person lowers demand from the economy, which in turn lowers the need for suppliers to produce. It is a way to increase our quality of life without contributing to the economic machine, in a move towards self-sufficiency. It also connects us with our community and builds bridges.

The closing of the Faculty of Human Ecology is a confirming sign to me that if we want to see change in the world that benefits more than the affluent population, matters need to be addressed at a grassroots level. When educational, material, psychological, and nutritional resources are controlled by and available to the financially fortunate, the rest of the world is caught in a vicious cycle that is hard to escape. Decision makers of large institutional systems are influenced by money, which means that the majority of the world population is ignored and/or trampled in the process of capital gain. We can speak to them in the language of dollars through our consumer behaviour. We can consume less harmfully by investing in higher quality products that last, and ethical/ local production processes.


Midnight blue graduation dressJuly 7, 2015

This is a dress I made for a high school graduation, that I imagine must feel like a breezy dream to wear. Isn’t she just a beauty?


My client showed me this white dress for inspiration, noting that she liked how the mostly simple design really featured the high side slit of the skirt and an open back. She also wanted an airy sheer overskirt like this blue dress has.


She asked me to look for a dark purple colour, but the available purples were too bright. Instead I found the most beautiful, midnight navy blue faille fabric, that we both fell in love with. It has a smooth matte finish, with a slight reflective quality that gives it a velvety appearance.
I used four metres of chiffon fabric in the overskirt, so while the skirt hangs straight down while she is standing still, any movement will catch the lightweight drapey fabric to show off the fullness of the skirt and the pleats of the asymmetrical slit.alyssa2





Clothing alterations + individual fit = positive self imageJune 26, 2015

With the impending wedding season, there are a plethora of alterations coming through my work room, as it is important for people to look their best on this most special day. As one of my clients expressed, it doesn’t matter how pretty a dress is, if it doesn’t fit the body, it looks no good. This in turn makes the wearer FEEL no good. I agreed, Fit Is Paramount.

The alterations I’ve been working on recently have made me stop and reflect (again) on the state of clothing production today. These days garments are made as quickly and as cheaply as possible to yield the highest profits. A reasonable expectation from a global capitalist economy, but with negative consequences. As mentioned earlier, an ill-fitting garment makes the wearer feel no good, and also may cause them to blame their own body for not being the right shape or size, instead of recognizing the short comings of a depersonalized offshore manufacturer. A big part of my work is to help people feel good about their bodies by dressing them suitably, and to help people realize that the diversity of human shapes is a positive, normal phenomenon. Our society is rife with body shame and self-consciousness that we don’t live up to a beauty standard imposed on us by a patriarchal capitalist economy. I work hard against this system to fit clothes to the body, not to fit bodies into clothes.

I digress. The point I want to make is that goods are not produced for individuals, they are produced for markets. The problem with this is that individuals have very specific needs. Two people with the same measurements can have very different shapes and proportions, requiring a very different cut of a garment. My second point is that the farther away a garment (or any thing) is produced, the less thought/awareness/care there is for the needs of the individual for whom it’s being made.
One wedding dress I am fixing was made for a woman’s specific measurements, but made in another country. She was unable to have a fitting in the construction process, so when she received it, it didn’t fit properly at all. I can’t blame the dressmaker, since I also would be unable to yield a perfect fit without a fitting in between, but then again, I wouldn’t accept a long distance project, since I know I couldn’t do a good job of it. The bodice on this dress has a beaded lace overlay that is cut as a flat piece, with no shaping seams or darts to fit the curves of the bust, rendering the boned inner corset somewhat pointless. This is where I come in, trying to correct the situation, using my best problem solving skills to make this lovely woman feel lovely on her wedding day. To get a closer fit in the bodice, I am taking it in quite a bit at the back zipper (to avoid creating seam lines through the beaded details on the front). I am also “invisibly” hand stitching the flat lace piece to the fitted corset in the front, pulling it in to show the shape of the body beneath. This is my best effort to make a flat piece of fabric fit to a three dimensional curve.
Another client of mine had two pairs of pants custom made by a company that designs locally but outsources the manufacturing overseas. It was a men’s pant design made for a woman, and the company assured her they would take into account her different fit needs. They didn’t fit properly when they arrived, and after two rounds of alterations done by that company locally, to achieve a nice slim fit, they still weren’t right. I’m not quite sure what happened there, but she finally brought them to me, to take in the extra fabric in the hips and crotch, and adjust the calves, which were very tight. Luckily there was enough of a seam allowance to let them out a bit!
Among these things, I am doing about a million hemming jobs, and half a million strap/armhole adjustments (numbers only slightly exaggerated), which are pretty straightforward and take less problem solving brain work. Still, a careful hand in proper pinning and measuring is important to get the job done right. I do not wish to put down other clothing companies for trying to make that dollar, I just lament the general lack of care for the consumer (and for the earth) in most modern day production processes.

I will clarify here that I am not looking to fill my time with alterations, as it easily could be, with all the fit problems found in mass produced clothing! Other areas I like to focus on are vintage clothing restoration, vintage reproductions, repurposing materials, and specialty custom made clothing not found in stores. In general, reducing the demand for newly produced fast fashion. While there is more fun and creative sewing work to do than altering an outside design to fit the body, I find this part of my job an important contribution to improving someone’s quality of life. The part I love about a properly executed alteration is the positive feeling the wearer gets when clothes fit their unique shape.


Next round of classesApril 20, 2015

I’m ready for another round of sewing classes! Are you?

I will again be offering the intro class, on a Tuesday this time, for those who couldn’t make it for Thursdays.
Sewing Room Basics
A comprehensive class for beginners. This class will be two 2-hour sessions, and will cover sewing machine anatomy, stitch types, fabric properties, garment descriptions/pattern shapes, taking measurements, prepping your fabric, tips for cutting, sewing seams, and finishing touches. Hands on practice is involved to create your own unique throw pillow. This class is $60 for the two sessions and includes the cost of materials. Next sessions will be Tuesdays May 19th and 26th, from 7-9pm.

Some simple projects to work on…
Lounge Pants
Sew yourself some comfy loose-fitting pants for lounging around the house, making the waistband with either elastic or drawstring. Choose and buy your own fabric colour/print before coming to the class, either cotton, flannel, fleece, or satin. Have your own paper pattern to take home, and make yourself an army of pants. This 2-hour class is $40 and includes the cost of the pattern and elastic/drawstring. Offered Thursday May 21st from 7-9pm.

Raglan Sleeve T-shirt
Try your hand at sewing with stretchy knit fabrics, and construct yourself a simple custom fit t-shirt. Learn how to manipulate a pattern to suit your preferences for sleeve length and neck width, and have your own paper pattern to take home and make as many t-shirts as you wish! Practice sewing and finishing seams in a cotton knit, and learn how to sew ribbing into a neckhole. This 3-hour class is $50 and includes the cost of the pattern and materials. Offered Thursday May 28th from 7-10pm.

Is there anything you’d like to see offered? Do these days not work with your schedule? If you have any questions, please write me at subject line: sewing lessons. Or stop by Rebel Waltz Tattoo at 810 Notre Dame during business hours to fill out a registration form and drop off the class fee to hold your space.


Sewing Lesson ScheduleFebruary 5, 2015

So finally! The time has come to spread some sewing knowledge. Let me help you help yourself improve your textile environment with this useful skill. If you don’t have a machine to bring and practice on, I have some machines for you to use. All classes will be held in the basement of Rebel Waltz Tattoo at 810 Notre Dame, here in Winnipeg.

If you have minimal sewing experience, and are interested in learning about the tools, materials, and techniques involved in cutting and sewing projects, I am offering
Sewing Room Basics
A comprehensive class for beginners. This class will be two 2-hour sessions, and will cover sewing machine anatomy, stitch types, fabric properties, garment descriptions/pattern shapes, taking measurements, prepping your fabric, tips for cutting, sewing seams, and finishing touches. Hands on practice is involved to create your own unique throw pillow. This class is $60 for the two sessions and includes the cost of materials. Offered on Thursdays February 19th and 26th, from 7-9pm, and again on March 5th and 12th, from 7-9pm.

If you have some sewing experience, but want to work on simple projects in a guided group atmosphere, or want to learn how to repair and alter your existing wardrobe, here are some options for you. (Prerequisite of Sewing Room Basics or demonstration of sewing machine operation.)

Tailoring shirts- Learn how to adjust your shirts to make them fit you in the sides, shoulders, and length. Techniques include taking in side seams, adding darts, moving sleeves/armholes, and hemming. Bring a few shirts (or dresses) to work on. All fabrics and designs welcome. This 2-hour class costs $30, and includes time to work on your alterations. Offered March 19th from 7-9pm.

Sewing accessories- Enjoy your sewing practice even more by handcrafting your own customized accessories! Choose from three mini projects: a pincushion for your wrist, sewing machine dust cover, or roll up tool kit. This 2-hour class is $40 and includes the cost of materials. Offered March 26th from 7-9pm.

Variations of a skirt- Get ready for spring by sewing your own skirt. Learn how to make a waistband, optional pocket, wrap design or zipper closure. Choose to use darts, gathers, or pleats to shape your custom skirt. Environmental option: repurpose an old tablecloth, using the border as the hem. This 2-hour class is $40 and includes the cost of materials, OR $30 if you bring your own thrifted tablecloth and materials. Offered April 2nd from 7-9pm.

Re-Workshop- Bring a special textile item that you would like to re-work or re-purpose. The class will have a group discussion/brainstorm addressing each item, what doesn’t work about it, what you love about it, and possible alterations. Learn new relevent techniques, and work alongside each other to transform your piece into something usable/ wearable. Bring whatever additional materials you think you might need, or just your piece to rework. Some additional materials available. This 2-hour session is $30 and includes the cost of a variety of buttons, ribbons, and closures. Offered April 9th from 7-9pm.

This schedule is subject to change if there is zero interest in a class, or if there is a lot of interest in another. If you have any questions, please write me at subject line: sewing lessons. Or stop by Rebel Waltz Tattoo during business hours to fill out a registration form and drop off a non-refundable $20 deposit to hold your space. I am looking forward to sewing with you!!


Handmade recycled sock snakes and memory quiltsJanuary 6, 2015

Happy New Year!! Onward and upward!

Now that the gift giving season has happened, it is safe to make public some recent projects of mine. Some excellent ways to make use of old clothes and socks!
I didn’t take progress pictures of the snakes, but all you do is collect a bunch of worn out socks with holes in the heels, cut the top tubes off, and sew them together. Stitch the face together with an intact sock toe (and felt scraps and buttons) before adding the body pieces, and stuff it with filling. I refrained from using fabric scraps to stuff them like I did with the Log Draftbuster because I correctly predicted my children using them to swing around and hit each other, and the fabric scrap stuffing ends up being quite heavy and hard. I opted instead for the softer, lighter store bought polyester fibre fill (still made from recycled materials!) to prevent injuries.
These quilts were commissioned by a woman to give to her sisters as Christmas gifts. She brought me a bag of her late father’s clothing to cut into squares and piece together, and bought some soft natural flannelette for the backing, forming a blanket of material memories to cuddle under on a cold day. It took some thoughtful deliberation to make the colours and textures look random but balanced throughout the quilt. I LOVE this idea of passing down meaningful materials metamorphosed into a new and usable form, and I’m so glad to have been able to do this job for her and her family. The beautiful thing about these memory quilts is that they are as individual as the person providing the clothes, and expressive of that person’s taste. I would like to do more simple patchwork like this to properly use and display special fabrics. Please contact me if you have a bag of meaningful materials in need of transformation!
Here are the various stages of transformation. Two quilts required 200+ squares cut!






Needle felted tiger lilyNovember 25, 2014

whole4I tried my hand at needle felting, and I really liked this textile technique! I have all kinds of ideas popping into my head of different things I can make and embellish, but my next efforts will not have so many sharp angles as the stem and leaves of this tiger lily. I had a slightly frustrating time trying to finish the edges, which involved trimming and clipping the base fabric to tuck under the flower and adhere it to the black paper with two sided tape. This framed felted flower found a home in my grandmere’s room as a gift for her 93rd birthday. Happy birthday to my Grandmere, whose sewing machine I inherited and learned on!
I will leave you to peruse the process and enjoy the formation of the finished product, which includes some embroidery stitching and beading in the details. I love the texture and dimension the felting technique offers.







Metallic Blue MasqueradeOctober 8, 2014

I just recently finished up this ensemble of pieces for a lovely couple on their way to a masquerade ball. How fun! MBlue1
The original request included a customized dress in a flashy fabric, and a reworked hat, originally worn as part of a bridesmaid ensemble from several years ago. After removing the netting and the pearls from the original hat, I recovered it in the metallic fabric, applied new rhinestone beads from a disassembled necklace my client had on hand, reapplied the netting, and created a top rhinestone bauble with matching fabric strands to dangle in the back. MBlue2
The dress itself was a commercial pattern she chose (McCalls 6952) which we modified to suit her, adding little sleeves. It has two front slits in the skirt, an elasticized waist for the top to blouse over, princess seams, and a pretty peekaboo back yoke. I think the soft drapey fabric gives it a kind of grecian goddess look. MBlue3

The brooch she wanted to wear as a feature had a pretty thick and blunt pin which would have damaged the fabric, so we brainstormed together to find a solution. With two small safety pins vertically inserted on the inside of the dress, I created two spaces through which the brooch could hang on, leaving the dress fabric in tact. We are geniuses!!
Once we had her outfit off to a good start, she asked me if I could make some matching men’s accessories for her partner out of the scraps from the dress. Certainly! I put together a pocket square, bow tie, cummerbund, and mask to complete the look. MBlue6




Experiments in DenimSeptember 17, 2014

Lately, I have been enjoying working with and experimenting with heavy denim fabric, noticing how it wears and ages, as well as experimenting with a wax surface treatment for waterproofing.

If you recall my experience this past year with the Me Made March challenge, seen here, I was inspired to make myself some custom denim overalls. After learning what works and what doesn’t in heavy denim work wear, I used my experience to construct a second pair of jeans, addressing all the issues made apparent in the first pair. You can see them brand new and unworn here.

As promised, I have an update, to demonstrate the individual wear patterns in unwashed denim after six months. You can see where the fabric folds when I move and bend, like a personal movement fingerprint. jeans front
You can see the areas that are pushed out by my round parts (bum and knees) are more evenly lightened with wear, and the areas that bend in (front hips and back knee) continuously crease in the same lines.
jeans back

jeans knee

jeans side1
The seam lines also become more obvious with wear, as abrasion will primarily affect the highest point of contact.
jeans side2

Other experiments in denim include a waxing treatment that renders canvas or denim fabric waterproof. I made this custom denim work apron for a local tattoo artist (a birthday gift from his sweet wife!), and offered the waxing as an option.
Before wax:apron1



wax set-up:
wax process:

(My apologies for the colour/sheen in the pictures. Photography is hard!)


Ridiculously Practical Reworked Sun HatJuly 28, 2014

I know this hat LOOKS goofy (my husband says I look like Elmer Fudd), but it’s actually super duper smart. I am paranoid about UV rays and cancer, and have trouble wearing sunglasses with my prescription glasses. I find most hats don’t protect the sides of my eyes/face and sometimes fall short in the front too. My solution: remove the skimpy beak on this purchased “fashion” hat, and replace it with a ridiculously large duck beak. Ain’t no sun gonna blind me!

I chose a navy blue linen as a dark contrast, because it’s nearly impossible to try and match a fabric shade and type exactly. The inside of the beak is stabilized with two layers of heavy weight interfacing (one woven, one non-woven), and the outer edge is held stiff with boning. I reinserted the beak into the hat and hand embroidered a decorative pattern to the band.

After wearing the hat for a test run week at the lake, I decided to add some more boning further in from the edge of the beak to hold a curve, and flop less. Now the sides come down to protect my eyes, and the front is more firm. I am so set for summer sun.



The Importance of Authenticity, and How to Deal With Societal ExpectationsJune 5, 2014

Lately I have been thinking about people put in boxes. There are a lot of different boxes to be put in, but I think the most troublesome of all is the gender box (which encompasses body politics and behavioural cues). I’ve seen a couple videos circulating that so accurately describe the problems of society’s boxes.

Laci Green is a genius that recognizes the importance of breaking down sexuality. Here is a video that articulates the difference between how women’s and men’s bodies and skills are judged and valued.

This incredible story of a family recognizing, acknowledging, and embracing the needs of their transgendered child had me bawling. If only this kind of love and acceptance were more widespread, not just with our children (but most importantly so!) but with everyone we meet and interact with. I thank the Whittington’s for sharing this video.

Another reason for my writing this post is the increase in cat calls and harassing behaviour that inevitably accompanies the warm weather wardrobe. I could write a whole other blog post about the entitlement some people have in regards to their opinion on other people’s bodies and their perceived right to comment. The unnecessary discomfort of being in your own skin simply because you’re a woman is another modern torture box that stifles well-being and self-worth. The recent news of the Elliot Roger massacre led to the #yesallwomen hashtag outlining the frightening psychological state of the world.

Authenticity: To be true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.(from Merriam-Webster)
Brene Brown hosts this on point TED Talks.
If you don’t feel like watching the 20 minutes of speaking, here is what I took from it:
The importance of authenticity is love and belonging. Authenticity is required for connection, which I believe all humans strive for. BUT it requires vulnerability to show your true self. It would be so much easier for people to live authentically in the world if we were more allowed to make mistakes and have a chance to learn from them. When we believe that we are enough, we can stop pretending and striving to be someone else’s idea of perfect. This is an impossible goal, and it’s stressing us all out.

In cultures all over the world there are definite expectations for “masculine” and “feminine” behaviours, and little recognition of the elastic flexibility of a gender continuum. Regardless of the sex organs we were born with, I believe every human has both masculine and feminine tendencies, to varying degrees. I think at some point in time, we all must feel forced to act or look a certain way, because of outside forces. We can feel these pressures through the clothes offered in stores, the comments people make on our appearances, and our own internalization of the messages society feeds us about our worth. I wish people would stop listening to what the outside world wants them to be, and start reflecting on and tuning in to what actually makes them happy.

In the same vein, can we do the same for others? Can we all just chill out about other peoples appearances!? I don’t understand how someone else’s body, face, gender presentation, or personal style can offend another person so much that they would say words about it. To me, that is the most incredibly rude behaviour, to scorn a person for being themselves. How someone else looks is none of your business, whether you disagree with their physical shape or what they chose to wear. You can be certain, it’s not for you. The words we say out loud have resonating effects, and negative hurtful comments are far more often remembered than the positive. This also applies to the words we say to ourselves about ourselves.

In general, what I want to communicate here is a need for respect, towards ourselves and others. We all have unique relationships with the world that stress us out in different ways. Embrace what you have been given and give others the space to be themselves. Everybody is fine just the way they are. Physically take care of your body because it does so much work for you. Honour your personal convictions and live in the way that feels right for you. Make a concerted effort to mock less, especially in front of children. The messages we are sending are ones of judgment, and of the necessity to conform to another’s standards.

This is in part why I do what I do. I want to celebrate the diverse shapes of humans, and fulfill their specific needs of self expression. The effect on our mentality when we feel we are being authentically represented in the best light, is magical.


Vintage styled suit in navy texturesMay 23, 2014

This project took its time to come to fruition, but I believe I successfully captured the spirit and style my client was looking for. She had been thinking about this suit for a long time before she even approached me, having already chosen her fabric. She is a fellow lover of eras bygone, and was inspired by the mannish style suit Kate Hepburn wore. You can glimpse the design process here

And The Finished Result!
I got her to channel Kate’s laidback pose.
I love how the whole thing looks on her. The cool, cuffed, wide leg pants, the shape of the jacket cut right for her dimensions, the positive feeling of wearing a unique piece of clothing made (as close) to your preferences (as possible).
The main thing we were striving for with this suit was the presence of thoughtful detail, eye-catching and interesting. The five button front closure is obviously a main design feature, so the other components, like the pockets and pleats in a contrasting fabric, were still decorated but less flashy.




(Please excuse my photoshop skills. In trying to bring out the detail of the dark suit materials, the skin and shirt are nearly blinding in some pictures!)

This was the first time I have attempted the curved pocket edging echoed throughout the jacket and pants, a neat idea from the client. I did my best to execute it, and I am mostly pleased with the result, but my mind always latches on to what could be better.
I think the pants pockets were done quite well. They turned out smoother because I could sew the ends into a seam. Sewing curved pattern pieces is challenging, especially when there are multiple fabric types involved, or any fabric with stretch.
I am most pleased with my execution of the shaped yoke on the back of the jacket. Sometimes it’s hard to make the pointed shape meet up with the centre back seam and not bubble at all, but I did it first try here. One point of perfection.
Another thing I learned with this project is how to make shoulder pads! My client had a very specific idea about how she wanted the shoulder shape, and none of the shoulder pads in the stores cut it. We were looking for something with more height in the shoulder cap, without as much padding closer to the neck. She did some research, got the materials, and I put them together to her specs. I also made them removable with velcro, because the padding was not washable like the suit fabric.

The outer main fabric is a cotton-poly mix with a bit of stretch to it woven in a tiny chevron pattern, and the contrast edging is a slubbed duppioni silk with a slight sheen. Since this suit is inspired by vintage style, I thought it was so appropriate that we used a vintage plaid lining, and vintage buttons that I had been holding onto for such a perfect use as this one. The shoulder pads are made of layers cotton quilt batting fused together, covered in the suit fabric to reduce slipping around.


Me made march reflectionsApril 15, 2014

The Year of Denim
This year I learned a lot about making and wearing denim, and after wearing my overalls (almost) every day, I made another pair of jeans with improvements. I am also in the process of constructing another pair of sweet overalls for a client. Here is my newest pair of highwaisted trouser cut denims. The inside of the front pocket is lined with a soft worn denim scrap for comfort.1trouser



Some downsides to my original dream overalls:
1. Although the six button closure LOOKS pretty nice, it sure did take a long time going to the bathroom. Especially if I was wearing a sweater that I had to remove before I could take off my suspenders to pull down my pants. What an ordeal! For the second pair of overalls I’m making, I’m using hidden functional zippers with decorative sailor buttons. Much more practical!

2. Speaking of buttons and practical wear, I found that the original metal shank buttons I sewed on proved too weak paired with the heavy fabric, and subjected to nearly constant wear. Or rather, the heaviest thread I could find was still too weak to handle the stress and pressure. My top right button fell off on day 10, and top left on day 12. Bottom left fell off day 15. When making my second pair, I tried the hammer-in buttons designed specifically for jeans. It has proven quite sturdy so far, 2 weeks in. To think I had never tried them before! I will definitely use denim buttons for future custom jeans. I will also reinforce the corduroy pockets by backing it with denim. The difference in strength of the two fabrics was made apparent. Denim won!4overalls

3. The fabric I used was an unwashed raw denim, and without doing the proper tests and research, I washed them in the machine and put them through the dryer. It caused the colour to make a mottled, marbly effect, lost a lot of stiffness, and developed a soft, almost fuzzy surface feel. Here is the back of the knee shot of the first pair (washed black denim) and the second pair (unwashed navy denim) for comparison. 5denimwashed


I googled wearing raw denim and found a whole subculture of creating your own wear patterns in stiff, raw denim. I am doing this with my new jeans, and I will be posting my wear progress.

In terms of my mental experience throughout the month, I did find it hard to wear my overalls everywhere I went. They were just too casual for some events, and I really like to get dressed up. I’d estimate I wore them for a good 80% of the month. I did manage to transform them into jeans by tucking in the bib and removing the suspenders to offer an alternative.

Also, I found that wearing my overalls so intensively gave me a chance to observe the wear patterns at a sped up rate. I was made aware of weak areas, and was also able to make improvements as problems came about. The sped up wear process gave me lots of information on how to prevent these problems in the future.

In the general mindset of wardrobe improvements, I fixed a ton of stuff for my family, taking in shirts to make them fit better, reinforcing worn out mitts and snowpants, repairing torn seams and worn knees, and giving too-small favourite clothes another life. Gratuitous cuteness with repaired mitts!7mittfix

All in all, Me Made March this year was a valuable learning experience and a fruitful time of production.


Me Made March 2014March 8, 2014

Me Made March 2014 is in full swing! This is my second year participating in this personal pledge to make more thoughtful, sustainable clothing choices. The goal of this project is to encourage people to sew their own clothes to wear, support local fashion designers, and wear second hand for the entire month of March. It serves in raising consciousness about the origins of our clothing, and the social and environmental impacts of overseas, factory production. There are workshops held in Winnipeg where people can learn to make their own things to wear, and internet posts sharing handmade outfits. Check out Sew Dandee, a Winnipeg clothing store committed to local, handmade, sustainable products, which also offers sewing and crafting workshops. Join us in this yearly challenge!

Last year, my personal pledge was to wear at least one handmade piece of clothing, and the rest of my outfit to be thrifted. (I did not count underwear or outerwear in this challenge…) I really had fun with this challenge and soon discovered that my most plain basic clothes were the factory made pieces that I was boycotting. It forced me to be creative in combining the many random pieces that I would normally offset with my jeans or something black. The resulting outfits were quite vintage influenced, and my most colourful and interestingly patterned ones. You can peruse them in the Me Made March gallery here on my website. They consequently garnered comments and compliments, allowing an opening for me to explain the Me Made Project. Thus, successfully raising awareness and provoking thought about our clothing!

My experience last year was lots of fun, but left me missing my jeans. So this year I thought out, designed, and made my dream jeans (which are actually overalls), that I have pledged to wear EVERY DAY. (Do not fear, they will be washed regularly. I have kids with sticky fingers.) They will be paired with only thrifted, vintage or handmade shirts and accessories. This will be challenging in a different way, to keep myself from getting bored of my look, but I might be satisfied enough to wear jeans that are just how I like them.
Some of my complaints with store bought jeans are that they are lower rise than I prefer and if they fit the bum, they are loose in the waist. These characteristics leave me always hiking up my pants, even if I wear a belt. The jeans I made are highwaisted (extra high for my dimensions!), slim cut leg, made with a sailor button closure and front bib overall. The suspenders I made to go with them are a black striped white elastic. With these pants, I can wear all my shirts that are a bit too short without showing off my belly. And I won’t be hiking them up all day!
Special features include contrast corduroy front pockets, and a hand embroidered back pocket. The seams inside are bound in bias tape, so real high quality!!


Stuffed Log DraftbusterJanuary 5, 2014

In trying to come up with sewn gift ideas this last Christmas that people can use and appreciate, I remembered this project from the book Sewing Green by Betz White2-reference
This project checks off all my boxes. It is a functional tool for life in such a cold climate as Winnipeg, it is a decorative homage to the beauty of nature’s textures, it reduces waste by using recycled fabric and scraps for stuffing, and is a versatile gift that can be enjoyed by people of any gender or age (kids like to use it for play). I love this project so much because it finds a use for all the textile waste that isn’t in big enough pieces to make something new.

The thick wale corduroy for the outer fabric came from an old couch that my aunt reupholstered a while back (ten years?) and I’ve been holding onto for just such an appropriate use. (Yes, I hoard materials, but look! I have the perfect thing for that specific need!) The colour and striped texture of the fabric is a perfect echo of the bark on a tree. 3-material

The innards of the log are textile scraps that were SO easy to collect around my sewing room. These two bags were almost enough to fill my three logs, but I did scrounge a few more pieces near the end. You can use anything to fill them! She suggests plastic shopping bags, which is a great use of another excessively bountiful, non-biodegradable material. 4-scraps

After cutting my log and branch pieces, sewing them into tubes, leaving an opening for stuffing, 5-cut

and prepping my embellishing leaves and snails,


it was time to put the log ends together. A stitched spiral gives the effect of rings on a cross section of cut wood, AND it’s better if it’s uneven, cause that’s like nature. Also, perfect spirals are super hard to achieve. Wonky sewing is welcome here. 8-log-ends

The circles are sewn to the ends of the log, clipping the corduroy to allow room.9-log-ends


Now it’s time to stuff! Look at the colourful guts! Make sure you push the scraps right to the ends and pack it tight with some kind of tool. (I used a massive wooden knitting needle.) The log shouldn’t be too flimsy or floppy, and the tightly packed fabric guts make it about as heavy as a real piece of wood! 11-stuffing



Now hand stitch the openings closed,14-stitching

and attach the branches. I found this to be the trickiest part, because it’s hard to get your needle in the tight angle. But it can be done with a little log wrestling… 15-stitching

This is something that I will definitely make again, whenever my textile waste begins to pile up…


Navy Vintage Inspired SuitDecember 14, 2013

What’s on my table these days? Lots of little jobs to do before Christmas, as well as this big custom project underway. Suit making is quite an involved process, requiring thorough consideration of design details, fit, and fabrication.
My client came to me with the desire to own a suit that harkened back to the 1940′s era. She loved the mannish feel of Katharine Hepburn’s suit pictured here,

as well as the eye-catching five button closure of this green jacket (something between double and single breasted). It’s all about the details!
The main point was to have a unique and interesting design that was comfortable to wear, and flattering to her figure. She also has a collection of beautiful vintage hankies that she needed to showcase somehow, so pockets (namely a breast pocket) were very important.
We worked together to come up with a design that communicated a vintage feel by way of unique details. We borrowed the front button closure, added curved pocket edges and back seams, pleats, and triangular reinforcements. 3-front-sketch

She knew she wanted the fabric to be navy blue in colour, with some sort of contrast to bring out the details. She went scouring the fabric stores and found some beautiful (washable!) cotton mix suiting, with a bit of stretch for comfort, woven in a herringbone pattern. For a subtle contrast on the pocket edges, triangles, and for inside the back jacket pleats, she chose a dupioni silk in the same shade of blue, with a different sheen and texture from the main fabric. She wanted a patterned lining, and luckily found a coordinating blue vintage plaid. 5-fabric-uncut
After drafting a pattern, making a test muslin to fit, and making adjustments, I started cutting the nice fabric she brought me. There were a lot of pieces to cut in the three different fabrics, I think I counted 66 (not including interfacing)! I have begun putting them together, and after some more fittings, I will reveal the beautiful results of this co-designed vintage inspired suit. 6-pattern-pieces


Oversized Sweater FixNovember 16, 2013

Can you believe the awesomeness of this sweater? I almost couldn’t. As soon as I saw the front, I knew I would buy it no matter what size it was. It turned out to be XL (I’m usually medium).
When I tried it on, I liked it baggy up top, with the wide neckline and relaxed sleeves. It was just the bottom that wasn’t right. If it was longer, like a dress or tunic, it would have looked okay that wide, with a belt slapped on. But as it was, it just looked awkward. My solution: take out some of the width along the bottom so it fits around my hips, leaving the rest nice and roomy.
Before: unimpressed

After: ecstatic

My method:
1. Try on the sweater, and pinch the side seams with each hand until the bottom hem is snug around the hips, without being stretched out. Pin it, then measure how far in your side seam needs to be on each side (it should be equal amounts).
2. Turn the sweater inside out to mark the stitching line (I use pins that I take out as I sew, but you can also mark a continuous line with chalk). Make sure the edges of the hem match up on your new side seam, and smoothly angle the stitching line out until it blends in with the existing seam by the time you get to the armpit. (Since my sweater had a higher front hem than in the back, I needed to stretch the front layer to match the back layer.)
3. When you are sewing a stretchy fabric, you will need to allow the thread some give for when the fabric stretches. If your machine has it, use the naturally stretchy zig zag stitch set on a narrow stitch width. My industrial machine is a single function lockstitch (straight stitch), so I stretch the fabric as I sew, to give the thread room to move. Don’t stretch the fabric to capacity, just gentle intermittent pulls while you sew your line.
4. Finish the seam allowance, either with a serger (if you have one), a wider zigzag stitch beside the seam, or a second row of straight stitching 1/4” in from your first seam. Trim off excess fabric, 1/4” from your stitching.

Now you can wear your new/old sweater with pride, knowing that it fits you like it should!
Were these instructions useful? Clear? Do you have more questions? Leave me a comment!


Thrift LifeNovember 15, 2013

A quick shopping guide for the uninitiated thrifter
photo source
For some, entering a thrift store can be overwhelming and intimidating. So many racks! Mostly filled with pieces you don’t want! I am the type of person who revels in this search for gold, getting such satisfaction from an excellent find, earned. I am also so proud of a cheap treasure. (I believe being proud of how little you spent is a Winnipeg thing.) If it suits you well and is also cheap, it is perfect. To me.
As I fully support consuming used goods, and would like to make it easier for anyone to partake in this environmentally friendly retail habit, I thought I would share my own personal methods for weeding out the unwanted. I work in levels, to focus on what I’m looking for. But, this said, you do need to know what you’re looking for. Take a moment to contemplate:
-What classification of clothing is a priority? What do you need in your wardrobe? Tops, bottoms, outerwear, dresses, sweaters, etc…
-What styles suit you? What cuts/ necklines/ hemlines are your favourite?
-What colours do you gravitate towards? Saturated, earthy, pastel
-What types of prints, if any? Plaid, stripes, dots, animal, graphic
-What details do you want featured? Pockets, collars, buttons, embroidery, topstitching

(N.B. I think it is best to go in with an open mind (you may see something you didn’t know you wanted!), but remember that not every outing will be successful. I urge you to try a different store, or go back a couple months later to see what new things they’ve gotten!)
photo source
So here we are, walking into your local goodwill or vintage shop. There are stuffed racks all the way to the back of the store, and you have no idea where to start. I am here to guide you through an efficient shopping trip. Although the racks may not be marked, a quick look will tell you how they are organized.
Men’s, women’s, children’s
then by shirts, pants, sweaters, skirts, etc
then by size (note: check the sections beside your size, I find they have bigger or smaller fitting things that might still work for you)
OR by colour.

After you have found the sections you need, you can quickly rifle through, with an eye (and hand) on the fabrics you love. When you see an attractive colour, print, or texture, check if the garment meets all your needs in terms of style, cut, and detail. If yes, put it on the try-on heap. Continue these steps until you have more than you want. A lot of the pieces may prove unsuitable in the change room.

Now try them on! Check for holes or undone stitching, and decide if you are able to fix it, or can live with the minor flaw. I feel like you will know right away if you like it or not, but I don’t know. Are people unsure about what they like to wear? This is something I’m curious about. Please feel free to leave comments, I’d love to hear your experiences!
my personal haul today


Polka Dot Panel Jean JacketNovember 4, 2013

It is a fairly easy task to take in a garment that is too big, so that it will fit a smaller body frame. A little more creativity is required when you want to alter a garment that is too small. I had originally taken in this handed down jean jacket for a more snug fit. Then I got pregnant twice, and after having a couple babies, my rib cage and back widened just enough so all my previously well fitting clothes were no longer serviceable. Some things were not worth the effort to fix, some designs did not easily lend themselves to alterations, and some were too nice for me to risk ruining with experimentation. This unusable jacket was sitting around for a long time before I came up with an appropriate solution. I love working with, and wearing denim. It’s such a utilitarian textile, but its easy care, durability, and structure are advantageous for many fashionable tailored styles.


So the problem I had with this ill fitting jacket was just across the bust, where the one button wouldn’t do up anymore. I considered a few options, trying to find an appropriate place to add a stretchy contrast fabric. I finally decided to open up the existing back seams to minimize my design footprint. The stretchy polka dot fabric I chose to go with the denim is fairly thick and structured itself, so that hopefully it will match the denim’s lifespan and strength. Once I ripped the seams open, I tried the jacket on and did up the buttons to see how much extra room was needed in the back. At this point I also decided to raise the back hemline so it sits at my waist.


After cutting the polka dot fabric as wide and as long as I needed, in the general shape of the openings when I tried the jacket on, I sewed them inside each ripped seam. Then I sewed the waistband back on, angling downwards towards the front. So the design is almost unchanged, with subtle details enough to make this jacket my own.
And voila! My denim jacket still fits snug as a bug, but now I can do up all my buttons!




Alternative Red TuxedoOctober 31, 2013

This co-designed custom creation was inspired by a shared love of angles and asymmetry, the colour red, and a modern take on a classic tuxedo. My client brought me the red wool suiting (and animal print satin for jacket lining), and I gathered the rest of the complimentary materials. She also found and fell in love with some sparkly buttons for the shirt. The cummerbund was reinterpreted by sewing a black satin pleated panel to the top front of the pants (which unfortunately is not photographed), and other tuxedo features were mimicked, like the piping down the pant side seam, and the topstitched pleats on the shirt. Besides the stunning colour, we obviously had fun with this design, playing around with the hemlines, pocket lines, and collar shape, adding interesting twists to a staple garment.





Clothing RevolutionOctober 30, 2013

Life is a balancing act, isn’t it? Within a framework of limited resources and given circumstances, we all must work to give attention and care to the things that matter most to us. If you are clear about your values, it is easy to prioritize. In terms of the larger world, there are competing interests in business, environment, and humanity, just as in your personal life, work, family, and self-care may compete for your attention. As chaotic as my life seems to be, I am always striving to order it, organize it, streamline it, simplify it, and edit the unnecessary.

I run an alternative clothing business that values individuality, humanity, and environmental sustainability, over the mass-produced, corner-cutting, profit-making values of most current business models. Large companies are only fluent in the language of money, so consumer dollars are your most powerful tool in communicating with the industry. I believe everyone has specific individual problems with mass produced clothing that require a specific solution. And I believe too much money is spent, globally, on things that don’t do the trick (not only in the clothing industry). Perhaps you will become empowered to utilize alternative methods in dressing yourself and your family.

I am very excited to launch my new internet space, in which I can show all the best parts of the work I do. What I will show you here is mainly about my textile work, but subject matter will spill over into other areas that I believe are connected, and will hopefully appear shiny, thought-out, and relevant to the larger world. Sewing and design are my chosen methods to express how I believe we should take care of ourselves and the earth.