One skein

This is what Annalisa and Borboleta got me for my birthday.

It’s funny to think about the fact that they went to one of the oldest craft shops in Madrid. This shop celebrated their 100 anniversary this year so I’m not lying when I say that it’s old. The site pictures were clearly made with the shop closed because on a normal day you can’t even walk in there. It’s like a village market but with buttons and ribbons and wool and anything you can imagine. But it’s normally so crowded that I only go there when I need something that I can’t find anywhere else, because my friends, they have EVERYTHING.

So they went to this crazy shop, struggled with all the queues and unfriendly employees, and bought me this without having any idea at all about wool or knitting. I’m having fun just at imagining them there 🙂

I loved the present, they way they thought what I would like. But what they don’t know is that I always have problems to find projects when I just have one skein of non-sock yarn. Luckily we have Ravelry for this kind of problems. Searching in groups I found the following that could help us here:

We also have to option of advanced search.

Ravelry_search_1Apart from the usual filters we normally use to just look for a kind of garment, we can also introduce parameters like yardage or meterage.Ravelry_search_2Ravelry_search_5 Ravelry_search_3And we can also introduce a weight or needle size.Ravelry_search_4 Ravelry_search_6Et voilà! You have a much shorter list to browse.

Ravelry_search_7

You can also apply more filters. If you don’t want to spend your money on a pattern you can go for free ones. I use the Purchase Online or Ravelry Downloads since I don’t normally have printed patterns.

Ravelry_search_8What about you? Which filters do you normally use?

Completed: The Brasilia Dress

Some time ago, when Rachel of HouseOfPinheiro requested some testers for her new pattern I joined in without thinking about all the projects I had in mind and the little time I normally have. Because this dress is beautiful. With elegant lines that hug the body one can’t help but feel classy in it. When I was trying it last week to ask for Koen’s opinion, he said that it would be good for a Sci-Fi convention. I guess that those diagonal lines plus the grey color give it a bit of a Sci-Fi flavor. That and the light reflecting on my tummy. The days are getting short and taking pictures with natural light is becoming more and more difficult, and when we get it, it could be sometimes too much, like in this case. I apologize, we had a very sunny day (Madrid Winters are sunny and beautiful, but also very cold).

I had to adapt the pattern to my measurements, quite different from Rachel’s (bust: 88 cm; waist: 67 cm; hip: 98 cm), do an FBA (for a B cup) and a slopping shoulders alteration. For the resizing I used the slice and tuck (or spread) method described in zillions of places, but I checked the Colette sewing book just in case. The FBA of this pattern is a bit special due to the bodice structure and the placement of the darts, but even though it didn’t pose any problems. I used my personal pattern blocks to compare dimensions during the process and I have to say that it sped things quite a bit. I had to shorten the bodice by 3 cm (Rachel is sooo tall) but I left the original hem length (I don’t look good in mini-skirts).

What I’m not very happy about is the fabric I used. The weight and elasticity are fine. For this project I would recommend a fabric with a little bit of elasticity so that it hugs the body, but I guess a regular cotton should work also fine. I wouldn’t recommend a knit fabric, since some structure is needed. When I complain about my fabric I don’t mean that it behaves wrongly. It doesn’t if you don’t disturb it. But I have to say that after prewashing it I notice some shrinkage when pressing it. It’s a polycotton with more poly than cotton I’m afraid, that I had leftover from Koen’s cosplay pants. It doesn’t press well, and if you insist it starts shrinking irregularly (even without steam). Therefore you can see some wrinkles especially on the front where I wanted to “tame” my seams. The skirt would need a good press but I was afraid of what could happen. I think I’m going to wash this again and see how it comes out.

I finished the neckline and armholes with bias tape but you could also apply facings. I was just a bit lazy and short of time, and anyway it looks fine like this.

I have to say that before making it I liked this dress, but now that I’ve made it I absolutely love it. You had to see my face the first time I tried on my muslin. I was amazed. The bodice lines are so flattering, and the side pieces create the illusion of having a wasp waist. Congrats, Rachel, and thanks a lot for allowing me to test this. I love this design and I’ll make it again with some better fabric.

Birthday and a give away

Today is my birthday. It’s been a long time since I have celebrated it, and the total of times that I did can be counted with the fingers of a hand. I dislike being the center of attention and I always prefer very small groups of… two rather than larger ones where I only feel lost and small. But this year was different. I know that we all have psychological barriers that we should overcome, and I knew this was one of mine. So I’ve decided this year to celebrate it with a small group of friends. I was quite stressed just before, I wanted everybody to feel fine and not obligated to come, but in the end it paid off. We were six (we missed one because he was out of town) and we had a nice and fun time together.

We went for dinner to a friend’s burger and then we went for a drink. After that two left because they leave outside Madrid, and the rest of us decided to go to a rock bar to dance. It was the third time for Koen and me there, and like the previous two times we danced some rock’n’roll and lindy-hop, and like the other two times, the DJ started an applause that extended to the rest of the bar. Weird and funny 🙂 I just wished it was Summer to wear a nice 40’s or 50’s dress for the occasion. But it was quite cold. We reached 3ºC (around 37ºF).

But the best of all was Koen. When we arrived home he came to me with some carefully wrapped presents in a beautiful paper (he used to be not very good at wrapping but he improved a LOT):

The Complete Photo Guide to Perfect Fitting.

Embroidery scissors, 5” craft scissors and dressmaker shears.

And the last one was so Koen-like: A scissors sharpening stone!

And I say that this is very Koen-like because lately Koen is very much into cut-throat razors. We are a bit of a vintage couple (when me met we discovered that both of us collected old radios and loved rock’n’roll music) and for already some months Koen ‘s been buying any cut-throat razor that he found in a decent state to restore it. He spends hours sharpening and stropping them and he even has different stones to do it. You can see us any evening watching a good TV show, while I knit and he sharpens. I know, we can be a weird couple 😉

But the best was the card that came with the presents. He wrote the most beautiful and thoughtful message anyone has ever written to me. He claims that he’s not very good with words, but he surpassed any poet with what he wrote. I’m so happy and so lucky that I could explode.

And as this weekend I’m all about breaking barriers and taking initiatives I want to organize a give away. All you have to do is leave a comment on this post and the winner will get a pattern of choice up to $10 from Ravelry. Since this is just for downloadable patterns, this contest is open worldwide. It will be open for one week, until November 24th at midnight. Good luck!

Testing for Andi again

Some time ago, Andi Satterlund showed us this gorgeous sweater which immediately caught my eye.

Very recently she requested pattern testers for it and I didn’t mind that I needed to knit two baby cardigans, sew a hoodie for my niece or test a sewing pattern. I also didn’t mind that the deadline was a bit close and that I’m not specially fast at knitting lace. No, I didn’t mind at all because I believed in this project and I wanted to make it mine.

So I bought some wool and alpaca blend that feels soft and squishy and warm, and I started knitting. This lace pattern is extremely easy and I’ve made just two minor mistakes that I fixed on the spot. Yay for easy lace!

I love the pattern and the color of this yarn. I can’t wait to get it finished.

Estelcon 2013

Yes, I’m still alive and still trying to recover from the past couple of weeks, during which a lot has happened, a lot was sewn, knitted, and I even got the time to get a new capoeira corda and to get ill twice. But this post is just about that Tolkien Society convention I’d previously mentioned. I wanted to write a couple of updates already before but in the frenzy of sewing and trying to finish our costumes I didn’t even find enough time to sleep enough (just to get ill, ha, apparently we always find time for that).

This was me just in the evening three days before leaving for the convention. As you can see I still need to attach one sleeve, finish and attach both oversleeves, sew some “silvery” details and hem the skirt. As I didn’t have a lot of time I decided to be “creative” and convert the muslin I’d previously made to lining. It’s cotton batiste, so the inside feels nice.

Please don’t look at all the clutter and rubbish around. I promise I put that silvery fabric away at the end of that evening.

Once I got the sleeves attached to the bodice I realized that attaching the oversleeves was going to be more complicated than I thought (yes, I was not very awake and the antibiotics didn’t help), because once the sleeves are sewn, how do you machine stitch something over it. Yes, my dreaded loathed simple technique: hand sewing. To keep the top from fraying I zig-zagged both lawyers and sewed it by hand while watching some Doctor Who Confidential. If I have to hand sew, at least I need to do it with something pleasant.

After attaching the oversleeves I machine sewed some silvery braids to conceal the join.

I am not sure if I’ve already mentioned it. I drafted the bodice using my personal block and I drafted the bottom using the Lonsdale skirt. I then modified it to remove the front seam, inserted eight pleats (four on the front and four on the back) and lengthened it. Now that I think of it, Cynthia’s dress didn’t have pleats, but when I was working on it I though it had. They give it a nice touch though. Matching them with the seams was extra work, but I think it makes the whole dress a little bit nicer (I prefer to think that since I realized about this too late).

I ran into the same issues as Cynthia due to the low neckline, and off course, I solved them in the same way as you can see.

Well, that was me finishing my dress, but I still had to make a little pouch for Koen and narrow his pants. This last think never got to happen. At least, in my illness, I had to skip a couple of classes, so that meant more sewing hours. Thanks to that I could complete almost everything in time.

The convention was in a village close to Barcelona, and we had a whole monastery for ourselves. The only downsides were the food, the rooms and the extreme cold. This picture was taken the last day we were there, after everything was cleaned up so the only thing you can see from the convention are the flags. It had been quite windy the night before.

There were multiple activities: a live role playing game, a tales reading, a musical with Queen songs adapted to Tolkien’s world, conferences, and writing workshops. We watched the movie Born of Hope, available on YouTube and Kate Maddison, the director was invited to give a talk. She also acted in the movie and later on she came dressed with the same clothes used when filming. At the end of the talk Koen and I were talking a bit with her, since I was curious about this whole subject due to my past working in the audiovisual sector. She’s working now on a new fantasy series for the web that looks very promising: Ren the series.

At the convention here were also workshops for the little ones. Some people have been attending this convention for years, starting when they were teenagers and now they bring their families with them. One of them was a girl nicknamed Goldberry. We met (over the internet) around 15 years ago, when I first heard of this Tolkien society and I was young. As I’ve already explained, I’ve planned to come then and I even bough some beautiful blue fabric to make a dress for the occasion. At the end it never happened, but while I was still convinced that I was going to make it I was in contact by email with this person. She could hold the title of Costumes commissioner if she wanted, because she helped so many people with tutorials and explanations. I think almost every single member of the society has made a cape based on her tutorial. She spent a lot of time with me, helping me to design a dress and she even made a tutorial especially for me based on a dress her grandmother had made for her many years ago. She even was so kind to send me that dress by mail so that I could see how it was built. And all that without really knowing, without meeting me in person a single time.

That’s why it was so special for me to see her in real life for the first time and meet her husband (her boyfriend back then) and their two sons. and we got a picture together to remember those years already past. She had the most stunning dresses and robes and I think she managed to wear like two different dresses each day. Off course her husband and sons were also appropriately dressed.

Then we got our picture with Kate, the director of Born of Hope. She was wearing here the same clothes she was wearing in the movie, that hadn’t been worn since then.

Here you can see more people at dinner. Those in the center were part of the organizers team.

And here you can see Kate again and also Goldberry with her oldest son ready to watch one of the convention traditions: the flans race.

As soon as Koen saw the flans and before really knowing the goal of the game, he said: “I would be good at that”. So when they asked for participants he had to be there.

This is one of the few pictures I have from the back of the dress. It’s not a great photo but I had to include it since it’s the best of them. I have to say that I got compliments from several people about the dress and the chain used as a belt. One came from the same Goldberry and value it immensely.

And now a couple of pictures to show several details that we forgot to shot during dinner, and also the dorms, which had 5 bunks each one. These two pictures are not very good (the first is indeed quite bad) but each one has something that I wanted to show you.

It was freaking cold in there. The past weekend the temperatures dropped considerably and we were at the mountains. With those enormous sleeves there was no way I could wear a normal sweater so the Thick Chill designed by Teresa Gregorio saved me big time.

I also wore the cape that I made 15 years ago following Goldberry’s instructions. It’s not great and as it’s made of elastic velvet so it doesn’t really drape uniformly, but the brooch is beautiful and I’m very fond of it. Sadly it was not really suited to those low temperatures and I had to wear the Thich Chill, my coat and the cape to go to the restaurant. And not only that, because people, I’m going to confess something here. As I’m not used to wear dresses in Winter and we’d prepared our bagage in a hurry, I didn’t pack tights with me, and again, it was freaking cold. So, even if you don’t see it, and only Koen knew, I was wearing my trousers underneath, my Thurlows to be more precise 😀

You can see Koen here after dinner (around 3 pm and very tired) without his vest. It’s the only picture I have where you can see the front cord. He’s in fact hiding our toothbrushes behind his back.

As I’ve said before the hardest parts of this convention for me were the extreme cold and humidity. I’m very allergic to dust-mites and have asthma, and I had lots of breathing problems all day long, especially in the dining hall (not the restaurant where we had the special dinner), the theater and the dorms. My asthma inhaler was my best friend during those days and if it wasn’t for that it would have been an almost perfect weekend. Because of that it was difficult to get enough sleep and in the mornings we were woken up with the sound of a blowing horn. Something like this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVbEswv6TVg

Another problem we had was that, as we were using common showers, some clothes got lost. Koen came out of the shower just to find that his clean t-shirt and underwear were gone. He had to come back to the dorm with just his towel and he was lucky that he had prepared an extra set of clothes just in case (he got dirty or sweaty).

We were quite tired most of the time due to being sleep deprived, but we had anyway lots of fun.

You can see our costumes here. Koen’s t-shirt is based in the Strathcona Henley and his pants in the Jedediah Pants. He chose the fabrics himself and you don’t want to see my face when he chose a knit fabric to make a warrior shirt. He wanted to be a plain warrior so he dismissed any thought about capes or ornaments.

About my dress I would say that the fit is quite good, although you can see some wrinkles here and there. I guess that with a little bit more of time I could have come with something a bit better, but I’m very pleased with what I made in very little time. In hindsight I could have lowered the waist one or two inches, I could have adjusted the neckline better and shorten the skirt by an inch, since walking was a bit difficult with this length. I used almost all the fabric I had bought 15 years ago and I’m very happy to have found finally a good use for it quite similar to the one I initially thought for it.

More pictures on my Flickr.