Fabrications in Hintonburg, Ottawa

After university, I returned to Ottawa to work my first Engineering job. It was then that I resurrected an old dream of singing, acting, and dancing on-stage. My previous experience included small roles in high school musical productions (where I danced alongside a younger Grace Lynn Kung) and I decided to give it another go: older and wiser, hopefully slightly more talented and worldly. I auditioned for the musical-comedy Damn Yankees and landed not one, but two roles: I played a baseball-loving, enthusiastic child wearing a modified Annie dress; and a mysterious dancer in the devil's lair wearing, well, almost nothing. The juxtaposition was humourous although slightly disconcerting. 

 That's me on the right, listening eagerly to the baseball game over the radio. 

That's me on the right, listening eagerly to the baseball game over the radio. 

 That's me on the right, hot as hell.

That's me on the right, hot as hell.

The musical was produced by Orpheus Musical Theatre, an amateur theatre company in Ottawa dating back to the early 1900s. Homebase was a red brick building in the heart of Hintonburg, about 10 min walk west from the Parliament building. I spent many rehearsal nights and days in the area. I remember it being... not so pretty. Not that I spent much time looking at the dark storefronts or uninviting loiterers. I walked impressively quickly to rehearsal.

Flash forward 12 years. 

The red brick Orpheus building is still there, but the neighbourhood is not what I remembered! Cafés, eateries and trendy shops are plentiful. The Saturday morning crowd was impressive for small-town Ottawa, and parking on Wellington is now quite a challenge.

 Orpheus house

Orpheus house

 This is late March. So much snow. Typical Ottawa.

This is late March. So much snow. Typical Ottawa.

I snapped a few pictures of the Orpheus building for nostaglic purposes. My dancing days are done. I've faced the music and learned that I should stick to my other passions. As it turns out, Ottawa's hippest fabric shop is just around the corner!

Mother-daughter duo Catherine Fournier and Faustina Konkal took ownership of Fabrications in early 2017. I reached out to Faustina shortly after my visit over the holidays and was so happy to hear of her enthusiasm about my retreats! I've been trying to connect with a fabric shop to partner retreat ideas, and I think I may have found a special connection!

Faustina will be joining the Purple Workbench retreat in June, and I'm looking forward to getting to know her more. It looks like the shop is busier than ever, offering more classes, adding a baby friendly vibe, expanding fabric selection, and I hear a future online store is in the works.

When I asked her how it came to be that she took over Fabrications, she shared her story of numerous occupations and passions before deciding to embark on this adventure as a shop owner. She worked in pastry shops and catering. She worked hard as a stay-at-home-mom to her three children and eventually worked part time at a local breastfeeding and natural parenting boutique. She spent time on additional studies at Carleton, but when it came time to decide what she really wanted to do, what she was passionate about, her past experiences learning to sew using wonderful blogs and youtube videos, sewing for her kids, the connections she made with other sewists in the community seemed to be at the forefront of her mind.

"The pressure of a full course load, plus kids and a family and spouse with a chronic illness really clarified things for me around that time. I realized that I am highly motivated by colour and texture and that I really enjoy the social aspect of working in a retail setting. I really like the small, frequent, social interactions with people through the day. I really like hearing about all of their stories and projects. At my previous job with new mothers, I really treasured the opportunity to encourage them in their mothering and to build them up. I also realized that I am the kind of person who will always be looking for something new to do." 

"When the previous owners of Fabrications sent out an email looking for new store owners, it seemed like the right thing coming at the right time. I contacted my mother and we started talking about whether or not we wanted to do this. We decided to pursue it and see where it went and whether it would be possible. As it turned out, all the doors opened (although some were slower than others) and the whole transfer was completed quite smoothly and quickly."

 I persuaded Peggy to smile for the camera. This was her first day. I bet she didn't think this would be part of the job description.

I persuaded Peggy to smile for the camera. This was her first day. I bet she didn't think this would be part of the job description.

 Faustina and Catherine at the shop on Saturday morning. I predict the fabric wall will be growing!

Faustina and Catherine at the shop on Saturday morning. I predict the fabric wall will be growing!

What project(s) are you currently working on? Right now I am doing a massive tracing and cutting of a big stack of projects to sew at my sewing retreat weekend with my friends. Several tee shirts, a dress, a skirt, some pants, and maybe a jacket. I'm also knitting for THREE babies that are due in my extended family this year. And, on a professional level, we're working on transitioning our point of sale, inventory and eCommerce to a single unified system that will allow us to stream line our work load and enable us to sell product online. Canada is massively under served for fabrics and sewing patterns and we know that being able to sell online will meet not only our needs and goals but also those of Canadian sewists.

Who or what is your current inspiration? My friend Johanna is always a creative inspiration for me. She's very organized, whereas I am not, and she a really fast sewer, whereas I am not. And, she is really good at pairing fabric and patterns and she's really good at sewing for her body. 

I follow a bunch of small fabric stores on Instagram and a few of those really inspire me. I love what Patch Halifax and Needlework are doing. I love their feeds. And Seam Allowance Fabrics takes stunning product photos! I'm also really lucky to know dozens of women business owners who inspire me so much. They have all different kinds of businesses, but they all amaze me with their creativity and confidence. 

Creatively right now, I'm really enjoying teaching myself to knit. I'll probably always be a novice knitter but that's fine with me. Give me a lap full of Madeline Tosh and I'm happy. I'm also stalking a bunch of bra making stores and bra makers instagram feeds because I feel like its a great melding of two passions - sewing and bra fitting. I love bras. I read bra blogs. It's a bit nerdy.

Describe your perfect day: That's a hard one. Sleeping in a bit, but not too long. Really good coffee, but not at a coffee shop, at home. A morning of sewing, half of it easy and quick gratification and half of it frustrating and complicated. In the afternoon, going to Le Nordik Spa in Chelsea either by myself, with my husband or with my oldest friend. Then, dinner some place really good. Doesn't have to be fancy, I love bistro style restaurants. But, they have to have a good wine list, know how to serve properly, get the foundations like bread and demi-glaze right, and make their dessert menu in-house. (See? Trained food snob who knows what's what. I'm kinda hard to please when dining out. If you cook for me at home, though, I'm a push over). A movie at home while knitting.

What is your favourite snack while crafting?: Lay's BBQ chips.

Learn more about the fabrics, supplies, and classes offered by Fabrications on their website or follow their wonderful instagram feed @fabricationsott.

 @fabricationsott

@fabricationsott

 @fabricationsott Photo by Kelly Manweiller

@fabricationsott
Photo by Kelly Manweiller

 @fabricationsott

@fabricationsott

I am cute dresses

It's hard not to love Japanese Pattern Books. They are filled with cute designs that often have several variations, and then modelled by edgy Asians that make the designs look runway-chic and weekend-casual all at the same time. I was first introduced to these books through Karyn who offers a class at her studio/shop The Workroom.

Over the years, I've developed a small collection of Japanese Pattern Books myself and picked up some really great skills sewing from the patterns.

It's amazing how many different patterns are crammed into one book (asians always manage to find a way to be incredibly efficient) but it means that there is always a little bit of deciphering required.

Years ago when I first took the Japanese Dress Books class at the workroom, the books available were only in Japanese. Karyn taught us the basics to trace the patterns and decode the pictures. Then we had the rest of the classes to sew away and pepper Karyn with questions about how to construct our garments of choice. It's actually a really fun, unstructured class to take since you sew at your own pace and tackle your own specific project!

Fast forward half a decade and I think I've got a pretty good handle of the patterns. It also helps that several books have been translated into English. I've seen dozens of these pattern books and they generally involve simple construction and comfortable fit. It does mean that you need to be mindful of your body type and choose patterns wisely -- unless, of course, you plan to get an edgy haircut and chew on a leaf, which is what some of the models in these books do to distract you from the odd proportions of the clothing.

The Winter Retreat this February has an Asian Comfort theme. We're beating the winter blues with Asian food that warms the body, and the optional sewing workshop will involve sewing something comfortable and satisfying from these fun Japanese pattern books. 

Retreaters will be instructed to bring a couple meters of a comfortable fabric and we'll peruse the books together on Friday night, maybe between bowls of ramen, to find a good project. Then we spend the weekend drafting the pattern, cutting out fabric, and sewing up a dress, shirt, skirt, or even handbag!

My most recent project came from the I am cute dresses book that is available in English. It's actually a compilation of patterns that you draft yourself, using all straight lines. This makes for easy cutting and easy sewing. The dress I sewed was called "I am sweetly tied" (they all have cute names like this) but ironically, I decided to omit the tie at the collar. 

These books are fun and inspirational. They teach a good lesson to sew outside the box. I'm excited to see what products come out of the weekend sewing workshop!

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