Posted in Fashion, Style

Wardrobe (& sewing) Inspiration: Canadian design for the rest of us


The lovely Victorian gardens in Halifax on our road trip

My husband and I have just returned from an almost-two-week road trip. We started here in Toronto, headed down through northern New York state, through New Hampshire, into New Brunswick and then relaxed for five days in Halifax, Nova Scotia with friends and family. We then turned around and headed back on a different route out of Nova Scotia, through New Brunswick (as one must), into Maine, onto New Hampshire (this time on the coast), then spent our last night in Lake Placid, New York. Along the way I found myself browsing in a plethora of quirky boutiques in a variety of small towns and cities where I encountered a few ideas. And two of the best ones were from Canadian designers.


I’ve long been a fan of veteran Canadian designs by Comrags, although I do have to scratch my head every year about some of their pieces. I mean – what were they thinking about this one? It looks like a burlap bag with embroidery – neither of which I find personally flattering on me.

Really? who looks good in a burlap sack? [photo from Comrags web site]

I have also liked Simpli, a design firm out of Vancouver. They also seem to be able to source flattering fabrics – and again, I have been scratching my head this year about the designs. Why are they all so full of so much material? They say they flatter every body – but really, who looks good in this? (The jersey fabric is great, though. Again, I want some.)

Simpli – yecch. [photo from the Simpli web site]

Lucky for me I discovered two new Canadian designers to put on my list of fabulous fabric usage as well as wearable design.

img_1381In Halifax I stumbled into Lisa Draeder-Murphy’s shop in Historic Properties where she stocks her Turbine Designs. As luck would have it, the designer herself was in the shop that day although she tells me that this is a rare event.

I did not by any stretch of the imagination need a new dress, but again I was smitten by her fabrications and could not resist. For me it’s the feel of the fabric and god knows I’ve made enough mistakes in selecting fabrics for sewing projects. They often look fantastic, but the feel? Not so much. Damn, when will I learn?

st-andrews-boutiqueWhen I was in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, I strolled into Toose’s Bijoux and found myself touching and rubbing the fabric of a series of lovely T’s. Turns out that they are the designs of a firm called “Leave Nothing But Footprints” (LNBF), and yes, they are a group of “socially-conscious” millennials. This means that their fabrics are soft and natural, ethically-produced and organic. Most of their fabrics are viscose from bamboo which if you have never tried it, is one of the softest fabrics around. I bought a wonderful, long-sleeved, well-priced ($49 CDN) T with a banded V-neck – I can’t wait for the weather to be cool enough to wear it. However, I’m now on a mission to find some of this fabric to sew with. Wish me luck!

Posted in sewing

From moulage to custom dress form: I finally finished the project!

img_3860There’s nothing like a customized dress form that reflects your body precisely back to you to make you feel a bit like a real designer. I’d like to think that now that I have finally finished my customization project that everything I sew for myself from here on in will fit better. We’ll see. Anyway, I finally have Gloria Junior finished and what a work of art she is! When I wrote about my doppelgänger before as I began this project, I came to terms with looking objectively at my own figure and accepting that this is who I am. Now that she’s finished, I’m even happier with what I see.

I’m by no means the first sewer to do a project like this. And indeed there are more way to get to this point than I could have imagined when I began. On their web site, Threads magazine has a slide show of “9 ways to customize your dress form”[1] which was one of the first pieces of research I hit on when I started this. There’s the duct-tape approach where you wrap yourself with duct tape and then cut yourself out (presumably with a helper), ditto for the paper tape method; the paper maché approach which seems excessively messy. The rest all seem to be variations on these ones. None of them appealed to me, but they are certainly faster and probably cheaper than the method I chose.

As I wrote about previously when I started this project, I decided to use the moulage I created on the road to a custom bodice block (sloper) for designing my own patterns, as the basis for my custom dress form.

I started with Gloria Junior, my adjustable dress form whose adjustments never really did capture the nuances of the hollows and bumps of my body. If I dialed her out to fit one part, she was then too big in another, but I soldiered on. Then came the moulage.

I started by dialing her back down so that she reflected the smallest part of me (the under-bust area as it turns out), then proceeded to pad up the other places.

After installing a separating zipper down the back of the moulage (as I discussed in the first pot on this subject), with the help of my doctor-husband who has a stash of ace bandages, gauze tape and bandage tape, we secured three sets of shoulder pads in the bust area and filled in the hollows with quilt batting. I had originally placed one set of shoulder pads where shoulder pads are meant to be: on the shoulders. However, that raised the shoulders so much that the neck ws off – so I had to improvise. Once we had her stuffed, it was time to think about how she would be covered.

Several wonderful bloggers[2] have gone before me and created little patterns for what has been described as the “easy-peasy” way to cover your mannequin. Well, I am the queen of making the simplest sewing task difficult, and this was no exception.

First, I wanted to ensure that the pin cushion at the top of the dress form was still available to me, so there had to be a hole at the top. Then I didn’t like how the neck wasn’t properly contoured which was the same problem at the waist. So I had to manipulate the lovely little pattern, tweaking the final product by hand.

Some people choose light colours for their forms, reflecting a belief that flesh-toned forms will better show the eventual garments. For me, however, black is just so slimming, n’est ce pas? And besides, I had a length of black jersey just the right size kicking around.

So there she sits in all her glory, waiting for me to begin another project – which I fully intend to do as soon as we return from our upcoming fall road trip to the east coast. See you on the other side.