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.

irene makes boots

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.

kumaburger nails

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.


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!

walking foot machine boots

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


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.

Zee and Me 1

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 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

I Made A Coat!

Vintage Pattern

The Make Den has a wonderful of collection of vintage and out of print patterns.  I found my pattern at the vintage pattern store, Redcurlzs, on Etsy.


Sewing Teacher

I decided to make my first coat so I signed up for Tailored Jackets.   I had the opportunity to work with Cat.  She is super fun to work with. She has fantastic experience in the industry and has a great deal of knowledge to share with you. You know those stressful times during a project?  Well, she is so confident and relaxed that as a result, that attitude gets transferred to you!

Fabric Woes


Boucle: A fabric made from uneven yarn of three plies one of which forms loops at intervals.  Boucle in French means curly. (Merriam Webster)

So I found my boucle at Fabricland on the clearance table.  There are reasons why bolts of fabric end up there!  It was probably an acrylic mix.  I loved the black, white and purple loops with a glittery silver yarn running through it.

I fused (interfaced) every piece of the garment before I began sewing.  That took about three hours.  As I began to handle the fabric it began to ravel at the edges – even with the fusing.  The loops would occasionally get caught and spring out from the fabric too!

I was committed to the project so I stayed the course!

Every Project has a Silver Lining

I found silver Kasha lining at Affordable Textiles on Queen St. Kasha lining is flannel backed satin that adds warmth without bulk.

Completed Project

I couldn’t be more pleased. Check it out the pockets too!

noname-3noname-2noname-1Have you ever made a coat?  Do you have plans to make a coat?

Happy Sewing!

~ Janet




Introducing Iskwe Couture

My name is Lindsay O’Keese and I am a member of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation. I am in the process of a career change from Social Work, which I’ve practiced in the last 10 years to Fashion Design. I am currently designing my first clothing line, Fall/Winter 2014 along with business planning.


I have always dreamed of owning a clothing business, but didn’t think it could be a reality due to my busy career in Social Work. I never thought it was possible to learn how to design and sew until I started at The Make Den (my transition from Social Work to Fashion Design was a two year process which included a move and many hours of research and planning). I started off with the beginners sewing class at the end of May 2014 and then completed 6 weeks of camp throughout July and August 2014. During that time, I learned how to illustrate, draft and sew my own pattern for a jacket. Completing this jacket has given me the confidence that I needed to continue in Fashion Design and start my own business.

My business name is Iskwe Couture. “Iskwe” is a Cree/Plains Cree word meaning ‘woman”. My clothing line will initially be based out of my home where production will take place and marketing will be done via social media such as Instagram, Facebook and Etsy until I am in a place financially to open a store. My clothing line will focus primarily on trendy outerwear and accessories and will include Pendleton fabric, which is a tribal design that is popular in many First Nations communities in Canada and the United States. Leather is another favourite, which will be included in most of my designs.


Every step in this new journey has been exciting! A lot of creativity, patience and hard work go into Fashion Design, business planning and marketing. I am learning something new everyday and I am excited about my future endeavours. My designs and new journey can be followed on Instagram @miss_lking81 Iskwe Couture By Lindsay. I am always open to making new connections and supporting others in their journey.

Mittens Workshops!  Nov 11th, Dec 2nd and 16th

“Choose A Job You Love And You Will Never Have To Work A Day In Your Life” –Confucus

Check out Iskwe Couture on instagram here.

Walden Patterns Have Arrived!

Walden Patterns, by Colette have arrived at the studio.

colette walden patterns

Awesomely stylish patterns for men, although the Cooper bag would be great for just about anyone. It may even make an appearance in my bag collection.

And… if you are feeling extra crafty, you could always screenprint your own fabric before making the Negroni shirt, like August did.

screenprinted tailored mens shirt


Tips Tuesday: Reinforcing a Slit

When you sew a skirt with a slit, especially if it is a fitted skirt, use the “eye” piece of a hook and eye to reinforce the top of the slit. This will allow you to move free of fear of a wardrobe malfunction.

reinforced slit

Fabric Shopping Under the Tel Aviv Sun

Written by: Talia Zoref

Photographs by: Talia Zoref

From left to right-Talia with fabric shop keeper, Talia looking at fabric ribbons, Talia trying masks at Shwartz Parvot fabric store(1)

From left to right-Talia with fabric shop keeper, Talia looking at fabric ribbons, Talia trying masks at Shwartz Parvot fabric store.

I am Talia, a Fashion Blogger from Israel.  As a fashion and sewing lover, buying fabric is one of my favorite activities.  I enjoy examining different fabrics while feeling the variety of textures, looking at the colours, and imagining how each fabric would look when it is a ready to wear garment.  Let me introduce you to fabric shopping in Tel Aviv.

Nahalat Benyamin fabric store2

Nahalat Benyamin fabric store

I visited Nahalat Benyamin in Tel Aviv, the center of the textile industry and a fabric shopping haven.  It is located next to the large Carmel Market.

I love this area because of the huge variety of tourists as well as locals who come from all over Israel.  Also, there are unique buildings in the area designed in the Bauhaus style.  Twice a week there is an Art Fair at Nahalat Benyamin with artists, actors, dancers, and singers who perform and sell their wares.

My visit began at the fabric store called Schwartz Parvot specializing in synthetic fur and fancy fabrics for theater costumes.  As you step into this store, you feel like you are entering a movie star’s dressing room.  All of the colourful feathers, the different types of fur and the sparkling fabrics stimulate your senses as if you are in a fantasy movie.

The clientele who frequent this store are designers who buy materials for costumes that appear in plays and on television.  Young designers and fashion lovers also buy here to make outfits and costumes.  The shelves along the walls have a variety of vibrant, colorful feathers, special furs, ruffles, and other items to make dramatic and special costumes.

Schwartz furs3

Schwartz Furs

Following, I went to a bridal couture fabric shop called Emis with rich, beautiful, and expensive materials where you can find every type of imaginable white and cream colored fabric made from hand beaded lace to elegant silk.  One of the latest laser cut fabrics caught my eye. It was chiffon blended into a beautiful flower pattern with hand beaded lace. The combination of laser with handmade work was intriguing due to the unusual mix of old and new.

At Emis, brides often come with designers who guide them to pick the fabrics.  Also, designers who create outfits for dancers purchase here.  Peak period at this store is in the winter when brides and designers start preparing to make wedding gowns and collections for the summer season.

Emise dancer fabrics4

Emis Dancer Fabrics

Another fascinating store is Halom specializing in sewing accessories.  They have everything including buttons, zippers, beads, threads, and items to upgrade a garment.   As a sewer, I love adding stones and lace ribbons to the edges of my clothes to change them and make them look like a whole new piece.

Knitted bench and bike outside Halom5

Knitted bench and bike outside Halom

Going fabric shopping at Nahalat Benyamin is fun and enjoyable.  You can make some sensational purchases to make special garments, go to cafes as well as go market shopping.  I highly recommend that you visit this area.

I hope you enjoyed discovering fabric shopping in Tel Aviv.

Check out Talia’s coverage of Tel Aviv Fashion Week at her blog Fashion Scissors.

Tips Tuesday: Easy Hem Turning

Lets say you want to turn a 1/2″ hem. Now you could bring along your ruler and measure along the way, or if you’re feeling particularly reckless you could eyeball it. But there is an easy and accurate way to mark your hem for pressing.

First off, double your hem measurement. So, if your hem is 1/2″, your measurement is now 1″. This is where a C-thru ruler will come in handy. C-thru rulers have measurements running in both directions, so it is easy to mark long parellel lines. The line in the center of the rulers marks 1″. Line up the ruler to the 1″ chalk a line in place.

easy hem turning

Now when you head to your iron, simply fold the edge of your fabric up to that line and press for a perfect 1/2″ hem!

easy hem turning 2

Janet Sews: Top Twelve Independent Pattern Companies

slideshow_6Many sewers now prefer to sew using patterns from independent pattern companies instead of the big four (Burda, Vogue, Butterick and McCalls). In one of my previous posts I shared my favourite Canadian pattern companies. This time I am going to review my international favourites. I tried to keep it to ten! Even with twelve I left some of my favourites off the list. I will save the others for a future post.

Let me know what your experiences have been with patterns from these independent companies in the comments.

  1. Style Arc, Australia


Style Arc’s designs are based on American celebrity fashion. These patterns are probably better for an intermediate sewer because they are not known for their instructions. However, they do offer several beginner patterns. I regularly visit the website because I love looking at their designs and line drawings. They have recently started selling fabric to accompany the patterns. This makes it easier to get the ready to wear look. Get the Look is a feature on the site that shows you how to put the styles together as an outfit.

2.  Skinny Bitch, Curvy Chick, NYC


Free PDF Tonic T-shirt pattern – I have read many favorable reviews of this T-shirt pattern in the blogosphere.

SBCC is a digital pattern company.  Patterns come in a wide range of sizes.  (xxs – 3x).  Reviewers appreciate the fit for petite women.  Tutorials are available as well.

This pattern is on my list.


3. Cake

Riffs_EspressoLeggings_Back.indd full_2976_56170_CakeRiFFBonnyKnitSailorTop_3 tiramisufinalcover

The Cake pattern company offers online sewing support in the form of sewalongs, tutorials, and sewcializing.  Styles always include pockets.  The Tiramisu Dress pattern, pictured above, is quite popular.

4. Colette  Portland, Oregon

Colette produces beautiful paper patterns and include great instructions. You can purchase from the selection of Colette patterns at The Make Den.  These patterns have a great vintage vibe.

cp2002-albion-01-large-b6b1ec1c9199a9953e68469fd6fe93e5 cp2003-cooper-01-large-71857b6535f34c3d1134c30abd288cb8 cp1010-01-large-480cfe2f3f4db12dcd348f30b09ce263





cp0003-01-large-3f978de39409215417a43ea693adff1cFree PDF Sorbetto, woven tank

5. By Hand London, England


Free PDF Polly Top

These patterns are expensive and very popular in the sewing blog world.  Sewalongs are available. The huge lifestyle retailer, Anthropologie will be carrying these patterns in their stores soon!


Elisalex Dress


Anna Dress

6. Grainline StudiosChicago, Illinois

There are two styles by Grainline Studios that are extremely popular, the Archer Shirt and Scout woven T-shirt.  I finally bought the PDF of the Scout T. The company provides great online support including sewing and pattern tutorials. And, check out the owners blog, I love it!


Archer Shirt


Scout woven T-shirt


Free PDF Hemlock T-shirt

7. Jamie ChristinaCalifornia, USA


Sol Hoodie

I have had my eye on this Sol Hoodie pattern for a while.


New digital pattern: Maxi Cardi

8. Deer and Doe, France

You can find these online and also at a sewing studio called, Needlework in Hamilton, Ontario. I love the neck detail on the Datura Blouse.


Datura Blouse


Aubepine Dress

9. Hot PatternsLondoners living in California


Hot Patterns features lots of instructional videos, sewing tips, and pattern styles.

Patterns are offered in a good range of sizes.  I love their videos (though, she may not be to everyone’s taste) and the styles. So many patterns to choose from. I haven’t decided yet!

10. Papercut CollectiveNew Zealand

Back in the fall, Papercut Collective released their new patter collection, Constellation! Check out some of the amazing styles pictured below.

SigmaSlide SaiphTunicSlider RigelSlide

11. Megan Nielson, US (Former Australian)

Megan Nielson also offers a collection of maternity and nursing patterns, for all you crafty mom’s to be.


The Banksia top is very popular.


12. Named, Finland

This company is only a few months old. Minimalist styling. I am looking forward to seeing what else they come out with.

left: Jamie (Skinny) Jeans pattern which has had good reviews.
right: Andy Coat


Are you going south this winter?  I forgot to include this awesome swimsuit pattern during my last post about Canadian Indie Patterns. I have seen it all over the web. It looks great on every body. It is on my list!

il_fullxfull.466987894_n1jm   Montreal, Canada
Bombshell Swimsuit Pattern PDF

Happy Sewing!
~ Janet

Tips Tuesday- Easy Shirring

shirred dress

Check out this student project. This upcycled children’s dress was made from a mens dress shirt. With shirring added to cinch the waist, the entire project was completed in a matter of only a few hours.

If you are looking to add shirring to a garment, or want an easier way to get the appearance of smocking, here’s the trick.

Hand wind your bobbin with elastic thread (I’d recommend paying the extra few bucks for Gutterman thread, it’s more durable then most). Be sure not to pull or stretch your elastic as you wind.

elastic threaded bobbin

Using the elastic thread for the bobbin and regular thread for the top, thread up your machine as usual. Lengthen your stitch length so it is slightly longer than usual (on our Janome’s I tend to use a stitch length of 3-3.5).

shirring bobbin

It’s not a bad idea to chalk in the sew lines on the good side of your garment before you begin. This will make it easier to have neat, evenly spaced shirring. I find that 1/2″ between each row looks best.

marking for shirring

Now, sew your first line of shirring, backstitching a few stitches on either end. Line up your fabric for the next row. As you continue, be sure you are holding your fabric taught as it runs through the machine. Repeat this process for as many rows as is necessary.

sewing shirring

Once you are done shirring, use your iron to steam your fabric. Hold your iron above your shirred fabric and press the steam button. This allows your fabric to settle into the gathers you have created.


Shirr Genius! (I just can’t help the bad puns)