Whether you work at home or in an office, sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick up your laptop and go work in a coffee shop for a change of pace. It’s so much more difficult when you have a sewing machine instead of a laptop.
Here is a list of Canadian sewing (and knitting lounges) lounges, that offer “sew-by-the-hour” or “knit-by-the-hour” services, from east coast to west coast. The list is short, but hopefully it will grow soon.
If you notice that any lounges are missing, just leave me a link in the comments, or get in touch.
This list was last updated on September 24, 2017. Lounges are generally listed geographically from east to west.
When I started sewing again, one of the first things I decided to do was to get all my patterns and fabric organized. I only had a small stash: one box of quilting fabric, one box of apparel fabric, and one box with patterns and unfinished objects (UFOs). It had been a while since I had gone through it all and I honestly had no idea what I had to work with.
The other reason for getting organized was that I was tired of going to the fabric store, finding the perfect fabric, and then having no idea how much to buy. Other times I would come home without buttons, or with the wrong type of zipper. I couldn’t carry around all my patterns, just in case I needed to consult the back of the pattern, or could I?
My goal was to create a system that was easy to use, affordable, allowed me to know what I had in terms of fabric and consult my patterns anytime and anywhere.
There are a couple of ways to do this. Of course you can do this the low-tech way, lugging patterns around, or little scraps of paper, but this wasn’t working for me. So I decided to go high-tech.
What Are the Options?
There are a number of dedicated smartphone and/or desktop apps you can use.
Sewing Kit, and Sewing Kit HD
Sewing Kit HD is an application that is available for the iPad while Sewing Kit is built for iPhone. You can use it to keep track of your patterns, fabric, measurements and other data. It doesn’t allow you to sync between devices, however.
Cost: $9 for iPad, $5 for iPhone.
PatternPal for iPhone lets you organize your sewing projects. It keeps track of patterns and allows you to input up to 2 photos. There is also a Fabric Stash app for an additional fee.
Total cost: $5. Add $4 if you also want Fabric Stash.
PatternFile is a desktop application that lets you keep track of which patterns you own, and where they are located. It costs $10-20 USD, but if you want to be able to use your data on a mobile device (of course you do!), and to automatically import pattern data, it’s another $5 per month. Mobile apps are available for iPhone, IPad and Android. The iPhone and iPad apps are only available in the US iTunes store.
The software automatically imports pattern data, images, yardage, etc. directly from the pattern companies’ websites. It also allow you to quickly import data for some vintage patterns. This is a really great feature, especially if you use current patterns from the ‘Big Four’ commercial pattern companies.
PatternFile also allows you to share you data with friends and see which patterns they have. I can safely say I would never use this feature. The chances of a friend using the exact same software, and having patterns I want to look at is exactly zero.
Total cost: $23-$55.
Filemaker makes a product for Macs only called Bento that allows you to create simple databases. The system is pretty flexible, so you can decide what information you want to store. Fabric, patterns, and notions can all be recorded, you just need to take the time to set things up. There are even some ready-made templates available for organizing sewing patterns which can save you some time. Bento allows you to download their product for a 30-day trial.
Unfortunately, I had downloaded Bento a few years ago for some now forgotten reason but hadn’t gotten around to testing it out, and once your time has run out, you can’t get another trial.
There are also Bento apps for iPhone and iPad that allow you to sync your data and make it portable, but these are not free.
Total cost: $49 for Mac, $5 for iPhone, $10 for iPad.
Evernote isn’t really an application as much as a web service. It allows you to keep track of patterns, notions, fabric, and anything else you like. You aren’t limited to any number of photos and you can even save PDFs directly to the service. As long as you upload 60MB per month, or less, the service is free. Otherwise it’s $45 per year. If you are routinely entering the same type of data, you can even set up templates to save time. You can access your data through a web browser, using a Windows or Mac desktop application, or on your iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry or Windows Mobile phone. You can also share your data with friends, if you choose to (I have no need of this feature).
Total cost: free.
What Did I Choose?
Evernote was the winner. It is free, easy to use, and did all the things I wanted (except for magically importing pattern data).
I started with my fabric. I created a ‘Notebook’ in Evernote called apparel fabric, then I started documenting all the fabric in my stash. For each piece I created a ‘note’. I took a quick and dirty photo of everything I had, and measured it and included that info. Evernote helps you keep the file size down by letting you take photos within the app in smaller file sizes.
The whole process was pretty quick. I only had one big box of fabric and I documented it one night while watching bad tv shows. That is also why the photos are a bit ‘meh’.
Evernote lets you sort alphabetically by the title of the note, so if you want to organize by colour, put the colour first in the note title, if you want to organize by fabric type, then put the words ‘lining’, or ‘silk’ first. If you want to, you can note how much you paid, where you purchased your fabric, care details, etc. You can also attach tags to notes that help you find things later. I didn’t really use tags for my fabric collection.
Next I tackled my patterns.
I created three notebooks, one for women’s patterns, one for men’s and one for kids’. This was the best way for me to start, since there is no overlap in these categories, at least not within my pattern collection. Well, I suppose there is that 1980s bomber jacket, but the chances of me sewing that for someone of any gender is small.
I used the pattern company name, followed by the pattern number in the title, and then the name of the pattern (i.e. Kelly Skirt). Then I pulled in the pattern front, pattern back and technical drawing for each one. In some cases there is also a link to the pattern company site, or to an inspiring blog post by someone who has made the same garment.
I really like that this system is so flexible. I can keep track of digital patterns and printed ones, ‘Big Four’ patterns and independent ones, patterns for me and for others. I can even include all my vintagepatterns.
With my fabrics, I only used a few tags, but with my patterns I used a lot. I tagged my patterns with the pattern company, the decade, the type of garment (dress, top, etc.) and any distinguishing features that I might want to search for later (gored skirt, puff sleeves, asymmetric, vintage, summer, half-size, etc.).
This process was more time consuming that recording my fabric, but well worth the effort. Now if I see a fabric that would make, say, a great summer dress, maybe with ruffles, I can just open up Evernote on my smart phone and search for ‘summer dress ruffle’ and see all the patterns I own that fit those criteria. Then I can choose one pattern, and get the yardage and notion requirements from the image of the pattern back. I have my entire database of patterns available at all times.
I also like that I have a good idea of what patterns are ‘missing’ from my collection. I don’t own a good jeans pattern, for example, and the men I sew for have very slim pickings. I also can avoid duplicating pattern purchases. In a zombie apocalypse, I now know that I will be able to clothe girls between the ages of 3 and 12 in skirts that are a-line, tiered, gathered, pleated, or culottes, in all lengths, without ever leaving the house to purchase a pattern. How did this happen?
Overall, I’m very happy with this solution. You can see how some other bloggers are using Evernote with their sewing here, here, here, here and here. Everyone is organizing their patterns a little bit differently, which just shows how flexible this solution is.
What about you? How do you organize your patterns and fabric?
Note: This post contains an Evernote affiliate link. If you click on it, I get a little extra storage space, but no monetary compensation. As always, my opinions are my own.
Valentine’s day pyjamas! They were supposed to be Christmas pyjamas, but life intervened. Oh well. It’s probably better this way, since the pyjamas aren’t competing for attention with Christmas gifts.
These are the Oliver + S Bedtime Story Pajamas. I made them four times, once for each kid, hence the delay. I used a digital pattern (a PDF download) and it worked quite well. The pattern itself is great. The only thing that is unusual is that each pattern piece is separately taped together, instead of having them all in a giant sheet. I copied each pattern piece onto tracing paper, so I had quite a few pieces of paper to keep track of. On the other hand, it means you can print out just the pieces you want, which is handy if you just want pyjama pants. I’m not sure which way is better. As always with Oliver + S patterns, the directions are excellent. I don’t have a single complaint.
I sewed a different type of ribbon into the neck and pants of each pair so that the kids can tell them apart.
This is the second time I’ve made the pants, but the first time I’ve made the jackets. I made sizes 18 months, 3, 4 and 5. I made the larger sizes with ties, but put in snaps for the baby sized once – otherwise, kid No 4 will just chew the ties.
I also started with snaps for the older kids. I wanted them to be able to dress themselves. But small snaps are a bit of a small target, even for little hands. I tried larger coat snaps, but then the kids couldn’t get out of them at all because it took too much strength to open the snaps. In the end I took out the snaps and put in the ties. Everyone seems to like this better.
The first time I made this pattern, I made just the pants in sizes 12 months, 2, 4, and 5, also in flannel, in a monster print. I think I’ve tried most of the sizes now. The only one I had a problem with was the 12 month size (not shown), which fit a bit tight in the waist and hips.
When I made just the pants, instead of binding the hem, I just lengthened the pant legs and folded them over twice to hem. Then I appliquéd a big monster onto store-bought t-shirts. These were also a big hit with the kids.
I’d seen the dress and tunic on so many blogs, always with great results. Now I noticed that many of the Washi’s I saw were being worn by people who were taller and less curvy than me. Then a couple of photos showed up in the flickr pool that looked a little more like me, so I had hope! Maybe I too could wear the fabled Washi. I bought the pattern.
The printed pattern is great. I love that the pattern sizes are each printed in a separate colour. Genius! Why doesn’t everyone do that? I love that each piece of paper is printed with a grid overlay along the sides of the paper. So easy to assemble! I liked the instructions, especially the part on making a muslin.
So I dutifully got out some (hideously ugly) fabric from my stash, and made a muslin. And then I did a full bust adjustment (FBA) which I had figured I would have to do. I used the instructions for a FBA on Megan Nielsen’s website, which Made by Rae lists on their site and which are very clear. It still wasn’t working. I went down a size, redid my FBA and lowered the darts. And anyway…. five muslins later I had something I thought looked fairly decent, so I cut my fabric.
There is only one thing in the printed pattern I would change: the way the bust darts are cut out before assembly. After just one muslin, it was clear that by basting and pressing the dart to start, you can get a much better fit, because you can adjust that seam. But if the fabric is already cut, and you need to fine-tune the dart, there’s nothing you can do. You are stuck with the dart placement, as is. The curvier you are, the more this matters.
Assembling the tunic was a breeze. The instructions are great. The smocking with elastic thread was so easy! Everything came together so quickly.
It just didn’t fit, at least not as well as I’d like. Boo!
I’m pretty sure it has more to do with my shape, than the pattern itself, since so many people have had such great luck with this pattern. I am extra curvy (and a breastfeeding mama as well) and I just had a baby six months ago. Can we say problem areas? I figured the pattern would be good for midsection coverage. However, this pattern, like any empire waist look, requires an excellent fit in the bodice. I needed to do the FBA, make sure the darts were in the right place, and make sure that the seamline where the bodice joins the skirt fell at the very thinnest part of my ribcage. This last point is important for avoiding the pregnant look. My muslin did not include the skirt portion of the tunic, only the bodice. It was all a bit frustrating.
In the end I had to take the tunic apart, and shorten the bodice a bit to get the skirt falling at the right place. It’s wearable, but could be better. The front view is good. The side view is only so-so. There is a bit of gaping at the neck. I think this tutorial on avoiding neck gape with a FBA from the Naked Seamstress would help. I would also add a couple tiny under bust darts, as suggested by the Queen of the Flies in her review of the Washi Dress. And there is still some pulling at the shoulders. Maybe I should go down a size? Hmmmm. Suggestions welcome.
Oh, and as a side note… if you disassemble your washi and abandon it in frustration for a couple of weeks (ahem), you may find that the elastic thread has worked its way out, so that you have to resew it. Entirely my fault of course.
I also made a poor choice of fabric. I used quilting cotton. It’s a bit, um, crunchy? Something with a lot more drape would have been a much better choice, especially with sleeves. The pattern recommends “Light to medium weight cottons or cotton blends (e.g. shirting, voile, double gauze, quilting cotton, poplin, or cotton/linen blends)”. Voile, lawn or batiste would have been better choices, at least for my figure. I also would probably have been better off with the dress, instead of the tunic. I suspect the weight of the extra fabric would make for a more flattering line. The garment would hang a bit more straight.
Would I make it again? Yes. The hard part is over. Now that I know how to get a good fit, and what fabric to use, I’d like to try this again. I would also prefer to line the bodice and there are instructions for lining a Washi bodice on the Made by Rae website. (Even though I attached the facing at the side seams, I find the facing pops out sometimes, which is annoying.) It’s such a cute pattern. Let’s call this a wearable muslin and move forward.
Finding Canadian companies that sell fabric online can be tough.
True, you can always shop at one of the US online shops, but it’s just not as easy. Some don’t ship to Canada. Sometimes the shipping prices are outrageous. Even when the shop sends out the fabric the same day, it can be stalled at customs for ages. Then there is the exchange rate to contend with.
I’m much happier supporting a Canadian business, knowing that my order will arrive quickly, and knowing exactly how much it will cost me.
Here is a list of Canadian companies that sell quilting or apparel fabric, patterns, and notions. I haven’t tried them all, so I can’t vouch for them. If you know of any others or have had a good experience with any, please leave a comment or get in touch.
This list was last updated on March 29, 2023. Shops are generally listed geographically from east to west.
From the Vintage Patterns wiki: “The top-stitched, lined coat with princess seaming has front button closing, collar, pockets concealed in side front seams, long set-in sleeves and optional belt in back.”
One of the biggest side effects of organizing my pattern collection is a voracious need for even more patterns. Sadly, I am not independently wealthy. I cannot buy all the patterns I want.
But, I am getting new patterns. New old patterns. My mum is cleaning up the house and I asked for any old patterns that she wasn’t going to use again. We looked at them together over Skype, and this is one of the ones on the way.
It isn’t exactly my size, so we’ll see if I can work with the pattern. Now what colour fabric should I buy…
I really wanted to participate, but the 1940s are difficult for me. I love the art deco styles from the 1920s and 1930s. I like the mod styles of the 1960s. I appreciate that the styles from the 1950s flatter my figure. But I’m much less familiar with the 1940s fashion-wise.
Then it occurred to me that I have a real piece of 1940s clothing in my possession – my grandmother’s wedding dress. A few years ago, when my grandmother died, the dress came to live at my house. I had put it away and I hadn’t taken a really good look at it since.
So for the sew along, my plan is to remake my grandmother’s wedding dress.
My Grandparents in the 1940s
In the late 1930s in Vancouver my grandmother finished nursing school and began work as a psychiatric nurse. She and her friend bought a car, and throughout the 1940’s went on a number of road trips. She often told me the story of how on a trip to the states, she and her sister had stocked up on silk stockings, luxuries that were not available in Canada during wartime. She had to hide the stockings in the sleeves of her clothing to get them across the border.
In 1941, the car needed repairs, and my grandfather was referred for the job. My grandfather was a truck mechanic. During the war, he worked for Shell Oil assembling tanker trucks. Since his job was considered essential to the war effort, he wasn’t drafted.
My grandparents started dating in 1942, and on July 14, 1945, my grandparents were married. My grandmother wore a green wedding dress. When asked why she chose the colour green she stated simply that there were shortages during the war.
Canada in the 1940s
Canada joined the war effort in 1939. Conscription was ordered in 1944. Even though the population of Canada was only 11,000,000 in 1938, over 1,000,000 Canadians served in the war. More than 40,000 did not come home.
At home, rationing began in 1942 and didn’t end until 1947, two years after the war ended. Clothing was rationed using a ticket system. Silk importation ended in 1941. Nylon was difficult to find as well.
My GrandMother’s Wedding Dress
My grandmother’s dress, is actually a suit. There is a 3-panel, A-line skirt that hits just below the knee. There is also a fitted jacket with 3/4 length sleeves, that buttons up the front.
The first thing you notice is the colour. It’s so green!
There have you gotten over the colour yet? No? Take another look.
Once you see past the colour, the dress design is pretty interesting.
The skirt is a simple three-panel A-line skirt. It looks like there are more panels in the back, but in fact, the dressmaker simply did inverted pin tucks to make it appear as if there were more pieces of fabric. The waistband is reinforced with grosgrain ribbon and there is a rather industrial-looking zipper and a hook and eye closure. The seams are not quite even and are just finished with pinking shears. The hem is hand-stitched and the hem has been repaired. Although the skirt is sheer, there is no lining.
The jacket has 3/4 length sleeves that are a little wider at the bottom. There are shoulder pads (factory-made) that fit into the caps of the sleeves. The back of the jacket uses princess seams. The front has a gathered, faux yoke at the top. At the waist there are triangular insets that allow for a second set of gathers. There is a row of clear plastic shank buttons that close with button loops up the front of the jacket. The jacket has a facing of synthetic fabric that is hand-stitched in place. It is also unlined. I think it’s about a 36 bust, so maybe, a size 18 in vintage sizes, and maybe a 10 today.
Who Made the Dress?
The dress is clearly hand-made. This isn’t a factory dress or a department store dress and there are no tags at all. At first I thought my grandmother made the dress. However, family lore says she bought it in Vancouver. It must have been from a local dress-maker. It’s made well with good techniques (ribbon in the waistband, etc.), but shortcuts have been taken. For example, the inner jacket facing is made of several pieces of fabric.
The fabric is really quite sheer and very musty. I was tempted to hand wash it, but I did a fibre burn test on a small piece of fabric from behind the zipper. The fabric disappeared into grey ash. And then I took another tiny piece from the seam and hand-washed it and it shrank like crazy. I’m pretty sure this is rayon crepe. So I can’t hand wash it. Good thing I checked! It irons quite well though.
The Sew-along Challenge
The more I looked at the dress, the more I thought the dress itself would have been nicer if it just weren’t so green. I figure, if I use a fabric without a floral pattern, and choose something a little prettier I might end up with clothing I would actually wear. Blue maybe? Black? In a sheer fabric? But lined, definitely lined. So yes, I’m going to try to remake the suit in a better colour.
What pattern to use?
This part is tricky, and I could use some help.
The skirt is almost exactly the same as Simplicity 3688. You can’t really tell from the photo, but the technical drawing does show a three-panel skirt. It’s such a simple design that I could probably just use any a-line skirt pattern. It wouldn’t even have to be a vintage pattern.
The jacket is another story. It’s is a little like the Vogue 8767 jacket. It’s even more similar to the blouse in Simplicity 3688. There is also the jacket in Vogue 1072. The part that is the most difficult to find, even in the vintage patterns I’ve seen, is the triangular insets at the jacket waist. If I can’t find anything else, I’ll probably use the Vogue 8767, but I’m hopeful that I can come up with something better.
Have you seen any patterns that more closely match the dress? Let me know in the comments.
Isn’t it pretty? Since this blog is brand new I thought I’d post an older project that I couldn’t share before, because I had nowhere to post it. My first quilt!
I made this baby quilt as part of a class at Montreal’s Emeline & Annabelle sewing lounge (now closed). It is about 36×36 inches.
This is a simple strip quilt made using only four fabrics on the front and a fifth on the back. I hand stitched the binding, but since then have switched to machine stitching bindings. It’s just so much easier.
I have been sewing for ages, but had never made a quilt before this one. I thought a class would be a good way to get started. And I wanted a good excuse to get out of the house and spend some time with grown ups who also like to sew. I was correct on both counts. Emeline & Annabelle also used to offer “Block of the Month” classes which were great for beginners.
I made this quilt in the fall of 2011. I didn’t have anyone to give it to when I made it, but my last baby arrived the following summer. So I was making it for a very special someone, I just didn’t know it at the time.
Sadly, Emeline & Annabelle’s sewing lounge closed this past fall, so I can’t go back and take another class. However, there is now a modern quilt guild in Montreal. The Montreal Modern Quilt Guild is a local chapter of the larger Modern Quilt Guild. There are monthly meetings and sew-ins. I went to my very first one last month. So much fun! You can see a picture of the January sew-in on the Montreal Modern Quilt Guild website. I’m the one way in the back, with the stroller 😉 .
Pink Rails Quilt
Quilt block: Rail Fence
Size: 36 by 36 inches
Loulouthi Framed in Shadow by Anna Maria Horner
Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom collection, Blockade Blossom in Garnet
Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom collection, Blockade Blossom in Blush
Joel Dewberry’s Aviary 2 Lodge Lattice in Lilac
“Grand Bazaar” collection by Patty Young produced by Michael Miller, Spade in Charcoal
Organic bamboo quilt batting
BurdaStyle has just published a collection of 11 patterns in a style they call “Fifties Revival”. There are two cute suits, some dresses and a trench coat. And then a cape.
I especially like the concealed buttons. And I love the length. It’s long enough to keep you warm, but not so long that you can’t wear it with casual clothes like jeans. I even like the fabric choice. It looks like wool bouclé, which always seems to end up in Chanel jackets and nothing else. Overall, I think this looks like a really great pattern.
But I’m hesitant. Do I need a cape? I haven’t seen many around. Of course here in Montreal it is currently far to cold to wear capes. Maybe they will start popping up in spring? Maybe I should stick with a coat?