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pattern testing: nita wrap skirt

Recently, I took on the challenge of testing a new pattern being developed by a sewing blogger I follow, SewDIY.  She needed volunteers who could test out her wrap skirt pattern and give her feedback by a set deadline.   In return, she would give her testers a copy of the finished pattern for free.   I'm definitely interested in free patterns and thought the wrap skirt would be a nice addition to my work-wear options.   I volunteered to sew a size 14 and was selected to be a part of the testing team.   I had just wrapped up some smaller projects and was ready to focus on this project.   I went to one of my favorite Seattle fabric spots for garments, District Fabric, and got a woven linen with a decidedly tweedy look (above) and a blue cotton shirting fabric to line the skirt.  The top fabric in the pile is a lovely green buffalo check that I couldn't resist and have plans to make a pop-over Archer some time this spring.  I really liked my fabric choices and was also happy not to have spend much more than $20 on the project, in case the fit didn't really work out.   

Luckily, I didn't have anything to worry about.  The pattern sewed up nicely, with great instructions for adding a lining.   The fit was perfect (I did sew a muslin to test it out, just in case) but I have to get used to wearing the skirt at my natural waist instead of below my belly button, where most of my clothing sits.   I chose a simple button closure and the mini length (really just slightly above the knee) with about 2 inches added on to accomodate my longer legs (pattern is modeled on a 5'6" frame). I sewed a straight size 14 since it matched my waist and hips perfectly.  The linen was okay to sew with, but I should have serged all the raw edges since I noticed some unraveling at the waist band when I was finshing up. That will probably shorten the life-span of the skirt, so lesson learned.   I'm also going to have to be very lady-like when wearing this skirt, the wrap crosses underneath at an angle, so it would be easy to expose oneself accidentally.  

I love the button and snap closure (easy enough to take in or let out the skirt as needed) but the pattern does offer a tie closure as well as a D-ring option.   I was thinking a nice floral print with a tied waist might be next in line when I try the pattern again.  All in all, the project took about 10 hours with the muslin, cutting and sewing.  The skirt can be finished more quickly on a machine, or more painstakingly by hand if desired.   

Here is the finished project.  I'm going to relocate the button so that the skirt sits higher at the waist, which will be more flattering.  I accidentally sewed the skirt with the wrap backwards from the pattern, but the two front pieces are symmetrical, so that wasn't a problem.  Excited to have something new to wear to work this week, just as the spring weather is poking its head out over here.  


winter making

Every year, when the holidays get close, I spend nearly all of my free time making gifts.  This year was hardly an exception and I managed to make almost everything I had planned. All in all I made two zippered pouches, two knit hats, an explorer vest, a knock-off field bag and a handfull of lavender sachets.   My deadlines extended a bit past Christmas, which helped the making feel a little more relaxed and enjoyable. Somehow in the midst of all the things I was making to give, I managed to make a few things for myself as well.   The biggest project was an Archer shirt in a cute red and blue plaid flannel. 

My friend Monica and I treated ourselves to a day of sewing at Dry Goods Studio in downtown Seattle in November and I promised myself I would use the time to work on a big project for me, since I knew that December would be dedicated to making gifts for others.  We had 7 hours of studio time and I made 80 percent of the shirt during that time.  However, when I made it back home and tried on the shirt, I realized I had set in the sleeves backwards and the fit was very awkward.  The correction was a bit painstaking, but at least the shirt was salavagable.   The pattern is from Grainline Studios and I really enjoyed making a button-up with some flair.  I will definitely sew the pattern again, doing some adjustments to get a better fit accross my broad shoulders. Overall, I'm happy with the shirt and have found it a cozy addition to my closet this winter.  

I really love the sewing space at Dry Goods and hope to get back again soon for some concentrated sewing time.  Making do with a very small sewing area at home makes me fully appreciate large cutting tables and floor-to-ceiling windows bringing in lots of natural light.  Plus the store has a great selection of fabric and notions and is right accross the alley from an excellent bakery.   

In the midst of all this making, I've discovered several great resources, mostly for sewing.   The short list includes Seamwork magazine/radio, Noodlehead (the best bag patterns -- my Caravan Tote shown above), Fringe Association (perfect taste in both knits and sewn items) and Grainline Studio.   I always have a list of things to make that far exceeds my actual time for making.  I've made a list of projects I'd like to finish this year and some monthly priorities to get started.  The list is a nice mix of items for myself and items for others. 

The bag shown above is my knock-off Field Bag, which I just gifted to my friend Deb as a knitting project bag.  This was the third attempt at the bag, which I tried to reproduce by studying the photos on the website and the dimensions listed for the bag.  I might give it one more shot, tweaking a few more aspects in my prototype. The original bag retails for $65, and I spend about $10 on fabric for each of the bags I make.  I find myself thinking that way quite a bit lately, the "Why spend $260 on a sweater at Anthropologie that I could knit myself?" thoughts.  As you can imagine, that adds quite a bit to my list of projects, but I'm trying not to be in hurry and really enjoy the things I make, as they come along.  


taking stock

We've just gotten to the end of a cold snap here in Seattle and the other day I captured my kieskei rhododenron looking veritably sugared in frost. The image inspired me to revitalize the appearance of this website, giving it a much needed bit a freshness. 

If you scroll down the archive list for this blog, you'll see that it has been active for a little over ten years now.  Sometimes just barely active, but a least something written down every year for a decade.   In the early days, the blog had a different name (extemporaneous) and a different location (blogger), but it was more or less the same:  occasional notes from daily life.  Reading those early posts, my life seemed very different back in those days.  I was in school, had a boyfriend, and took casual cross-country skiing trips. Sometimes I yearn for the freedom of those days.   Things are much more permanent now in my life -- a child, a husband, a career.  Yet adventure still happens and when it does, I notice and value it much more.  Writing and keeping an account of life, milestones and travel helps me take stock of the changes.   Will I still feel like writing in this format in another 10 years?  I'm not certain, but I do feel like writing today.   

Happy New Year.  



travels, revisited

Although it has been 5 months since we took our trip to Iceland and France, I wanted to continue documenting our travel.  In some ways, it's nice to have a gap in time between the experience and writing about it.  The space helps distill what you really want to remember and reflect on; a lot of the minutia of travel slips away.  I also knew I had my hand-written travel journal to provide some details if needed.   So we continue on our time in Iceland, exploring the southern pennisula.

Iceland:  Reykjanes Penninsula 


We headed back down the West coast of Iceland from Snaefellnes, moving to a new lodging South of the capital in a village called Vogar.   We chose this village for the second part of our Iceland trip since it was close to the airport and Reykjavik, but also a quiet remove from the city.  On our way down the coast, we stopped to visit the town of Borgarnes, which we had bypassed on our way up to Snaefellnes.   I had read about a small playground for children in the town that had been hand-built over the years by a local resident and we thought it would make for a nice waypoint on our drive. After a little wandering around, we found the park tucked into a hill by the school. 

Bjossarolo, as it is called, was built it over a span of several decades, using re-purposed lumber and other scrap items, such as old steering wheels.  The man who built it loved children and wanted them to have a place to explore. There was a fort with several access points, a few swings, slides, cars to drive and more.  Jonas loved trying out everything and the park is ingeniously bulit into a hillside, so it is somewhat blocked from the cold wind.   

It was a great location to enjoy the sun and get out some energy before more driving. 

We had lunch at a kaffehaus which was used as a location in the movie "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."   I guess in the film, the cafe was transformed into a Papa John's Pizza (love the American product placement) and they had still photos from the movie in the cafe.   It was a nice spot for our standard Icelandic lunch (soup, bread and coffee) and to pick up some treats for the road.   I also bought some lovely handspun Icelandic wool, colored with plant-based dyes.   It's a thin type of wool called tviband which is traditionally knit into a shawl called a hyrna.  A shawl for myself is already on my needles.  

We drove directly from Borgarnes to Vogar, bypassing Reykjavik.  Our lodging was an Airbnb rental and we wanted to check in with our host, Dagmar.  Her rental is in the loft of her house and was lovely.  The photo above is from the window of our loft.  She was very welcoming and had made us warm skonsur, which are very simlar to pancakes, complete with homemade jam to go along with them.   The skonsur were delicious and perfectly timed, since we had to drive straight to the Blue Lagoon for our reservation.   The Blue Lagoon, a geothermic pool built into black lava with a white silica mud bottom, is everything you are warned about:  expensive, touristy and magical.  We spent several evening hours warming ourselves in the steamy pools, painting our skin with the mud and relaxing.   Jonas loved the experience and we felt it was worth the side trip.  I didn't take any photos while we were there, but this image captures the pool fairly well.  The color of the water is a strange, irridescent blue and we did feel quite restored after our soak. 

The next day we had originally planned to go into Reykjavik for the day, but instead opted for a day exploring the southern penninsula, Reykjanes.  The area has lots of geothermal features, rugged sea cliffs and a few small villages.   We walked the trail along the coast out to the lighthouse at Gardur and found this old fishing boat along the way.   

The fact that fisherman once braved the North Atlantic Ocean in this vessel baffles me.  We were chilled enough walking in the sunshine right by the coast in our puffy coats.   Can you imagine fishing, wearing seal-skin rainwear, in a brutally cold ocean?   Icelanders are a tough, tough people.   At Gardur, we found a more sea-worthy vessel to explore.

On the walk out to the lighthouse we had promised Jonas a warm drink if we could find one. There was an odd cafe by the lighthouse, which seemed to exclusively serve tourist busses. The owner insisted we wait to pay until after we had eaten our cakes and cocoa, but when we went to settle up her credit card reader wouldn't work properly and we had no kroner on hand. We were trapped for a small while until she called the bank and was able to fix the issue.   Luckily we didn't have to leave Jonas for collateral while we went in search of a cash machine.   

On the way to another village, Grindavik, we stopped at a few geothermic sites which were interesting.  If you walked along the boardwalk near this fumarole, the cloud would sprinkle you with a warm and salty rain. The area reminded us of Yellowstone, but not quite so dramatic. 

More dramatic are the sea cliffs -- filled with nesting birds.  We walked to the top of a large hill to check out the view.  In Grindavik, we beachcombed and found a cafe for another Icelandic lunch.   The barkeeper there was a younger man who was easily the most chatty Icelander we met.  He gave Jonas a length of "splice" -- a type of fishing rope he had been braiding.   We hung out in the cafe until they began to set up for a broadcast of the football game.   The atmosphere in this part of Iceland reminded me very much of the countryside of Ireland.  Those small, windblown islands have some kindred features.  

We returned to our loft and prepared for an early departure in the morning.   Nick ventured out on his own and found a very well-built stone roundhouse out in the fields.  

In the morning we boarded our flight to Paris and watched the golden grasses blow on the island as we ascended.  Iceland is a beautiful, quiet country we hope to visit again.

Next stop, France.  



We've broken ground on some new territory here, starting first and foremost with Jonas' biking skills.   He quickly went from needing a 'shadow' running next to him during biking to being a pretty shrewd biker. 

We skipped traning wheels and instead would jog next to Jonas as he got the hang of a pedal bike.  His balance started off really great, thanks to a few years on his balance bike, but he didn't really understand the concept of pedaling, especially to go up even a slight change in elevation.   Jonas' bike, a sharp, orange Hedgehog made by a SF company called Cleary, also has hand brakes, as opposed to coaster brakes.  Convincing Jonas he didn't need to drag his feet to brake (a la balance bike) was another obstacle.   There were a lot of elements to adjust to and we spend a lot of time in shadow mode.   Soon enough though, he was able to do most of the parts of biking without help.   Getting started on his own might take the whole length of our street, but he could do it!  

Now the challenge was to keep the kid in control and safe.  He was a bit of a speed demon and would zip around corners and we had to bike along with him to keep up.   This meant being a lot further away and giving up control over him on his bike.   Nick was the primary bike partner and things were really improving fast.   Every day Jonas wanted to do the bike loop around our house.  We're lucky to have the pond with pedestrian trails literally behind our house, since it is a good place for a beginning biker to improve his skills.   Jonas was feeling pretty impressed with himself one evening and wanted me to come along for a final family ride of the day.   At one point, Nick moved to the right and slowed down to let Jonas past, but Jonas just kept following him, not slowing at all, and ended up catching the rear tire of Nick's bike, careening off into a parked car and then doing a face-dive into the gravel driveway.   

He had a pretty nasty cut on his chin that didn't stop bleeding on its own, so after 15 minutes of deliberation, we decided to rush him over to Seattle Children's Hospital's Urgent Care before it closed.  We were able to get seen right away and they never made a fuss about us bringing in a kid who might need stitches 10 minutes before they closed.  I work in the outpatient pharmacy of the hospital which is right across from Urgent Care and talk to the providers quite a bit during my evening shifts, so I know they're a good crew. We had a nurse taking care of us who had seen us back in April when Jonas came in with pink eye.   She is a great nurse and was so good at putting Jonas at ease.  He was very opposed about going in to Urgent Care and as we were racing over there stated that he thought they were probably closed already so we should just go back home.   But when it came down to it, he was quite brave through the process and held very still for the two stitches that went in his chin.  

The chin has healed pretty nicely, but he has a bit of a scar remaining.  More importantly, he was not deterred from bike riding and has been on a few longer rides and showing a great deal of control and navigation skills. He also learned how to stop using the brakes and is saving the soles of his shoes from lots of wear and tear.   

Another first that came soon after his first stitches, was the first day of Pre-K.   We moved from our co-operative preschool to a very sweet school in our neighborhood called Little Nest.   Jonas is in the Pre-K group called the Owls and they do a lot of playing and exploring in addition to doing some Kindergarten readiness.   The teachers are all very loving and invested in what they do.  The school is also fairly small and has a good sense of community.  It's Montessouri-inspired, but incorporates many teaching styles.   

School picture 2 weeks post stitches. Kids heal like magic!

Jonas seems to really enjoy school when he is there, but does a bit of dragging when its time to get ready in the morning.  He's there four days a week for a four-hour session, which is a nice step up towards kindergarten.   It also allows me a good chunk of time to work on projects and take care of household business.

The other first we've had is first sports experience.  Jonas is playing on a U5 soccer team in a neighborhood soccer club.  The team was sparked by a group of parents from our preschool last year, so we see lots of kids we know on the pitch.  It also happens to be at the elementary school 2 blocks from our house and is a nice walk in the evening.  We've had great weather for practice, which is nice, since I volunteered to coach the team and have to be there.   Coaching is a first for me, and definitely a stretch of my skills.   Still, its fun to see the kids running around and I'm glad I can help get them out there.