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…

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.

Fails

Murphy’s law says that if there’s anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. And it definitely did this time. We were supposed to take a flight to Vigo yesterday at 5 pm, but after taking zillions of planes in our life, we miscalculated and missed our plane. We could change our tickets to some hours later and to another airport in the same region, so all was not lost.

We were going to come next week, not this one, when my sister was also on vacation. Koen’s plans were bringing his racing bike and cycling around while I spent some quality time with my family. But a month ago, Koen’s parents sent us an email to let us know that they were coming to Vigo this week for the first time in their lives, and to meet my parents, also a first. We had to change our vacation days at work, Koen couldn’t bring his bike and we missed our plane. What else could go differently than planned? Don’t take me wrong; it’s going to be a pleasure to see them, but things are just not coming out the way it was planned.

You see this photo?

Two days ago I cut some fabric for a Lonsdale dress. It requires a lot of fabric, so I decided to cut it in advance and like that having less to transport. My plan was sewing the dress between yesterday evening and today and then wear it tomorrow evening for date with our parents. But dear friends, let me tell you something to avoid the same that happened to me. Today, when I was finally working on it, I discovered that two of the pieces were missing. I don’t know if I either forgot to cut them or they just stayed home with the rest of the fabric. So, dear friends, if you happen to plan the same in the future, please do two things:

  1. Make sure that you have all the necessary pieces to finish your garment. Check it twice.
  2. Take with you some extra fabric just in case. Things happen.

Anyway, the weather here is not as hot as in Madrid, and it’s clearly much more humid; so all the skirts and dresses I brought will probably stay in the suitcase, and if I happen to wear some of them, it will be just for the hottest hours of the day. Today I was wearing my first A-line skirt and sandals, and I’m wearing now my Thurlows and my Freija. So, even if could have finished the dress, I don’t think I would have been able to wear it tomorrow for dinner.

These are some bracelets I made for the family, one of the things that worked so far. I haven’t given them to them yet, so you know, they will probably break when they try to wear them.

At least I have my knitting. I’m still working on Andi’s test. I’m over 50%, so I’m afraid this project will not last for the complete vacation and all the things happening will drive me crazy. I think I’ll need to pay a visit to a famous store here that sells fabric by the kilo. After all this fails it will be so comforting…

Intarsia

Whenever I go somewhere I have so many pictures and things to tell that I create loads of posts in my mind but nothing gets typed. Last weekend we were in Valencia and I still need to rescue some pictures from Koen’s phone to be able to show you my bikini in action.

For now I will tell you that I’ve been knitting in the train on the way there and back and also during some brief moments at the hotel. This cardigan has a bit of intarsia, just a tiny little bit, so it’s ideal to get initiated into this colorwork technique without being overwhelmed by it.

Testing a pattern means that you have to be very careful when you read the instructions, following them very carefully (no cheating allowed!) and being able to spot any mistake. If something doesn’t match you have to re-read again, count your stitches and find out if you made a mistake yourself. If that’s not the case, then the designer should be contacted so that she can verify it and then correct it. It’s a process that requires continuous feedback and requires a good communication in both ways.

Have I told you how much I’m enjoying this knitting?

Starting the test

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

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

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

Road trip

I haven’t been here for some days. You know, sometimes life gets in the way and one can’t find time to blog. Last week we had some days off and decided to take a road trip to the south. The plan was reaching Cádiz, but that was all. We still needed to get there, find hotels, come back and get lost in the way. Our first stop was Mérida, where we visited an old Roman theater which is still being used nowadays for its original purpose:

After that we continued South and visited Seville. It was getting warmer and warmer, but I’m always a cold girl and still needed my Bliss on.

The poor thing is peeling horribly, but it’s so soft, warm and comfy that I can’t stop wearing it. Well, I have to confess that I’m not wearing it right now because the temperatures raised a bit, which means I’m constantly wearing Freija, made from a bit thinner and also more durable yarn. It’s amazing how different Malabrigo Worsted and Rios can be. And talking about Malabrigo Rios, during the trip I had a chance to finish my Scroll Lace Scarf with Malabrigo Rios leftovers from Freija:

I was having doubts about either following literally the pattern or making it it in garter stitch. The border is clearly garter stitch, so after a couple of tests I decided that it would look more consistent just continuing like this. It also prevents it from rolling and I didn’t need to block it. In fact, after I finished it I couldn’t stop wearing it, admiring it, stroking it.

Yeah, and also making stupid pictures with my phone while it was Koen’s driving turn.

The whole point of this trip was visiting Cádiz, but I have to say that we felt a bit disappointed.  The coastline is completely ruined, since they built almost at the sea shore.

You cannot see it on the picture, but we were waking on a normal sidewalk, and just at the other side of the road there were ugly tall buildings.

The old part is a bit more beautiful, but it looks it was not really taken care of for a very long time.

The trip highlight was Tarifa, such a beautiful city at the most South of Spain and just across Africa:

You can see Africa behind us, and you can also see my beautiful Scroll Lace Scarf that I was not able to take off my shoulders. And also my very full and ragged handbag, but please, pay no attention to it. Koen is wearing a very strong sunscreen on his chin because of an accident he had some month ago with his bike, after which he got some stitches here and there. Luckily nothing too serious.

It was very windy there, and we learned it’s a location that attracts wind surfers. You can see Koen’s long hair blowing with the air. He really needs a haircut, but we recently heard that Maxi, the local vintage hairdresser died last January of a motorbike accident. He’s really missed by the rock community here.

Tarifa was not only beautiful and blindly bright, but it gave the impression of receiving a different tourism than the other cities we visited. It’s definitely more taken care of, with its beautiful fountains, gardens and white buildings.

And also funny street names 😉

We continued the drive and expected to visit Córdoba, but they were having the local festivities and it was so crowded that we couldn’t do anything but escaping from there.

And I continued with my knitting, this time working on a pair of Hermione’s everyday socks. I made this pattern so many times that the next one will be just plain vanilla socks. I swear it!

You can find more pictures of our journey in my Flickr.

Stewardess in distress

I’ve came to spend the weekend with my mother. She’s finally coming out of the pneumonia, but still, I wanted to come and visit her. She’s staying  these weeks with one of my aunts at the house that used to belong to my grandparents. The weather is usually worse than the one in Vigo and much worse than the one in Madrid. It’s cold and damp for the most part of the year. If you don’t pay continuous attention, you’ll have black stuff growing everywhere. As you see these are the ideal conditions for an asthmatic and a dust mites allergic like me. The town is small and oppressive. It’s the kind of place which is loved by children, because they can play outside, but then left by teenagers and young people because it’s just too small and there aren’t enough jobs. Most of the people I see on the street are old relics from a time long gone. There are some abandoned houses covered in grass, lichen and more of that black stuff.

Arriving there by public transport is exactly like when my mother was a child. Three daily buses run from it to the capital of the region, and then you have to take another one to reach the airport.

The house is big and it feels empty. The big living room, my grandmother bedroom and the bathroom she used are at the end of the house and those are areas seldom visited. It’s strange how a place can change so much from my childhood days, full of pleasant memories to the one that it’ve become now, empty and dark. I have to confess that I don’t come here as often as I should, but remembering the last months of my grandma here is so painful that my memory just can’t go there.

I made a short movie about that some years ago as the final project for my studies of video. I should add subtitles, since it’s in Spanish, but there’s very little dialogue, so I think it can be easily understood. I promise I will add subtitles soon.

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/5841891 w=500&h=375]

I finished the Clapotis in the plane going there. While I was working on it one of the stewardesses approached me and knelt to my side (I had aisle) and asked me if the security guys had let me pass with those needles and what they were made of. She was touching my KnitPro wooden interchangeable needles while saying this. I was surprised, since this was the first time I was questioned about them. I explained that they were made of wood, but I couldn’t add more because she came out to explain that she was also interested in knitting while flying but she was not sure whether she could get the security check passed with her needles. Imagine my face when a stewardess asked me for advice about carrying knitting needles in a plane. She then told me that she’d just had a baby and he was allergic to wool, so she was looking for nice cotton to knit him some things. It was a very nice moment and I hope the information I gave her will be useful to her. I’ve never thought of it, but I should maybe make some little cards to give away in situations like this. There’s a group in Ravelry about this, but I had a hard time to explain it to her, since she didn’t know about Ravelry at all.

And here you have my Clapotis. I apologize for the quality of the pictures, but I couldn’t pack the SLR due to the strict policy the airline has with carry-on baggage (max 10 Kg and 1 very small bag where you need to fit everything, including your handbag). I didn’t want to check in a suitcase for such a short weekend and for the sake of being fast at the airport.