Saturday, February 26, 2011

Catching up . . .

For several weeks before I left for my trip to Malaysia, I worked feverishly to finish work that had to be done not only before I left, but work that was due the week I returned.

Which is probably a good part of the reason why, when I got there, I crashed. I took 3 and 4 hour naps for the first 3 days!
Maybe it was jet lag; who knows.

Now that I am back, however, I fully expected to have another 2 or 3 days of needing to sleep of the effects of time zone travelling!
Not so.
My energy level has been off the charts; I've been sleeping an average of 5 hours a night - and one night I stayed up all night working!
Will I hit a wall? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I am taking advantage of this unusual level of energy I am experiencing.

Tuesday was Carly's dress; taking in at the sides, add cups, hem and bustle. No biggy. Wednesday was alterations for a pregnant BM. Again, no biggy. Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m. I started on a flower girl dress a client had ordered from me on Etsy. I was determined to finish it. This is the night I ended up working all night. At 3:30 a.m. it was finished, except for the covered buttons, which I had to go get in the morning.

And really, when it's 3:30 a.m., and you know you have to get up early to feed the starving animals who NEVER get fed - well, why bother even going to bed, right? It's not like I had nothing to do, after all.

Thursday was appointment day and errands.
Friday I took a break from the sewing machine to pick up a paint brush.
My husband had taken over my old sewing room (after I moved out of it and into my current room)over a year ago. Yet, we hadn't hung anything on the walls or really even put anything away, because the walls needed painting. I guess the powder blue wasn't manly enough!
His office is now a pale gray. Tomorrow morning I will attempt to hang his many large framed posters and photos and awards. The goal is to have it finished when he gets home on Tuesday evening.

Much more work to do this week -
1) finish a sarong beach outfit for Jennifer
2) Intense alterations on 2 gowns due next week
3)Alterations on a MOB
4) Cookie baking for my son's home coming (on leave) from Afghanistan and our Christmas in March
5) Start on muslin for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" gown - but that's another Blog!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ahh . . . . Malaysia!!!

My return today from Malaysia was a bit anti-climatic. No one greeted me at the airport; although I had tears in my eyes upon seeing a soldier being greeted by his family.
I left my husband in Malaysia, to finish the work he went there to do, so there was only 2 large German Shepard dogs and 2 grudge-holding cats waiting for me at home. The dogs were very happy to see me, although I found them to be just a bit subdued. Waiting for my husband, I suppose.
I keep waiting for the jet-lag to attack, but so far so good. I expect tomorrow it will hit hard!

My one main thrill/reason/goal for going to Malaysia was the pursuit of fabric - in particular, silk from the huge silk store where my husband previously purchased some yardage for me.
I was made to wait, though, until our friend from Malaysia was back from her trip to the states! Wires were crossed, signals were miscommunicated. She thought I was staying a week longer, I thought she would be there when I arrived. We didn't know the name of the store, not did we have a clue where it was located.
So while we waited for her arrival, we filled our time together -


We ended up at Central Market; a jumble of flavors and scents from all over Asia and India. From Korea to India and beyond. I tried to take a photo of this 'dragon', but it was moving much to fast, and then suddenly turned and ran me into a stall before handing me a tangerine for luck!

It was the last few days of the Chinese New Year, and festivities were in full swing everywhere we went!


We were told of a place called Batu Caves. A large cave of Hindu Temples; entered by climbing 278 steep stone stairs to the large mouth opening of the cave.
All along the steep stairway were monkeys, who were not shy about begging for food. One large male was not about to let us enter into the cave, until he was distracted by someone with a bag full of bananas!
Looking down from the top of the stairway was much more difficult than going up! Though the rituals and gods of the hindu religion are beyond my understanding, there was a strange kind of calm that eminated from the music and chanting we witnessed there.
Our taxi driver became our tour guide, and proceeded to show us many of the traditional 'sites' in Kuala Lumpur. We saw the palace, where there is the british custom of the 'Changing of the Guards', on a regular basis.

There are 3 different guards, dressed in 3 different countries uniforms, representing Indian, Chinese, and Malaysia.
We saw a beautiful war memorial, centuries old buildings, huge mosques, and a bird sanctuary in the middle of the city.

On our third day, we took a commuter flight from Kuala Lumpur, north to the island of Penang. We were told that the island held much history of Malaysia, and since we area always interested in the history of the places we are fortunate enough to visit, we thought it would be a worthwhile day. I'm not sure what I expected, but I was a bit disappointed.
The island was much bigger than I had anticipated. The area we were directed to was the area of china town and Penang's Little India. Extremely congested with wall to wall stalls, most of them not even really buildings. Filthy dirty, very old, so many smells, so many languages, so many people. We ended up getting a 2 hour tour on a rickshaw.
Though the little old chinese man knew very little english, he was able to show us sights we never would have found on our own. We saw several museums, several mosques and temples;

where these very large cones of inscense burned for hours, and men and women knelt to pray,
lit candles, or bought birds and let them go (not sure about the significance here).
We saw little china town on the water -

where all the tiny homes are built on docks over the water. Each tiny home has it's own tiny temple to worship at. The true highlight of the day was the Chocolate Shoppe we stopped at before the end of the tour. Every kind of chocolate you can think of. I purchased some orange dark chocolate for myself,and my husband got some chili-chocolate.


By this time we were exhausted. We spent the day napping! Went to a Thai Restaurantfor dinner, where I learned not to order any kind of fish or sea food. It will come intact. Completely. Shrimp? All legs nad head. Brave enough for Squid or octupus? Yeah. Complete - head and all. How about just plain ole' fish? Right again!  Complete fish - head to tail! From here on out I stick with chicken or beef.


Today we ended up at the zoo. A very nice one, at that. It has been years since we went to a zoo, and we had a very relaxed enjoyable day. A few of my favorits:

Feeding the baby elephant some sugar cane!

The most beautiful creatures on Gods' green planet!

Someone who knows what to do with a hot humid day!

That evening we went to a friends'aunts chinese restuarant where we enjoyed a wonderful meal; then went to see late night ChinaTown. Rows and rows of hawkers trying to sell you faux 'designer' bags, watches, jeans, perfumes, ect.... Kind of made my blood boil a bit if you want to know the truth . . . .

But I did get a taste of a new fruit -

It's called Dragon fruit; probably because the outside looks like dragon scales, in scarlett red.
 But cut it open -

and it looks - and even tastes a bit - like  kiwi with berry mixed in. Delicious!

It had finally arrived - my last day. It had been a wonderful week spent with my wonderful husband, just the 2 of us. But this was to be MY day! The day and the experience I had been waiting months for! When my husband had been here several months ago, he had gone to this fabric store, with the wife of a friend. She helped him to choose some fabric to bring home to me. He told me of this wonderful store that had 4 stories of fabrics that would take me several days to go through. Then, he was invited to come back to Kuala Lumpur for another visit,and this time I was going along. Now I was going to enter this store for myself, and see just how real this fantasy was.
Our friends picked us up at 10:30 am. I thought that the men were going to go fly, but instead they accompanied us to the store. Not a good sign. I can't shop for fabric when I am being 'watched'.
As we were about to enter the doors to this palace of fabric, my sandal caught on the edge of the sidewalk and my ankle twisted out from under me. Through the tears and pain, all I could think of, was, NO!!! I can't let this pain stop me from fabric shopping! Not now - not when I am so close! So I took several deep breaths, several more long minutes, a handful of tears for the pain, and forged ahead. The adrenalin of the moment kicked in and I forgot about my ankle. As I entered the large doors to this place, my breathe caught in my throat and I forgot to breath. Each customer was given a salesperson that followed you as you made your selections. Though my goal was to find wedding gown fabrics (so as to be able to count it as a business trip, after all!), I was constantly being distracted by fabrics that called to me- that had nothing to do with weddings. Silks from all over the world; India, China, Italy, Africa even! Swiss cottons so fine I could have sworn they were really silk! Beaded chiffons and laces of every color imaginable! I found myself going from room to room and floor to floor, picking out bolts of fabric, until my saleslady finally stopped me to get me to make selections from the bolts I had already choosen. Many of those went back, as I kept finding fabrics better than what I had already found. Had the men not been there, I would easily have spent all day there. Easily. But, then I would also have put us in the poor house. As it was, I only spent about 3 hours there. But I left with  some of the most beautiful fabrics I've ever seen!

A cotton jaquard print of blues and black

An Imported Italian cotton I thought must surely be silk!

An embellished and embroidered chiffon unlike anything I have ever seen before! SO GORGEOUS! Now - what am I going to do with it??

An Italian silk beaded chiffon that was on sale - 80% off!!!

A super soft swiss cotton paisley fabric - fun!!!

Yards & yards of embroidered silk chiffon - Ecstacy in lace!!!!

More embroidered chiffon lace!!!!

An 8 inch alencon border lace

And my final piece - a French embroidered black lace - oh-la-la!!!

 My 'shopping assistant', my friend, Lelia, and myself; just a very small corner of the store behind us.

Within a couple hours of leaving the store, my ankle was starting to hurt again; by the time I returned to the hotel, I could hardly walk. I had 1 1/2 hours till I had to leave for the airport. My loving husband ran to the pharmacy and got me some advil, a sport sock (for compression) and some dinner. After the pain meds, putting my foot up, and putting the special sock on, my ankle was feeling almost itself.
24 hours later, I am home, resting my slightly swollen ankle, drinking a glass of wine, and remembering very fondly, my week in a very excotic part of our world.
Malaysia is a such a mix of different cultures, all unique with their own flavors and customs, yet all living together in harmony. It has it's own set of pro's and con's, as do all countries.
But the overwhelming sense I came away with, was that it is a country full of loving proud people, who want to share their culture with all who visit; hoping that you will want to visit again, and again. And I do - there is much to see and do in Malaysia. I feel as though I have only tapped the surface!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Ms Iris! What A Lovely Bustle You Have!

Ms Iris came to me about a week ago. I had anticipated her coming, and had gotten all in readiness for her stay. We had met previously, so I had certain, shall we say, expectations of how our visit would go. Hmmm . . . little did I know. . .

Ms Iris is a lovely lady from Matthew Christopher's 2010 collection. She is quite charming, sweet and demure, yet sophisticated with elegance and wit.

When Ms Iris first enters the room, all eyes are drawn to her delicately framed decollete', where her petals frame her bodice. Her crisp ivory taffeta announces her arrival with a fresh swish of fabric.

One gets a sense that Ms Iris is the perfect lady.
Then, she turns around . . .

and we see her true personality.

Though still quite lovely, and very much a lady, we start to see a certain, well, vanity.

Her petals spread out around her, seemingly in an effort to swallow all within reach. Her stuborn-ness comes alive when I try to fashion her lovely petals into a bustle. She definitely needs taming, and we are now in a battle to see who will win.

Though I would never allow her to hear me say it, she is a bit . . . well, bottom heavy.
So, before I could attack her bustle, I knew she would need a little reinforcement. I added an extra panel of her silk taffeta to her 'underside', where the upper ribbons would be sewn. My goodness! What a stink she put up! You would have thought she'd never had anyone see her underskirts before!

First, I attached 3 heavy grosgrain ribbons to her petal center. She fought me every stitch of the way, until I had bloody fingers, broken needles, broken thread, and sweat dripping down my forehead. She had been hiding a good inch to 1 1/4" of thickness beneath her petal. But I won this first battle, with my trusty weapon - a needle nose pliers. Then, I attached 3 more of the ribbons at the back seam -

where they will hide under her 'secret' panel when her bustle is down.

Here are her ties done up -

and here, I have re-directed a couple of her petals to camouflage my dirty work, as she would call it.

Once this major battle was won, she seemed to calm down a bit and wasn't quite so obstinate about her make over.

She still needed pockets, which she fought me on for awhile, but again, I won. By the time I got to attaching her new buttons . . .

she seemed to have accepted the fact that no matter what I might do to her, she was still going to be the most beautiful lady in the room.