The promised Jedediah shorts

It’s been already three weeks since I posted here, but things have been a bit hectic since we signed the contract for the new apartment. Luckily the actual tenants were kind enough to let us measure the rooms, so we’ll know in advance which furniture to keep and which one to let go. Even though we won’t move until the beginning of January we have already started to box, throw and give things away. Moving is always complicated and you end up moving stuff that you should have let go. I hope this time we can organize it ourselves and make it as painless as possible. To all this work we have to add the time we have to dedicate to show our current apartment to possible future tenants.

In the midst of all this I have found the time to make the shorts I promised to Koen two summers ago, since I made the long pants version and he fell in love with them. In my defense I have to say that several unfortunate events have stopped me from sewing these before, but better late than never. I finished them last month but as life is busy it took me forever to take pictures and blog about it.

I implemented the same mods as in my previous version, and it was to make them less fitted. We don’t go for skinny jeans in our home, and Koen has powerful cyclist thighs that feel constricted in many RTW pants. When I see him wearing his linen Jedediah shorts even in December I feel that I’ve done something right. And BTW, comparing pictures, I see that Koen has gotten much thinner (that’s what happens when you eat Paleo) but I used the same size, that’s why these shorts are looser than the previous pants.

For the shorts Koen wanted extra pockets, like the ones you see in cargo pants. This got me stuck for a while, thinking about the best way to implement them. I used the pockets of some old shorts to have an idea about size and construction. In the end, I think they look quite professional.

I used some Milward brass snaps for the side pockets. I have other snaps at home but I didn’t want them to be visible from outside, and these are quite sturdy

In my previous version I have to admit that the zipper ended up a bit wonky, something that I didn’t let happen here. I guess experience counts, and I’m getting better at crotches (ups!) and zippers.

wpid-img_20151008_172304.jpg

For the pockets and bias binding I used some Japanese cotton that I won sometime ago at Telaria. It’s been in my stash for a couple of years and apart from cushions I didn’t know what to make with it, so this was a very good use.

wpid-img_20151029_101109.jpg

I felt terribly bad about finishing these shorts in Autumn with bad enough weather to wear sweaters. Luckily we got some good days and Koen doesn’t feel cold easily, so he already wore them three or four times.

I’ve used cotton twill, and I’m so pleased with these pants that I’d love to have the time to make the long version with the same fabric again, and maybe slash pockets, but I know that with how busy I am, it won’t be for now. It’s a pity because Koen urgently needs new pants, so urgently that I don’t think he can wait for me to make them. But look at how rad he looks in them!

Changes

Life is still changing here. Marvin, another rescued lovebird, joined Billy, Daisy and Colin. The group dynamics still need some more time but they are progressing favorably.
image

Billy is being treated right now for a bacterial hepatitis. He was not himself lately so we decided to pay a visit to the vet, and after an X-ray and a blood sample he confirmed the diagnose. He’s been on antibiotics for almost two weeks and he’s much better now.

And Colin, the most lovable bird in the world.

Colin says hi #lovebirds

A video posted by @elena_knits on

We will moving soon again. If you remember, we moved about a year ago but this apartment never lived up to our expectations, apart from being freackingly expensive and quite far from Koen’s work. Also the landlord is the most irresponsible person I’ve ever known. We had continuous toilet clogs since the beginning of spring and had to wait days with the whole mess in the bathroom. So we’re leaving. Soon. We went yesterday to see a beautiful apartment. It will be available at the end of the year, but we don’t mind waiting since we need to give a two months notice at the current apartment.

As I’ve said before, my sewing and knitting mojo left with my beloved Gerry, but I made an effort for two important babies:

image
Koen’s newest nephew

 

image
And of my friends from university’s first baby

I used the Peekaboo Lullaby bodysuit pattern. As I made them already some time ago, I don’t remember a lot, except that my sewing machine chewed up one of the sleeves when hemming it, so I decided not to topstitch the neckline to avoid making a mess. I do this more and more with knits, as my machine is quite unpredictable on them. Probably I will get a new one when things are settled down (I have my eye on the Elna 3210).

And as I had quite some fabric leftover I made another Kitschycoo Barrie Briefs. I barely wore the other two I made this summer because the double fabric made made me sweat (we had the hottest summer in the last 10 years), but for fall and winter they are nice and cozy.

Aren’t they nice with their knights and dragons?

wpid-img_20150927_124817.jpg

Completed: Second Pair of Mens Trunks

Do you remember the pair of trunks I made last month for Koen? Well, they have become his favorites and he even gets them from the unfolded laundry to put them on, so I think he deserves more. I went to a local shop last week and bought two meters of this navy knit and I’m roughly aiming at making a pair a month. I’m saying roughly because I don’t want to impose crazy deadlines on something that is just my hobby. Some time ago I learned that stress should stay at work where it belongs, and my hobbies will only be where I shelter myself after a hard day at work.

Sorry for the wrinkled fabric and the light changes. Today we’re not having the most luminous of days and there were sudden changes of light due to the clouds and the wind (is it also freaking cold over there?).

There’s not much left to say about this pattern, just that I hope I’m going to get that crotch right one day, but making more of these should help me to reach this goal. I thought this one was going to be better than the previous, but I almost cut too much and I had to mend it on the wrong side by hand (ouch).

Sorry for so many photos, but I was having a fun time with Gerry. Aren’t his wings totally awesome? Look at those feathers! Then he wanted to play peek-a-boo while hiding inside the trunks. He loves doing the same with towels or skirts hanging on my mannequin.

The topstiching on the fly is done with a straight stitch this time instead of a zigzag. With the interfacing in place this part doesn’t stretch, so the zigzag makes no sense, and I have an unexplained aversion to exposed zigzag on knits. I still had to zigzag the waist to encase the elastic, but there are so many things you can’t do without a cover-stitch…

I put two snaps again from my stash, trying to find the ones that matched better but I’m not 100% happy with the color. They were the best though.

And this is the back, also wrinkled. The reason is that I finished them two days ago and they were piled with the previous ones (for comparing) on a chair. Yes, I hate folding clothes :/

And I leave you here a last photo of a headless Gerry. You do need to be a bird to have those postures! He could twist himself completely just to be able to bite a snap!

Completed: Lekala Trunks, underwear for men

Before buying the serger for my birthday, Koen was doing thorough research about what it could and what it was good for. He knew that if I had a serger, sooner than later, I was going to make him underwear.

I searched online and I first came upon Thread Theory Comox Trunks, but Koen was not convinced about the style and having his precious so tightly fitted, so I searched further and found this Lekala pattern that matched exactly the kind of underwear he has.

As I’ve mentioned, I used my new serger to make this. Side and inseam seams are serged. The crotch, waist and fly were sewn using a zigzag stitch, and the hem was done using a twin needle.

It was my first time using knit interfacing and there’s nothing special to say about it. It just works as expected.

My serger behaved quite well, but my sewing machine gave me the usual little issues when sewing knits (fabric jammed under the walking foot, tiny stitches, etc). I’d like to own a cover stitch machine one day but serging the edge and then sewing it with the twin needle gives a very neat finish.

I would like to say that the construction of these was smooth but, alas, it wasn’t. I was stuck for a complete day on the crotch part, unable to wrap my head around it. I pulled some of Koen’s trunks from the drawer just to inspect crotches and flies, crotches and flies.

The secret was adding an extra facing that I drafted using the original pattern. I get that Lekala won’t include facings, but this piece was not even mentioned in the pattern instructions. Latter I found an old pair of Koen’s trunks without this facing, but I was not convinced by the lack of structure, so I was happy I’ve added it. When sewing this I was not 100% happy with the zigzag. It always gives me a dodgy feeling, but I didn’t want to use a straight stitch on the fly just in case it could rip with the use. Seeing it now doesn’t bother me so much.

The pattern instructs you to add buttons, but I didn’t want an extra fight with my button foot, my machine and this knit fabric, so I added two snaps. Fast, efficient and painless.

When Koen tried them for the first time, he said that they pulled a bit on the crotch area. It didn’t surprise me, since I fought quite a while over there and who knows if I messed it up; but he’s wearing them today and he mentioned that he finds them very comfortable, to the point that he forgot he was wearing them. I think that counts as a win, don’t you think? Gerry apparently likes them too.

I would like to add that I purchased this pattern according to Koen’s measurements and without seam allowance. Adding one costs some little extra money, but could be worth it if you don’t especially like tracing. I think I’ll do that next time and see how it goes.

As this pattern is was also published in Craftsy, I’ve added my project there. I swear the pattern was there yesterday, but today it’s gone. Weird.

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.

Serging my way to neat edges

Please excuse the bad quality pictures, but my mobile camera doesn’t behave in low light conditions. Same as Gerry, just that he does it in any light conditions.

My birthday this year was nothing special, there was nothing to remember and some things to forget (like a gastroenteritis), we didn’t go out to celebrate (the only think I can do outside involving putting things in my mouth is drinking plain water) and it was Monday (who doesn’t hate Mondays?). But there was something at least that helped to bear it. This was the year that I got ill, that I broke my nose, got a vocal cord paralyzed, lost friends (a side effect of being chronically ill); but it’s also the year that I got a serger! During months and years I’ve been suffering in silence about my poor and messy edges. My sewing machine has a faux overlocker foot, and I was all the time between zigzags and faux overlocker stitches. But none of them made me 100% happy. A few times I opted for French or flat felled seams, but it was more work and in some cases the fabric and the project called for something else. I delayed the purchase first because we were living in a tiny apartment, and then because I had a lot of sudden expenses (health, new apartment, health, and health). So I always said to myself that I could live with what I had, that anyway nobody was going to see the inside of my clothes. But Koen came with this present on the day that I needed to be cheered up the most.

As this machine is something that I wished but also something that was a bit out of my reach, all related to it was a mystery and almost magical. The truth is I knew nothing else than it made neat edges. Period. I didn’t know how you get those results. It was like the principles behind a car engine. No idea. Well, maybe I knew a bit more about this last topic. But Koen foresaw this and included also this wonderful book:

Yes, Gerry already chewed up the borders when I was not paying attention. It seems he’s not only interested in my pins: he’s also interested in serging my projects!

I caught here the engineer infraganti while he was trying to fix my serger tension. Thanks to him I learned to thread it from scratch, that think that should not be named.

The first day I was worried that I was going to feel overwhelmed by so many new things, techniques and concepts, but I broke the ice with my new machine but serging the edges of my last project. It took me some scraps to reach the right tension, but this looks good to me.

I’ll show you what I made in my next post. It’s something that I wanted to make for quite some time, and I’ve finally found the perfect pattern.

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…

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!

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.