Posts Tagged ‘travel tales’


The Montreal Shirts

December 12, 2009

I’d been living in downtown-ish Montreal for almost two years when I heard about the “secret” shopping street, rue Chabanel on the northern part of the island. As a bargain hunter, the idea of shopping outlets and wholesalers excited me. But what excited me even more was when I caught wind of the possibility that there were fabric wholesalers in the area who opened their warehouses to the public on Saturday mornings. I grew up hearing my mother talk of buying fabric by the pound from textile warehouses in Kitchener, Ontario. This, she claimed, was one way to save money by sewing your own clothes.

I had to check it out. So, early one summer Saturday, I hopped on the metro and found my way to Chabanel and St. Laurent. Die hard Montreal shoppers will be disappointed to know that I didn’t get too far on Chabanel itself. It was a hot day and I only explored about a block. I know there was so much more further down and I promise that someday I will be back to explore more. I did, however, start to wander up St Laurent (after buying 4 summer sweaters for $10 I might add) and that’s where I stumbled upon an open door to a fabric warehouse. Right up front were the remnant bins in which fabric was sold by the kilogram!!

The remnants were decent sized and I quickly picked out a kilogram worth of white printed calico in slighly varying patterns as well as a lavender piece that claims to be cotton but left me skeptical. It was pretty enough that I couldn’t turn it down and the price was right. $20 later (including taxes – which are pretty high in Quebec), I had enough fabric for four shirts which I have constructed over the past year. All of the shirts are now too big as I have lost some weight since I traded my full-time-student-working-two-part-time-jobs lifestyle for a 9-5 job, some exercise and 8 hours of sleep most nights. Adventures in alterations will come later.

This was basic pattern work using the Vogue OOP pattern 7934. At least I assume it’s out of print since I can’t find it on their website and I did buy it at a 50 cent pattern sale three years ago. I whipped this one up fairly quickly last fall and wore it several times. I like the faux wrap of the skirt of the tunic and the empire waistline falls just far enough below the bust that I felt that it accentuated the narrowest part of my torso rather than looking like a maternity top. Although it was, perhaps not wisest to wear it the day my husband and I announced to the in-laws that we were eloping. I think we got a few odd glances.

This shirt also marks my first- less than successful – attempt at a full bust adjustment. I found I kept making it too big in all the wrong places. While I was pretty content with the fit a year ago, I may find altering it to be enough of a challenge that it will wind up on the scrap pile instead. I hope not though as I like the flowing sleeves and vaguely medieval feel (I will say this a lot).

I loved wearing this blouse. I made it while I was unemployed (stash busting is a great way to pass  the hours not spent scouring job ads and composing cover letters that try to make you sound as amazing as you possibly can without out and out lying), and I wore it a lot after I got a job. It’s Butterick 4395 View C. I also made View A with sleeves awhile back and I must say that this is starting to become one of my favourite patterns.  The wrap look works for my larger chest although I do find I’m more comfortable if I wear a camisole underneath so that I don’t have to spend time re-adjusting myself for modesty’s sake.)

I think it manages to look professional and a little but whimsical at the same time. I like a touch of whimsy or quirkiness in my clothes. I aim to be modest and professional with just an added touch of something different. In this case, I made the ties extra long so they would hang to my knees and flutter a but while I walked. I have a soft spot for flowing fabric.

kimono shirt with red trim

I’ve worn this one a lot and actually gotten compliments on it from complete strangers – I love it when that happens. Although my boss did ask me if I’d gotten lost on the way to my dojo… so it is possible I added a little too much whimsy to it. I used McCall 5233. I made view B with the ties from view C and I matched the ties with the contrasting trim. 

I broke a rule in using home decor fabric for the red trim but, in this case, it seems to be okay as the fabric is taffeta look, and the extra heft that makes home decor fabric not good for sewing clothes, gave the trim enough internal structure that I didn’t have to interface it. I think it also adds enough weight to the sleeves to make them fall nicely. Another foolhardy thing I did with this shirt was not test the two fabrics in the wash together before I put them in the same outfit. I got lucky when I washed the shirt as the red did not bleed into the white. I had washed the fabrics separately prior to sewing so there was no uneven shrinkage but I do admit to being a little impatient to get this shirt done.

Although it too now needs altering, I love wearing this shirt and it crosses high enough on my chest that I can pretty much get away without a camisole underneath. I still tend to wear one however.

purple peasant blouse


This is actually the shirt I made first and quite possibly the one I wear the most. I made it from the purple mystery fabric that may or may not be cotton and I used a peasant blouse pattern that I actually bought back in my highschool costume designer days to make some quick peasant blouses for- what else – peasants.

I love the simplicity and comfort of a peasant blouse but I find that with my body shape I need to do my best to define a waist of some sort or I look like a block rather than the slightly top heavy hourglass I usually manage to be. So I added a waist tie that gathers the shirt together just above the hips. It’s probably not the absolute best shape for me but it’s still cute and comfy. I can pair it with dress pants and a sweater or blazer and wear it to work or I can throw it one with jeans like I have in the picture.

Really, I just love the purple.

Some of these patterns have been used before and all of them will be used again… although likely with some tweaking. My internal wannabe designer can’t just let a pattern be what it is. I have to fiddle with it.

Oh and someday I’ve gotta get back to Chabanel.