Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving + Project Updates

Kittens, Thanksgiving has come and gone!  I did a small version this year, but it sure was yummy.  We had roast chicken:

Dressing (a little burnt...wrong oven setting, whoops):

Candied sweet potatoes:

And green beans with onions and Parmesan (eventually):

Ta da!

My food photography skills need some improving, but the food was delicious. :)  No pumpkin pie this year.  The candied yams are plenty sugary and it was just the two of us...

And look, my embroidery project is nearly, nearly done!! It needs to be finished within the next three weeks, so I need to keep my momentum going.

Plus I picked up my knitting needles again, for the first time since May, to start working on the body of the February Fitted pullover.  I messed up a bit during the decreasing/increasing part for the waist, but hopefully it won't show too badly. 

Otherwise, it's a fast and agreeable knit.  Maybe it will even be finished by February (cough, cough!) :)

Hey, what do you think of the new blog background?  I was going for something more autumnal...

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why I Am a Maker

I haven't let go of those blog hop questions yet...they have stuck to my mind like peanut butter.  And this week I had my last class with my photographer student.  I didn't see her all that much, honestly, because I shared her with another teacher who was her main teacher.  But already the fact that she's no longer a student makes me a little sad.  It's so rare that I have artists as students and it was such a pleasure to be able to discuss with her.  It kindled my making urges. 

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My typical student is a businessman in his 40s...and while that is perfectly fine and is often interesting, those conversations don't create a spark in the same way.  I am keenly missing "my" photographer and "my" journalist students right now.  (Teachers can get proprietary sometimes, when we are attached to a student).

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And, to place all my cards on the table, I personally value art and art-making more than I do trade.  Commerce is important, to be sure, and of course art and commerce have a special relationship too, but I'm not especially interested in the pecuniary aspects of art, but rather, the creative aspects.

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So anyhow, the confluence of these two events - losing my art students and the blog hop - have kept me thinking about the role of art and creation in my life (in the past, present, and future) and why it's important/essential for me.

For one, I think that making something (from conception to realization) makes me feel more anchored in the world.  Like I'm giving something fundamental and not simply reacting.  I feel more secure and real somehow.  I grant you, this is illusory, but the feeling is important.

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Most of my other interests, reading, traveling, movies, etc. are essentially consumer experiences.  I experience things and I learn things and perhaps - especially with traveling - I influence other people's lives, but nevertheless, I don't feel like I am creating with those experiences.  Of course, books, movies, and travel definitely influence what I make further down the road and so are an important part of the process.  I *do* have another passion in which I think I am fundamentally an actor and not a consumer, and that is dance.  My partner and I create the dance; if we don't move, there is no dance.  But dancing is such an immediate, lived experience that it's hard to share on a blog. And I think I experience it and conceive of it differently than I do my other creations because it is easier to see that it is fundamentally ephemeral...

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Making something (or altering something) seems to create a fundamental shift in the fabric of the universe...putting something there that wasn't there before.  And through this act I feel that my presence has more substance.  I suppose this is sometimes why people have babies...but then again, what do I know?

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So, fundamentally, why do I create anything?  To say that I'm here and that I matter, and to say, this is how I see the world right now, in this space, in this moment.

The photos sprinkled throughout this post are taken from my kitchen window, looking toward the cathedral.  I haven't retouched them in any way, not even cropping.  It's just a view from my kitchen window or an object that I find beautiful.  And, of course, a cat photo-bombed my shoot, for so much the better. ;)  I also placed the photos in the order that I took the earliest in the series is featured first in this blog post.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Blog Hop: Why do I do it?

Helena from was kind enough to invite me to participate in this blog hop a few weeks (??) ago and I'm taking advantage of a(n) (unusual) day off to finally do it!!

I have loved reading every one's thoughts about their creative processes, both for blogging and sewing/crafting/making art.  It offers a different perspective into people's personalities.  And it reminds me of a conversation I had yesterday with one of my students.  She is a professional photographer who has recently gone back to study photography as a fine art (rather than as an 'applied art,' which is her original degree) and as part of that process, she has to write an artist's statement describing her work and motivations, intentions, etc.  She said she had never really thought about it before, she just did it because she feels most comfortable, most herself, with a camera.  And then we had a really lovely two-hour conversation about her approach and why she doesn't call still-lifes, still-lifes, but rather, portraits of objects. :)

Anyhow, I digress, but only a little.  I haven't thought so much about why I blog or make things, but I'll try to find an answer (justification?).

Parc Floral, Orleans, 2011.
 Question 1: Why do you write and make stuff?

I started blogging when I was only working part-time and I really wanted to connect with people who were making things with textiles, either sewing or knitting or anything really.  I was inspired by reading blogs and I wanted to join that conversation.

Why do I write in general?  I write because I breathe, I imagine.  But my blog writing is a very special category of writing, and I hesitate to say it, but I think my blog writing is rather sterile compared to my other types of writing.  For some reason I dampen a lot of my personality on my blog...fear of too much exposure perhaps?

So why do I make stuff then, sewing and such-like?  I realize that my blog is much more of a craft blog than a sewing blog; I'm a mediocre seamstress at best.  I really enjoy embroidery and knitting much more than sewing.  I like the finished products of sewing, but the process is more stressful to me.  It seems more about math with rules and order, whereas embroidery and knitting seem more organic, whatever that means.  I feel freer to adapt and change and invent when I knit or embroider.  But I love playing with colors and textures and I think that's why I craft in general.

Question 2:  What is your writing / creative process?

I basically wait until the spirit moves me.  And then I just go with the flow.  I have tried (and still try sometimes) to sew with a plan, to be practical regarding my wardrobe needs, but I am generally only 50% successful there because, ultimately, I make stuff 'cuz I want to and not 'cuz I should.  I think I need to give myself that creative space to just do whatever and stop trying to be organized.

This applies to my writing as well. ;)

Question 3: How does your blog differ from others in its genre?

Yeah...I don't think it does unless you consider being a little slow and lackluster sometimes as differing.  Otherwise, I think it's a typical sew-and-show blog.

Question 4: How do you keep motivated to blog?

I am motivated to blog when I read my blog-friends' posts.  I am always inspired by what people share.  Also, just being in nature or in town, noticing beautiful or intriguing things around me inspires me to blog.  I blog if and when I have time, but if I had more of that, then I would blog more often. :)

Question 5: What are you working on right now?

The only craft project I am actively working on right now is cross-stitch, destined to be a present for some special people, and long, long overdue.

Otherwise, I am constantly working on things in my head.  Does that count?

Anglet, France, 2011.
 Now, I believe I am supposed to invite two bloggers to share their thoughts on their process, etc.  I would really like to know more about the inspiration behind these two blogs: and  Looking forward to hearing from you two, if that floats your boat!! ;)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cooking #1: Nems

I am going to do a slight turn as a cooking blog.  Ha!  Not really, but I am going to try to make something every week or so from my new cookbook and I'd like to share the results with you.  I'll label the posts, so you can avoid the cooking ones if that's not your thing!

So this is the new cookbook, and frankly the presentation makes everything look super delicious and NOT SCARY to make:

So, we attacked the spring rolls (nems, in French) recipe first because I love that!!

Here are some prep pictures:

Shredded carrots and mushrooms:

Shredded onions and parsley

And here are the noodles...

I said 'we' prepared the nems, but that's not really true, unless you consider documenting the process as preparing. ;)  In fact, my new boyfriend did all the work.  Yeah, so that...that's the main reason that the blog has been so silent.  My husband and I have divorced, but the whole process has been pretty smooth.  My husband and I have been able to stay friends so far, and as we are both motivated to remain so, I think we'll be able to make it work.  

Anyhow, here's introducing K., the man who did all the cooking (that's his hobby), about to enjoy a nice pint in London:

So all of the following is his magnificent and delicious onions, pork, mushrooms, noodles, etc.

The pile waiting to be fried:

And now, the frying...

On a scale of five stars, K. places the result at a solid four stars: **** !  The recipe is stamped and approved and the taste was yum, yum, yum.  The form wasn't quite there yet, the first nems were a bit too long and skinny, hence the four out of five. ;)

Ready to eat!

With a nice salad:

It was delicious...and nearly like in the photo!

Recipe ingredients:

10 black mushrooms
1 handful of rice noodles
2 garlic cloves
2 small onions (shallot)
1 carrot
6 shrimp (uncooked)
1 chile pepper
1 bunch of coriander
1 bunch of mint
1/2 bunch of green onions
1 handful of soy beans
200 g of ground pork
1 tablespoon of nuoc-mam sauce
30 rice sheets
oil for frying

Now we just need to choose the next recipe...and maybe I'll chop something... ;)

Friday, September 12, 2014

An Orléans Fashion Update!!

It's time for our monthly whenever-I-feel-like-it fashion update with Edith, the woman's rag in Orléans.

Here's what they feel are the must-have fall looks...what do you think, does this look like fashion in your city??

This plaza is just outside of my new apartment!

A little Archer, any one?

I feel like the red shoes push the matchy-matchiness too far; otherwise I like this outfit.  But with black shoes.  What do you think?

And for the kids...

 Or for the adults, why not? ;)

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Blog, Interrupted

I moved!!!  There have been some changes in my personal life that put my crafting life on hold.  I am finally on vacation, so I'm taking advantage of the free time to try to organize and decorate my new apartment.

Here's a view of my new living room, complete with cats:

 Looking more toward the kitchen:

With a little luck, I'll even start sewing again before I have to go back to work.  I want to start with something quick and easy.  So I'm thinking of re-using a pattern I know.  But, of course, those new  patterns are tempting.  I think I've pretty much decided, but here are my choices.

First, in tops, I'm thinking another Renfrew, another little peasant blouse, or another short-sleeve shirt of some kind.

OK, you're right.  I decided already.  I want to make this Lisette top in this crazy owl fabric.  I know, it's a little too much.  But I think the slouchy look with the crazy fabric ... and the right pants ... could totally work.  Is it too crazy?


On the short-list is another dress ... I'm leaning toward the maxi knit dress in a turquoise jersey.  But starting a new project in jersey is not my idea of easing into it!!

I like the two Lisette dresses - a lot - but I don't have the appropriate fabric to make them.  And I am absolutely positively sewing from my stash!!

Otherwise, I did finish some sewing recently.  I finally finished my Colette Beignet, but it's too big.  And I really don't want to go back in and shrink it up.  There's the lining and all that.  So I'll live with this version being too big and if I make another one, I'll go down a size.  But doing all those buttons was a wee bit of a chore, so I don't envisage another one right away.  One day I'll put up a F.O. photo ... one day

In the meantime, enjoy some cat pictures. ;)

Oohh, gonna getcha!!

'Til next time!!

Friday, May 9, 2014

Finished Object: Spring Tunic using Simplicity 2365

I love this make!  Technically speaking, it's not my best work.  I haven't had much time to sew lately, so the skills are a bit rusty.  But the fabric is so happy and soft!  It's like wearing a spring day. :)

I sewed the tunic version (version A of Simplicity 2365), but I shortened it by about 4 inches.  In fact, I imagine I shortened it to be the length of version B.  I sewed on the sleeve tabs, but ultimately I left off the buttons because I can't see myself ever rolling and pinning up the sleeves.

I can see myself making another version of this.  I quite like the mandarin collar and I did a better job making this one than I did with the last one (Simplicity 2339).

I didn't originally plan on pairing it with these pants (as I had intended this fabric to become a dress!) but I'm glad that they work together because I don't have much to match with these green trews.

Not much to add, technically or style-wise.  I put some buttons in the middle, just for fun.  The fabric is a bit transparent, so a camisole underneath is advised. :)

As you may have noticed,  I'm not participating in Me-Made-May this year.  I don't have enough me-mades in my wardrobe to be able to manage something every day.  And honestly even a fun challenge like this is too much on my plate right now!  But I'm enjoying following what everybody else is doing and hopefully I'll be back on the wagon next year. 

One parting shot...

I hope everyone's enjoying some sunshine - have a nice weekend!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

St. Fargeau

Warning: this is not sewing related!  This is me geeking out and reminiscing.

My master's thesis back in graduate school was an analysis of La Grande Mademoiselle's (Anne Marie Louise d'Orléans) memoirs.  An essential part of that analysis was about how she created her persona: via texts, via physical representations (portraits, etc.) and via estate-building.  Well, I finally got to visit the chateau that she is most associated with during her exile: St. Fargeau.

While the castle suffered during the Revolution and then afterward, through neglect, it was renovated in the late 70's and early 80's.  It's privately owned and still suffers from a lack of funding, but it's definitely better than it was 40 years ago.

Montpensier transformed what was essentially a medieval defensive castle into a neo-classical 17th beauty.  Here are some photos of the outside, with its large park in the back:

The inside needs more love.  Nonetheless, here are some shots (with a before and after renovation), plus an extract of Mme. de Sévigné's witty letter about Montpensier's supposed marriage:

There were many, many representations of La Grande Mademoiselle around the castle, in various degrees of preservation.  Because these were essential to my master's thesis, I made a little collage of these too:

However, the portrait which was the key to my analysis is not here.  It's at Versailles.  Here's a link.  And here's the portrait:

And, because I'm a dork, here we are together:

Happy Easter everybody!