a study in stripes

i guess i have decided that this year i will be studying stripes and how to best sew them. this is my third sewing project this year, and already my second time using stripey fabric.

crisscrossdress1

self-made dress, H&M tights, COS shoes.

for this dress, i took the idea from my co-worker’s New Yorker dress which is made of rib knit/jersey. the rib knit was sewn so that the lines are diagonal on the front, and the bottom part is vertical.

crisscrossdressdetail1for my dress, i decided that horizontal stripes would be better for the bottom part. and as for the pattern, surprisingly, i again used the one from Ottobre design woman magazine 5/2016. this is now the 4th time i used it, because it’s just such a basic pattern that is so easy for me to modify.

the fabric is thin viscose jersey where the black stripes are knitted (so from the wrong side you can also still see the black stripes) and the silver dots are printed. thankfully, unlike the green-blue stripes fabric, this one actually stretches both ways! phew.

crisscrossdress4i think i did a pretty good job in aligning the stripes for this one! the only mishap that happened was when i was sewing the collar/neckline and some of the dress fabric got crinkled too much.

crisscrossdress2

also for some strange reason my super cheap overlocker has now been acting weird: the left most thread (that goes through the left needle) always snaps off when i sew, no matter how tight or loose the setting is. i finally gave up and started sewing with only 1 needle and 3 threads.

crisscrossdress3

but then again, there you go. i finally figured out how to sew with an overlocker using only 1 needle & 3 threads. i still learned something in the end! 😀

my co-worker predicted that my super cheap overlocker will break down on the second year (which is some time during this year), simply because nothing cheap can last longer than that. so maybe she’s right. but until then, i will still make use of what it can still do. and i’m thankful enough for it to still be able to make this lovely dress!

i’m super proud of this dress. everything went smoothly from modifying the pattern to the aligning of the stripes on all sides, which is a quite rare thing to happen to me! i guess it’s because these days i no longer put pressure on myself to finish everything quickly just for the sake of doing the next sewing project, and instead really enjoy all the process of making a garment.

this dress, along with the other two i’ve done this year, are already my new fave items in my wardrobe so there’s no doubt i will use them repeatedly. all is well with my 2017 sewing resolution indeed!

go green (tea)

now that we still had the mini amount of green tea powder left, there was this one more recipe i had been dying to try out.

i was actually looking for a green tea brownie recipe some time ago when i came across this recipe instead: Green Tea Chocolate (or Truffles) by Just One Cookbook. after seeing the options of white baking chocolate available here, i decided to try it using Fazer white baking chocolate.

trufflea1with the incident of the bitter soufflé still fresh in my mind, i tried making the first batch of these truffles with only 1 tablespoon of matcha powder. and the result was too sweet!

trufflea2it was more of a white chocolate with a tiny hint of matcha than matcha truffles. which is of course not a problem for white chocolate lover, but… i want my matcha! 😀

another mistake i made was to only let the batch cool down in the fridge for 4 hours. it was way too soft & sticky to cut into nice looking blocks, hence the terrible looking shapes.

so of course i had to make a second try. this time i used all what’s left of our precious matcha powder… two tablespoons for the mixture + last sprinkles for the topping.

truffleb1this time around, i left the batch cool down in the fridge overnight and a few more hours (about 19 hours in total). by the time i took it out, it was harder than my first batch, but still quite sticky & hard to cut. maybe i just don’t have good enough knife, i don’t know. but these blocks are okay. and look how much one batch made! (that is: all that you see in the above picture plus 11 more blocks already on our plates since they couldn’t fit to these boxes anymore.)

truffleb2the colour certainly looked more promising than my first batch, and when we ate them, they were more bitter (in a very good way) than the first. we could definitely taste more matcha now. but, i still have to say it’s more white chocolate-y than matcha. i’m guessing the problem lies in the white chocolate i used, but it’s really hard to tell since there isn’t any other comparison (so far) and i doubt i can find better options here.

truffleb3the good thing is that since they’re quite sweet, it’s enough to eat 5-6 blocks whenever i crave for it.

i brought some of the first batch to my work place, and at least my co-workers liked them (because they like white chocolate, LOL). maybe one day, if i get another craving and can find better white chocolates AND have enough matcha powder, i can try this recipe again. for now, i’m gonna indulge in these truffles for a few days! ❤

and while we’re still on the green (tea) topic, let me say for the record that i have also tried the soufflé recipe for the second time… with less matcha powder!

souffleb1i also put the butter inside the bowls more generously than the first time, and look how my soufflé grew in the oven!

souffleb2next time, i need to remember to put them on the lowest shelf in the oven, because when i put them in the middle shelf, they always got a bit burned on the top. but that is not something the sprinkles of icing sugar cannot fix!

souffleb3and after the first bite… i was in heaven. it was truly perfect this time, and just super delicious! i love, love, LOVE it! ❤

thank heavens for matcha & matcha recipes around the internet! 😉

see what you want to see

just a little test: what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you see this print?

fridadressdetail3

when i saw this fabric, what came to my mind was Frida Kahlo. i don’t know why, maybe it’s the bold colours and the flowers. and maybe because i like her works a lot.

fridadress1

self-made dress, earrings from Tekka Centre, Little India-Singapore, second hand belt from UFF, unbranded tights, Casio watch.

but when i showed it to my co-worker, she said, “ooh, what a nice Slavic print!”. it made me think afterwards that i guess it does look kind of similar to some print you might see on a matryoshka doll.

isn’t it funny though that we always first see what we want to see, and people’s perspective about one same thing can be completely different than the others? the same goes for a lot of other things, like we only read (and understand) what we want to read, we hear what we want to hear, etc. what our brains perceive often depends on our moods, personal preference, and i guess it also has a lot to do with our own knowledge.

in this case, since i’m more familiar with Frida Kahlo, i decided that to me this dress is a Frida dress no matter what other people say about the print. 😀

fridadressdetail1

the pattern is something i’ve used multiple times before, called Drop-Waist Gather Drape Dress from Drape Drape book vol. 1. the last dress i made from the same pattern was a success because of its ease (both to sew and to wear), and since i had been using that one a lot of times, it was time to make another one.

after taking the pictures, i just realized that the seams on the sleeves were off (leftmost picture), but rest assured that they were corrected afterwards! 😀

fridadress2

just like the previous dress, i made the hem 15 cm longer so i can wear this dress for work. the material of this fabric is also the same as the last one, viscose jersey.

fridadress3

now that i see this picture from the back side, the silhouette & print of the dress actually kind of remind me of a Chinese cheongsam. see, even my own perspective changes easily!

fridadress4other than the sleeves’ seams, there’s really nothing new to say about this dress, which is exactly the reason why i made this: it’s a tried & true pattern, made with a tried & true type of material, guaranteed to be worn many times throughout the year. and may i just say that i had fun dressing up as Frida? ❤

second sewing project of the year is done and i’m still keeping my resolution so far! 😉

soufflé, s’il vous plaît

being a matcha lover in Finland is hard. not because you can’t get matcha products, but they’re still quite rare here as there is no big matcha trend like in Asia. this means that while there are stores here that sells matcha products, the prices are almost always quite expensive. one store sells a matcha mini kit kat pack of 12 for about 7.50€, another sells the regular matcha pocky for 4€. well, you get the idea.

and the matcha powder that i usually use for baking? it costs about 18-22€ for a 30 grams pack. that’s a lot of money for a small amount of powder, in my opinion. and in my dictionary, that means every recipe made out of it has to be successful, there’s no margin for error! so we passed 2016 without baking any matcha things (thankfully last year we went to Indonesia and Singapore. oooh, the matcha galore!).

but now when i saw this recipe from The Tummy Train, i couldn’t help it anymore. we decided to go and get the matcha powder, and even the soufflé bowls since we didn’t have any. and let me remind you before we go forward that i am a true novice in baking, and have never in my life made anything even near a soufflé!

the pressure was now on, but as i usually am in sewing, in baking i’m also so determined to not let anything go to waste. i did everything by the recipe, and things were going great until i had to make the meringue. it refused to be stiff and i was almost ready to give up until my husband found out from the internet that the problem could have been when i was separating the yolk and the egg whites. that’s what it clicked that i did accidentally let some of the yolks into the egg whites, thinking it wouldn’t really matter! well what do you know, little things DO matter in this recipe! thankfully i had extra eggs so i started making the meringue from the beginning again, this time really making sure that none of the yolk went into the egg whites. it worked like a charm! i had no idea making a meringue can be so fun! 😀

so then it was time to put the mixture into the bowls… and found out that our bowls are probably a lot bigger than the ones used in the recipe. i used 11 cm (in diameter) wide & 6 cm deep bowl, and guess how many bowls this recipe filled? T W O. all those work for 2 bowls of soufflé!

ah well, the show must go on. this was after all only my first time of making a soufflé, so i kept my cool and put them into the oven anyway.

souffle1

fresh from the oven!

when they came out… they looked pretty! okay, maybe the right one was slightly burned, but whatever! (fyi, it was about 10 pm when i finished making this, so anything goes!)

souffle2

a sprinkle of icing sugar to make them look prettier

soon it was time for the truth: the texture & taste!

souffle3

the texture looked correct (yay!), so i dove straight in. it was good! but, of course i found another mistake. since there was no telling what kind of matcha powder used in the original recipe, and no telling how strong or faint the powder i’m using for this recipe, i ended up using 2 tablespoons of the powder (which is like the maximum in the recipe). it turned out to be too much! next time i’m going to only put 1 tablespoon, because otherwise the soufflé is going to be too bitter. and for the record, i always use Kabuse matcha powder no. 1 for baking.

souffle4but nonetheless, since the texture of the soufflé itself is so airy and light, we finished them in no time, bittersweet and all.

the end verdict is that this was a nice change from our usual green tea muffins, but considering all the work, it’s best to be ‘saved’ for more special occasions. but hey… i made my very first soufflé! yippie!

simplified

i believe my husband, family, and probably my ex-boyfriends can vouch for me when i say that i have a complicated mind. and, maybe, it shows by what kind of style, art, and design interests me most. dramatic ones, full of things going on here and there, full of colours: all of those speak to me best, because we speak the same language.

that’s the best excuse i have for loving intricate patterns, bold prints, and strange shapes in fashion. that’s what i had been pursuing in most of my sewing projects since i learned how to sew.

but this year i wanted to try something else. i promised myself to make something i really need, something i would wear over and over again, though still clearly saying to the world: this is me.

i needed to simplify. it shouldn’t be hard, because otherwise that would contradict the whole purpose of being simple. i chose something i have done before and gave it a little bit of twist, while still being simple.

greenstripedress4

self-made dress, Daiso stockings, COS shoes, Casio watch.

my relationship with green colour has always been close, especially since discovering last year that it will be THE colour of 2017. and the base pattern of this dress is the same as the green & pink slit dresses i made last year, from Ottobre design woman magazine.

greenstripedressdetail1as i wrote on my previous blog post, i have been wearing my green slit dress on repeat because of its classic cut & material. for this one, i chose a material that doesn’t even wrinkle in use, let alone after wash.

the ‘me’ in this dress is obviously in the details. the studs on the shoulders should give this dress a little bit of a ‘rocker’ factor, and the little teardrop hole surprise at the back would say that “i’m probably not like what you think i am”. simple, yet still me. 🙂

greenstripedress2

when i said i’ve used this pattern before, you’d think this project was a breeze for me. well, guess what? of course it wasn’t. this fabric is polyester knit, and i swear i tried to stretch it when i bought it. as i was cutting the sleeves after modifying it to be longer than the original version, i tried again just how stretchy this material is… and was aghast at the realization that it stretched the WRONG WAY. so even though i cut the fabric the correct way (straight grains etc.) the fabric unfortunately stretches lengthwise. and i realized this after everything was cut. PERFECT! *cries blood*

thankfully, since it is knit, albeit a thick one, it still stretches a tiiiiiny bit widthwise as well. so i sewed this dress with only half expectation that i would actually fit into this dress. i thought that if i couldn’t wear it, i could probably try to sell it, somehow.

greenstripedress3

so you can imagine how thrilled i was, after i sewed all the parts & tried it on, to find that it fitted perfectly! yay! that’s it, and no more donuts or buns for me! 😀

greenstripedress1this dress was also a good practice for me to align the stripes (= quite stressful). i didn’t do a perfect job, but i’m getting there. the hardest part for me was the collar, because i had to stretch it the best way i could while keeping in mind that the stripes have to be in the right places. well, maybe i’ll ace it next time.

this first project of 2017 certainly satisfied my itch for sewing, and i have a feeling i will wear this dress many, many times. ❤

my 2016 in sewing

last year for the good half of it i sewed as i normally did, guided by my passion. but then for the other half of the year, i started to veer into a whole different direction: only sewing what i needed. truth be told, i don’t think i actually need anything, which is why i haven’t touched my sewing machine for a while now. it pains me for not having any sewing project, but it pains me even more to sew something that i know i am not going to wear. so in order to ease up the pain, here’s my regular ‘end-of-year’ list of what i had sewn in 2016.

that was a total of 17 sewing projects, out of which only 10 are repeatedly worn throughout the year. i could have saved my energy and time just to make these 10 useful ones instead of 17, though of course to be fair i think i learned something out of the 7 non practical ones as well.

6 items were done without any pattern, and 3 were done completely out of some ready made patterns. the rest were done by modifying ready made patterns.

in 2015 i figured out what sewing actually meant for myself, and 2016 was a journey much like that. while i will always love fashion and sewing, and figuring out how to sew something or some shape i want, i took a deeper journey within myself and found that i don’t always have to turn my ideas into being.

i grew up and lived for a long time in a big city. a big city that, as i grew up, tells its people more and more to buy this, buy that, you need to have this, you need to have that. it’s not just the advertisements (which are literally everywhere), but also the people in it. as if not having this or that means you’re poor, or worse, you don’t even belong in this city.

and then i moved here. i don’t live in a big city anymore, though for many years i think my mindset was still the same. i needed this, i needed that, and i had always wanted to dress up differently than others, so the cheapest & best way to do that (other than thrifting) was to learn how to sew. i was excited about this newfound hobby for 8 years, and sewed whatever idea i had in my mind. i had an unsatisfied hunger for new and trendy clothes, and was feeding my hunger by always sewing what i envisioned.

i’m not in any way saying that this is a bad thing. but when i really think about it, count the things i actually wear versus the things i made over the years…. i was suddenly overcame with the feeling of having given births to stillborns (and i apologize beforehand if i offend anyone with this example). i went through all the trouble for things that i couldn’t even fit into my closet, things i ended up not wearing for more than once. that was when i realized i was still the same ‘big city person’, believing that if i don’t sew the latest trends or come up with at least 1 sewing project every month i would be left behind. i had no idea by whom i felt i would be left behind, but that was how i felt anyway.

for a while after that realization, i went through a sort of abstinence period. October and December went without me sewing a single thing. my hands are itching for a new project, but i really need it (my next project) to mean something. i want to feel again what i felt when i first learned how to sew: doing everything nicely, with my full effort rather than ‘just get it done and over with so i can wear it once’. i was calm enough when i wasn’t sewing, and did everything else normally, like reading, etc. but i still have (fashion) ideas, and i still have my own dreams that i want to nurture.

looking back at these pictures of projects i’ve made, i’d like to think that all is not lost even with what i decided to do. i just need to remember what makes me wear an item over and over again, what makes me feel the satisfaction of having completed, and that, yes, they can go hand in hand.

if i have to name my favourite sewing project of 2016 (yes i do, because it’s my own blog!), it would have to be my universe bomber jacket. that was done after more than a month of abstinence, and it felt really good to do something that was completely me and completely useful. i’ve been wearing the jacket a lot lately!

the boyfriend jeans come close at number 2, because i also put a lot of effort to make them my own by the details and they’re the most comfortable jeans i’ve ever had in my life. i wear them like all the time!

the green slit dress is my number 3 because of its simplicity: simple shape, and everytime i put it in the laundry machine & tumble drier, it came out perfect without any wrinkle. no ironing needed! i could wear it straight away again the next day if i wanted to!

the African wax cotton dress is not the most practical dress (it’s stiff and cannot be easily ironed due to its glitters), but i love it so much and have always found occasions to wear it. i once wore it to the COS store and a salesperson suddenly came up to me only to say, “what a lovely dress you have on! and with your necklace and shoes, they all go so well together!” (i was wearing it exactly as in the picture.) since Finns don’t usually comment on one’s appearance (much less a stranger), this was a rare occasion i will always remember!

so i would say that i had a pretty good sewing year last year. time will tell how this new ideology of mine will go, but for now i am satisfied with what i have made so far. i hope 2017 will be that year for me, when i can finally build a bridge between the ‘big city’ me and ‘show me the meaning’ me.

a memory and a hope

“i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls…”

our minds work in a funny way, don’t you agree? one second i was looking at the snow, feeling the cold, the next second i was thinking of my old hometown and how i used to take the sun’s heat for granted. and next i thought about what my friend said one day, how most Indonesian people do take it for granted–including herself, as well–and usually say to foreigners how great life must be in the foreigner’s country, not thinking of how hard life might be there in some other aspects (going to the supermarket on foot in winter is i’m sure something that rarely crosses their minds). and then the next second, i thought about the people in Jakarta, living under the bridges & flyovers, thanking their stars for not having to suffer through winter, especially being homeless and shirtless.

and then the next second, my mind arrived to an old acquaintance i had when i was going to the university, back in my old hometown.

it arrived there, because he was one of those homeless people. how i became acquainted to him was something i don’t think i ever mentioned to anyone before.

i used to live in the south part of Jakarta, and my university was just outside of Jakarta, in Depok. my everyday commuting life back then was taking 2 bus rides, which took about 1,5 hour in total, for one direction (that made 3 hours of commuting daily). it wasn’t that it was so far away (well, it was far, but that’s not the reason it took so long), but it’s because my transfer from one bus to the other took place in one of the busiest traditional marketplace in South Jakarta, called Pasar Minggu. the buses went through the small gaps, woven between the abundance of marketplace sellers & their tarmacs full of fresh produces, and since we’re talking about Jakarta that had no clear traffic system, there were always at least dozens of different buses queuing in this area at the same time before they could finally be ‘free’ to go to their own routes. so, you can probably imagine the length of time i spent waiting and frying inside these buses everyday (my buses weren’t air conditioned, of course).

every day, as i waited in the bus, there would be street singers hopping on and off my bus. when i had extra coin or small bank note, i would give them what i could, but most of the time my budget was just enough for the day, so i couldn’t help them even if i wanted to. some of them sang just so that their bosses could see that they were ‘working’, some of them actually sang with their hearts. usually, i would wait until i found those that sang with their hearts to give what small amount of money i could to them instead of the other group.

among these street singers, one of them was a man, probably around the same age as i was back then, maybe slightly older. he was probably the only one easy for me to remember, because of his appearance. he had very dark skin, big eyes, long curly hair which was always ‘half’ bleached no matter what time of the year it was, so that it was deep black from the roots to halfway the total length and very blonde from then on to the ends. he always carried a guitar and was one of those who sang with his heart.

the first couple of times i ‘met’ him in my bus, i was running short on my money that i couldn’t give anything to him. but, he always smiled. some time after that, i finally did have extra, so i was already planning to give it to him the next time i saw him. when that time finally came, and he finished singing and started walking around the bus to collect the money in the aluminum foil bag he was holding, i was putting my money to the bag when he suddenly said to me, “hep, no, no, that’s okay, miss!” and i was baffled. he didn’t want my money.

after he completed his round, he came to sit next to me, which happened to be empty. and i, as somebody who had always disliked talking to strangers even before moving to Finland, was wary of this. oh dear, i thought, he did not want my money but wanted my company? darn it. usually if some stranger who sat next to me in the bus started to talk to me, i would pretend not to hear what they’re saying (yes, i was cruel). but i couldn’t see my way out of this one because i would still be stuck there in my transfer point for a while.

and so, he started, “are you going to school, miss?” i said, shortly, “yes”. he asked where i went to school, and i told him my university name (and cursed myself why i had to be so honest. what if he was a stalker?). he was amazed by my answer, i guess it’s because my university name does bear good quality. then he started talking about himself, mostly, i guess because he could see i was being careful and only gave him short answers. he told me that he, too, wished he could go to the university, but could only sing in buses so far. the first time he sang, he did not even have a guitar, so he had to go with others who had musical instruments, saved money until he could buy a guitar, and finally, now, he could sing alone.

the bus began to move forward and he quickly bid his goodbye, but before he left, he asked my name. i told him a fake name, because my brain was still telling me to be cautious, and that was the end of our first conversation.

that happened during my first year of college. i still had 2 more years, so you can imagine how many more times i met him in my bus. it wasn’t daily, but there were a lot of times. i gradually saw that he didn’t mean anything bad, and if he was a stalker i would already be stalked by then. i started having quite ‘okay’ conversations with him, but most of the time, just like the first time, it was him who did the talking. he told me that he was now saving up for new shoes, and showed me that the only pair of shoes he had had holes in them. and every time i offered him what little money i could, he never took it. i think at one point i told him that i had shoes i didn’t use, and if he would like them. he asked my shoe size and when he heard it, he laughed because my shoe size was a lot bigger than his! he even joked that i must be one of the ‘mountain people’, who genetically have big feet. needless to say, my offer was turned down.

sometimes he did the singing with a group of his other friends, and when his friends came near to me to collect money, he would tell them, “no, not her! she’s my friend.” pretty soon, even his friends would recognize me when he wasn’t around, and also did not want my money.

one day, i went to the university as usual and i was the one who spotted him first before i got on to my bus. i tapped his shoulder (because even then, after many of our conversations, i still didn’t know his name) and said hi. he was friendly as usual, but i told him my news: this was my last time going through this route, because i had graduated. he was so happy for me, congratulated me, and told me good luck with my life. i wished him the same, and we parted.

that really was the last time i saw him, even though i still lived in Jakarta for many years afterwards. never once did he cross my mind, until now.

i wonder if he is still around, and again, thank the heavens that he never has to feel the bitter cold of winter in his old & hole-y shoes. i wish i could have helped him more, and hope that he is doing okay. i hope he knows, that even when it may not seem so, he was actually blessed in his life, to have what he had.

remembering him makes me want to listen to this song, a song so popular among street singers in Jakarta. maybe it’s because it’s about them, the suppressed people, living in Jakarta. maybe it’s to tell each other, the street singers and beggars, to not lose hope, stay strong and be thankful for life as it is.

Serenade by Iwan Fals and KPJ (Street Singer Group), 1985, sung in Keroncong style.

roughly translated lyrics:

i would like to sing for the suppressed people

living in the wild with bereft souls

why be afraid of the sun, make a fist and block its heat

why be afraid of the night, light a fire in the heart, shoo away the darkness

i would like to sing for the rejected clans

losing their fighting spirits

complacent in a long dream in the midst of uncertain life

on the streets’ alleys of alleys

under the underside of bridges

on the street vendors’ feet

under the tower

you still cradle the suffering

i would like to sing a song without poverty and hypocrisy

without tears and misery

so we could see the heavens