Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Trendwatch ~~ Make Your Own Gifts

I've been sewing my own clothes for years and knitting sweaters, hats and mitts. While making it myself is economical I also enjoy the design process and the chance to be creative. The appeal of making handmade goods is spreading. According to the U.S. Commerce Department, retail sales in crafts and related supplies is increasing. More people are doing a do-it-yourself Christmas because of the economic downturn and because people appreciate making things themselves. We're becoming more interested in sustainable living and realizing the health benefits of crafting as a major form of stress reflief. Even people who don't have the time to create their own gifts are buying handmade gifts directly from artists on sites like etsy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Knitting Heirloom Toys

If you can knit, you can make stunning heirloom toys. Jean Greenhowe, a master knitter and designers has been at her craft for over forty years. It wasn't until 1980 that she designed her first knitted doll. Her patterns are easy to follow and produce professional looking dolls and charming accessories. Now residing in Scotland, Jean established her own company in 1988 and her patterns are sold worldwide.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Molyneux ~~ It's Just Apparent

Edward MOLYNEUX reached the height of his popularity in the 1930's when he took the fashion world by storm, by streamlining fashions. His coats and dresses had single unbroken lines with a gracefull fluidity. He dressed such stars as Greta Garbo and Vivien Leigh. Vogue Pattern 2872 very much follows the graceful lines that distinguished his fashion influence. This pattern is circa 1973. This is one of his last designs, in collaboration with his nephew. Edward Molyneux died in 1974.
This pattern is in stock at in size 10.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Change the Look of Your Outfit with a Detachable Dress Collar

The popularity of the practical 1940's detachable dress collar continued into the early 1950's as women discovered an economical and beautiful way to extend their wardrobe.

This is a gorgeous red cotton detachable dress collar, made in England for Olgilvy's of Montreal. It changes the look of a dress or blouse entirely and can be turned to have a peaked collar look at the front.

available for sale at

Who Doesn't Love a Givenchy Dress?

This is a stunning dress design for evening or red carpet wear. This dress has perfect lines that emphasize body length, shoulder and neck. The dress is fitted and lined and falls above mid-knee. It has a foundation to ensure a proper and forgiving fit and a right side front seam. The ruffle can be made in the same material as the dress or in a contrast material.
Givenchy's long history and success has been closely associated with a famous clientele including: Lauren Bacall, Babe Paley, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlène Dietrich, Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis, Princess Grace of Monaco, Wallis Simpson and Audrey Hepburn.
This dress pattern was sold on

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Join A Needlework Group Near You

Knitting soothes the soul. Not only is it great for your mind, but you can use your talents to help others in need. Organizations such as the Needlework Guild of Canada, have been knitting handmade new clothes for the needy for the past 116 years. The Toronto Guild has 400 members and is always looking for knitters to join their organzation.

But if you don't live in Toronto and don't feel like joining a group you can always do something on your own. Donate your knitted goods to homeless shelters. Call your local school and see if there is a need for hats and mittens. Your generousity will go far in these times of need. And by knitting, you'll be helping yourself as well.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Knitting ~~ An Investment in Your Wardrobe

I sometimes think I'm the luckiest person in the world. In my family, I'm surrounded by knitters and I, of course, reap the bounties of their creativity. My sweater collection is huge and to put it bluntly, much better than the commercial variety. Sweaters, socks and mittens that are handmade stand the test of time. Yarn may be expensive, but it's certainly worth it to wear a handmade sweater year after year. During World War II (1941-1945), knitting to keep soldiers warm was a major preoccupation of North Americans, particularly women. Women, men and children, picked up their needles to knit socks, scarves, gloves and sweaters, helmets and hats to help keep soldiers warm. Donated hand-knits cost the military nothing, were produced without expense and far outlasted machine-knit clothing. The need for socks was paramount. Socks wore out much faster than sweaters, and needed frequent changing to keep battle weary feet warm and dry. “The need for socks was so great that captured American soldiers held prisoner in Germany sometimes unraveled their American Red Cross-provided sweaters and re-knit the yarn into socks themselves, using straightened pointed barbed wire as improvised needles.” (

Friday, October 24, 2008

Halloween Will Soon Be here and I think I'm going crazy!

I really shouldn't be blogging because my custom Halloween costume needs to be in the mail by 4 p.m. to make its destination on time. I do this every year. Someone asks me if I can make a costume and I reply...oh sure...and then the craziness begins. I've only promised three costumes this year and they're relatively simple. Cat woman, Indiana Jones and a sexy but authentic looking Bavarian beer girl. I get hung up on the little details (because I love little details) and then the busy-ness begins. This summer I cleaned out my sewing stash and now I am wanting that piece of stretch black velvet and that nifty brown cord that was donated to a local charity (and is probably bundled up for sale in a nice plastic pack at my local Value Village). To make matters worse, this morning I ran out of green thread and there's literally nowhere in town to buy green thread. Yes, black and white are in stock and maybe red, but green? Help! Well, soon this will all be over and I will have survived, I'm sure. But the lesson I've learned is, "If in doubt, DON't throw it out" and always have extra thread on hand. Happy sewing everyone. I'll post pictures of my final creations next week, hopefully, when I've recovered.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Colors of Fall

I love the rich vibrant colors of fall ~~ the flaming red maples, white barked birch and deep yellow poplar become a glorious backdrop as the trees and bushes begin their slow sleep in preparation for winter. It's a beautiful time to take a walk. The air is crisp and I wear a favorite sweater. It's time to think about knitting! More sweaters, hats and mitts in time for winter, which, I know is just around the corner.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Collecting Fabric

I've been collecting fabric for years. I like to buy fabric whenever I travel. A piece here and a piece there, I've purchased fabrics that always remind me of different places I've visited. Wool from Germany, a tartan plaid from Scotland, a piece of silk from India. This piece was purchased in the south of France, and the design and colors remind me of the beautiful vineyards, gardens and the rich color of the earth all wrapped up into one. Some of the fabric I use, some I store and some I've even sold. I'm not alone in collecting fabric. Yesterday I read about one of my favorite authors, Lucy Maude Montgomery, who collected swatches of fabrics. She cut pieces from her own favorite clothes to include in a scrapbook and spent years making a crazy quilt from all the pieces she had collected. Over the past few years prices for old fabrics have doubled, so my collection, in a financial sense, hasn't been that bad an investment. And the best thing is that there are miles and miles of fabrics waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Artistry and Genius -- The Case of Elizabeth Zimmermann

I've just completed reading a 1984 copy of Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac. If you haven't read it yourself, it's a friendly and charming way to visit with the late great expert knitter. Many of my knitting friends have owned several copies. They get so well used. Elizabeth was a passionate knitter who knit all year, day in and day out. Creative and artistic she was also a genius. Who would have thought to design a knit shawl based on PI? Elizabeth did. She claimed the shawl was based on the "...mysterious relationship of the circumference of a circle to its radius. A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances, or, in knitters' terms, the distance between the increase-rounds, in which you double the number of stitches, goes 3, 6, 12, 24 and so on." You don't need to be a genius to understand this book. It's a charming book full of practical hints and tips. You will like Elizabeth and if you're passionate about knitting you'll become even more so.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Taking Time to Be Creative

So often we feel overburdened by the chores of every day life that we choose not to take time for our creative selves. There's always laundry to be done, the dog wants another walk and the grass still needs cutting. In fact, the creative person needs to schedule time to follow a pursuit -- whether it be singing, writing, making music, painting, drawing, sewing, quilting or knitting. Make creative time a priority. Think of it this way. During the last moments of your life, will you think,"I'm so happy that I've got an organized sock drawer and my home is clean?" Or will you be happy to reflect on your creative pursuits ~~ a beautifully knit sweater, a quilt to hand down to the next generation, a painting or photograph that will stand the test of time?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Repatching the Old Quilt ~~ A Lesson in Sustainable Living

The old quilt is 32 years old this month and has lessons for all of us in its carefully repatched squares. None of them are straight or perfect. The fabrics don't match and are of varying textures. Originally, the fabrics were from dresses I wore as a child. Some fabrics were from my Great Grandmother's dresses and those of my Mother's. The backing and sections of materials separating the fabrics are salvaged fabric. The inner layer, an old wool blanket and heavy cotton sheet came from the linen closet of my Great-Grandmother's house. I continue to repair and repatch it every fall as I am doing now, each square a reminder of an occasion and person in my life. It stays on my bed, whatever the season. It is light enough in summer and warm enough in winter. I wash it frequently ~~ not by hand, but by tossing it in the washing machine. I hang it outside on the laundry line to dry. It always smells good. And strangely, year by year it seems to become a little stronger. Sometimes, more colorful. Just a little bit more like me . When I am done with it, (and I am hoping for another 60 years use!) I will carefully pass it down to someone else who will appreciate the different colors and textures and continue to mend, patch and repair it every fall.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Caring for Cashmere

I've upcycled 100% cashmere into a tank top that is both sophisticated and cuddly soft. A very pale gray, this top has machine embroidered flowers on the front, highlighted by clear seed beads. Cashmere will regain its shape after being washed. Repeated gentle washing of cashmere will help it to remain soft. Dry cleaning should be avoided as it may remove the natural oils from cashmere and reduce the luxurious soft feel. Rinse several times when washing and gently roll up into a towel. Lay the top flat to dry. If possible, dry it indoors as light colored cashmere may fade in the sun. If any pilling remains after washing it can simply be cut off with sharp scissors.

Making Things ~~ The Benefits of a Creative Mind ~~ Crafting Keeps You Healthy

My passion for making things began early. I was inspired by my Great-Grandmother whose home was filled with beautiful things that she had made herself. From table linens, to her own clothes, Great-Grandmother found a way to re-use fabrics in beautiful and unique ways. I started making doll clothes when I was 7. Later on, I graduated to designer duds, buying Vogue patterns and creating my own Paris Originals. I made my first quilt when I was 16 using up material from my old dresses. I devote a portion of my day to creating something, whether it be working on an on-going project (French needlework), creating my own clothing, or re-patching that old quilt. Quite simply, I've discovered that a creative life is a healthier one. Here are some tips to make your life a craftier one:

  1. Crafts help you concentrate on the here and now. Enjoy the process! So find something that you really love to do.
  2. Rhythmic crafts such as sewing, knitting, woodworking, crocheting, improve the mind-body benefit
  3. Think of crafting as a medical necessity. Making something allows you to tune into your emotions and creativity and help release frustration. Practice it daily.
  4. Get into the flow! Be completely absorbed by your activity and lose all track of time. Push yourself a little harder to improve your skills so that you won't get bored.
  5. There are no mistakes in creating! Some of the best inventions were the results of so-called mistakes. The process of trial and error opens your mind to extraordinary things.