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Hello, Africa!

Hey, everyone!

It has been a while, but I haven´t been idle, as soon as I get some photos taken, I will be able to show you this year’s holiday party dress and there are some other projects on the verge of completion, too!

But what I actually wanted to do today, was to share one interesting blog post with you. It is written by my dear colleague, Kadi (seen here with her Burgundy Wedding Guest Dress made by me) who currently is doing some great volunteer work in Uganda, Africa. Her task is to help the local school for children with special needs to develop some kind of production unit for young people with special needs who are not attending the school anymore but continue living there, so that by selling their goods they would be able to cover the expenses and have an income.

The idea is to produce several hand-made goods for sale and also take orders for sewing services. Of course now you know where I am getting at – fabrics!

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Over our long Skype chat Kadi sent me several photos of some of the most fantastic kitenge prints and I got very enthusiastic about the possibility of her actually bringing something along for me when she returns in January.

Below you can read a copy of her blog post that describes the local fabric shopping/sewing life, that I found very interesting. With her permission, I have only copied the English version of her original Estonian/English text that is available here.

For more details about the whole production unit, the little shop the volunteers have helped to start and of course, more supercool fabrics!, please look here.

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Tailoring business.

Moving around together with the tailors has brought along many interesting activities and discoveries regarding the textile and tailoring industry in Uganda. Firstly, I have learned about many new places for finding good fabrics and the important shops have been written down and memorized. Interestingly the shops are mostly organized so that similar businesses are all located in one place, e g there is the Energy Center for all kinds of eletrical materials, Majestic Plaza is the place for buying beads and pearls and other handicraft things (+ men who do your nails located on the ground floor) and many textile centers are packed tightly around two streets in downtown. From the outside it looks as if there were only a few shops but after entering the building one discoveries that every house is a labyrinth where all salespersons try to convince you to buy their products (hello sister, come and have a look, welcome, do you want some kitenge etc). After shopping there a few times you locate some shops that have good variety, reasonable prices, and friendly salespersons. One of the best experiences was to go fabric shopping together with teacher Winnie from the women’s project. She walked in front on crutches and me and Liina followed her along the lines of shops helping to choose materials and carry the shopping bags. While accompanying her we felt a lot less shouting and unnecessary attention around us. While moving around on your own, it still happens that the usual price of 25 000 – 35 000 for 6 yards of fabric turns suddenly into 60 000 and in that case I have often just left the shop because the bargaining and explaining would take too long. In some ways this kind of asking for a double price is also a bit disrespectful. Especially when I am bargaining in Luganda and state clearly that I know the real price anyway. The fabric shops have also specialized further – there are separate places for buying kitenge, materials for gomezis, for suits and so on. The surroundings of fabric shops are always filled with humming of the sewing machines and tailors with sewing machines have been squeezed into tiniest corners possible.
Besides textiles I also had to learn a lot about the sales and prices of sewing machines. Apparently the sewing machines sold in downtown Kampala are all brought in second hand from Asia. The prices vary between 350 000 and 500 000. The main factors affecting the price being the different stitches (they call it ‘designs’ here) the machine can make and whether it has a table and/or motor included. Only new machines I saw were manual Singer machines that are most probably also manufactured in China. While still searching for sewing machines for the tailors, we came across an easier and cheaper solution – getting four sewing machines from Bluesky. Due to having only solar energy, Bluesky was not using these machines anyway and we could repair four instead of buying one.
Ruth (left) and Night with some of their handicraft.
Handmade tie-dye fabric.
Shopping for fabrics.
Second hand sewing machines from Asia.
Olivia and the great artwork done by me : p
A welcoming light in our shop.
My home-office

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Star Trekking in Germany

As you know, I recently spent a long weekend in Germany, namely Düsseldorf and Essen.

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The primary reason for such a destination was that after listening to flamenco/copla/soul/jazz singer Buika on YouTube over and over again, I realized at some point that I needed to go and listen to her live.

There were more exotic venues on the list, but as I could only get a couple of days off work and the concert in Essen was conveniently in the weekend, I chose to go and see her in Germany. It was SO worth it, her voice and the rhythm of the music just gave me chills!

As I had bought the tickets and booked the hotels, I started searching for other stuff to see and do in Düsseldorf and Essen over those few days. And I got so lucky that I just couldn´t believe it!

As it turned out there is an impressive exhibition in Essen from September to mid-January, the topic being Japanese influence on European artists in the 2nd half of the 19th and beginning of 20th century.
It is hosted by Museum Folkwang and more on this great event can be read here. If any of you has the chance, go and see it, you will be impressed and you will learn a great deal! But for me the story has an extra twist.

Maybe some of you remember the Roberto Cavalli fabric I bought in Helsinki back in February.

Remember how the beautiful wave print (which I am scared to cut into, so I haven´t made anything of this fabric yet!) is inspired or basically copied from the famous Japanese artist Hokusai?

800px-Great_Wave_off_Kanagawa2 Well… I saw the original Hokusai woodblock print and some others from his series “36 Views of Mount Fuji”!
I wish I had made something out of that fabric to wear for the exhibition, would have been fun!

But I wore a new dress, instead.

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The dress is based on the pattern 4 I from the recent Burda Easy Fashion Fall/Winter 2014 issue.

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As you can see, my dress looks quite different.

First of all, it is sleeveless. It was not meant to be, but it is, because may you all be warned – there is something really wrong with this pattern! Which of course is a pity because there are some really nice variations of that in the magazine. And for me it was also a real headache, as I discovered in the process of sewing what was supposed to be an easy project, that for some reason the pattern is at least 2 sizes too big! Seriously, there is no mistake in cutting the pattern, size-wise it is supposed to be correct, but it was huge instead!

I must have taken in at least 3 cm on both sides, but the result was that as the central piece was still too big, the sleeves would have been really off shoulder. As I wanted to finish the dress before the trip, I just omitted the sleeves, but still the bodice is too wide so if I forget myself and let my shoulders hang, there is some gaping in front of the dress.

The fabric choice was quite random, I just loved the blue and thought it would look better if I tuned down the sweetness with a contrasting panel.

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As a result it reminds me the Star Trek movie uniforms (photo from allposters.com):

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I wanted a simple jersey dress that would also allow movement since I needed something to wear for the ballroom dancing practice classes I attend nearly every Sunday. As usually I cut Burda size 38, but as I said, it looked more like size 42 on me. Apart from that, it was of course easy to sew. I omitted the side zipper and instead of the full skirt, I used a simple A-line skirt from Burda 04/2007, model 104, because it seemed to me that the full skirt would make the dress too heavy and drag on the bodice.

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Some more photos of the dress:

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This time my fabric shopping was modest. At first, as I was searching online for fabric stores in Düsseldorf and Essen, it looked very promising, but out of the 5 stores I tried to find in Düsseldorf some had apparently shut down and one was selling special fabrics for very exotic wardrobes – beaded organza etc, that was of no interest to me. I didn´t visit any fabric shops in Essen.

To my big surprise, one hint that I found on internet, was correct. In a big department store in Düsseldorf, called Karstadt, they have a decent fabric shop as well! At first I was sure they would only stock household fabrics, but it turned out to have a huge selection of all kind of fashion fabrics!

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You can see the fabric I got in the last picture. It is a colourful snake print stretch cotton sateen. I think I saw it in Vienna in May in Komolka, as well and liked it, but at that time there were so many more appetizing bits that this one got left behind.

And last but not least, I also bought an interesting special edition of Burda magazine – Burda Vintage. You can see the models featured in the magazine here. I don´t think I will use any of the patterns, but as I can read quite a bit of German and the magazine has more text and information that just the patterns, I still got it.

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As I got back from the trip, my complimentary issue of the November 2014 German BurdaStyle magazine was waiting for me in the mailbox!

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Greetings from Germany!

Hey there!

I am currently spending a great long weekend in Germany, about which I will write next week, but I just had to share this:

Yes, it is the November German issue of Burdastyle magazine and they have published my Plaid Peplum Bustier!

I guess I don´t need to say how superhappy I am!

So, more on Germany (and fabric shopping!) in a few days!

Portugal Fun

Hey everyone!

I am back from my wonderful 10-day holiday to Portugal for nearly two weeks now and it feels like it all happened ages ago. Probably  the autumn really kicking in here in Estonia makes it hard to believe that just some days ago I was sweating on a bicycle ride along the coast of the Atlantic ocean.

Portugal is amazing, it was my first time there and I was lucky in several ways – first of all, having enough time to explore the country, secondly having maybe the best travel companion with me and thirdly, the itinerary we had set up enabled us to see a great deal of Portugal.

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Out of the ten days we spent four in Lisbon, then headed to South to Albufeira and from there up North to Porto via Coimbra. From Porto to the oceanside Figueira da Foz and then on the last day dropped by Obidos as well.

A few photos (most of them in this post have been taken by my friend Triin) here before getting to the fabric stores :)

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Yeah, to the fabric store then…

The first thing that I noticed and it kind of struck me was that being as busy as I was before departure, I didn´t find a moment to do any research on the fabric shops in Lisbon or anywhere else, but as it turned out, there was no need, as it is impossible to miss them in any city center. I guess it has something to do with the history of trading that Portugal is known for.

The first one of the many in Lisbon was Feira dos Tecidos, very close to the Rossi train station. It is a peculiar shop, lots of space but really not so much variety to choose from. Some fabrics are sold as 1,5 m coupons, some are on the rolls. However, they had some interesting faux leather and some doubleknits in beautiful autumn shades.

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The whole touristic city center of Lisbon is full of smaller fabric shops, that are not always very welcoming for photographing so I cannot show you many photos, but once you find the Feira dos Tecidos and then wander around the network of streets around the area, you will run into most of them anyway.

Some of them are pretty modest on the outside, but hide great, expensive fabric treasures, especially lace. There are also streets lined with small shops selling haberdashery, but I cannot buy buttons without a certain fabric and pattern in my mind, so I passed them with a heavy heart.

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As we were on our way to Porto, we made a stop for a lunch and stroll in Coimbra.

An once again, a fabric store suddenly just stood in front of me! As I discovered later, Avenida 7 is a whole chain of high-end fabric retailers. They mostly stock designer fabrics, expensive silks and amazing lace.

The following photos are taken in their Coimbra shop, but there is also one in Porto. Neither of them can be missed if you happen to walk around in the city center!

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As you can see, in addition to the goodies I got from Lisbon, I couldn´t resist the ones in Coimbra, either.

Altogether I got three fabrics:

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The mustard fabric is from Avenida 7, I am not sure about the composition, however, it has lengthwise stretch and it is quite heavy. I loved the texture and color and I imagine a nice fall skirt made of this.

The quilt-effect sweater jersey got me with its color combo. I only got a small piece and I should sew up a sweater asap, combining it with some plain black jersey.

The striped one is probably viscose. Again the colors where what sold me, I think I can recall a RTW maxi dress made of a very similar fabric. As it was sold in coupons, I got 3 of them, each 1.5 m wide and long. Hopefully enough for a dress at some point.

Unfortunately I haven´t had much time for sewing recently and it makes me stressed. I wanted to finish one interesting summer dress right on time for the trip so that I could have taken beautiful photos, but work and fun (and also the heatwave of early August) got in my way so I have a few unfinished projects waiting for their turn. I cannot afford all this fabric gathering up in my little flat, should turn it into garments at a faster rate!

However, I wouldn´t exchange my trip to Portugal to no matter how much time for sewing because it was a real time-out and I am also very grateful to my dear friend Triin, who put up with my fabric stores tour, did the driving and also took these beautiful photos!

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Zig Zag Zipper Dress

Hey!

I am usually not into using the same pattern repeatedly, but after stumbling upon some discounted bright turquoise blue double knit which I just had to have, I needed a simple pattern to show off the color and avoid visual overkill.

I immediately thought of my Zig Zag Znake Dress and McCall´s pattern 6243, view C.

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Since the pattern was already prepared, I needed a few evenings to nearly finish the dress, but still had to stitch the last 20 cm of the hem by hand in a few minutes before a concert I attended last Sunday.

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It seems now that this celebrated the last summery evening of this weird summer, where the weather has been into extremes only – either very hot and dry or then pouring rain like there is no tomorrow. The concert took place at yet another beautiful manor of Estonia, this time a wooden one called Kõltsu. If you are interested, check it out here.

I have used zippers for the diagonal seams. It was a random idea that occurred to me as I was wandering around the fabric store and trying to picture the dress in my mind. At first the idea was to use golden zippers for some extra bling, but the ones that I managed to find did not look nice when unzipped, the teeth appeared yellow instead of golden, as if the gold was only sprayed over the zipper.

I finally went with a matching shade and got two 80cm zippers, of which I only used a half on each diagonal seam. The hardest part was removing the zipper teeth from the seam allowances.

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As you can see, I am repeating myself not only with the pattern, but with the color combination choices as well. I do have a LOT of shoes, but when it comes to turquoise color, I only seem to be able to match it with some kind of a pink. I also thought of a pair of golden wedges, but for this particular event I felt more comfortable wearing flats.

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I am not very satisfied with how the dress looks on the backside. The nylon/spandex double knit is lighter in weight that the cotton one I used for the previous version (the Zig Zag Snake Dress). As a result I should be very careful with my underwear choices the next time I wear it and I am also considering adjusting the dress even more for my swayback.

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The fabric doesn´t fray at all so there was a great temptation to leave the hemline and arm and neck holes unfinished. In the end I still went the traditional way and stitched them by hand but didn´t bother to finish the seam allowances on the inside.

The front zipper in more detail:

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All in all it is a great summer project to make – quick and fun!

I will be off for holidays in a few days, so most probably the next post will be tagged as “Travel” again ;)

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The Green Sweetheart Dress

Hey there! Just a few days ago I had a great opportunity to visit Padise, one of Estonia´s many manors and enjoy a concert in the ruins of a monastery nearby.

For that event I finally managed to finish a dress that I had started exactly a year ago! I don´t know how it happened or why did I stop, but really, it took me year to get my act together and finish the zipper side seam (the zipper was actually already set in!) and the hemline…. oh well. But I am very satisfied with the result, the only regret is not having finished it earlier!

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The dress is  model 116 from BurdaStyle 4/2013, aka the Sweetheart Dress on burdastyle.com.

116_0413_B_large (1)116_technical_large (1)As you can see, I have omitted the small bow and the waistband. However, I am in search for a fuchsia pink belt to match with the shoes. I have always liked the contrasting combination of green and pink :)

I cut Burda size 38, but I might have left wider seam allowances for the hip area to ensure that I can make it fit. I cannot be really sure, because I started sewing the garment already a year ago….

I think what eventually made me stop halfway was the bodice and the shoulder seams, although it is ridiculous because the most difficult part was done by this time last year. Maybe I just ran out of energy for this project, but yes,  cannot say that the bodice is so easy to make, especially if you want the corners of the front and back shoulder straps to look sharp. In my case, it was also the rather thick, pique fabric (cotton mixed with some elastane for slight stretch) that I chose, a souvenir from my last years trip to Austria. It was rather tricky to get it fit right with all the facings and sharp corners.

With hindsight I think maybe the dress would be better if I had bothered with a lining instead of the facings that I had to bias tape one by one, adding quite some bulk like that.

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I also planned to make it a bit longer at first, but while trying to determine the perfect length, suddenly the shorter look seemed more fun. I guess it supports the playful colour of the fabric.

Some details of the bodice and the texture of the fabric can be seen here:

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 If anyone is wondering about the shoes, these bright pink silk shantung Ralph Lauren espadrilles are another souvenir from Austria last year. There are lots of shades still available on amazon.com. Very nice, but for narrower feet, just like mine.

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As you can see in the photos, we finally have some real summer here in Estonia this year and I am so glad for it, I can finally wear my dresses and not only the raincoat! I hope all of you in the northern hemisphere are enjoying your summer as well!

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Fabric Shopping in Vienna

Although it seems that this year Estonia forgot to apply for summer weather and we have watched the whole June go by pretty much like October, there have been so many things to do that I haven´t even had the time to say a few words about the rest of the trip to Vienna in the end of May.

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As some of you may remember, I also visited Austria last year exactly the same time, and I loved the country. I felt that there were so many things left to do in Vienna that it deserved another trip this year, and to sum it up, it might easily happen that I will go again next year.

Because it was the first time for my travel companion to visit Vienna, we did some of the must-see attractions as well, like Schönbrunn Palace and Belvedere. The latter has several works by Gustav Klimt, so it was no problem for me to go and see them once again.

Apart from this, we also rented bicycles for a day, which gave us an opportunity to see the city from a different angle; visited the Prater amusement park and some great exhibitions at Albertina, saw a rather touristic Mozart concert (mostly for the venue – the Golden Hall of Musikverein) and checked out the oldest zoo at Schönbrunn. In addition to that, I could not leave Vienna without making a purchase at the famous Komolka store.

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I will not repeat my last years description of the overwhelming experience, but it was truly overwhelming even for the second time. Some examples below:

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I bought two fabrics and matching linings:

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The first is a turquoise-gold-white bouclé at a very good price (just EUR 7/m) and a matching lining and the second light blue-beige very stretchy net-like fabric with a matching stretch lining. By the time of writing this, the first one is nearly finished as a Chanel-inspired jacket and the second one will become a dress one day.

I think my love for Vienna is only growing, visiting this beautiful city (and wonderful Austria)  may easily become a spring holiday tradition for me.

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Live simply, travel lightly, love passionately & don't forget to breathe

I choose to collect memories instead of things. " To see the world, things dangerous to come to, to see behind walls, to draw closer, to find each other and to feel. That is the purpose of 'Life' "

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