Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rant + Norah Gaughan Sweater

In my blog description I mention that I might let fly the occasional "reflection" about living in France. I have yet to do that, for fear that it might turn into an enormous rant. When I have a bone to pick, I pick it! Nonetheless I am going to try to broach this subject in a non-ranty much as possible anyway.

I'm going to relate what happened to me this week (and not for the first time) and I really want to know your thoughts on the matter.

I had to go to the doctor to demonstrate that I am fit enough to work. I believe that everyone in France who is employed by someone else has to do this. The medical exam was cursory, but they took also my job history. The doctor was filling out paperwork and asked my for name, birthdate, etc. Then she asked if I was married and had children. Yes, married, no children. And she asked my nationality: American.

Then she asked if my name was my maiden name (nom de jeune fille) or my husband's name (nom d'époux). It's my maiden name. Then she fusses a bit and asks why that is the name that my employer provided. To which I reply that it's the name that I use (c'est le nom que j'utilise).

The doctor replies: "nous utilisons le nom d'époux." In English, "we use the spouse's name" or married name. So I asked who 'we' was, doctors? I said "nous les médecins?" The answer: "nous les français." We, the French.

The doctor's tone when sharing this information with me was not of the "oh, that's interesting, we do this instead" variety, but rather, of the "this is how we do things around here" variety.

There is, by the way, no legal obligation in France for a woman to take her husband's name upon marriage. A woman has the right to use her husband's name, if she wishes, but she also retains her maiden name. She can use her husband's name alone, or in combination with her given name. This is, according to "article 264 du Code civil issu de la loi n° 2004-439 du 26 mai 2004, article 16" which I got from the following website: Having said that, I am not a lawyer.

Rant concluded. What are your thoughts on my conversation with the doctor?

In totally unrelated news, I finished my Norah Gaughan sweater:

Here are the buttons I've used, although I think I'll replace them later. They are a wee bit too small.

There are some rough patches on the sweater, but overall, I'm happy with it. And it gave me one more item to wear for the Me Made March challenge, yay! (I am looking forward to being to wear other clothes, starting tomorrow.) This also counts as one item completed for my Colette Spring Palette Challenge. It was a quick knit and easy to do.

Now I've picked up the sweater I started by Nicky Epstein. It's her Austrian Alps Zip Jacket from the book "Knitting on Top of the World." It's about 80% completed. I've joined the pieces together and am working on the raglan shaping.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I decided that I needed a slip, not only to go with my new stripey skirt, but also for some other skirts I have hanging around. Instead of buying one or making one, I took apart a skirt that has been in my 'give away' box. I forgot to take a picture before I detached the two layers, but you can see how it would've looked.

I bought this Paul Frank skirt when I lived in Seattle (maybe 1999 or 2000?) and it has a separate lining that is only attached to the skirt itself at the waistband and along the zipper. So I thought it would be easy enough to remove the upper layer and use the lining as a slip.

So far it looks like the perfect fix. I can wear the slip under my new skirt with no problem. The zippers are even on opposite sides of the body, so there's no big bump. I just hope it helps the 'riding up' problem.

I also removed the ribbon from the skirt hem to use on a future project and I'll keep the blue and white check fabric for future use as well. Maybe a tank top? I won't be able to use the part where the strawberry motif was ironed on (?), but that still leaves a good amount of fabric. I can at least use it to trim something.

Blogware courtesy of

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Magazines and Books!

This is just a short post because I'm so excited about all the magazines (and books) that my friend (you know who you are!) brought me from the US.

Plus look at the yummy Oreos. Those are destined for a student but she hasn't shown up to class...

If I could I would have about 20 magazine subscriptions. I love curling up with a good magazine or journal article. And I like all types, from the glossy and fluffy to the dull and heavy-hitting.

In disappointing news, the polka-dotted shirt that I made for my sister doesn't fit her! It's too tight across the bust and under the arms. She's thinking of asking a professional seamstress to add contrast fabric at the side seams (which would match the contrast belt fabric). It would be nice if a solution could be found. I guess that's one of the dangers of a neophyte trying to sew for someone at a distance; no one can try it on while it's still in progress. Hopefully it'll work out better next time.

And finally, here's another collage of my Me Made March wardrobe for the last
week. Luckily the weather is warming up so I can wear my short-sleeve shirts.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ta Da!

Here it is! This is my first piece for the Colette Spring Palette Challenge that is entirely finished. And it's not the end of March yet, amazing! I didn't think I'd be able to finish this weekend, but luckily I found what I needed at the grocery store this morning. :)

This white tank top is the only shirt I have that even remotely matches, which means that this skirt will be hibernating until, oh let's see, August. Unless, of course, I sew and/or knit something to go with it. Sewing would be faster...but why not do both? Sew a short-sleeve shirt and knit a little cardigan to go over it? Yeah so, like I said, I'll be wearing it in August!

Sorry for the not-so-great photos. T. was kind enough to take some for me, but I had a funny face and/or closed eyes in all of them (except the one). So I resorted to mirror trickery. Also, it's too damn cold to go outside in this outfit.

As far as the sewing, it went well except that I butchered the lapped zipper a little bit. But it only shows right up next to the top of the waist band, which will be covered up by a shirt. I'm considering doing a review for Pattern Review as some of the steps weren't explained very clearly.

In any case, the skirts sits higher on me than intended by the pattern makers because I cut too small a size. I should've cut a 12, but I cut a 10. The good news though is that if I ever lose weight the skirt will simply be lower down on the waist, but it will still fit. So this is a piece than can weather the ups and downs of weight fluctuation.

In other news, I've almost finished my Norah Gaughan sweater. I just need to sew in the sleeves, sew on the buttons and block it. It may turn out to be a little on the big side, but that's better than too small. We'll see.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Skirt

I needed a break after that McCall's pattern; I needed to do something that required less fiddly bits (i.e. sleeve plackets).

So I picked another item from my Colette Spring Palette Challenge: a skirt from Simplicity 2655, view B.

It's almost done; I just need to finish the waistband and insert the zipper. I could finish today except that I forgot to buy the zipper and now the store is closed. Things close early here in France!

So far it's been really easy. I made it even easier because I left off the pockets and the belt. Now I just hope it fits. I cut a size smaller than I'm 'supposed to' and I compensated by making smaller seam allowances.

This was the first time I traced out the pattern and left the original paper intact. I might want to make the longer version of the skirt so I didn't want to complicate any future endeavors by having to tape things back together.

I tried to use the Burda carbon paper, but somehow that didn't work. Apparently you're supposed to trace the pattern directly onto your fabric, but I didn't want to do that. I wanted to trace the pattern onto freezer paper using the carbon paper and a tracing wheel...and it didn't take. So I just did it the old fashioned way with a permanent marker.

Anyhow, I'm kinda getting sick of wearing the same things for the Me Made March challenge, so it would be nice if the weather would warm up and I could wear the skirt. Otherwise, I'm thinking maybe I could wear it with some white tights. Some white lace tights or maybe white tights with a stripe detail to go with the stripes of the skirt? I'm worried white legs would blind people though. Maybe turquoise tights? Any ideas?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Green Muslin Completed

Finally! I finished the muslin for McCall's M5522.

I really struggled with the sleeve plackets. I struggled a little with the cuffs (mainly because I didn't follow the directions well the first time). And they don't seem to lay quite right even though I made sure to label the sleeves as right and left and attach them appropriately. Maybe I need to rotate the sleeves caps a bit?

I was also unable to insert the sleeve caps flatly. I almost did it for the first one but the second one has pronounced gathers. I may just give up and try to do matching small gathers for the next version.

For the next version I will sew the back princess seams only 1 cm wide to try to adjust for the pooling in the small of the back.

Despite the imperfections I'm planning on wearing it. I already wear items with much worse problems!

And in other news, here's what I wore for Me Made March during the past seven days:

Here's all of my self-sewn shirts, except the red one I'm wearing today. They're waiting to be ironed, yikes!

Luckily the weather has warmed up a bit so I've been able to wear my short-sleeve shirts (with a cardigan, of course).

Some flowers, at last!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Me Made March #1

I mentioned in the previous post that for the beginning of March I was a) in the mountains and b) sick. Both of these put a damper on my sartorial choices. I basically wore my green sweater (self-knit) several days running and then when I couldn't wear that any longer, I wore various of my self-knit scarves. Sometimes I had a hand-sewn shirt on underneath, but you can't really tell from looking at the pictures. All of this is to explain why I look like crap in the pictures ;)

I have faithfully worn at least one me-made item since March, but my outfits are far from inspiring. Since being home I've been able to change it up a bit, but not much. I have exactly seven shirts to choose from, plus the one green sweater. Things are going to get repetitive. I'm not even certain to wear all seven shirts because it's still cold around here and they're too summery!

In addition, I have barely made a bent in the green muslin for the Colette Spring Challenge. Obviously I didn't work on it while I was in the mountains and today is the first day my head as been clear enough to even contemplate working on it. So yeah, I'm not sure I'll get much done for that challenge, as it ends at the end of March! But I'm enjoying looking at everyone else's work and I'll keep you updated no matter how slow I am. :)

Speaking of which, here's a picture of the nearly finished sleeve cuff:

Hope everyone's having a great week!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Our trip to the Pyrénées didn't turn out quite as expected because I was unfortunately sick the whole time; I still am sick! It's just a bad cold, but fever, sore throat and clogged sinuses do not mix well with snow and high altitudes. So I spent more time in the hotel than I would've liked. My view most days consisted of this:

Nonetheless, on the few days I ventured out I got a couple of interesting photos:

We stayed at a famous ski station, Cauterets. It's been visited by many celebrities, including George Sand (not a favorite writer of mine) and Marguerite de Navarre (definitely a favorite writer of mine).

In fact, I had completely forgotten that de Navarre's most well-known work is situated in Cauterets. The characters of L'Heptaméron are in Cauterets for a cure (it's known for its hot springs) when they become stranded there due to flooding.

So to pass the time while they wait for the water to go down, they tell each other tales. It's very sad that I had forgotten about this link with L'Heptaméron because it's one of my favorite books! Luckily there was a nice statue to remind me.

The one day that I went up the mountain, it was gorgeous, but the climb in altitude killed my ears! I took photos of the mountain and the stream and of the kids sledding.

I was able to work on my knitting a little while I was there, but I didn't touch it much because I didn't want to contaminate it with my germs.

In other news, I finished one sleeve of my green muslin just before we left the house on Friday. And here's a shot of the work in progress:

As you can see, for the next round I should let it out a bit. And here's the horrible back!

To me, all that fabric pooling means I should do a sway back adjustment. Are there any counter views about that? And I think in the future, I should perhaps do a broad back adjustment because I think it's a little tight on top. I am rather triangle shaped, but it's not due to the bust!

After reading various posts about the sway back adjustment, I've decided that I'm going to go about it by letting out the seams in the back; here, they are princess seams. However, I'm really not motivated to undo the button placket and the hem and the top/bottom seams in order to do the adjustment. So I think I'll just always have to wear this shirt with a sweater or cardigan so that the back is covered up. And for the next version with nice fabric, I'll know in advance to try it on with the adjustments before I've done too much finishing. Stupid me, that's the whole point of the muslin. This is the first time I've done a shirt that is so fitted and it's a bit horrifying to see all the adjustments I have to do to get it to fit correctly.

I've been playing with the photos a bit on Picnik to liven things up a bit :)