Rideau River, Strathcona Park, Ottawa, August



Cathy MacDonald-Zytveld


(click images to to enlarge)

Outline the story …

I love fishing. It’s something I learned from my father at the age of four; he was taught by my maternal Grandfather in Northern Ontario before our family moved to Ottawa. My favorite in-city fishing spot, Strathcona Park, is a place where the river is shallow enough to wade between the shorelines and surrounded by every species of bird, from Canadian geese to Great Blue Herons. It’s a magical space where you can stand in a living river as it flows around you as the rush hour traffic passes on a nearby bridge and people settle into dinner in nearby homes. Somehow the wildness has survived in pockets scattered around the city.
The Tristan Quilt (the oldest surviving quilt, made in the 14th century, kept by the V&A) was the starting point for the design. In it you see Tristan and his men traversing The Channel, fish dancing in the water below the boat. I chose three different species of fish to depict in the weskit, each species stratified in the vest.
Over the past summer I was lucky enough to find vintage patterns ranging from the 1920’s-50’s that fit my bust measurements. I’ve wanted a fitted vest this side of forever, so when I won the auction for the weskit I knew I had my starting point. The teal blue fabric is the colour of the river in August at sunset.

Outline the construction…

The weskit is constructed using a shlubby teal linen-cotton blend, polyester batting, muslin, and lined with printed Indian cotton – entirely thrifted. The fashion fabric was a challenge as it had a tendency to unravel itself before my eyes. The combination of the batting and the cotton underlayer gave enough structure that a horsehair interlining was unnecessary.

This project was a challenge for the number of firsts I was dealing with. For the first time I had to upsize a pattern, in addition to doing a FBA and expand the hips and waistline. Fitting was temperamental – it took 8 mock-ups to reach the final pattern.

Utilizing the quilting technique Trapunto I hand quilted the fish. The technique is very similar to modern soft sculpture; as a teenager I used to create figures with stuffing and gloving thead.

I’ve never done machine quilting before, which felt incredibly intimidating.
The hand quilting took much longer than I expected; as did the machine quilting of the water. The quilting resulted in a shrinkage of about 10%, thankfully I had left an extra 3” seam allowance as insurance.

Over the course of construction of the final garment I was dealing with mental health issues and medical providers. I was dealing with limited amounts of energy to complete each step.

The buttons are left over from a sweater my Mum made for me when I was four; this was the perfect project to utilize them. The buttonholes were made with a 1960 ‘Atomic’ Singer buttonhole attachment – my first time using it in a garment.




  1. Avatar Robin Benoit on April 27, 2023 at 8:55 pm

    Oh Cathy it’s lovely! The quilted water and fish are great. Definitely reminds me of watching the river from the bike path while the city rushed around us!

    Well done and congratulations!!

  2. Avatar Anna-Catherine Sendgikoski on May 7, 2023 at 6:57 pm

    I love this! Beautiful, well done!

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