Month: May 2013


My sewing mojo returned in May, in spite of my sprained ankle.  I decided to move forward with some stashbusting makes and also some muslins for pregnancy clothing.  Here’s what resulted:

Two pairs of Burda Style magazine (12/2010) men’s lounging pants.  One for hubby out of a long-time stash of cotton patchwork.


And a pair for me, modified by adding some extra to the hips and waist.  The fabric is probably my oldest stash piece, at at least 7 years.  It’s a synthetic purple satin Hello Kitty print, which wasn’t quite long enough to make the entire pattern, so I grabbed some pink satin sakura scraps from my scrap bin and made a contrast waist and cuffs.  With my ever-expanding waist, however, these fit a little tight and the rise is not quite right. Still, they’re super fun to wear and should get a lot of use post-pregnancy.

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And even though May was the third wettest on Portland record, I knew that I should make a summery blouse for the summer that will arrive, someday.  I had a couple of white cotton French pillowcases from IKEA that I never had used, so I ripped the seams apart and pieced together a Kwik Sew 3632 top.  It was my favorite top of the summer last year in Tokyo, so I knew I could get some wear out another one this summer.  I just sized up to the largest size, to allow for some second trimester expansion, and left slits at the bottom side seams.  I predict this will be a summer favorite, especially when I’m visiting my family in Minnesota (where it is much more humid than here in Portland).


And next up, a muslin of Simplicity 4173 skirt, a three-tiered, gathered skirt that I  thought could work for a maternity skirt.  I made the largest size, which is too big for now, and used an old cotton duvet from IKEA.  (Hence the slightly Holly Hobby look.)  While I think the pattern is ok, it’s a bit floofy for me.  (That’s my own word meaning fluffy and poofy.)  And I failed to realize that it called for 1/2″ elastic, which is hardly enough to hold up so much weight of the skirt.  It will probably fit better once I’ve put on another 10 pounds.  This will probably be an around-the-house-only skirt for the summer.


And lastly, another muslin, this time for Burda maternity pattern 8376.  Yes, it’s pretty much a hot mess.  ^ ^;;  I scavenged the rib knit from a me-made ill-fitting tee-shirt I never wore, hence the center seam in the prego panel that’s not supposed to be there.  The plaid was a scrap of flannel that had been in my stash for years.  I barely had enough to cut out the pattern, let alone try to match the plaid.  Again, around-the-house wear.


Still, this served it’s purpose as a muslin, as it proved large, but wearable.  I can now cut with confidence into some bargain bin organic cotton twill and some ponte knit to make a pair of summer pants and capris to wear as my waistline explodes.

So, I’m starting to adjust to maternity sewing this month. Right now I’m concentrating on making a few key pieces that will get me through several weeks of waistline expansion at a time.  I’m just not going to be cutting into any of my sacred stash from Japan (probably) anytime soon. 🙂

For June, I have a pile of projects to sew: several for me and a few baby-related.  I’m started to get excited!  The sun is out today and is *knock on wood* supposed to remain out for the next week, so I expect to get a lot of sewing done.  (In between weeding in the garden.)

What’s on your June sewing agenda?

May stashbusting: 5 pieces, including the three oldest in my stash!
Stashbusting goal: Use 16 pieces in 2013
Stashbusting progress: 20 pieces used to date!!

No pivo in Prague

Aka, why the sewing portion of this blog has been so quiet lately.

At the beginning of March, my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby.  Whee!!  It was simultaneously exciting and terrifying news.  So, a new chapter in our lives was about to begin.  We only announced to close family, as we were concerned about complications because of my age.  Well, it looks like things are going swimmingly, so it’s time to announce it to the world.

So, this explains the lack of beer (pivo) in my Prague blogs.  And it also explains the lack of sewing that’s been going on.  I’m totally thrilled at this new adventure, but my ever-changing body has made me hesitant to cut into my treasured fabric stash to make things that won’t fit anymore in a month.  (And there’s that tiny little fear in the back of my brain that I won’t fit into them ever again, but I’m going to work my a$$ off after the kiddo is born to make sure that doesn’t happen.)

This is not to say I didn’t do any sewing in April, just not much.  I made an in-flight entertainment bag to take with me on the plane out of some fabulous macaroon fabric from my friend’s shop.  And I made yet another modified Renfrew, this time out of a fabulous cotton sweater knit I picked up at Tomato in Tokyo.  (I’m really kicking myself for not just raiding the knit floor at Tomato last fall, since knit tops are what I live in.)  Since I knew that I would be growing, I sized up one size in the Renfrew and cut a boat neck, which I finished with purple binding.  (I do kind of love that little hint of color that only I get to see.)


At this point, all but one piece in my stash is woven fabric.  I have one length of knit left from last year’s Tomato shopping spree in Tokyo, so I may try making a fold-over waist maxi skirt from it.  And except for a few pieces (two of which I’m currently working on) most everything in the stash IS from Japan, meaning I can’t get it here in the US for any price.  So while I really want to cut into the luscious double-gauze and make a great summer skirt, I need to make it in such a way that I can still wear it when summer really arrives.  It’s a bit of a new challenge here.

After I returned from Prague, I think it was a combination of too much time on dry airplanes + exhaustion + allergies in Portland, but I caught a bit of a sinus infection, which I’m almost over.  It totally sapped my energy as well.  And then this past Monday morning, I slipped on the bottom step of our narrow 1954 basement stairs and sprained my ankle.  Thankfully not too badly, but it’s kept me immobile pretty much all week.  I’m going to head into the sewing room today and see if I can use the pedals left-footed.  Ha!  This might be fun.

In any case, I have stashbusting projects in the works (a pair of lounging pants for me and one for hubby) and other projects to try out (maternity pants and tops) and a diaper bag to make.  So, hopefully now that my ankle is feeling better, there will be more sewing progress on this blog.

April stashbusting: 2 pieces of fabric
Stashbusting goal: Use 16 pieces in 2013
Stashbusting progress: 15 pieces used to date


Prague Day 7: Gretchen’s last day

My last day in Prague.  Hubby still had meeting to go to, so he was staying on for several more days, but this was his last vacation day.  We had several things on the to see list, including more of David Cerny’s works and the Astronomical Clock in Old Town (Stare Mesto).  First up was the TV tower, which was on our way into the city center from our hotel.  Emerging from the Jiřího z Poděbrad metro station (which, by the way, sounds nothing like it is spelled; I could catch the ‘z’ only) we saw this church.  There are lots and lots of churches in Prague, of every shape, style, and color.  This definitely fit into the modern category.  We particularly liked the see-through clock face.


The architectural style was unfriendly, IMO.  The brick surface detail almost looked like spikes or barbed wire.IMG_2690 Still, it was quite a nice change of architecture from what we had been seeing.IMG_2692 And onto the TV Tower, which the Communists built in 1985.  Uuuuuuugly is the word that comes to my mind.  It looks like some cheap, plastic ray gun or something.  Anyway, I guess I’m not alone in my thinking, from what I read.  After the fall of Communism, the tower was deemed to be fairly unattractive, so, of course, they commission David Cerny to make it more appealing.  From a distance (and most of the center city area) his additions  look like ants.  Which is kind of fun in it’s own way.  But no, those aren’t ants, those are babies.IMG_2695 Giant, butt-faced, crawling babies.  All over the tower.  IMG_2706 IMG_2716 It makes me think of giant babies crawling on an AT-AT.  Or something like that.  It’s just wonderfully bizarre.  The title of the work is ‘Mimika,’ Czech for the word ‘babies.’  For an interpretation… I leave that up to you.  Or Google, if you so wish.IMG_2725 It definitely turned the TV tower from an eye sore to a destination, though.  There were also a few other pieces on the TV tower grounds that were quite interesting.IMG_2723 This… I have no idea.  I’ve never been a modern art girl. IMG_2747 And headed back to the metro station, I spotted this post box.  Nice.IMG_2749These are just some details from the buildings in the TV tower neighborhood.  Again, not on the tourist beat.  This is just how things are.
IMG_2756 Our next stop was Municipal House, in the Old Town (Stare Mesto) where there was an exhibition of Alfons Mucha’s work.  The buildings below are in the Municipal House neighborhood.  Again, all of that gorgeous detail.IMG_2763 What we didn’t realize when we headed into the exhibition was that it was the world premiere, and it had only opened about 10 days prior.  How lucky that we happened to be in Prague at the right time!  And while the name Ivan Lendl sounded familiar, I couldn’t place it.  Yes, it turns out that is was the Ivan Lendl of 1980’s tennis fame.  He had begun collecting Mucha’s work in the early 80’s after being introduced to Mucha’s son.  And now owns one of the most complete collections of Mucha lithographs in the world.  Again, there was strictly no photography allowed, but to say the exhibition was amazing is an understatement.  It totally blew away the Mucha Museum.  We enjoyed it so much that we decided to purchase the exhibition book.  All 30 pounds of it.  (Ok, well maybe not that heavy, but pretty close.)IMG_2776


After that, we went and assumed a position in front of the Astronomical Clock, which is a “must see” in all of the guidebooks.  Here’s the crowd (of tourists) that gathers each hour to see the show.IMG_2806 While the clock itself is something to behold, the hourly show lasts a mere 45 seconds and it underwhelming, to say the least.  I thought I took a video of it, but I pressed the wrong button, so just a photograph instead.  The most amusing part, I thought, is that the figure of Death is the one ringing the bell.IMG_2807

After that, we grabbed some sausages for lunch in the square, and shared a trdelnik for dessert.  Then onward, there was more David Cerny to find.

But first, more architectural details along the way.  Here’s St George slaying the dragon.IMG_2808 And this horrible photo.  Which I took only to show the huge metronome that sits on the opposite bank of the river.  (It’s easier to see in the larger photo.)  The metronome now sits where the huge statue of Lenin used to sit.  Stalin blew that up in 1963 (or so).  So now there’s a metronome.  Ok.  Layers of history, everywhere.IMG_2809 And back in Mala Strana (Lower Town), just outside the Kafka museum, we found the other Cerny piece we were looking for: Proudy (that’s Czech for ‘piss’).  These two gentlemen stand in a pool the shape of the Czech Republic, their hips swiveling, while their, um, manhood pisses out lines from famous Czech literature.  It’s quite the crowd pleaser.  I had a difficult time getting shots (and video) without a crowd in the way.IMG_2817 I mean, really, what’s not to like?  (Yes, I became a David Cerny fan in Prague.)IMG_2818

After another long day of touristing, we caught a bite to eat in the Namesti Miru neighborhood.  And still I couldn’t stop taking pictures of their buildings.  IMG_2821 Afterwards, as it was a lovely evening, we grabbed some gelato from a stand in the park and walked around a bit.  We came across this monument, to Josef Capek and his brother Karel.  Josef was an artist and poet, but also invented the word ‘robot’ for use in one of his brother’s stories.  Karel perished shortly after Germany invaded Czechoslovakia in 1938, and Josef perished in a concentration camp in 1945.  Sad.IMG_2826


However, not to leave the last Prague post on a sad note.  There is so much history in Prague, a lot of it sad, but a lot of it glorious and beautiful.  I highly recommend Prague as a city to visit.  While I’ve just shown a fraction of the photos I took, hopefully I was able to convey some of the beauty and wonder that this city holds.



Prague Day 6: Laundry!

We thought we had laundry in the apartment that we rented, and while there was indeed a washer, it was “Out of order.”  I was almost tempted to try anyway, as there were other items in there, but I was a good girl and didn’t.  Which meant laundry adventures in Prague.  (The hotel would have kindly done it all for us, at incredible rates.  They were so high I don’t even remember what they were, besides crazy.)

It was difficult to find a coin laundry/laundry service in Prague.  (Or maybe I just didn’t have the correct combination of Czech vocabulary while doing my Google searches.)  In any case, we found a place that wasn’t too far from the hotel, and as a bonus, they opened at 9AM on Sunday.  Sweet!  That meant we’d still have most of a day to see things.  We headed over to the address, just a couple of metro stops away, and found… nothing.  We were where it said to be, but there was no sign of laundry.  Smartphone to the rescue, where a Google reader had commented on that location saying, “It’s closed.  Don’t make the mistake I did and go there.”  Lovely.  It wasn’t a total bust, though, as we found some yummy looking Thai restaurants in the neighborhood, one of which we went to the next night for dinner.

An ad in the metro.  I made hubby stop and take this photo.  IMG_2036 A cheese shop sign in the neighborhood with the nonexistent laundry.IMG_2635 A theatre in the same neighborhood.  Not on the tourist beat at all, just a neighborhood in Prague.IMG_2640 The walls at the Namesti Miru metro stop.  I loved the walls along the A Line.IMG_2642

We found another location on the map in the heart of downtown (right near the Museum of Communism, actually), but it didn’t open until 11AM.  So we headed down to Wenceslas Square to see that area and also see if we could find David Cerny’s statue of St Wenceslas.


I remember watching news reports about the “unrest” in Czechoslovakia back in the late 80’s.  I never thought as a kid that I would get to visit Prague.  So standing in Wenceslas Square was pretty intense.  Here is where the Velvet Revolution happened in 1989.  IMG_2644 It’s in the New Town area of Prague, meaning that it has some amazing Art Nouveau and Art Deco buildings.  (You know, instead of all that Czech Renaissance stuff in some of the other neighborhoods.  😉  I particularly loved the detail on this building.  The little sphinxes and little faces.IMG_2651 IMG_2653

And all of the facial expressions slightly different from the other.IMG_2654 Some of the lovely old buildings on Wenceslas Square.IMG_2656

Looking for David Cerny’s work, we ducked into a little shopping arcade, Lucerna, on the west side of the square.  For some reason that name seemed familiar to me, so we gave it a try.  And met with success.  My first glimpse of Cerny’s St Wenceslas…


The shopping arcade doesn’t seem much like a going concern right now. I think a lot of the more successful shops have access onto Wenceslas Square, where they can snag tourists.  So, except for one tour group that quickly passed through, it was utterly quiet in the arcade.  (Well, there was one security guy lurking about.)  It was quite peaceful compared to the hubbub of the square.  This is David Cerny’s statue of St Wenceslas.
IMG_2660 IMG_2664He even depicted the horse’s tongue hanging out.
IMG_2665 There was a handy little staircase and balcony up to a cafe/casino, which allowed for some different angles.IMG_2671 And, of course, there was some lovely stained glass there on the balcony.  Six days in and I shouldn’t have been surprised and delighted by every little detail, but I still was.  IMG_2674 We were still to early to catch the laundry opening, so we found a coffee shop in the arcade (NOT Starbuck’s, thankyouverymuch) and had some hot chocolate and shared a slice of cake while we waited to head over to the laundry.   (Actually, I think it opened before it said it did, as we were there at 11:03 and all of the machines were full.  It claimed to open at 11:00.  Ahem.  Yes.)  The cafe had some tables on the outside of the shop, which was inside the arcade.  Perfect for capturing some of the details of the arcade.IMG_2679

This was the glass tile roof of the arcade. IMG_2681

Another decorated building on Wenceslas Square.IMG_2683


After our adventures with laundry, we headed back to the hotel to drop it off, then headed back down to the Old Town for some lunch at the vegetarian Indian cafeteria we’d found.  After that it was off to the Decorative Arts Museum while it was open on Sunday afternoon. (Because, you know, most everything’s closed on Monday.)  We were expecting a nice museum with various decorative items to look at.  The bonus for us was a special exhibition of Matchbox cars that had been extended until that very day.  No photography in the museum, though, which is why there are no more photos from the day.  By the time we finished there, I was pooped, so we headed back to the hotel.  Another lovely day in Prague.

Prague Day 5: The Castle, Part Two

(Still trying to catch up from the trip.  Also fighting a sinus infection, which cuts down on my energy and motivation.)

Day 5 in Prague we headed straight to the castle to finish off the remains of the short tour ticket that we had purchased.  We figured it wouldn’t be as strenuous as St Vitus the day before.  Ha!  First mistake was that it was Saturday.  Second mistake was that it was Saturday morning.  The Rick Steves’ guidebook basically said to avoid the castle from 9:30-12:30, as that’s when the tour groups ran their people through.  We arrived at the castle right about 10AM and what a difference from the day before.  There was a huge line to get into St Vitus, so it was really good we had done that the day before.  The crowds in the castle complex were crazy.  (OK, nothing like Shinjuku Station at rush hour, but it was unpleasant.)  We headed straight to St George’s Cathedral, the oldest on the castle grounds.  It was consecrated in 920, suffered a massive fire in the 1100’s and was rebuild around the mid-1100’s.  So pure Romanesque in style.  And oh, so beautiful to my eyes: the grace of the curved arches and the warmth of the stone.  This is a million times more beautiful to me than Baroque.

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Remnants of some of the oldest frescoes in the cathedral; I don’t remember when they dated back to, but it was probably 10th or 11th Century.  Amazing to see with my own eyes.IMG_2382 And look at that ceiling!  IMG_2415 IMG_2420 A view into the crypt below the altar.IMG_2388 Where this little guys was hanging out.  Notice the detail in the fresco next to it.IMG_2389 And St George, of course.IMG_2396 This southern entrance was obviously (and poorly) fitted on sometime after the 12th Century construction.IMG_2441 While St George’s was busy, the other tourist were pretty much rushing through.  (Perhaps they had a three hour limit for the castle or just didn’t like Romanesque?)  After that relative calm we headed for the Golden Lane, a restored alley of dwellings on the castle grounds.  Some of the area was used for barracks for soldiers, some was for other castle employees, such as seamstresses.  In any case, it was cramped and super crowded, but very interesting to see.  I’m trying to remember, but I think that these dwellings were used up to WWII, if not after.

It was easy to tell that people have gotten taller since these buildings were originally erected.

This room was set up as the alchemist’s room.  It was one of the more brightly lit rooms, too.  I can’t imagine winters in this….IMG_2460 Oh, yes, they had a torture room up by the barracks.  It was so crowded that I only managed to snap a few pictures before allowing the next in line a peep.  I don’t even want to know what all of these items are used for.


In the long hallway on the second (European first?) floor, they had displays of armor from various periods.  This birdman jousting ensemble was my favorite by far.IMG_2470 And the most modern of the abodes in the Golden Lane that we were allowed into was this film buff/maker, who was there until after the war, I believe.IMG_2479 IMG_2482

Ah, yes, I’m glad I took this photo, as it reminded me of something we saw all over Prague: self-walking dogs.  Most of the time when we saw dogs, the dogs would be walking themselves, with the owners in front or behind them, carrying the leash.  And for all of that, we never saw an incidence of dog conflict when two self-walking dogs came into contact.IMG_2483 After a lunch break (in which we were reminded of the guidebooks caution to be wary of extra charges on the bill) we headed back to the castle to see the last building on our ticket.  On the way, we passed the Schwarzenberg Palace, a beautiful Czech Renaissance building, decorated by sgraffito.  Having only read about sgraffito in my art history texts, it was amazing to be so close to so many buildings in Prague that used this decorative technique. Let’s just say I’m a fan.  It had started to rain when we reached the palace and while hubby was hanging out under the eaves, I was snapping away.
IMG_2488 If you click through to the large image below and look at the top, you’ll see antlers.IMG_2493 And back to the castle we went.IMG_2490 Through the fancy front gates.  With the very pointy flag poles.IMG_2500 Our last destination was the Old Royal Palace.  This is still used for ceremonial events to this day.  IMG_2504I loved the tracery detail throughout.
IMG_2510 IMG_2516 Very old windows.  This was the room in which the Second Defenestration of Prague happened in 1618, one of the events which led to the 30 Years War.  IMG_2521

The nice warm, but ginormous, stove in the room.IMG_2526 View from those famous windows out onto a drizzly Prague.IMG_2544 Some of the detail back in the main hall.IMG_2558 Doors.  Beautiful wooden doors throughout.  Not quite my taste, but beautiful nonetheless.IMG_2562 I believe this was the Land Records hall or somesuch.  All of the painted medallions on the ceiling show the relationships of various important persons back in the day.IMG_2575 The library, where the Land Use records were kept.  Not only were the library shelves stunning, so were the books themselves.IMG_2581 IMG_2582I can’t remember which royal (King, Holy Roman Emperor) used this room, but it was lovely.  We could only peek at it from the steps of the gift shop.
IMG_2591 After finishing the buildings, we wandered through the back garden on the south side of the castle.  This allows you to peep into the back yards of very nice buildings, such as the British Consulate.IMG_2599 The colorful south side of the castle complex.IMG_2622 And just as we were about to go, I spotted this little guy embedded in a garden wall.  I wonder what his story is?  I called him derpy cat.IMG_2631