Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fabric and Textile Shopping in Istanbul

After our Greek Island Odyssey, we finished our trip with a few days in Istanbul. Now that I am at home (sniff, sniff) and have had a few days to reflect, here are some thoughts on shopping in Istanbul.  Other sewing bloggers (Slapdash and Selfish) have blogged about the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul not really having much to offer in the way of fabric. I concur. Aside from Gülipek Tekstil which exclusively sells silk, most of the (very few) fabric stores' stock seems to be geared toward belly dance costumes.

Coincidence: Display of hand crank sewing machines in the lobby of our hotel.

However, Istanbul is not a bad place to fabric shop (more on this at the end). In addition, there are plenty of opportunities to buy textile products at the Grand Bazaar, where it seems like every other stall sells pashminas. I found that having sewist's fingers was immeasurably helpful.  In fact, aside from a few knick-knacks for my nephews, all of my purchases were fabric and textile oriented. Here's what we bought, interspersed with some completely unrelated pictures from the Istanbul leg of our trip.

L to R: Hers and His Peştemals

Peştemals - There are loads of places to buy the traditional Turkish towel/sarong used at a hamam (Turkish bath) in either cotton or bamboo. My sister, Calliope, and I bought cotton peştemal bathrobes for our parents for their 65th birthdays which just passed while they were on the Camino. The opening ask price for most that we saw at the Bazaar was $40 Turkish Lira (about $20USD), but they were thin and the fabric was kind of stiff. Most were one size. We kept hunting and found significantly better quality ones for $60TL - they were thicker, softer and a better/more dense weave. Also, they came in sizes that will fit our tall parents. We negotiated the shop owner down to $50TL each. Perhaps we could have gotten them for less outside of the Grand Bazaar, but definitely not in the US. Not for this quality.

Fabric close up

Carpets - One of the most fun things we did was shop for a teeny tiny hand knotted wool carpet for Calliope. She ended up buying from a shop owner who spent a lot of time with us explaining the differences between kilims (woven) and carpets (knotted), and hand vs machine made. It was easy to see. On the hand-knotted ones you could see the small imperfections on the back side. Again, sewists fingers helped. She's not going to let me do a burn test, but I am pretty sure that the carpet Calliope bought is, in fact, wool.

Phin outside Sultan Ahmet's Mosque (aka The Blue Mosque)

Ikat - My one fabric purchase was a meter + 10 cm of silk, hand-loomed ikat.  It is only a little over 15" wide and is meant for home dec applications. The price was non-negotiable ($60TL/meter), so I negotiated for an extra 10cm of fabric. The shop owner thought I was funny and gave in. I think this will become some kind of purse or other accessory. Suggestions?

1 meter+ of ikat

 Leather - There are loads of leather shops in the Grand Bazaar and at least one that sold fur, too. My final textile purchase was soft leather baby booties for my brand new nephew who was born while I was away. Obviously, being familiar with leather helped.

Where the Bosphorus meets the Black Sea (Lunch in Asia)

Suzani Fabric - I didn't shop for any, but there were any number of shops selling Uzbeki suzani fabrics and textiles. These are very heavy weight and really only usable for home dec. Stunning, but not for me.

Other Fabric and Notions - So, what to do if you do want to shop for fabric while in Istanbul? Well, there were plenty of fabric and notions stores on the blocks between the Spice Market and Grand Bazaar, and from there up to Sulimanye Mosque. I didn't go inside, but there were stores specializing in trims, zippers, buttons galore and, at least from the street view, a normal array of fabric (ie: cottons, wools, knits, lace, etc and nary a belly dancer to be found).

If luxury is more your speed, there was a much more high end fabric shop with beautiful wool suitings and high end cottons in it's window right on İstiklâl Caddesi, the main shopping street in the older part of Istanbul. So, the sense that I get is there must be a vibrant sewing community in Istanbul. In fact, look at this funny piece of kitch that I bought from a vendor while walking across the Bosphorus Bridge.

Get yours here. At just $5TL ($2.50USD), I couldn't resist.

It's a stapler sewing machine. He he he.

OK, here's a few parting shots...

Topkapi Palace

Calliope and Phin at the Bosphorus Bridge

Phin outside Sulimanye Moque

Bosphorus Cruise: Vacation frame of mind

Monday, July 29, 2013

Pattern Pyramid and a Little Me Made Vacation Recap!

Some very exciting news: Before vacation I won one of the Pattern Pyramids. Woot!

This one came from The Perfect Nose and it was waiting for me when I arrived home. Here's what's in it.

Pattern Pyramid

I need to pick one pattern to keep for myself, then I'll add at least one into the trove and host the giveaway. Check back because I want to pass this along pretty quickly - as soon as I have a minute to sort thru my pattern stash.

And now a little vacation recap. I've noticed that sewists in my area are starting to turn their thoughts to Autumn patterns and cooler weather sewing. I am still stuck in summer. I'm more productive during the hotter months, probably because I have more time and less work travel. But perhaps there is a correlation between vitamin D and mojo. Anyway, I've sewn a lot of summer clothing over the last few years and never seem to have a long enough season to wear it all, so it lasts for several years. This vacation was very me made. Here's just a sampling from our days in Greece (Athens, Rhodes and Santorini)... a gratuitous way for me to re-live/share how wonderful a trip it was. 

Seersucker pants at the Acropolis, Athens

Tube Top at the Temple of Zeus Olympian, Athens

Red Linen Pants in Old Rhodes

Linen "jeans" trousers, Old Rhodes

Burda top from 2009 at the Acropolis of Lindos, Rhodes

BTW - Mood shopping bags make excellent beach bags.

Flowered pants in Santorini

Perissa Beach, Santorini. I was wearing my black swim skirt (I'm the feet on the right)

Since we didn't really take pictures after dusk, there is a boatload of me makes that weren't photographed. But I can assure you that 3 of 4 tube tops were worn as well as a maxi dress I made in 2009.

If you have never been to the Greek Islands, it is so very worth it. There were sights to see in the morning, beaches to cool off on in the afternoon and wonderful food and perfect summer weather in the evenings. I've already decided that I will make it back to Santorini in the next three years. Two days in the most beautiful place I have ever been was simply not enough.

Another view from the jacuzzi in Oia, Santorini.

Next up: Shopping for fabric and textiles at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Even Dragons Need Friends: Introducing Milkshake!

Since Dragon the Hippo arrived in the Craft Lounge, he's been clamoring for a friend. So, it was only a matter of time before I knit him a bovine playmate, as he requested...

Milkshake the Cow

Meet Milkshake! She was knit from Susan B Anderson's milk cow pattern with Knitpicks Swish yarn. Isn't she adorable? There is much hippo happiness in the Craft Lounge.


I have to admit that I am not in love with this yarn. It is soft and nice to work with. BUT at just 110 yards per ball, it's skimpy compared to the Cascade 220 (which is the yardage, btw) that I've been working with. I literally used every inch of the white and have none left over.

But the cow pattern was plenty cute! She even has udders.

Actually, I picked up a new technique or two with this pattern, like picking up a few stitches from the body in order to knit the tail right on to it, rather than knitting the tail and then sewing/grafting it on.  Other than that, there is not much to tell with this project.

I finished knitting Milkshake right before we left, and Dragon and Milkshake wanted to stow away in the luggage on our vacation.

Luckily, Phin caught them.

They promised not to get into too much trouble while we were gone. Luckily the Tramples kept them in line.

We arrived home last night from Istanbul. What a wonderful trip! Stay tuned for updates on my vacation, fabric and textile shopping in Istanbul, a very exciting give away, and more in the next several days.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Yeah or Nay: Tube Tops! (And my Finished Tube Tops!)

Okay folks, here is a yeah or nay where I am firmly in the yeah camp. But I realize this style is really not for everyone: the tube top. 

According to urban fashion lore the tube top was invented just steps from the NYC Garment District and popularized by Elie Tahari in the Studio 54-infused 70's. Who knew? But tube tops are considered rather low brow as fashion. There are loads of strapless styles on red carpets and runways, but the humble tube top seems to be more of a street style. Seriously, just google "tube top". Very very low brow results, true?

Anyway, you've seen me in one of my favorite tops - a black and white striped tube top - on numerous occasions. It really is a workhorse in my wardrobe. It gets layered in the winter and worn solo in the summer. I wear it with jeans or skirts or trousers. It gets worn under low cut tops when I want more coverage or a pop of contrasting fun.

The thing I like about tube tops - aside from how versatile they are - is that they show off the collarbone, neck and shoulders so nicely. They're a great backdrop for a dramatic necklace.

Now, I totally understand not feeling like the top is secure or going to stay put - I'm all about the staying put. And not all tube tops are equal in this department. I prefer tops that have elastic across the top edge and that fit with a little bit of negative ease over the bust. A top that is too big or small will slide down, but a tube top that fits my criteria, partnered with a supportive, well fitting strapless bra is a recipe for success. I have never had a tube top wardrobe malfunction.

It was with this thought in mind that I decided that I could knock off my beloved striped tube top. So, I ordered a bunch of half yard cuts of some fun knits from and made four of them.

What did I do before we got a new post-Sandy fence in the yard?

This was the easiest project ever since it is a one seam top with elastic in a casing at the top. All I did was measure my RTW top and then it was cut and sew, trying on to tweak the fit as I went.

The Prototype!

#2 - Disco Fabulous

Then I made slight variations to the next two tops. The first one needed a little extra length since the fabric cut I received was no more than 16" and cut crooked. So, I used some of the excess width to create a band that I added to the bottom to lengthen it. 

#3 - Stingy cut of fabric

OK, I shan't be too peeved

And my last variation was to use some of my left over faux stretch leather (you remember) and some black jersey to do a leather-blocked version. I think this one is my favorite.

#4 - Corset-y faux leather
Now, I've heard lots of women say that their bust is too small or too large for a tube top or say they feel insecure in them. I thoroughly understand women who are busty not being able to find a suitably supportive strapless bra, but I don't really understand the too small argument since it's not my (mid-sized) boobs that are holding the top up. But perhaps I am some kind of magical size that makes tube tops fit and stay up? Feel free to weigh in on this and enlighten me.

Anyway, what are your thoughts on the low brow tube top?  Is it a yeah like me? Or a nay? And why?

Oh, I should add that Phin gives tube tops a yeah simply because they are teeny tiny to pack. Today we are in Santorini.

Greetings from The Lost City of Atlantis...

Better known as Santorini, where we are watching the famous sunset over the caldera from our private jacuzzi.

This is the view. Don't hate.

View of the volcanic caldera from our terrace/yard in Oia.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Finished! Bikini Bottom and Body Love

Is it me or is one half of the sewing blogosphere sewing up Scout Tees while the other half is busy with the Bombshell Swimsuit? Seriously.

I'm a bit more of the bombshell type, but unfortunately the pattern came out too late for me to change my sewing plans in time to make one for my vacation. Oh well. However, I did make one piece of swimwear during mojo-explosion 2013.

Swim cover skirt with RTW bikini top

My favorite all time bikini came with an adorable swim skirt. The phrase "swim skirt" generally conjures a somewhat frumpy mental image for me. But this below-the-waist, flared number is so fun and flattering on my figure that, every time I wear it, without fail I'm asked where I bought it (Victoria's Secret BTW). Since this bikini is nearing  the end of it's life, I decided to knock off the skirt portion in black to wear with a recently bought black bikini.

Just ignore that little belly jiggle happening
Really, this skirt is just a waistband and circle skirt. Easy peasy to sew. I think sewing a swimsuit is definitely in my future!

And just circling back to the Bombshell Bathingsuit pattern, one of the things that I am absolutely loving is that so many sewists are posting photos of their fun new suits (here and here, here and here, and here too!) Normally, the images of women in swim suits that we are exposed to are highly airbrushed/retouched advertisements a la Victoria's Secret or models and actresses who actually do fit into the Hollywood-dictated image of beauty, which is unattainable for most of us.

Am I the only one who is loving seeing normal women looking so happy and beautiful in their swimsuits? I love everyday superwomen!

Wow. I really need some sun, huh? Good thing I am laying on a beach in Rhodes today. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Linen Trouser Jeans! And Vacation!

My jeans-style linen trousers took SO much longer and were SO much more involved than I had planned. But they are done done done!

Actually, they've been done for a while and I've been wearing them non-stop. Phineas and I just had a horrible time with the photo shoot. In fact, we re-shot twice with no luck. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then these pictures are saying all the wrong things. Here is the best of the worst.

I honestly don't know what the problem is. You are just going to have to trust me that in person, these linen trousers are everything I would want - fun, slimming, leg-lengthening... Phin concurs, and even my most stylish friend complimented them before she knew I had sewn them.

But in photos they have a serious case of the uglies.

There isn't too much to add to all the other posts I've done on these trousers. They started off as elastic waist linen pants. Then I decided to add a fly and jeans styling, which lead to all kinds of changes. So, the key features of these trousers are:
  • hand-worked button hole and jeans button

  • patch pockets

  • flat felled outseams
  • faced hems

  • faux Hong Kong finished inseams and center back seam
  • lime green underlining
  • fun striped fly pieces
Did I forget anything? Oh! Loads of gold top stitching. I pretty much covered everything else here and here.  I guess it's worth mentioning that I hate top stitching thread. I found it awful to work with as it snarled and snagged, formed bobbin nests and generally caused all kinds of tension problems. Yuck. Never again!

BUT I am really loving these pants. They are great for this hot weather and sort of strike the balance between jeans and trousers. I think I will be wearing them all summer long, but perhaps avoiding cameras. 

By the way, did I mention that I am flying to Athens tonight? No? Oops. Phin and I, accompanied by my sister Calliope, are going on vacation for the next almost 2 weeks. Our itinerary includes Athens, Rhodes, Santorini and Istanbul, which is why I am wearing a floppy hat in these photos - vacation packing. Anyway, I have a bunch of posts already written, so you won't miss me at all. See you when I'm back!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Gifts for Baby: Knitting Reveal!

It seems like I spent a large part of June on gifts for others. The two knit items that I finished during my mojo explosion were baby gifts for my sister Polyhymnia, who is expecting this month.  We had a mini baby shower (a sprinkle?) for her over the weekend. 

I was so happy with the baby blanket and bunny that I made for my sister-in-law back in February (details here), that I decided to make another set for my sister, this time in blue and white. And again, I was pleased with how quickly and easily this blanket knit up in Cascade 128 Superwash. It's 100% merino wool and very soft and warm. 

Baby Gift

Best of all, it is machine washable and can be tumble dried on low, which is great for a busy mom. So that my sister wouldn't have to wash it before using, I hand washed the blanket in Dreft and blocked it.

The bunny is from Itty-Bitty Toys by Susan B Anderson, which has turned out to be a fabulous investment for me. I seem to be rapidly knitting my way through it.

Pompom "Cotton tail"

Normally, I don't get attached to gifts. But that didn't stop Dragon the Hippo from making friends with the bunny, who he named Fricassee.


It was a difficult good-bye when the time came. But Fricassee and the blanket are now with my sister, awaiting the arrival of the new baby.

Speaking of which, here is my Martha Stewart moment of the week: I made a watermelon baby carriage for the shower.

Watermelon Baby Carriage

Isn't it silly what people will do for a baby shower? Despite what you might think because of my sewing and knitting and baking, I'm really not all that craftsy/diy-ish. Aside from stuffed animals, I'm pretty much non-cutesy. So this was quite the accomplishment for me. Actually, I can't really even take much credit since Phin is the one who wielded the knife (FYI- serrated works best and offers more control than a butchers knife.) I just "supervised".