Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post-Christmas

Whew!  I'm all tuckered out - and we're only half-way done.  We spent a week in Alsace with T's family; we celebrated Christmas there with plenty of snow.  We also spent some time cleaning out T's paternal grandmother's farmhouse.  I'll do a separate post on that experience.  I wasn't super thrilled to be doing that during Christmas vacation, but it wasn't so bad and we salvaged some lovely things.  Photos of the farmhouse in a future post.

Makes you want to break out some ice tea and relax in the chair, doesn't it?


Earlier this week I was in Paris for an afternoon to meet up with my friend L.  She was in the south of France visiting extended family and sped through Paris, so I was lucky to catch her for the afternoon.  T. and I came back from Alsace on the 26th, and I was off to Paris on the 27th!  Unfortunately, I'm silly and I didn't take any photos of her.  Well, there are two photos, but both are blurry, so that doesn't count.  (On a side note, I really need to get a new camera one of these days.)  She took a couple photos with her camera; maybe once she's back in her hometown, she can send me something to post.  But it was great to be able to see L.; she had flown all the way out from Hawai'i - that's not a short plane ride!

Tomorrow we leave for Toulouse to spend New Year's with T's engineer school friends.  Since I don't drive our car, as it is stick, all that car time equals more knitting time for me.  I'm not as far along as I'd hoped on T's sweater, but I have (basically) finished the front and back.  And I've started the sleeves; I'm doing both at the same time.  I always tell myself to do that and I always forget.  So yeah for me that I remembered this time!  I did have a little mishap while in Alsace.  I confused the neckline and shoulder instructions; I had to rip back a few inches.  It wasn't too traumatic though. 



And I'm eager to try a new technique that Interweave Knits posted a video on: changing one's zipper into a knittable object.  I'll have to buy a knit-picker (do they have those in France?), but the technique seems brilliant, much better than sewing the zipper on with the sewing machine.  Also, I learned that one should wash and dry one's zippers before attaching them to the garment.  Never would've thought of that.  Apparently zippers shrink too.

I haven't made any progress on my sewing project, but here's a photo of the coordinating fabric I bought:

Main fabric is the spots, the coordinating is the light teal (?) below.

I sewed the first elbow patch to one of T's sweaters, but it came out all wonky.  I think I'm going to rip it out and try again.  I had no idea how difficult this would be!


I'm excited to get back to sewing though, once I've returned to a normal schedule.  I received some patterns as Christmas gifts and I'm ready to try them out.




I'd like to attempt sewing with knits - that dress looks fabulous.  But maybe not right away...

I also received some lip balm as an unexpected gift and as I'm a major lip balm consumer, especially in winter, I'm excited to try it out.  Plus, the name is hilarious.  I couldn't pass up a picture:

That's my Henriette Turtle pincushion in the background.  My first attempt at sewing something three-dimensional.

There's so many things to share from the holidays, so expect several future posts to be filled with pictures and maybe a few stories!  Thank you to everyone and Happy Holidays!

P.S.  I've learned a couple tricks on the blog.  For example, now I know how to resize the photos and change the layout, yippee!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Shambhala Weekend

This is just a short post to let you know that I survived the meditation retreat this weekend.  It went really well.  Now I need to buy a meditation cushion so I can have the goodness every day in my home. :)

Here are a few photos I took while in Paris.  I didn't have much wandering time.  We started at 9:30 am and ended around 7:00 pm.  So I took these pictures either coming or going to the 10th arrondissement.  I stayed in the 3rd with a friend and walked to the 10th via the St. Martin canal.  It was a nice walk.  That area is a bit funky; just my speed.

I took this photo in the 3rd; near to my host's home.

This is along the St. Martin canal.  I love the pink scooter AND the apt. building behind it.

I took this in the 10th, near the meditation center. 
And today I'm trying to attend to my domestic duties: sewing the elbow patches so poor T. will have something to wear this winter.  I'm starting with the brown sweater that I knit him.



I also had lots of laundry pile up in the time I was gone!  At least three loads worth.  :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Elbow Patches

I don't know about you, but I don't find this kind of sewing very exciting.  I have to sew elbow patches onto ALL of T's sweaters.



Some of those sweaters have only been worn for 3/4s of a season....the store-bought ones don't last as long.  But the sweater I knit for him also needs a patch.



I found a couple colors at Mondial Tissus in Saran, but I still need some greys and blacks.


I'm not excited about doing this, but I find it too wasteful (and too expensive) to simply replace the sweaters.  Aside from the holes in the right elbow, there's nothing wrong with them.  A member of my knitting group gave me a hint for hand-knits, but it's only useful once the elbow has gotten thin, but before there are actual holes.  In that case, you can apparently stitch over the elbow (on the inside) to reinforce the area.  She also suggested I reknit the whole sleeve.  No thanks.

Two of T's male colleagues have the same problem, so it must be an occupational hazard.  Lots of computer/mouse time.

While I was at Mondial Tissus, I also bought some fabric so I can - en principe - finish my stalled sewing project.  I also bought a rotary cutter, yay!

But before I dive in again, I'm off to Paris for a three-day meditation retreat/workshop at the Shambhala Center: http://paris.shambhala.fr/.  I'm signed up to do Level 2, the Birth of the Warrior.  I previously did Levels 1 and 2 in Hawaii, but Level 2 was especially difficult so I'm redoing it.  Plus, I'm not sure how well this is going to work...doing the workshop in French.  And I won't have my friend with me to guide me through like she normally does!  So I thought I'd start out with something familiar to try to match up vocabulary, etc.  I managed to meditate a whole 15 minutes this week, but before that it's literally been months since I last sat.  So I'm a bit nervous - wish me luck!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Christmas Decorations

Since I had mentioned sewing some Christmas decorations for my knitting group's expo-vente, I thought I'd share the results.  I made three; one sold at the expo-vente.  My original idea was to knit some Christmas balls, but I wasn't sure what to use as a support to get the shape, so I decided to sew something.

I got the basic (rounded) star shape, as well as the embroidery pattern from this quilting pattern:


You can see in the prototype that I used green embroidery thread.  Plus I didn't do the embroidery before sewing and stuffing.  Whoops.  So, as you can imagine, the embroidery process was a bit difficult and the result a bit wonky.



For the final product, I changed to white embroidery thread.  And, of course, I embroidered the fabric before sewing and stuffing.   I also invested in some more festive fabric.  I chose fabric with a red background so as to hide my final hand-stitching, for which I used red thread.


I also added the button.  This helped hide the center of the embroidery design, which wasn't so even, as well as add a focal point to the overall design.  I used plaid buttons that I had in my (very small) stash.  I ordered these buttons off this shop at Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/oritdotan.  The shop owner is based out of Israel, but he mails world-wide.  I love his selection.  I was originally attracted to his shop by some turquoise buttons which I purchased for another sewing project. 


Speaking of sewing, my current project has stalled a bit due to the bad weather here in Orleans.  I need to go to a fabric store in Saran and that requires driving.  Since the driving conditions haven't been so good, that trip has been delayed.  I'm hoping to get up there on Wednesday.

But in other news, I've been knitting up a storm.  I'm currently working on a sweater for T.  I don't think it'll be finished for Christmas, but hopefully I'll finish it early enough so that he can still get some use out of it this winter.  Here's a photo of it in progress:


I've progressed much further since taking this photo.  I am sorely tempted to cheat on this project though and knit myself another hat.  I only have one hat that covers my ears and it's getting a bit worn.  I like it, so I want to make it last longer by alternating with another hat.  I already have the yarn and the pattern in mind...stay posted.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One Big Mess

I considered naming this blog "One Big Mess," but I decided that was a little bit too negative.  Nonetheless, some days my crafting really is one big mess.  Today was one of those days; luckily, the project was small.  That was probably the root of the problem.  I thought it would be much easier and much faster than it was.   So, I didn't verify that I had enough thread of the correct color.  And when the spool ran dry, I was lucky to find that I had another one because I used a lot of thread on this small project.  Lots of stitching, ripping out, and re-stitching.

I made a Christmas gift for someone and decided that I should sew a gift bag to go with it, as the gift itself wasn't going to be easily wrapped in paper.  I didn't use a pattern for the gift bag.  I had an idea and I thought it would be easy enough to do.  I even had what I thought was a super trick for the construction that would save me a few steps.  I should've thought that one through a little more before starting because half-way through I realized that, in fact, it was NOT a super trick and that there was a much better way to do it.  But I'm stubborn and I didn't want to start all the way over, so I found a way to make it work.  And, my silly way of constructing the bag does have the bonus of giving the bag a nice design element on the side seam.

Here are some pictures of the bag in construction:



I used fabric leftover from my Christmas decorations project (made for my knitting group's sale).  I haven't done a post yet on the Christmas decorations...perhaps I will do one later.  The fact that I was using leftovers didn't give me a lot of wiggle room on the design.  Well, I suppose I could've used even more leftovers and made a larger, quilted bag, but the bag itself is not the gift so I didn't want to spend days on it. 

Anyhow, here's a photo of the finished project, with the Christmas gift already in the bag.  I hope the recipient likes both!


I also used this photo for today's contribution on the 365 Project.  So far I'm loving looking at everyone's photos and I encourage everyone to join: http://365project.org/

As a side note, I listened to three albums while sewing this bag:  'Gulag Orkestar' by Beirut, 'Fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant,' by Belle & Sebastian, and 'Different Light' by the Bangles.  Do you listen to music while you sew, and if yes, what do you like to listen to?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Snow in November

The night before last, the Loiret (and nearby departments) got a lot of snow.  It even made the national news!  The news said it snowed up to 20 cm in some areas.  And some villages lost power.  Here in Orleans, the tram and the bus system weren't running.  The tram is sort of back up today, but my bus still isn't running.  My particular bus line frequents a lot of twisty-turny neighborhood streets, so I understand why it's not back up.  That does make it more complicated if I want to go to work tonight...

We were walking back from a friend's house last night and I wish I had had my camera so I could show you how ghostly beautiful the city was.  There was a heavy fog and the streets were deserted.  No cars.  The combination of the snow, the fog, the empty streets, and the play of the city lights made Orleans seem like a movie set.  But I didn't have my camera, so here are some pictures of the snow that I took around my apartment building during the day.

This is a view from my kitchen window.  You can see some fallen trees in the background; apparently, they couldn't support the weight of the snow.




I'm thinking of participating in Photo-a-Day with my friend Drew.  This weather is certainly giving me lots of opportunities to snap some shots.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Attic Treasures

When my husband lost his grandmother earlier this year, we went to Colmar to help clean out her attic.  She lived in an apartment, but had attic space for storage, and the attic space was quite large.  You could easily make a nice studio up there.  There are already nice windows on two sides; you'd just need running water and a little help with the rafters.  Needless to say, the attic was full to the brim with furniture, clothes, documents, pictures, and knick-knacks from several generations.  I was lucky enough to be able to pick out a few items to keep.  I should say 'we were lucky,' but T. just let me choose.

I didn't take any family memorabilia.  The photo albums and documents stayed in Alsace.  But I did take several vintage hats, her box of blue fabric scraps, two pairs of hand-knit socks, an old tin, and some feathers that could go with the hats.  Plus, a gorgeous hand-embroidered banner.  And, oh yes, a few books.

Here are some photos of the hats:


The ribbon on this brown one is not in very good shape, but otherwise it's held up well.


I'm not sure what to which decade these hats belong.  I could believe anywhere from the 20's through the 50's.  Perhaps someone has a better idea of the appropriate dates?




The fabric scraps: she has indicated that there are two boxes of blue scraps, but I only found one.




Here's a few patterns that caught my eye.  I imagine incorporating these scraps into a quilt some day.  Once I start quilting!





And here are the wonderfully elaborate socks, with the initials M.S.H at the top.  Unfortunately I don't know what M.S.H. stands for.  A relative, but I don't know who.  I am assuming that T.'s grandmother knit these, but I'm not sure.  I know she was a knitter and a crocheter because she left yarn at the house, along with a finished crochet coverlet.  I also claimed some yarn that I found in her attic, but I forgot to photograph that.  I'll save it for a future post.



The detail on these socks is amazing.  They seem to be sized for a small adult.





The tin and feathers:





The amazing banner, which I photographed on a snowy bush outside of our apartment.  The German roughly translates to: Sleep sweetly without worries.  Rejoice of the morning.  T. translated it; and he says he doesn't speak German.




And last, but not least: a few books.  The Max Gallo novels are decades younger than the previous items:


Plus a Milan Kundera:




We received quite a lot of snow here in the Loiret during the last 24 hours or so.  Some villages have lost power.  Luckily, we still have electricity here.  I did cancel class tonight though, as the car is stuck and the tram is not running.  I expect to post a few pictures of the snow tomorrow.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Beginning!

Every story must have a beginning, so here I go with the story of this blog:  I have been inspired by my friends, and by people who I've never met to start this project.  There is much truth and beauty out there in the world, and I aspire only to use this blog to help keep me inspired, active, and in touch with my own truth.  And maybe I'll post something of interest to others. 

I expect mainly to write about my crafting projects, and my life abroad, but I'll follow the blog where it leads me.  Hopefully I'll get some links and photos up soon; I'm still figuring out how this works.  So, off we go!