A Bag Full of Fabric Swag and Jet Lag | The Button Jar
Over the course of our nearly fifteen year relationship, my sweet and patient chap has allowed himself to be dragged to innumerable exhibitions and galleries. And since we started travelling reasonably regularly about seven years ago, he’s kindly supported me by tagging along on a couple of art-centred jaunts to Europe, in particular to Italy’s Venice Biennale.
So how could I possibly say no when he (almost plaintively) put in a pitch for a mountain biking holiday to Vancouver?
VANCOUVER! A beautiful harbour city with the possibility of seeing bears and squirrels and chipmunks? A craft-beer scene that rivals our own dear Wellington? A trip to warmer climes after Wellington’s winter? A week off? The chance of fabric shopping in a different country? The hometown of Love to Sew? Hell, yeah! I AM IN!
The Travel Capsule Wardrobe
Needless to say, I over-packed. But I was so proud that my packed wardrobe was largely made by me (with the exception of a RTW leather jacket, a tee and jumper for the flight over and a few of scarfs), and I wore (wait for it) 100% me made clothes! Below is a list of everything I took and the bold indicates what I wore.
Kobe Dress by Papercut Patterns (didn’t go anywhere dressy enough, sadly) and matching silk headscarf
Jack trench coat from Ready to Sew (this is a really great shoulder season coat and was a perfect evening layer for autumnal evenings. Will have A Self-Covered Button Post soon)
Two Deer and Doe Ondee sweaters (I didn’t wear either)
My mustard and my grey Helen’s Closet Blackwood cardies
Two Deer and Doe Airelle blouses (I wore both)
Sew Over It Carrie Trousers (secret pyjamas for the aeroplane, but they also got a Vancouver City outing)
Ogden cami (part of a two-piece spectacular with the SOI Carrie Trou, but I need to work into the fit of this one)
Papercut Patterns Guise Trousers (and I need about three more pairs! I love this pattern!)
Sewhouse Seven’s Tea House top (the love affair with this pattern will continue as there’s a dress version on my spring/summer list)
Grainline Studio’s Willow tank (and I realised how much more I like this top when it’s tucked in)
Closet Case Pattern’s Charlie Caftan (although I misjudged the day I wore it and frooooze!)
Papercut Pattern’s Sigma Dress (HELL YEAH! This will have A Self-Covered Button post soon.)
One thing I have learnt from this and also from how I’ve dressed since I got back is that I largely dress like I have a capsule wardrobe—repeating and tweaking a few combinations over a period before moving on—even though I have a lot more clothes than you’d find in a capsule wardrobe. I don’t mind repeating outfits (I actually rather like it), and I also enjoyed the limits that the travelling placed on me to think up new ways of wearing old favourites, and being bolder with my combinations. It’s inspired me to give the 10x10 challenge a go, to push me to consider new outfit and colour combinations. From my vacation experiments, I particularly loved the colours and shapes of this outfit…
Fabric Shopping with Love to Sew! EEEEE!
Almost the first thing I did to prepare for the trip (very possibly before we’d booked tickets) was figure out who I could get insider information on the Vancouver sewing scene from, and who better than Helen and Caroline of the podcast Love to Sew to guide my sewing shopping? Based in Vancouver, these two talented entrepreneurs have, through their delightful and informative podcast, positioned themselves as the North American agony aunts of the sewing world. If you haven’t already, go listen to their podcast! Right now! (And then come back to finish reading my blogpost.) They are the women behind the pattern designs, Helen’s Closet and the online fabrictodiefor store, Blackbird Fabrics.
I emailed asking for any top tips they had and very tentatively said that if they were free and it wasn’t too much bother, no pressure because I know you’re busy and please don’t feel that you have to, etc (you know, that really NZ way of asking things: apologetically!) it would be lovely to meet for a drink or coffee. I was pretty bowled over when they suggested taking me fabric shopping—and ever so grateful!
Although I tried my hardest to not fan-girl too badly, I’m pretty sure I acted like a bit of a dweeb. Helen and Caroline, though, were lovely and kind and friendly and not at all phased by my fan-girling and New Zealand accent. Within a few blocks in Gastown, Helen and Caroline took me to three shops that I would highly recommend to any sewist-tourist (stewrist?), finishing with a delicious Korean lunch. I wish that I’d asked for a photograph, but my super-awkward-kiwi-shyness won the day and I didn’t, sigh. (Shhh, how cool is this, Caroline brought with her the beautiful piece of patterned linen (above) that I’d bought from Blackbird a couple of weeks before hand… Blackbird Fabrics hand delivered? Now that is customer service! If only we could organise her to do that to Wellington, hehe!)
Dressew: The Fabric Super-Duper-Hyper-Market
We met at Dressew and it was so great to have Helen and Caroline’s guidance, because Dressew is expansive! From costuming fabric to upholstery fabric to quilting fabric to garment fabric, the selection was huge and navigating it alone would probably have been too much for my jet-lagged brain. And this was just one floor! There is a whole underground floor of notions, fastenings and everything else you could want for fabric-based crafting. Helen and Caroline took me to the best sections for garment sewing and I came away with some beautiful noils and a stripe stretch cotton. Alas, I was a little overwhelmed so didn’t get any photos! But if you plan to go there, I’d recommend a) taking a guide; b) not being afraid of asking for lots of help to find what you’re after; and c) factoring an initial reconnoiter followed by a healthy meal and a good sleep, and then going to make your purchases. Failing these preparations, I’d recommend you make sure you take food for a few days and, in case of emergency, a personal locator beacon. You’ll probably be okay for blankets and material for building a rudimentary shelter.
Atex Designer Fabrics
Our second stop was Atex Designer Fabrics. This much smaller shop across the road from Dressew ended up being a heaven of beautiful wools. I didn’t make it to the upstairs section of this shop or, indeed, out to the back room, because I was so taken with the huge variety of wools in the front section of the shop. After the slightly overwhelming experience of Dressew, I didn’t buy any fabrics while there with Helen and Caroline, but returned the next day to buy a gorgeous mushy-pea green solid wool, and a very special wool chambray with a white weft, a brown warp and multi-coloured speckles … and then returned on our last day in Vancouver for a beautiful herringbone. Mmmm, I’m already excited about next autumn’s coat-sewing…
Bibbity Bobbity Caught in a Button Jar!
And finally, before a delicious Korean lunch, we went to Button Button. I cannot recommend this wee shop highly enough! This is such a gem of a store—a human-sized button jar, it’s jam-packed with a wonderfully ramshackle vintage collection of chests, drawers and filing cabinets brim-full of the biggest array of buttons I’ve ever seen. The super lovely proprietor of the shop was welcoming and kind, allowing me to take a bunch of photos of her spectacular shop.
From button soup to antique glass, from vintage bakelite to painted porcelain to wood to brass to everything in between, there is something in this store for everyone—and way too much for a magpie hoarder like me. You must check out this shop if you’re in Vancouver!
I was particularly taken with some Mediterranean Sea Tile buttons, some Ammonite buttons and this very special little painted butterfly. I’m not sure what I’ll use them on at this point, but I think I might make my butterfly into a wee broach. At the moment, they all grace my pin board behind my machines as lovely visual reminders of this very special store.
And that’s a wrap!
So as you can see, I spoilt myself quite heartily on this trip. I feel really lucky that I was able to do this, as seeing these fabrics in my stash takes me back to a very special day spent with two clever and talented women in Vancouver. Helen and Caroline were so lovely and kind, taking me under their wings and showing me around Gastown—hanging out with them was a highlight of my trip!