Category Archives: Craft Editorial

bamboo pullover hooded sweatshirt

Head to Toe Project #3: The “Will Never Take This Off” Hoodie

bamboo hooded pullover sweatshirtI’m ridiculously pleased with myself right now.  Honestly, I’ve never been very confident in my sewing skills and most of the pieces of clothing I’ve attempted to make have remained in the “attempt” pile or shoved politely to the back of a drawer somewhere.  I seem to be completely incapable of following a pattern or understanding sewing instructions.   So it might seem strange that as part of my “32 before 33” Challenge…I decided to do a “Head to Toe” Handmade Clothing Challenge.  Yep, over the course of the next year I will complete 12 pieces of clothing.

So here is an update on the challenge.  So far I have completed a hat and mitt set.  I knit the hat following a very cute pattern I found on Ravelry called “Capucine”.  The mitts were made out of felted sweaters and are lined with recycled polyester fleece.  So super warm and soft and cozy.  Next, I jumped right in and decided to make a dress.  I pulled out a giant bolt of 10 meters of bamboo french terry and made an oh so comfy cowl neck long sleeve dress (i’ll post pics soon).  But my third project is by far my favourite.  I made the pattern for the dress using an old sweater that I cut up to make a pattern roughly with a marker and some newspaper.   And it turns out making my own patterns might just be the best way for me to make clothes.  Loving the red bamboo stretch french terry so so so so so much (it’s the most ridiculously comfortable and soft fabric I’ve never touched)…I dove right in this past weekend and made my own pattern (Yet again with newspaper and a marker) for a pullover hooded sweateshirt.

The result is fantastic.  I’m tooting my own horn and not the least bit ashamed.  I love love love love love this hoodie.  I’ve had it onbamboo pullover hooded sweatshirt since I finished it on Sunday.  I’ve been wearing it to work, around the house…everywhere.  I realize, eventually…I’m going to have to take it off and wash my stench out of it…but that just means I’m going to have to get more fabric to make a second and third hoodie for laundry days!

The more items of clothing that I make the more confidence I have that I can move on to more projects and push towards my goal of making a head to toe handmade wardrobe of my very own.  While I’ve decided which pieces I’m going to make I haven’t decided on exactly what patterns I’m going to use and I think I’d rather just let the pieces come out of spur of the moment inspiration.  Project #4 is already underway…I’m knitting an open front cardigan with a beautiful saxon braid cable down the back.  It’ll be a slow process, but is fashioned after a cardigan my mom had when I was a kid that I used to love to cuddle up with like a blankie.


32 before 33 Challenge: Head to Toe Crafting!

My creativity is frequently wasted.

I have devoted myself to mending what can’t be resolved or wasting time by misplacing it.  I’ve spent countless hours ruined by guilt or chewing up my nails over things I can’t change or worried about what hasn’t even happened.  I think I was born guilty…but of what?

This year, it seemed obvious that making a New Year’s Resolution would only provide me another avenue for guilt or end in another year of “stop biting my nails” failure.  Instead, an idea was presented to me by a friend to make a list of things I would like to accomplish over the next year.  The focus of the list wouldn’t be on things I have to give up or change…but rather an exciting opportunity to put down all those projects, ideas and adventures (big or small).  And I do love a ‘to-d0’ list!  I regard my list, which took me some time to finalize, as a celebration of all the little joys that are often overlooked.  Some are things I’ve gotten away from…that slipped off the end of a day before I could catch them.  Others are things I’ve had on my ‘ list’  for some time. And some are an invitation to new adventures.

As some of you may know, my birthday also falls in the holiday season.  So to incorporate that…my list consists of 32 things I want to do before I’m 33.  I decided to remove the pressure for this list to be full of ‘grand’ things.  Instead, this ended up being a delightful mix of every day achievements, small pleasures and some very practical goals.  I divided it up among my favourite things…writing, reading, the outdoors, crafting, learning, adventuring and cooking.  The primary focus of all of this is simply to point myself in the direction of all that I love.  So over the next few weeks and months I will be sharing this list with you; along with all the fun projects and adventures and learning that will come from it.  I can hardly wait!  But first, I promised Melissa we’d share our lists over tea the next time I’m in Ottawa.  So you’ll all just have to wait.

I will, however, start off by sharing the first few pieces of the list.  Numbers 1 through 12 all fall under the “Head to Toe” Craft Project.  A little challenge I wanted to create to help summon the joy of crafting back into my life.  I got a little burnt out this year and started to really hate anything related to sewing or knitting…so it seemed like I needed to put it all away for a while.  But now  feels like the right time to nestle into winter and dig away at all those patterns I always wanted to take a stab at.  So the Head to Toe Craft Project will involve creating 12 pieces of clothing that go from ‘Head’ to ‘Toe’.  Knit or Sew.  By the end of 2012, I will have a little wardrobe custom made by me!

Some of these will take no time at all to complete and others will take their share of my craft time….but it seemed reasonable to create one piece for every month of the year.  I haven’t got many rules for this part.  The only major rule is that I have to complete at least one item for each on the list.  The other rule:  It was pointed out to me by my good friend Stephanie that I have a tendency to ‘unravel’ things that are near completion (or even totally finished) because I’m a bit of a knitting perfectionist.  I’ve taken apart more sweaters than you would want to know about.  And so it was suggested, and I’ve accepted, that for these particular projects….I should show off whatever I’ve made…whatever state it comes to in the end…and ‘NO’ unravelling!

So here is the first 12 items on my “32 before 33” list.  My “Head to Toe” Craft Project:

1) Hat & Mitts
2) Shirt
3) Sweater
4) Skirt
5) Dress
6) Pants
7) Bra & Underwear
8) Scarf
9) Booties/Slippers
10) Socks
11) Hoodie
12) Tank Top

On New Years Day I dove right in and completed the “Hat”.  I’ll share once the mitts are complete!

The Truth About Skin Care with Dot & Lil

honeysuckle petit oiseau soap dot & lilFrom the time I was small, there were tell-tale signs of my future career as a bath & body formulator and seeker of skin care truth. I used to mix lotions and potions using flowers, kitchen ingredients, dirt, and whatever else I could get my hands on. Then I’d hide them under my bed until they either a) exploded (hello, baking powder in a sealed bottle) or b) rotted (flower mold perfume, anyone?) at which time my mom would discover them and have a grossed out panic attack (sorry, Mom!) The part of me that now seeks out the truth about skin care ingredients and tries to teach people about it was best illustrated in my childhood by my habit of, at the tender age of 7, creating anti-smoking pamphlets on a constant quest to inform my cousin and uncle that smoking was bad for them. I thought if they knew the facts, and saw my 7-year-old’s graphic rendition of black lungs, they would surely see the error of their ways and stop. Alas, they never seemed to quite listen the way I wanted them to. I assume they were overwhelmed and a little annoyed! And that’s what teaching people about safety and truth in skin care can be like. You can easily be construed as the party pooper who talks about broad spectrum anti-microbial preservatives and the need for safety with aqueous formulations, not quite what springs to mind for most people when it comes to the delightful world of handmade bath & body! Even though this is information that can be very important to people’s health, it’s hard to get people to listen because, understandably, they are overwhelmed and a little annoyed!

So, below are three cautions and tips that hopefully, without getting too heavy or overwhelming, will keep you safe in any future DIY skincare projects as well as when buying handmade or commercial products. I hope they give you some important food for thought about safety in skin care!

  1. Ingredient labelling:

Too often I see handmade skin care products without proper labels and ingredients. This takes information away from you, the consumer, who needs it to make responsible and safe skin care choices. Here’s the deal: your cosmetics, handmade or not, should have a full ingredient listing. Ingredients should be listed in what is called the International Nomenclature for Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI), a language used to make ingredient names standard worldwide. This is why you’ll see latin names and technical names on labels, like Butyrospermum Parkii instead of Shea Butter. Responsible manufacturers always include ingredients. If you see a listing like “flower essence”, or “food grade preservative”, then run! Those aren’t ingredients, they are descriptions—if the manufacturer can’t be specific, then what are they hiding? Flower essence? Really? Which one!

  1. Formulas that contain water:

Cosmetics often contain water. The important thing for you to know here is that where there is water, there absolutely positively needs to be a preservative. Otherwise, the formula can and will develop mold, fungus, and various bacterial growth, whether or not you can see it. Here is a list from of common cosmetic preservatives: No natural preservatives currently exist that are effective enough. While vitamin e and grapefruit seed extract are often cited, these are not preservatives, they are anti-oxidants. They stop oils in a formula from going rancid. They cannot do anything against the growth of bacteria.

  1. Storage:

I’m sure a few of you have heard that it’s best not to keep makeup in the bathroom. This is because moisture can make them go bad and contaminate things like makeup brushes with bacteria. Similarly, be careful about the products you keep in your shower. Don’t let water get into bottles or jars! Use dry clean fingers for jars of cream. This can especially be a problem with things like body scrubs—serve yourself a portion before getting in the shower! Don’t add water to a shampoo bottle and expect to use it more than that one time, either!

For more tips on safety and skin care and to see what we’ve been up to at Dot & Lil, you can visit our blog at

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If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our giveaways for your chance to win bath truffles from Dot & Lil

Knitting While It’s Hot

Personally, I do a lot less knitting and crochet in the summer and I don’t feel one bit guilty about it.  I just take it as part of the natural crafting cycle.  Sew in the Summer, Knit in the Winter…do everything else in between.  That being said, I have noticed lately the wide range and variety of spring/summer knit and crochet patterns out there.  I must say, I’m feeling a little inspired to keep the knitting needles out and take them to the summer bbq.  Here I’ve rounded up some great summer knits ( the best part…free patterns).  Check em’ out and let me know what’s on your needles this summer.

Summer Shimmer Scarf Purl Bee

Summer Knit Top from PicklesRecycled Grocery Bag PurseCoachella by Fathom Harvill1.  Summer Shimmer Scarf from The Purl Bee

2.  Summer Knit Top from Pickles

3.  Recycled Grocery Bag Purse from Another Knitting Blog

4.  Coachella Top by Fathom Harvill at Knitty

Colouring Outside the Lines: Rediscovering the Joy of Creativity With Your Kids

Making Magic Fairy WandsI am a collector. Baby food jars filled with everything from pom poms to coloured feathers; from popsicle sticks to coloured pasta (that I coloured myself) lie I drawers next to purple glue and glitter pens. Bottle caps and scrap paper are kept for future “projects”. Selvages of fabric and cuttings of yarn from finished projects are tucked away rather than being thrown out after other tasks are complete.

Why, you might ask do I keep such random things? I know my husband does. His eyes often glaze over as I talk about the new treasures added to my “collection.” The answer is simple, and can be answered by a look around my house and the priceless artwork that can be found adorning its walls, table tops, and shelves; I am a mom and therefore the artistic director to three (okay one of them can’t sit up on her own yet and when given a marker by my two year old when my back was turned, proceeded to chew on it…thank god for Crayola and their non-toxic creations).

None of my three girls is old enough for school yet and as a Stay-at-home-Mom there are some days where the afternoons stretch out long before us. This is when the collection of tidbits comes in handy. On the days where my kitchen turns into a craft room and freedom of expression reigns, we are all thankful for the tiny glass jars and the wonderful world of the dollar store.

Why the randomness of objects? For kids crafting is about the journey and not the finished project, which was hard to get my head around for sure. I tried buying a kit once and shook my head in despair when I compared the picture of the cute little googly-eyed santa on the front of the package to the sticky mess left on the table by the time something else had caught my daughter’s attention. When she proudly showed Daddy later what Mommy and I made, I realized that it wasn’t the finished product that mattered. It was the time we spent together. My kids can both sing a rainbow. “Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet too…” but this means nothing when the paint comes out and my two year old mixes the colours to make her favourite paint colour…black. Between you and me, I used to wonder if my angel faced little girl in pig tails and pink Mary Janes had some issues that needed to be addressed as she painted in bold black stripes across the paper. Turns out that it is just fun to mix the colours, who knew?

As adults we cringe at the glue spread across the table, the glitter that can be found strewn across the house for days after a project has been created. It is hard to not hover with a broom or cloth handy to clean up as the mess is made. I say (and it took me a while to get here) embrace to mess. Call it the artistic process if you have to (not only can you clean it up after everything is done, but you get to an inexpensive way to connect with your children by crafting with them and you can teach them the value of cleaning up after a project is completed as an added bonus). Many kids thrive in it. Hand them some paper and scissors and watch them cut (as long as you are watching them, this may even let you enjoy a cup of coffee while it is still warm if you can imagine).

Crafting with children is not as easy as it sounds like it should be, and you may never enjoy it. There is always going to be a mess or frustrating moments where you wish you had never opened the craft box to begin with, but try to stick with it. If you let it be more about the journey than the finished product (because really if you squint it does look like a butterfly), you may just rediscover the joy that a box of crayons, some paper and the permission to colour outside the lines may give you.

Kate Jones Miner is a mother of three and the official princess wrangler of the Three Princess Academy.  Currently she keeps busy as a tiara straightener, dress picker-upper, cook, housekeeper, nose wiper, bum changer, boo-boo kisser, monster chaser/hugger and snuggler.  Kate graduated with a masters in Egyptology in 2004 from Macquarie University and with a bachelors in Archeology in 2003 from the University of Toronto.  She has a passion for repurposing and when she isn’t chasing after princesses she likes to knit, do smocking and is an excellent cake decorator.  Stay tuned for more from Kate as Guest Blogger!

Hooked on History: Discovering The Stories Beyond the Stitches

Telling a Story Through Crochet

A Story Forming in Crochet

There are pieces of my history in textiles all over the place – unfinished sweaters, a small doll quilt from my grandmother, silk-screening from my best friend and a mountain of fabric pieces collected while travelling. It might be tricky to write and knit at the same time, but sharing stories usually becomes an immediate part of any knitting circle.

Tracing the history between textiles, literature and women is not simple. It weaves, drops, and interlaces throughout all of history. Yet one connection remains. Our textiles have stories of their own. Textiles have been used for centuries to capture the richness of our history and the stories of our everyday (and sometimes not so everyday) lives.

The stories are not always what we expect. In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf described Jane Austen keeping her literary work hidden under her needlework.

Woolf was discussing the limitations placed on women during a time when creative writing was largely deemed an unacceptable activity for women. Needlework in some cases replaced further intellectual pursuits for women, such as advanced math or language lessons. However, in other cases it served as an educational tool. The traditional cross stitch samplers, popular in the Victorian period, were tools not only for teaching young girls how to stictch, but also contributed to learning numbers and the alphabet. Before needlework was considered the domain of women, it was men who were actually required to complete an eight-year apprenticeship to become textile masters.

Today, my friends describe keeping their knitting needles, embroidery, and quilt squares tucked under the stacks of paper on their desks or quickly stashed in a drawer. Under-the-desk-knitters are everywhere!

My own history with textiles began when I was seven and my mother first taught me to knit. I still have the first tiny green squarf that I knit (with most of the good lines completed by my mother). My true appreciation for textile expresison didn’t come until my first winter away from home. It was during that time that I discovered humour in the shape of “grape” hats. I recently found a more sombre creation from that time, an old patch I created with the words “Don’t Let It All Unravel” embroidered onto a piece of scrap cloth leftover from hemming a pair of chef pants.

Textile crafters are ingenious. Take Elizabeth Zimmermann, a revolutionary knitting book author, who noted, “a #6 aluminum needle has been know to furnish an excellent emergency shear pin for an outboard motor”. A new generation of “Craftivists” have emerged, blending the love of craft with environmental and social activism. There were at one time large movements of knitters and stichers involved in producing wartime comfort during both world wars. The efforts of knitters were even recognized in popular Canadian war time songs including “Here’s to the boys of 1-6-0” from Word War I.

“So Let us be up and doing Yes

doing our bit alone

For we can knit socks

for our soldier boys

and keep the fires burning at home”

That tradition is now extended with crafters engaging in an incredibly vast and varied list of involvements around the globe. Their acts range from “revolutionary knitting circles/discussion groups” to textile graffiti in public spaces to fundraising. There is an obvious connection between handcrafts, empowerment and creating “community”.

Some examples of current revolutionary stitching include Knitters Without Borders a Toronto-based initiative that helps collect financial contributions from the knitting community to support Doctors Without Borders. Beryl Tsang, also from Toronto, created Tit-Bits. This company helps connect mastectomy patients with knitted breast prostheses. The concept might seem strange to some, but the products provide affordable solutions that also bring a sense of fun, creativity and personal connection beyond the typical purchase of medical products. Tsang also helps to raise funds through the sale of her Tit-Bits and by engaging in breast cancer fundraisers.

Long before the advent of written languages, stories have been recorded in a variety of mediums including painting, carving, pottery and textiles. Textiles are in fact not always what they seem. To some, a quilt, scarf or pair of socks may simply be a material object. However, all of these objects may represent a more complex history. Many of the cable patterns commonly included in modern knitting were passed down from generations tracing a long history of mothers, daughters, travel and new beginnings. Women who could not read or write passed down intricate patterns to their daughters that have travelled the course of mutliple generations of knitting needles. There is also the harsh reality that includes a long and continuous battle for fair trade and rights for textile workers. The very rights and freedoms we enjoy while sitting around a knitting circle or stitching up a gift, are not universally enjoyed. Millions of textile workers endure outrageous work conditions and little hope for change.

But textiles are also the story of hope. Take for example the Guyrayrapana Textile Cooperative of Venezuela. This community-based project helps women use their textile talents to succeed economically, meanwhile providing funding for further education, training and interest-free loans.

Speaking of hope.  Did I mention Craft Hope?  If you haven’t already checked it out, this organization is worth noting.  They regularly post up new projects where people can contribute by donating handmade items that go directly to a chosen cause.

You can share your own textile stories or even a poem about textiles right here….

The Space to Create

The Tower of CraftToo small to be a bedroom and too large to be considered a closet. That is the space where I create. It is the warmest room in the apartment on the coldest days in the winter. Cluttered. Stacked high with plastic containers (unlabelled) and organized in a disorganized fashion to contain all of my supplies. I require a step stool to retrieve anything from the top. But at 5 Foot 3.5” I require a step stool for a surprising number of everyday household tasks. In order to get to the new fabric stored in the bottom bin, I have to remove the six other bins that teeter precariously on top.

The room is a landing spot for everything from library books to boxes still unpacked from the last move to trinkets carted from everywhere and everytime in my life. The room makes me feel relaxed and frazzled at the same time. The computer printer, perched on the chair next to the sewing table, always seems to have some demand for maintenance. The ‘quick guide’ manual only provides enough insight to make you want to hurl the whole thing out the window. There is a bin that exists purely to hold pens that may or may not even work. This room at times I’m certain actually distracts from the actual act of creating anything and I would change it if I didn’t have evidence that from time to time things do get made.

There are small sources of inspiration tucked into every part of this room from the walls to the floor. What seems toThe Travelling Fabric Swatchesinspire me lately is a sort of collage or living scrapbook of past and present. The sewing table harbours two of my three sewing machines (only one of which gets regular exercise, but all must be kept because removal might cause some gargantuan shift in my craft universe). There is a stack of cds where I’ve saved every digital photo I’ve taken for the last four years with the intent of one day having some of them printed. There is a mug that holds the spoons my adventurous grandmother collected for me when I was kid from her world travels.

Hung above the sewing machines is the letter my father had framed for me for my 17th birthday. It is one of my most treasured possesssions and points to a definite obsession with history and Jackie O. The note and envelope in the Letter From Jackie Oframe are a sign of appreciation for the sympathy my father sent in the form of a letter to Jackie after the assassination of President Kennedy.

Above the note, I’ve hung a shelf made out of driftwood found on the shores by a cabin I called home for two summers. The shelf holds my collection of old mason jars filled with acorn tops and buttons. I admit, I’ve always loved ‘buttons’ and I’ve never been able to pronounce that word properly. So it’s a strange torture to talk about them as the two t’s always invariably come out sounding like d’s. On the right wall hangs pieces of some works inThe Mason Jar Collection progress, doilies (because you never know when you might need one), a picture of a woman in a floral country dress cut out from a magazine that has gone with me everywhere for almost a decade, patterns to remind me of future projects and a clip holding: concert ticket stubs, instructions on heating a ‘comfort bag’, and two swatches of fabric from two separate moments of travel.

In this room I try not to think about the everyday hustle, the comings and goings and the dreaded loom of expected but somehow unexpected challenges. What point would there be having a creative space designed around what I like to call the ‘unknowables’? Here the only unknown is the exact contents of the tower of crafts.

What inspires you to create? Share with us your favourite spaces and places and the everyday or not so everyday objects that lead you to create?