Mère-Poule Dress

My mother made this mother-hen maternity dress 35 years ago. She wore it towards the end of two of her four pregnancies. Cassady and I were born two years apart in the summers of 1980 and 1982. This dress suited the season and the time well. Many of my mother’s friends are quite taken with how pregnant women show their bellies nowadays. The weekly bump photos I share with my mother, in which I sport snug knit dresses and fitted tunics, have been shared among some of her friends. She has only received lovely responses with the other common replies being “we certainly never dressed like that in our day.”

I had seen this dress over the years at the bottom of her storage bins, the print always made me smile. A mother hen with her eggs 🙂 My mother has always had a good eye for unique prints and a fantastic sense of humour. I was so touched when the dress was finally given to me to wear during my pregnancy. I had worn it a few times around the house but felt this dress deserved more, as I tend to feel with most great but outdated pieces. With my mom’s permission, I upcycled this dress to suit the season and the time.

30 weeks pregnant!

I was inspired by the shape of a pinafore yet I couldn’t bring myself to deconstruct her beautiful collar, with its carefully crafted facing and button neck closure. I shorted it by 9″ and sewed a 1/2″ elastic into where my new waistline falls, creating a gathered waistline at the top of my current pregnant belly (approximately 4.5″ from my armpits). Paired with a turtle neck, cardigan or a long-sleeve and add a pair of tights and voilà, my mother’s mére poule maternity dresses another pregnant body!

What to do with the remaining 9″ of fabric?

My mother had made me a beautiful quilt with the remnant fabric of baby clothes and maternity dresses she had made. She used these precious squares to create a beautiful quilt which I have cherished and continue to use. I’ll be making something similar for our baby boy.

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The Declutter Dress

Etienne and I moved into our new home last month. The week preceding our move, my husband had me doing some serious decluttering. Etienne helpfully highlighted my closet as top priority and I didn’t fight it. I participated and I think I did a pretty damn good job. I donated nearly half of our (re: my) things to shelters and the Renaissance donation center. There were a dozen pieces of clothing that I felt the need to save. Some that I had either not worn in a while (re: years) and others that I had but perhaps shouldn’t have (re: dire need of an upcycle!).

Yes, that’s right folks, the upcycler cleverly upcycled her own clothes in order to keep them! Here I combined two doomed pieces of clothing into one that I would wear. The black long sleeve crop top and this old daisy knit pencil skirt were both snug and given that I was 25 weeks pregnant at the time, I didn’t need to attach an elastic to the waistline. This simplified an already straight forward process even more. I gently pinned the two pieces together and tried it on to measure the desire dress length. I chose something shorter as I’m pairing most of my clothing with leggings these days. I cut the skirt at the waist band and not at the bottom hem, allowing me to keep the original hem. I told you this was an easy project! I pinned and sewed the top and skirt waist seams together and voilà, my declutter dress!

My new dress!
My new dress!

I think if you’re items are made of stretch fabric and snug enough, even non-pregnant women can opt out of installing an elastic to the waistline. It can also be something you sew in later if need be.

The Dress

We’re going to be parents! And we got married! And we moved into a new home!

My apologies for the four month hiatus, but I return to you all with nothing but great stories and happy news. Etienne and I are going to be parents come the end of January 2016! Our summer began with the news that we will be parents and the season ended with a beautiful wedding. We marked the arrival of fall, our favourite season, with a big move into our new home!

Baby boy Sniatowsky-Pelletier
Baby boy Sniatowsky-Pelletier

As wonderful and thrilling as this whole journey has been so far, the first trimester of my pregnancy was a little uncomfortable. I took comfort in knowing that the discomfort of nausea and fatigue, as my friend Andrea had pointed out, was a sign that everything was working as it probably should be. Sadly, it all left such little energy and time for sewing. Aside from my nursing work, June and July were pretty low key, mainly consisting of lots of naps, carb heavy snacks and a generous amount of a new TV guilty pleasure: Nashville! This saw me through until the very end of July, when Etienne and I entered full time wedding prep mode. Etienne pretty much single handedly organized our entire wedding reception. I am incredibly grateful to my husband for his excellent attention to detail and organizational skills. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more diligent partner. He stepped up to the plate and took on more than his fair share. I already knew he was going to make an amazing husband and soon an extraordinary father but he certainly earned some extra stripes here. Thank you, Etienne, je t’aime très fort!

For the wedding, I was put in charge of decorations and table arrangement/seating. The flowers were simple, one large white hydrangea was placed in a vase in the centre of each of the ten tables. With the help of my dear friend Nathalie, we cut and sewed 200 white lace triangles and created some beautiful pennant strings which were strung across the ceiling of our reception hall. The lace was upcycled from old white lace curtains I had purchased at Village des Valeurs for 3$ each. I sewed them individually on 1/4″ gift wrapping string from the dollar store. It worked out perfectly, providing that festive wedding feel without that enormous wedding price tag.

Now on to the dress. Since our engagement, I had been dreaming of making my own wedding dress. I had purchased beautiful off white lace from FabricDotCom at the very beginning of the summer yet only started working on the dress the first week of August. I was having difficulty deciding on a pattern yet found myself favouring plunging lace neckline and midi length skirts. I began piecing it together on my dress-form. I created a beautiful plunging neckline with a deep V-back, both meeting at an elastic waistband attached to a gathered double lace layer skirt hitting me mid-calf. It was exactly what I thought I wanted. On the dress-form, it was my perfect wedding dress, however on my 18 week pregnant frame it was not a flattering design nor a comfortable dress. With only two weeks to the big day, I began to panic.

My lovely friend & fellow sewist Andrée-Anne met me on St. Hubert that Sunday to go fabric hunting for dress #2. Armed with a few ideas I pulled from Google Images, Andrée-Anne’s know-how, and my unshakeable determination for creating my own dress, we succeeded in our mission. We found some beautiful stretch fabric at Regent Tissu. I chose a dusty pink lycra stretch blend  for the bust portion and an off-white stretch satin for the skirt. I also picked up some white slinky stretch lining and some dusty rose lace to create a belt.

I still couldn’t decide on a full dress pattern so I chose to build it in pieces, selecting styles that I liked and believed would fit my growing & changing body. I opted for the Burda Bodice Top (04/2013, #115) which I altered by removing the pattern straps and opting out of the front opening.  I chose simple 4mm wide elastic straps from Ultratext. The design shape of the bodice constructed with the strong and tight stretch of the fabric I chose, lent it self perfectly to my growing bust. I had grown from a 34B to a 34D in what felt like just a few weeks!

The bottom portion of the dress was self-drafted following Elena’s maxi skirt instructions off her site Randomly Happy. I attached the bodice to the bottom lined portion and the results wielded were fantastic! It fit my waist, hips and baby bump beautifully. The only hiccup was the bodice which I didn’t adjust correctly. Andrée-Anne has become a true and treasured friend who saved the day- and my dress! As I stood in front of the mirror wearing my unfinished wedding dress 10 days before the big day, she patiently stitch ripped sections of the facing of the bodice open and pinned the bust and back darting adjustments. She taught me how to pin, mark and sew the darts properly while keeping her hands off my sewing machine. “I can’t do it for you, you’ll want to claim full credit for this dress later”, she kept repeating as she encouraged me to dive in and fix my dress myself. And I did. And it turned out to exceed all of my expectations. Merci, Andrée-Anne!! Je te dois bien ça, tu m’as sauvé la vie.

I attached the elastic straps and made a simple lace belt using two button closures in the back and voilà, dress number two became the dress I loved the most and the one I wore to marry my love.

Our talented photographer, and I’m proud to call our new friend, Matthew Perrin took some incredible shots of not only our special weekend but he also documented an afternoon as I worked on my wedding dress. He photographed our unconventional rehearsal dinner, a Baseball game BBQ at Parc Vinet, and our wedding ceremony & reception on the following day. We can’t say enough wonderful things about Matt’s work and I feel like the photographs speak for themselves. Here are a couple dozen to share!

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Before I sign off, some special fashion nods must be given to the lovely Andrée-Anne and actress & model Nastassia Markiewicz. These two beauties made their own dresses for our wedding as well. Andrée-Anne’s two-piece dress details can be found on her blog post. Nastassia’s dress was also a sexy two-piece number which can you believe she self-drafted and created from some remnant that she had in her fabric stash. I’m honestly blown away by these two!

And the food was delicious!

Oyster & Scallop bar courtesy of Choice Harbour

BBQ Ribs, chicken, grilled salads, fries and deep-fried macaroni balls by Blackstrap BBQ

Dessert pies by Rustique

For more details on the day, please visit my mother-in-law Kathleen’s blog post.

African Wax Print Dress

Yesterday, I upcycled a homemade Muumuuu-style dress I found at Village des Valeurs a few months back. The fabric looks more African wax in flavour, similar to many prints I admired throughout my travels in West Africa. The design however appears to be a more modern day take on the m’boubou or kaftan, a traditional West African ceremonial dress, as the sleeves are short. I was lucky with this piece as it’s extra large size allowed me enough fabric to create something completely new and to cut it on the bias. There is no zipper in this dress, only the magic of angling the fabric on the bias for more stretch and ease. I used my Tashenka pattern for the design and some strategic angling to accommodate the print- voilà, my African Wax Print Dress!

The Castle Dress

I found this crazy JR Continental dress in the nightgown section of my local Salvation army. I immediately knew that I was going to upcycle this bright and bizarre castle print dress using a self-drafted pattern from last summer.  I will tweak my Tashenka dress pattern over the next few months and uploaded it for download eventually. The dress was a size 10, made in Romania of 50% polyester & 50% staple fibres, something I was consistently reminded of as I pressed my seams open. The mix of polyester and staple fibres create quite a distinct odour as they were heated by my iron but luckily the synthetic blend wasn’t terribly apparent to touch.

I removed the sleeves, the collar and the bottom hem frill. I then shaped the front and back to my pattern pieces and inserted a long zipper up the back and voilà, my Castle Dress!


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Blue Nightingale Dress (Sewing-It-Forward)

This week I altered a blue Nightingales dress for the boutique at the women’s shelter. Two women commented on the dress as I left that day, with a twenty-something year-old expressing her interest in it if it was “a whole lot shorter”. The other woman, a forty-something year old, was still hesitant but agreed that the dress would be nicer if it was shorter. “I wouldn’t wear a mini-dress but you’d have to take off a good meter”, she finally said. A meter? I thought. ” You ladies are funny and exaggerating a little, no?” I half-heartedly joked. They both exclaimed “No!” in unison.

I brought the dress home and hung it up in my sewing space. How much to cut off? I thought to myself. The adventurous upcycler in me wanted nothing more than to separate the top and bottom, turning the top into a a fun peasant blouse, maybe add buttons or something, and the bottom into a circle or maxi skirt or even a pair of culottes (not quite shorts, not quite pants).

One thing I have learnt since starting to make my own clothes is that a woman’s measurements play a crucial role in where hemlines are the most flattering. I’m speaking from a purely mathematical standpoint as I recently read an article about mathematician Lily Serna‘s take on clothing hemlines. Serna has developed a formula to calculate your perfect hemline length- calculate your golden number here. I tried the dress on and played with the lengths. Everyone has their own style. Many women, regardless of their height, shape and proportions, like what they like. At the end of the day, just go with what you love. Although the dress has a tie to cinch the waist, the dress at full length hid my curves and created the illusion of a long bell shape that fell at an awkward ankle length. I’m 5’8″, this dress would have swallowed a shorter woman.


The most flattering universal length for most women is a hemline at the knee +/- according to their height and style. Since I’m trying to create outfits that would suit most women, I went with the at-the-knee length. It is a flattering cut that is suitable for all occasions from a job interview to a date. I chopped off 10″ and voilà, a really cute & flattering all-occasion summer dress!

Before & After Nightingales dress.
Before & After Nightingales dress.

The Garden Party Dress

The Tashenka Garden Party Dress.

This dress was inspired by my recent makes with the Salme Kimono dress pattern. I love the silhouette of a kimono, however I wanted to design something that accentuated the curves underneath the clothes. I like the design of a kimono, particularly how the bodice and sleeve are a complete unit- one large piece. In true Tashenka style, I highlighted the waistline by joining the bodice and skirt portions at the true waist and cinching it nice and snug with an elastic band in a casing. I also have added short sleeves, my brother-in-law Jules calls them kimono cap sleeves. Traditional kimono designs have unattached sleeves, particularly in the underarm portion, however I reduced this draping look by redesigning the underarm portion in a more tight figure-hugging curve line down to the waist. And voilà, Tashenka’s Garden Party Dress.

Tashenka’s Salme Kimono Dress

This is my second Salme pattern make. Their patterns have become some of my absolute favourites. Elisa and her team certainly know how to design beautiful patterns for women. I recently purchased two to use in the teaching sessions with the women at the shelter. I think they’re great teaching tools as the designs are fashionable yet also uncomplicated. I prefer designs that are simple, my musts are clean lines, few pieces and straightforward instructions. The Salme website also has fantastic and clear sewing tutorials with step by step instructions. For the top of this dress, I used their understitiching tutorial, as well as Tilly and The Buttons’ tutorial on collar facing. I was so pleased with how this collar turned out. I will never make another collar without a facing ever again. Well, maybe not never, but almost never.

image1 (5)

I used two pieces of fabric to make this dress, both of which were rescue-upcycle garments. The top was created from a Léo -Danal by Normie Hum Ltd dress, a now-defunct Montréal clothing line. I found this floral XL dress at Village des Valeurs for $5, a real steal as once I ironed out the pleats I was left with a substantial amount of fabric. The skirt portion of my dress was made from a beautiful large vintage scarf which I got for a whopping 50 cents as it had a couple burn holes, lucky for me they were near the edges. I used the Salme Kimono Sleeve dress pattern, only tweaking the measurements slightly. I also inserted a 1.5″ elastic casing to the inside waistline which I inserted a 1″ elastic through, providing a more snug cinched waist. And voilà, the Tashenka’s take on the Salme Kimono Sleeve dress!

Burda’s Member Model Challenge Dress

I’m certainly no model but I always appreciate a good challenge. Burdastyle.com was hosting another one of their member model challenge projects and I decided why not? (Spoiler: I didn’t win) The featured dress for this month’s challenge was their Gathered Tube Designer dress 04/2010 #165, a simple and flattering strapless number that can be sewn in a variety of fabrics for a mix of different looks. The sewist can create an elegant evening dress or a casual day dress or even a beach number. The pattern is extremely versatile and you can certainly notice this when browsing through the contest entries.

I decided to make mine using this beautiful soft turquoise paisley-esque cotton I picked up in the Đồng Xuân Market in Hanoi last summer. The dress is very comfortable, highlighting my true waist line and falling at a nice length above the knee. I double hemmed mine as the fabric will fray with washing so my next one- yes, I’ve already planned for a second in black- will be 1.5″ longer. A perfect addition to the summer wardrobe, dressed up or down.

The pattern comes in two pieces with instructions to cut out a third thin strip for the inside elastic waist casing. The instructions are straightforward and to the point, perhaps a little too straightforward for this novice sewist. I was a little confused with how the top of the dress was folded and sewn to accommodate for the elastic in upper dress edge. I folded the top of the dress inside 1 inch, pressed, then folded her again 1 inch and pressed. I sewed nearly all around, following the marking to not sew the space in the middle front. You then slip the elastic through, pinning the ends of the elastic on either ends. Sew in place and sew the vertical lines at these edges to hold the elastic in place. This method allows for subtle contrast in gather for the upper edge of the dress. I really enjoyed creating the elastic waistline as it called for an inner casing. A 1.5″ wide strip that is sewn to the inside, all around to the dress waistline, which your waist elastic is pulled through and then sewn in place. The casing makes the inside looks clean, laundry safe and allows for access to elastic for any future adjustments.

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Four finalists were chosen this morning by the Burda staff, opening the voting session which will run until March 16th, 2015. The chosen four made lovely dresses which they modelled beautifully in their photographs. These women know how to represent themselves and their work in front of the lens.

Even though I didn’t make the cut, It was a lot of fun to participate and see how we all created a unique looking dress from the exact same pattern. They all look so different. This truly highlights how a vision and personal style can truly influence our interpretation of a pattern so differently.