Not as easy as I had imagined

 

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After reading Coco’s sewing blog, I was inspired by her beautiful caftan from McCalls 7597 and decided to give it a try.  Admittedly, I was rather naive in thinking that it would be an easy project.  Perhaps if I had chosen a solid fabric, it would have been, but I didn’t; so I had to struggle and learn.

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I wanted a sleeveless dress that I could wear alone, under a knitted sweater or under a lined leather jacket.  I opted for view D, but without a contrast bib and shortened to fit my 5’4″ frame.  What I didn’t realize, until I had already chosen my fabric and started to lay the pattern pieces out to cut (size 6), is that matching design lines takes careful consideration and lots of thoughtful time.  Obviously, had the front bodice been one piece, it would not have required any matching, but as any experienced sewer can see, and which I failed to consider before selecting the fabric, the front requires several different pieces.  In my excitement to make the dress, I failed to consider this.  Doh!

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As a result, I had to spend extra time lining up each of the pattern pieces so that I did not adversely affect the lines of the fabric, especially on the front bodice.  After cutting out the front, I placed it over the remaining fabric to see which orientation and section of print looked best for the front bib portion.  I ended up taking photos of each of the options and then chose the one I liked best.

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Thankfully I took the time to make a muslin and realized that I needed to make some changes to the pattern for it to fit me.

Modifications:

  • Decreased 4 cm from back yoke width
  • Pleats under the bib instead of gathers
  • Added hidden pockets, drafted from Charlie Caftan pattern
  • Used French seams
  • Handstitched store-bought bias tape for armholes and hem

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I really enjoy wearing this dress.  During the warmer months in Paris, I wore it with sandals or oxfords, depending on what I was planning to do during the day.  As the days grew colder, I covered up with a hand-knitted sweater or leather jacket.  I like the loose, comfortable fit of the dress and the useful pockets I added where I can stash my iphone or keys.

IMG_3797.jpgIn hindsight, I am glad that I chose this fabric for the dress.  Although I had originally thought that I had made a mistake in my fabric selection, I now realize that because of my fabric choice, I learned and improved my sewing skills more than I would have with a ‘safer’ fabric.  I would definitely make another dress using this pattern-maybe one with a tie in back and gathers in the front, but for that, I would want a thinner and more drapey fabric than what I used for this one.  I used a cotton blend for this dress and it was the perfect fabric for this style.

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“I travel not to escape life…

IMG_4115.jpg…but so that life does not escape me.”  Someone much wiser than me expressed those sentiments.  I share her philosophy; I travel so that I can continue to thrive.  And if there happens to be a knitting festival in the area – that’s a bonus!

Fanø, a small Danish island in the North Sea, is an easy train journey from Copenhagen. Riding the 15-minute ferry over from Esbjerg, I could see why the island attracts so many vacationers from Germany and Denmark who rent homes along the sandy stretch of beach along the west coast.  Although seals, sea otters, and migratory birds draw nature lovers to the island; during one woolfull weekend in September, over 12,000 knitters descend on the World Heritage site to learn new skills and peruse all things fiber related.IMG_4120.jpg

Christel Seyfarth, a fiber artist born on the island, is the brains behind the Fanø wool festival.  Her bright shop hums with the whirling winders that skein up colorful cones of fibers destined for the beautiful knitting kits and garments sold in the store.  If you’re a Fair Isle knitter, you will be overcome with inspiration (and temptation) in her boutique.

While our non-knitter companions took advantage of the island’s other attraction,

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we knitters focused on touching new fibers, trying on samples and chatting with friendly vendors.

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I was really excited to see that Nordiske Masker was there.  I first met them several years ago at the  Faroe Island Knitting Festival.   At that festival, I fell in love with their asymmetrical motorcycle jacket finished with copper zippers and, even though I do not speak or understand Danish, I purchased a kit.  I figured google translate would come to my rescue.  Fortunately, the wonderful Ravelry community of Danish-speaking knitters helped me tremendously and I managed to knit the jacket.  Although I finished my jacket without the additional attachments, whenever I wear it, people ask me where I purchased it.  After I answer “I made it.” I enjoy seeing the look of surprise on their faces. All knitters or artisans who create with their hands can probably relate to how great it feels to say that.

IMG_4080.jpgIn Fanø, I noticed that Nordiske Masker’s kits are still only available in Danish, but even if you do not understand Danish, I highly recommend their kits.  Beautiful designs and luxurious natural fibers await you.  One of my friends purchased the same jacket kit I knitted.  She needs me to help her with hers; I hope I can find my old notes and recall what I did.  Although I wanted to purchase one of their new tunic kits, I found the small size a tad too big for me.  If I were a more advanced knitter, I could probably decrease the size, but the thought of modifying a pattern that is already in a foreign language requires more effort than I was willing to commit.  I wish more designers would consider the smaller-sized knitters when they write patterns only in small, medium and large.  This seems to be the norm with Scandinavian designs, but we knitters do not all fit into just one of three generic sizes.

The vendor that attracted me the most and to whom I returned each day was g-uld, a Danish plant-based hand dyer.  You can see some of their natural colors below. I think the woman’s sweater may have been knitted with their yarn. Doesn’t her sweater seem to match the skeins on the middle shelf?

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I made my own kits for several of their shawls (the green-gold color was screaming my name).  Chatting with one of their friendly helpers whilst paying for my purchases, I learned that G-uld will be participating in the Oslo Knitting Festival in October. Hmmm…I wonder what my schedule looks like in October…Could I finish this shawl by then?

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What I enjoy about traveling to knitting festivals, aside from the obvious “yarn porn”, is the opportunity to connect with other fiber folks and to share our passion for all things fiber related.  Whether it’s chatting with a Danish gentleman from Roskilde who sold me some beautiful Japanese bamboo knitting needles (not that I need more knitting needles) or chatting with Di Gilpin about her soft Scottish lambswool or her cute Coda hat, which I plan to knit, there’s always plenty of incredible inspiration, oodles of ooh-ing and ahhing, and something new to learn.

On this trip, I learned that all Danes speak perfect English, even if they confess that they don’t (however, I wish more Danish designers would translate their patterns into English). They knit with beautiful, natural fibers rather than the ubiquitous ‘superwash’ (acid-killed) yarns that knitters in other lands prefer.  The Danish designers sell their patterns in kits or books rather than on Ravelry or as single patterns.  And the Danes seem to love David Hasselhoff.  Another knitter? Am I the only person who didn’t know this?

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Fancy dressing Angels?

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When I saw the long line of people wrapped around the block, I naturally thought they were waiting for entry into one of the theaters that attract visitors to the Covent Garden area of London. However, as I rounded the block and did not see any Theatre marquee, I asked my local friend, “What are those people in line for?” Without even looking at the line, she quickly replied, “Angels, the fancy dress shop.” “Fancy dress shop?” I inquired. “Yes, for tomorrow.” she replied. “For tomorrow?” And then I realized what she meant: Halloween. Fancy dress must be a British term for costume. When we got closer to the storefront, I saw that, indeed the shop housed several floors of costumes, wigs, etc… It looked bigger than any costume shop I had ever seen in my life and I wanted to explore it, however, given the long line or ‘queue’ (as the Brits say), I made a mental note to swing by another day, perhaps after this Halloween and before the next.

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If you are in London and looking for costumes, Angels may be the perfect place to check out.
Angels Fancydress

Cool and thought-provoking way to start the day…

A good friend of mine sent me this link, which was a refreshing way to start my morning.

Wolves Introduced to Yellowstone with surprising results

As I watched this little clip, my morning brain was still fuzzy but I couldn’t resist the random thoughts and questions that floated here and there…

What would the deer and elk supporters say about this?
Why are wolf howls so hauntingly beautiful?
How does Nature know how to rebalance herself and why does it seem as if humans have forgotten that basic skill?
How does the wolf population affect any farmers or other livestock dependent families near Yellowstone?
What happens after balance is achieved? Who or what will tip the scale next, because as THEY often say, “Mother nature can’t leave well enough alone….’

Taking care in Rome, Hanoi and…

Take care in Rome, Hanoi and...

Trying to cross a road in Rome, where vehicular traffic streamed endlessly from all directions, I remember observing other pedestrians who boldly ran halfway across the street, frantically looking all around, only to retreat back to where they had started, when they suddenly realized they could not reach the other side of the road without getting hit. I looked for another way to get across the street, but there were no other options: no crosswalk, no overhead sidewalk (laughable, I know), no nothing. Like everybody else, I hesitated and then focused my attention on finding a suitable gap in the flow. Unfortunately, all the Italians racing motorized vehicles seemed to be in a hurry to get somewhere. Quite the opposite for the Italians sitting in cafes, sipping their wine, chatting with their neighbors, laughing at the foreigners trying to cross the road. They appeared happy to just sit and observe life. I wanted to get over to their side of the road. But how?

Crossing the road in Rome, Hanoi, or any other big city with scant semblance of order or structural enforcement can be intimidating or even deadly for even the most bravest of adventure seekers. There is something unsettling about imagining our flesh going up against man-made machines going at accelerated speeds. It’s not an inviting feeling, and it certainly didn’t entice me to step off the sidewalk almost 16 years ago. But, because I HAD to cross the road, I did the only think I could, without thinking further, I just willed my body forward and took a bold step off the sidewalk and into the suicidal stream of sacriledge. I focused my attention directly in front of me, trying to keep my tremendous fear at bay. The whizzing of Vespas and motorcycles around me blew my long hair every which way, but even when strangled strands of hair blocked my view, I maintained my steady and determined gait with no hesitation, and by putting one foot in front of the other, I reached the other side unscathed.

What I learned, on that day in Rome, was to stop trying to control things that I could not control. Rather than trying to calculate the best ‘gap’ in the frantic chaos of too-many-cappuccino-induced drivers, I just became part of it. After I succumbed to the chaos and let myself go, I just went with the flow. Amazingly, the Vespa drivers, the motorcyclists, and the cabbies all modulated their speeds, their accelerations and their maneuvers to avoid hitting me. Wow!

Can this method also be applied to other crossroads in our lives? Is it better to simply let go and take the first step, then to worry, over analyze, plan to death, or procrastinate? Is letting go better even when we have no clear direction or goal in mind?

Takin care in Rome, Hanoi and…

She’s got balls! I wish I could do that!

She's got balls!  I wish I could do that!

Living in a city offers opportunities to see things that one would rarely spot in a small town or village. As I ventured to the store to pick up some fresh milk, the exotic sounds of belly-dance beats bounced off the Zeil and lured me into its trance. As I followed the rhythms to the heart of the street, I noticed a well-endowed “woman” with belly-dance bells over her flirty skirt entertaining the crowd with her dramatic hip actions. All the shoppers, also lured by the sounds and scene, broke from their consumer frenzy to enjoy the surprising scene.

The first thought that sprang to my mind was, “Wow! She’s got balls! I could never belly dance in front of a growing group of strangers, let alone in front of my friends.” Apparently, I was not the only one piqued. A squat man in a red-striped shirt that stretched over his rotund stomach focused his eyes only on her. He sprang into action, twirling, teasingly strutting his stuff, and sashaying his body to her. The crowd cheered in excitement by clapping and hooting, encouraging them both. We all stood rooted to our places, enjoying the performance, until the band eventually ended their gig and the two dancers went their separate ways.

Still mesmerized, with bewildering thoughts going through my head, I started my journey home only to realize, when I was climbing back up the stairs to the flat, that I had forgotten to buy the milk. Doh! But then I realized “Who needs milk or substances when street performers provide nourishment and remind us of what it means to be alive and free to be who we are.” Would you ever see a performance like that in a small little town? I didn’t think so.

She’s got balls! I wish I could do that!

Better think twice about lighting up…at least in Singapore

Better think twice about lighting up

I remember my rucksack trips through Europe, back in the smoke-filled days of the ’90s, when it seemed as if EVERYBODY smoked EVERYWHERE. Now most buildings, restaurants and even bars ban smoking in many of the European countries. Much of Asia, however, reeks of smoke, as U.S. tobacco companies have shifted their aggressive marketing campaigns from here to there.

I can’t remember exactly where I took this photo (my memory must be affected from all that second-hand smoke I inhaled from too many rock concerts in my youth), but its hefty fine – 1,000SGD- identifies it easily: Singapore. Smokers beware: Lighting up in Singapore can be very expensive.

In light of the recent smoke-related news, the legalization of marijuana in several U.S. states, it will be interesting to see what the next generations decide about the decisions made today. Will marijuana smoking also become a fading fad as future generations discover something we do not yet know or understand, or will it gain more substance and last longer than the Mona Lisa’s smile?

Better think twice about lighting up…at least in Singapore