Slowly emerging from the darkness and lots of changes

I’m alive, although I don’t know if I can say the same about this blog, or other aspects of my life for that matter. My life stopped in April and I’m still trying to take the reigns of it. I still don’t have a definitive diagnostic about what’s wrong with me (I’ll know more next week) but I guess it’s a mix between a severe oral allergy syndrome and histamine intolerance. Around April my life started to be unbearable, I started my peregrination to many different doctors and all this took a heavy toll. Since these two conditions are not very well known and not very well investigated, I started to read, study and soak any related information, which consumed all my energies. All my efforts were focused on knowing what is wrong with me, how to improve it, talking to people with similar issues, visiting doctors, working on my diet. Being ill is a full time job, leaving no energies or time for anything else. I kept doing my job thanks to being extremely lucky and being able to work from home. Otherwise I don’t know how I would have been able to manage. I can’t eat outside. I need to prepare all my meals from scratch, avoiding what is normal and healthy for most people, even spices. I need to know and control all the ingredients in everything I eat to avoid allergic reactions and feeling miserable the day after. And I need very fresh food. I have to avoid all fruits and most vegetables due to my oral allergy syndrome, cereals and potatoes are also out for the same reason, gluten makes me extremely tired and dairy gives me a horrible congestion the same day and even more the day after. And then the eggs. Eating eggs gives me a horrible migraine the day after. Sometimes I don’t get the migraine, but I feel like I have the worst hangover ever, not being able to think or drag my miserable body around our apartment. At least I’m starting to know my triggers and I have to say that my oral allergy has improved a little bit, meaning that my lips and throat are not swelling with every meal I have. Now it’s usually just my lips once or twice a day. That is helping with avoiding losing more weight. Two weeks ago I went to a Mastocytosis research center and my weight was 44.9 Kg. Today it’s almost 46 and I’m not feeling like I’m going to faint if I need to walk somewhere.

Unlike it’s mentioned in “the Fault in our Stars” (read the book, didn’t watch the movie), Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is true, at least for me. I was (am) so busy reading about these diseases that I abandoned all the rest. I stopped knitting in part because of the horrible eczema I have between my fingers (partly due to my allergies, partly due to the medication), then I stopped sewing too. The last makes were a Lady Skater dress, a pair of Prefontaine shorts and a Soma bikini.

I have cut another Lady Skater that I didn’t bring myself to sew. My body has changed a lot since all this started. I think I’ve lost like almost 10 Kg and I don’t know how it will be in the next future. Part of my weight was due to the muscle I got practicing capoeira and I know that I will probably never be able to practice again, at least with the same intensity. In hinder sight, probably the intensity of it has worsened my histamine intolerance. Anyway, I just don’t know where I’m headed. I had a plan of making a pair of shorts for Koen using the Jedediah pants pattern I used last year, but then other things got in the way.


When all this started, when I still had the hope that I was going to get over it quite fast, we decided that this summer we deserved a treat. We wanted to travel again, not very far, not very costly, but just spending some days somewhere else. We rented an apartment for 6 days in August  in Lanzarote and hoped for the best. Koen has been complaining a bit for a while about our apartment, just because it’s too small and how wonderful it would be to have an apartment with a terrace and a guest room. And after checking online for some weeks we finally found a lovely place. But it was at the wrong time. Just before Koen had to spend a week in Denver to attend a congress and a week after we had our vacation in Lanzarote. And as I’ve said before, being ill is a full-time job and a vacation in thiese conditions is not a vacation. That week I lost more than one kilo and I spent quite some time reading and starving.

And Koen was offered a new contract and I had also mine renewed. And if we wanted the apartment, we had to take it at that precise moment, with no time to think carefully because we were in a waiting list and more people were behind us. We moved in one month ago, but with all this, there’s still a lot of work to do here. It’s in a very old building but the apartment has been renovated and it has a wonderful terrace. When we first arrived it was a bit frustrating, since half of the plants were dead and we discovered several surprises, like a problem with the washing machine pipe, the oven door, or the upstairs neighbor being too friendly with pigeons, and the consequent “presents” we get each morning from them. The word to describe the state we found the terrace is decadent. Dead plants, pigeon drops, a broken hose. But the place has quite some charm and it has lots of possibilities. It also means that  there’s a lot of work to be done and while it helps me to feel motivated, sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming.

Anyhow, we have a lot more place than before, so I hope I can start sewing again soon. Other good thing of it is that we can invite friends home and that will help me to get part of my social life back. Our previous apartment was very small and we haven’t gone out for several months. No dinners or drinks outside.

I haven’t even read sewing or knitting blogs during these past months, I even abandoned instagram most of the time, but yesterday evening I found myself checking a couple of blogs again. I think the worst is over and I will have my life back soon.

There have been also some changes in the feathery department. Gerry was a bit stressed the first days after the move but he’s enjoying now the fact that he has a lot more space, and one of the windows in the living room has become his favorite spot from where he has a nice view of the square in front of our building.

And do you remember Leslie? The Gouldian finch I found on the street almost two months ago?

He came in a pretty bad state, very hungry and distressed. His health improved but still his behavior was not the one of a happy bird. After a month of trying to find his previous owners with no luck, we decided to give him a girlfriend, and two weeks later Sally came home. You can see that both look very healthy and active, they eat very well, Leslie sings and they seem quite happy together.

P.S.: I haven’t danced in ages. I miss it so much… I hope I can do it again soon…

Paula and her bathing suit

Do you remember the bathing suit I made for the swimsuit sewalong?

During my stay in Vigo I could finally make some pictures of Paula modelling it. The weather was quite bad during the two weeks I spent there, being cold and foggy most of the time, but I managed to go to the beach on two occasions: the first was on the Wednesday of the first week, on which we went to the Cies Islands with Koen’s parents; the second was the day right before I came back, and it’s when I took these pictures. I apology for the quality, since I seldom carry my DSLR with me to the beach (afraid of sand and sea water) unless I clearly intend to make pictures, and at this point I was so tired that I completely forgot about this bathing suit.

These are my sister (left), my mother and my niece Paula. She’s carrying her white pony; and we are walking to a place on the rocks between my mother’s two favorite beaches.

Paula is such a clever and funny girl, and she first delighted us with some singing and dancing:

When Koen’s parents were visiting she demonstrated them her gymnastic abilities and how she can count to ten in English! She also knows the colors in English since some months ago, and she’s just three and a half! Smartass!

And here some shots of the bathingsuit in action.

And here, in a completely unrelated note, my bikini. This picture was taken during our trip to Valencia, but was lost and forgotten in my cellphone. I think now it’s the time to share it with you.

As you can see the sand is different in Valencia, thinner and darker. You cannot see the sea but it’s also quite different. Used to tides in the Atlantic, it’s amazing to see how people place their towels just at the border of the sea line. I know that there are no tides in the Mediterranean, but knowing the fact doesn’t stop me from being amazed at seeing it.

And here a last picture of the Atlantic Ocean and my dear Bay of Vigo.



Starting the test

After a couple of months not knitting on a daily basis, today I’ve decided to start the pattern test for Andi. I received my wool this week and today we are leaving on a weekend trip to Valencia. The train there takes slightly longer than 90 minutes, so I think I will make some progress. I cast on yesterday evening, counted the stitches four times (I think I was getting sleepy) and knitted two rows. I always need to go down two needle sizes instead of one because when ribbing I use Norwegian purl.

This project has almost the same gauge as Émilien, so I’m skipping that step and plunging ahead. My iPod is full of rock’n’roll music and knitting podcasts and our baggage is almost ready. I’m planning to wear my new bikini for the first time. That will be another test to see if I need to make any mods for the other one.

I love Madrid and its weather, and it would be perfect if it had a beach (well, there’s one at the river, but that’s not a beach BEACH). I always lived by the sea. Well, until I left for Belgium 7 years ago (I should stop thinking I live my whole life in Vigo), and even I was not a beach aficionado, I miss it sometimes. It’s very relieving to walk on the sand after a hard day at work. We’ve never been at Valencia before, but I’m sure we’re going to have a great time there. We don’t ask for much: sun, sea, sand and nice views for a couple of days.

A bikini muslin

Last weekend I finally decided to start working on a bikini. I bought half a meter of two beautiful fabrics (a nice one to make afirst attempt or muslin and a nicer one to make a second  and definitive bikini) and a meter of a fleshed color bathing suit lining. The bathing suit fabrics were on sale at less than €5 a meter and the lining at €6.50.

As I enjoy making my own patterns and it is sometimes the best way to make something that matches your measurements, I followed the instructions described at the Pattern School. I traced first the bottom part of the one piece block and then I started to make the modifications to transform it into cheeky shorts. The patterns looked big on the paper, but I cut the fabric anyway, because in my experience patterns tend to look large when in fact they are not, especially after adding the seam allowances. But the result didn’t work. At all. It didn’t come large, it came huge. I thought of trimming 3 cm from each side but anyway I was not totally happy with how it fitted, so I decided to make my second option, that pattern so much pinned on Pinterest.

I was not completely convinced by the picture since the bottoms looked a bit floppy on the front (to my liking, eh). But after my  completely failure I made the pattern for the bottom without almost any modification. I omitted the front elastic, so I modified the waist front to be completely straight instead of curved upwards to compensate for the elastic placement. I thought of making it a bit higher on the waist, but hey, better to try this one, treat this bikini as a muslin and make the correct modifications for the second bikini.

I had some issues sewing the lycra. I used my walking foot and a stretch needle and, after a bit of fiddling, it was mostly ok, but the real problem came when I had to stitch through the lycra and the elastic (I used bathing suit rubber, the one that smells like new bathing suits). I had a lot of tension issues. Take the bobbin out, make sure everything is fine, put the bobbin in, try with a scrap of fabric, take the bobbin out again, and like this to the infinite and beyond. I changed the waist, placing the elastic in between both fabrics. I don’t know if I really prefer this. I’m still not sure what I’ll do next time. I also didn’t use a different thread for the bobbin and the inside of my waist looks shabby, but it’s just a muslin and nobody is going to see the inside.

I tried to use my twin needles for that part and also for the leg openings, as a finishing, instead of using a zig-zag, but it came wrong. I blame the needles for not being stretch but regular ones, for they kept on skipping stitches. I gave up and made a zig-zag, which looks better than I expected.

For the top I decided to continue with the same pattern. The truth is that I felt lazy to trace the pattern after the fail for the bottom, and I thought I could play a bit with the shape of the already made pattern to adjust it to my preference. I traced my pattern using those instructions and my measurements and I made my first modification. I reduced the sides from 10 cm to 8. Ten seemed a bit too much for my liking and I was right, this mod is not one that I regret.

The other modifications were made along the way, adjusting here and there if I didn’t like the fitting. A clear one was the total length of the top. The fitting was wrong, too loose on my body, so I trimmed one inch from each end. Much better. I tried it once again and the front didn’t convince me at all. It looked floppy, handmade, loose. So instead of having the elastic just at the half  top part, I placed it along the complete front, from top to bottom. Like that it seems to hold my breast much better. Even like that it was like there was something missing to make it complete. After some thought I cut a stripe of fabric of 10 cm x 50 cm with pointy ends, folded it length-wise and stitched along the edge, leaving a gap at the middle. I trimmed a bit the seam allowances and turned it inside-out. I tied this around the middle part of my top with a double knot. Now, this looks much better!

I also made mistakes in my execution, but as this is just a muslin for a second bikini I don’t mind too much. We also need to learn, and for sure we do it from our mistakes.

  • The thread I used for the inside was not the best choice. The main fabric is grey so I’ve used that color thread (in fact it was a leftover from my Thurlows), but it looks bad on the inside. I could have avoided that by placing the lining in the way the pattern described (like for the leg openings), but doing that I don’t know how comfortable it would feel on my waist skin. I still have mixed feelings about that. I will have to wear this bikini a couple of times to be able to make a decision.
  • When following the instructions for the top elastic for the top I cut two pieces for the top of the cups instead for the whole half, so I had to place a new piece of elastic for the the side afterwards, and doing that I think I’ve lost some structure. At the end the top had a bit of gaping on the front top. That I partially fixed by placing the elastic from top to bottom, but for the next bikini I should probably think of making that top elastic shorter, like how I mean to do for the leg openings.

After making this muslin, I know I will definitely wear it before making my second bikini. In part to test it, but also because I like how it came out. Off course I’ll make some mods for the next one, and for now, they will be:

  • The vertical elastic for the top running completely from top to bottom;
  • I’ll make a ribbon again, it looks cute and and with that pink and white ginghan fabric it will be super cute;
  • Shorten the elastic on the leg openings to avoid gaping and rolling;
  • Tweak a bit the back shape of bottoms on the leg openings.

After some wears I’m sure I’ll come up with new modifications. I’ll let you know.

Bikinis are for Summer

I got an invitation to attend a course about making a bikini. I have to say that for months I was silently ruminating on the idea of making my own bikini. The one from last year (and the year before) is about to break (anytime I see it I picture myself loosing the bottom in front of everybody, what a nightmare!) and the previous one is not better than a saggy bag. But the 60 euros of the course is a lot of money. Off course it’s always nice to attend those courses, not only because you usually meet great people, but it’s also  always desirable to support independent designers and teachers. But still, that’s a lot of money that I could use to buy more fabric and wonderful yarn for my next project.

I recently learned how to sew with knit fabrics, the pattern school has wonderful resources and half a meter of fabric costs around 5 euros. And off course there are plenty of free tutorials on internet, like this one.

Pattern School resources: