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…

Impasse

Those of you who follow me on Instagram already know that I broke my nose last week during Capoeira class. What you don’t know is that it’s been on my nerves since then. It’s like that queasy feeling you have when you suffer PMS, which causes everything to be wrong but you can’t put your finger in. As a broken nose takes one month to heal I cannot practice capoeira or dance until then, and as I haven’t done any of those things during Christmas, I think I’m accumulating some stress that had those escape valves before (yes, I got my nose broken during the first class after Christmas). You would think that I have more time to sew or do other things I like, but it’s not working. I have more time but very few times I can get hold of myself and really do it.

We are going to redecorate the living room in the coming weeks. I just hope that that gives me the energy that I’ve been lacking these days.

 

Also, as I work from home, I don’t have a lot of human contact during the day, and missing those two activities reduces the possibilities of seeing other human beings.

I miss capoeira, exercise and in a nutshell, my normal life.

To the infinity and beyond!

Last Saturday was the birthday of my friend Annalisa. We met unexpectedly in an activity that was not in my plans. Yes, we met in Capoeira class. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it here, but I started practicing Capoeira because I was in the need of some aerobic activity. I went to the gym 5 minutes from my place and tried, or better said, suffered a first and last spinning class (the one with the bike, ha) and Koen convinced me to try Capoeira, that was also available at the same gym. And I got hooked. I met Annalisa there. She missed a lot of classes but together we convinced each other to take things more seriously. I just wanted to move a bit, do some exercise, and found a friend and a great sport. We instantly connected. It doesn’t happen often, it could have been that we both are thirty-something and in the same wavelength.

She is from Italy and spent the weekend there with her family. There was class today but she not going because she’s just arrived from Italy and I’m not going because I’ve been feeling not very well lately. I’ll give it to her at the next class. I have an appointment with my allergist tomorrow morning, so I stopped taking my antihistaminics last week just in case we are doing some tests again. Just the day after stopping  taking the pills I started to feel a bit ill, but I don’t know whether it’s either a cold or just allergy. It’s kind of weird, since among all the allergies I have (no few) ragweed was not one of them. But what else could be at this time of the year in a dry place? It’s not only that I’m sneezing all the time and I have a running nose, but I’m having itches all over my body, and in one of the pictures below you can see a couple of wheals on my face. I’m having them over and over and sometimes my lower lip gets a bit swollen on the left side. Last night I woke up at 4 am with a horrible itch just were the ankle joins the foot. I had to get up to put some cream to calm it down.

I have made this infinity scarf for Annalisa for her birthday. I more or less followed this recipe but my rectangle measurements were 150 x 56 cm (30 cm shorter than the original). Since this cotton blend is a knit I used a narrow zig-zag stitch. At first I was going to use cotton voile, since it’s what most infinity scarf recipes recommend, but I found this wonderful lacy knit I couldn’t let it pass. And I confess it, I love blue.

As you can see, I’ve recently bought a remote for my camera. This is from Amazon and it was cheaper than the official for Nikon. It’s simple but it does exactly what it’s expected. A nice buy!

The elasticity of the knit fabric makes the scarf very comfortable and versatile, something I hadn’t thought of before, when I was thinking of using cotton voile. It’s also very soft and breathable, and since it’s elastic you can even easily fold it in three for extra coziness.

Even if I’m not showing a happy and convinced face here I definitely love it. Just mind me, I have itches everywhere, a running nose and a light headache.

Completed: My Nemesis Blouse (a Fall for Cotton project)

This project almost cost me my sewing mojo. September was in general a bad month and I’m still recovering from it. One of my problems is that I always have big plans, and as I’ve seen in past months that I could make four projects in a month, I wanted to make four blouses this September and present one of them to the Fall for Cotton. The blue puppies fabric was burning a hole in my stash and I needed to make something for it. As I thought it was going to be something fast I decided to dedicate the first week of the month to it. That first week I also worked and finish my Calimero. And then Koen left for Paris, work started to come in tons and everything went to hell. I blame for it the pattern but also the amount of work I’m having lately, leaving me exhausted to be able to accomplish anything afterwards. And yeah,  also being home alone leads to watching too many episodes of Doctor Who for my own good.

I wanted to make a couple of 1950s blouses and I had two beautiful fabrics for it. One of them was 100% cotton (bought at Telaria) so I decided to work with that one first to be able to finish in time for the Fall for Cotton. If the result was good, the plan was to make the same pattern again with the other fabric. Because you know, I could make four projects and I was going to have a lot of time to make both blouses and then something else. Ha, I can be so naive…

After browsing for patterns for a while I decided to get this blouse pattern from Embonpoint Vintage.

original_design

I thought of buying the McCalls 7378 that Zilredoloh made but I couldn’t find it anywhere, and I didn’t find any other pattern that I could get on time, so a PDF pattern was the best option I could have. In my innocence, I thought this pattern I chose was going to be something simple. A drafting method couldn’t be that difficult, since I’ve already drafted some patterns myself. And the description said something like:

This is not just a pattern, it’s a drafting system, so once you own this, you can draft yourself a pattern IN ANY SIZE (from a 20 inch bust to a 69 inch bust). Whether you want this garment for a doll or a plus-sized person you will be able to make this fit perfectly.

The drafting system is so simple a child could do it. There’s no complicated math, it is literally “Join the Dots”.

But it ended up being more complicated than I expected. It’s a similar method to the Lutterloh System. You get a ruler and using that, a measuring tape and the patterns in a very small size, you should be able to draft your final pattern on any size. After buying the pattern I wanted to see other finished projects with it, but found none. In fact I only found a couple of finished projects based on other patterns in the Facebook page of Embonpoint. I checked on Pattern Review and nothing, just a thread in the forum but no projects based in any of those patterns. That should have discouraged me, but you know, sometimes I’m so brave that I’m almost stupid. After fiddling for a couple of days with the pattern I couldn’t wrap my head around it so I sent a message to Omega to make sure that I got things right. After a couple of messages I got it all clear and started drafting (the part I hate most from sewing) and a week was gone. We were already in mid September. I tried drafting the pattern several times, but I couldn’t make it work. Basically you get all pattern pieces printed out on a page, so each piece is maximum 2 inches tall. There are some lines extending from those pieces and you just have to prolong them depending on your bust size. The problem is that the initial size is so small that it’s almost impossible not to introduce measuring and angle errors. I drafted the front bodice but the neckline looked weird even after trying several times, the length was a bit too short and the shape was definitely wrong.

After some more days ruminating (and stuck again) I decided to cheat completely on the method using digital tools from the 21st century, opposed to the ones of the 20th. This is what I did:

  • The pattern and instructions were several pages and I just needed the very page where the pattern was, so I used a PDF printer to have a pdf file of that page.
  • I imported that PDF file into Photoshop and place each pattern piece on a separate file. After measuring the pattern on paper and doing some calculations, I increased each file by 1100%. In order to print it in normal A4 paper I drew some lines and inserted the character ‘A’ to help me align the pieces after printing them out.

photoshop_sleeve

  • After printing those out, I put them together. As the lines were a bit thick and fuzzy I re-traced then with a black pen to make them sharp and added seam allowances.

  • I measured the pattern pieces again to make sure that they were going to match my body measurements. So far so good. Time to cut them out.

I have to say that this personal method worked for me but may not work for you. I’m also not sure what happens with the proportions when using the “conventional” method but your bust size is larger or smaller than let’s say my size (33″). I guess that in any case you have to be careful about the length and use the slash and spread method when necessary.

After making my first muslin I discovered that the shoulder was 3/4″ wider on the back piece than on the front. Weird, especially taking into account that the back piece was narrower than the front so I don’t think this was distorted. I checked the original image (the tiny one) and the same discrepancy was already there. C’mon, why do you have this kind of things in the original pattern? I changed the front pattern piece to make the shoulder match the back since this suited my shoulders better.

As you can see in this first muslin, the front is fine (it just needed longer tucks) but the back feels too tight, especially if I move my arms, so I needed to make a broad-back adjustment (too much Capoeira). After giving it a bit of thought I also made a sloping shoulders alteration (1/2″).

I ended up adding a couple of centimetres on each side and it turned out fine.

After trying my second muslin to make sure that my previous alterations were right (sorry, I got no pictures of this one), I tried the collar and saw that the collar piece was to large for the neckline. Weird, again. I trimmed a good two inches from each side and re-drafted the collar.

The tucks also needed alteration, since the blouse looked baggy on me (like the portrait blouse) so I lengthened them and made them narrower to be able to breath.

One thing to take into account when using these patterns is that you will find no notches or pattern pieces for the facings. You are on your own for most of the process. Drafting facings is easy, and you can always make a notch to match the middle of the collar with the middle point of the back piece, but for the rest you need to eyeball it, even for setting the sleeves in. Luckily this was not too difficult, since the sleeve cup was less than 2 inches longer than the armscye. For setting the sleeves in this post by Tasha of By Gum By Golly and this Youtube video were very helpful.

After the pattern was drafted and trued I cut my definite fabric and started constructing the blouse. I used French seams after the big success of the Blue Puppies Blouse (I’m never ever going to use another thing on blouses) and decided to give it another 50s touch by using a contrasting black fabric for the collar and the cuffs. I know that the finished garment looks like a 50s waitress outfit but I don’t mind. I like it like this. I imagined this blouse just with that light pink fabric and it stroked me as dull.

After placing the collar on the definitive blouse I understood that the neckline was too short for my neck. I should have seen that earlier and made the neckline bigger, since the collar looks a bit too short. It could have been that the original collar was just right, but then it didn’t match the original neckline. Weird stuff again. Anyway, I’m never going to wear this blouse completely closed so this mistake is something I can live with.

For the join of the sleeves and cuffs I used flat felled seems. I think it looks much neater than just joining them with a regular seam.

When cutting the collar pieces I trimmed 1/8” of the bottom piece outer edges to make the collar roll properly.

My finished blouse has two extra buttons at the bottom not present in the original design. I guess that if you just wear this with a high waisted skirt it’s just fine, but it just felt wrong being able to see my belly button when trying this blouse without tucking it inside my pants.

And talking about those buttons, making the buttonholes gave me more than a headache. It seems I didn’t get used to the 1-step buttonholes of my machine and I got them wrong many many times. If anybody could just give me a piece of advice I would really appreciate it.

The back is still a little bit baggy, but I guess you always have a bit of that when using tucks for shaping.

All in all, I like how this blouse came out. I’m not very happy with the collar since it’s a bit too short and I would have liked it to be more “evident” but for a first try and with no guidance from the pattern whatsoever I think it’s not too bad. Now I just wish I had also made a black pencil skirt or circle skirt to go with it. I guess it will be for next Spring, since the temperature here dropped quite a bit this weekend and I think Fall is here to stay.

I feel happy after having this blouse finished for good. The result is decent and I have learned a lot. It was a burden on me for the past three weeks and I’m finally free to go on with my life and work on other projects!

I think I’m just going to celebrate it with the one that was my happy song for a very long time.

Bunking off

Yes, I’ve done it. I had sewing class today and I decided that I was not going. My to do list this week is rather large. I thought that since I was home alone I could entertain myself by doing all those things, but it seems not working. I’ve postponed the drafting pf a pattern for three days, I skipped sewing class, I didn’t finish tiding up the living room, clean the bathroom, create a Ravelry group nor take pictures for the test knitting I finished on Saturday. What a disaster. I guess the PMS and the tons of work I had lately are not helping. Today I spent half an hour with my boss on the phone, four hours with some German customers and the rest of the time with a load of work. Yesterday I had problems to sleep after watching three episodes of Doctor Who in a row (no wonder I had strange dreams about people who were not who they were supposed to be – oh, yes, the Master! – ). I work from home most of the time, so it means that I spend many hours at home. And if I had a hard day at work I just want to get out, so no Raverly groups nor pattern tracing nor cleaning anything (except for the kitchen, ha!). I needed to get out and I needed to move. A. LOT. Get tired, sweat, suffer. So I went to Capoeira class instead. It cured my headache, my PMS and I think tomorrow I’ll be able to fold the clothes that are on the sofa right now and start tracing the pattern that will become my project for the Fall for Cotton. Exercise can be like a drug.

The picture below was taken one year ago. Who could have thought that I was going to get addicted to this?

capoeira

I’ll be back in good shape soon and will write creative posts again. Just allow me some time to put my body, mind and apartment in good order.

Decluttering and loving the changes

After a week in Belgium and still amazed at how hard the cultural shock can be even after having lived there for more than five years, I’m still recovering. And I’ve entered again into a frenzy decluttering phase. I moved to Belgium in September of 2006 and I had brought there some used clothes but also some new ones, being many of them intended for Summer. That Autumn was mild and sunny and the Winter that followed not too cold. But the year after brought what it’s always expected there: cold and rain. In great doses. My two last years in Belgium we had no Summer. Not that it was a mild one, it was just non-existing. All those summer dresses and t-shirts stayed in the closet for years waiting, in vain, to be worn.

In January of 2012 we moved to Madrid and all those Summer clothes promises came back to life. I wore some during my first Summer here, but just a small part. Now, in our second Summer, I observe that I’m still not wearing all that I should, and yesterday I set my mind to check why. I think I’ve tried almost any single Summer garment that was sitting unworn in my closet and to my frustration, most of them don’t fit. It’s not only that my body changed a lot in 7 years; I think I could have fitted some of these clothes last year. It’s just that Capoeira is not only increasing my thighs, but also my shoulders and back. Many t-shirts and dresses had to be discarded.

It’s not that I’m more fat. I weight a couple more kilos since I arrived here, but I think it’s just muscle what I gained. For a while I had the impression that my breast got bigger, but it was not true. I had to go bra shopping a couple of weeks ago because some of my bras didn’t fit anymore and after trying several bras I’ve discovered that I went from a 33B to a 35B. I also tried a 33C since I thought the change was in the front, but that taught me that the change was more on the back. I also used to have skinny arms and shoulders, and when I look at myself on the mirror nowadays I see a different body: broader shoulders and back, stronger. I am no longer the weak girl with back problems I used to be 5 years ago. I’m strong and therefore my old clothes don’t fit me anymore.

When one tries RTW clothes and they don’t fit, the tendency is to think that one’s grown fat, which makes one to throw the old garment against the closest wall and get frustrated. Since I’ve started making my own clothes, I see that fashion wants us to think that we should all look the same and manipulate our bodies to fit in the determined size we used to fit several years ago. Sadly, sizes vary, not only from among brands, but also from year to year. When I started making my own clothes, I’ve discovered that my body had a language of its own, and that each body and different, and also that if you dress it correctly with clothes meant for your body proportions, these will be more flattering, you will be more comfortable and more proud of yourself. And those thoughts about your body not being good enough that you cannot fit RTW clothes like other people will go away, because, you know, they are just bollocks.

I really thank people like Tasia from Sewaholic for designing clothes for pear shaped gals like me and showing us that being different is not a defect but beauty in itself, and that we are not alone in our journey towards loving our own body.

vadeia
Our Capoeira group with some of our friends from Portugal. The photo was taken last December.

Why we do things

I’m going to talk today about a couple of thing that you didn’t know about me. You know me as a knitter, that I dance Lindy Hop and that I moved to Madrid one year ago. But what about the rest? I’m going to tell you a little bit today.

As I often work from home (I don’t have a team here in Spain and I don’t have an office for myself where I can comfortably call customers) I need my evenings to socialise and “move the body”, as I say, after 9 hours of lonely sitting.

In June I decided to retake Pilates classes. I used to do it years ago, before going to Belgium, and I remembered it did wonders with my back. You don’t know either, but three or four years ago, when I was living in Belgium, I had a very bad year with a lot of back pain, irradiated pain to my right arm and hand and long hours at the physiotherapist. The humidity there was also a killer for my back and I had a severe case of LBP in the middle of July. So I decided to go back to Pilates class and I found a wonderful Russian guy that teaches very good and hard classes just 5 minutes from our home. I can say that since then I improved very much and I rarely have back pain nowadays, except for those very few days that are cold and humid here in Madrid.

Pilates is a very good exercise but unfortunately it doesn’t help to work on your condition. I have asthma and this is something very important. After spending all my days sitting on a chair I noticed that I used to get tired just when walking uphill and I often was out of breath. So last August I decided to sign up on the gym I have also 5 minutes from our place. There I tried spinning and I hated it. I also tried Pilates to see if it was any good and I could save some money and quit the place of the Russian guy, but what I saw there was very disappointing. I was going to stay with the Russian. I tried the machines but I got rapidly bored. There were lots of different classes and almost randomly one day picked Capoeira. It was hard, man. And my legs hurt for four days after that Wednesday. Going down the stairs of the metro was almost impossible and I couldn’t dance at the Swing party of that Saturday. But I went back and I got hooked, and my condition and strength have improved  enormously. It’s also fun and it has the added value of being a group activity, you feel like being part of something.

And here it is one of the examples that I wanted to illustrate. Why we do things. Time can pass and things can evolve, but you always have to remember why you do things. Yesterday we had a quite hard class and I got yelled at and I had to repeat things and I was almost cool at it. It’s just his way of teaching. But then I continued to be yelled at and the teacher told me that he was getting tired of repeating always the same and the he already got a name and that we still needed to build ours and bla bla bla. And I suddenly realized that I ALREADY have a name of my own (hey, I’m Elena, pleased to meet you) and another one that I gave to myself when I belonged to the Tolkien Society and that I kept using in Ravelry and some other parallel worlds. So I don’t really need to build up a NAME and a reputation if I just want to learn Capoeira for the fun of it and its benefits (condition, strength and elasticity). I’m not dreaming of becoming an important figure nor fighting on important events. Most of my classmates are younger boys. Their body and mind are more suited to this, but not mine. I’m just a 34 year asthmatic woman that goes there for fun and to feel healthier.

Last May or June (I don’t remember) I started taking sewing class. Well not only sewing, since the main goal is being able to take your measurements and make patterns to then cut and sew clothes. I decided to go because I have always been very curious about this and wanted to learn. It was organized at my friends’ shop La Guerra de los Botones and it was also 5 minutes from y place. I have to confess that since I started I have just finished a skirt and a dress, I fixed my boyfriend swimming trunks and I’m almost finishing a Winter coat. My goal from attending this class was not filling up my closet. Since we moved to this tiny apartment I’m very please with myself that I learned to stop myself from buying tons of clothes that I will later not wear. Well, that also applies to wool and antiques and lots of stuff that I used to buy without thinking twice. I am happy with this change in my life and I have no regrets. It’s also that another goal was learning new techniques, and I’m doing it. Every garment I made was quite complicated and none of them could be called simple. So when one of our classmates, which has made almost a dress per week, teases me at almost every class and says that what I’m working on should be finished for the next class, I just smile, say nothing and remember why I decided to go to there in the first place.

It’s also that I could sew more at home, but I prefer to keep that time for knitting, and what I want now is to finish my boyfriend’s cardigan.

I put already a lot of pressure on myself at work, my boss always tells me, but that’s what helps me earning the money to buy food, pay the bills, pay my classes and buying beautiful yarn.I don’t need to put more pressure on any other disciplines because they are just there to make me feel fine and nothing else.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smamrmgbPf8]

Good morning baby, I home I’m gonna make it through another day.