Sew with Kelly

I have many loves. Love for people. Love for food. Sewing, baking, entertaining. But one of my first loves was teaching. 

After dabbling in some private sewing lessons, guest teaching in the classroom, even running a learn-to-sew workshop for charity, I am proud to announce that I am now teaching kids to sew at an art studio!

Introducing: 'Sew with Kelly' at The Art Room in Toronto's west-end neighbourhood!

I'm so excited for this opportunity to teach young beginners some of the beautiful projects that can be made on the sewing machine! Learning how to sew can help children develop fine motor skills, apply basic math principles, and give them the sense of what it's like to drive a car. Sewing can be beautifully creative and also have a wonderfully practical element. 

The lovely Holly Wheatcroft owns and operates The Art Room, a bright and cozy art studio that offers art classes for all ages. Her work is colourful and exciting and I'm so thrilled to be part of her spring/summer programs offered at the studio.

I will be teaching for four Wednesdays in June, two weeks per project. Choose between the Pocket and Stripe Tote, and Appliqué Owl.

I carefully designed each of the two projects as beginner projects with an artistic feel. Fabrics and details can be personalized in-class to make the project unique.

The class fee also includes a project sewing kit engineered to simplify construction for young children. Everything you need to complete the project will be provided.

I'm so proud to be teaching these classes in June! Check out the details on The Art Room website and sign your child up today!


My new sewing haven

The moment is here! Oh, not that. Baby is still very much in my belly. Due date is on Monday. Eek!

The excitement of the now is our new renovation!

Dustin and I never had the intention of staying in our current house for this long. It's the age old story of being thoroughly shocked at housing prices in Toronto and rethinking the need to move...

When we finally made the decision that we would stay in this house for at least few more years (likely longer), we decided it was time to invest some money into making us love it more. With the second baby on its way, Lily was moving to the guest room which had doubled as the office/sewing space for Dustin and me. I needed a new sewing haven.

We live in a narrow townhouse with no basement (it was built atop an old gas station, so I guess this was the simplest way), and our garage is attached to the rear of our house. The ground floor is an awkward through-space that is the width of our house, but leads from the front door and upper levels to the laundry/furnace room and garage. We had a large Expedit storage unit from Ikea against the wall, and a couple chairs near the entrance for luxury seating while husbands waited for their wives to say goodbye for the 40th time.

It was time to make the space more useful. To make an incredibly long story short (Dustin wanted to DIY, I wanted to just pay someone to get-er-done), we contracted California Closets to design and build the mudroom/office space (see who won?). It was very much a collaborative effort in designing the space, and now that I've been using it for a little over 2 weeks, I can confidently say I'm thrilled with the result.

And the moment has arrived to reveal the space to you!

1. I couldn't figure out how best to store my 24 inch ruler. I wanted it accessible, but not just on the table buried under everything. The last time I had a dilema with this ruler, I sewed a chic ruler caddy for transportation to and from my quilting class. It seemed perfect to just hang the thing on the wall using some grommets and finishing nails. I also use it to hold my scissors, rotary cutter, and other commonly used tools. When on the go, I just take it off the wall, fill it up with whatever else and roll it up for transport! Here's the original post I wrote about this ruler caddy.

2. I am getting so good at curtains! I sewed a set for Lily's room (that room is never clean enough for pictures...) and then decided that this new sewing space deserved new window coverings too. The workroom received some new Joel Dewberry fabric a couple weeks ago, and I fell in love with the Egg-Blue Crysanthemum print. It also just happened to match my Olfa cutting mat. I used a wonderful tutorial from Design Sponge to sew the curtains and have learned that taking the time to measure and cut everything is key to simplifying the sewing.

3. I toyed with the idea of buying new fancy baskets or bins for all my fabric, but regular clear plastic tubs are just too practical. I use the Rubbermaid "Roughneck" from Canadian Tire for about $10 a bin. Nice and heavy duty. This is where I sort my leather, batting, wool, jersey, Liberty Lawn, and other big fabrics. I have one called "on the go" for when I need to throw together materials and tools needed for a project I'm working on outside my home.

4. I use smaller clear containers for my quilting fat quarters and scraps. I sort them by colour and share two colours per bin. I also use the smaller clear containers to organize my notions. They sit just above my sewing space for easy access: thread, elastic, pins, buttons, zippers etc. Again, I've thought about getting prettier containers: vintage tins, colourful boxes. But right now, this is what works. I like being able to see what's in the containers.

5. My desk light: the Uberlight by Reliabe. I love it. It's a little spotlight for exactly where I need some extra focus. And because it's LED, it's energy efficient and doesn't cook your face when you're already sweating from trying the invisible zipper for the third time.

6. That's my new blouse. In Liberty Tana Lawn. It deserves a post on its own, so I won't spoil all the details. The neat thing here is that it's hanging on valet rod. I asked them to install one so I could hang my finished shirts and dresses up. It's the little things that make me really love my new space!

Quilting at the Farmhouse

Pow Wow Quilt Top by The Willow Nest
We're just under a month away from the Summer Farmhouse Retreat and I'm so excited to start nailing down some details.

As part of the retreat signup process, I asked the crafters to complete a quick survey to give me some ideas for sewing workshops that might be suitable.

I was surprised by how many people were interesting in learning how to quilt!

It will be a dream come true to dedicate an entire weekend event to quilting, but having a workshop start us off on the process is going to be such a great start!

And this could not come at a better time. While Magda is pretty much done her baby quilt, I have yet to even decide on a pattern for my own baby-to-come. Baby (gender inconclusive, I'm assuming divergent) is due at the end of August, and I think it's safe to say that I shouldn't assume I have time after August to work on the quilt.

This workshop will hopefully help me out with picking a pattern. I'm smitten with three patterns at the moment.

First, is the Pow Wow quilt: a great chevron pattern popping up all over the interwebs and is available from the Cluck Cluck Sew website. There are lots of fabric scrap possibilities and is hopefully quick and simple to sew together.

Karyn's Feather Bed Quilt top
Second, I fell in love with Karyn's feather quilt top. The beautiful feathers are a free (FREE!) pattern available from the fantastic Anna Maria Horner. Clearly not as simple a quilt to sew, but boy is it ever gorgeous.

Elizabeth Hartman's Fancy Fox quilt from Oh, Fransson!
And third, I discovered that Elizabeth Hartman just came out with a new fox pattern. Yesterday she revealed a stunning patchwork fox that I think would be perfect for a gender neutral quilt.  This pattern isn't available until mid-May, but judging from her other patterns it will be moderately priced and filled fantastic instructions on cutting and piecing all the fox parts together.

So back to the farmhouse. The Saturday optional sewing workshop will be these three quilt blocks. The Pow Wow chevron will be a great beginner block to learn the basics of piecing; the Fancy Fox and the Feather Bed Quilt will be intermediate blocks for those seeking a bit of a challenge.

We will learn the techniques of piecing fabric, how to do a mini quilt sandwich, different techniques to quilt the layers together, and then we'll throw it together in the form of a pillowcase! Stuff with a $5 Ikea pillowform, and tada!

Oh, you can't imagine it? I guess I should practice and capture some pretty pictures before teaching this workshop. Stay tuned...

Too Cool For School (Days Jacket)

After my fairly good experience with the Seashore Dress, I decided to try another Oliver + S pattern.

The instructions are so clear, and I really love the variety in patterns they offer.

Lily was in need of a spring jacket. Her parka was finally becoming a little too warm, and her rain jacket didn't provide any warmth.

Oliver + S has half a dozen jacket patterns alone. I definitely loved the look of the School Days Jacket the most, and there are plenty of wonderful examples of this jacket online. One of my favourites is from the Probably Actually blog.

I purchased the wool from Downtown Fabric, after the always-animated owner, Daniel, convinced me to use a patterned beige wool. For the lining I chose Riley Blake's Rocket Stars quilting cotton from the workroom. I wanted to keep the jacket gender neutral to maximize reusability for Lily's future siblings...

As with my last Oliver + S pattern, I soon realized that the pattern called for far too much fabric. I had purchased 1.5 yards of wool, and easily could have fit the pattern onto a single yard; but the upside was that I had plenty of fabric to match those pesky stripes.

I sewed the size 3T, added a layer of quilt batting to the lining, and decided to sew the toggle closure rather than button closure.

It was plenty roomy for Lily and will definitely fit her this Autumn. Her sleeves are rolled up twice right now, so there's even a chance she could fit it next year! I struggle to understand why the Seashore Dress is a 4T for her and this 3T jacket is so roomy, but I'm really happy with the final product.

The stars really give the jacket such pizazz. The sewing was rather tough, but probably because I made it that way. Had I chosen a solid wool and not bothered to do a quilted lining, I would have had a much easier time!

Most of the reviews I've read about this pattern end by saying that the end product is well worth the effort. And I couldn't agree more! A confident beginner with a good level of patience will have such a great experience with this pattern!

Oliver + S Seashore Dress

It's great to be on a roll. I sewed a dress. Loved it. And then went ahead and sewed four more before I decided it was getting a little ridiculous.

I've always admired Oliver + S patterns for kids. The selection is fantastic, so I just kept searching and searching until I found the perfect simple playdress for Lily.

The Seashore Dress has a "1 scissor" difficulty rating, and a sweet, modern look.

One thing to note about this pattern: it calls for 2 yards of fabric for the 2T and 3T size. I managed to fit even the 4T pattern onto 1 yard of fabric. That's 50% of what they call for! Believe it. It can be done.

I made the first dress with a beautiful butterfly fabric from Lizzy House's new Cat Nap Collection. For a confident beginner, it is probably a 5 hour project. If you're speedy like me (I have been accused of having Chinese sweatshop genes) you can sew the dress in 3 hours, start to finish.

Which is why I whipped up a second dress in a purple Pearl Bracelet fabric, also from Lizzy House.

The third dress I made using leftover limited edition Liberty Cotton Fleece from the workroom. More details on the fabric in another post, but needless to say, it was high quality fabric and I was excited to be able to squeeze in a Seashore Dress for Lily with the leftover scraps from my Lola Dress.

My fourth and final dress was using an abstract fabric I bought years ago from the workroom during one of their big sales. This dress really is great for using those 1m stash purchases that you never got around to using.

Do you notice all the lime green buttons? I had so many left over from my dollar store purchase when I made the zipper Christmas tree ornament. I have since expanded my red and green button collection after visiting The Button Dept. at the workroom.

Lessons learned:

1) The dress fits quite snug. Lily is by no means a chubby kid and I found the 2T a tight fit. After the first dress, I recut the pattern in a 4T, just to be safe. It is a much better size and will likely only last her until the fall.

2) The dress is quite long. It ended just below Lily's knees, so when I cut the new 4T size, I didn't want it to be any longer. At the waistline marker, I shortened the dress 1.5 inches.

3) The pockets are incredibly subtle. To make them a little more usable, I widened the pocket (pieces 8 and 9) and tried not to do too much gathering at the pocket opening. Lily has now stopped her fits about not being able to find her pockets for her rocks.

I'm a huge fan of this pattern. There seem to be more pieces and steps than your average simple girl's dress, but I think it's well worth it!

Meet Magda (and her beautiful chevron baby quilt)

It's late March. A week until April. I'm in Ottawa and it looks like the middle of February. I hope mother nature remembers how pretty spring is supposed to be...

Speaking of pretty, meet Magda and her beautiful chevron baby quilt.

Magda is a perfectionist in all senses of the word. She strives for the best at all times, rarely settles for anything but, and always ensures that she has taken the time to fully research all aspects of a subject before she makes the best decision possible. She is my go-to for any technology, appliance, or renovation advice. I have yet to be led astray.

Her chevron baby quilt is no exception. She was inspired by this baby quilt from the plaid scottie, and pulled her beautiful neutral-gender colours from Riley Blake Designs' Sasparilla Alphabet Teal.

Magda was set on a chevron quilt that didn't have too deep a zigzag -- a shallower chevron without too sharp a point. Eventually (through much online research) she found a lovely tutorial from The Crafty Cupboard that uses a 60 degree angle instead of the typical 45 degrees.

She added a strip of white fabric to really make the rest of her quilt pop, and the end result was gorgeous.

People approach me all the time to tell me how impressed they are with my sewing talents (aw, you guys). And I protest until I'm blue in the face that I'm no more talented than the average person. I just seize moments when I'm inspired and schedule some time to give it a try. Magda used to be one of these people I speak of. And here she is, whipping up a beautiful quilt top in less than two days.

It's about setting aside the time and surrounding yourself with inspiration and support. I've got a couple spots left in the my Summer Farmhouse Retreat if you're looking for a creative outlet!

Sadly, Magda isn't able to join me for the next retreat. If only Magda's amazing husband could lock her in a room and force her to finish the quilt so we can see the finished product. She's chosen a mouse and bicycles print from the Lizzy House Cat Nap collection as her quilt back!

Meet Danielle (and her fabulous cape)

My recent Cozy Winter Retreat was simply amazing. Relaxing, productive, serene, inspiring.

Thanks for all the nice words from those following our weekend via Twitter or Facebook. Why did it take me so long to get an iPhone?!

It was a small turnout, perhaps because I dropped off the radar due to classic first-trimester queasiness (baby due in August!) but I think it all worked out perfectly for me. I could not have asked for three more encouraging, talented, and fun attendees!

The four of us were spoiled by the massive space in a cottage on the Nottawasaga River, just outside Orangeville, ON. The fifteen-person capacity meant plenty of living space, bathroom space, and creative explosion space.

Lucky for us. Because our projects required space... Some more than others.

Meet Danielle.

Another Engineer by day, Crafter-Jeweller-Sewer by night. But Danielle has some super human powers that I hope rubbed off on me at the retreat. Alongside her ability to create with quality, so much of her work is designed by herself. A quick glimpse at her blog and your jaw will hit the floor.

She needs a custom mat for her front hallway. Check.

How about a hat, and another hat, and another hat (as part of a dinosaur halloween costume) for her adorable son, Adam? Done, done, and done.

And boy, that nursing chair could really use a facelift. She'll just do it herself!

It takes confidence and talent to try so much on your own, and we were so lucky to witness the process first-hand when Danielle created her most recent masterpiece: the cape.

Danielle was wowed and inspired to replicate this fabulous cape she saw on

She acquired some beautiful wool at a shop on St. Clair West, picked out some gorgeous lining fabric to pair with it, grabbed some accent teal piping (she's all about the details) and then set to work at the retreat making a big mess on the floor.

It's amazing how quickly she worked after her initial 20 minute blank stare, which was obviously her engineering brain calculating angles and performing mental isometric views of the design.

By the end of the retreat, she had completed most of the cape. My favourite part of the design is her oversized collar. No, my favourite part was witnessing this magnificent woman at work.

Congrats, Danielle, on such a beautiful garment!

For a full account of her cape crusade, including pictures of the finished masterpiece, check out the post on her blog!

Sweater Slippers

I think I'm beyond using pretty words like "brisk" and "crisp" to describe the kind of winter we're having. As an Ottawa girl at heart, I've always told my Torontonian friends that the secret to surviving the deep chill of winter is to make sure you are well equipped.

Big winter parka.

Long underwear.

And a good pair of wool slippers.

I was at the thrift shop the other day, poppin' some tags, gettin' me some sweata's and decided to turn the $6 wool sweater into a warm pair of slippers.

As with most DIY projects these days, there is an endless supply of tutorials online.

So far, I've tried a modified version of this tutorial from We Can Re-Do It.

I need to try at least one more time. Or maybe attempt another pattern.

Interested in joining me? This will be one of the optional workshops offered at the Winter Warmth Retreat! Just bring a wool sweater and I'll supply everything else!