Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sewing Diary: Upcycling and U.F.Os!

Cutting out the top only of Butterick 5917
Over my winter break, I decided I wanted to clear out a small box of U.F.Os (unfinished objects) and upcycling projects I had set aside for - like -  years! In the past, these have not turned out very well, because I am trying to piece together bits and pieces, and make do, with less than optimal results. So we'll see how this goes. My first project was to take this black cotton knit skirt that I bought several years ago, but was too small for me. I didn't want to just give it away, though, because I am in love with the applique.

So I had removed the waistband, and decided to get some black cotton knit fabric and turn the skirt into an empire waist knit dress. My underbust area (where an empire silhouette would emphasize) is smaller than my waist so I moved the waist up there, and chose a commercial pattern for the top.

I had never used this pattern before so I did not know how it would fit. In addition, it is made for wovens, so I thought I had better size down, since I am using a knit. Anyone who sews a lot will hear warning bells going off: risky business #1: using a pattern for the first time without understanding how it will fit. Risky business #2: using a pattern meant for woven fabrics with knit fabrics. Regardless, I trudged ahead. I did not have to spend any money on this because I already had the pattern and the fabric in my stash.

What attracted me to this sewing pattern was the empire waist, the pretty ruffles around the neckline, and the fact that the neckline had a piece of fabric across the middle to make it not low cut. Of course, this piece of fabric was not high enough for me, and it was still low-cut on me - showing a decent amount of cleavage - but that's my life! I have such a high bust shelf, or maybe it's a short waist? In either case, almost everything except turtlenecks are low-cut on me!

I did not do any modifications on this pattern. I simple cut out the top, but in two sizes smaller than the pattern recommended, to make up for using knits instead of wovens. In case you didn't know, that is because you don't need the same amount of wearing ease with knit fabrics as you do with woven fabrics.

As far as design changes, there was supposed to be an opening in the back, but again, since I was using a knit fabric, I didn't need that because the lower neckline meant the dress could just go on over my head. 

The laying and cutting out of the pattern was pretty simple. There were not very many pieces, and it went quickly. The construction was also simple. I would call it "advanced beginner," so just a notch above beginner. My only real mistake was not stay stitching around the neckline, because it really stretched out and became floppy. Additionally, I was going to make this dress sleeveless, so that I could wear it year round just by adding or subtracting a cardigan on top. However, there were big gaps in the armholes, which means I should have done a Full Bust Adjustment. So I couldn't leave it sleeveless, and had to add short sleeves. So I laid out the fabric again and used the short sleeve pattern.
This will be really pretty on someone who isn't me.
All in all, I think it came out attractively, BUT I am not going to keep it. Yep, this one's being sent to Goodwill. (sad face). My issues are in the fit: the neckline is too big, gapey, droopy and low cut. And the skirt, even moved up on my body to a smaller part, is still too tight. Therefore, with the top being too big and the bottom being too small, it will never, ever fit me. So this was an upcycling fail, but as always, I try to focus on it as a learning experience. Better luck next time, and maybe I should stick with patterns I've had some experience with.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Side Trip to the Island of Delos in the Cyclades

Inside the on-site museu on Delos
Leaving the Old Port in Mykonos for an afternoon trip to Delos

While I was visiting Mykonos and Santorini this past fall, I took an afternoon side trip to the island of Delos, leaving on a ferry from the Old Port on Mykonos.

Temple of Isis

Unlike the huge, cruise-ship-sized ferries that I rode between Athens and the islands, the ferry from Mykonos to Delos was more yatch-sized, and it had a top deck. If you hurried and were one of the first to get onboard, you could sit on the top deck and enjoy the fresh salt breezes on your ride.
A stray cat at the little snack bar on the island. There are zillions of stray cats on Delos.

It took less than an hour to get to and from Delos. There was a tiny, shambled dock, and a fence surrounding the site, with a little booth where I paid 5 Euros for entry. The entire island is one of the most important archaeological sites in Greece.

Delos' importance as a holy site dates back to before Olympian Greek mythology: it has been inhabited since at least the 3rd millennium. It is mostly flat, in the area you reach first from the dock, but then rises to hills and small mountains. The excavation is ongoing, and most artifacts that have been recovered have been moved to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, though there are a good number of statues in the little museum there on the island.

Mosaiic from the Insula of the Jewellery

Delos is not at all commercialized, but next to the on-site museum is a tiny cafe and some restrooms.
It is a wide open space with very few trees that I could see, and visitors walk freely among the ruins: no roped off sections here. I really enjoyed being able to trace my fingers over the carved lettering on pedestals, and winding my way among the beautiful plants and flowers.

As an artist, I drank in the richness of textures and dry-dusted colors woven in to the landscape of man-made objects, taken over by wildness.

I was glad to visit on a slightly overcast day when it was not too hot, because there was virtually no shade and the light and wind beat down on the entire island without respite.
Another view of the Temple of Isis

Wow, look at the tushy on this one!

From the Terrace of the Lions

I don't remember how much the ferry ride cost, but I remember thinking it was definitely affordable, and my hours on the island, traipsing around lost in thought, among the other site-seers was both peaceful and awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Beauty Favorites and Fails, including Korean Beauty Products : November 2015

Here are some of the beauty products I've used over the past month, divided into things that I loved, and things that were fails.
This month's favorites

Success Stories
Tony Moly I'm Real Sheet Masks: Makgeolli Skin Purifying Mask Sheet, Aloe Moisturizing Mask Sheet $3 - 4 for each for one mask.
These were the first two sheet masks I ever tried. They were good; gentle and soothing. My skin definitely looked moisturized right after use, but as with most face masks, the look did not last into the next day. It is a temporary fix but helpful on days when your skin feels really dehydrated and dry. Using sheet masks feels a bit drippy - you are trying to lay a soaking wet piece of paper or fabric onto your face, and then you lay still for up to 30 minutes. So I don't always feel I have time for a sheet mask, but when I take the time, it is relaxing. I would use these again. I liked them! (Makgeolli is rice wine, by the way).
Sheet masks look pretty scarrrrry!
 Lush Ocean Salt Face and Body Scrub: $22 for 4.2 oz.
First of all, don't use this on your face! It is way too harsh to use on delicate facial skin. That issue aside, I loved this scrub for my body. It is a fine-grain salt scrub with a pretty blue color (created by food coloring, unfortunately) and a fabulous scent that is fresh and lightly floral. It did not leave an oily or colored ring in my tub, unlike other salt scrubs that I've used, and it did a good job of smoothing my rough skin areas. It's pretty expensive, like most Lush products, at about $37 for 8.8oz, so it is an indulgence. But I would buy it again because it is a "lush" experience to use.

Klorane Shampoo with Desert Date $15 for 13.5 oz.
This was a "deluxe" sample I received from Sephora. I was only able to wash my long hair once with this sample, but I did really like it. The scent was subtly sweet, but not too strong, and it left my hair in nice condition, soft and manageable. I wasn't particularly wowed by it, but I would like to try this again if I have a store coupon, or it's on sale.

SkinFood Strawberry Black Sugar Mask Wash Off: $17 for 100g
This product calls itself a mask, but it's really a facial scrub. This is a variety of the very popular Brown Sugar scrub by Skinfood. I liked using this, mostly because of the cute packaging, pinkish color and the fun strawberry scent that is reminiscent of strawberry candy. I can't really categorize this as a favorite or a fail, though. Like I said, I enjoyed using it, but its shortcomings, in my opinion, are that there were not enough scrub particles to make it really effective, and the ones that were there were not fine enough - they were like strawberry seeds (maybe there WERE strawberry seeds, I don't know), but I like very fine scrubby bits in my facial scrub. So, it was nice, but I would not purchase it again. I am now in the process of trying lots of other facial scrubs, in search of THE ONE SCRUB TO RULE THEM ALL! Stay tuned ...

Lush Brazened Honey Fresh Face Mask
This is a long-time favorite of min! The smell is AMAZING! Very gentle and soothing, I will definitely repurchase this one, as I have many times. This is pricey, again, at $22 for about 4 ounces (I say "about" because many Lush products are sold by weight and so their prices vary slightly, depending on how much is scooped into the container), but it is a worth-it indulgence. It is fine-textured, with a very slight grit to it, so some manual exfoliation happens when you wash it off. I think it gives my skin a nice glow, and using it is enjoyable.

Lush Oatifix Fresh Face Mask
Have you ever been making oatmeal cookies, and had the urge to spread the dough onto your face? If so, than this mask is for you, because it smells and has the consistency exactly like oatmeal cookie dough! This is another of the products from Lush that are fresh and need to be refrigerated. Like Brazened Honey, above, that means that it expires pretty quickly, so don't buy more of these products than you can use up before the expiry date. This is another gentle, soothing mask with a wonderful scent: the oats plus smashed banana and ground almonds. I enjoyed using it, and I think it did it's work of soothing and softening. I would recommend this and probably purchase again. My only negative is that it is a very heavy, gloppy mask and large chunks of it tend to drop off. It doesn't spread on thinly, in other words. $8 for approximately 2 oz.
This month's fails

Beauty Fails

Lush 93,000 Miles Shower Jelly: $7 for 3.5 oz.
My main problem with this shower jelly is how to use it effectively. It is basically like a Jell-o Jiggler in consistency, and in ease of handling. I tried ripping off bits of it by digging in my fingernails but always got too much or too little product. I tried picking up the whole blob of jelly and rubbing the blob over my skin, but I kept dropping it because it's slippery! I tried smashing it into my scrub mitt and rubbing it on my body in the shower, but globs of it would always fall off onto the tub floor. Eventually, I found that the best way to use it was to wet a sponge or shower pouf, and rub them over the surface of the jelly several times to pick up the product as it melted with the water. Anyway, I decided in the end that it was too much work for what is basically highly scented, gelatinous soap, and I didn't particularly like the strong scent, which struck me as medicinal. The fragrances include cinnamon, peppermint, eucalyptus, and mint. I like all those scents on their own but don't like them all together. The name is a reference to the fact that this shower jelly is supposed to soothe tired, achy muscles that have been overworked by exercise. I didn't sense any such effect.

Clairol Perfect 10 by Nice 'N Easy in Lightest Cool Brown. $14 for one box
I was kind of shocked at how bad this was. The idea is fantastic: only 10 minutes wait time (after applying color) to cover my grays in between salon visits is very appealing. But this product just failed. First of all, it was very drippy and got everywhere in my (ALL WHITE!) bathroom. After I finished coloring, rinsing and blow-drying my hair, I was at first happy with the shade it turned out, and that it seemed to cover the gray hairs well. Fast forward to three days later, and after the first shampoo, I was bummed to see that the color had faded enormously and was much lighter on my brown hair, and my grey hairs were exposed. This color is supposed to be permanent and just grow out, but it seemed much of it had washed out! Waster of time and money.

CeraVe Sunscreen in SPF 30: $14 for 3 oz.
This has a long name: the rest of it says, "Broad Spectrum Face Lotion InVisibleZinc. I was really surprised this didn't work for me because it got great reviews on Beautypedia, and lots of positive reviews online. This is a mineral sunscreen, with both Titanium and Zinc Oxide. There was a slight white cast after application, but it mostly dissipated, except in photos, of course. It spread pretty easily on my face - not too much skin dragging. But the bad part was that after a few hours, it crumbled up on my skin and left white specs all over my face. (See photo). Fail! In the trash this went!
White specs of CeraVe sunscreen on my face (and collar!).
Tony Moly Delight Tony Tint in Red. (It also comes in Orange ChaCha and Cherry Pink). About $5 for 9ml
Tony Moly is a very popular Korean beauty brand with reasonable prices and fun, cute packaging. It is becoming more and more available in the U.S., with some products available at Sephora, and Ulta, and others easily purchasable online from many sources, including Amazon, Soko Glam, and Memebox. The packaging on this lip tint is adorable. I love the see-through tube that shows the pretty, glowing tint, and I also love that the end of the tube is in the shape of a heart. The applicator is a nice, angled "doe-foot". The smell is like strawberry candy. The color of the tint in the tube looks like strawberry jam. Unfortunately, that's where the positives end. Upon application, the color turned orange-y (at least on my lips), and was super wet. The applicator deposits way too much product onto the lips, so I had to just dab on a bit in the center of my mouth, and then use my finger to spread the rest. It dyed my finger orange. Really, the color ends up being just like you sucked on an orange popsicle. The lip tint dried quickly to a like-skin finish, which is okay, but it was also drying. I needed to apply lip balm shortly afterward. I also needed to scrub the skin around my mouth a bit, too, because the color bled a little bit outside of my lip line. This product is long lasting, though, and I had the same stain on my mouth and finger by the time I went to bed, although it did not wear evenly. Final verdict: I would not purchase this, and I also won't use up my tube. This is pretty junky stuff.

Benefit Air Patrol BB Cream Eyelid Primer: $29 for .13 oz.
The fall was hard on this one! I REALLY wanted it to work. I want to like Benefit products because I'm a huge fan of their packaging design. I love cute! But I've never had one of their products be anything more than mediocre for me. This was another example of mediocre. The packaging, while cute (made to look retro aeronautical) was kind of annoying. You twist the bottom of the tube and primer in light beige oozes out a little hole in a rubbery tip. Then you are supposed to spread one click's worth of the primer on each eye lid. But it dragged my eyelid and did not spread easily so I had to use my finger or a brush. And there was always a little extra product sitting in the hole it oozes out from, getting dry and cakey. Yuck! And as a primer, it did not work either. It made shadows harder to blend softly, and it creased almost immediately. So it didn't work at all to prevent my shadow from ending up in my eyelid crease by the end of the day, and this was expensive. Sadness! Please let me know if anyone has had crease-free primer success with a drugstore brand.

That's the round-up for this month. I hope to have many more beauty favorites to report on next month. Happy Holidays!