Monday, June 11, 2018

And you know, all of my clothes double as pyjamas.

WELL. Well, well, well, well.

It's been five months since I last blogged, which is guess is not so much a break as a sabbatical. A hiatus? Either way, it wasn't intentional, although I did end up spending some of that time wondering whether I was ready to give up blogging. I had pretty much decided that I had, but then Nic and I had a lovely two weeks on holiday and, like the best holidays do, it reminded me about how I feel about myself when I spend time doing things I enjoy, which made me want to get back to writing. Here I am!

The fact is, the world is very crazy at the moment. It is so crazy and overwhelming that it has been almost impossible for me to find the words for any of it. It's been hard because I have so many FEELINGS and there are so many things to have feelings about - where does writing about sewing and shoes and TV fit into that?

Anyway, on holiday Nic promised not to talk about work and I promised not to talk about Brexit or Northern Ireland or reproductive rights, and that enforced break turned out to be really good for us both. We've had a stressful year personally, too, so taking some time to pause and hit the reset button has been really good.

So that's the craic there anyway.

Nic and I have just come back from a very lovely ten days in Paris. We stayed in the same apartment we stayed in last year, a beautiful place in a Haussmann building in Batignolles/Monceau. This was our seventh visit to Paris in the last ten years, so we went with no plans except to flâneur about the place and enjoy ourselves, which is exactly what we did. We did lots of fun things, including some of the touristy things we hadn't done yet. We walked across the Pont de Bir Hakeim and I got a good blogger photo with the Eiffel Tower:

It was a bit damp and misty that morning - our first in Paris - and I liked how moody it made the Eiffel Tower look!

We went to the top of the Tour Montparnasse. This is something I have wanted to do for years, but it has always been too hot. I'm so glad that we finally did! The tour is impressively ugly up close - like, you think it looks bad from a distance, but it is something else up close:

I mean, it looks so crap, but I am a little bit sad that they have plans to beautify it because I love ugly things. Your ticket gets you access to the viewing lobby on the second-to-last floor, which is sort of endearingly crap, as well as to the actual roof, which is fantastic. There is nothing on the roof itself apart from a champagne bar and some weird plastic chairs, but of course the view is so good you don't need any distraction. Because Paris is quite low-rise, there isn't the same wow factor that you get from the the Top of the Rock (or any of the other tall buildings there - that's the only one I have been to the top of) but I loved seeing my favourite city spread out below me WITH CHAMPAGNE.

It made me feel very happy and quite emotional, not least because it called to mind the wonderful short film by Alexander Payne from Paris Je T'Aime called 14e Arrondissement, in which Margo Martindale's character, Carol, visits the tower.

Et puis, quelque chose est arrivé, quelque chose difficile de décrire. Assise là, et être seule dans un pays étranger, loin de mon travail et de tous les gens que je connais, un sentiment est venu à moi. C’était comme si je me souvenais de quelque chose que je n’ai jamais connu, ou que j’avais attendu toujours, mais je ne savais pas quoi. Peut‐être c’était quelque chose que j’avais oublié ou quelque chose qui m’a manqué toute ma vie. Seulement, je peux vous dire que j’ai senti en même temps la joie et la tristesse, mais pas trop tristesse, parce que je me sentais vivante. Oui, vivante.
Ça c’était le moment que j’ai commencé à aimer le moment que j’ai senti que Paris m’aimait aussi. 

We also finally took a trip on a bateau-mouche. I'm not sure why it took us so long to do this because we both love going on boats, but anyway, I'm so glad we did! It was a very hot day and of course people are the absolute fucking worst, but it was a lot of fun to see Paris from the water. I also found the audio guide kind of hilarious.

The Eiffel Tower, seen from the water. This was on the journey back, shortly before the cruise finished, and people lost their fucking minds when we went past this. I'm not exaggerating - it was utter bedlam. It was honestly more entertaining watching that than looking at the scenery. Of course I was being a massive snob about it like the Eiffel Tower is old news or some shit.

Mostly, though, we just strolled around, explored some new areas, people-watched and dog-spotted and of course, ate bread and cheese and drank champagne. It was lovely.

Me with a glass of Taittinger on the roof of The Peninsula on Avenue Kléber. We drank champagne on a few rooftops in Paris and this was the fanciest.

Before we went to Paris, I had decided not to spend too much time fabric shopping - I have lots of lovely fabric at home - but I did end up buying two pieces from the Marché St Pierre area:

I bought a length of this wax cotton from Moline and Nic bought me this beautiful book about wax from Gibert Jeune on Blvd Barbès.

I bought this polyester shirting from Reine, and I haven't decided what to do with it yet.

We got back on Thursday night and Nic had to go to Leeds early on Friday morning for a conference, leaving me at somewhat of a loose end. As the apartment we stayed in had a washing machine, I had been able to pre-wash my fabric (also, you know, coming home from holiday with a suitcase full of clean clothes is so much better than the alternative) so I was able to get down to some sewing straightaway.

I had bought the wax cotton with a plan: I had been meaning to make another maxi-length By Hand London Anna dress for a few years - specifically one from wax cotton, because I love my Barbès-Rochechouart one so much:

I cut it out and sewed it up over the course of Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. I was accompanied in my endeavour by The Staircase on Netflix. The Staircase is... just fine, by the way. I didn't love it. I guess watching all 13 episodes in less than 24 hours wasn't optimum. I'm glad I had sewing to bring me some resolution, though, because you sure don't get it in The Staircase (although, I mean, CLEARLY that dude killed his wife, yeah? Either that or the owls... but, I mean, come on.) Sewing the dress reminded me of why I had procrastinated over making another one for so long - wrestling that long-ass skirt around the ironing board and sewing machine isn't super fun. Also, even though I had been pretty careful about notching the skirt pieces, I still found some issues in putting them together. 

The finished dress was totally worth it, though:

Tournesol dress - By Hand London Anna dress

I love the finished dress a whole lot, and even though it isn't necessarily an everyday dress, I know it'll get a lot of love over the summer and over the next few years based on how much I have worn the Barbès-Rochechouart dress. Also I feel legitimately fabulous in it, which is very hard to beat.

The fabric is still a little stiff but I know that it will soften up nicely after a few washes. I bought four metres of the fabric (this was on the bolt rather than in pre-cut lengths and I think I paid like, €3pm for it) and I needed to use pretty much all of it, as wax cotton is fairly narrow. I knew I wasn't going to be able to avoid sunflower boob because of the way the print is placed, but I think I did a pretty good job of the bodice placement all the same.

All I can hope now is that we get a summer worthy of such a fabulous maxi dress. 

So I'm going to roll on now and make some dinner. See you again soon, mes amies!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The password is "CATCH YOURSELF ON"

Ah hello, it's yourselves.

Yes, it has been a while... I just can't seem to get back into the swing of regular blogging at all, but life has really managed to get in the way. The last time I was seen around these parts was November and I was full of good intentions to blog more often but it didn't happen for a variety of reasons. So this evening I am going to give you a wee life update and also show you a few things I've made recently.

We've been having a fairly tough time since I last wrote: in early December, Nic's dad got a virus and was admitted to hospital and, late on a Sunday evening at the start of the month we got a call to say we should go to be by his bedside as he was unlikely to live through the night. It was, as I'm sure you can imagine, very awful. Nic's parents live 175 miles away in Kent, so we made a long, late-night train journey to get to the hospital in Ashford. It was looking very bleak but somehow he pulled through, although he declined again in the week before Christmas and we found ourselves again awaiting a bad-news phone call. He rallied again, despite having contracted pneumonia whilst in hospital and he has since been discharged. He's in a nursing home and this is the new normal - he requires around-the-clock care and it's the best place for him, but of course it is very stressful for him.

It's been as hard and sad as you can imagine, made even more difficult by the fact that we are very far away. I know that it's something that comes to everyone, but it felt especially unfair to watch Nic go through it - we are still too young to have to face losing parents, and the grief and loss of the last few years has just felt so relentless. It's an irrational way to look at it - I know things don't work that way - but it has been very hard. Nic has been very strong in the face of an incredibly difficult situation. Our friends looked after us and we looked after each other, but December was pretty fucking shitty and we're only really starting to recover from it now.

Despite everything, we tried to make the best of our break at Christmas. I finished work for the year on 16th December and we made sure to spend as much time as we could with the people we love. I did some sewing and some knitting, we watched lots of films, we had days out and a few days in Liverpool to stay in our favourite hotel and just chill out.

So that's the life update. Now for some making! Here is a dress I made aaaaaaaages ago... at the start of September, maybe? It took me ages to get around to getting photos of it as well.

All The Lonely People dress - Vogue 9075 with a pleated skirt, worn with Swedish Hasbeens t-strap sky high sandals

I bought the fabric for this dress when Nic and I visited Liverpool in August. I wasn't desperate to fabric shop, but I thought it was worth having a look in Abakhan, and that's where I bought the fabric. It came from the 'fabric by the weight' bin and I'm not sure how much I got but it cost £8. I spotted it, wandered around a bit indecisively, decided to leave, changed my mind... then Nic picked it up and said he had spotted it and thought I should buy it. He knows what I like! I will say that what I do not like is shopping in Abakhan... it was so hot and stuffy and chaotic. I don't doubt that it has great stuff in it, but shopping in there made me feel a bit sick and I was very glad to leave.

The fabric is pretty cool, though:

It really doesn't photograph well, but the print is random people...some of them crossing pedestrian crossings, some of them wearing what seem to be tracksuits? Someone said to me on instagram that they thought it was Paul Smith seconds and I can believe it, because there were lots of imperfections in the print. That said, it is such lovely quality - it's a very smooth medium weight cotton, it presses beautifully and it is so comfortable to wear. The zebra crossing in the print combined with the fact that I bought it in Liverpool made me think of The Beatles, hence the name. Eleanor Rigby is my favourite Beatles song.

I used Vogue V9075 for the bodice - I really like the high, round neck and I also love the princess seams that extend the whole way up to the shoulder seam. It's been so long since I sewed this that I can't remember what adjustments I made but I'm pretty sure I had to shorten the bodice and angle the zip in a bit at the top as the back neckline came up very high. I think I will have to toile it if I make it again, as I think a swayback adjustment is probably called for along with the shortening the bodice that I did.

I added a pleated skirt to this dress rather than the gathered skirt called for in the pattern because I didn't know how well this fabric would take to gathering, but a part of me is definitely tempted by the jumpsuit option. I mean... it's unlikely, but if I found just the right fabric, it could definitely be pretty cute! I've definitely seen some beautiful versions on sewing blogs... although, all sewn by tall beautiful stylish types... it would look quite different on me!

Wearing it with tights, boots and a busted ankle in Northern Ireland in October.

I was quite on the fence about the dress when I made it because it is very... demure? The neckline is very high, even for me! But it's really grown on me. I think it's in large part because the fabric is just SO NICE. It feels amazing to wear, and that makes a big difference. It is a little demure but the high neckline works really well with statement necklaces, and that's my jam. I like wearing navy in the autumn and winter as well, because it works well with opaque tights (even though navy tights do remind me of school) but it is so much less harsh to wear than black. Against the odds, this dress turned out to be a winner. I would consider visiting Abakhan again on a future trip to Liverpool.

Now, having bummed you all out with sad news at the top of the post and showed you something I made months ago, I'm going to try to make this post both more cheerful and more current and show you the thing I made most recently... a jumper! This yellow Andi Satterlund Chuck sweater is my first completed project of 2018 and I am pretty happy with it:

The yellow yarn is Cascade 200 superwash. After finding it very itchy in other projects, I tried washing my garments made from it with shampoo and conditioner before washing them in the washing machine on a wool setting. It totally tamed the itchiness, which made me want to knit with it again and I made this jumper. I cast it on during the Christmas holidays and finished it last week. I knit size small, but used the waist shaping for extra small. I wanted to make the neckline a little rounder than in my previous versions of the pattern, so I picked up 2/3 stitches for the ribbing rather than 1/1 and I'm really happy with it.

Bizarrely enough, a bright yellow jumper works well with a lot of my wardrobe.

Yellow Chuck sweater worn with How Can You Leave Me On My Own dress, Orla Kiely x Clarks Marianne shoes and Cambridge Poppy bag.

Can you tell that I am very over winter and very, VERY ready for it to be spring? OH GOD WHEN WILL IT BE WARM AGAIN. I wore this outfit on Sunday and it was very worth the cold legs and feet (I was wearing tights but sheer tights like, they're not for warmth, let's be real.)

Anyway, that's all from me for this evening. Thanks for hanging in there with me, guys. 2017 really took the words from me - it was such a hard year personally and globally and I had so many thoughts and feelings that articulating them felt like an insurmountable task. I'm going to try to get some of the words out in 2018.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Months of delicate hard work and now look at it, you ham-fisted bun vendor!

Hi guys! So I guess that blogging once every couple of weeks is about my level at the moment, so that's the craic there.

It's been a long and pretty tough couple of weeks, though. Work is intense, I've had another few weeks of insomnia (which is caused by and also the cause of anxiety, so that's fun) and my grandfather died. It has not been my best time, but I've been doing my best. Sometimes that's all you can really expect from yourself. It was my paternal grandfather who died and we don't have a relationship with most of that side of the family, so I wasn't losing a dearly loved grandparent. But of course that doesn't make it any easier and it has affected me in ways I wasn't expecting, I think partly because he was my last grandparent. Anyway, I'm fine - I'm getting there - but it hasn't been my most fun time.

Life has been busy and sewing has taken a bit of a back seat as a result, but I did find some time last weekend to sew. I made a Butterick B6453 dress at the end of the summer and it was fine. I made it from stretch sateen and I wanted to have another go at it to see how it would fit in a woven without any stretch content, as the pattern is a contender for a couple of dresses I want to make in the spring. I had some fun fabric in my stash that I wasn't particularly attached to, so off I went.

The fabric in question is some Doctor Who-themed fabric that I bought a few months ago in Fancy Silk Store. The print is called 'Exploding TARDIS', although mine has a misprint on the selvedge to 'Esploding TARDIS' that makes me wonder if it's a knock-off. Either way, it's a decent enough quilting-cotton type fabric, and I think I paid £8 per metre for it:

The design comes from a Matt Smith Doctor Who story called The Pandorica Opens and, in the episode, it's been painted by Vincent van Gogh, who the Doctor first met in Vincent and The Doctor. I loved that episode, despite the fact that I'm not a fan of new Doctor Who - I love Matt Smith as the Doctor, but I just don't enjoy much about the new Doctor Who episodes. 

I had cut out B6453 out in a size 10 and shortened the bodice by about an inch. I thought there was a chance I needed to go down a size but I cracked on with the 10 anyway. Error. I realised that I needed to size down and shorten the bodice by another half an inch or so. After I had constructed the dress, I removed the skirt and cut a little bit of length off the bodice and took it in by about an inch at the sides. It's not perfect now, but I'm pretty happy with how it turned out:

For One As Beautiful As You dress - Butterick B6453 in Exploding Tardis fabric, worn with Red or Dead Lindy Hop shoes

It was so sunny the day we took these photos - sorry they are so bleached out! Also, PLEASE DON'T ASK ME IF I WAS COLD. I was cold, but it was literally only for the minute or so it took to get the photos. You'd like to think it's obvious that I wasn't running around in a sundress in the northern hemisphere in November, but there you go. 

That said, it's November, and this is a sundress. This is only wearable right now with the addition of something warm. Luckily, I have the perfect partner in the shape of a TARDIS-blue jumper I knit two years ago:

This is my You Were Wearing Your Blue Jumper jumper, and it's a Chuck sweater by Andi Satterlund. I really like how these look together, and even though it has short sleeves the jumper is lovely and warm. Happiness!

The other changes I made to this pattern were to widen the straps and fix them, and to use a concealed zip rather than a lapped one - I just like them better.

I have to shorten the straps quite a lot for them not to fall off my shoulders, but I think it still looks okay. I really like the shape of the neckline and I think if I can get the fit nailed this pattern will be right for some lovely fabrics I have lined up for the spring. I know it's some way off, but thinking of warmer weather is one of the things that helps me through the cold winter months.

I bought some yellow clog ankle boots and they arrived the day I wore this dress, so when I went out to the pub that afternoon to meet my lovely friend, I put them straight on:

TOILET SELFIE. But in fairness, this is an excellent selfie mirror.

The boots - which are Swedish Hasbeens 'Jodhpur' boots - are arguably on that line where ugly meets awesome, but that is something I do like. I think they look pretty great with this dress, anyway!

I wore this dress on Friday to belatedly honour the anniversary of Doctor Who, which was first broadcast on 23rd November 1963. You should check out a few other awesome Doctor Who-themed dresses that have popped up recently - Lynne made an excellent Anna dress from this same fabric a few weeks ago, Annie blogged another wonderful TARDIS dress earlier this week, and let's not forget the marvellous Ernie K Designs with her Dalek onesie and Dalek dress. Having said that I'm not a fan of new Doctor Who, it did introduce me to my favourite Dalek, Tea Tray Dalek, so it has that in its favour:


This Dalek is so British he is carrying tea whilst wearing a Union Jack. Aggressive colonialism and tea-drinking: there's really not too much to separate the Daleks and the Brits when you think about it.

Anyway, that's the craic with me. But if you're wondering, if I had to choose who my favourite Doctor was, it'd be Jon Pertwee.

He's arguably the most mansplainy of the Doctors. I mean... Jo takes it in good part, but still. Sarah-Jane finds him so mansplainy that Tom Baker seems like an improvement. BUT, nobody else has as good a face or has as much fun with the monsters:


The dude loves to dress up. His clothes are fancy as fuck (actual CAPES) but I'm referring to his penchant for disguises, which are accompanied by voices:

Cleaning lady. NICE.

Milkman. NICE.

So, yeah. Third Doctor all the way.

So anyway my dinner is nearly ready so I'm off here for my own adventure in time (dinner time) and space. See you soon, friends!

Monday, November 06, 2017

It's Ireland's largest lingerie section, I understand. I read that... somewhere.

Hello boys and girls! Again, it has been a while, but that's just the craic there. Life has been busy recently, as it often is - but here are some highlights since I wrote last time:

Belfast International Airport sees your concerns about stereotyping and waves some anthropomorphised potatoes in your face.

Nic and I had a few days in Northern Ireland last month, which was lovely. It was a fairly last-minute decision to go home, and it was a lot of fun. We caught up with all the nephews, spent time hanging out with my parents and even managed to fit in meeting up with my best friend and her new baby. It was a lot to pack in to four days.

I'm still getting Mini hairs out of my clothes. It's totally worth it for the cuddles, though!

My ankle was still pretty bad when we went home, although over the course of the weekend the limping eased off. I haven't managed to get back into the running as it's still not quite right, but I am going to go for gait analysis as soon as possible to see if I need new running shoes. Now that the weather has turned properly cold, I'm looking forward to getting back into running - the one thing I disliked about it before was running when it was clammy and warm. 

Thankfully the positive impact it had on my mental health seems to have persisted and the feelings of hopelessness that plagued me over the summer haven't returned. I've made efforts to look after myself and one of them has been to disconnect myself from the internet after about 8:30 most evenings. I've been suffering from intermittent insomnia for most of the year and I thought that having a complete digital detox a few hours before bed would be good for me. It has been, especially as the news has been so bleak. I found myself very affected by the Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey stories, so not giving them space in my head before trying to sleep has been a good thing.

I haven't had tons of time for sewing recently, but that's okay. I don't exactly have a shortage of clothes. My most recent make was a Deer and Doe Bleuet dress which... well, let's just call it a wearable toile:

No Fond Return of Love dress - Deer and Doe Bleuet dress in Julius Holland wax cotton

I over-estimated what size I would need for this dress and ended up cutting it a size too large. It is princess-seamed front and back, so in theory easy enough to adjust, but it still ended up being a bit too big overall. This photo isn't too bad but in real life it sort of makes me look like I'm wearing some sort of old lady housecoat. It sort of makes me feel like a jazzy Mrs Doyle.

Maybe I'll make another one. I need to try a smaller size and to move the waist up a little. It'll probably wait until spring now, though. Ah well. Luckily I still have loads of that amazing fabric left so I can make myself something a bit more successful.

A more successful recent project was another Emery dress. Last autumn I made a few Emery dresses from barkcloth and I ended up wearing them all throughout the winter because they are so warm and cosy and cute. I had been lurking the Outback Wife barkcloth collection during the summer but was hesitant to buy it - most places that stocked it in the UK were selling it for like, £28 a metre, which just seemed a bit steep to me. However, Maud's Fabric Finds were doing a clearance sale last month and I managed to pick up two metres of Outback Wife barkcloth for £14 a metre. BA BOOM.

I bought two metres of the 'Elaine' print in green. I had thought I wanted the blue, but when the green arrived I loved the colour so much that I was delighted not to have got the blue instead. The fabric really is beautiful quality - it's soft and with some drape, and it doesn't have an especially loose weave either. As I bought it with an Emery dress in mind, I had no hesitation in cutting into it once I had washed and ironed the fabric.

So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright dress - Christine Haynes Emery dress with a pleated skirt in Outback Wife fabric, worn with Orla Kiely x Clarks Marianne shoes

Although I think the fabric would take to gathering pretty easily - lots of Gertrude Made's dresses on her instagram have gathered skirts - I thought it would feel a little bulky at my waist, so I box pleated the skirt instead. I love a box-pleated skirt and I am frequently asked to do a tutorial on how to pleat a skirt. Lads, that isn't going to happen. It's literally folding the fabric to fit whatever width you need. EVEN I CAN DO IT, that's how remedial it is. But anyway there are plenty of other sewing bloggers to tell you how you should be sewing. I am not one of them.

Remedial sewing face

I really enjoyed sewing this dress. Due to time constraints, I had to spread the sewing out over a couple of days and it was really enjoyable. That's one of the joys of a pattern you know and love, of course. It will be a great dress to wear as the weather grows colder, and it will look great with a variety of boots. In an effort to not hate the cold weather so much, I have added to my collection of boots quite considerably. It's not at clog levels...yet:

The dress had its first outing when we went to Birmingham to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving with some friends. I wore it with these White Stuff 'Paula' boots, which I like so much that I ended up buying them in navy as well. Hurrah!

And speaking of trying to come to terms with the advance of winter by shopping... I have a new coat and I loooooove it:

THOSE SCALLOPS THOUGH. Unfortunately, due to to fact that it was dark when the photo was taken you can't see what a lovely shade of blue it is. It's from the Savida range at Dunnes, and it's also available in pink. That's not an affiliate link or anything, I just wanted to share the coat joy. Obviously the pink one is on its way to me. I'm mainly surprised to have found something I wanted to buy in Dunnes, which is the number one place to go in Ireland if you want to buy gigantic granny knickers.

ACTUALLY LITERALLY FILMED IN DUNNES (in Ennis) I wouldn't lie to you about giant pants!

So that's the craic with me anyway. I'll try not to leave it so long next time, but now I need to try to find my way out of this feckin department store. Bye!

Monday, October 09, 2017

I find the mystery genre disgusting. I hate being titillated.

Hello everyone! I hope that the early days of autumn (or spring, for those of you in the other hemisphere) are treating you well.

I'm not too bad, myself. It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It fell on a Monday, which meant I was able to spend the whole weekend prior to the day celebrating. If you can't stretch your birthday out for a few days, what even is the point of adulthood?! I had dinner and drinks with my friends in Leamington on the Friday night (champagne, followed by Nando's because I'm classy, followed by a thorough spoiling in The Drawing Board) and on the Saturday morning we flew to France for a long weekend. This was Nic's birthday present to me and it was wonderful!

Me, Samantha Jones (from Lou Taylor) and pre-dinner Perrier-Jouet.

We went to Perpignan, which is in the south-west of France, on the border with Spain. Literally our only reason for choosing this destination was the fact that we could get there quickly and cheaply from Birmingham. The fact that we were able to enjoy some Mediterranean sunshine was a very happy addition to our plans - we had considered Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Naples, but everything lined up most easily with Perpignan. Of course, it was all good until the week before, when R**nair started cancelling flights left, right and centre but luckily our flights weren't affected. It would have taken the shine off the holiday a little, wouldn't it?!

As such, we went to Perpignan with no real expectations and we were rewarded with warm weather and a very pleasant location for a short holiday. We were only there for a short time and it was off-season, so the city was unusually sleepy. This suited us fine, but it did mean that we had to plan our meals a little bit more carefully than we usually would on holiday. We stayed in Hotel de la Loge in the old town, which was quirky and charming. It lacked the polish of a chain hotel but it was clean, spacious, quiet and comfortable. I would definitely stay there again. We only had two full days, arriving on a Saturday afternoon and leaving on the Tuesday evening, so our plan was to spend Sunday exploring Perpignan and then spend the Monday (my birthday) by the sea in nearby Collioure.

Perpignan old town is a charming warren of narrow cobbled streets. We picked up a picnic In Monoprix and headed to the citadel at the south of the city - the Palais des Rois de Majorque. We had wandered past it the evening before but had no idea of the grandeur inside - you can't tell from the street at all! It was free to get in on a Sunday, but the modest cost of 4 euro would have been more than worth it for the spectacular views over the region.

The view from our picnic lunch. I had been so starved of sunshine that the palm trees never stopped being a novelty!

Can you see the Pyrenees in the background?

If you can see past my giant head, the view from the top of the citadel's tower was amazing.

In fact the views were amazing in every part of the palace. So much so that Nic disregarded these severe warnings:

After spending a happy few hours there, we headed back into the city and enjoyed a few glasses of Pays d'Oc rose at Henri et Cie, a literal hole-in-the-wall on rue Rene Paratilla. Henri gave us a warm welcome, introduced us to his other customers (also English, one of them from Banbury) and showed us the new bike he had bought the evening before. He was an utter charmer and I would recommend a stop there to anyone.

Rue Rene Paratilla - this is the view from Henri et Cie

rose in the sunshine: happiness

The next morning we took the Bus a 1 euro to Collioure, a fishing village on the coast about forty minutes from Perpignan. I'm actually a little lacking in words to describe how magical the day we spent there was. The village is stunning. It is nestled between the mountains and the sea and we couldn't go more than a few hundred yards at a time without stopping to take photos of something.
The view that greeted us when we got off the bus.
I wore my Honoria dress, Saltwater sandals and another Lou Taylor necklace. This was an extremely happy moment.

I had a paddle in the sea almost as soon as we got off the bus. Feeling the warm sun on my skin and splashing around in the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean was the best birthday gift anyone has ever given me. Nic was able to indulge some of his Cary Grant in To Catch A Thief fantasies too, so we were both very happy! He suggested that we have lunch at Le Neptune, where we sat on the terrace and enjoyed a delicious five-course meal paired with local wine.
We took so many photos, I can't even. It was the most ridiculously beautiful place.
I MEAN. This clock tower is apparently one of the most painted locations in France. It's easy to see why. Collioure was the birthplace of Fauvism. You can imagine Matisse running about the place.

As we sat on another terrace overlooking the beach a little later, a rainstorm blew in and we ended up getting completely soaked making our way back to the bus stop. Even the rain had its charm, though, giving us a beautiful double rainbow to admire as we waited for the bus back to Perpignan. I would go back to Collioure in a heartbeat. It was wonderful.

Would it surprise you to learn that more rose was consumed here?!

It was a perfect holiday and I came back feeling utterly refreshed.
Getting the most out of my summer wardrobe...

I had done a little bit of sewing before we went, making a Butterick B6453 from some Nanette Lepore sateen that I bought from Metro Textiles when we were in New York last year. I shortened the bodice by about an inch and sewed fixed straps rather than adjustable ones. I wanted to be able to widen the straps enough to be able to wear a normal bra because I hate strapless ones! I lined the bodice rather than use facings, and I used a concealed zip rather than a lapped one, as this is my preference.

No No, Nanette dress - Butterick B6453 in cotton sateen, worn with Swedish Hasbeens Lacy sandals.

I'm not wild about the finished dress, although I did enjoy wearing it. I need to tinker with the fit a little more (I should shorten the bodice a tiny bit more, I think) but the pattern has a lot of potential. I can see why it has been so popular! I have some amazing Michael Miller fabric on its way to me from the states for spring sewing, and this could be just the pattern.

I also bought some clothes in France - two knit Breton dresses from Monoprix. I'm not sure what came over me! They're both very different from my usual style.

I wore one of them out to dinner on the night of my birthday and felt pretty cute in it. Nic loved it! I've worn it and the other a few times since I got home. I am unlikely to start sewing knit dresses (although I have been looking at Tilly's Coco pattern with new eyes, not going to lie). I know there is a lot of talk in sewing blogging about 'secret pyjamas' but the appeal is slightly lost on me - I want my clothes to be comfortable (and they are!) but I don't need them to feel like pyjamas. In fact, wearing the ponte dress felt a little indecent... I felt exposed and underdressed. Still, it's nice to experiment and I do like the stripes.
This is the other one. I do like this one a little bit better, I think.

Maybe I am having a midlife crisis. Nic and I took up running last month because I decided I wanted to build more regular exercise into my routine as a way of managing anxiety. We started doing Couch to 5k, which I was finding really enjoyable but slow going. Whilst I am very active, I have never been a runner, so building up my stamina will take a while.

Unfortunately, I injured myself last week and have had to take a break - I hurt my Achilles' tendon so have had to stop running while it heals. I've spent a lot of the past week with my ankle elevated, which has been sort of a bummer. I'm going to go for gait analysis when I've healed as I am keen to get back out there in properly fitted shoes. Against all of my previous expectations, I enjoyed the running even when I was finding it difficult. I was very disappointed to have to take a break from it, but I am pleased to find that I'm disappointed - it means I know that I was enjoying it! In the couple of weeks I had completed before hurting myself, I felt a really positive impact on my mental health.

Well, that has been more of a life update than a sewing one, AND you had to look at my holiday photos. Soz. I will have some sewing for you soon, though! Until then, au revoir mes amies!