Saturday, June 30, 2012

On lemons, cats and hearts in the grass...

Fabio contemplates boughs laden with lemons, and dreams of a summer awash with limoncello...
a furry feline line...
and verdant love in unexpected places...

May and June were lean in handmaded-ness... but soft! all is now beyond sweet memory since riches beyond measure were contain'd within.

Fret not dear reader, I have not yet gone mad.  
Shakespeare, y'know.  
Watched Romeo and Juliet last night...  :D)

Ombre Dyed Velveteen Skirt here
Fabric; $17.94
Zip; $2.29
Dye; previously accounted for
Hook and Eye; previously accounted for
Lining; leftover from my Red Emperor ball gown
Total cost; $20.23
An Unusual Dress here
Pattern; Vogue 1281, first time used, $8.75
Fabric; old Tshirts, free
Total cost; $8.75
Mustard Cable Knit Scarf here
Yarn (I still have two and a half balls leftover); $80.50 
Pattern; my own design
Total cost; $80.50

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mustard cable-knit cowl

As those clear and cold as crystal winter mornings descend upon us, and the desire to swathe oneself in warm and cosy woolies; I have finished knitting a neck-warmer thingamy-bob.
I used Rowan belle organic dk, in shade 00010.  This is a 50% organic wool 50% organic cotton yarn, made in Italy; which is serendipitously appropriate given that most of the knitting was done in Italy.  The rich and cosy mustard shade is one I've had on my fashion radar for a while now.  I have been hunting for mustard-y goodness in either fabric or yarn, on and off in a desultory and increasingly despondent way for yonks, losing hope of ever seeing anything vaguely mustard-y.  Then; when I spied this yarn in Calico and Ivy, I pounced!
Rather embarrassingly to admit, but this started out as my holiday project, that I took away with me on our recent trip.  I started out with high flown fanciful ideas of a tall cowl with lots of sections with contrasting patterns, sorta to be like a knitting sampler.  There were to be ribs, moss stitches, a few sections of squares, and alternating bands of plain and purl... all of which I started and all of which got unpicked and done over.  Countless times!  The final result I am wearing here which looks like, and is; a simple dimple little cable-knit cowl scarf is actually the product of a several weeks of knitting.  And un-knitting.  But let's not dwell on that...  :)
Here it is: finished, and I am satisfied.
Sometimes, simple is best, yes?
If anyone is interested, here is my "pattern"; if you can even call it that  :D

Using a 3mm circular needle, cast on 135 stitches.
(commence by inserting the needle into the first stitch cast-on, so that you are knitting in the round)
1st row; K2, K2 into the next stitch; repeat for the first round  (180 stitches)
2nd row; K10, P5; repeat until the end of the round.
Repeat 2nd row 7 times.
10th row; slip next 5 stitches onto a cable needle, K the following 5 st, slip the 5 stitches from the cable needle back onto left needle and knit, P5; repeat 11 times (until the end of the round)
This is the cable row.
*Repeat 2nd row 12 times.
Repeat cable row*
Repeat from * to * until the cowl is a satisfactory length (I did another 13 repeats)
Repeat 2nd row 8 times.
K2, K2 tog, repeat until end of the round (135 stitches).
Cast off.
(this uses up about 4 and a half balls)

Scarf; handknit by me, using Rowan belle organic dk, in shade 00010 from Calico and Ivy
Jeans; Burda 7863 in khaki stretch gabardine, details and my review of this pattern here, and see these jeans styled in 6 different ways here
Tshirt; leopard print jersey knit, details here
Coat; McCalls 5525, ivory gabardine, details here and my review of this pattern here
Gloves; David Jones
Shoes; Francesco Morichetti, from Zomp shoes

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Shopping and the Spoils...

...the lowdown on the fabric and yarn shops I visited whilst in Italy and Paris.

First stop, Rome; and before we had headed off on our trip I had read about Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti in a really excellent review which is also on the store website, and from which I also borrowed the below photo of the store exterior since I neglected to take my own.
Fratelli Bassetti Tessuti
Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, n. 73 00186 Roma

Well, well.  Oh my.  It's rare for a fabric store to leave me speechless and incapable of waxing lyrical about the multitude of lusciousness contained within, but this one is pretty mind-blowing!
Just read Elaine's review to which I have linked above instead.  It's a goodie.
Rather lamely, I ended up buying only one piece of fabric.  Confronted with all that fabric; my brain started out exploding with possibilities and then went numb.  In fact, it was not until a few days later than my brain managed to process, and then belatedly began to kick myself.
But: and there is a but.  Along with all that fabric wonderfulness, went sky high price tags.  So I am not beating myself up too badly over not having bought more.
My recommendation; if you are ever lucky enough to be in Rome and have time to visit this store; do.  Despite the high prices, it is nice to get a little piece of fabric for a souvenir, just because.
I bought this citrus-y pinstriped linen.  It wants to be a summer-y dress, when the time comes  :)  Or something summer-y.  I haven't decided exactly.  I was thinking of limoncello and lemon gelati when I bought it.

Now, to Milan.  
I had googled fabric stores in Milan prior to getting here but came up with zilch.  Then one afternoon, sitting in a cafe watching all the beautiful people strolling by, I happened to catch sight of a girl holding a carrybag printed with the unmistakeable motifs of a fabric store; roll of fabric, scissors, measure rule.  Could barely contain my excitement.  Fortunately could make out the name of the store, and immediately looked it up and headed out there... pronto

(this photo by me)
Tessuti Scampoli
Via Lario, 14  20159 Milan, Italy02 6886493

Another treasure trove. Not as large, therefore not as fabulously and overwhelmingly stocked as FBT, but still pretty fantastic. Here the fabrics were heaps more reasonably priced yet still very high quality; and plentiful enough while not so much as to overwhelm. There is the ground floor section which is not very prepossessing; but if you wander into the back corner of the store you find an unobtrusive staircase, leading one down to the basement which is where most of the action is.  Here were leathers, pure Italian wool suitings, silk velvets, linens and shirting cottons, tonnes of other silks, metallics, cotton denims for jeans, some cashmere knits, a whole wall of jerseys, some synthetic offerings ... lots of stuff.
I got more excited in this store, buying two pieces.
Pure Italian woven wool, for which I paid the paltry sum of E15.49/m (A$19.38/m)  Only my fellow Australians will know what you would pay for this fabric over here in Australia.  It's OK, I will understand if you hate me.  I would too  :)

I also bought a piece of silk velvet.  It is hard to see from the picture, but it is black pile, on an intensely neon orange background, giving it a sort of chocolate-y glow in the light.  Pure gorgeousness, no?
The downsides to this store: they do not accept credit cards and are a cash-only business.  Plus; the cashier, perhaps not realising that I could understand Italian since I had only spoken with a girl downstairs, made a vaguely rude remark about "Americans" on our way out.  I couldn't be bothered going back and sorting him out.
My recommendation: definitely still worth trekking out there.

Now, to Paris.  Aah, Paris.  The day I popped out to Montmartre to meet Donna I allowed way too much time to get there and turned up at our rendezvous about three quarters of an hour too early, haha.  Easy tourist mistake.  So to kill a bit of time I wandered up and down the fabric store street and checked out this one, where I could not resist starting my fabric buying spree a little early.  I knew Donna wouldn't mind...  :)
Sacre Coupons
4 bis, rue d'Orsel 75018 Paris
closest metro stop: Anvers

Doesn't look very enticing from the outside, huh?  Appearances can be deceiving; this is a small store it is true, but stuffed to the gills with gorgeous fabric.  Prices, mediocre.  Not as cheap as Milan, not as dear as Rome.  I found here another piece of silk velvet; green pile on a pink background, giving it a mossy appearance.  This is one of "my" colours, so I grabbed it, thank you.
Donna and I went into a neighbouring store, the name of which I cannot remember, which had a mind-boggling range of buttons, and I bought: some charmingly wonky pewter ones, and some delicately carved copper-y brown ones... (it's OK, I did buy more than 3 each, this is just a representative sample)
I re-visited Sacre Coupons a few days later when Craig was at the conference, and bought a length of soft ivory, finely woven, pure wool; and which needs almost no input from me to make it into a perfectly gorgeous light and floaty scarf.  Cassie really really really wanted this one, but... so do I!  I might let her borrow it every once in a while.  If she's good  :)

Finally, Donna took me to visit L'Oisive The, a perfectly lovely tea-shop and knitting cafe. 
L'Oisive The
10, rue de la Butte aux Cailles ou 1, rue Jean Marie Jego
75013 Paris
closest Metro stop; Place d'Italie

Here I bought 4 skeins of hand-dyed French wool, in a shade of French blue, no less!  
I'm envisioning a little nipped-in waisted cardigan.  One day.  Soon.  :)  I have a few other little things that really should be finished off first.  But I will get 'round to it.  All of it.  
I will not suffer from thisfabricistoogoodtocutup-itis, I promise!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A travel wardrobe...

Time away
27 days
Where to:  
Rome, Umbria, Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Milan in Italy: and finally Paris
the later part of spring.  Going by current and previous years' weather forecasts in these parts of Europe we could (and did) experience daily temperatures of anything from wintery 19C and quite wet, right up to summery 31C days and quite humid.
Expected activities: 
light to heavy-duty rural hiking
sight-seeing in small rural villages as well as big bustling cities
one formal cocktail party.

What I packed: (each garment is linked to its original construction post)
(L to R, top to bottom)
Hand knitted Colinette raspberry chenille scarf
Burda 7786 (modified) beige cotton trench coat
Vogue 2894 raspberry hessian silk cropped jacket
self drafted coffee and white net cardigan
(L to R, top to bottom)
Vogue 1247 (lengthened and lined) cream skirt
(L to R, top to bottom)
Burda 7863 black stretch cotton corduroy jeans (incidentally; I originally made these as flares, and on a whim mere hours before this trip, unpicked the leg seams and bootlegged them)
Burdastyle 10/2010, 110 hiking pants, khaki ripstop cotton
(L to R, top to bottom)

(L to R, top to bottom)
(L to R, top to bottom)

The miscellaneous extras...
(L to R, top to bottom)
Hiking shoes, Merrell from Mountain Designs
Cruddy old raincoat (high up on my list of things to replace, grrr) KMart  
And incidentally, can anyone recommend a reliable source for raincoat-suitable fabric??  That is not just a rhetorical question and I would really like to know... in Perth waterproof fabrics like gore-tex are just about unknown, which is crazy; I know it doesn't rain here much, but it does rain!!  I have even considered buying a few shower curtains or a plastic tablecloth to chop up, but thought it might be a good idea to ask here before resorting to such drastic measures  :)  
Straw hat from Country Road
Suede, chocolate brown, high heeled pumps, Sandler
Flat black leather shoes; Enrico Antinori from Zomp shoes
Thongs, KMart

Oh yes, naturally I packed underwear too but did not take any pictures of those  :)

My entire set of holiday outfits can be viewed here

So, briefly; what was wonderful and what was not?
Spread out like that, it seems like a lot of clothes, doesn't it?  Trying to pack minimally for the length of time away, the varied activities and even more varied weather conditions we were expecting?  Was difficult.
I admit that early on in the trip I felt that I had packed far too much.  Whilst we were in the mild and warm Italian climate, all my winter-y pieces; my corduroy jeans, chocolate cardigan, the raspberry jacket and my trench coat; seemed superfluous, taking up valuable suitcase space, and I seriously wondered if I would have been wiser to have left them at home.... of course once we got to unseasonably cold Paris I was extremely glad of each of these pieces!!  In fact by the end of our trip I was wishing I had a few more things to choose from! like another winter-y top since in Paris I felt like I was wearing the same Tshirts layered over each other, over and over again; but that was probably more to do with the fact that I was fairly bored with all my clothes by this time...  
So I guess that means I managed to get the numbers just about right!  :)

Three pairs of shorts seemed like overkill, but all-day hiking is sweaty business and the truth is I was glad I had "splurged" by taking that extra pair.  
The hat surprisingly was not worn at all  :O  so I could have left that at home!  Even on the hottest days I found the sun to be very mild in Italy.

There are a few "nice" tops,  like my orange blouse and my grey blouse, that appear superfluous since they turned up only once each in my daily pictures...   but actually, on the evenings of our hiking days in Italy I would change from the sweaty hiking gear into a skirt, one of my smarter blouses and leather shoes for dinner, so the blouses did get worn more frequently than it appears.  So, I think I had exactly the right number of tops and skirts, and enough different styles of tops to keep my outfits varied and interesting.  
My raspberry red silk jacket was a last minute chuck-in and turned out to be a great and gorgeously colourful thing that cheeried up every outfit it graced.  So I did come to this important conclusion: whilst crushable "nice" clothes might seem impractical and extravagant to pack in the suitcase for a long trip, they are fantastic for the inevitable one or two days when one is tired and feeling a little low, and just randomly wishes to look feminine and pretty; just to boost the ol' morale.

What item of clothing do you find to be invariably indispensable when travelling, and have you ever packed something that seemed essential at the time but that turned out to be a big white elephant in your suitcase and you wish you hadn't bothered??
Do tell!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Paris in the spring; such a marvellous thing

9 June
Self drafted dress, Metalicus petticoat, Vogue jacket in red silk hessian, also a self drafted Tshirt underneath (not seen) for some extra warmth.  This photo above was taken by Craig on the Pont Neuf in the setting sun.
I had a perfectly lovely day, meeting up with Donna for some very enjoyable girly chatting, lunching and shopping in the fabulous fabric stores in Montmartre, and for knitting yarn at the most divine little knitting cafe L'Oisive The.  It was such fun, and it was so nice to meet you Donna!

10 June
Ok, going for the touristy shot here, but when one is a tourist one is but helpless to resist, no? That's my excuse, anyway...  :D
Here I am at the famous landmark along with about a bajillion other people... wearing my creamy ivory Vogue 1247 skirt made of a curtaining remnant, a self-drafted Tshirt (not seen), KwikSew 3667 light grey fleece hoodie (thank you Mary for this cute pattern!), and self drafted grey/beige footless tights. I confess I laughed to myself when I tossed these tights into my suitcase, thinking no way am I ever going to need these. After all, it is nearly summer in Europe, right? But I figured, oh well, tights don't take up a lot of space, so what the hey... And here we are; and it is freezing in Paris. Thank goodness I did pop in the pair of tights!!
Now, just to note: Craig has taken all of my travelling photos so far, submitting patiently and good natured-ly to my strict instructions about where to stand and how to frame the shot although I have to admit that some photos were candid and were not stage-managed by the camera control freak (ie. me)  However on this day he was attending a conference, the real reason behind our sojourn in Europe; and so this is a self portrait.  I did not take my full size tripod, but used instead my little gorilla-grip tripod and the self-timer button on the camera.
11 June
Attending the conference dinner, a river cruise; and aha! I just knew I had to have brought those annoyingly space-guzzling high heels for some reason other than to just look glamorous on the plane!!  Also wearing a lace skirt of my own design based on Vogue 7303, self drafted white cotton Tshirt, Colinette chenille scarf, Burda beige cotton trench coat.  I had intended to deposit my trench coat in the cloak room and wear my scarf draped glamorously across my shoulders like a stole since it looks quite nice that way, but it was so cold! so I wussily did not remove my coat all evening  :)
12 June
Self drafted and dyed purple Tshirt, Burda 7863 black stretch cotton corduroy jeans, my hand knitted fitted cardigan in chocolate brown Jo Sharp summer cotton.  Another self portrait since Craig is again at the conference and I spent another quietly self-indulgent morning exploring Paris on my own.  This photo taken in the Jardin du Luxembourg.

Later edit!!
13 June
I got confused with the dates (easy when you're my age) and almost forgot to include this day, which is ridiculous since it was an important one... we spent the day with our simply delightful exchange student Laura, and had the pleasure of meeting her lovely mother for lunch also.  We became extremely fond of Laura during her stay with us in Perth, she was like a daughter to us and it was wonderful to see her again.  Isn't she just totally gorgeous?  This blurry action shot in front of Notre Dame is the only one Craig took this day showing my outfit... my black jeans, my chocolate brown hand knitted cotton cardigan, my Colinette chenille hand knitted scarf, and not seen here but I am also wearing a self-drafted Tshirt and hand knitted socks, as usual

14  June
Taken in the Jardin des Tuileries; with the Louvre in the background.  Wearing black corduroy Burda 7863 jeans, a self drafted Tshirt (not seen), the grey fleece KwikSew 3667 hoodie (thank you Mary!), and my Vogue raspberry silk hessian jacket.  Oh, and hand knitted socks of course, not seen either.  Our last day in Paris  :(  but I am very glad to get home and see my children again.
And so that is that!  Thank you to all those who were kind enough to comment on my travelling wardrobe and I am looking forward to catching up with returning comments now...
We are now at home and I am tackling a mountain of washing, but I do have some wonderful new fabric and wool purchases to play with, as well as a holiday knitting project that I took away with me to do, and is finished and ready for showing off as soon as I can get my photography act together again; watch this space...  :)
Later dudes! or should that be, au revoir...?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Gadding about

4 June
Here I am about to pay a visit to my pal George Clooney in Lake Como... just kidding, hehe. I don't know who lives in this beautiful villa in Varenna, Lake Como; but the white iron lacework gate is simply gorgeous, no?
Weatherwise, this was one of those difficult-to-dress-for, weirdly cold/hot days; freezing in the morning but quite hot by early afternoon. I am wearing a lace skirt of my own design based on Vogue 7303, Jo Sharp fitted cardigan knitted by me in Jo Sharp chocolate brown summer cotton, Burda 7834 blouse in crushed silk (just seen).

5 June
Burda 7723 shorts in hot pink linen, peekaboo/hoodie from Pattern Magic 3 in blue knit, and socks hand knitted in Noro yarn. A hot day with some medium-duty hiking from Pigra to Lenna in Lake Como, Italy

6 June
Self drafted and dyed Tshirt, Vogue 1247 skirt of red cotton velveteen ombré dyed brown, Burda beige cotton trench coat. A day in constant transit, with time spent in each of Lake Como (pleasantly warm), on a ferry (briskly windy), a train (cold), Milan (very hot) followed by another train (warm and stuffy). This combo coped pretty well!

7 June
Self drafted Tshirt, Vogue 1247 skirt of curtaining remnant, Vogue jacket of red hessian silk. A very wet day in .... guess where! I wasn't sure about whether these garments actually went together at first, but I ended up liking the outfit a lot!

8 June
Self drafted Tshirt, Burda 7863 black stretch cotton corduroy jeans, Burda beige cotton trench coat. Up until now I'd been wondering if it was a waste of luggage space to pack my wintery corduroy jeans, but Paris is cooooold! This fabulous twisty sculpture is in the Jardin des Tuileries.
Kbenco suggested a round up of my travel wardrobe when I get home, thank you for the fantastic suggestion Karen! I too am very interested in what other ladies choose to pack to take away for long overseas holidays and why; so I will do a summary post at the end of my trip. That is if I do not toss the whole lot out. Just kidding. Sort of. I admit to feeling a little jaded by my travel wardrobe now, a wee bit stifled by the limited selection; and I am really looking forward to getting back to some of my other of my clothes and particularly some other shoes!

Monday, June 4, 2012


Me made May has been successfully completed, and the majorest challenge for me this time round was putting pictures in the Flickr group... A monumental difficulty when one does not have a reliable computer! Thank goodness for Craig whose expertise with all things computer-related made it possible for me to post a picture onto the Internet using our iPad, as well as solving all sorts of unanticipated and dodgy connectivity issues. I was very pleased that I did manage to post my picture onto the Flickr group each day... And I think I managed to keep up with commenting within the group. Once we started our trip my computer time became so limited all I had time to do was post my own picture and then look at and comment on only the ladies who were kind enough to leave a comment on my own efforts, so if I left anyone out then I apologise!
When traveling of course one's scenery is always going to be varied and interesting and I was blessed in this respect. I was also fortunate to have the rare luxury of a built-in photographer! and of course tourists are supposed to take photos of themselves, so there has been none of the usual embarrassment factor in that aspect of the challenge!
Now, what have I learned by doing this challenge for the fifth time around? Unsurprisingly not much new. Just that I really enjoy challenges that allow me to play about in my wardrobe :) As far as my wardrobe goes; I have very little that is not me-made any more so finding something to wear is not a problem. I did not repeat any outfits, but a few current favourite pieces in my collection popped up more than once. And I have no gaps that need "filling" :) quite the opposite ;D
Of course, being on holiday means that we are still taking photos daily! so I might extend the challenge for a bit longer, put a few more photos here, just for fun and to show some sights, and how my self-made pieces work out for travel. To see the remainder of my me-made May daily photos and a very brief summary of the day's activities, the link to my entire set is associated with the me-made May '12 button at right. But in the meantime... 1 June
Self drafted dress
Metalicus petticoat
Taken on a really cool structure in the Parco Sempione in Milan, an amphitheater made of concrete with old cafe chairs embedded within for the audience to sit on. So cool! I also wore this dress during our long long flights over; because it is super comfortable and non-crushable. Important for something one will be spending hours in, and sleeping in. This ensemble is a beaut for such situations.
From Handmade by Carolyn
2 June
Taken at Lake Como, Italy
The bamboo shoot top from Pattern Magic, Vogue 1247 curtaining skirt, and chenille scarf. It was very warm in Milan thus the summery feel, but I had my chenille scarf for our train and ferry ride to Lake Como, which was chilly. Having a big warm scarf that one can "wrap up in" is indispensable when travelling. I've used this one heaps on the cooler evenings and for air-conditioned spots, such as the aforementioned trains.
3 June Burda 7723 white linen shorts, a self drafted Tshirt (not seen) and a fleece KwikSew 3367 hoodie; a pattern that was a gift from the lovely Mary. Actually have worn this hoodie several times while hiking during this trip, but happened to be not for any photos. Oh, and also hand knitted socks! Another day of reasonable heavy duty mountainous hiking, this time from Varenna to Esina Lario, at Lake Como, Italy. Taken with one of the "ghosts" at Castello di Vezio; very atmospheric mediaeval ruins, situated on a peak halfway up the mountain. Naturally, we continued on up the entire mountain!