May 28, 2015

The First Day

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 11:48

Hi everyone! It’s been quite the adventure already. My flight to Bari was delayed about an hour and a half while we waited for some little old ladies to be delivered on wheelchairs. I had been worried about getting from Bari airport to the main station but the airport is tiny and there a good reason service into the main station, where I easily got another train onto Taranto. That would have been perfect only the train broke down halfway there and we had to wait for a bus. I got to the apartment where I stay at about 8pm. Phew!

So you can imagine that it’s a little nerve-wracking, travelling all day before a competition and not getting to practice. What I like to do in these situations is revise my score: I get a cup of coffee, find a quiet place and think through all my notes. I try to imagine myself in the hall and imagine the sound. It works well for me.

The building where the competition is, is about 2.5km from where I stay so I left about 45 minutes before I had to be there. It’s a nice walk along the sea. The rules say, you present yourself with your ID at this room in this building at 9am. I had done my research and had marked the exact building on Google Maps and thank goodness for Street View! I could see what the building looked like. Which is just as well because outside, there was no sign whatsoever! In through the main door, to one side, was this:

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See that small poster? That’s the sign for the competition. No information, mind, just the poster. In you go there, up to your left, down the hall, there’s a room with a door open – this is where we go. Here is a small room with two big tables, about three chairs and a lot of tired-looking, silent young adults.  We queue to show our documents and sign the roll.

We wait about ten minutes to make sure everyone who is coming has a chance to arrive, then a person is asked at random to pick a name from the jar. This person’s surname starts with P, so the running order starts with him and progresses alphabetically from there.

The people who do not play immediately are divided into groups and taken to another building where we can practice. The groups are small so I shared a room with another girl, we each had about 90 minutes. I was playing before her, so I went first, and then when we swapped I went to find something to eat. Then I changed beside the main hall, I warmed up on the piano provided downstairs and then played just before the jury took lunch break.

I was mostly happy with how I played, though it wasn’t perfect. The piano was quite deep and hard to manage – repeated notes became stuck, things like that. But you can’t complain because everyone is the same and nobody got to try it out beforehand. That said, it was an old Steinway and I liked the colour very much.

After lunch, I stayed quite a while and listened to others. Some were marvellous, others were awful. By this stage, a lot of the people I had been chatting to in the morning had also finished and we grew into a little band – I had second lunch with a Lithuanian and Italian, and shared a lovely late afternoon coffee with another Lithuanian, and dinner with a German. We all have a good laugh together, the camaraderie is fantastic.

Eventually, the results were posted at *11pm* – only eleven out of fifty passed to the next round. Even some of the fantastic playing I had heard earlier in the day didn’t pass. Needless to say, I also didn’t pass. The only solution?

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Drinks with new friends! I’m here until Saturday so I look forward to listening to all of the others in the next rounds.

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May 26, 2015

When in Rome…

Filed under:Music,Travel — Aileen @ 12:10

Hi everyone! I figured this is as good a time as any to come out of hiatus. Usually when you see a blogging lapse like this either something bad happened (it hasn’t, thankfully) or the blogger reappears with an addition, like a baby (let me check…nope!), or a new job. I’ve been preparing for some competitions. I did some small Irish ones in March and April. Now, this month (like, right now), I’m doing a small one in the south of Italy. Next month, in about three weeks, I’m doing another, bigger one in Milan in June. I figured if I’m putting so much effort into preparing the music, I should do more than one while I’m at it.

So, today I’m en route. This is my little postcard from Rome airport while I wait for my connection down to Bari. I think it’ll be fun to show you what it’s like to ‘do a competition’. (Some native readers might be wondering why I am traveling to do a competition when the Dublin International competition is on at the moment – I’m too old to participate. I did it in 2006 but didn’t pass the Irish round.)

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I’ll spare you the tedium of negotiating airports, save that they are all the same – I fly south to Bari in about an hour and then take the train even further south to a little town called Taranto. I guess it’s about the size of Galway. I booked a room in an apartment through Air B&B. I’ve never used this before so I’ll let you know how it works out.

Tomorrow, I report at 9am for the lottery (I’ll explain in better detail after it happens). Everyone plays in the first round tomorrow, too. We all get to play for 15 minutes. Thursday, about half of us will pass to the second round and you play 45 minutes for that. Only a few will pass to the final on Friday, which is a free programme of 30 minutes. I don’t expect to be a finalist but I would love to pass the first round. Keep your toes crossed for me!

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February 19, 2015

FO: Carme blouse

Filed under:Blouses/Tops,Finished Objects,Sewing,Stash Down — Aileen @ 13:09

Hi everyone! I’ve a lot on my plate these days so forgive my infrequent posts. Between concerts, competitions (small, local, soon and big, in Italy and later) and actual work for money, there’s a lot going on! Well, no, not right now, but there will be. Mostly it would be fine if I wasn’t doing competitions abroad, but I am!

Anyway, I have for you today a blouse I finished before Christmas. I wore it once but the cuffs were far too tight and narrow, so it sat in my mending pile until January.

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It’s the Carme blouse by Pauline Alice patterns. She’s sort of the Spanish equivalent of Deer and Doe. I bought the Alameda dress pattern as well, as I have a wonderful check will that would look fabulous with those bias panels.

I digress! I used a plain polycotton that has been sitting in my stash for ages – I needed a blue blouse and this wasn’t so precious that I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t work out perfectly. I didn’t have quite enough for the sleeves and that meant that when I put on the little cuffs, they were finishing higher up my arms than intended and so were too tight. What I did was replace them with a pair of cuffs from another blouse. I also left out the gathers and just did a normal pleat instead.

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As for the body, I didn’t cut a straight size as it’s kind of oversize – I cut my proper size for the top, tapered into the smallest size at the waist and then a size bigger at the hips. It looks like an extreme curve but when on is just fine.

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You can see that there’s still plenty of room in the body. You might spy, as well, that I have a collar on my blouse when the pattern has none. The pattern has the important bit – a collar stand – so I just popped a collar from another pattern into it.

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The placket and bib were really straight forward and well explained in the instructions. It’s a nice pattern, with lots of options for variety, and it goes well over leggings or jeans.

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January 22, 2015

In progress, a sneak peek and a new shop!

Friends, I discovered a new shop today quite by chance. I went to Phibsboro to buy rice at the Indian shop and whilst three, I went up to the post office to post a letter. Coming back, I spied through a window some wool nicely arranged. Then I saw cross stitch kits on the wall – obviously I had to go in! This is what greeted me:

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The shop is called Be Creative – Be Unique. The yarn you see pictured is a good mix of cheap’n’cheerful acrylics and some much nicer Bergere de France yarns. They have a good range of crochet cottons and weights from sock yarns up to pretty chunky. Basically, if you’re not looking for something extremely specific, you’ll find something to scratch your itch!

They have addi needles and hooks, as well as bag handles and those awesome little leather soles that you can knit socks on to.

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Hmm, what else? Oh yeah, they sell quilting fabrics and some cotton poplins, too!

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(There’s a lot more than pictured). And if course there are ribbons, trims, needles and whatnots.

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I’m just so happy that if I need lining, thread, interfacing, spare needles…that kind of thing, I don’t have to go all the way into town and support a shop that doesn’t care if I shop there or not (Hickey’s). As it turned out, I needed interfacing and thread but I couldn’t go home without a sample of new things…

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I have a deep desire for new socks and incredibly, have nothing in the stash. What perfect excuse to try out a new kind of sock yarn! I look forward to reporting.

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I couldn’t resist this fabulous vintage Japanese print! I got some cream flannel to back it with and I plan on making some kitchen cloths. Look at the eggs!

In other news, I just cast on a Seven Sisters Cowl in Malabrigo Rios.

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It’s to match a hat I just finished so I hope to show you the set soon. And speaking of sets, I started this shawl over Christmas to match a dress I’m making!

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The dress is a lighter version of the same shade and I’m excited to finish it. The shawl is made from the new Fyberspates ‘Cumulus’ alpaca mohair so it’s very snug and warm. I’ll write more about it when I post the outfit.

I hope you’re all staying snug these days, or at the very least, crafting your way towards that state!

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January 17, 2015

Bonne année!

Many happy returns, dear readers, I wish you all a fruitful 2015. I think for most of us it is fair to say that any year, in retrospect, was a mixed bag. I feel like I really progressed in my sewing; I found my knitting mojo again; I travelled loads. I made it to my third year teaching full time and still cycle most places. I had alot of good concerts, one shaky and one fantastic; I played out of my skin in two different competitions, came third in both and didn’t give a damn.

I’ve just been looking back through this last year’s makes, looking for my favourites, but I love and wear them all! I made tonnes of separates over the last two years so I’m naming 2015 the Year of the Dress! Dresses make things very easy. Other than the few wool shifts that I made (quite some time ago now), I don’t really have any simple day dresses. Everyone’s situation and wardrobe needs is different but maybe you feel the same way… I put together some inspiration for you!

As mentioned here, I searched long and hard for a good princess panel dress. I ended up going with New Look 6124, but other options I found along the way include the Aydan dress by Named, which has sleeves and the Attaché dress by Lisette (Simplicity 1666 – I made both the top and the dress version and found the dress just too flared to really want to make again).

But what if princess panels are too busy for you? You just want something simple, maybe to show off a really nice fabric? I found this a while ago – New Look 6302.

I really like the little jacket that goes with this. The only downside to this pattern is that it’s not lined, but if you’ve never sewn a dress, this is a really straight forward sort of pattern to start with. I like this Burda pattern for similar reasons.

It’s a petite pattern so measurements such as armhole depth, torso depth and so on, are more in proportion with a petite height. I really like how you have the option to make only the skirt, and the dress has sleeves. The main reason I haven’t tried this one out yet is because I always worry that this sort of style, with the long sleeves, would be just overpowering.

Speaking of sleeves, I have always loved the Hazel dress by Victory Patterns.

The high collar and bow mean that you can still have attractive details if you leave off the sleeves. I like the colourblock option, too, though I would worry about finding complementary fabrics too much to actually make this up!

Sticking with bows, another that I love (and have and am dying to make up!) is the La Sylphide blouse and dress by Papercut Patterns.

This is a deceptive pattern. For a start, I loathe the way all of the Papercut patterns are styled. I think maybe they’re going for a gritty, cutting-edge sort of look but they all just look bedraggled to me?! It’s a real shame because when their last collection came out, I totally discounted it because of that. I have since grown to really like many of their patterns, though have yet to make one up. La Sylphide is good value for money because you can make a blouse with a peplum, a full dress or just the skirt part of the dress. I really like all three options – the blouse would be lovely with a little pencil skirt, and the skirt is perfect for summer.

Another lovely, more casual option is Colette’s most recent offering, the Dahlia dress.

Like all of their patterns, it is really pretty but there seem to be some fitting issues! I’ve read a good few reviews that say that the neckline is a bit strange and there’s a problem when lifting your arms in any way. Luckily for us, there’s a sleeveless option and I think this version would be lovely for summer.

Speaking of summer, a super hit last summer was Grainline Studio’s Alder.

At first I was a little non-plussed at its release, as it’s quite similar to the Archer shirt. But I do like the ruffle skirt option, I think it’s so quirky and fun! We don’t get much weather for sleeveless dresses, even in the summer, but I think this would be nice with a little cropped cardigan, don’t you think?

Keeping with the shirtdress theme, I can’t leave out Named’s take on it from their last collection, the Wenona.

It’s one of the few shirtdress patterns I’ve seen out there that actually has the option for just the shirt. You’d think it would be kind of an obvious thing to include, right?! I love this pattern. I love the pleating option, and I lovelovelove all the possibilities opened up with the panelling, especially down the sleeve. You could keep it simple but do lots of coloured topstitching to highlight it. Or, you could use up some fabulous precious scraps and really show them off. I think I’m going to need to make one of these next Autumn. While I’m on the topic of the Named patterns, you should really just check out all of their dresses here. They really offer something a little bit different. Having made quite a few of their patterns now, I can unreservedly recommend them; their fit and drafting is the best that I have found amongst independent designers.

Last, but by absolutely no means least, we cannot forget little Bruyere by Deer and Doe! What a smashing pattern! (See my version here)

Now, I know it’s more of a tunic than a dress, but there’s nothing to stop you from making it a bit longer. Like all of Deer and Doe’s patterns, they fit just as they say they will and always have beautiful feminine touches. I love the fitted bodice and the small pleats in the skirt on this one. I think I will definitely be making another one of these! It is such a versatile top to pop on over leggings or skinny jeans.

I hope that has whetted your appetite and that you will join me in sewing up a few!

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