Monday, June 19, 2017

Sewing and not sewing

I've been doing some sewing over the last few months, but nothing very exciting. I haven't even written any reviews but I did take a few pictures.

I made the Jalie 2566 cardigan and t-shirt. I did a FBA for the cardigan and added a dart as well as increasing two sizes from the underarm to the hip. I have small shoulders relative to my hips, but not small arms because I also needed to do a full-bicep increase on the sleeve. This pattern has slim sleeves and many reviewers note that it's not an ideal cardigan for wearing over other clothes.

I didn't make many changes to the t-shirt other than to increase from underarm to hip.

I've also made the Jalie t-shirt in a purple fabric to go with a Butterick top that is partially constructed. I had to stop work on it because my Pfaff 7570 is in the shop. It was very overdue for a cleaning and tune up but I kept putting it off, and then I had a problem. I've been using the bobbin winder on it for winding extra spools of thread for my serger - I buy one color cone and spin off 3 more onto empty spools using the EZ Winder adapter that fits in the bobbin winder. One day I was winding a spool and even though I'd put the hand wheel into the bobbin position for winding, the needle kept moving and worse, the speed increased very high on its own. When I took it into a local Pfaff dealer, the woman there seemed to know exactly what I was talking about, so hopefully it'll be easy to fix. It was a bit tricky taking it in for servicing because my German is still not very good but I think I communicated OK. I've had my 7570 for about 18 years and it's only been in the shop for servicing once. Fortunately the computer is working fine - knock wood that it will continue that way!

I've since ordered a Sidewinder  to use for winding spools so I don't overuse my sewing machine again. I'm also considering buying a hand-crank bobbin winder meant for loading weaving bobbins (which I would use it for that purpose too) and use that to hand wind spools for the serger with a crossed pattern. The reason is that I've since learned that you should pull thread from a spool differently depending on how it is wound.

  • spools wound "stacked" (for example, Coats and Clark) should be pulled from the side
  • spools wound "crossed" (for example, most serger thread, Gutermann and Metler) should be pulled from the top
If you pull stacked spools from the top the thread comes off twisted - like when you pull ribbon off a cardboard spool from the top instead of turning it. The bobbin winders load "stacked" and the serger pulls thread from the top of the spool, so this means I'm serging with twisted thread. Is it a problem? I don't really know. The twisting would make the thread thicker and perhaps could cause some tangling. 

By the way, for a sewing machine, you should use a horizontal spool holder for the crossed-thread spools and a vertical one for the stacked spools. 

While the Pfaff is in the shop, I still have my serger, I looked around for a quick project to make with white thread, since I have four cones of that and don't need to fill any spools. I made a night shirt using my old standby pattern: Kwik Sew 2821, but sometimes quick is never simple and that was the case with this night shirt (of course!). I used a knit that ended up having pretty bad recovery and the bound neckline I did was terribly stretched. I ended up taking it off and just turning under the raw edge and coverstitching it with the differential turned to the maximum setting. It's better. Yes, it's just a nightshirt, but I don't feel good wearing bad clothing even to bed.

After finishing the nightshirt I looked to future projects and traced off some patterns. Once I finish the Butterick top these are next on my plan. 

More pajamas! I'm going to make the top out of a lightweight cotton and I'm thinking of making shorts to go with these instead of the longer pants.

BurdaStyle 12/2014 #133

Probably going to leave off the pockets though because my cotton has a busy print.

More loungewear! I have an interesting piece of fabric I bought from IKEA that is sort of Japanese, in that it has Koi fish on it, so I thought of a kimono, but not a traditional one because I didn't want the big sleeves. 

BurdaStyle 2/2012 #116

In another post I'll show you what just came off my inkle loom, the yarns I recently purchased at a local wool festival, and what's on my knitting needles. I always have projects going on!

And travel pictures! We just got back from a weekend trip to Croatia. 

Thursday, June 08, 2017

One more about Bulgaria but it's actually Italian

I always check out the news stands in the airports to see if there are any sewing pattern magazines. Not that I need anymore. I was surprised to see some La Mia Boutique magazines in the little news stand in the small Sofia airport. It was a special 2-pack of the March 2017 issue and an older issue from 2015.

And they are in Italian, not Bulgarian - yay! I don't really know Italian but at least it's closer to French, which I do understand, and not Bulgarian or Russian, which I would have expected to see. I can't make heads or tails of Cyrillic letters. They also had a copy of BurdaStyle, which was in German. Later on I passed another news stand, which also had these La Mia Boutique 2-packs and also a single issue. Maybe I should have bought that too, but I'm on a magazine diet - even though the price was incredible.

I paid 4.90 lev for both magazines. If you remember from my last post, 2 lev is about 1 euro. At the current exchange rate this works out to €1.25 or $1.40 per magazine! I do suspect that someone made a mistake because 4.90 happens to be what the price is in euros for the magazine in Italy. But the clerk scanned the bar code on the outer wrapper that enclosed the two magazines and she gave me back 15.10 lev in change from my 20 lev note, so 4.90 lev was what I paid.

Unfortunately there's not a whole lot that interests me in these issues since they mostly feature wedding and formal wear, but there there are a few things. I'll add them to my collection.

Friday, June 02, 2017

Visit to Bulgaria

Bulgaria was one of those places I'd heard about but never expected to visit. But when you live in Europe it's just a short plane trip away, so why not? We booked a cheap flight on Wizz Air to the capital, Sofia, and took a day trip via train to Plovdiv.

Sofia has roots that go back to 7000 BC and was known as Serdica during Roman times, but it has more of a modern feel today.

Roman ruins with the former Bulgarian Communist Party Headquarters in the back

The bulk of the country is agricultural with mountainous areas and also has a coastline with the Black Sea where the resort town of Varna is located. Like many Balkan countries, the area comprising Bulgaria today has undergone many changes, with occupation under rules from Byzantium to Ottoman to Soviet, and the major religion changing from Christian to Islam under the Ottoman rule and back to Christian (Eastern Orthodox). Today Bulgaria is a secular state and is a member of the EU since 2007. Economically, they are one of the poorer EU countries, but that makes it a bargain for tourists from more well-off countries.

As our taxi took us from the airport to our hotel in Sofia, my first impression was somewhat sad as I saw one crumbling concrete apartment tower block after another. There was hope though when I saw a shiny new shopping mall. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad. And it wasn't. Sofia has its struggles, but it's not Albania. Yes, there are issues but there are signs of growth. There are restored and new buildings, there are plenty of stores and people shopping, lots of restaurants and people dining, large parks with people out enjoying them, and a stadium full of soccer fans.

Don't know who this is, but they leave flowers

Museum of History
Alexander Nevsky Cathedral 

But reminders of days past remain. The picture below is of a monument for the 1300th anniversary of Bulgaria. The monument wasn't intended to look like this. It was built in 1981 and began to fall apart four years later. By the 90s it had deteriorated so badly they had to fence it off. That structural steel was supposed to be hidden. Debates continue about whether to demolish it or restore it.

For Soviet era statues in better condition, we visited the Museum of Socialist Art.

The red star is from the former Party Headquarters

Just a couple of hard working comrades

Lenin. Of course. 

As I said before, Bulgaria is a bargain for tourists. The Bulgarian lev (or BGN) is fixed to the euro at about 2 lev to 1 euro. But since the prices in lev look reasonable to a Western European (or American), essentially everything is "half price". For example, a nice entree in a restaurant was around 12-15 lev. I had a large salad of feta, tomato, lettuce and cucumber that was only 6 lev. A large pizza with a beer might be 7-10 lev. A kilo of cherries at the outdoor market (called Ladies Market) was only 3 lev. Entrance to museums is around 5 lev per person and the taxi ride to the airport was 11.70 lev. By the way, if you should travel there, don't make the mistake of falling for one of the roaming "taxi guys" in the airport arrivals like we did and pay 30 lev for the ride into the city in a taxi that smelled of gas fumes. You will probably do better at the taxi stand. There is a metro but you have to take a shuttle over to the other terminal. If I'd had more time, I might have done some shopping. I saw a number of name brand stores, and I was curious if the prices were lower than what I see in Germany.

I did see a few fabric stores but didn't go in. I find travel fabric harder to shop for unless I know there's a good chance I'll find some really special fabric that I can't get at home. What I saw in windows of these stores looked like pretty great bargains. Just passing by, I saw tags on some bolts that said 2.99 or 4, which I assume would have been 3-4 lev per meter, so at € 1.5 - 2  that's a terrific bargain! But I don't need to buy fabric just because it's cheap.

Yarn, however, is another story. I like buying yarn that is local to the region or country and one or two skeins can easily be squished into my luggage. Knowing that my stash already overflows, I didn't set out to find any yarn shops in Sofia and didn't see any so I don't know what the offerings are there, but by chance I passed one in Plovidiv. We had some time before our return train to Sofia, so I stopped in and bought some Bulgarian yarn - 200 grams for 4 lev. Earlier, while in the old town of Plovdiv, I stopped in one of the antique shops and bought two old spindles for 10 lev - tourist prices perhaps and maybe I could have bargained, but € 5 was ok with me! Bulgaria is a country rich in handicraft culture, so finding spindles in the antique store was not so unusual I guess.

Since I like seeing examples of handicrafts, a visit to the Ethnographic Museum in Sofia was a good place to go on a rainy morning. It's quite small but cost only 5 lev for entry. (I read that the Ethnographic Museum in Plovidiv is very nice but it was closed on Monday, the day we visited). They have many examples of Bulgarian clothing - sadly some a bit moth worn, which I was keen to notice after my recent run-in with moths.

I love the use of buttons for decoration!

The highlight of the museum was meeting a weaver and watching her work on her vertical loom.

She weaves at the museum every day (except Monday when they're closed) and puts on exhibits there with her guild. She was pleased to hear that I weave and was happy to describe how her loom worked and demonstrate how she weaves. She also showed me some of her rugs/wall hangings she has woven and she talked about the meanings of the motifs on them. She had a small book of Bulgarian weaving designs, which I was so hoping they'd have for sale at the gift shop, but sadly they did not.

The gift shop had some nice things - actually some of the nicest souvenirs in Sofia - but this spinning wheel on the top shelf caught my eye. I think it actually was for sale. The tag on it says "250", lev I assume. Didn't think I could get it home on my cheap Wizz Air flight though.

We also visited the Archaeology Museum in Sofia where they had a nice exhibit of items from Neolithic through Roman times.

First some pictures of things related to spinning, sewing and weaving:

Spindle whorls!
More tools from ancient handicrafts

Belt hardware. I love the way they displayed these - you get an idea of how they were used.

There were some very lovely things in this museum:

This is an invitation for the circus games - fights between men and animals

This is a salt box - the top part of the head of Pan hinged open

Beautiful gold work!

Plovdiv was about a 3 hour train ride from Sofia. The ride was long and a bit bumpy, but the scenery of the mountains and farmland is pretty. Plovdiv has a nice old town area and some significant Roman ruins to see:

The Stadium of Phillippopolis is partly excavated underneath the main shopping street

The Theater of Philippopolis
I wish we could have also toured some museums there, but it was Monday and most were closed.

All in all, a pleasant visit. I recommend Sofia, for the history, the culture, the food and the bargains!

And Wizz Air wasn't a bad way to travel there. Pretty cheap tickets and they even had Bulgarian white wine.