A Cross-Canada Project with Blackbird Fabric!

I’ve made great friends through blogging, and always felt particularly connected to Canadian sewists. We’re such a huge country, but with a thin line of dense population right at the southern border. (Did you know that the whole population of Canada is smaller than Tokyo, the last place I lived?) The Canadian blog scene is small but mighty!

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

Which is why I suggested a plan to two of my online friends, Heather from The Pug and Needle/Heather and the Pugs and Margo from Creating in the Gap: Let’s get the same fabric and sew matching clothes! 

(Yes, this project completely inspired by Emma from Ernest Flagg and Lara from Thornbury, who have a seasonal challenge to sew with the same fabric!) 

It didn’t take us long to decide that our fabric should come from Blackbird Fabrics, which is undoubtably the most famous indie fabric shop in Canada. We asked Caroline if she would pick a mystery fabric for us, so it would be a surprise. Because she is awesome, she offered to send it to us for free – thanks, Caroline!

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

The fabric she picked is perfect for all three of us! It’s a rayon/poly doubleknit with a fuzzy sweater outer face, and a soft mesh inner face. It has about 30% stretch widthways, and is pretty stable vertically. It’s sold out already, but there are lots of other pretty things in stock.

So, what to make with special fabric? I wanted something that would get worn lots, but also something a bit unique. I got obsessed with the idea of this bow sweater, and voila! I made one!

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

Except of course, nothing is that easy, right? I used my TNT Tessuti Isla pattern, hacked to have a neckline facing and open keyhole at one shoulder. But when I first made it, I put a big hem band on and finished the sleeves with bands, and the whole thing was sloppy, bulky, and awkward to wear. Turns out, this pattern works really well with drapy four-way stretch materials, but the shaping isn’t right for a more stable knit!

ilsa top

See how the Isla pattern has a dramatic batwing shape? Well, in a stable knit, that underarm seam was too short to comfortably raise my arms, and the bodice was way too boxy. I thought about it overnight, then made the following changes:

  • cut off the arm and hem bands, and did a folded hem instead
  • cut down the length of the bow by half
  • brought the underarm seam closer to the body
  • narrowed the hips

In other words, this was a classic Gillian project! A good quarter of things I sew need some adjustments after the fact, and sometimes it’s fun and sometimes it’s frustrating! In the end, I like how the top turned out, and that’s what matters.

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

The fabric is so pretty, and fits right in with the muted colour scheme I’m adopting this winter. Watch this space for greyed-down versions of all my favourite colours! (Also, watch out for 2 more pairs of these RTW knit jeans, because I’m wearing these grey ones all the time, and I’m not in the mood to sew pants!)

Now here’s the requisite front/back/side collage, because I know it’s nice to see things from all angles:

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

Obviously, the signature part of this top is the bow on the shoulder, so let’s look at how I did that!

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

Step 1: Create a seam along the arm and add an inch of seam allowance. Sew the front and back together, stopping halfway. Sew the other sleeve normally.

Step 2: Attach a neckline facing. Attach the ties (long tubes turned and topstitched) to the facing and seam allowance.

Step 3: Topstitch from the wrist up the sleeve, around the neckline, and back down the sleeve. This finishes the seam allowance for the keyhole and holds the facing in place.

Step 4: Tie the bow before you put the top on! The only way I could get it to sit neat and flat was to tie a loose knot with the ties, then tie them into a bow with the “rabbit ear” method. Voila! All done!

Blackbird Fabrics Bow Top

I really enjoyed this project from start to finish. It was fun to be surprised with fabric, and equally fun to have a shared project to chat about with friends. Thanks again to Caroline for being so generous with the fabric! Heather and Margo are posting their projects today too, so head over to their blogs to see what they’ve made!

How do you hang out with your sewing friends online? Instagram chats, Facebook messenger, email, or blog comments? Are you lucky enough to have sewing friends nearby that you can meet often?


37 thoughts on “A Cross-Canada Project with Blackbird Fabric!

  1. Looking good, Gillian! That’s a beautiful fabric, the colours suits you beautifully, so does the lipstick. It would have been nice to see the raw version of your make :-). I also end up with very different result with my sewing projects than I started with, but that is the salt und butter of the sewing hobby, as you said.

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    1. I put some up on IG so you can see! The problem is that the pics I took of the original make don’t actually look as bad as they felt in person! 😝

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  2. I’m totally going to copy this look Gillian! I love it! I have a few rayon knits that I think would work really well! Great job!

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  3. So pretty— you and your bow sweater! Thank you for all the bias tape, what a haul for a few bucks 👍 We’re having another sewing bee Thursday, so I’ll be prepared. I’m trying to find a way to display our aprons, maybe some foam core body cutouts? Happy Tuesday Xx Mom

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  4. Beautiful top Gillian – I agree with everyone else that the colours and design on the fabric are perfect for you! Nice shaping on your top at the hemline too. I’m a huge fan of Blackbird fabrics/Caroline too! I always check to see what she has in stock 🙂

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    1. The lovely thing about shopping at Blackbird is the safe feeling that nothing will be a dud! I’ve ordered so many awful things online, but never from Caroline!

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    1. I think it would be fun to do a Fabricland version of this challenge sometime – and give people a chance to go buy the fabric themselves and join in!

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  5. Thanks for directing me to two other Canadian sewists. I feel we are so few. I’d love to connect with all Canadian sewists on instagram (unfortunately I don’t find bloglovin’ works for me so I can’t follow bloggers there). Do you think we should start a Canadian sewists hashtag on IG? Or is there one already???

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    1. Love To Sew podcast just suggested doing local hashtags based on this formula: #______sews. So if you look up #canadasews , there are already some posts! 🙂

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  6. LOL…maybe you had a few hiccups along the way but the end result is gorgeous Gillian! I am totally loving seeing you, Heather and Margo in your Blackbird makes! Only one thing missing…seeing you all together. Wouldn’t that be sweet!

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    1. We actually did bandy around the idea of flying to meet each other over the summer… then quickly reaslied that would be waaaaaay too expensive! 😉 One day!!!

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    1. When you have your sewing room set up, I’ll come over and we’ll have a sewing bonanza!!! (Do you have heat yet, BTW? I’m thinking of you!)

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  7. I like this top! I liked seeing yours and the other two bloggers use of this lovely fabric! Your design/fitting adjustments worked out beautifully.

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    1. Thank you! I’m glad that each of our makes is perfect for us, even though our styles are all different! It was a great choice of fabric! 😉

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  8. What a fun top! I have just finished reading your blog through from the very beginning. It has been lots of fun to see how your style has changed.

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    1. OH MY GOODNESS! That is a marathon! But yes, my style has changed a ton, even in the last 3 years, let alone the last 6 I’v been blogging! It’s fun to have a record of where I started, and where I ended up. 🙂

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  9. This is the coolest idea to get a group of buds to sew from the same type of fabric! Are you going to hate me if I copy you?!? 😛 And I really really like this pattern. You have such an eye for pairing fabrics and patterns together.

    As far as interacting with my online buddies who sew and knit, I actually text a few of them on a regular basis. Some I’ve met, some I haven’t, but it’s awesome having friends who “get” me.

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