A Travel Bag for the Birds

I’m not a Xmas person, but this is one of the two times of the year that I visit my family and friends. I usually travel with the birds, since the cost of a plane ticket plus the bird residence is a bit more expensive than just renting a car and taking the birds with me. And I know that it’s hard on them when they’re separated from us. But traveling with them is also stressful. I want to make sure that they are fine, and six hours in a car is not easy for them either. And there is also the mess they create. Last time I traveled with them I got a call from the rental company to complain about a white stain. I tried to clean it before returning the car, but it seems I was not able to remove it completely. I left the company mulling over the origin of the ‘white stain’, and decided to avoid this for future trips.

The black large cages are the lovebirds’, two birds in each one. These cages are great, spacious, sturdy and can be cleaned easily, but they are not practical for traveling purposes. I bought two cages like the one on the right. The are not exactly removable, but they can be collapsed and stored flat. The size is ideal to be transported on the back seat of a car, and you can insert a division in the middle. And they were cheap. I just needed to make a bag to protect the car seat from any bird mess.

I made a sketch to plan for it. I wanted a bag that could be easily used to cover the cage without too much fuss, and that would allow a ‘window’ for the birds to be able to see me and their surroundings while in the car. I had some beige canvas gifted by my sister some years ago. It is a great fabric to make handbags, I just wasn’t in love with the color, but for this project it was perfect. I attached a handle on each side and a triple handle on top, so that the bag could be easily transported by one or two people. I added a couple of cm to the measurements to have some ease.

The bag came out exactly as I wanted it, and it could be put on the cage in less than two minutes. I reinforced the inside of the bag where the handles are attached with extra stiff interfacing, typically used for handbag bottoms.

Here you can see it with the ‘window’ in action. At first I wanted to have just one zipper that could be closed inwards, and I actually got one but it was too short (I was stressed out and sleep deprived when I purchased it) and I could not go to the same haberdashery again, so I had to get two zippers, which also works fine. the zippers join in the middle, and run downwards and backwards so when completely open, the bag is almost flat.

Here the cage installed in the car and with the zips open. The cardboard contains the other cage, collapsed. I have the impression that the birds traveled more comfortable this time and could even doze off at the back of the cage. I had no issues with dirt from the birds, so I call this a win-win.

The construction of this bag was as easy as joining rectangular panels and adding a zipper. I just needed to pay special attention to corners and make them match. At first I wanted to line the bag to aim for a cleaner finish, but after working on Paula’s Hoodie and with the imminent trip, I was in a hurry. Now I think the bag is good enough as it is, light, sturdy, and easy to storage.

Another thing I had to solve for my trip was the food. With my restricted diet I just can’t stop and eat at a restaurant or eat some cookies. Previous times I went for canned fish and a piece of papaya, but it was messy and not ideal. This time I purchased an Electric Lunch Box for Cars and I packed some delicious stew. It took about forty minutes to warm up, and the top was not as hot as the bottom but it was wonderful compared with eating sardines.

The finches stayed home. At first I was going to leave them at the Vet bird residence, but Sally decided that it was time to lay eggs, and it was better to avoid moving the cage. So we left plenty of food and water and monitored them using a cheap webcam.

What I really liked from this camera was the night vision. It was a fairly cheap camera and very easy to set up, so I’m quite happy with it and we’re still using it nowadays to monitor the birds when we’re not at home or they are sleeping.

Sally laid ten eggs in total (two of them were before we installed the nest and broke, and other two were buried under the nest material by them), but they were either not fertilized or not correctly incubated, so after completing the cycle, we removed nest and eggs. It was a relief, since Gouldian Finches are usually not good parents, and I rather have some wasted eggs than dead babies.

Here you can see a video of Sally a couple of days before I removed the nest. She had a new egg on the way and I was worried that she were having difficulties to lay it, so I checked the eggs, removed them, gave her extra calcium, and waited to see if she would lay this one. After a couple of days it got reabsorbed, so we took the nest away.

I leave you now with some shots from my visit to Vigo this last Chrismas. As I’ve said, I’m not a Christmas person, but I had a good time.

I used my phone to take all the pictures, so I apologize for them not being high quality. It seems it will be like this most of the time from now onwards, since I have very little time to set up the tripod and the DSLR.

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Another Reversible Zippy Hoodie for Paula

It’s become a tradition in the last three years that I make a Kitschycoo Reversible Zippy Hoodie for Paula’s birthday on December 13th. I’m never there at that moment, but I always bring it with me when I visit for Christmas.

This time I chose a Gorjuss fabric from Con Idea De for the outer shell and a Frozen fabric from Telas.es for the lining. I bought both online, and I was disappointed to find the Frozen fabric too light weight, so I decided to underline it with a pink fleece that’s been in my stash since I was living Belgium (yay for stashbusting!). I liked the end result, and it helped to give the hoodie extra warmth.

You had to see her face when she saw it! She decided to wore it everyday while I was there.

PJ’s for Paula, the last project of 2015

My niece Paula has her birthday in mid December, so I always make something and give it to her during my Christmas visit. Sweaters and hoodies have been a real success, but this year I was in a rush due to our forthcoming move. I was about to pack my machines and had no time to struggle with my rebel sewing machine, so I went for the Peekaboo Alex & Anna Winter Pajamas, and I used some organic cotton that I had in my stash for any possible baby/kid present.

img_20151222_121851.jpgThe pictures are quite bad, but I had to use my phone since I had already packed my SLR. I took them in our bedroom, since our living room looked like a war camp zone.

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The upper part had to be hemmed with a twin needle or a zig-zag stitch but my machine refused to cooperate. The technician who gave it back to me when it went for repair already told me that the pressure on the presser feet was too much (even on the lowest setting) and this caused the fabric to cram underneath. I substituted then this for a band, similar to the cuffs. I love my serger!

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Changing the subject, today is a sad day. This morning the world learned that David Bowie has left us, even though his music will stay with us forever. You will be missed, David, there’s now a starman waiting in the sky.

And my favorite of all times:

Do you know the English TV series inspired in this song? It’s brilliant.

Completed: Second Reversible Zippy Hoodie

I made this Reversible Zippy Hoodie last year and it was a garment loved by everybody and worn to death. My niece Paula is still wearing it nowadays, but it’s clear that she needs now a larger size, so I thought this could be the perfect gift. The one of last year was size 4 and this is size 5.

I bought the two main fabrics from Plush Addict and also a violet ribbing, but I soon realized that it was not going to work. I combined again a cotton quilt and fleece. There were several nice cotton quilts but after preselecting three, my sister chose this one. Sadly, there were not so many options for fleece and I soon discovered that matching these two was not going to be easy. Luckily I found this white ribbing at Telaria, and everything went smoothly from then onwards. The white ribbing looks really nice but I can’t help thinking that it’s the worst color to use for the cuffs, especially if it’s for a little girl. The second day she was wearing this, the cuffs were already dirty with mud and chocolate.

I also used the white ribbing as a piping substitute for the hood front and pockets edges to make the transition smooth from one fabric to the other. I think it works beautifully. I did a much better work at matching prints than the last time. Now both fronts and pockets are correctly matched. For the pockets I used wash away quilt tape and I have to say that they didn’t move while sewing them on.

I’m normally against consumerism and I dislike the message “Minnie loves to shop” but there fleece fabrics that my niece would like, and having Minnie on it is a plus.

Taking pictures in winter is quite difficult due to light restrictions, but this time I decided to go out to our little terrace and I love the result. Just disregard the fallen leaves and dirt in general. I’m much better at keeping it clean and tidy during the warmer months.

About the pattern I have nothing new to say. It’s very well written and Amanda guides you on every step. The sewing of the cuffs is a little fiddly but the hoddie comes along nicely and once you turn everything right side out it feels like magic.

Apologies for the next picture, but it’s the only one of Paula wearing the hoodie (completely my fault, I was too lazy to take more pictures). She’s lost a tooth and is eating a sandwich while modeling the hoodie. It was quite cold those days over there, so she’s still wearing something else underneath.

The Top 5 of 2014

I found about this last year, and once again I’m participating. I’m not very good at these things but looking back is always a good idea to be able to look forward.

Top 5 Hits

Luckily this year I can nominate my top 5 hits without having to dig too deep. I think I’m getting better at this and I’m learning to make my own style.

This is technically from the end of 2013 but as I’ve just made another one (not blogged yet), I count this as a success this year too.

This was a project that took forever but it was worth until the last stitch. I modified the armscye and added a quilted lining, and I can say that I’ve worn this to death. I’m taking a break now because the temperatures are too low but I foresee a lot of wear from February onwards.

My weight has changed this year and I’m not sure they fit me well right now, but I have made in total three pairs (two this year). Now that I know more about fitting I should try to make another pair but better. I think I’ll try Gertie’s trousers this year.

  • Lady Skater Dress

Unblogged due to my health issues, but I made my second this summer and I’ve cut a third. I just love this pattern, and after making a a couple of tweaks (narrowing upper part and sleeves, shortening bust, lengthening skirt) it’s become my to-go pattern to make knit dresses. I see many Lady Skater dresses and tshirts in the future.

After a long search for the perfect 40s blouse pattern, finally Gertie’s second book was a blessing. This was made with no mods and I already have fabric to make 6 more. This is going to be part of my signature style.

This is one of the very few knits accomplished this year, but I truly love this sweater and I’m wearing it while typing this.

Top 5 Misses

This bag was not a miss in itself. In fact I’ve used it quite a lot to transport my sewing tools to the shop where I used to have sewing classes, plus also for the very few trips I made this year. The problem here was the interfacing used for the bottom. It was good and sturdy but did not survive the washing machine. When the bag came out of the machine the interfacing had transformed into a little ball. As everything is enclosed, I don’t want to take it out but that means the bottom of the bag is not stiff anymore. Even like that it makes a wonderful travel bag.

I never ever wore this skirt. It’s was also probably because I went out very little this year due to my illness and I hate ironing. I think I’ll install horshair braid on this one and see what happens next spring and summer.

This blouse is just not my style. I made some Sewaholic patterns because they gorgeous and are designed for pear shaped women, which means that there’s in general less fitting to be done, but now I’m finally more selective and trying to sew and knit garments that match my style, even if that means more fitting issues. I have more experience, so that doesn’t scare me like before.

Top 5 Highlights

  • Koen

My boyfriend is my best blessing. He sticks with me and endures all that’s lately happening like a champion. He’s my rock and my partner in everything. I love you, Koen, you know that.

  • New apartment with a dedicated sewing space

We moved in August to another apartment. It’s much bigger than the previous one, and finally I could get a dedicated sewing space, which makes everything faster, neater and simply better. The picture above is just after installing the table. It has more things nowadays, but I’m with my family these days so I can’t take a picture right now.

  • A Serger

Koen surprised me on my birthday with this wonderful present. I’m still learning a lot about it but I succeeded at using it to overlock edges. The next step will be using it to sew knits. As soon as I get back home, I promise.

  • Gerry

Being home bound for so long can be hard on one’s moral but this little guy keeps me company and my spirits up. He’s funny, smart, cheeky and sweet (when he wants). Having a lovebird can be demanding sometimes, but they give you so much in return. My sewing and knitting are slower sometimes because of him, but I wouldn’t want to live without him.

Top 5 Reflections

Something that really took a big toll this year was my health (or the lack of it). I could have sewn more, knitted more and enjoyed life more in general if it was not because of this. I had little issues before, but in April I started to feel that there was something clearly wrong with me. It took me months and numerous doctor visits until I got referred to the mast cells specialists in August. By that time my weight dropped to 44 kg and I was desperately hungry and lost. I can’t still see the end of this but at least I know I’m in good hands. But the other side that nobody sees is that since August I’m eating everyday the same. My diet is reduced to five foods and I only drink water (and my morning tea). I’ve learned to appreciate the good things I have and the good people who stood beside me (Koen, you’re my rock), but I’ve also lost much in the way. I lost time, I lost money, I lost some of my illusions and I lost quite some friends. In a certain way it’s something good, because the ones who stayed are the true ones; but it’s also hard to stop seeing people who where your party fellows and who gave you so many happy moments. Many things are gone, and many people too. I’m still learning about not dwelling on it too much. It mortified me for a while but not anymore. I guess when this happens you learn to weight what you have, and you also learn to prioritize things. What mortifies me right now is being tied to my home and not being able to do things normal people do, like eating outside or enjoying a casual snack. I have to say no often to eating-out plans. This usually happens with people that don’t know about my condition. Usually old friends who pass by Madrid and expect to meet and socialize like it’s done over here. I hate having to tell the same story again, but I think I hate it most because I can’t tell the end or the conclusion. It’s like telling a story which you don’t know very well and ignore the end. At least I have learned to take pleasure on the little things, but recounting my story still makes me cry sometimes. I guess I still have a long way to go.

Top5 Goals

  • Getting healthy or have a normalish life: I know I have a long way to go but I’m not giving up on having some improvements. The good thing about my doctor is that she answers my emails quite fast (usually the same day), so if things don’t work, we fine tune the treatment to see if things could go better. Mast cells issues are not very well known and many times is just trial and error.
  • Building a capsule wardrobe: Teresa from Canary Knits got me started on this. I’m usually pretty lazy to do this kind of things, but I think it could be interesting for the next point.
  • Sewing and knitting my style.
  • Keep learning about my new serger.
  • Being able to travel: I know this will take time and may not be for 2015 but I won’t give up.

You will know when the time comes

The last three weeks have revolved around the schedule to give Leslie his medicines. It was really painful to see him suffering sometimes, but other times he surprised us eating, drinking and bathing. We struggled with the idea of been able to recognize when the moment to end the fight would come. On Friday I called a dear friend from my childhood days. She’s a vet nowadays but works only with small mammals like cats, dogs and rabbits. I didn’t just want a professional advice, just a moral one. She passed exactly the same with their family dog last year and she told me what she tells her patients’ owners: You will know when the time comes.

And she was right. Last Saturday morning Leslie stopped eating. The day before he had an accident when coming out of the bathtub and his breathing was very difficult. Most of the days he had some less worse moments, but that was not happening on Saturday. And he was very pale.

I was scared that taking the decision was going to make me feel guilty and a bad person, but it was not like this; it was clear that the moment had arrived. It was extremely painful, but leaving him like he was, agonizing until the end, was even worse. We did everything we could to give him a nice life after all he suffered and after the unknown life he had. We are people, we’re not perfect and I’m sure we all make mistakes, but everything we did for him was for the best we knew and could, and at least we tried that for three months. We’ll know why this all happened next week, since we now should try to keeps the others happy and healthy.

We miss you, Leslie, with your beautiful singing. You taught me that finches can also be interesting birds with their particular personality. We loved you and did everyhing we could.

Black clouds

Not in Madrid. We had some rainy days but the sun, blue skies, and warm temperatures are temporarily back. But we have black clouds in our apartment. Leslie is been gravely ill for at least the past two weeks.

I found him on the street on a hot Sunday, July 13th. His feathers were in a very bad state and he was thin and very hungry when he arrived.

We soon realized that he was a delicate and shy bird, but after a couple of days he started singing. And it was so beautiful.

We thought his attitude was due to feeling lonely, and after one month waiting for some previous owners that never showed up, we decided to give him a girlfriend. This were going fine, there were no fights and Leslie learned from her to eat more veggies.

But two weeks ago, around 2 months Leslie arrived here, we realized that there was something quite not right with him. I still don’t know whether he developed this here of he already had it. The veterinary made an X-Ray and we discovered a huge mass inside him. This is what’s giving him problems to breath and why he’s not singing anymore. She prescribed two antibiotics and an anti-infammatory to give him every 12 hours. We’ve been giving him his medication every single day and even tried to make him as comfortable as possible, turning the heating on when the nights were cold, keeping the lights and sounds low and giving him all he could need. I didn’t even sew any stitch since then. I could go to the little room to avoid disturbing him but I want to check up on him as much as possible. Our living room has a long shape, and in the evening we eat and stay on the other side of the room, hoping that at least he can get enough sleep.

We went back to the vet two days ago and Leslie is thinner but the mass has grown. The veterinary has mentioned that we should observe when life can be too hard for this little fellow and we may need to pull the plug. Unfortunately I’m unable to do so while he keeps eating, drinking and bathing like you can see here. I hate to see him suffering but I can’t give up if he doesn’t. I don’t believe in the word ‘pet’, I believe in family members, and he’s one of them. I’m not doing anything that I wouldn’t do for any other family member.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B4sYgL50z3HFMVpnM01mRHR2dUU/view?usp=sharing

 

 

Completed: Gramps

Koen’s nephew turned 1 year last October, and like his uncle he’s very tall for his age. I made some crochet booties on July but they were too small for him. Decided not to make the same mistake again I knitted this Gramps in size 18 – 24 months for this Christmas.

This first picture is from before blocking it. That’s why it looks a bit wonky.

And you can see here that it’s a little bit large but he will soon fill it.

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I used Cascade 220 superwash for the first time and I was surprised at its softness. It felt different than normal Cascade 220. I recommend this yarn for baby projects for its easy care and because it is extremely soft. I think it would be a good option for a baby blanket because it’s also very affordable.

The original pattern included pockets, but I was so overloaded at the moment that I didn’t have time to make them. The cardigan is also cute without them and the parents are happy with it. Next time I should start earlier with Christmas presents. Sigh, every year the same.

Ravelry project here.

Completed: Reversible Zippie Hoodie

So many days without posting anything. But it doesn’t mean that I’ve been idle, just the opposite. I haven’t stopped or had time for myself. And here one of the things that kept me busy after work. I’ve already mentioned it a couple of times here and I can finally show it. To be honest I finished this hoodie a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t have time to take pictures of it. These were taken at my mother’s place and I think this was the only day with decent light and this the spot with a bit of it. Anyway, the light here is not the same as in Madrid and I’m the lucky tenant of an apartment with lots of natural light. Well, you have to do with what you have.

The pattern is the Reversible Zippie Hoddie from KitschyCoo, and I wanted to make it since it came out. Usually I knot sweaters for my niece, but I wanted something this year and I thought that this pattern with two lovely fabrics would be perfect.

I went fabric hunting around Madrid but I found nothing that got me inspired, so I finally bought this cotton and this fleece with Winnie the Pooh motives from Plush Addict. They really have the most wonderful fabrics for children, so beautiful and so many that it took me some days to decide which ones.

The construction of the hoodie was quite easy and those fabrics were easy to work with. The cuffs were a bit fiddly due to the small size but I was amazed at the construction of that part. You just need to follow the instructions blindly and when you turn the hoodie right side out it’s like magic, with perfect sleeves and perfect cuffs, and everything falls nicely in place.

And it’s reversible, can you see? I discovered an old haberdashery in Madrid were they have zippers of many different colors, they cut them to the size you need and install a reversible puller if you ask for it. And they were so kind!

Paula loved it from the moment she saw it. So much that she wanted to wear it to go out that same day. Isn’t she lovely with her new reversible zippie hoodie? It’s clear that Amanda designs the most amazing garments for children.

Hoodie on the works and the new member of the family

My niece Paula was almost right when she exclaimed that she was going to get a sweater for her birthday. Last year she got the Owlet from Kate Davies, but this year I wanted something different, fresh, and which let me use my newly acquired sewing skills. So I opted for a hoodie. Kitschy Coo’s Reversible Zippie Hoddie fit the bill. I found nothing inspiring browsing on local shops so I finally purchased the fabric at Plush Addict.

These pictures are not the best in the world but they are the only ones I have of the process. The hoodie is almost finished now, I just need to topstitch and a add couple of extra details.

And I counted with a special assistant while making this:

He’s very very curious. He cannot resist it when I’m holding some new and colorful

This is Gerry, who arrived home almost three weeks ago. He was just 45 days when I got him and he turned 2 months old four days ago. He’s an agapornis roseicollis, also known as lovebird. The day I got him he was still eating baby food with a syringe, but decided to change fast to solid food since he didn’t want to see me too close to him.

I made this nest in crochet the day after he arrived and he’s still using it from time to time.

We also made some toys like the one hanging from the cage ceiling on the picture but also some others made with empty toilet paper rolls and plastic stitch markers. He loves those markers almost at much as I do.

So we try to use them in several of his toys. He is really good at opening them and throwing them on the floor.

But one of his favorite pastimes is chewing on headphone cables. Knitting needles are also good.

I’m a cutie and I’m not chewing on Koen’s headphones

I was a bit worried at first about disturbing him with my sewing machine. You know, babies have to sleep a lot. And I think he looked me with loath from his nest when I made that terrible noise with my sewing machine. So I tried a different approach.

I left it free a couple of times while I was sewing and he was so curious. I had to be careful to keep him away from the needle but he also enjoyed the upper part of my machine.

I was a bit worried at first that he was not going to accept us. It’s true that each day with us we make new accomplishments, and nowadays he loves taking naps on my shoulder.

Now I just have to remember to put my earrings on again, since he likes to play with them until he gets them off.