Saturday, January 16, 2016

Holiday Projects

I have gone almost a month without actively working on a knitting or crocheting project.  I got distracted, and my creativity ran off in another direction.  Behold, one of the most selfish Christmas gifts ever.
 My mother has a large supply of novelty cotton prints for the making of I-spy quilts.  She would like to reduce this supply.  She would also like to produce some blankets appropriate for a small child.  I wanted to try my hand at patchwork and quilting.  I therefore was granted permission to raid my mother's fabric stash over the holidays and use her sewing machine.  With a few coupons to a fabric-selling big box craft store, I selected a few additional fabrics and off I went.

I hauled my very own rotary cutter and ruler across the ocean for this.  I did purchase a new cutting mat for my mom, though.  My mom's sewing machine is brand new a Brother CS6000i.  This thing was the greatest deal, guys.  I am almost a little jealous.  I took to calling it the mighty midget, because this sewing machine has a bunch of nice features for quilting while feeling like it weighs next to nothing.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Saga of the Kitchen

Several months ago, my husband and I moved to Germany.  Moving to a new country always presents many adjustments, but I found one of the most disconcerting to be what is considered a furnishing in an unfurnished apartment.  In Belgium, light fixtures (and I mean the ones you screw into the ceiling or wall) were furnishings.  They were the property of the tenant, and tenants took their lights with them when they moved out.  In Germany, the lights and the kitchen are considered furnishings.

This includes the kitchen appliances.  It includes the counter-top.  It includes the kitchen cabinets.  It includes the sink and the faucet.  The "kitchen" in an unfurnished apartment around here comes as a room with a few pipes hanging out of the walls.
That's the original "kitchen"
Clearly moving into an apartment without a functional kitchen is a problem.  There are a couple work-arounds commonly used to make the transition easier.  The first is that often the old tenants have no more desire to pull out all the cabinets, appliances, and fixtures of their old kitchen to pack along to a new place (not to mention the difficulty of getting a pre-existing set up to fit correctly in a new apartment) than the new tenants do to find, purchase, and install all the cabinets, appliances, and fixtures necessary for a kitchen.  A deal can then be made where the new tenants pay the old tenants to leave their kitchen in place.  This effectively increases the initial cost of moving in, but requires no additional effort on anyone's part.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

2015 in Knitting Review and the State of the Stash

Happy New Year!  I hope that you had a wonderful holiday and that 2016 is off to a good start.  I spent the holiday with my family in the US, and recently returned to Europe.  I am now dealing with a lingering case of jet-lag that keeps waking me up in the middle of the night, so I apologize in advance for any incoherence in this post.

Following my post from last year, let's see how 2015 compares with previous years in knitting.
I did not meet my goal of twelve finished projects this year, as I only managed to get through ten.  That's one less than last year.  However, as shown below, these ten projects used a bit more yarn than 2014's eleven projects.  One of the big drivers of that is the Elizabeth shawl, which was the biggest yarn eater of the year.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 3

Today we continue with me detailing my personal philosophy on ballroom dance costumes, and this post is a quick one as I've been dancing and prepping for an interview all weekend.  I've discussed already that dance costumes should attract attention, and described how I evaluate the effectiveness of colors and color combinations.  I'll finish with a few posts on elements I look for in a dance dress to ensure it works for my body and skill level.

While a dance dress should attract attention, it should be flattering at the same time. This means at the very least, it should stay put while you're cha-chaing/waltzing/jiving/quicksteping around.  You will not dance as well if you are worried about your dress failing to stay on.  The biggest issue for me with this for several years was keeping my chest contained, as I hate feeling like my breasts were bouncing around without me.  This means that I stick with dresses with sturdy straps over each shoulder and with a back.  The back of the dress puts tension on the edge of the bra cups to hold them in place.  In a couple of my costumes, I actually bought a cheap, nude-colored bra, cut off the over-the-shoulder straps, and sewed the cups into place, leaving the straps with the hooks and eyes attached.  It gave me a lot of extra support.

The same logic applies to other body parts you'd like to keep under control.  Uncomfortable about your bum or thighs?  Wear fishnets and pick a costume that doesn't have cut-outs around your rear or a back that dips below the waist.  If you don't like displaying your entire arm, pick a dress that has sleeves.  I also have a red birth mark in the middle of my back, so I wear dresses with higher backs to cover it.  These things make me more comfortable and allow me to focus on my dancing and performance, which is ultimately what matters most in a competition.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 2

Last week, I started talking about things I consider when creating or evaluating a ballroom costume, and promised that I continue with talking about evaluating colors this week.  I find color is one of the first things I consider when coming up with a potential dress design.  In my head, certain colors only work with certain designs; something that would look elegant in royal blue is going to give a different impression in hot pink.  That is probably a peculiarity of my thought processes, but I would still say that the color of a dress deserves careful consideration.  At the very least, fabric cost is almost always independent of color, so I consider color choice as the cheapest way to add visual appeal to a dress.

I stated in my previous post that I felt one of the tasks of a competition costume is to attract attention.  The color of a dress can do this by contrasting with the surrounding colors.  To know what colors contrast, consider a color wheel.  A color wheel displays relationships between primary, secondary, and tertiary colors.  The three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue.  The secondary colors are produced by mixing two primaries and are green, orange, and purple.  The tertiary colors are made by mixing secondaries and primaries, though exactly what shade you get depends on the proportions mixed; yellow-green, orange-red, and so on fall in this group.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

October Swap Gifts Received

If I have given the impression that my swap partner has been irresponsible, I apologize.  It was neither my intention nor reality.  The post office sent me a note to pick up a package last Thursday, which I picked up Saturday.  A job interview prevented me from gloating over my goodies online until now.

As a side note, I think coding job interviews must always feel awful to all involved.  I had ninety minutes in which to throw together a project that really needs several hours and a few iterations before it would be considered a decent prototype of anything.  Meanwhile, every typing error caused error messages to spew across the screen for all to see.  It was embarrassing.  At least I did know how to do everything I was asked to do.

Anyway, on Saturday I took possession of this lovely parcel.
 It was opened to reveal these mysterious packets.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Ballroom Tip: Costume Considerations, part 1

Today's tip is going to be the first of a few I post about competitive costume considerations for ladies.  Our dresses are expensive, and it hurts to put the time and effort into acquiring a costume only to find that it doesn't quite work for you.  In this series, I'll detail some of the considerations I think through when I'm cooking up a dress design or evaluating if a dress is working for me.

Of course, in fashion every rule and guideline can be broken to great effect under the right circumstances.  These are my guidelines only, and should be taken as that.

I take a fundamental principle that a competition dress has two purposes.  First, it should make you look good.  Good is obviously a vague word that can be replaced with the adjective of your choice: sexy, elegant, flirtatious, regal, etc.  Whatever you want to look like, your dress should contribute positively to that goal.  Second, your dress should attract attention.  I do not necessarily mean it should be outrageous by breaking conventions, though of course what is outrageous is also subjective.  I mean that if your dress makes you blend into the background, it doesn't matter how flattering it is--it's not working for you as a competition dress.