Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Bad news and good news

I give up on the sontag. For now, at least.
The circular needles are not good at all. They're certainly better at keeping the stitches on themselves (the needles). The matter is, they're too good at it. I had trouble getting the stitches that had gone from the needle part to the cable part back to the needle part when I needed to knit them (if that makes sense; I lack the proper English terminology for this). Which means every row was taking me much longer to knit than it usually would. So I only made about 17 rows. Until I arrived to a stitch that had got too tight and simply would not go. At. All.
So I apparently have to start again. For the third time. And I'm positively fed up with it by now. By now I should have been somewhere at the winged part, as others are. Instead I'm back at the beginning. And it's frustrating me, and it's pointless to keep struggling with a project that's frustrating me. Plus I have a medieval dress to make, among other things.
So I quit. I might pick it up again when I have more time and come up with a good needle solution. The time is not now.
That was the bad news.

The good news is, we were on the exhibition opening yesterday, and the Latvian president did arrive, and made a (very nice) speech, and we were not the most casually dressed ones there, nor the most dressed up, so I guess we managed well. Many thanks to all people who gave me their opinions, here and on the Sense & Sensibility boards, and on BurdaStyle.
The exhibition is nice, too - photos of the "Baltic Way", the human chain people from the Baltic countries created back in August 1989 when they were not Baltic countries, only the Baltic part of the USSR. There were interesting things. Like photos from a photographer who had a chance to go take photos of the human chain from a helicopter, but declined the opportunity, because he believed it was more important to document the funeral of a Latvian soldier who died in the Soviet army. I still cannot decide whether he was stupid that he declined such a historic opportunity, or whether he was wise to go and take photos of a funeral that probably hardly any people paid attention to at that time (and even less so now), just because he believed the person deserved it. The creators of the exhibition probably thought the former - I guessed so from the short description, because it said "unique opportunity". But I'm not so sure about it myself.

Anyway, because Stephanie Ann asked for a "fashion show", here you go:

Me - "Bisha meets woodpecker"

(I look a bit weird. That's because I was just trying to tell my sister that she probably had the camera tilted, but she was already taking the photo. I think it's mostly Adéla's fault, not my sister's. Adéla's seriously taking up about one eigth of our whole garden.)

I wore:
- the red headband
- a rather old, dressier, white T-shirt
- a thrifted black wrap cardigan
- a black corduroy skirt from a clothes exchange
- white heeled shoes
- old white purse that's been lying in the wardrobe for ages
- my sister's bangles

I'm rather delighted by the fact most of the things I wore were secondhand...

Just to make thing more fun and tense: I had originally wanted to wear my hair loose, but when I set out to arrange it that way yesterday (I sleep with my hair braided, it saves a lot of trouble combing it), I foud out that I had the infamous Bad Hair Day. Somehow, when I last washed my hair, the grease only proceeded further down the hair and was not completely removed. I did not notice, because I braided my hair wet. And it looked weird, and I did not have time to wash it again. So I wore two braids instead, and felt a bit silly and childish and quite good at the same time.

It's "Bisha meets woodpecker", because Bisha, my cat, is black with white "bib" and feet, and because of the red headband.

My sister - In black and white and violets

She wore a black skirt, and white Indian blouse (which I hemmed for her to be shorter), shoes that used to be my other sister's, violet shawl of uncertain origins and in her hair (which you might see a bit of on the bigger picture) a violet bobbin-lace butterfly our wonderful crafty grandma made. And bangles.

Friday, 27 August 2010

What to wear, oh what to wear?

That's not a question I'm bothered with most of the time. Not much.

But now I am. Because I have an opportunity to go to the opening of an exhibition... and there will be the Latvian president present in there. So I suppose it's going to be a very formal occasion.

So, please, could you you help me out? What would be appropriate to wear to such an event, when it takes place at 16:00 / 4 PM? That's about as much as I know about it...

The beginings of a sontag, take 2

I'm rather busy with other things. It's not much. But it's something.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The very simple favourites

I already posted something today, but I felt a need to share my very simple favourite things to wear...

- The usual headscarf
- Thrifted hoodie I got from my sister
- A cheap, long, flowy broomstick skirt, part polyester, part linen(!) - the linen part certainly must be what makes it so popular with me.
- My Andrea blouse underneath the hoodie. You can see nothing of it, but I have to include it for sake of integrity.

That photo is a proof of why I won't make this a daily feature. I started hanging the laundry to dry, and then I realised that I put it in the view of my usual self-photographing backdrop, so if I wanted to take photo of this favourite outfit of mine, I had to experiment with another place to put the camera and another place to stand. (There was Adéla in the usual view, too, apparently bent more by the recent rains - you can see a bit of her in the bottom right.) And that's why you see only part of my favourite skirt. Our garden is very small and very much like a jungle. That's probably the reason why the cats like to live there.

A little thing to make me happy

I bought acrylic paint. And, among other things, I painted a poor solitary wooden button from the stash to my liking.

I've wanted a button like that for a long time, to go on the mobile phone case I made. (I thought I had posted about the mobile phone case on my Czech blog, but apparently I had not, and now I'm left with a mystery where did I actually post it, because I remember getting suggestions about possible closures for it from other people online...)
I was looking for red wooden buttons with a shank in shops, but that's clearly too specific a requirement. Then, after quite a lot of unncessary frustration with a tiny thing, I realised what I usually realise soon with other things, that the easiest way to get what I want is to make it. And because I had other ideas what to do with acrylic paint accumulated in my mind, I finally bought acrylic paint.

I thought acrylic paint was expensive for the amount you get in one small bottle. Turns out that it's not. Turns out that, with my uses for it, I could be using that one bottle for years and years.
Of course, I have more than one bottle. I have seven: red, yellow, blue, white, black, silver and gold. I think I can achieve just about anything with those seven colours, except that I'll probably have to buy a lighter blue, too, if it's available. The one I have is a darker shade and it turns out it's really, really difficult to achieve paler but bright blues with it. It took a lot of mixing (with yellow and white, and more yellow, and more white, and eventually also more blue...) to achieve the blue on the button, and it's still not exactly what I had in mind, but it looks good on the button.

For the record, this is what the poor button looked like before:

I dare say what I did to it is definitely an improvement. Especially because it was a lonely, solitary button lingering in the stash, and now it's going to be used and look pretty.

Considering I probably suffer from a mild case of koumpounophobia, it's really a blessing that a button can make me happy.

(That link leads to a video of Neil Gaiman talking about buttons as a promo to the film Coraline, which I haven't seen. The video - posted on his blog - was the first thing that allerted me to the fact that my disgust of buttons might be more common. Fortunately for me, I'm not really scared of them. I just find those ordinary ones with holes disgusting and unpleasant. I don't mind fabric covered buttons or buttons with shanks - those I actually often find cute, on their own. Thank God for that, really!)

Friday, 20 August 2010

Uncountable blessings

Sometimes, Someone is trying to tell you something.
I won't elaborate. It's complicated and personal and stupid (on my part). Just this: if you ever feel like I'm getting selfish and self-centered, please, do me a favour and whisper "woolen thread" into my ear.
Woolen thread, because I've been gifted this:

I'm actually not sure if all of it is 100% wool, but even then...
Most of it is actually something between very thin yarn and thread, but even then...

Just do me that favour, please.

A person may count their blessings, one by one. I'm not that person. I am not good with numbers. I think my blessings are uncountable, and I like it that way.
But I should keep trace of them more often, or I forget that they are blessings.

So here are some of them:

Blog posts that make me giggle.

A sprig of lavender:

A dandeliony flower:

This sight out of a window:

Featuring Lemmi, The White Tomcat, The Tomcat That Looks Like A Rabbit:

And the butterfly bush, AKA Adéla:

(Adéla is named after the crazy Czechoslovakian comedy "Adéla ještě nevečeřela" = "Adele Hasn't Had Her Dinner Yet", namely after the flower of that name in the film.)

And the butterflies which I cannot photograph, but which have spots of matching violet colour on their wings.

And then, of course, my dearest Bisha The Black-And-White One Who Is Not Having Legs:

And Yksi The Penetrator whom you already know:

And Kaksi The Jostling One, The Most Cuddly One, Who Is Hard To Photograph:

Which now makes you acquainted with all the cats we currently have.

And my family's love for language(s) and my father's tendency to give our cats Taboo Names, which I'm copying here.

And the infinitely comfortable linen dress I'm wearing.

And a friend who's willing to help me make a duct tape dress form.

And C.S. Lewis's writing, but that's most certainly not only my blessing.

I think there's a word for all this, and it begins with ineff-, and everyone who's read Good Omens knows what it is. And referring to a funny book is not exactly the best way to end this post, but I can't help it.

For those who have not read Good Omens, the word is ineffable.

How about a Regency kit?

Remember the first giveaway I posted about?
I posted about it at the last moment, and Rachael saw it, and entered the giveaway, and won the giveaway.
Well, now Atlanta - Bonnyblue is giving away her Regency kit.
I want that one. But, whatever, if one of my friends wins it, I'll be just as glad, only maybe a little sad that it wasn't me, but I can be both at the same time, you know?
So, if you want it, don't miss this chance!

Monday, 16 August 2010

A bunch of unrelated crafty news

I'm not progressing on the sontag. In fact, I'm regressing. I took it with me to knit on train, and lost stitches in the packpack... After many many attempts to rescue it somewhere further bellow, I decided that the only way to keep my sanity about this was, paradoxically, to start it all over again. This time on circular needles, so there will be more room for the knit (thanks for the suggestion, crafty ladies from NeilGaimanBoard! - funny, the overlaps that happen online).
It does not make me happy, but it's the only way I can save the project without getting really, really angry. Besides, I made mistakes in the first rows and now I can start with a clean slate.

I made my first eylet on my regency stays. It's not a lacing eyelet, only an eylet for attaching the straps, but it makes me happy, because it proves my new old awl is a very useful thing indeed.
The stays are a total experiment, so I don't post about them in detail. If they turn out fine, I'll tell you about my successes, and if they do not, I'll tell you about my mistakes. Right now I still don't know which one it is, so I keep it to myself. I suspect my completely unconventional way of making them would only baffle you. So right now let me just tell you what I already mentioned, that I'm making them out of an old duvet cover.

And I started making a bergére hat, out of a cheap straw plait men's fedora-like hat.
In fact, it's the second cheap straw plait men's fedora-like hat I bought. The first one I reshaped only slightly and wear as is, minus the ugly fugly cheap synthetic glued-on band and the elastic band inside. (I do not have a photo of it as it is now. It's simply less pointy and more rounded. Minus the bands.)
(And yes, I wear a men's hat. I have a large head. I've always had a large head. I suspect the pretty women's hats they had would not even fit me properly.)
Anyway, I unravelled the second one and started making a new shape out of it on Saturday evening. I ruined two of my fingers while sewing it together, but they're quite fine now, so I can continue and ruin them again...
I was inspired to tackle this by Jenni's fantastic capote - I think you'll learn much more about this technique from her post than you ever could from me, especially considering she had a teacher while I do this, again, unconventionally and on my own.
I use styrofoam base for a bobbin lace pillow which I got from my grandma (who apparently made it herself) for pinning the circular part of the crown on. After I make a big enough circle, I plan on moving it to the other thing, which is a styrofoam "wreath" with paper circle pinned on. I started on this thing, but it was soon clear that the paper was not sturdy enough, so for a start I used the "pillow". I have no idea how I'll continue after I finish the crown, but I'm sure I'll think of something by then...

(Note: "thing" is a very poor substitute for the very clever Czech word "udělátko". The online wordbook I use tells me it's "dingus", but I have suspicions about that word. It does not seem to mean exactly the same. "Udělátko" is sort of cute and affectionate. I cannot imagine having the same feelings towards "dingus".)

Last thing. Books. Surprised?
I've just bought a book on Czech folk costume embroidery.
No, I do not plan making a folk costume anytime soon. (If any project would drive me mad, this would be it - just with the sheer cost of materials alone - last summer, I had a conversation on the matter with an interesting old lady who makes folk costumes. Don't ask me how much it costs to make lace neck ruffs for Moravian folk costumes. First, I do not remember anymore, second, it was crazy. The overall cost of a Moravian folk costume is, I think, about 20 000 CZK.)
But I thought, what a great source for historical embroidery stitches!
It is. It just seems it's not exactly geared towards ordinary semastresses, rather towards research experts or someone like that. Still, I think if I get more into the details and try the techniques out on scraps, I can learn a lot from it. Plus there are many photos of actual embroidery. Only in black and white and not the best quality, because the book is oldish, but always with the stitches listed below. Some interesting techniques!

The other book is not crafty at all, but I could not leave it out. How could I leave out Karel Čapek, with Josef Čapek's delightful illustrations? Fairy-tales. :-) Published 1941.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Some Latvian clothes

The Dreamstress deemed my blog "an excellent insight into Eastern European historical clothing" and now I have a reputation to keep.

Fortunately, I have a family. I have a sister who loves Latvia and spends equal time there and in the Czech Republic. And I have a father (surprise, surprise!) who recently visited her and travelled with her around Latvia and some of Estonia. And among the places they visited was the castle in Ventspils.

And he took photos of three historical outfits for me.

An Edwardian outfit.
I'm not a big fan of Edwardian clothes myself. I like an outfit here and there, but something about the general style of them rubs me the wrong way and sends off the message "old-fashioned". You see, even though I really, really like historical clothing, I'm not a huge fan of old-fashioned. I like historical clothing because it looks fresh in comparison to the cookie-cutter styles of today and gives me freedom style-wise (read: I can wear what I like and blame it on historical clothing). But Edwardian, somehow, looks modern enough not to look fresh in this way, and not modern enough not to look old-fashioned. It's also quite unlucky in that the two decades it's sandwiched between work better for me.
But some people like Edwardian clothes, so if you're one of them, enjoy this Latvian outfit! I quite like the fabric the blouse is made of, and the small glimpse of something embroidered peeping out of the right sleeve.

This is a prehistoric Latvian (Curonian) costume. Well, I'm not that sure about the Curonian part, but I know it's prehistoric, because my sister has a brochure on Latvian folk costumes. It's in Latvian and Spanish. I do not understand much of either of the languages, but together I get the picture. :-) (But I do not have it at hand right now, sorry.)
The patterned woven belts are called "jostas" - well, that's actually belts in general, but these patterned ones are typical of Latvian folk costumes. (Latvian "o" is pronounced as "uo"). I even have a brochure on making them, but, of course, it's in Latvian and my sister hasn't gotten around to translating it yet, having much else to do.

A new Curonian folk costume. Those huge round brooches/buckles are, I believe, typical for Curonian costumes. Those from other areas of Latvia are smaller.

Ventspils is a place I'll have to visit one day. Not only for the historical costumes:

Yesterday, I laughed at this photo for about two minutes.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Beginnings of a Sontag and One Clever Cat

As you may or may not know, I'm participating in Stephanie Ann's Civil War Era Knitalong and knitting a sontag.

I've just realised that if I'm to post my obligatory knitalong post, I should do so now - tomorrow I'm going to a concert and I won't have time.

So here it is. My seven rows of blocks and the beginnings of an eight. Considering I started knitting on Friday, I think I'm catching up nicely. :-)

As I already wrote in comments on Stephanie's blog, I tried adding stitches by knitting two eyes out of one, but it was messy, so now I simply add them by wrapping yarn around the needle. It is easier, and saves me the trouble of making sure how it looks... It's on the edge, so the holes thus created are not such a problem. Stephanie Ann assured me it's a perfectly period way of doing it, so, hoorray!

The rest of my sontag is not so period. The yarn I'm using is not 100% wool - only 40%. But my objective for participating in the knitalong is not so much to make it period-accurate as to use up yarn that's been lying around the house for too long. And that's certainly the case of this one. My mom started making a sweater out of it a long time ago and never finished it. Recently I turned a part of it into socks for my sister, but there's still a lot left. So now it's becoming a sontag from an 1860 pattern. I think that, outside of being a blend, it's perfect for it. Very pleasant! And there is some wool in it.

I have no idea what type of yarn it is, weight-wise etc. I think it's worsted - at least the lables say that the factory that made it is a factory for worsted yarns, so that's another requirement gone wrong... Whatever. I like it.

I knit it doubled - it's quite thin on its own, doubled it's just fine. And the knitting goes faster. ;-)

Oh, and the border is going to be green. I did not take photo of the green yarn, but it's very similar to the brown one, only it's already unravelled from something that it previously was - I don't know what.

I'm probably using needles a tad bigger than necessary. But I always knit very tightly, so I think in my case it only helps - now my knit is nice and fluffy, which I have never achieved before. Ho ho!


I'd like to follow Stephanie Ann's example and show you a cute kitty-and-yarn photo. Except that I'd never let our cats close to this project. Still, I present to you, separately, Yksi The Penetrator, who's earned her nickname by learning how to open the front door:

(By jumping on the door handle from above. Don't tell your cats.)

She's sitting on the Green Monster (aka car) and examining my camera. Or maybe going to eat. That's not quite clear.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Books to stick around

I found a meme thing at Jenny La Fleur's LiveJournal, and rather liked the idea, so in the end I sat down and made my own quick list of books that are important for me, without much thinking, per instructions... The comments I added after the not much thinking part, when the list was already complete.

I cheat a bit at Nr. 1, 3 and 4 - at 1 because a) I saw it in Jenny's list, so it immediately jumped on mine and now I cannot say whether it's because of her or because of me, and b) I haven't read the whole yet, and am not likely to manage so soon, but that's one more reason for it to be on the list... At 3 and 4 because they're more books than one, but they're inseparable in my mind.

1. The Bible
2. Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz - the longest poem I've ever read, I think (unless that's Kalevala, but then I'm not sure if I've read the whole of Kalevala), and the most enjoyable one for me, more and more so with every subsequent reading
3. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis - I've read it so many times that I do not know how many
4. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - especially the first part of The Two Towers, and all the landscapes and so on
5. Poslední tajemství Jana T. ("The Last Secret of Jan T.") by Jaroslav Velínský - A take on Jaroslav Foglar's Stínadla books (Warning: this Wikipedia article is not very sensible to read, but it's the best explanation I can give you). I'm reading it now, so that's why it's so high on the list. But it must be on it, because I keep re-borrowing it from the local library every now and then, just like I do with Pan Tadeusz. It's thrilling, mysterious, funny, kind, and more Foglar-like than Foglar himself.
6. Pidgeon Post by Arthur Ransome - I love all of his books, but this one has a special place in my heart, although I'm not quite sure why. (Naturally it's the one I still don't own, phew. Maybe that's the reason.)
7. Moominvalley in Novemeber by Tove Jansson - Again, I love all the moomin books, but this one has a very special place in my heart, because it features Toft, the first book character I ever really related to, thinking I'd act exactly the same.
8. Bless the Beasts and Children by Glendon Swarthout - Not even translated to Czech yet as far as I know; one day, I would love to do that.
9. Kulhavý poutník ("Hobbling Pilgrim") by Josef Čapek - I read this on the recommendation of my Literature teacher in grammar school. Funny thing is, I do not even remember what exactly it's about - just that it's rather philosophical, and nicely so - but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. The kind of reading experience you never forget, because it's so new and exciting. Naturally, I'd like to re-read it.
10. Dva haranti ("Two Brats") by Fringilla - A hillarious old Czech book about two children and the adults in their lives. I expect that one day the three sisters of us will fight over who gets to keep this book...
11. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis - Every time I read this book, I read it in a day. It's mesmerizing.
12. Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien - among other things, for the Finnish names in it. Karhu, Paksu, Valkotukka!
13. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis - It helped me realise one or two things about the behaviour of people around me, and more than one or two about mine. Priceless.
14. The Czar's Madman by Jaan Kross - If you're at least a bit interested in history, if you'd like to read a good historical novel, if I'm to include at least one book by a Fenno-Ugric author... this one it is.
15. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis - Guess who my favourite writer is?

Certain things are missing from the list. Like, there's not one book by Neil Gaiman, even though he must be one of my favourite writers now, just behind Lewis and Tolkien. I think the reason for that is, I really enjoy his way of writing, but his books are a recent discovery for me, so they do not have that lasting effect yet.

Then there's Mika Waltari's Secret of the Kingdom, which surely could have been there instead of The Czar's Madman, and if I didn't write this list on a day when I had mentioned Jaan Kross' novel to my mom (in connection to all those changes that happened during Napoleonic wars and Regency), it might have been there.

And then there's also Romance pro křídlovku ("A Romance for Flugelhorn") by František Hrubín, which is the second poem ever I really, thoroughly enjoyed. I'm not much into poetry, you know, but now and then there's something that wouldn't work in anything else but poetry, and this is one of those things, even when it's written in free verse. Actually, because it's written in free verse.

And lots of other books... but then this post would gradually become longer than Pan Tadeusz, and that one took me two months to read the first time I read it, so I'll stop here.

Now that I've mentioned the sunglasses...

... I have to show you. Even though I wrote they were of no consequence for this blog. Because they make me happy.

I do not feel like a super-stylish person or anything, but sometimes what I wear makes me really happy, and when something makes me really happy, it's hard to keep it to myself. Therefore, I introduce a new category of posts, "Daily outfits".
It is absolutely not going to be a daily feature, do not worry. (For one, I wouldn't want to have to take photos of myself daily, with having to position the camera somewhere safely, finding a nice backdrop etc.) But I think that documenting things I like wearing could be useful in some time. It might eventually help me get rid of things I do not like to wear, and protect me from obtaining things I wouldn't like to wear (not that that's much of a problem lately)...

This was my outfit today and on Monday, and it really makes me happy:

The headscarf is something cheap and synthetic I got in a Czech variation on a dollar store. So are the sunglasses. I'd say those two things are good reasons for visiting a dollar kind of shop from time to time. I wear the headscarf all the time, it goes with most clothes I have, and unlike with other kinds of clothes, I do not mind its artificiality too much.
The T-shirt you cannot see much of, but it's a really pretty, smooth, quite nicely fitting orange T-shirt that I bought in a secondhand shop for 10 CZK. A fantastic, almost unbelievable combination of quality and price, I think... It's the first orange T-shirt I've ever had, and I think this kind of orange suits me well. Especially if paired with white baby corduroy trousers. Very summery, don't you think?
The best (and most expensive) part is the shawl. (And the ring, which you also cannot see much of. I got the ring from my grandma at my baptism. So it's a special kind of keepsake.) The shawl I bought in a shop with Indian clothes. Handpicked in India by the owner. I'd wanted a shawl like that for some time (since my sister bought one, actually). Originally I was thinking of a beige one - I wear a lot of beige - but then this one popped up, and it was just perfect. From a distance it looks like it has several hues of rusty colour, but in fact it's just orange-y red and black woven in patterns. Very clever! It goes well with both my browns and my blues or greens - and now with my oranges, too. Outside of serving as a shawl, it can also double as a skirt worn over trousers in cold days, as a blanket in very hot nights, and as a bag when I buy too many books to fit into my backpack... Been there, tried that. It works.