the new studio

toronto studio

My new studio is in a shared unit, located near the diverse and lively Bloor and Lansdowne area in Toronto. The space is lovely and light, and I’m surrounded by a variety of friendly creative people in various fields. It’s been exciting and strange to unpack what’s left from the old studio and adapt it to how I want to work now. I’m pleased to say that I installed everything myself, power tool in hand. With all this space and all my sewing equipment ready to run again, I am ready to get back to working in three dimensions. I have ideas to realize.


a room of my own, with a view

I’m officially moved in. My new room. Everything I own in London, contained in a mere 66 square feet.

You might think I’m crazy to attempt to work and sleep in such a tiny space, but there’s a logic to my madness.

Top of the list is sheer frugality. Having a big beautiful space in Toronto was definitely an advantage, but in the early stages it was often a liability too. This time, since I don’t have that much stuff anyway, I was looking for something as cheap as possible. But also, since I’m here to experience the best of London, I wanted it to be central and in a lively, interesting neighbourhood – in this case, Bethnal Green, just steps away from Brick Lane. Add those two factors together and you get: small.

I’m also fussy about a couple of other things. Good heat, for one (this room has a very enthusiastic little radiator), real wooden floors (carpets, linoleum and laminate gross me out) and a nice view, the last is critical to keeping this kind of space from feeling cell-like.

My east facing window looks out over Weaver’s Fields, a small park full of ball players, dog walkers, and kids, with the overground rail running along the right. I can literally see the address that the infamous Kray twins grew up in from here, it doesn’t get much more East London than that. You can’t see it today because of the fog, but in the distance you can see a cluster of cranes where they’re building the Olympic site.

My modest working space is still a work in progress, however I now have everything I need here to draw and am already taking on freelance deadlines. The little pressboard desk came with the room – I added a solid metal school desk to give me some solid elbow room. I bought it from a man under the Bethnal Green rail station and literally skated it on edge across snow-covered Weaver’s Fields to save cab fare. I made up for that by splurging on the work lamp clamped on the left – its the nicest task light I’ve ever owned.

I’m just steps away from a huge art supply store, an iconic 24 hour beigel joint, tons of vintage clothing shops, live music venues, the United Nations of takeout, and so much more. Of course if I start making money like gangbusters, I’ll take a step up, but for a first step, found under a tight deadline, and under a tight budget, I’m relieved and satisfied.

what’s on my desk – new iMac

What is new with me?  Well, after five years it was finally time to upgrade from the Mac G5, my first computer, that changed my life, inspired this blog, and allowed me to create a modest career as a fashion illustrator.  I selected a brand-new 27″ iMac, maxed it out, and treated myself to a software upgrade too with the latest version of the Adobe Creative Suite.  The new computer is bigger and brighter and illustrating and blogging just got a whole lot more beautiful and delightful.  I am lucky with my business that it is fairly low overhead and for the most part I don’t need much to make it happen – but when I save up some money I love plugging it back into what I do. This is the place where I sit almost all of the time, I try to make it a pleasant place to be.

Interior designer Lisa Canning came to visit me last year and it is neat to see how much nicer my little studio space has become since then – better scanner, better chair – but it remains “lived in and well-utilized” which describes my attitude towards interiors very well.

the watercolour wheel


Forming a palette is pretty challenging when faced with a wall full of watercolours.  All the technical considerations – lightfastness, colour mixability… transparent or opaque?  Staining or grainy?  Each tube is $5 – $20, so making concise choices is important.  I can’t afford to spend money on colours I won’t use frequently.

I bought a couple tubes at a time and tried them out… mixing them up with less or more water, watching how they mix and react with other paint.  Every paint is a little different.  If you are looking for paints that behave consistently, watercolours are not it.  For watercolours, it seems like the trick is understanding the idiosyncracies of each paint, and then exploiting those variables to advantage.

The little sauce dishes from Chinatown keep each colour in its own container; I use flat plates for mixing.  This is the colour wheel I have ended up with (barring the earth tones, indigo and black), and I feel that it is flexible enough to work with for a while.  It ended up being a little heavy on the blues – that is my own colour bias showing – though one of the blues was a free gift with purchase.

So now I am homeschooling myself on watercolour technique… much more practice to come.

press press cut cut

aligning the grain

Lining up the silk against the edge of the table, ever so carefully trying to align the grainlines so my cut pieces won’t be wonky. It is a flowy silk without a lot of dimensional stability, so in short… I am taking my sweet time (read procrastinating) about getting to the sewing… but hey, it has to be cut right, right?

Right angles…

aligning the grainnew vaporbaby iron

Oh, and my old domestic iron finally died on me. For a $60 iron from Canadian Tire it has stood up to 6 years of the kind of punishment only a fashion design student can give. So I took the streetcar down Queen and promptly bought the junior version of an industrial steam iron. I looked longingly at the heavy duty steam iron, but frankly, I do not do the amount of ironing to justify that.
new vaporbaby iron

Still it is a sweet little iron and I hope it will stick with me for many years.

Here are the cut pieces for the underlining which is a simple princess line shift dress with a waist seam. The bodice is reinforced with a hidden interlining of cotton with a fairly high thread count for stability and a bit of support and comfort for the bride, I hope.

lining cut

I also picked up some new machine attachments for this dress; an invisible zipper foot and a 1/8″ hemmer. I will be doing a lot of test stitching. Some I may do on my domestic Necchi which has a nice short stitch and a whole boxful of attachments but a slight wonk in the needle shaft requires careful jury-rigging. The Singer has never really loosened up after being neglected by its former caretakers, so its stitch tends to be very tight… sewing on silk may not be possible.

Stay tuned for a test stitching post, yay!

painting the lining

This is the second episode of a series documenting the creation of a wedding dress for my best friend K. You can see the original concept illustration here and the mockup of the bodice here.

I am painting the lining of the dress as well. I haven’t painted on silk in well over a year and I need the practice.

First I cover my cutting table with plastic and then I stretch the silk out like so…

silk stretched out

I pencil on my pattern pieces so I know where to start. The bodice is mostly blue and a little green.

blue for the bodice

Playing around with the colours and effects… salt looks neat…

salt patterns

Transitioning from blue to green for the skirt…

now adding green

The green goes goldish towards the hem. About now I start rethinking the order I want to apply the colours and start adding more water and mixing up my paints.

and gold towards the hem

Now it’s getting to be a bit of a mess as I am overworking it. Alas there is no Ctrl+Z in painting. It is just the lining so it will get covered up. Though I am considering redoing it…

a bit overworked

Expect to see a lot more of this kind of thing for the next little while. Prepping the fabric will be the longest step of the process for this dress.

dressing a bride

I have had the honour of doing two wedding dresses in my life. As I am not professionally interested in bridal, I only do wedding dresses for certain special brides.

The first wedding dress I ever did was so shoddily constructed, a work of blind ignorance. The second wedding dress was a garment of minimal essence, singular satin column with a shallow cowl in the front and a deep cowl in the back, suspended from the neck on a single chain It is a piece I am proud of and wish I had pictures of my own, but you can check it out here too.

My best friend since birth is celebrating her own wedding with a non-traditional ceremony this June. Together we have designed this dress for her. This is the ultimate earthy goddess dress in ethereal hand-painted silk.

She’s given me permission to blog the process – should be fun – I have less than a month to complete it. I’ve finished the pattern and the fabric preparation will go into full swing next week – expect the studio to be taken over by 60″ x 120″ sheets of silk stretched for painting…

new machine

juki serger

Yep she’s a beaut’ my new Juki serger! What a sweet machine.

Hm, now all I need is something to serge – no time to draft a pattern! Let’s cut it freehand like Julian Roberts. Do you know how this will turn out? Because I don’t.

Some of you may recall my previous foray in freehand cutting.

freehand cut t-shirt pattern

The final result.

freehand cut t-shirt

This t-shirt actually formed its own pocket. A modified version of this concept without the droopy bit on the other side could look quite clever and be useful too. Hm.

all the small changes


Time to make some changes around here. It seems I can no longer live in a world with detached, ironic despair. With a shift in attitude, comes a shift in action… a series of small changes that say something about where I’m at and where I’m going.

  1. The light bulb. Five times the price as the regular ones, a fraction of the wattage, the same amount of light, and apparently it lasts eight times as long. If everyone would just do the math here, this one is a no-brainer. What took me so long?
  2. The cloth washcloth. I’ve pitched the last of the paper towels and j-cloths. Just throw it in the washer.
  3. Bringing my thermos instead of going to Tim Hortons.
  4. The cloth bag. Stuff it in the bottom of my messanger bag.
  5. Used milk bags make good sandwich bags. I am turning into my Mother!
  6. The fair trade, organic coffee. Smells lovely.
  7. The $20 organic chicken tastes pretty good, too.

Sure, I still have my ancient energy-hog fridge (price $0), I’m not about to hang my wet clothes on the line in my studio. Still, when I started to think about it, these changes were so easy to make, so why not? If you think in the long term it seems like money well spent.

Also, I’ve brought my plants back to life. Remember this sorry scene a month ago? I looked at this plant, and I saw some leaves all rolled up. I said to my Mom, “its leaves are all rolled up! What’s wrong with it?”

My Mom said “Those are new leaves, it’s growing.”

A plant in my possession… actually growing? I truly have changed. I feel like I just became a woman.


These are the books I’m into lately. Brave New World is a hoot. I don’t think the future’s going to be anywhere near so neat and tidy. The Earth From Above book is a wonderful gift from my best friend. Here’s a peek inside, the photos take you out of yourself and the captions are fascinating.




What happened to the disconnected, cynical, despair I used to love so much? It’s still inside of me, but I’ve started to make the motions. If all it takes is a million changes, I’ll make them. There is no ideal world, but it makes sense to live sensibly. It does make sense to reduce the energy you consume and the waste you produce, to eat the better food and to support the better business practices. Changes aren’t that hard to make. It actually felt good to do them.

If I can change, anyone can.