Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Meet my three foster kitties: Suzie Q, Polka and Fandango. I recently decided to volunteer as a foster mom after adopting my cat Dexter (seen below, playing with Suzie Q), from Abbey Cat Adoptions.

These three kittens were from a litter of nine, so they're a bit small for their age, but no less energetic. Or hungry. Kittens eat and poop a lot! Each has their own very unique personality: Suzie Q is fearless, friendly, affectionate, curious, playful, and nosy. She seems to be the dominate of the three, and also the hungriest! Polka is more independent and serious, but loves playing with the catnip mouse. She too is curious and nosy, and likes to jump up on the kitchen counter. Fandango is friendly and affectionate, but still a bit cautious. He loves a good tummy rub and cuddling with Suzie Q.

All three play really well together and love playing tag, and with Dexter. In particular, Dexter has taken a liking to Suzie Q. At first I was worried about how he would react with three new kittens around, but he has assumed the role of older brother, making sure they get fed (he yells at me in the morning if I take too long to get them their food!), grooming them, and scolding them when they scratch the couch.

If you know someone who is considering adopting a cat, I suggest taking a look at the cats and kittens at Abbey Cats.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Messenger bags

My messenger bags have been available at Wise Daughters for a while now, but they are now available in my Etsy shop. I started making messenger bags when I wasn't able to find one that I liked - often that's how I start making a new item, when I'm dissatisfied with what's out there.

These bags are based on my own pattern, after some trial and error. I tested out different closures, strap configurations, and dimensions. The front flap closure is a magnetic snap, which I love - very easy to use. The bag is just the right size for daily essentials: book, wallet, cosmetic case, gadgets, even some snacks.

Remember, I do custom work, so if you have a piece of fabric you would like to incorporate into a bag or pouch of some sort, just let me know!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

New Blythe items

So I finally made some Blythe clothes from the Simplicity Blythe patterns. I've been so busy with my Zippster items, and sales have been slow in my Blythe store, that I haven't bothered making new items. I think the recession in the United States is still bad enough that people aren't shopping like they used to. I made one of each of the outfits, and overall I'm happy with the patterns.

The only pattern I didn't like was for the hoodie. The pattern had the opening at the back but I made it at the front, and used snaps instead of a zipper (anyone know where I can find doll-sized zippers?). I found the hood a bit too big, and the sleeves a weird length - too short for a t-shirt and not not long enough for a long sleeved top. Next time I'll lengthen the sleeves.

The items are now available in my Etsy store.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

New vintage fabric clutches

Before the Canada Post strike/lockout I had ordered some really amazing vintage fabric, which finally arrived about a week ago. As soon as I saw it I knew it would be perfect for my coin purses. The fabric is so colourful and is in perfect condition.

Recently I've been experimenting with larger sizes and shapes for the coin purses. I drafted a new pattern, and the end result is a clutch large enough to be used alone as a purse, or as a cosmetic case. They include interfacing and cotton batting for shape and support.

More to come...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

My Fabricland is closing!

Most of the time I purchase my fabric and sewing supplies from stores along Queen Street West, the "Fashion District" of Toronto. But sometimes I go to the Fabricland at Yonge and Bay, where I popped into last night. As soon as I entered, I realized something was wrong: the place looked empty of inventory, it was very busy, and there were Closing Sale signs everywhere. Closing ... no! A salesperson I spoke to said they're trying to find a new location. A lot of fabric was gone, but I stocked up on batting, and bought a lot of patterns (buy one, get two free!). Sorry to the staff who are losing their jobs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Back to business!

Good news! Postal services should resume tomorrow,
Tuesday June 27. As a result, I've re-opened both
of my Etsy shops. I've also listed some new magnet
sets in my Zippster shop, and a new
"create your own magnet set" option
which I think is a fun idea for gifts.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New sewing machine

Well, the time came: my old 20+ years-old Kenmore has retired. I've been fighting with it for a while now, and was spending more time unjamming and ripping out bad stitching than I was sewing. I tried out quite a few machines, including Singers, Bernina (nice but out of my price range), and Janomes (I have a Janome serger and really like it). I used this website to do some research and read reviews. This is the machine I bought, the Janome 2030QDC (computerized, how fancy!):

It's actually considered a quilter's machine but has all the features I needed without being overly complicated with bells and whistles. It has good power, is fast, and easy to use - I took it out of the box, plugged it in and started sewing right away (well, the most difficult thing was trying to figure out the auto-threader!). It also came with an extended sewing table, hard case and lots of accessories. So nice to have consistent, even stitching!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canada Post in full strike mode

Fortunately, the recent Canada Post strike hadn't affected me until yesterday, when it was Toronto's turn as part of the rotating work stoppage. But Canada Post has now locked out its workers and suspended operations.
Most of the supplies I recently ordered, and a birthday gift, arrived before the work stoppage in Toronto, but I'm waiting for some vintage fabric to arrive, and I just ordered some coloured metal purse frames (!) which I'm very excited about. In the meanwhile, I've put both of my Etsy shops in vacation mode, and I'm working on some messenger bags for Wise Daughters.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sneak Peek

Normally I usually make smaller coin purses, but I've decided to make some larger ones. I already had some larger purse frames in my supplies stash, but I also purchased some even larger frames (over 8"), which I'm going to use to make clutches, but I need to purchase a different frame pincher (the one I use for the smaller frames isn't strong enough for the larger frames). For now, here's a sample of some new coin purses - the three larger ones at the back use either silk or vintage fabric (love the curved antique brass frame in the bottom left, it's my new favourite frame):

Recently I came across some vintage silk kimono fabric, which I'm going to use for the larger clutches. The fabric is really beautiful:

But I'm having major problems with my domestic sewing machine, which is probably close to 20 years old. I've never had it serviced, so that's a start, but I may look into investing in a new one, something that's got a bit more power and features. The research begins...

Friday, June 3, 2011

Canada Post strike

Well, it happened: Canada Post is on strike, effective Friday, June 3. Their website is currently down so I can't get details, but apparently strike action will be rolled out to different cities in 24-hour increments. Not only does this mean I can't mail out orders from my Etsy stores, but I recently ordered a bunch of fabric and metal purse frames, supplies which I need to make more items for my retail customers. Not good. Let's hope it's resolved quickly, please!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Crafty happenings this week-end

Lots of fun arts and crafty things going on this week-end!

There's the annual More than just a yardage sale at the Textile Museum, where I'll rummage through fabrics, beads, buttons, patterns and more!

But I also need to clear out my fabric stash so I can take anything I don't plan on using to the Spring Craft Supply Swap at Wise Daughters in the Junction on Sunday.

It's also Doors Open this week-end. This annual spring event is a great opportunity to visit some of Toronto's buildings which normally aren't open to the public. Good for photography and design inspiration.

Friday, May 20, 2011

New Facebook page

So for some reason my Karen's Creations Facebook group page went 'missing', so I created a new page (still not sure what the difference is between groups and pages), named after this blog. It's more encompassing of all my crafty/artsty activities:!/pages/Librariankarenblogspotcom/115385691880796

Come like it so I can get a proper username for the page!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New glasses cases

I am excited to announce that my new glasses cases are available at Opticianado, an eyewear store in the Junction. Thanks to Mary at Wise Daughters! These are a new item for me, based on my snap frame coin purses. It was the first time using the curved frame for glasses and I'm pleased with how they turned out.

I interfaced the outer fabric to provide more stability and squared off the bottom to allow room for different sizes of frames. The lining is a really soft cotton which should be safe for lenses.

Monday, May 9, 2011


Well I'm still settling into my new place after a recent move, so I haven't had much opportunity to do a lot of sewing or add new items to either of my Etsy shops. Stay tuned for a major overhaul of both of my shops and website!

One of my first tasks is to make some new Blythe clothes, which I haven't had a chance to do because I've been focusing on my Zippster store and local consignment. A while a go I bought this Simplicity pattern for Blythe clothes, I can't wait to try out the patterns:

As for craft shows, Zippster will be represented by 100 Mile Finds at two upcoming shows, the first is Friday May 27 in St. Catharines. The next one is June 4 at The Brickworks in Toronto.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I'm back!

Oh hi! I'm back from a wonderful three week vacation in South America, where I saw beautiful scenery and animals, met some wonderful people, and accomplished a major personal goal (note: if you are thinking of hiking the Inca Trail, I recommend training on a stair master - I'm not as fit as I thought I was!). Although I saw many handicrafts, I was hoping to bring home some textiles for my sewing but I don't like using animal-based fabrics, and most of their fabric is made with alpaca wool. The whole trip was very well organized and I experienced no problems. We had a bit of rain (it was the end of the rainy season), but otherwise it was warm and sunny.

Here's a rundown of my itinerary:

Day 1: Arrived in Lima, where I stayed in the Miraflores district, an upper-middle class area with lots of parks, restaurants, shopping, and bars. The Miraflores area was quite nice and I felt safe. Downtown Lima has some interesting architecture but I didn't feel as safe there (probably shouldn't have been walking around by myself, a young-looking pale-skinned tattooed woman drew a bit of attention).
Day 2: Flight to Cuzco. Our hotel was a few blocks from the main square. I really liked Cuzco and felt very safe there. Lots of handicraft shopping.
Day 3: Travel to Ollantaytambo/Sacred Valley/Pisac. Visited some Inca ruins, handicraft markets, and a local cemetery. Adjusted to the higher altitude in preparation for the Inca Trail.
Day 4-7: Hiking the Inca Trail. Trekked 80km over 3.5 days - 3 nights of camping and no showers (although each morning a porter would bring us hot tea and a bucket of hot water for washing up). Day 1 wasn't too bad, a nice sunny day and we saw Inca ruins along the way. Day 2 was the most difficult, reaching the peak ("Dead Woman's Pass") at 4200m mid-afternoon. Day 3 rained all day, which made the descent a bit tricky because the stones were very slippery (I fell a few times). Day 4 we woke at 3:30am in order to line up to finish the trail and enter Machu Picchu. The rest of Day 4 was spent exploring Machu Picchu and returning to Cuzco. The challenge of the trek was worth it, to be above the clouds in the cloud forest and to see Machu Picchu was truly stunning. For the hike, we employed 25 porters, 3 guides and 2 cooks, who were all incredible. We were well fed and taken care of. The porters carried all our camping gear and food, and would race ahead of us to set up camp before we arrived.
Day 8: Back in Cuzco.
Day 9-10: In the Amazon Rainforest. Stayed in a really neat lodge (no electricity or hot water!) and saw plenty of birds and monkeys. Visited a shaman to learn about natural medicine.
Day 11: Back in Lima. Our remaining group went on a city tour and to a dinner show (La Dama Juana) in Miraflores.
Day 12: Flight from Lima to Quito. By the time we arrived in Quito it was too late to do anything other than going out for dinner.
Day 13-17: Stayed on a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and visited different islands in the Galapagos. It was very hot and I got a bad sunburn but it was worth it! Fortunately, did not get motion sickness on the boat. The food was fantastic and we had a good balance of day excursions on the islands and rest time.
Day 13: Baltra and Santa Cruz (main inhabited island) islands. Visited the Darwin Research Centre. Really enjoyed the tortoise and iguana breeding centres, and went shopping in the port town of Puero Ayora.
Day 14: Floreana island. Visited Post Office Bay and Punta Cormorant. Went snorkeling for the first time ever - one of the highlights of my trip.
Day 15: Espanola island. Saw plenty of birds, went snorkeling, visited an iguana breeding ground and albatross breeding ground.
Day 16: Santa Fe island. Saw plenty of land iguanas, a bachelor sea lion colony, and cacti. Went snorkeling again.
Day 17: Travel back to Quito.
Day 18: Departed Quito and had a long journey back to Toronto, almost missed my connecting flight in Miami because of being flagged at customs.

You can take a look at my pictures here (I still have 3 rolls of film and an underwater camera to develop).

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

On Vacation!

Tomorrow I leave for a three week vacation to South America, the first vacation I've had in over ten years. I'll be going to Ecuador and Peru, including the Galapagos Islands, the Sacred Valley, hiking the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu and the Amazon jungle... very excited! It will be a hectic trip but the mental and physical challenge will be good for me. I'm planning on taking lots of pictures - digital and film - and am particularly looking forward to seeing Machu Picchu and to visit the craft markets. My Etsy shops are in vacation mode and will re-open when I return. See you in three weeks!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Two new tops for spring

Over the past week I was able to sew two new spring tops for myself. This will probably be the last bit of sewing I do for a while, as in about two weeks I leave for a three week vacation to South America, the first trip I've been on in over ten years!

This white top is #44 from the Japanese sewing book "Natural Fabric Summer Clothes & Goods". The fabric is a linen I found in the remnants bin at Fabricland, costing me about $12 to make. I pretty much stuck to the pattern and didn't make any alterations. It was a quick sew - from cutting out the pattern to the very finish I think it only took about two hours.

This blue tunic is dress "I" from the Japanese pattern book "Stylish Dress Book". I shortened it to make it a top rather than a dress. It was fairly simply to make and I'm pleased with how it turned out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Productive week-end

For some reason I haven't been feeling very creative lately and it's been a month or so since I've sewn anything. Over the week-end I decided to work on some UFOs and get started on new projects. I was able to finish two skirts and cut out patterns for two new tops for spring.

This skirt used to be a strapless sundress I found in a second-hand shop some time last year, but I didn't like the top, so I cut it off then re-positioned the waistband and zipper:

This skirt was one of those long prairie-type dresses and was too long, so I simply shortened it and added an elastic waistband:

Feels good to get those done! Now I'm working on two spring tops which I'm hoping to finish before I leave for vacation in three weeks.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Zippster now at Wisedaughters!

I'm very excited and pleased to announce that a selection of my goods are now available at Wisedaughters Craft Market in Toronto's Junction neighbourhood. The store features a variety of handmade items by local artisans and they also put on workshops and other events. The Junction neighbourhood is full of fantastic boutiques and cafes, I suggest a visit this part of the city if you've never been.

Friday, January 21, 2011

New saris for Blythe

Finally finished three new Indian saris for Blythe dolls for my Blythe Etsy store. I purchased a bunch of silk sari remnants from Toronto's Little India neighbourhood a while ago but hadn't had a chance to make the saris until now. Sales in my Blythe Etsy shop have been slow and I didn't see much need to be adding new items, but I did actually sell out of the saris, they are one item that seems to sell well.

I'm really happy with these, I paid special attention in choosing coordinating trim for the cropped tops and used a metalllic thread to add even more sparkle. Available now in my store.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I finished this tunic over the Christmas holidays, it's tunic A from the Japanese pattern book "Stylish Dress Book." What should have been a very easy project wasn't: I failed to notice that the pattern called for a gathered neckline, which I hate, so it ended up being too big. I opted to put in darts instead, and it turned out OK. Also, I used a size too big and had to take it in a lot, but I had already made the side slits (a variation on the pattern). I'm still not 100% happy with it and may go back and fix the side seams.

For the top stitch I used a metallic thread and had a lot of problems with the thread breaking. I've used metallic thread before without problem so I'm not sure what the difference was this time. After some research I discovered that a special needle should be used, so I had to go out and buy new needles... but now I know.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sketchbook project: done!

Well, it's done - my sketchbook for the 2011 Sketchbook Project is in the mail. Fortunately, the deadline was extended by a few days which gave me a chance to finish it. What I learned: I am not artistic. At all. Creative, yes, but not artistic. This is evident in my "sketches". A lot of my pages look more than a scrapbook than a sketchbook. However, I really like working with charcoal, which is very satisfying but also very messy. Plus I spend considerable more time on a charcoal drawing than one done with pencil or another medium. Had I planned my time better I would have done more charcoal drawings. And I would have chosen a different theme. It was really difficult coming up with "happy thoughts"; I noticed that a lot of the pages are of physical objects which make me happy, and not of events or people which make me happy. There's a difference. Not sure if I would participate in this particular project again but it was fun.

My worktable is once again messy. I'm currently finishing up three new silk saris for my Blythe Etsy store. You can see Margot in the background modelling one I've already finished. They should be up in the store on the week-end.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Corduroy dress and other projects

Over the holidays I had a long list of little things I wanted to get done around the house, most of which I accomplished (updating my finances, tidying closets, re-organizing sewing supplies, all that boring stuff). I was hoping to get more sewing done, I had purchased new fabric to make two tops but I also had some repairs and alterations to do.

This was a dress I had made a few years ago before I had a serger, so the seams weren't very good, and I've since lost weight so I wanted to re-shape it. I also added some contrast trim so it doesn't look like a sack - there's now a black and white floral trim along the hemline and armholes (forgot to take the before pics). Much better!

This week-end I hope to finish up a tunic I've started. My sketchbook is about half done and there's only 10 days left to finish it, to I need to really get some serious work done on that!

Coming up in my Etsy shops: I'm sold out of saris for Blythe so I'll be making new ones soon.