Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Visit to Fontainebleau

A non-crafting post!!

I finally made it to Fontainebleau after several abortive attempts!  And it was a gorgeous, sunny day to boot. :)

I'm not wearing anything me-made and there's really no crafting angle whatsoever.  I could've taken photos of some of Napoloeon's clothing (the château houses a Napoleon museum, because among things, he abdicated here before going to Elba), but I have a real aversion to taking photos of objects behind glass.  So the only arts and craft angle is to enjoy the beautiful carvings and paintings, etc.

Here's one outside courtyard (my favorite because it was lush and had secret paths...which, regrettably I didn't take any photos of!):

A close-up on the statute...this château was previously used as a hunting lodge.  Try to picture it...

I particularly wanted to visit this castle because of its link to François I, who spent a lot of time here.  Or more specifically, because of its link to his sister - Marguerite de Navarre, author of L'Heptaméron, one of my favorite books.  Some of the stories in the book describe noblemen trying to seduce women in the gardens and I can easily imagine the scene in a garden such as above. 

I've mentioned Marguerite de Navarre before, but if she's unfamiliar to you, I strongly suggest at least checking out the wikipedia page.

Here's the François I gallery:

It's like la Galerie des Glaces at Versailles, except no mirrors, ha!

And here's François I's symbol (the salamander):

Some more pictures from the gallery:

Check out this amazing door with a Gorgon's head:

 Here's a close-up:

And some more views:

Finally, outside for gelato and sun and French gardens:

I love that shirt I'm wearing (and the boots!) and I wear it every week.  This one is RTW, but I definitely need to make another one with some chambray or something. 

Hope it's nice and sunny where you are this weekend!  :)

Saturday, April 4, 2015

F.O.: Embroidered Necklace

This post started out as a standard follow-up to my last one, to show you the finished necklace, and then my brain hijacked it and decided it wanted to go elsewhere.

Just before deciding to get myself into gear and take pictures of the necklace, I was listening to a new-to-me podcast, the History of the Roman Papacy, and the episode on Paul of Tarsus (i.e. St. Paul) got me thinking about how individuals can accomplish amazing things ... things that would seem pretty crazy were one to announce the goal at the offset.  For example, "I'm going to define and establish a new, universal religion and spread it across the globe."  Sounds crazy, right?!

And then this led me to thinking about the power of invention and self-invention, which led me back to something lurking in the back (or front) of my mind since this article was published in the New York Times.  I know the author and certain parts of the essay had me wrinkling my forehead.

And then I remembered that it's her story about part of her life and one of the wonderful things about writing is that we the writers get to choose how to interpret and represent things, what is important, and what isn't.  And that maybe the narrative needs us to push things in a certain direction to help us get our point across.  So, when I remembered that I was much more able to just enjoy her piece and be genuinely happy for her for being published in the effing NY Times.

Now I'll show you the first fruits of all of this reflection: self-portraits...which didn't start out as such.

Originally I was just trying to take a picture of the damn necklace and I was going to crop my head out of the frame because I don't have my "face" on today and I'm feelin' tired after two nights of alcohol drinking.  But I was delighted with the results.  I love the light and the angles and I love that it's just me on a Saturday afternoon, no glamour.


I like the light in this one especially...


 And this is what happens when I start cracking myself up when I realize I'm taking self-portraits:

Tilted Head

Oh, and finally, a close-up of the finished object:

All in all I'm happy with the final result. And I felt like - whew, finally! - I finished something arts and craftsy!  Now I can go play a video game, ha!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Work in Progress + A Kit Review: Red Gate Stitchery

I instantly feel in love when I saw these kits from Red Gate Stitchery: embroidery for necklaces, bracelets, key fobs and more.  I bought two complete necklace kits, plus an additional pendant blank (no embroidery floss). 

Frustrated with my lack of completion in my other projects, I turned to this, hoping to enjoy the process and to finish up relatively quickly.  Well, as with everything, there were (are) complications.

I think I am going to love it when it's finished, but there have been setbacks.  The kits come with everything you need to complete the project, including a John James brand embroidery needle.  Actually, the first kit came with two needles.  And I've already broken both.  So I'm wondering if I'm using too many strands of floss.  The kit comes with several strands of both pink and blue floss, more than enough to complete the necklace.  In the instructions, it is written to "separate out one strand of the floss that came with your kit."  So, does this mean separate out one tiny individual strand and embroidery with that??  I find that unlikely, especially given the photo of the result on the website.  Or does it mean use one whole strand of floss (with the six tiny individual strands that floss is normally composed of)? 

So, here's a photo of the kit, sans original needle:

And here's a link to the finished product as shown at the Etsy store.  It seems clear to me that this was made using one complete floss thread...not separating out one from the six.  Well, when I tried all six together, I broke the needle on the third stitch.  So I decided to use only four out of the six strands.  And I broke the needle halfway through the project.  On certain stitches you have to go twice through the same hole, and with the diameter of the hole and the thickness of the floss, apparently the needle isn't strong enough. 

So that's a small gripe because the supplies aren't sturdy enough, and I certainly can't complete the project if I follow the directions to the letter. 

I ended up starting the project over from the beginning (with my needle), and with a different starting-off place, because I wasn't loving the outcome in any case.  The directions indicate to use the side that has darker holes (laser burn marks) as the back and not the front, but I actually preferred the look of the burn marks contrasting with the embroidery floss.  I followed the directions as indicated at first and found that I really liked the back much better.  And I couldn't simply switch sides because there was the little tail end tucked in at the beginning of the work, so I undid it all and began again.  Lesson learned.  Follow my aesthetic and not the package directions.

Anyhow, here it is in progress.  So far so good with my embroidery needle.  I'll tell you if it breaks, but I really hope not!

Another comment about these kits...the price does seem a little high.  I paid $28.00 (USD) for one kit.  I could definitely have bought a cute necklace for half the price.  But of course, for me the main pleasure is making it myself and then wearing it afterward.  Still, is it just me or does that seem a little high?  Am I just too used to low pricing because of sweat shop labor and economies of scale?  Honest opinions, please.

The chain was an unexpected bonus and I'm happy to have it, but I hope it's of superior quality than the needles, otherwise it'll be turning my neck green!  I'm envisaging making these as gifts, so I'll be testing on myself first. ;)  That's the only reason of course, ha!

And here's the other kit I bought:

I haven't made any comments to the shop owner on Etsy, but I think that would be a good idea.  Maybe it's just me, but maybe it's a recurring problem with the needles.  They'll never know if no one tells them though...

Anyhow, back to stitching!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Knitting/Frogging in Progress

I was inspired by this post to show some of my in-progress works.  Right now I have some giant messes on my hands...

This is being frogged because of the two different colors of red yarn (noticed too late in the game, n'est-ce pas):

For some reason I am unable to find that one thread to just pull and unravel it all, so I'm forced to unknit it really.  Very time-consuming.  And odd.  This was a project from a Rowan magazine that had so much potential, but the result was bad, bad, bad.

In addition to the two different colors of red, the neckline turned out super funky.  I think I'm not good at decreasing into a V-neck while maintaining a lace pattern...

And this project is another mess.  I feel like there's a mistake in the calculations somewhere (or possibly it's just me) because I've started it twice and followed the directions very faithfully (I believe) and the anchor-motif at the join gets messed up every time. 

I started it a third time and tried eliminating all the decreases, but that still didn't work.  And there are no comments about this being a problem in Ravelry, so I think it's just me.  But still, it's not working and I don't know why, so it's being unraveled.  At least this one unravels easily!

And there's never two without three (or four, or five), so this project needs starting over a third time as it is still too small ... I think. 

So basically I need a win.  I need to make something relatively simple and from my stash.  OK, here I go back to trolling my Ravelry queue. :P

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Everyday Objects: Quilt

Thanks to everyone who read and commented on my last post - I appreciate the input! :)

Continuing my foray into photography and everyday objects ... here's one of my paternal grandmother's quilts ... drying in my kitchen.

 It's an heirloom piece, yes, but I believe that things are made to be used.  So it goes on my bed, and consequently gets covered in cat hair.  So, it goes in the washing machine, just like it did when it still lived with my grandma. :)

Behind it, my living room:

And today's weather...typical for the season in Orléans:

Have a great weekend, everybody!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

On Not Having a Plan...

I like the Colette Wardrobe Architect series, but it's much too structured for me.  Printing out worksheets and such-like...reminds me of work.  But I have been thinking about my style recently and suddenly I found myself clearing out my dresser drawers.

I'm somewhat surprised to find that even things I bought as recently as last summer are turning me off.  I think I'm in a transitional period...much like my age, or my life in general for that matter!  So things I bought last summer are suddenly looking a little too gamine...

I haven't gotten rid of those things yet.  So far I've allowed myself only to donate stuff that I have had for at least 5 years and that I wear a maximum of 3 times a year.  In reality I think I've had the stuff for closer to 10 years and I wear them once a year!  They are looking faded and - while serviceable - they don't inspire me.  So I'm giving them away so maybe they will inspire someone else...or at the least, be useful, which they definitely are not just sitting in the drawer.

This whole process of letting go of some long term companions (clothes) has led me to think about the concept of courage.  I say this process, but really that's just the tip of the iceberg.  I should say that my recent divorce and other drama has brought me to this, but the clothes thing has contributed, and this is a sewing blog, we are.

Anyhow, I've been thinking about the courage of letting go.  And of just saying "no, I'm not okay with that, I don't agree and I'm not going to do it.

And this also brings me to the topic of being authentic.  We all cultivate an image...consciously or not.  I know I censure the heck out of myself on this blog, otherwise every other word would be a curse word for some posts.  But I have to ask myself why I do that.  Why do I try to soften the edges?  I suppose that's part of living in a society...the very bread and butter of being social.  If we all went around expressing our emotions at level 10 all of the time...well, frankly I don't know what would happen.

It's a fine line, trying to balance "being yourself" and respecting other people.  Because if being yourself means being a total #@!hole and constantly putting your needs first...I suppose that's the ultimate in "selfness"... and then we just end up with ourselves.  So, because most of us don't want to be socially isolated, we make an effort to compromise and yet not f*&k ourselves over at the same time.  It's a fine line, I tell you, and I find it's a problem that even occurs in blogging!  Because blogging is social.

Whew, I feel better now.

So, getting back to the vestment divestment...I'm letting go of these clothes, even though I like them and have fond memories of activities I did in them, or of the people who gifted them to me.  I'm letting go because they are taking up space and I don't use them anymore.  And I'll still have the memories without the objects.

En revanche, I would really like to start sewing again and I'm cooking up some ideas to fill in the gaps...and maybe help me participate in Me-Made-May again this year.  So, stay tuned, if that floats your boat. ;)

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wearing the Beignet

For those of you who may have visited my blog in the past 30 days, sorry about the black background!  I thought I was just having loading problems; I didn't realize that I had lost the blog template.  Anyhow, I've replaced the background but I think it's just a temporary fix.  I would prefer something more colorful, but I haven't found exactly what I want yet.

Anyhow, as mentioned in the title, here's my Beignet, finally finished, on the first day I wore it:

One panel is completely hidden because I decided just to overlap the two sides to solve the "skirt is too big" problem.  It's a bit unbalanced, but maybe we can just call it asymmetric.  That's trendy, right?

Smoke effect is for free.  Just ask a smoker to take the picture.

If I were to make another version (unlikely), I believe I would go for a shorter length.  But the high-waist thing is really not for me.  And sewing all those buttonholes, yikes!!