23 March 2015

Travel Bag

Over the years, I've whittled my bag down to just a few basic essentials. So when I'm exploring a new city, I can always find what I need quickly. And bonus, my hands are free for eating sandwiches, snapping photos, giving high fives or gesticulating at inconsiderate motorists.

On your average city trip, like the one I'm about to take to Toronto, this is what you'll find in my bag (similar here) while I'm walking around.

A lip balm that moisturizes my lips and protects them from the sun

My wallet (similar here) - one that can fit my passport, even my phone in a crunch, and thereby double as a clutch is ideal

A virtually indestructible notebook - for writing down important info, because I'm old school like that

A pen that's pretty and writes well

Gum or mints - to recover from flavourful meals or aggressive coffee breath

My phone - for snapping photos, using my favourite data free map app and posting to Instagram when I happen upon some free wifi

A book - for reading in the park or over coffee, spending my time in lines more productively, appearing smarter than I am (a book that speaks to my love of the open road and gives me a manageable dose of philosophy is pretty cool too)

What about you? What are the must-haves in your travel bag?

None of these products have been gifted to me, nor have a received financial compensation for featuring them. They're just items that I genuinely use and love.

9 March 2015

Toronto Recommendations

At the end of March, Chris and I are going to be in The Big Smoke for a total of 30 hours. It's going to be a whirlwind little trip, but we're so excited to just get away, even if it's only for a (very) short time. We've already booked our stay at The Drake Hotel and are planning dinner at Foxley and drinks at Black Hoof Cocktail Bar and The Communist's Daughter (if we can get in), but I'm curious, what are your other recommendations?

Where are good spots to grab a snack or a baked good? (Side note: cannot WAIT to try Glory Hole Doughnuts, omg.) What would you recommend for a more touristy-type attraction? As you can see above, we've done AGO fairly recently. So maybe the ROM? Is the CN Tower worth our time? Hit me with your recommendations in the comment section below, or let me know on Twitter or Instagram. You all had such amazing recommendations for our Chicago trip, I can't wait to hear what you have to say this time!

2 March 2015

100 Days of Skating

This winter, my friend James has been skating. every. single. day. That's right, no matter the temperature, windchill or snowfall, James has put on skates and taken a turn on the ice every day this winter. 

James is not a particularly experienced skater. He skated a bit as a child, and didn't put skates on again until his twenties. A few winters ago, a figure skating friend of his showed him a few tricks, and he and went out on the ice in a (too big) pair of used pair of skates a number of times. "I just wanted to learn how to stop," he tells me.

Then, before the beginning of this winter, he decided to challenge himself to skate every day.  He bought himself a new pair of skates and started hitting the ice every day. James tells me he started the project because "I've struggled off and on with anxiety and depression, and 21 minutes of exercise a day is supposed to help with that. ... Sometimes I have to be out on the ice for an hour before I feel right."

On particularly cold days, James will only spend a few minutes out on the ice, but other days he'll spend a lot of time working on stops, turns and skating backwards. He proudly showed me his only trick, a bunny hop.
The project has had its difficulties as well as its benefits. He has a bruise on his wrist that's been there off and on most of the winter due to falls. Two weeks ago, he tweaked his back while falling. "I kept expecting to really hurt myself and have to stop. But so far I've been able to keep skating."

As of today, James has been skating for 89 days straight. He told me he now feels he could stop any time, but has decided to keep going. He wants to reach 100, and beyond that, we'll see. You can follow James' project on Instagram under the hashtag #bestthingaboutwinter.

23 February 2015

Local Makers, Local Sewers

Over the past few years, the market for locally made apparel and accessories has been growing in Winnipeg. And to my mind, March and August, Wilder and Tonychestnut are at the forefront of that growth. Each of these local makers show a passion for good design and high quality materials and a commitment to keeping products made by local hands.
Alesha runs March and August Underthings from her home in West Broadway. Her friendly, mixed-breed dog Judi greats me at the doorway. The space is clean and white, furnished with a mix of vintage finds and newer, modern pieces. Her sewing machine looks out over the front yard and the cutting table is filled with samples she's considering for the upcoming spring collection. A photo of her smiling partner hangs in the corner of an inspiration board.

Alesha has been making underthings as March and August for over a year now. Prior to that, she'd been working on a number of different projects. She tells me, "I've been trying to figure out my medium for a long time." After fashion schooling and apprentice work, she'd been designing and sewing different items of clothing, but nothing felt quite right. "I've always wanted to empower. I wanted it to be more than, 'Here's some cool clothing' or, 'This is really cute.' I wanted [what I made] to have that empowering message." Feeling frustrated, she took a break from making clothing altogether and planned to transition into the food industry. "And then I learned how to make underwear from a friend and taught a class on making it with her, and all of the sudden I just became obsessed with making it. I was working on something in the food industry and was supposed to be making a business plan for that, and I kept leaving it aside to make underwear for my friends, and I was like 'What am I doing? This is amazing and I love it, and I'm spending hours and hours doing it. I'm ignoring this other thing completely.'" That realization sparked others. "I realized I've always wanted to create with my hands, and work with fabric. I've always wanted to empower people to learn to love all the great things about their bodies. And so everything just came together all of the sudden, and I was just like, 'I'm going to do it. I just have to send it out there.' And once I did that, it was amazing."
Alesha's underthings are both comfortable and stylish. She uses fabrics like bamboo cotton in her work for softness, and is always looking for ways to make her things more comfortable. And the cuts and fabrics are both fashionable and incredibly flattering. Her stuff just makes you feel good about yourself. The models she uses on her website have all sorts of body types. And on her Instagram feed, she shares photos customers have posted of themselves in the underwear she's made (with permission, of course). The message of empowerment rings through with every photo and every story she shares. She's happy that "People get it. I don't need to explain it in a big, long paragraph on my website. They see the product and they get it. I'm sure that social media has a lot to do with that too." She adds that this has "helped me stay inspired and helped bring my brand where I wanted it to go."

At the moment, Alesha's working on putting together the spring collection. She's in the final stages of picking out samples and making decisions about design. She also plans to release a custom bridal package in the spring. The package will offer a customized fit and options for both traditional and non-traditional brides.

And in the back of her mind, she has thoughts about expanding. For now, she's able to handle the work, but as her business increases, she may have to consider other options. Maintaining the balance between the value of having something that's "still handmade and local" against her personal health and wellbeing is something that's important to her.
Brendon and Nathan of Wilder have been perfecting and expanding their work with canvas and leather over the past five years. It began with five sewing machines in Brendon's basement where "the ping pong table was the cutting table." Then Brendon's church, the Exchange Community Church at 75 Albert Street offered them a free space to work, as long as they kept it open to people and brewed the occasional pot of coffee. He tells me that time was "more or less working on our craft and having fun." Most of their work was for experimentation, or making commission pieces for friends.

Then, when Thom Bargen opened two years ago, they offered Brendon and Nathan the space to work in the back, and an area for retail display removed from the coffee shop by a handful of steps.  Brendon says that "being in the public spotlight was a motivation for us to take things a little more seriously and give it more of a go." Since that time, their business and expanded and evolved rapidly.
They started out working primarily with canvas because of its toughness and durability. They wanted to design products that looked better with age, instead of falling apart. Nathan says, "We were always drawn to stuff that was more timeless and durable, and that would age nicely." To this end, they began experimenting with leather: adding small things like leather handles to a canvas bag. Once they began that process, they found it opened them up to a "whole world of leather." Now a number of their bags are made entirely from durable, high quality leathers, using time-tested old processes and a lot of hand stitching. And although Wilder began primarily with bags, they've been shifting into other types of products. They've recently released more home goods, like plant hangers and coasters, and are currently working with a friend to produce wood, canvas and leather camp chairs. Brendon hopes that people will use them on the road while also being able to find a space for them in their homes. He tells me, "All of our stuff, we design it to be beat up, but we try to make is so that you can dress it up too."
When it comes to the kinds of products Brendon and Nathan might make, they always want to leave the door open for experimentation. Brendon says that "Ever since the beginning, we've experimented with making different things: hats, pants, other articles of clothing. ... If we're experimenting with something and realize that this is something we can actually do well, and we have a good design going, then we might deviate into that direction." But he also says, "I'm pretty obsessive with proper equipment to do something. If we don't have it, we're not going to associate ourselves with it." Nathan adds, "We want to make sure we pay respect to specific crafts."

In addition to their expansion into housewares and the soon-to-be-released camp chairs, Wilder has recently started selling their products through their website. They've begun with wallets and plan to add canvas goods soon.
As Jill leads me up the stairs of her South Osborne home (a home her husband together with friends and family built themselves) toward the Tonychestnut studio upstairs, she tells me working from home is "both a blessing and a curse." She used to have a studio space in the Exchange, but once they built the house, it just made sense to build a workspace into it. The room itself is a treasure: a few of her remaining items hang on a clothing rack, fabric lies in piles on shelves, and every surface is covered with items of beautiful design. You could spend an hour just picking up each piece and looking at them one by one.

Jill's been making clothes as Tonychestnut for the past 7 years. (She started out doing primarily custom work). And for the past three years, Jill's unique and well-designed items have been available for purchase only through her website or her trunk sales. The materials she uses are high quality, and her designs are magic; they hang beautifully and seem to look great on everyone. During her last trunk sale at Little Sister Coffee this past fall, the thirty pieces she brought sold out in about forty minutes. She realized that if she'd been able to produce more stock, she "could have sold it three or four times over." So recently, she hired two seamstresses and is currently looking for an intern. With more staff and greater inventory, Jill has exciting plans for the future of Tonychestnut.
She recently began selling items at HutK in the Exchange District. It started out as a one-time-only, twenty-piece sale, but she's decided to continue replenishing and adding to the items available there. Although those pieces "will always be different from what I have on the website or at trunk sales," she hopes customers will be pleased to have a more traditional venue to access and purchase her clothing. 

Jill's currently making final edits and working on samples for her spring collection. The trunk sale for those items will likely happen sometime in April. She's also planning on travelling the trunk sale for the first time. She wants to start in Montreal, then Ottawa and Toronto, where she's seen a lot of demand for her products, and perhaps head west for Vancouver.

Finally, there's her new project, #projectgetdressed. Jill says, "I feel like February is a downer month. So, when you're feeling bummed, which I feel like most people, as least in Winnipeg in February do, the best thing to do to help yourself is to help others. So, what I'm doing is I'm being selfish, and for this whole month I've been making clothing for myself, to build up my own wardrobe, which I never do. (I rarely wear my own clothes, because I usually just make to fill orders.) But I'm making two of each garment, and the second once will be sold online and all the proceeds are going to go to a charity that clothes people in Winnipeg." The online sale begins today, with a sweatshirt designed in collaboration with Thought Shapes. And for each day of this last week of February, a single, one-off item or outfit will be sold through her website, with all the proceeds going to "a local charity that will provide outdoor clothing for men, women, and children who are living on the streets in this cold." If you're lucky enough to nab one of the five garments or outfits, kudos to you. If not, look forward to the spring trunk sale, or head down to HutK to check out her pieces.
I've chosen these local designers and makers for this post because I genuinely love their products and think they're doing special and noteworthy things. If you ever have suggestions for local businesses or entrepreneurs you'd like to see featured, please, let me know in the comments or email me at fullbellywornsoles(at)gmail(dot)com.

20 February 2015

Nettie + Min at The Goodwill

So I've decided to bring back Friday posts on occasion, just to promote special weekend events going on in Winnipeg.

First up is vintage dealer Rachael, the lovely gal behind Nettie + Min, who will be at The Goodwill's first Trading Post (alongside 15 other vendors) this Sunday, February 22nd from 12 to 5. Rachael's been collecting and selling vintage clothing under the name Nettie + Min for the past six months or so, but she's long had a passion for vintage clothing - dressing herself in second-hand finds and working at other vintage shops for years.

Rachael's pieces come from all over the place: friends and family with great items they no longer have use for, her connections with other vintage dealers in the city, and many others she snapped up while on a three-month trek through Europe last year.

Her things are lovely, beautifully curated and unique. I highly recommend checking her out if you get a chance to stop by the Traders Post. She'll be on the stage alongside Alex Kohut from The Vintage Saint, who sells vintage men's clothing. You can also buy from Rachael through her Etsy shop, or keep up with her on Instagram to check for weekend sales at her studio in the Frame Arts Warehouse in the Exchange District.

The Trading Post promises to be a great event. Listen to DJ Tiny O spin vinyl while sipping coffee or beer and browsing new and vintage clothing, leather and baked goods, ceramics and art, and even some reclaimed mid century pieces. There will also be Tarot Card readings for 20$. Hope to see you there!