sewing

The Last Plaid Skirt

tan, black and cream 1/2 circle skirt paired with a black sweater, beret and boots

Did I say, when I finished sewing this skirt, that this would be the last plaid skirt I ever sewed? Yes.

Is this the last plaid skirt I will ever sew? Probably not.

tan, black and cream plaid skirt with diagonal pattern matching

I can’t help it- I just love plaid! Despite being the worst pattern, aside from stripes, to work with, I always love the finished result, so I’m sure when the memory of sewing this project fades, I’ll pull out another lovely piece and naively start a new project. Tears or rage shall ensue while sewing, but in the end they, hopefully turn to tears of joy when the project is finished and hanging in my closet.

plaid skirt side view, paired with a black top, beret and fur edged boots

So, yes, this is my latest sewing project. I mentioned it a while ago in this post. Several years ago I purchased a reversible plaid pleated skirt from the thrift store. It wasn’t in the best of condition, with a few stains scattered throughout, and a hole in the waistband, but I knew I could take it apart and use the wool for a new project. (I got this idea from American Duchess years ago!) I’ve discovered over the past few years that I really like 1/2 or 3/4 circle skirts, and there was just enough fabric to squeeze a 1/2 circle skirt out of it with four panels. I was able to line up the side seams on the diagonal, but not along the dominant, black line, so I put the straight line on the front and the diagonal seams on the sides. Another thing I’ve learned about sewing plaid is that while I am sewing it, I notice every seam, but once it’s finished, I don’t notice any “wonkiness” as much. While I, of course, try my best (even including hand stitching the front and back seam and zipper in place to ensure the lines were straight), once I’ve finished, I have to come to a point of saying, “That’s not just good, it’s good enough.”

grandmother's buttons mother of pearl monogram necklace

tan, black and cream plaid half circle skirt paired with ankle boots, a beret and a leather tote bag

In other news, I mentioned in this post that I was on the lookout for a leather tote bag- and I found one! I got it on Poshmark (about 10 minutes after the person listed it, strangely enough) for a great price, and it’s just about perfect. The size is excellent for holding everything I need when I go to church, and I really like the pebbled leather finish since it’s not too rustic. The only thing I’d change is if it was a bit more brown/cognac and less orange, to pair with my shoes and boots, but that’s not a big deal.

leather tote bag made in italy

I’m glad I finished this skirt in time to have a chance to wear it this season, before the weather turns completely into Springtime. Even though the calendar may say we are officially in Spring, we might get a bit more Winter yet. It’s wonderfully warm right now, though, and the snow is melting fast. I won’t pack away all of my woollens quite yet, but have started transitioning my closet in anticipation.

Happy Spring everyone!

large faux pearl headed hatpin

leather tote bag paired with a plaid skirt and black beret and boots

holding leather tote bag paired with a vintage style plaid skirt

back of plaid 1/2 circle skirt

Social Saturday | January 27

a stack of books to read sitting in front of a wall with a floral picture hanging on it

Hello and happy Saturday Dear Reader! What are your plans for this weekend? Mine are to write this post, do some crafting, tidying and reading and I’m not sure what else.

Here’s what I’ve been up to lately…

Reading: All of the books in the stack above. Well, not all at the same time. I’ve finished The Life Giving Home, A Proper Pursuit, and Digital Madness and am now halfway through The Pastor’s Wife. After I finished The Lifegiving Home I was inspired to pull out one of my favourite books, Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions again. So many good books, so little time…

cornflower botanical painting by Jenni Haikonen

Loving: This beautiful cornflower botanical watercolour by one of my favourite artists, Jenni Haikonen. I received it for Christmas from my parents.

Making: So many projects on the go, all the time, but my current sewing project is a wool skirt out of piece of wool that was originally a pleated skirt. I liked the colourway of the plaid so decided to pick it out and make a new skirt that was more my style. I got the idea of unpicking wool skirts from American Duchess years ago. There was just enough fabric I could squeeze a 4 panel 1/2 circle skirt, while still managing to avoid a few stains as well as match the plaid across the seams!

embroidery and crochet crafts and a length of plaid with a skirt pattern on it

Thankful For: Art and Craft night with friends. Yesterday I hosted a creative get together with 9 other ladies. We each brought our current craft project, like a guild or sewing circle, and worked on it in the company of others. We had a wide variety of talent including crochet animals and dishcloths, a knitted doll, sketching, acrylic painting, embroidery, scrapbooking and fabric and bead ornaments. It was fun seeing what everyone was working on, but most of all we enjoyed the company and conversation.

Listening To: Anúna. I don’t know why I didn’t know about this group until now, because I love Riverdance, Celtic Woman and other choral music. I discovered them in December while listening to Christmas music on Youtube (their Christmas playlist is gorgeous) and now I am hooked. I particularly love this one, “Sleepsong“.

Vintage Vogue magazine from 1892 framed in a black and brass frame

In other news, I framed this Vogue cover from 1892 (no, it’s not original! It’s just a copy I cut off of a dust jacket) to add to my gallery wall.

And some of the other crafts I’ve been making are more of these photo cards. I’ve been using photos I had printed and then stamp them and glue them to a card. I made some kraft envelopes for them too, and decided to list them in my shop. I’ve also listed some more baby/girl’s headbands as well.

cards and headbands for sale in my shop

Well, that’s all for now. I’d better finish this post up and get busy with my other projects before the day runs away from me! I hope you have a lovely Saturday, whatever you are up to.

❤︎ Nicole

Now That It’s Spring | Capsule Wardrobe Part 2

wearing a houndstooth patterned brown winter skirt paired with a black sweater, black mary jane shoes, a floral preserved necklace standing outside in front of a pine tree

So now that it’s spring… here’s an outfit from my winter capsule wardrobe! I’ve been meaning to get a photo of this skirt ever since I sewed it last fall, but here we are already in April. I figured I had better post this outfit before Easter at least!

I sewed this skirt along with this plaid one, last fall to create a “capsule wardrobe” of sorts. I absolutely loved my wardrobe this past season, and I’m kind of sad to have to start packing winter items away, switching them for spring and summer items. Although, I am happy to have warmer days ahead!

wearing a black 3/4 length sleeve sweater and a brown houndstooth patterned circle skirt

houndstooth skirt detail

I bought a bunch of this brown and black houndstooth fabric more than ten years ago with the intention of making a 1950’s suit. I didn’t feel confident at the time to sew a suit jacket though, and as it turns out, it was just as well that I didn’t go to the time and effort to do that. While I absolutely love the pattern and colour of this fabric, I would never buy it today. It’s synthetic, with an elastane woven through it, which made it terrible to sew without puckering (imagine trying to sew a collar!) and sadly, even though I only wore it for one season, it’s already pilling. I’m going to see if I can rescue this skirt with a shaver, because it’s been a great piece for my wardrobe since it coordinates so well with other pieces in my closet. It’s got a bit of a greenish undertone to it, which doesn’t come through in the photos at all, so it doesn’t work with most of my other browns, but I love how it looks with black, and it also pairs nicely with the antique brass of this necklace.

tanjay sweater with french knot detail and a pressed flower necklace

This sweater was a recent thrift store fine (one of those rare occasions when you find a whole bunch of beautiful pieces to bring home!) and I’ve already worn it a few times because it’s so lovely. It’s by the brand Tanjay, which I always think of as a “mature” brand, but the best thing about buying pieces from those sorts of brands is that they tend to be good quality, and not “fast fashion”. This one has a beautiful french knot detail across the front…this would be a lovely way to spruce up a plain sweater, wouldn’t it?

Well, that’s pretty much all I have to share for this outfit. I’ve been wearing a lot of these simpler, pared back outfits..not even adding in a hat. As much as I love accessories, it’s been a nice change.

We’ve still got lots of snow cover, as you can see, so I’ll be wearing these cool weather clothes for a while yet, but I’ve already started on some new summer sewing projects in anticipation of warmer days!

ps. if you notice that in all of the photos I am looking at the ground or squinting, that’s because it was so incredibly bright out! 

wearing a black and brown houndstooth circle skirt and black sweater with a pressed flower necklace and mary jane shoes standing outside in front of a pine tree

black and brown houndstooth sweater paired with mary jane shoes

My Winter Capsule Wardrobe | Plaid Circle Skirt

plaid winter circle skirt paired with brown accessories and sweater

It is a truth universally acknowledged that outfit photos are hard to get in the Winter…or maybe I’ve just gotten weak? Years ago I used to brave wind and sub zero temperatures to get photos for the blog, but the past few years I’ve opted to take indoor photos, or none at all! But, finally this past week I braved the cold (and of course the wind started blowing as soon as we went outside) to get some photos of my new Fall/Winter skirt.

brown and black plaid circle skirt paired with a chocolate brown sweater and fur collar

Over the past couple of seasons I have decluttered a lot of clothing and accessories, significantly reducing my wardrobe. I sold a lot of pieces that didn’t feel like “me” anymore, as well as items that didn’t fit, keeping only the items I absolutely, without-a-doubt loved to wear. While this was great, it did leave me with a slightly too minimal wardrobe for winter, consisting of only a few tops and a single black wool skirt! So, I decided that I needed a few more pieces to get through the season.

I’ve had this plaid fabric in my stash for over 10 years, but I’ve never had enough yardage for any of the projects I planned (a jacket, a cape etc. It must have been a remnant, because there was only just over a metre or so.) When looking to sew a few new pieces for my winter wardrobe, I realized that it would make a great skirt. I did have a few hiccups in the process, and if I was sewing it again today, I would definitely make some changes to the process.

Did I plan to have the zipper on the side, but then discovered that the fabric didn’t fall properly that way, so I had to switch to a back zipper after I’d already cut and sewn the waistband on?

Did that cause the waistband plaid pattern to be misaligned with the skirt? But then it couldn’t be picked out because the fabric was too loose of a weave and had started to fray?

And then, once I sewed the zipper in, did I realize that the skirt was about 2″ too big, so I had to unpick the perfectly sewn zipper, and then redo the back, and then the zipper didn’t go in as nicely as the first time?

Sigh, the joys of sewing.

plaid retro circle skirt paired with a brown structured purse and oxford shoes

However, despite the fact that the waistband really does bother me, the most important thing is that I finished the skirt and have been wearing it quite a lot this season. I also like how the plaid pattern falls on a curve (this is one of my favourite tricks for dressing my body type.) I love the movement the circle skirt gives to the plaid pattern!

As for my winter wardrobe colour palette, I went with a main colour of brown, with accents of taupe and black; basically all of the colours in this skirt. I chose to add in tops and accessories that can mix and match; such as this chocolate brown pullover sweater. My capsule consists of three skirts, one dress, five stand-alone tops, three shells/layering tops, two cardigans and a myriad of accessories. I have really enjoyed going to my closet to get dressed and instantly being able to put together several possible outfits, because almost everything goes with everything else!

cinnamon brown fur collar tied with a ribbon and paired with a brown pullover sweater

And then of course I keep it from getting repetitious by changing up the accessories. At least now most of my accessories coordinate with the majority of pieces. For example, I was finally able to pair this fur collar I got two years ago. In the pictures they don’t quite look like they coordinate, but in real life the colours go well together. I’ve also paired this same brown sweater and skirt with my green cape and felt hat, or even switched to a black sweater, shoes and beret for a completely different look.

brown coloured plaid skirt and accessories and sparkly ear hugger earrings

As for these accessories, they are all items I’ve worn a lot, and continue to love wearing. The earrings are Pika and Bear and were a gift, the purse is from Top Vintage, the shoes are from Earthies and the fur collar was a vintage one that I sewed a ribbon tie onto.

Well, I can’t say that I’m going to be any quicker to get outfit photos for the remainder of the winter weather, but I will try to at least get some of the other skirt I sewed.

I hope you’re all having a great week, and staying warm!

wearing a plaid circle skirt paired with a brown pullover sweater and fur collar.

How to Sew Felted Wool Slippers Out of an Old Sweater

green and grey felted wool slippers with an embroidered button on top

I’ve never been much of a slippers person. Usually in the winter I go around barefoot in the house because I’m in danger of being too warm, not too cold. However, there have been a few cold days so far this winter where the house has felt rather chilly and I’ve been trying to bundle up rather than turn up the thermostat. I don’t have any super warm socks, so I decided that the next item I would make would be some felted wool slippers out of a sweater. So far I’ve made mittens, a beret, and some baby boots and shoes, so it follows that the next item to make would be slippers.

I actually ended up making five pairs of felted wool slippers, so the technique was pretty well perfected by the time I got to this pair. I didn’t love how my first attempt turned out, so my sister took that pair. Then I made a pair for my mom. Then I attempted another pair for myself, but they ended up too small, so I donated them to the women’s shelter. Then I made a pair for my brother-in-law. Finally I made this pair and, after all that practice, they turned out pretty nice.

I estimate that they took about 1-2 hours to sew, so they are a relatively quick afternoon project. (Not including the time to felt the wool) If you’re looking for a Christmas gift for someone, then these would be the perfect handmade option!

finished felted handmade wool sweaters

To Make Your Own Felted Wool Slippers, You Will Need:

  • A 100% old wool sweater. Make sure it is real wool content, so it will felt for you. I know you can also use blends that have a high wool content, but I’ve never done that myself, so am not sure whether they felt differently or not.
  • Needle & thread/ sewing machine
  • Button to cover, or a decorative button of your choice 
  • Elastic to make the slipper fit tighter around the ankle, optional

folded shrunken april cornell green wool sweater

The first step is to felt your wool if it isn’t already. You can put it in your washing machine on hot, with a bit of detergent and then wash as normal. If you put in a few sweaters, they will felt faster, because of the agitation. Check your wool once washed, and see if it is felted enough- if not you can repeat the process until it is. Then let it dry.

I would not recommend that you take a perfectly good wool sweater and felt it, because it always seems like a waste to cut up something in good shape that someone could actually wear the way it is. However, there are so many wool sweaters in thrift shops that are no longer in good condition. Whether it’s due to the previous owner accidentally shrinking them, or they are full of moth holes and runs, the thrift shops are full of them. This project is a perfect way to recycle and refashion those sweaters that are completely ruined and useless into something new! I’m using a green boiled wool coat and the binding from a grey cardigan.

pattern with dimensions for slipper

To make your pattern, trace your foot and then round out the curve. You can make a “left” and “right” sole if you’d like, but it isn’t really necessary because the wool will mold to your foot. You can make one pattern piece with 1/2″ seam allowances and one without, or you can simply trace the pattern piece, adding the seam allowances on your fabric. My sole pattern piece measures 3.75″ wide by 9″ long.

The slipper top pattern is shaped like a “U”. Measure across your foot at the widest part and draw a semi-circle with that width. My foot is 5.5″, so my pattern piece is 6.5″ across with seam allowances. For length, I made it the same as my sole, plus 1/2″ for seam allowance (finished length 10″). You can double check the measurements of the outside edge of the piece with the outside of the sole. This isn’t super exact and the wool is a rather forgiving material to experiment with (if you make it a bit too long, you can always shorten it). Make the “U” cutout inside the semi-circle piece the width of the opening you want for your foot. Or, measure how high up your foot you want your slipper sides to be, and make your “U” in those dimensions. My upper pattern piece measures 10″ long and 6.5″ across. The cutout inside measures 5.25″ long by 1.25″ across. I’m a size 8.5 for reference. These dimensions include a 1/2″ seam allowance around the outer edge of the upper pattern piece. (For the pair I made my brother-in-law I added an inch to the length of the sole and then replicated that length onto the top piece.) Also note, I angled the back edge a little bit so it would slope into the heel.

Cut 1 upper piece for each slipper.

I’m sure you could make the slipper soles with one layer, but I did two layers of wool for extra warmth. Cut 2 insoles using your pattern with no seam allowance added. Cut 2 outer soles with the seam allowance added- see the picture below.

Felted wool doesn’t have a grain, so you can cut your pieces wherever they fit.

pieces of felted wool cut into pattern pieces

Place your insoles (the grey pieces) on top of your outer soles (the green pieces), smooth them flat and pin around the edge. Using a zig zag setting, stitch the two pieces flat around the edge to create one piece.

sewing the insole and outsole pieces together

Next, stitch the top heel ends together. I lapped mine rather than using a normal seam, so as to reduce bulk.

stitching the top of the slipper heel together

Now take your top piece, and pin it to the sole, easing the fabric around to distribute the bulk. Make sure that the right sides are pinned together: this means that your insole is facing outward. I made my mom’s with the smaller insole on the outside, but I think they look better with that raw edge flipped to the inside of the slipper.

Once you’ve pinned the life out of them, sew around the edge with a zigzag stitch, following the edge of your insole. (I realized when looking at these photos that I added a 1/2″ seam allowance to the pattern, but sewed my seam at only 3/8″. It turned out OK though.)

sewing sole to the top of the slipper

Turn the slipper inside out and try them on to see how they fit. If they fit well, then you can grade the seam a bit to reduce bulk.

slipper top and bottom sewn together

If the slippers fit well as they are, depending on the thickness of your wool, you might be able to finish the slippers off at this point with a blanket stitch along the top edge. If they are too loose to leave like that, then you can move on to the next step which is adding a cuff to the top.

I cut the binding off of the collar of a sweater to create a cuff at the top of my slippers. You can also use the hem of a sweater. (I used all of the hems we had on the other slippers, so all I had left was this one grey piece!) Cut the binding piece 1-2″ smaller than the opening of the slipper.

cut binding off of the collar of a sweater

Stitch the ends of the binding together to form a loop.

stitch binding/cuff into loops

Next, with right sides together, pin around the top edge and stitch the binding to the slipper top.

pin binding to the top edge of the slipper and stitch together

Then, fold the seams to the inside and pin it liberally! (If you think that you will want elastic around the top, you can add it now, which is a bit tricky, or you can thread it through at the end like I did.)

Now, for the trickiest part of the process, from the inside, stitch the pieces “in the ditch” or slightly onto the top slipper piece. This is hard to describe, but if you look at the photo, it should make sense. If your binding has a finished edge, you don’t have to fold your seam under, which makes this step a bit easier. However, my binding was a cut edge and I didn’t have enough length to felt it, so I decided to fold the edge under for neatness. I probably could have left it raw, but this worked out OK.

topstitching the cuff to the slipper with raw edges encased

It isn’t perfect in all places, and the stitches show through on part of the cuff on the front of the slipper, (it must have shifted during sewing) but it is sturdy. And as my brother says, quoting one of the creators he follows, “It’s not just good, it’s good enough.” I’ve been trying to embrace that philosophy a bit more in my projects. I tend to be a perfectionist, but sometimes that means that projects don’t get done. I’d much rather that there are a few stitches showing, but I have usable slippers, than a pile of unused felted wool in a basket on my shelf.

slippers sewn together with some stitches showing on the front of the cuff

Once I put the slippers on, I realized that the cuff was a bit too loose for my foot. While I could have tried wetting the slippers and shrinking them a little bit, I was afraid that they’d end up too small again, so I decided to instead add a small piece of elastic to the top of each slipper. I cut two pieces of this small round elastic, and then threaded them through the top of the slipper. I simply sewed the ends of the elastic together and then hid the end inside the seam.

threading elastic into top cuff to make them fit better

Then for the final step, because this sweater had all these cute embroidered buttons, I decided to add one to the top of each slipper, just for fun!

embroidered wool buttons and elastic added to the finished felted wool slippers

And there are my cozy warm felted wool slippers perfect for the cold days this winter! Of course we only had a few really cold days since I’ve made them, but I’ll be ready for the next cold snap! They’ll be perfect for Christmas morning too.

I’m really enjoying making projects out of felted wool; it’s such a great way to use up old sweaters. We’ve had a bin of sweaters for years, and making all of these actually used up quite a bit of them- what will I do when they’re gone!?

Are you a slippers person? Do you think you’ll try making your own felted wool slippers? What project should I make next out of the wool? What other projects have you made with felted sweaters?

finished felted wool slippers details

green and grey handmade felted wool slippers