Sunday, March 7, 2021

February Things

This photo above sums up my February. I pretty much spent most of my time bead weaving. What happened was I went to see a doctor. Next thing I knew, all my beading supplies were on my table, the floor, everywhere. Okay, let me explain.

Most of last year I had been bitching about this thingy on my face about an inch below my left eye. I had worsened it by applying a pimple cream and I ended up with an allergic reaction resulting in me having to take antibiotics and anti inflammation meds for a week. I finally got my appointment with a skin doctor. She took one look at the thingy and said she knew what it was and it's harmless. It's called keratosis and is caused by long term exposure to the sun and ... wait for it, aging. So all those thousands of times I had gone running and frolicking in the swimming pool, I was exposing myself to these thingies. The good news is it can be removed easily. The bad news is since it's harmless, I have to pay private rate as the government does not subsidize cosmetic procedures. It costs a total of $310.30 including 7% gst. I agreed to the ransom amount (they made me sign a letter saying I agreed to pay the amount!) and the magic of private rate is I was scheduled for the procedure 3 days later. The doctor asked if I wanted to have the thingy tested but the test costs over a hundred bucks and if I agree to the test I have to agree to paying up to $500 for any subsequent tests. Common sense prevailed and I declined the test.

Hubs went with me to the clinic because I was a bit nervous. Here's me before the procedure. 

Here's me after the procedure which took maybe 10 minutes. The doctor used a tiny spray "gun" connected to a machine filled with liquid nitrogen (I think) and a lot of smoke is generated during the procedure which is sucked up by a vacuum cleaner (not the domestic kind). The liquid nitrogen "burns off" the thingy tho' there's no actual burning of skin. During the procedure, my whole face except for the thingy is covered. I also had my mask on over my mouth. It was a bit suffocating but I could endure it because it was so quick. The doctor used the mirror to show me what my new skin looked like and it was not pleasant. It's what your raw skin looks like when the upper layer of skin is removed. The area burned off had to be slightly larger than the size of the thingy so that was a big negative.

The caring for the wound was hard. Serious hard. The first day I had to avoid having any water touch the wound. So I didn't wash my face at all and when I brushed my teeth, I wore a mask over wound. The plaster had to stay on for one day. Late at night my daughter noticed some bleeding outside the plaster. This was unexpected. The doctor hadn't mentioned any bleeding. She made it sound like a blister will form immediately and I'll recover easily. It became quite nightmarish after that. I noticed the wound was weeping a lot. So I had to constantly dry it. I still kept the plaster on. From day 2 to day 6, I had to apply antibiotics on the wound 3 times a day. Omg. I really dreaded cleaning my face. First of all, I couldn't use any soap on the wound. So believe it or not, for 6 days I only washed one side of my face and used a towel to wipe the other side. Obviously, I didn't wash my hair as well! Thankfully the Universe was on my side and the weather was cool so I didn't sweat at all. Until day 8, there was always a little weeping and very tiny bleeding. (the doctor never mentioned any weeping of course) The "blister" did form from day 2 save for a tiny bit where the weeping occurred. I think around day 8, I started to feel really good because no more weeping! After I stopped using the antibiotic ointment, I had to apply Vaseline on the wound for a couple of weeks. 

Right now the wound has healed completely. The blister didn't get crusted so that was good because you don't want that. The area where the thingy was still has a different colour from my skin, slightly pinkish. It may remain like this forever or not but otherwise, it feels fine. At least it doesn't feel itchy anymore like before. During the period when I was caring for the wound, I had mixed feelings about going for the procedure. Of course I'm glad I went for it but I wished the recovery was easier. The doctor says there's a small chance the keratosis may return. If I'm so unlucky that it'll grow back after all I've gone through, I think I'll live with it. I don't want to go through the weepy wound stage again.

So how did I keep my sanity during the recovery? I couldn't do anything that would result in me sweating or itching so no sewing, knitting, baking or cooking. Bead weaving was the answer. This hobby requires a lot concentration so it was good to occupy my mind with sewing beads and not worry my head off about the wound. Sewing beads is very hard on the eyes. Fortunately my eyes have recovered from the blurriness which happened end of last year. The floaters? Like the doctor said, my clever brain has stopped seeing them. They're still there because if I look at a white screen for long or under very bright lights, I can make them out here and there. Otherwise I don't see them anymore! Isn't that great?

And the problem with bead weaving? Once you start, you can't stop. It is so addictive. In fact, I have dreams of myself bead weaving.

These 3 are Helix bracelets. I learnt the technique many years ago from a teacher in Singapore. Back then I didn't really enjoy making the bracelet because the technique didn't feel natural like I'm always struggling. The method I learnt was a top down method like this. I discovered that I much prefer the bottom up method like this. It's amazing how a simple change of direction makes everything easier.

These are peyote stuff. I'm most pleased with the top two. I've always wanted to try beading around crystals and I managed to do it. It takes a lot of patience! This video explains it quite well or you could just type "rivoli bezel" and I'm sure you'll get plenty of hits.

These two bracelets use right angled weave technique which is a technique I may never master. I don't understand why I don't get it.

These two are ugly. Big beads just don't look good.

I love this brick stitch pendant/ear ring but it was a lot of work. I used this tutorial and I followed the pattern but I had to chart the pattern myself. I almost wanted to give up. I have limited supply of delicas so no matter what these colours had to work together!

And these two are my favourite. I wore them when I went to meet my bff recently and she asked me where I bought them. Isn't that the best compliment?

p.s. I may have gone to Chinatown recently to buy more beads. Help!

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Gemma Sleeveless Top


The decorations hung above my head are a sign Chinese New Year is coming soon.

This year I did not make any sewing plans. As a result, I felt a bit lost. I don't really want to work on any UFO since my last few projects were UFOs. So I'm not entering my store room for a while. After successfully tidying up my store room in 2019, I've once again reverted to throwing stuff inside the store room so opening the door could mean stuff falling on my head.  I do have some in-progress bag patterns I've been working on and off on. But I haven't resolved the issue of photo taking. I'm thinking of doing indoor shoots instead of relying on sunlight since I can no longer go to the stairwell to do my shoots. (dog issue) So what's holding me back is my lack of lights. Until I purchase them, my patterns are on hold. Also the space where I keep (dump) my fabric is a big mess. I'm by nature a messy person, so no matter how often I tidy a space up, it gets messed up again. (by me) Anyway, I was looking at the piles of fabric when I spotted this blue white Moroccan trellis fabric print leftover from a blouse I'd made for my daughter.

My daughter hasn't worn the blouse at all. Her reason? It doesn't go with anything. (she has a ton of bottoms) There was enough fabric left to make myself a simple blouse. I chose to make Gemma made by Rae. I've sewn a few Cleo skirts also by Rae so I was confident the top will turn out ok. So no muslin at all. It is a sleeveless blouse which a few years back would be a no-no for me because horror, to expose my bare shoulders/upper arm to the public is unthinkable. When did the no sleeveless blouse rule come about? When I was younger, I loved to wear singlets and sleeveless blouses. I was super thin then. I think after I had given birth, twice, my arms got flabby and I really hated to have them exposed to the point of extreme embarrassment. Recently, my arms became less flabby, by accident because I know I did nothing to make it happen. So yeah, I'm exposing my bare arms. It's no big deal. The sky won't fall down. Right?

As you can see, it's a simple sew. No sleeves, just bias binding (ugh) around the neck and armhole. Except it took me an exceptionally long time to make this blouse. Not because of anything related to the pattern. It was my serger who decided to be a crybaby. I accidentally got the upper looper thread snagged on something and it broke. Of course rethreading the looper thread shouldn't be so hard right? I only need to watch a youtube video a few hundred times. I watched the video in slow motion. I used my iphone torchlight to make sure I inserted the thread in all the right places in the right order. And the stupid machine would not serge. I threaded and rethreaded over and over for 5 freaking hours. Finally, close to midnight, I told myself I would do it one last time and if it doesn't serge anymore, I'm really going to throw the machine away. And of course my threat worked. The machine gave in and serged beautifully. I still can't figure out what I did wrong/right. Right after it worked, I went to google for a better Janome serger and would you believe there's actually one that threads itself??? It's Janome Airthread 2000D and costs $1,499 in Singapore. It's a bit pricey for me and I can't justify buying one unless I sew a lot of garments. Anyway I thinks it's wiser to be friends with my current serger.

Below are a few photos of me modelling the blouse. I paired the blouse with my favourite $12 Decathlon pants.
Overall, I like the fit of the blouse. It's not super fitted because this is woven fabric, not knit. It's comfortable and most importantly, my underarm flab does not get exposed. I don't really like that the blouse gives me a slight pear shape. I have a small hip so I can't imagine what it does to women with larger hips. Maybe if I make the blouse shorter?

I do have one big dislike of Gemma. The curvy bottom. It was a big pain sewing the hem. In the end, I did it by hand and I still couldn't get it to lie perfectly flat.
screen grab from made by rae

Gemma can be cropped as a crop top, have a ruffled bottom, or made into a dress. I'm most excited about making Gemma into a dress and am already auditioning fabric. I'm least excited about the ruffled bottom because um, I don't know any woman who would look good with a bunch of ruffles around the hip which make the hip look 10X bigger. Maybe someone stick thin?

Pattern details: I sewed size M (A/B cup size) but I used size L for length because I have a long body. The PDF comes with cup C/D size for the Front Bodice as well so it's actually a good idea to look at the layout and print only the pieces you need.

See ya!

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

A Polar Bear In The Sun

It's been raining on and off, sometimes continuously for over a day, for weeks and as a result, it is extremely cold in Singapore. When I say extremely cold, I mean cold to a person more accustomed to living in 30 deg C kind of temperature. Last night it was around 23 deg C when we went to bed. My daughter wore a hoodie over a T-shirt, lounge pants, SOCKS and covered herself with 2 quilts, one of which is king size and super thick. Hubs wore a long sleeved shirt to bed which is unprecedented. As for me, I'm the one who's most afraid of the cold and since December, I've been going to sleep wearing a sweater and covering myself with a quilt and 1 blanket. I don't wear long pants at home tho' because I like my legs to feel cool. My son is a walking furnace so he doesn't feel cold.

Last week I finished this quilt which I started in 2018. It is a reverse applique of Inuka, a Singapore born polar bear. He was the world's only tropical polar bear and obviously it sounds very wrong. If you're interested, you can read about Inuka here

In the beginning, I wanted to keep the quilt minimalist. I started with the fur of the bear. I didn't want the embroidery to stand out so I used white sashiko thread. I would have preferred the thread to be as close to the colour of the calico as possible but white is all I have. The effect I was going for was texture, texture and more texture. I used nearly the same embroidery stitches as the ones employed for my cat quilt. During the period I was embroidering the body of the bear, I just had issues with my aging left eye - floaters, blurriness and I wanted to take my mind off my stupid dem eye. It worked!

This kind of freestyle embroidery is just right for less than perfect eyesight because you don't need any patterns, just stitch and fill up the spaces. How do I decide which stitch to use? Well, what I do is I sew the big motifs first and place them scattered around. Then I work on the vine, running, etc stitches to fill up the empty spaces. When I can't think of an appropriate stitch, I just use running stitches. You could say it's my go-to stitch.

I avoided putting anything in the blue sky because remember, minimalist? So just running stitches using sashiko thread. Well, just so you know, I had considered hanging a banner of fishes across the sky. 

I don't know what happened but one day I thought it was weird the bear was lying on a dark blue fabric. I wanted to depict ice. Next thing I knew, I was going through my sequins stash (everyone has one, right?) and found the perfect sequin. I had no choice but to try out a few sequins just to see. I anchored the sequin down with a small white matte bead. It was smaller than what I had in mind but I couldn't allow myself to run down to Chinatown to buy more beads. So I made do. I sewed the sequins between end of last year and the first 2 days of 2021. So while folks were ringing in the new year, there I was sewing sequin, bead, knot, sequin, bead, knot. Around 30ish sequins in, I massively regretted the idea of sparkling ice but it was too late to back out because I did not want to do any unpicking. So I soldiered on, sequin, bead, knot... Grr. Why do my "brilliant" ideas often end up very tedious to implement? 

I added the sun because I wanted to call the quilt "A Polar Bear In The Sun" and also, Janet Bolton. I did exercise great restraint and did not add in any sun rays.

There were a number of issues with the quilt, partly because I had no idea what 2018 Jane was thinking but some parts of the quilt were single layer and the rest double layer. The polar bear was on a single layer of calico and while I was embroidering, I neglected to put another layer of fabric to stabilize it.  As a result, there was a bit of puckering. I semi solved it by sewing tiny running stitches on the puckered fabric. Another issue is using calico as the layer underneath is not a good idea for a larger quilt as there's a lot of puckering in the sky so it looks untidy. 

For the backing, I used a gingham fabric I had bought to sew binding on one of my daughter's blouse and I have so much of it left. For the binding, I used some scrap my mother had given me ages ago. I don't know where my mother gets her scraps but her fabric is always tightly woven and quite hard to sew through. 

Overall, I'm happy with this quilt. I wanted a quilt that says texture and this quilt pretty much screams TEXTURE. I've managed to keep it simple despite the sequins. I enjoy looking at this quilt a lot even though it's soooo hard to photograph. And it's such a great feeling to finally finish this quilt. My first finished item in 2021!
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