Garden Party

We’re not sure why we always think summer will offer up seas of free time (leftover childhood memories, perhaps?) but every year summer brings a happy twirl of events and parties all too good to say no to. Besides the fun of seeing friends and loved ones, and the general loveliness of the weather, summer parties offer the chance to dress up in pretty dresses and fancy shawls, and we can’t argue with the delight of that.

gardenparty5As we continue to expand our handmade wardrobe, we couldn’t resist sewing up a pretty summer party dress and then, naturally, we had to knit up a co-ordinating shawl. The shawl, Henslowe, is one of our favourite patterns (this is our third), knit up in the gorgeous Yarn Indulgences Indulgent Grand Style (600 yards in one skein!) in Buttercup. This feeds into both our love of this pattern and our recent obsession with this colour. The dress, sewn in Liberty Tana Lawn in Elizabeth A, is a bit of a mash-up: It has a similar bodice to Colette Patterns’ Dahlia, but the back is open, and it has a simple gathered skirt — the ability to customize patterns is what makes sewing so appealing to us, and we’re so happy with how this dress turned out.

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One of the reasons we think this pairing works so well is because of the proportions. The open back is fun and a little sultry (especially compared with the full-coverage front), but the shawl balances that out perfectly. Its relatively shallow shape, and the fact that a third of the depth is made up of lace, means that you can cover up (for warmth or modesty) without fully covering the dress. The colour of the shawl also picks up on the subtle yellows in the print, which ties the whole look together.
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We love this pairing, and (of course) it got us thinking about other fantastic combinations. For example, how about a Belladone paired with the modern lace of Rosebud? Or a full-length Anna Dress matched with a Mirepoix knit up in a slinky silk blend (Anzula Mermaid would be a great choice)? Or (one more) for a more casual event, we love the full-length Southport Dress, which would pair beautifully with a Pebble Beach Shawl.

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Selvedge: Natural History

Selvedge is a recurring blog feature that takes you through collections of designer fabrics we carry in the shop.

We are thrilled to be carrying Lizzy House’s latest collection. Natural History is like a tour through the best parts of a big old museum, with dinosaurs, butterflies, gems, whales, and (of course) a planetarium all making an appearance. We are beyond charmed by this clever and gorgeously executed collection, and we know you will be too.

Natural History, Precious Stones in Green, Blue, and Brown
Natural History, Precious Stones in Green, Blue, and Brown
Natural History Sea Creatures in Blue, Teal, and Grey
Natural History Sea Creatures in Blue, Teal, and Grey
Natural History Butterflies in Brown, Green, and Blue
Natural History Butterflies in Brown, Green, and Blue

See what we mean? Stunning. Natural History is organized along three main colours: brown/red, green, and blue. Though each strain includes multiple shades of each, and some complimentary colours as well, Lizzy’s excellent colour sense makes these fabrics a natural for quilting. We love the idea of a Precious Stones and Dinosaurs (or Sea Creatures and Constellation) Here & There quilt, or a Constellation and Stars Feather Bed quilt, or, if you truly can’t choose, In This Corner is a perfect way to use all the prints.

Natural History Constellation in Light Blue, Metallic Teal, Copper, and Silver Black
Natural History Constellation in Light Blue, Metallic Teal, Copper, and Silver Black
Natural History Stars in Blue, Green, and Brown
Natural History Stars in Blue, Green, and Brown
Natural History Dinosaurs in Green, Brown, and Blue
Natural History Dinosaurs in Green, Brown, and Blue

Of course, there’s no reason your bed or couch should get all the fun. These prints are whimsical, but they are also very wearable thanks to the pared down colour scheme and the scale of the images. We love the idea of a Butterflies Rooibos dress, or Constellation Cambie Dress. If you’d prefer to wear your Natural History on your sleeve (ahem), Noodlehead’s 241 Tote is perfect for all your summer running around. For kids, the Sally Dress (in Dinosaurs or Sea Creatures maybe?) is sure to become a summer staple, and we bet a pair of Parsley Pants (in Stars or Precious Stones, perhaps) would be enthusiastically received.

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Rowan for Summer

Every year when the weather starts to warm up, we get a little thrill. Yes, we’re warm-weather lovers, but more than that, it’s become so much easier to be warm-weather knitters! There are so many gorgeous summer yarns and patterns out there (with more being released each year), that a big part of why we look forward to the season is because of the knitting. Our latest shipment from Rowan is a great example of this: multiple weights, crisp colour palettes, and perfect warm-weather fibre blends.

Rowan Alpaca Fine Lace in Cameo, Chalk, and Cobweb
Rowan Alpaca Fine Lace in Cameo, Chalk, and Cobweb

Rowan’s Alpaca Fine Lace is a stunner that knits up into a fabric so lightweight it’s like wearing air — perfect for those hot humid days ahead of us. We posted a ton of great laceweight pattern suggestions a few weeks ago, but just to round out that offering, we propose both the super-simple Lori Shawl (an immediate wardrobe staple) and Lus, a lightweight tee with great details.

Rowan Summerlite in Washed Linen, Grey, and Duck Egg
Rowan Summerlite in Washed Linen, Grey, and Duck Egg

Brand new this year, Rowan Summerlite 4-Ply is a 100% cotton fingering weight yarn. It has a smooth matte finish and crisp stitch definition. We love the smooth cables on the Beaches tank, the simple lace of the Hellebore wrap top, and the shoulder details on the SpliTTop.

Rowan Creative Linen in White, Stormy, and Foggy
Rowan Creative Linen in White, Stormy, and Foggy

Rowan Creative Linen, a 50-50 cotton and linen blend, is just about the perfect summer yarn: quick to knit (it’s DK weight), comfortable to wear, and ready to be packed and pull out of bags all summer long. It’s the perfect yarn for a Gemini (or, even better, a Gemini dress!), and it would be ideal for the go-with-everything Marly tee or Flow tank.

Rowan Wool Cotton in Moss Grey, Ship Shape, and Sage
Rowan Wool Cotton in Moss Grey, Ship Shape, and Sage

Another gorgeous DK-weight summer yarn, Rowan’s Wool Cotton is a 50-50 blend of merino wool and cotton, which combine to create a fabric with good recovery that feels fantastic next to your skin. It’s the perfect yarn for stitch patterns that need a little bit of structure, like the diagonal rib in the Second Story Tee and the cable details on the Avelina tank and Lizette tee.

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Colour Theory: Black & White

It’s no secret that we love, love, love colour, but who can resist the classic appeal of a black and white palette? Gorgeous on its own, black and white also pair beautifully with all the colours we love. Seeing what Cotton + Steel have done with their Black and White collection inspired us to seek out the other black-and-white beauties on our shelves.

bw-colurtheory1. Cotton + Steel Black and White in Fern Book, Petite Plus, Squared, and Ghost Bunny
2. Cotton + Steel Black and White in
Meet Your Match, Study Hall, and Typewriters
3. Embroidery Scissors
4. Koigu KPPPM in #P312
5. Cascade Eco Duo in Zebra
6. Cotton + Steel Black and White in Gamaguchi, Puff, Floral Geo, Sunday Dress
7. Cotton + Steel Black and White in Tiger Stripes
8. Liberty Tana Lawn in Mitsi D and Belmont Ivy, and Robert Kaufman London Calling in Black
9. Malabrigo Rasta in Plomo
10. Rowan Fine Tweed in Bell Busk, Malham, and Pendle

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Summer wardrobe essentials

Our last post, plus all the inspiration from Me-Made-May, has made us really exciting about building our warm-weather wardrobes. Although sewing often takes less time than knitting, it’s still smart to get an early start, since summer tends to be a season of distractions and plans (at least for us). We’ve recently sewn up three different summer staples, so we thought it would be fun to talk about them and get your input on your summer wardrobe must-haves.

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Sleeveless: Tank-tops can be surprisingly versatile, and once you get a sense of how you like yours to fit, you can whip up a bunch, changing little details to keep them all unique. This is a relatively modest top, with its crew neckline and full shoulder, but the back details and fabric choice (Liberty Tana Lawn in Kitty Grace E) keep it fun, and make it a great piece for transitioning from the office to a patio. We made this by modifying Collette Patterns’ free Sorbetto, which is a great place to start. For other sleeveless styles, the Grainline Tiny Pocket Tank has a great casual, swingy shape;  Deer & Doe’s Datura Blouse has two great variations and fun back details;  and for something a little dressier, Victory Patterns’ Ava (view B) is lovely, and can be as modest or daring as you choose.

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Short-sleeves: Who isn’t on the hunt for the perfect T-shirt? Something that’s effortless to wear, comfortable, but still looks put together… This is Colette Patterns’ Jasmine, (this one sewn up in Liberty Tana Lawn in Elizabeth A) and it’s hitting a lot of our buttons right now. The shape makes it perfect to wear with jeans, but it also tucks smoothly into a high-waisted skirt, and the tie detail is pretty fun (and designed for limited fussing when you’re wearing it). For a more casual woven t-shirt, we can’t resist Grainline’s Scout Tee; new-to-us designer Liola Designs’ Luna Top offers the opportunity for some fun colour-blocking as well as three variations (sleevless, t-shirt, or long sleeves). If you’re after a good jersey-knit tee, both Deer & Doe’s Plaintain Tee (free pattern) and Sewaholic’s Renfrew are tried-and-true, and would be gorgeous in some Liberty Dufour Viscose Jersey.

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Tunics: For ultimate easy dressing, tunics are a must-have. Perfect for layering with jeans or shorts on the weekend, they double as beach coverups and, in the right fabric and longer sleeves, as a slightly warmer layer in the evening, all of which makes them holiday-packing staples. This one is Sew Liberated’s Schoolhouse Tunic (with a couple of variations), sewn in the holiday-themed Libert Tana Lawn Isle of Wight A. Wiksten’s Tank and Tova (whose neckline we mimicked here) both come with tunic variations, and we’re also big fans of A Verb for Keeping Warm’s Endless Summer Tunic, which includes pockets!

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Seasonal Knitting: Cotton yarns and tops

It feels almost like we’ve skipped spring entirely and jumped right into summer and with all the tree blossoms at their height, we’re ready to take our knitting outside and switch over to warm-weather fibers. We’ll always love wool, but there’s something fun about switching it up when the weather turns, and lately we’ve been dreaming of cotton tops to wear as summer really takes hold. This is the perfect time to knit for summer, and with Very Shannon launching her Tops, Tanks & Tees KAL next week, we thought we’d showcase some of our favourite cotton yarns and the summer patterns we’re loving this year.

Cascade Pima Cotton in Soft Sage, Butter, and Deep Coral
Cascade Ultra Pima in Soft Sage, Butter, and Deep Coral

Starting off with a classic, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with Cascade Ultra Pima. This 100% cotton, DK-weight yarn comes in dozens of colours and feels wonderful against the skin. We love it for the Work + Shelter lace-striped sweater and the fantastic striped Regatta Tee.

Classic Elite Provence in Raisin, Violets, and Sassafras
Classic Elite Provence in Raisin, Violets, and Sassafras

Another gorgeous 100% cotton yarn is Classic Elite’s Provence. It has such a fantastic and crispy stitch definition, and the way it’s structured means it holds its shape beautifully as you wear it. We’ve used it for cables before, but for summer we’re loving it for lace: Rocky Pond, the Liason Tee, and Greco (from the new Pom Pom Quarterly) are all on our to-make list.

Berroco Fuji in Bamboo, Pacific, and Atmosphere
Berroco Fuji in Bamboo, Pacific, and Atmosphere

Berroco Fuji is an unusual cotton blend (38% silk, 25% cotton, 22% rayon/viscose, 15% nylon), that eschews the usual sleek finish for a more slubby, textured yarn that knits up into a soft, drapey fabric that feels just like your favourite shirt. It’s different, but lovely, and would be ideal for the lace-backed Icarus top, the classic Hami tank, and the on-trend cross-back Green Apple Tank.

Berroco Modern Cotton in Spinnaker, Waterfire, and Breton
Berroco Modern Cotton in Spinnaker, Waterfire, and Breton

On the other hand, Berroco Modern Cotton is a smooth, sleek cotton-modal blend with a subtle shine. It feels lovely and knits up into a smooth fabric with lovely stitch definition. Admit and Eula both show this yarn off perfectly, combining modern lace details with classic, everyday-wearable shapes. Perfect for building up your summer knitwear wardrobe.

Berroco Maya in Aqua, Rosa, and Acero
Berroco Maya in Aqua, Rosa, and Acero

For anyone still skeptical about knitting with cotton, Berroco Maya is for you. It’s a cotton-alpaca blend chainette, which gives the yarn an elasticity similar to wool, and creates a light and airy fabric. It’s an excellent choice for the quick-to-knit Togue Pond tank, the gorgeous Driftwood Tee, and the simple, classic Dalea tank.

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Stripe It Up

Is there anything more irresistible than stripes? Self-striping yarn is so much fun to knit up, and a good striped fabric just begs to be warm weather clothing. As spring really gets underway here and the world fills with colour again, we’re increasingly being drawn to simple patterns knit with fun yarns, and stripes have definitely captured our full attention. As has become a post-Frolic tradition, our shelves are re-stocked with Turtlepurl yarns (possibly the source of our stripe obsession), so we thought it would be fun to showcase some of our favourite striped combinations.

Turtlepurl Softeshell Striped Turtle Toes and Striped Turtle Toes, both in City Girl
Turtlepurl Softeshell Striped Turtle Toes and Striped Turtle Toes, both in City Girl. (You can see how Softshell Striped Turtle Toes has a little more sheen than Striped Turtle Toes.)
Biscotte et Cie Félix in Carousel, Conte de fee, and Hope
Biscotte et Cie Félix in Carousel, Conte de fee, and Hope

We carry a few different self-striping yarns, because it is impossible to choose a favourite. We have Turtlepurl yarns in two bases — Striped Turtle Toes, which is a merino-nylon blend, and Softshell Striped Turtle Toes, a merino-cashmere-nylon blend — and both come in Turtlepurl’s signature matched skeins. If you want to ensure your striped socks match, Turtlepurl is the way to go: Their yarns come in two perfectly matched skeins, and as long as you start from the same end of each one, your socks will line up (and you’re almost guaranteed not to run out of yarn, as long as you keep one skein per sock). It’s such a genius system, especially if you like to knit your socks two at a time. Biscotte et Cie Félix is our other sock-weight self-striping yarn. Their colour are fantastic, the skeins are generous, and we want a pair of socks in every colour.

Biscotte et Cie Félix in Chou, Hibou, Genou, and Turtlepurl Striped Turtle Toes in
Biscotte et Cie Félix in Chou, Hibou, Genou, and Turtlepurl Striped Turtle Toes in Serenity and Autumn
Turtlepurl Striped Turtle Toes in Trenchcoat and Gatineau Fall
Turtlepurl Striped Turtle Toes in Trenchcoat and Gatineau Fall

The first thing we think of when we see skeins of self-striping sock yarn is, of course, socks! You can’t go wrong with striped socks, and self-patterning yarns are perfect for plain stockinette. But that isn’t all they’re good for. If you want to jazz up your striped a little, we recommend Geek Socks, from the new Knitty, Vanilla Latte Socks, Jaywalkers, and the very fun (and warm-weather appropriate) Groovy Socks. Socks aren’t the only way to play with self-striping yarns though. The Linden Mittens, for example, are designed with self-striping yarns in mind, as are the Pieces of Eight Mitts and the Simple Chevron Scarf.

Lecien Modern Basics
Lecien Modern Basics

If sewing with stripes is more your thing, the Lecien Modern Basics collection should just about have you covered. This is a light-medium weight cotton, excellent for skirts (it would make such a fun Osaka wrap skirt) , shorts (like the Katy & Laney Tap Shorts, or more an easy top (it would make a great Wiksten Tank).

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Selvedge: London Calling

Selvedge is a recurring blog feature that takes you through collections of designer fabrics we carry in the shop.

Robert Kaufman's London Calling in: Autumn, Blush, Dawn, Coral, and Vintage
Robert Kaufman’s London Calling in: Autumn, Blush, Dawn, Coral, and Vintage

On a week during which the summer-y weather of the weekend devolved into hail and sleet, Robert Kaufman’s London Calling collection was exactly what we needed to remind that spring — and lasting warm weather — is indeed on the way. This fun, floral collection of printed cotton lawns is lovely to look at and will be fantastic to wear in the seasons ahead.

London Calling in Black, Pansy, Indigo, and Blue Floral
London Calling in Black, Pansy, Indigo, and Blue Floral
London Calling in Coral and Vintage
London Calling in Coral andVintage

Robert Kaufman’s lawn has a crisp hand a nice drape, making it perfect for building a warm-weather wardrobe. It’s perfect for the Bristol skirt from the latest Seamwork and Sewaholic’sCrescent Skirt. We also love the idea of using one of the leafy or larger floral prints for dress, like Pattern Runway’s Gathered Sundress. For extra fun, we love the idea of using two of the smaller florals in one piece, such as By Hand London’s Polly Top and Deer & Doe’s Datura Blouse. We can’t wait to get started.

Grey florals: London Calling in Dawn, Vintage, and Black
Grey florals: London Calling in Dawn, Vintage, and Black

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Spring Sweaters

Ah Spring. Is there any season more delightful and impossible to dress for? Spring, for us, is all about layers, or lightweight fabrics made more robust with the addition of wool. When we think about our spring knitwear wardrobes, we think about lightweight sweaters with pants, cropped sweaters with dresses and skirts, and (of course) a variety of colours. Here are some of our current favourites (from lightest weight to heaviest, because of course spring demands a range), with yarns to match.

SweetGeorgia Cashsilk Lace in Jade.
SweetGeorgia Cashsilk Lace in Jade.

Laceweight: Insouciant is a perfect knit tee. The casual drape and split hem are very on trend this spring, but the overall look is of a classic layering piece that will look beautiful on its own once the weather fully warms up. SweetGeorgia’s Cashsilk Lace gives the fabric a subtle lustre and elegance means this t-shirt is destined to be worn on more than just the weekends.

Anzula Sebastian in Chiva
Anzula Sebastian in Chiva

Fingering weight: Carrie Bostick Hoge’s Simple Pleasures spring/summer ebook is filled with gorgeous designs, but there are two in particular that make us swoon, the first of which is Lila Light. The longer length and lighter fabric are perfect for spring, and we can see this top — paired with slim jeans or a pencil skirt — becoming a definite staple. Anzula Sebastian has just the right blend of merino and seacell to create a fabric with just the right amount of drape and still feel slightly cool against the skin as the weather warms up.

Shibui Staccato in Brass
Shibui Staccato in Brass

Fingering-weight bonus: Another fantastic tee, Amelie has been a favourite for a while. We love the possibilities here for longer sleeves, and the neck detail is perfection. Wear this with jeans on the weekend or with a blazer during the week and it’s a spring (and summer!) winner. We especially love Shibui Staccato for this because of its excellent stitch definition and ability to make a simple fabric look luxe.

Classic Elite Canyon in Milkweed
Classic Elite Canyon in Milkweed

Sport weight: Sometimes you just want something simple, and Lydell, from Carrie Bostick Hoge’s previously mentioned collection, is perfect. We love the longer t-shirt sleeves and the subtle curve of the waistline — basically, for everyday life, this is our dream t-shirt. The slim sleeves make it easy to layer and the simple shape lets the yarn do the talking. Classic Elite MountainTop Canyon is a crisp cotton-alpaca blend, combining the best of those two fibres to create the spring-garment yarn of your dreams.

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Tosh Vintage in Espadrilles

Worsted weight: For all the spring days that feel like summer, there are always a few that feel more like winter. Those are the perfect days for Aiken, a worsted-weight sweater with geometric lace details and a fitted shape with plays well with skirts and dresses as well as jeans. Madeline Tosh Vintage comes in so many colours that you’re sure to find your version of spring calling out to you, making it perfect for a sweater that won’t make you dread the cooler spring days quite so much.

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Spring dressing: Floral Wraps

Our warm-weather wardrobe expansion continues! After making a few more tailored dresses, we wanted something a little more simple, and wrap dresses seemed like just the ticket. We love how versatile they are, and how flattering they are for a wide range of body types. They layer well with cardigans and tights, and add some much-needed colour into the grey rainy days we’ve been having. Both of these dresses were made using McCall’s M6959, and by changing us just a few little details the same basic pattern resulted in two similar but distinct dresses.

McCall's M6959 in Liberty Tana Lawn Mitsi B.
McCall’s M6959 in Liberty Tana Lawn Mitsi B.

For the first dress we stuck pretty close to the pattern instructions, with one main change being that we didn’t really like the look of the contrast binding with this fabric, so we just attached ties to the edges where they would have come from anyhow. The inside skirt of the wrap is nice and wide, so there’s little risk of exposure on a breezy day, and the ties on the inside keep it nice and secure, while also making the fit flexible.

Close-up of the tie details on the inside (left) and outside (right).
Close-up of the tie details on the inside (left) and outside (right).

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It’s not always easy to tell on the bolt how wearable a print will be, but if you love it, we think you should go for it! The colour of this Mitsi B. Liberty print is so cheerful, and the floral pattern becomes much more regular and almost subtle when made into a dress.

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For our second dress, we once again left off the contrast binding, and then took things a step farther with the wrap ties. For this dress, we left a space in the side-seam for the inner tie to pass through, allowing it to wrap around the back of the dress and meet up with the tie in the front, where we added a belt loop. It gives the back of the dress a little more definition, and takes away the slight bulk of the interior tie. For extra practicality, we added side-seam pockets to this version too.

McCall's M6959 sewn up in Liberty Tana Lawn Ciara B.
McCall’s M6959 sewn up in Liberty Tana Lawn Ciara B.
Detail of the tie threaded through the side-seam, and the slit of the pocket.
Detail of the tie threaded through the side-seam, and the slit of the pocket.

Ciara B. is another Liberty of London print we loved but weren’t sure would translate well to clothing. We are so glad we went for it though! This has turned out to be our favourite new dress, and the all-over print becomes almost neutral on this scale, with the greys and pinks offering just the right amount of contrast to keep things interesting. Active prints like this one are also excellent for beginner sewists, as they help obscure any little errors in the construction. Similarly, because they obscure small details, they’re best suited to these kinds of simple patterns, where the overall look is about the shape and style, and less about the details.

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