Archive for the 'gardening' Category


Scout Tee : Mistral

Grainline Studio Scout Woven Tee
Liberty of London Tana Lawn Cotton in Mistral

Firstly, a woven tee. Such a great wardrobe addition! Secondly, a simple and quick sewing project! Brilliant on so many levels.

This is actually my third Scout Tee. I made two during The Sewing Factory. One in Nani Iro double gauze and one in a strawberry linen. I love those short sleeve tees, but with the fall here, I knew my wardrobe really needed a tee with a longer sleeve.

I pulled out the sleeve piece for the pattern and traced it out. I made the sleeve piece about 14.5″ long, but when I sewed it up, I found that length a bit short and had to hem the sleeve with binding. I will cut my next version out with a sleeve piece at 16″ or 16.5″. I also adjusted the side seams of the sleeve and brought them out a bit so that they drop straight down. I feel like I could adjust the sleeve a bit more, but I’m going to need some expert advice on this. I am wondering if I need to add any fullness to the sleeve cap due to adding the length and weight to make it sit nicer. I’ll report back after I do some consulting!

I also added a couple inches to the length of the body. I tend to like things a bit longer in length.

I love having good basic patterns to fall back on and this is definitely one them. The Liberty Tana Lawn is perfect for this pattern. Okay, it’s pretty much good for everything. But once I perfect my changes, I will be turning out a dozen more, for sure.

p.s. This is our garden!

Scout Tee : Mistral

Scout Tee : Mistral


Handy Apron

I designed the Handy Apron shortly after opening the workroom. At the time, I was the only one working in the shop and often found myself trying to find my one tape measure or remember where my pair of scissors was. I decided to take a crack at creating my own utility apron that could double as a gardening apron or just a generally handy apron with pockets and loops.

I’ve made a few of these and love wearing them. All the little pockets are great to stash all kinds of things you might want to have quick access to. When I saw this French botanical fabric (the writing is in French, but the fabric is Japanese), I knew I needed to make myself a gardening apron. I used contrasting fabrics for the first time, choosing a plain linen for the ties and for the tool loops. When the apron was finished, I thought it would be fun to add some texture to the natural linen. During the India Flint workshop, India talked about a technique she would often do called hapa-zome. Essentially, you hammer or smash plant material (leaves or flowers) into fabric to create an imprint. I really wanted to try this simple technique out. I snipped some leaves from the garden and set about smashing them into the linen ties. Some things worked better than others, but I was amazed at the clarity of the images this technique left behind. When reading up on other people’s experiences with hapa-zome on the internet, I found that most people would layer the plant material in between two pieces of fabric before smashing. I used a metal hammer and carefully tapped directly onto the leaves that lay on my fabric, which was laid out on top of a piece of template plastic on top of patio stones. This is an incredibly satisfying process, as you can imagine.

To set the imprints, I just used my iron to steam the fabric. I’ve also read about using salt water to set the prints. To test the fastness, I threw the apron in the washer and dryer. There was a bit fading. I think it was mostly all the smashed plant material being washed away, but I quite like the faded look. This method is not super permanent, but apparently it can be extended by pre-mordanting the fabric and also by waiting as long as possible before washing it.

One note. I used organic cotton canvas as a sew-in interfacing inside the apron. This is something I’ve been using as a substitute for interfacing in my bags and other projects. I didn’t pre-wash the canvas before using it and it shrunk a fair amount when I washed the apron. I ended up taking part of the apron apart to adjust for the shrinkage. I hadn’t run into this problem before, since I don’t usually wash my bags. I will pre-wash the cotton canvas going forward, just in case.

Handy Apron

Handy Apron

Handy Apron

Handy Apron


Fabric Bundles

A couple weeks ago, I had the honour of joining a week long workshop at the Contemporary Textile Studio Co-op with Australian textile artist, India Flint. India is world renowned for the magic she has created with natural dyes and her unique approach to imparting colour and foliage prints to textiles and paper.

Since taking our natural dyeing class last year, I’ve been wanting to do more, (I think about it all the time!) but somehow haven’t gotten around to it. Silly how that happens. The opportunity to spend a whole week playing with plants and fabric with India at the helm was just perfect.

We spent our days learning India’s gentle ways of collecting nature materials from florist or grocer garbage (with permission), going on windfall walks (collecting only what has fallen on the ground and not harvesting), learning about local weeds (plants that are in excess for picking) and looking in our own backyards. Even her mordants are made of milk (soy or cow), found scrap metals, pickle juice and aluminum foil from chocolate bars rather than hard and caustic metals.

India’s approach to dyeing was very freeing. We didn’t use a scale, a thermometer or a ‘recipe’ of any sort. We were encouraged to work on small samples (rather than dyeing 3 metres at once), mostly using silk and wool (protein fibres which take colour much more vibrantly). We lay our plant material directly on the fabric and then wrapped or folded it into tight bundles with elastic and string. We had several dye pots on the go, one with onion skins, one with iron scraps, one with who-knows-what. We would sometimes leave the bundles overnight and arrive in the morning to unwrap our treasures. The imprints we each got were truly remarkable. What a beautiful way to mark fabric.

We used the same process to dye paper that we had hand stitched to create a little book. Each student also spent the week deconstructing a men’s shirt to make a special work apron, which we also dyed and hand stitched our samples to. At the end of the week, we took a group photo wearing our aprons. So cute!

On the last day we gathered up all our favourite samples and took some time to admire each other’s work. It was amazing to see how much of our personalities was present in our dyeing samples. Such diverse results from working with mostly the same materials.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience ever since with much wonder. Thank you, India!

I took tons of photos during the week and I’ve posted them all on flickr here.

Learn more about India Flint : site : blog

India's Apron & Eucalytus Sample

Windfall from High Park

365 : 181

Silk Sample

Everybody's Paper Bundles

365 : 180

Wool sample

Wearing Our Aprons

365 : 143

365 : 143

May 23, 2010 : first rhubarb from the garden

This rhubarb is the first thing I’ve harvested from our garden at home. I tried out this recipe for Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble and it is incredible. The topping includes oats, toasted pine nuts and a bit of black pepper! I didn’t have any Port, so I omitted that. I also substituted the special flours and sugars for the ones I had on hand. This is going straight into my permanent recipe box. Strawberry & rhubarb is probably one of the best flavour pairings, ever!


Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

I’ve been hoping to get to Seedy Saturday for the last few years. I was pretty happy to hear that this year they were holding it on a Sunday. A perfect excursion on my day off with Andrew. It was also our first visit to Wychwood Barns. What a great space. The re-purposing of this building and land is very inspirational.

Seedy Sunday was jam packed and I picked up some treats for myself – a signed copy of Gayla’s new book, “Grow Great Grub“, some seeds from Matchbox Garden & Seed and several discs of drinking chocolate from ChocoSol.

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns

Seedy Sunday at Wychwood Barns



I waited all summer for my hibiscus plant to bloom and finally it did! Next year I’m going to make sure I plant more flowers. I should start this fall by planting some bulbs, which I say I’m going to do every year but never do.

Today is the official start of fall. My mind seems to be preoccupied these days with thoughts of making fall-appropriate clothing and getting mentally prepared for holiday gift making. Is it too soon?

  • i must be thinking about fall. i’m sewing black clothing and wanting black shoes. like these.
  • you can never have enough terrariums. it might be time for me to make another!
  • i’ve been thinking a lot about making a skirt with a zipper down the front… this one has two!
  • i want to make mini pies shaped like apples!
  • clever becky is sharing her security envelope project with the world in fabric form
  • coolest pockets i’ve seen – navy blue draped pocket dress (with pink cardigan!)
  • lovely design has reprinted her beautiful conifers & beautiful leaves posters! i can complete my set now.
  • how a sewing machine works. very enlightening animation.
  • i miss fashion week. Karen Walker‘s S/S 2010 collection is full of fun prints.
  • loving the cape, but those shoes!!! WOW.
  • skirt inspiration in blue





Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s a particularly fun time to shop for fruits and vegetables in Ontario. For a short period, there is an abundance of lovely locally grown produce available to us. I try to savour each peach, tomato, berry and corn on the cob. Here and there I kept hearing Gayla Trail tweet about making pickles, buying canning jars and ‘putting up’ all kinds of fruits and vegetables. It hadn’t really occurred to me that preserving some of this fresh food will allow me to enjoy it in the cold winter months. I was over the moon when Gayla agreed to share her experience and teach a workshop on Canning Heirloom Tomatoes at the workroom.

Firstly, Gayla is a fountain of incredible knowledge. Her book and website, You Grow Girl, have fostered a community of gardeners and provide endless inspiration. She is an amazing photographer (check out her ‘daily botanical‘), crafter and she lives right here, in Parkdale.

To start off the workshop, Gayla laid out a beautiful collection of her preserves, pickles and syrups. Just seeing all the colourful possibilities laid out in glass jars was enough to get me dreaming of starting my own collection. We were even allowed to sample her peaches in brandy, oven roasted tomatoes in olive oil and cherries in red wine. So delicious!

Then, it was down to work. Canning is definitely work. The jars need to be sterilized and the tomatoes need to be washed, scored, blanched, peeled and cored. Food preservation is pretty serious and safety is a major concern. As we worked on getting the tomatoes ready, we chatted and asked about a million questions. I felt that each of the students was like a sponge trying to soak up every word Gayla said.

It took us longer than expected, due to the slow heating elements on our electric stove, but we canned fourteen beautiful pint jars of tomatoes. Two jars for each student! More importantly, we learned from someone who loves canning and has been doing it for over ten years. The little tricks, words of advice and anecdotes are why I love taking classes so much. Gayla is a fantastic teacher. So much so, that I went off on my own this past weekend and bought myself a bushel of San Marzano tomatoes. (that’s over 300 tomatoes, people!)

There was an article on Saturday in the Globe & Mail about the popularity of canning right now, featuring Gayla. She also has a new book coming out in February called “Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces“, just in time for us to plan our gardens for next year. She’ll be sharing some of her recipes, including her pickles. I’m crossing my fingers hoping she might want to teach a pickling workshop. I don’t think I can wait until February to learn more of her secrets. I’m addicted.

I know for a fact that many of you are making delicious jams and pickles. Maybe you’ll share your trusted recipes?

Gayla Trail : website / flickr / shop / book / new book

Blanched & Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes

Gayla's Preserved Crab Apples & Lemons

Gayla's Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes



My head hasn’t been in it for the last week. If you’ve been anywhere near the workroom you’ll have heard my sad computer tale by now. The shop’s iMac died last Tuesday. For almost a week, I thought we had lost most of our data and I thought I was going to have to pay about $1000 to have a data recovery specialist try to retrieve it. Stupidly, the last time I had backed up was six months ago. It’s amazing how much we depend on computers and how valuable that information is. (sales, inventory, contacts, purchasing, accounting, documents, photos, music, etc!)

LUCKILY, I had an extended warranty on the computer and after trying for a week to repair the iMac, the Apple store decided to replace it with a brand new computer AND they were able to save and transfer my entire hard drive over!! Whooo! I cannot tell you how lucky (and relieved) I’m feeling right now.

The moral of this story is BACK UP YOUR DATA! I’ve already bought an external hard drive and set it to back up once a day. Plus, I’m buying a flash drive to keep in my bag for the most important files.

I’ll be celebrating this weekend by binging on sewing. I’ve got a line up of projects I’m itching to work on and I can’t wait to show you what I make.

Photos from the garden always make me feel good. Happy Friday, friends!

  • can’t wait to get these! via oliver + s: Fall patterns unveiled
  • love this DIY project! via Design*Sponge: before & after featuring a found door turned into a great outdoor table:
  • preview of denyse schmidt’s upcoming fabric collection, ‘hope valley‘. i foresee buying this entire collection.
  • i hope one day i get to eat here
  • love the print work! via Design*Sponge: here’s a roundup of textile & furniture work from students in copenhagen
  • really great information here for artists about copyright
  • i love this idea. via Design*Sponge: my new favorite key ring = amy’s vintage hotel key ring (how-to included)
  • OMG, the first dress in this post is incredible and uses all kinds of natural dyes. read the description!





Thank goodness for twitter! Without it, I never would have found out about Merci, a very new & amazing concept boutique that was just down the street from our apartment in Paris. Thanks Martina for the fantastic tip.

This was definitely one of my favourite shops of the whole trip. It is set in a beautiful three floor space that was previously a factory. Merci is a flower shop, used book store and cafe. They also sell home furnishings, clothing (men’s, women’s and children’s), fabric and perfume. If I lived in Paris, I would shop here all the time. (or I would try to move in) I loved everything they had. The shop is owned by the couple who started Bonpoint which happens to be my favourite children’s clothing shop. (mostly because I wish I could wear the lovely clothing it sells) Merci is also a not-for-profit operation, all the proceeds go towards children’s charities. Yes, this shop is incredible in every way.

My photos are not that great, I was too busy oohing and ahhing over everything. I just found this set on flickr that really shows you how drool-worthy the shop is. Her blog is also a treasure for things about Paris. Yes, I am making notes for my next trip back.

One of the things I saw at a few places in Paris were these Bac Sacs for plants. Essentially they are fabric buckets made with 100% recyclable materials. They have handles on them, so you can hang them on your balcony or wall. I think it’s such a fantastic idea and I’m going to try to make some myself.

If you go to Paris (or if you live in Paris, Elise!) you MUST go to Merci. You will see lots of pretty things (and buy some of them) and thank me.

MERCI – 111 boulevard Beaumarchais, 3rd Arrondissement, Paris


Though I didn’t actually get to any gardening on my two glorious days off, we did visit two different nurseries and picked up lots of lovely herbs and plants for the garden. One of the nurseries was Richter’s Herbs, which is becoming a yearly visit for us. Cinnamon Basil, Lime Thyme, Tangerine Sage, and Spice Basil are a few we’re going to try out. They all smell so delicious!

I’m especially intrigued by the Dwarf Pomegranate plant which is apparently the perfect candidate for a bonsai tree and should produce both flowers AND fruit!

I had grand plans of being seriously crafty on my days off, but ended up being deservedly lazy. I really needed the R&R.