Sunday, 29 January 2017

While we were in Berlin we did not go hungry!

Naturally, Geoff had to try some curry-wurst. I’m not sure how authentic this experience was, though perhaps it’s hard to have an authentic experience when the dish is made up of sausage, tomato ketchup and curry spices.  He liked it, but it’s not something we’re adding to our dining repertoire on a regular basis. 

Probably the food highlight was Street Food Thursday at Markthalle.  A giant shed, full of little stalls selling just a couple of items each.  The queues were long at a lot of places, even when we got there at 5:30pm for a drink before dinner, but definitely worth waiting for.  We had a sushi burger and some koshari for dinner. 

Dinner was probably just beaten by dessert – a slice of triple chocolate cake from Aunt Bennys. 

At (Fassbender and) Rausch we had a delicious hot chocolate and cake each, in grand surrounds.  Waiters in waistcoats and silver service, all for cake! 

DaDa Felafel is simultaneously described as having fabulous food, and awful service, and our expectations were met on both fronts.  We each had a really delicious falafel plate – felafels, hummus, salads and bread, all supplied by a surly waitress.  It wasn’t personal – everyone around us was treated the same!  Finally we welcomed the new year with a champagne donut.

There were quite a few other places on my ‘to eat’ list, so plenty of reasons to return!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Bokeh is so trendy

Aperture, ISO and shutter speed are terms that I used to throw around, back when I knew how to use an SLR camera (yes, an SLR not a DSLR)!  What I remember now is that all 3 need to combine to produce a properly exposed and focussed image (proper being subjective of course). 

I was pleased that this weekend’s homework was related to aperture – or f-stop as I was taught to call it (in the late 1990s). Aperture is the size of the hole in the lens, which regulates how much light is let in, and the key thing I need to commit to memory is that smaller number = bigger hole – sometimes the smaller number is described as a ‘wider aperture’ which I find helpful.

The precise challenge issued by AYWMC was to take 2 photos exactly the same, only changing the aperture – the first image at the largest number aperture which is 11 for me, and the second at the smallest number.  Interestingly, the smallest number ranged between 1.8 and 2.8 for me, and I am not sure why it varied.

Geoff and I both had a go at this challenge – while I am the photography fiend in the family, it’s also nice to have photos of me in it (other than just selfies), so it’s great that he’s joining in. As I mentioned in a previous post introducing this challenge, I loved the photos of my grandparents travels, but my pa wasn’t in many of them – too busy being the photographer – and I’m keen to avoid that for myself.

Blossom with aperture set at f11

The camera really struggled to focus on the foreground on this setting.

Blossom with aperture set at f2.5:

If only the sky were bluer...

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Sightseeing in Berlin

Berlin was a great, vibrant choice to spend a few days in following our trip to Vienna.  While missing most of the Viennese grandeur, the modern museums and memorials, great food and delicious coffee were a nice change. We stayed on the edge of the Kreuzberg district, in what was the edge of West Berlin (we were about 100m back from Checkpoint Charlie). 

A couple of sightseeing highlights were the DDR Museum and the Berlin Wall Memorial, both new additions to Berlin since I was last here in 2004.

The DDR Museum is a small museum, full of displays and exhibits about daily life in East Germany, without any romanticism.  Highly engaging, with hands on exhibits (including a challenge to run a factory in accordance with Soviet dictates).  Life was very bland, and homogenous, in East Germany. Some of the highlights included a Trabi (car), that felt like it was made of plastic but was the real deal (as the real deal was mostly made of plastic) and, a really great interactive apartment including some clothes, food and other bits and pieces that people were allowed.  There’s a great range of artefacts – and the focus on ordinary life makes it all very relatable. 

The Berlin Wall Memorial runs 1.4km along where the wall was, across the remnants of a cemetery which was dismantled in favour of the wall and other security measures. The memorial is made up of pieces of the wall, left in place, and markers to complete the length.  The old walls of the cemetery are still visible, as is the top of the church spire which was broken off when the East Germans blew up the church.  The new chapel is a beautiful, modern structure, made of earth and wooden slabs, which let light in.  It’s a functioning parish, as well as a memorial site.  There is a lengthy wall of victims, including the children, and a guard tower remains standing in a walled off area.  

We also enjoyed seeing a number of the Buddy Bears on the streets – not particularly interested in the Nivea one, but some of the others were cool, like this one .

There was also a good amount of street art in the area we were staying – though some of it had been defaced. 

I really liked how the art was all around - regardless of area

And how the art worked on different surfaces. 

Friday, 20 January 2017

When you look closely, there’s a lot of brown in grey

Another challenge for 2017 – to get off the auto function of my camera!  I followed an Instagram rabbit hole and landed on Emma Davies’ ‘A Year with my camera’ (AYWMC) and decided to try the challenge, though I don’t have a DLSR, but my point and shoot is quite sophisticated – a Canon GX 7.  The aim of the challenge is to take photos of your daily life, not just the big events, and learn to use your camera at the same time. 

I did study photography in high school, including in my final year (where I think it was my best or second best subject out of the 5 I took in year 12).   This was back in the day where I actually processed film!  The skills I learned then, particularly about composition and framing, are still relevant, but the technical side is long since obsolete. 

The first step of AYWMC was to think about what kind of photos I want to take for the year. This is the second year that Emma has run the challenge, and last year’s included themes for each week to guide the technical homework, but this year is up to the participant.  My focus for the year is to capture images that can immerse someone in my London life.  I used to love looking at the old pictures at my grandparents house.  They travelled all over Asia for my pa’s job, and there were some great pictures of food, and the sights, and my grandma enjoying them (pa was the photographer). My favourite part (other than the photos of my young grandma) was that I felt that I could get a good sense of their travels, as the daily tasks of life were included. 

The first set of homework was focussed on exposure (and grey).  Emma helpfully set out a lot of technical information about how a camera (on auto) determines the correct exposure – that is, how much light the camera lets in to capture the image.  Long story short, a camera assumes an image will be 18% grey.  This means, if you take a photo at night you can get quite a grey effect, even though reality may be much closer to black.  I took a terrible photo that exemplifies this in Berlin.

The challenge was then to take some grey photos.  And try to create a beautiful image that is just grey.  

Looking closely at grey, I began to notice how many other shades of brown and blue really come together to create a colour that reads as grey.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Planning my EYF cast on

Are you familiar with the knitwear designer who calls herself ‘Jumper Cables’? I happen to love that name, and I really like a lot of her designs.  They’re mostly shawls of the non-lace variety – some interesting stitch patterns and quite geometric in nature.  Despite the long term admiration, this will actually be the first pattern of hers that I will knit, and I have chosen a cowl called ‘Puddle’.  The name should give it away, as this is a long, close fitting cowl that puddles around your neck to keep you warm.  I’ve been wearing my version of Joji’s 3 colour cowl a lot recently – under other scarves – so am keep to get something in the same style, but in a different colour palette.

I am planning on knitting a Puddle in advance of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, as part of #BlackerPodKAL hosted by the fabulous Knit British.  The aim is to cast on something using Blacker yarns on 19 January and cast off by 4 March, in time for EYF.  I picked up St Kilda lace weight yarn last year (the batch that was hand dyed by the Knitting Goddess) and will do the cowl in the 2 skeins of navy I have, with some ‘dimensional intarsia’ using the mini skeins  - that is, add colourful polka dots while holding the contrast colour along with the main colour. So I have been doing some research on intarsia in the round.

The first option would be to just knit the cowl flat, and then sew it up, but that’s a lot of purling in lace weight yarn, so am looking for something a little faster.  I read about a great method on a blog called ‘Moth Heaven’ where you knit across then back (with some slipping of stitches) on the intarsia portion and then ‘catch up’ with the main colour.  This won’t work here because I am planning on holding the contrast colour and the main colour to knit the polka dots.

Then there are a whole host of variations on the method that involve a lot of purling and long loops of yarn – probably the best explained by the blog ‘Explaiknit’ in the paragraph starting ‘The other method makes the joins…’ but it still doesn’t get me any closer to knitting intarsia in the round in the way I intend (that is, holding the contrast and main colour at the same time) so I may be back to purling.

The only option might be long reverse floats – that is, pass the yarn back towards the start of the motif and catch the float as I work across.  This will probably be ugly on the inside, but at least it will be all knitting in the round.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Make Nine

A new year, so naturally time for resolutions, goals and plans, right?  There are a lot of year-long projects on social media and 2 sewing related projects that caught my eye are #MakeNine and Sew My Style. 

Make Nine involves choosing 9 items that you want to make (sew) with an eye towards coordinating items, or at least complementary items!  If you’re a sewer (or sewist) on Instagram, you’ll likely have seen collages galore under the hashtag #makenine or #makenine2017. This project isn’t new for 2017, but began in 2016, so there are some interesting posts about what people actually made of their intended nine – the Lucky Lucille link above is a good example (click on #MakeNine).

Sew My Style, hosted by Bluebird Fabrics, is a project aimed at encouraging people to make clothes, and embrace slow fashion.  12 sewing projects have been selected – and there are discounts available on some of the patterns.  As the site says, most of the patterns are relaxed fit and really not my style, so instead of following their projects, I have taken their ideas about what items would make up a cohesive wardrobe and come up with a Make Nine list:

Sew Over It Molly top – a long sleeve tee shirt for the weekends, holidays etc.  This is definitely too relaxed to wear to my work! This will be made up in some fluffy (likely entirely polyester) charcoal grey knit fabric.

The Groove Dress is my next attempt at a swingy summer dress.  I tried to replicate a Cos dress last summer (see my blog post about that here), but I feel that this may be a better fit – I think there needs to be negative ease over the bust for this shape to work on me without resembling a tent.  I have some grey marl viscose to make a wearable toile and some great printed jersey for the real deal.

Another Day Dress is on the cards – I need to work on the fit on the back by taking a small piece out of the back pattern neckline, and then I am making a work appropriate version in some black suiting and hot pink silk lining. I also need to find really good instruction on how to set in the sleeve as the instructions on this pattern are next to useless (use lots of pins and be patient).

Super tote and the Caravan tote – I can always use a tote bag and these each have distinctive features – like the dropped zip, or the gusseted pockets. I have fabric for one, and need to get lining for the other (and associated hardware).

Renfrew tee – I have made this so many times, and I have 2 on the list.  Firstly is some blue fabric with white polka dots.  The second will have a woven fabric back (I have an amazing floral panel) and will be otherwise black viscose – fabric to be ordered!

Silk scarf – I bought a vintage silk panel which is printed with garlic bulbs.  The silk has an amazing woven texture to it, so I am simply going to sew a handrolled hem and be done with it. 

Finally, I have 1.5m of some amazing heavy crepe fabric (ostensibly a Stella McCartney fabric).  Dark green with a white/black animal or floral print, quite abstract.  Perhaps the Sew Over It Tulip skirt

Not on the list, but something I want to do as well is the Sew Over It Alexa skirt – both in a denim (light weight) and an African wax print.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Still dreaming of a white Christmas...

From Geoff... 
Last Christmas we were by ourselves, marooned in the public transport  free zone of London.  And it didn't even snow. So this Christmas we headed over to Vienna and spent a few days with my parents who had just done a long river cruise down the Rhine and Danube. Good times!

Hopes of a white Christmas were not high based on the forecast, and so it panned out- it snowed on the day before we arrived but not again. There was a lovely covering of snow when we arrived though, which stuck around for a couple of days and gave a slightly exotic feel to the trip.

Vienna itself was very pretty but seemed to be in hibernation for the end of the year. Whether it was just the wrong time of year or the cold, there really was not much to do outside of the christmas markets- unless you had bought tickets to the Opera or the numerous classical music performances months in advance. So Christmas markets it was!  And a beautiful church or two.

The markets at the Schonbrunn Palace were clearly the best- well curated with a good mix of food and vendors selling their often homemade Christmas wares and with a wander in the chilly gardens afterwards, an excellent way to spend Christmas Day. A lot of the other markets weren't that great and more similar to the rubbish ones in England- identikit food and stalls selling mass-produced crap or non-festive things. What's the point! My parents said the best markets were found in the small southern German towns that they had been through already- beggars cant be choosers I guess.

Also at Schonbrunn is the excellent Strudel Show- a show that goes for about 15 minutes, on the hour, with a well-practised pastry chef going quickly through how to make a proper apfelstrudel. Alternating between English and Deutsche, he flung the pastry around, made appropriately lame jokes (twice!) and filled the air with the delicious scents of butter, cinnamon and baked apple. The strudel itself was amazing.

So to sum up Vienna, it was great to see my parents again after 18 months, Vienna is pretty but sleepy, and Schonbrunn Palace is delightful. And the dream of a White Christmas remains unfulfilled.