Sunday, September 26, 2010


My husband and I just celebrated our first wedding anniversary (woohoo!). Since we're actually fairly traditional at heart, we wanted to mark the occasion with something made out of paper.

I was randomly searching Etsy for something appropriate when I came across Dimdi's shop. She does amazing watercolours of animals and graciously agreed to paint one for me and my fella. We chose cardinals, both because they're very common where we live and because they mate for life (which is pretty good symbolism for a first wedding anniversary). Here's what she came up with:

Isn't it pretty? I love the detailing around the tails:

My only problem was trying to find the perfect frame for these little lovebirds. The painting is an unusual size -- 11" x 17" -- and the only frame I could find was the simple black one in the photo above. Nice, but not really special. But since it was super cheap (about $10 for a package of two), I picked it up with the intention of turning it into something a bit more interesting.

I had an idea in mind that I first learned at summer camp as a kid. All it involves is a bit of time, some glue, and a whole lot of twigs and sticks. I started by gluing a couple pieces of cardboard on the back of the frame to give myself a larger canvas, then I hot-glued a whole bunch of twigs onto the base. Finally, I hit it with some white spray paint. Badda-bing, budda-boom.

I gave it one coat of paint and ended up really liking the way some of the natural wood still peeked through. I also finished it with modge-podge to seal it and give it a bit of shine.

This was one of those projects that took a bit of time, but each step was actually very easy. I'm really happy with the way it turned out -- especially because the frame sort of thematically relates to the painting (you know -- birds, nests, twigs, trees, etc).

So, there you have it. A little nest for our first anniversary lovebirds.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Knitted Facelift

Look what's happening just down the road from my city! A local artist has  turned this:

Into this:

 ("After" images poached from one of my favourite blogs, Love it a Lot.)

This installation, on display until Monday in Cambridge, Ontario,  is punnily called "Knit camBridge." Hundreds and hundreds of people donated their knitting to turn this bridge into a cozy piece of art.

Here's a little snippet about the project from the Knit camBridge website:

This project was developed to include all levels of knitters, from novice to expert with the hope that it will stir creativity within seasoned knitters and be the foundation to attract a new generation of knitters. The contributions to this artistic community collaboration are key to its success. One person alone would struggle with a project of this magnitude but joined together we can create an amazing piece of art that will include a kaleidoscope of textures, colours and individually.  

This is so awesome for so many reasons. If you're in the area this weekend, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Secretary blouse

Like practically every lass out there in sewing-land, I'm a huge, huge, Mad Men fan. A major part of the show's appeal for me is the meticulous styling  - the fedoras! The mid-century modern furniture! The ladies' outfits! I thought I'd finish my summer sewing roundup with my modern-day homage to the feminine and buttoned-up work-wear of the Mad Men era. 

I saw this blue polka-dot cotton poplin in Fabricland earlier this summer and was immediately taken with it -- it's got a sweet vibe without crossing into overly cutesy territory. I had been wanting to sew up Simplicity 2501 and decided this fabric would be a perfect fit.

I like this blouse more and more every time I wear it. I have to admit -- for me, it was a bit of a stretch to wear a puffed sleeved/polka dotted/bow-tied blouse at first. All of those girly details made me worry it was a bit twee to wear in a professional setting.  However, I've gotten such good feedback on it that it's become one of my favourite work staples. Funny how that goes, eh?

The pattern was a breeze to sew up, and I think I might make the longer sleeved version in navy for the fall/winter. The only thing about this blouse I don't like is a mistake I made on the first button hole. I got a little overly zealous with my seam ripper and ripped straight off the edge of the fabric! That little slip resulted in the ugliest buttonhole known to man:

Brutal!! This is definitely not my proudest sewing moment. Luckily, the bow tie is not only very cute -- it also acts as an ugly button hole cover-up.


See? No one's the wiser!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday off

I worked about a bajillion hours this week, so in return, I've been granted a glorious long weekend. I've been enjoying my day off today by trying to get some work done on a basic black full skirt -- but this little guy keeps getting in the way:

My cat Bruno always decides he MUST be petted whenever I'm in the middle of a project. I would get mad at him, but how can you be angry at this face? Seriously.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The perfect summer dress

Before I turn to some cooler-weather projects, I want to look back on some of my summer sewing projects. This blue dress was one of my favourites.

I made this dress using Simplicity 2591. It was generally easy to sew and has some clever construction elements -- the side panels become the back of the pockets, which I thought was kind of cool (though the instructions for this particular detail were a tad confusing).  Even though I cut my size, the bodice was also really big and had to be adjusted as I went along. Otherwise, it fit me really well with no major alterations.

I bought the royal blue stretch cotton with a gift certificate my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. Since the fabric was a gift, I wanted to make something special, but casual and wearable. I first wore it for my brother-in-law's wedding rehearsal dinner back in May. I dressed it up with snazzy red heels and red buttons around the neckline.

But this dress came everywhere with me this summer. I wore it to barbeques, out shopping, on trips, on patios.

I took it on vacation for my first anniversary when we got bumped up to the nicest room in the hotel (complete with a bed so tall it had its own stairs, which I'm goofily climbing below).

It even came with me to Italy, where I wore it sipping cappuccinos in the piazza.


It has everything you could want in a summer outfit: it's cute but not too formal, comfortable and cool, a striking colour but a simple silhouette.

It's just the perfect summer dress.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On my wanty list

From Pickles

We've had a sudden shift from sticky summer weather to beautiful, cool, fall days - which means a return to cozy wools and knitting. I've decided I must (MUST) make myself one of these beautiful knitted stools in an oatmealy-coloured wool.

There are some great patterns available from Pickles, a Norwegian knitting blog. I think I may have to ignore my seventeen other unfinished knitting projects and start one of these bad boys.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Banana Beignet

The best advice for sewing is to relax, take your time, and enjoy the process of creating something just for you.

That wise little phrase is written at the beginning of every Colette Patterns book - and I think it's darn good advice.

This is my third pattern from Colette, an independent pattern company out of Oregon. This skirt, like the Macaron dress and Sencha blouse, was very fun to make. Something about that little reminder to take your time and enjoy yourself just makes the sewing process go so much more smoothly. I'm a real finished-product sewer -- I tend to choose patterns because I want to wear them, not because I'm desperate to sew them (though don't get me wrong - sewing is a very fun way to get there). But that reminder to enjoy the process as well as the finished result always puts me in the right mindset.

I used a bright yellow cotton twill for this skirt with matching buttons. It sewed up very nicely -- it's certainly not the easiest skirt in the world to make, but the instructions are incredibly clear and easy to understand. I made a size 12 and graded up to size 14 in the hips.

I love wearing this skirt. I get so many positive reactions -- sometimes even from random strangers. Once I was wearing it on the bus with a black-and-white stripey top, and this slightly creepy dude told me I looked like a bumblebee! I think something about the banana-yellow colour just attracts a lot of attention.

My next Colette pattern will be one of the most intimidating projects I've taken on so far: the Lady Grey coat. I'm going to keep an eye on the sew-a-long on Gertie's blog -- I think I'll need all the help I can get!

Saturday, September 4, 2010

La vita è bella

I just got back from Italy. This is a big deal. I don't really travel much (between paying off student loans and saving to buy a house, travel is usually so pie-in-the-sky that I don't even let myself think about it). But this time, my husband was going for work -- and since that meant his expenses were being covered, we decided I should go too. After all, how often do you get a half-free trip to Italy?

The town we were in -- called Rieti -- is the geographic centre of Italy. It's ancient, beautiful, and totally devoid of English-speaking tourists. That made for some adventures in communication, as I have forgotten everything I didn't learn in the first-year Italian class I took in University.

This trip was so interesting for so many reasons. Not only was it stunningly beautiful, but walking around Rieti is like walking around a time capsule. You'll turn a corner, and there's a 13-century arch starting you in the face. If there was anything that old in Canada, it would be behind glass - not a functional part of the city that you can touch and experience first-hand.

But being in a place where I didn't speak the language was actually surprisingly difficult. Everyone was extremely friendly about my very broken Italian, but it meant that I couldn't communicate beyond the basics (hello, how much, thank you, where is, etc). For me -- who's probably one of the chattiest people in the world -- that was unexpectedly tough, especially because I had never experienced that before. But it was also was one of the reasons the trip was so valuable. It made me think about how brave you'd have to be to move to a country where you don't speak the language.

It felt so good to stretch myself like that. And it doesn't hurt to do it in a place that looks like this:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Here we go...

Hi. I'm Emma, and welcome to my brand-spanking-new blog!

Why am I starting this blog, you ask? It's pretty simple -- I'm dying to share the things I think are beautiful, special, or just downright interesting. My daily blog troll is  an endless source of comfort, camaraderie, and inspiration to me. I can only hope someone will feel the same about mine.

Thanks for checking in - and please stop by again!