Farewell Summer, it’s been a blast!

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If you happen to stroll past our little studio late into the evening on any given weeknight… or maybe a sunny Sunday afternoon, you’re more than likely to see a dozen or so dedicated students working hard on their class projects – from pillows to party dresses to zippered pouches to leather belts, it’s a beehive of activity in here…   But don’t let all the productivity fool you – we still know how to have a little fun!  Like this Labour Day weekend, for example – we invited Jaunt, Blunt Chunks and Charise Aragoza to play in our dreamy little backyard for an event called ‘Farewell Summer’, (curated by Isla Cowan, Maya Lyn and Ikoro Sekai). Such a magical night!  Our former student (and current Londoner/Vogue UK intern) shot these clips from our rooftop…

We were also excited to have vintage vixens Maya Lyn of Eleven Eleven Vintage and Isla Cowan of H3avyFlow Vintage sharing their edited selection of fall picks, photographers Daniel Reardon and Ikoro Sekai showing their work in the back yard, the beautiful work of artists Josefina Hernandez,  Fraser Wrighte, Jacqueline Ashton, Melina Mehr, Aurora Shields joining us for the weekend, and locally made swag for sale from The Manning Knot, and The Bacon Berry Cards.

Leia Bryans clean, simple and heartwarming prints and t-shirts are currently available for sale at the studio if you’ve fallen in love with them – we sure have!

We were especially proud to have Jack Jackson and their curated collection of locally made bow ties, All Jacked Up at our event.  Jack learned to sew at our studio about a year ago, and gosh have those lessons paid off – Jack just made their debut at the Brooklyn Museum as part of DapperQ, an interactive queer style event.  As part of NYFW, Jack is blowing us away, not only with their success but also with their commitment to their community and social justice.

Thank you to everyone who came out and joined us!  We hope you had a blast!!!

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Top Photo Credit:
Jacqueline Ashton

Lower Print Credit:
Leia Bryans

Video Credit:
Tristan Amato

Urban Cottage-ing at The Woven Wolf Launch Party!


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What an amazing night!  We had so many familiar faces stop by to help us celebrate the launch of our new website (check it out!  It’s finally live:  The Woven Wolf) and we’re already getting psyched about our next video featuring one of our VERY favourite pattern designers!   Thank you so much to everyone who came out!  It’s so exciting that we’re starting to get feedback from Kickstarter backers who’ve used our videos and love them – we’ve heard from students who are using them to teach their friends and loved ones how to sew and the response has been incredible!  It’s so amazing to know that we’re making it even easier for people to learn how to make their own stuff, from anywhere, on their own schedule.  unspecified-24
unspecified-41We were so thrilled to have one of our very favourite fabric designers,
Elizabeth Olwen  stop by and of course, vintage vixen (and former student!) Isla Cowan from H3AVY FLOW vintage, Korey Robyn (also a former student!) of K*STAR CLOSET, the boys from local brewery Longslice, Kung Fu Dawgs and the lovely Kristiann Boos from Toronto based Victory Patterns!   And last but certainly not least, our rad Woven Wolf cake was made by the talented Sarah Fortunato Smith, of Cocoa Fortunato!   Isn’t it just the best?  We had so much fun giving out these cute Woven Wolf necklaces that we had laser cut at Hot Pop Factory to everyone who came, too.  Did we mention one of the founders of Hot Pop Factory was a student at one point, too?   Man, what a great night!  We’re so proud of all our student success stories.  Finally, did I mention our new propane campfire in the backyard?  It was just lovely to eat hot dogs and roast marshmalllows with friends around a campfire on a deliciously warm summer night.  Happy Summer 2016!

Check out The Woven Wolf for beautifully shot, easy to follow sewing tutorials and patterns!
Xoxo!
Irene

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Brooklyn’s Best Kept Shoemaking Secret!

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What do sewing teachers do when they’re on vacation?  They keep sewing!  This time our ongoing quest to learn how to make absolutely everything under the sun took us to sunny Brooklyn, NYC…   Here on Grand St. in the heart of the Big Apple, I met two exceptionally talented ladies who are making some of the most beautiful hand welted leather shoes that I’ve ever seen – and they were kind enough to share some of their shoe making tips and tricks with me!  Jesse Moore and Marika Verploegh Chassé are Brooklyn Bespoke, New York City’s premiere shoe makers….  and occasionally they play shoe making guru to the shoe-curious like me.

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Here’s Marika, working on a pair of mens derby shoes.  Do you know the difference between a pair of derby shoes and a pair of oxfords?  Marika, a shoe making teacher at FIT will make sure you know!  There’s a big difference if you’re drafting a pair – brush up on your shoe making terminology here!   Sadly, there aren’t alot of people who are making shoes like these ladies are anymore.   They have travelled the world over for the last 20 years, learning from the best of the best.     Likewise, there aren’t many contemporary shoe making text books – many of them are over 100 years old and aren’t of much use for the aspiring modern shoe maker.  Frank Jones has written the most up to date text and shares his years of factory experience in his book, ‘Pattern Cutting’.

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My pattern drafting experience for garments proved helpful in understanding the basic concepts of pattern making at times, although shoe making tools are not always dress making tools.  I loved using the roller foot on their beautiful post-bed machine, though it took some getting used to – as did cutting patterns with ‘windows’, where the seam allowance for every piece is included in the master pattern.
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Regardless, I am obsessed with shoe making.  The space you have to work with is extremely limited, so millimetres matter.  Even a 2mm  pattern adjustment can make a huge difference in the way a shoe fits – but despite the careful delicacy that’s required to design an elegant pair of shoes – the final product needs to be as solid and tough as it can possibly be if it’s going to withstand the abuse and punishment that we give to our shoes. Thanks for a great week, Jesse and Marika!

West End Alternative’s Pop-Up Shop #1

On Friday April 10th between 6-8pm, head down to Likely General @ 389 Roncesvalles for West End Alternative Secondary School’s Pop-up Shop #1. Celebrate the publication of The West Enders Vol. 1, Issues 1 and 2; dance to music spun by students from Sound Messages; walk away with hand-made bags and other swag by fashion designers from Sweatshop or Zines with “Demo Versions” of work being developed for The West Enders Vol. 2, Issues 1 and 2; eat snacks and drink sparkling beverages.

Help to support and encourage the art and DIY culture for todays youth!

Pop-up shop ad

Cool Hunting in Costa Rica… Pt. 1

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Costa Rica is my promised land, my Mecca, and the holy grail of beachy fun, adventure and general good times.  If there isn’t a Make Den in Costa Rica in the next few years it’s because I’ve been kidnapped by pirates.  So of course I decided to head there on vacation with my awesome bud, Niamh for a yoga retreat this March! But first, I wanted have a few adventures on my own.  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

My first host, Erika runs her Airbnb like it’s a pop-up shop/art gallery which  gives her guests the chance to support local artists and designers while they’re staying with her in the capital city of San Jose.  Erika is a former gallery curator, and although San Jose gets a bad rap as ‘the city that you have to pass through to get to the beach’ in many travel guides, Erika’s apartment defies the trend.  There are obviously a few undiscovered gems in San Jose that make me wish I could stay for longer – if only to learn how to make one of these awesome seafoam plant holders!

IMG_6446Erika promises that she can show me next time, but alas I only have one night here before heading to visit the internationally recognized eco-lodge, Rancho Margot, on Lake Arenal.  It feels like Rancho Margot is nestled away at the end of the world, in the middle of nowhere.

IMG_6513But once you arrive, it’s a hub of activity.  Practical solutions for everyday sustainable living are everywhere.   Chickens are fed on Banana leaves which act as chemical free antibiotics.   Green Rooftops make the buildings indistinguishable from their surroundings on Google Earth. Soap is purified and recycled to make new bars after guests leave.   Volunteers run the organic gardens and farm, which provides enough food for guests, volunteers and staff.     IMG_6545

The ranch is powered by an on-site hydro-electric turbine without constructing reservoirs or dams.   The DIY mentality is incredibly inspiring and I’m still processing ways to incorporate it into my daily life.

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My fellow guests were as interesting as the ranch itself.  Martina and her husband Mads joined me for a successful Macrame session in the bar, where we traced the history of macrame back to 13th c. Arabic weavers who would use knotting to finish the edges of carpets and shawls.  Martina recalled seeing Italian fisherman making their nets using the same technique.   She wanted to make the plant hanger for her daughters bedroom in their beautiful apartment in Copenhagen.  Mads and Martina are photographers whose work has taken them all over the world.    As luck would have it, they were driving into town the next day, and gave me a lift.  On the ride, they happened to recount their experience during the Milan Furniture Fair in 2010, when hotels doubled their prices and people were taking 72 hour bus rides home to Denmark because of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupting in Iceland.  Their words turned out to be rather prescient and quite helpful later that day when the Turrialba Volcano erupted and left me stranded at the San Jose airport.   The sky was dark with ash and their was an exodus from the airport that made it nearly impossible to get to my hastily booked hostel that night.

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To be continued…

Shop it while it’s hot!!! Fabric SALE this week Feb 14-21st!

April Rhodes Fabrics have arrived - and they are BEAUTIFUL!

April Rhodes Fabrics have arrived – and they are BEAUTIFUL!

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FABRIC SALE EXTENDED UNTIL FEB 21ST!

FABRIC SALE EXTENDED UNTIL FEB 21ST!

Screen shot 2015-02-14 at 11.13.30 PMScreen shot 2015-02-14 at 11.14.12 PMScreen shot 2015-02-14 at 11.11.31 PMSo apparently we’re having a fabric sale?  We’ve never done this before, but someone asked if we could have a sale and we were like “Yeah, why not?  Let’s do this!”.  Everything quilt related is 30% off until Feb 21st – quilting cotton, Aurafil thread, charm packs, jelly rolls, quilting rulers, rotary cutters, cutting matts and more!  If we don’t have it in stock, we can order it for you!  Here are the hours at our Bloordale location this week:

Monday Feb 16 (Family Day) – noon-5pm
Tuesday Feb 17 – noon – 10pm
Wednesday Feb 18 – noon – 10pm
Thursday Feb 19 – noon – 10pm
Friday Feb 20 – noon – 9pm
Saturday Feb 21 – noon – 7pm

 

The Make Den Makes Boots!

The second the doors were locked for the Winter Holidays at our little studio, Irene and I hightailed it to Chicago to pick up some new skills at The Chicago School of Shoemaking.

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After a 12 hour overnight bus ride (we caved and bought plane tickets home) we arrived.

The beginning of a Make Den vacation requires a few things. So we picked up our friend and gracious host Jenn and headed out into the world.

Step 1: Nails

After some extensive research, we decided on Naughty Nail’z. These girls were serious artists and we will most definitely be going back to see them again.

Step 2: Burgers

A post nails stop a Kuma Burger, where the burgers named after metal bands were as hardcore (and as delicious) they sounded. Plus the burger was a great backdrop to showcase Irene’s amazing nails.

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Step 3: Bourbon

And Dahlilias to the rescue! No trip is complete without discovering a gem of a local watering hole.

Now that we had our nails, burgers and bourbon it was time to get to work. The next morning we arrived at The Chicago School of Shoemaking and met the owner and our teacher Sarah. The studio was beautiful. A bright wide open work space, a wall full of leather to choose from and so many cool leather machines to try! We were in nerdy crafter heaven, which is clearly the best kind of heaven.

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The first day we tackled custom sandals and picked up a few tricks for leather bags. Both of which we are planning on sharing with all of you soon!

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But the real excitement was day two and three, where we drafted (with some help from our talented and patient teacher Sarah) and made our very own custom boots. It was strange to be on the other side of the teacher/student relationship for a change. But I have to say I loved it! Now I know what keeps you all coming back to our studio. Learning a new skill and coming home with a finished project is so rewarding.

Our last day we had one more stop before heading back home to Toronto, The Art Institute of Chicago. This art gallery is seriously amazing, and huge. We spent four hours there and had to run through Ancient Egypt at the end so we wouldn’t miss our plane.

Now that we are back in Toronto we are working on collecting the machines and tools we need to make more shoes! Now we can really say we make our own clothes from head to toe.

boots finished product

Young Designer Talia Zoref tells us about her Fascinator Collection for Youth Love Fashion 2014

As a young passionate designer, there is nothing more exciting for me than presenting my collection in a live fashion show. In the fall I was busy sewing and designing my fascinator collection for the “Youth Love Fashion” fashion show at the Intercontinental Toronto Center. I have always been passionate about fashion and dreamed of persuing a career in fashion. Thus, I was so thankfull to be able to present my own designs in this fashion show. I feel it is an amazing idea to allow young designers to have an opportunity to present their own collections and incourage them to start their own businesses.

YLF 2014 Talia

Designing a collection might be hard work, but it is definitely worth it when you display the fruits of your labour. Sewing is a long process of constructing and thinking through your whole idea, but if you work, sew, reopen the the seams again and again, and most importantly dedicate yourself you can get something even better in return. You fullfil your visions, get experience, learn from your mistakes, move forward and receive more oppertunities to do what you love.

I truly put in alot of hours sewing at The Make Den Studio, rethinking my ideas and most of all, exploring my materials and searching for ways to turn my ideas and visions into reality. For a whole month, the studio turned into my second home when I was there almost every day working on my fascinators.

While sewing for the fashion show, I also had some difficult moments. For example, I was hand sewing a seam for an hour that did not come out well and I was really upset and frustrated, since I needed to rip the whole seam apart and start all over again. For one moment, I looked arround me and saw all the other designers sewing and not giving up. That was when I decided to bite my lip and give it another try. I had an image of my finished designed fascinator in my head and nothing was going to stop me from seeing it on the runway just as I imagianed it.

Talia Fascinator

One of the most improtant things that kept me going was my other young designer friends at The Make Den. We were sewing together, supporting, helping and encouraging eachother to continue the work and craft beautiful designs. I was also thrilled that that I got to meet them through the PACT program and was happy to meet young and passionate people twho shared my interests.

Now, after the fashion show I am pleased to say one of my biggest dreams came true and I got to see my collection go down the runway. I had an amazing experience helping out backstage, getting the models ready and most of all participating in the fashion show. I am looking forward to the next fashion show I will take part in.  I would also like to tell all young passionate people, to go out there and make their dreams come true.

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Here more from Talia at her blog Fashion Scissors.

Unveiling our new Leather Studio!

leather_studio_1It’s official!  Toronto’s first DIY Leather Craft space has finally opened it’s doors for classes!  Our new space is located right on top of our Bloordale studio, at 1244 Bloor St. W (just steps from the Lansdowne subway station).  The space features hand tools for leather cutting, skiving and stamping, a rivet/snap press, an industrial leather walking foot machine as well as space for dying and finishing leather.  Check out the Leather FUNdamentals class page for dates and times!   The space also features a beautiful salvaged wood wall, made from stained and up cycled pallet wood from around the city. We had fun cutting up the old pallets and staining them different colours back in August when we started renovating.

Leather_studio_2The projects that people have been creating are out of this world – Lindsay King has been crafting leather and upcycled fur mittens (for sale through her Instagram) and other students have been making leather bags,  upcycled fur earmuffs, leather sunglass cases, iphone and ipad cases, sandals, moccasins and more!

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Alljackedup

I met my Canadian partner on a big gay tour of the world back in 2011 and left the small island of Guernsey in the Channel Islands to live in Toronto – one of the best cities in the world.

After leaving a small and somewhat conservative island, I decided to never again tone down my dress sense, which had always been so intrinsically tied to my identity. I unapologetically refused to abide by the gendered binary dress codes that had previously suffocated me. Herein lay the problem; most of the clothes I loved didn’t fit my body or gender – they had been designed for cisgender men. Frustrated and fed up spending money to have men’s clothes altered to fit me, I took out a loan, bought a sewing machine and started on a passionate love affair with fashion on my own terms.  And this is how alljackedup was born; born of frustration with the dated notion of the gender binary and from a desire to firmly plant roots in my beloved Toronto.

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Alljackedup was launched at World Pride in June 2014 selling matching bow ties for the dapper human and their hound. The website followed shortly after and can be found at www.alljackedup.ca Follow us for the latest news on Facebook.

Summer bow ties 1

Next on the agenda I’m super excited about a range of Canadian and Toronto-inspired boxer shorts to suit and fit all genders. The Make Den are kindly helping getting me started on this next project.

Toronto is the first place that truly feels like home and I want to celebrate that and give back to the very communities that make me feel like I belong. Thank you for having me Toronto, I love you in all of your diversity.

Wow, Lucas, Zee and Skye