Thursday, September 4, 2014

Paris, and Kids' PJs

Ten days ago we set off on a long service leave trip to Europe (don't worry, we have a house minder) and after about 30 hours of travelling arrived in Paris. Paris!

The Seine in Paris
I'm sure you've heard cliches about rude Parisians, but we were very glad to find them wrong. Parisians in shops. hotels, in bars, on the street - well everywhere - went out of their way to be helpful to us.

Paris streetscape in the sun
We'd rented an apartment (this one) on rue Vieille du Temple in the Marais district, with an arrangement to be met there by the apartment "manager" when we arrived very late (10pm-ish) on Sunday night. When she failed to turn up, a helpful stranger in a bar repeatedly tried calling the apartment owner for Mr UpSewLate, even though he absolutely desecrates the French language every time he tries to speak a word of French, the next door neighbour offered us to put us up for the night (but we couldn't take her up on that!) and left another message for the apartment manager on her phone, and finally, after walking around for half an hour we found a darling hotel, whose night manager found adjoining 2-person rooms for which he only charged us half the usual rate! And that's what it was like the whole time - difficulties met with helpfulness and friendliness.

The Hostellerie du Marais, Paris
Sorry in advance, I'm not doing any photo editing at all, so many of my photos are going to look too dark or too bright, or in desperate need of cropping!

On our first day in Paris we were up early and visited Notre Dame Cathedral before the queues had even formed. Mr UpSewLate and I enjoyed it, but the kids pronounced it pretty boring!

Notre Dame Cathedrale in Paris, before the queues

I'd left a note in French on the apartment doorstep and some of our bags were still there too, so we had a few trips back and forwards to check if the manager had turned up and to make a contingency plan with the hotel, and then spent a lot of time popping into Tabacs trying to get a Lebara sim card to fit our mobiles so we could try to contact the apartment's owner in America - the rest of the day was spent trying to sort things out, and trying to visit places that were closed (the Pompidou Centre, the Musee Picasso). Anyway, by the evening we'd spoken with the right people in America, a new "manager" had been lined up, and we'd been let us into the apartment.

The Pompidou Centre in Paris - closed on Mondays
On Tuesday we woke crazy early - 3.15am!! that's jetlag for you - and were up for the day. I got lost trying to pick up croissants and baguettes for breakfast (somehow I always go in the wrong direction relative to the Seine...), but eventually we were fed and out to walk along La Coulee Verte (also known as la Promenade Plantee). I found out about this walk through a cool book called "Around Paris with Kids", and it's a former train track walkway that starts on top of the Viaduc des Arts (viaduct on top of art / craft shops / workshops) at Place de la Bastille and takes you a couple of kilometres to the Bois de Vincennes. I imagine it would be terrific on a sunny day, but even in the rain it was lovely to be above the cars and among gardens, and you get a great view of building facades through the greenery. I thought I'd taken lots of photos but I can't seem to find them now!

Parisian facade
After that we headed to the Latin Quarter to visit the Shakespeare and Company bookshop and mosey around the area. The Shakespeare and Company is an English language bookshop that's been around for a long time - people like James Joyce and Ernest Hemingway used to get together there in the 1920s, and although the shop is filled with memorabilia I don't know that it's the exact same shop in the same location... Anyway, it was nice to revisit my fond memories of this place from when I visited Paris with my family as a teenager! I was disappointed to see the shop was absolutely packed to a standstill when we arrived, but a little later on the crowds left and we were able to relax with our books upstairs on the sofas. I noticed signs later on saying that photos weren't allowed - whoops!

Mr UpSewLate relaxing in the Shakespeare & Co, Paris
Famous habitues from the Shakespeare & Co, Paris
The sun came out, so we capped off the day with a relaxing couple of hours relaxing at the beautiful Place des Vosges, as did many others. My kids were also very interested to watch some teenagers videoing themselves doing the ice bucket challenge with water from a fountain, and an older couple setting up a very strange looking musical contraption they called a "murmurophone" (here's a different murmurophone, but the one we saw looked to include clarinet and flute pieces!).  I overheard a guide telling their group that the ceilings in the apartments of the buildings facing Place des Vosges are two storeys high, and that the apartments tend to be owned either by politicians or successful fashion designers... and that designers often show their collections here because the rooms are so grand.

Building facades around Place des Vosges in Paris
Place des Vosges in Paris is very popular when the sun comes out!
Looking out from Place des Vosges Paris
On Wednesday morning we explored the Jardin des Tuileries (I know, lots of parks, but visiting parks and gardens in foreign cities is one of my favourite things to do!) before visiting the Musee de l'Orangerie - a very nice space and the perfect size for kids. This museum has 2 large oval rooms where you can immerse yourself in huge Monet waterlily paintings (the Nympheas) that curve around you with the walls and that show the changing view as light changes through the day. On the floor below there are several smaller rooms of impressionist paintings to enjoy too. And the queue to get it in is really short compared to the Louvre :).

Derain painting in the Musee de l'Orangerie in Paris
Matisse painting in the Musee de l'Oarngerie in Paris
Formal plantings in the Tuileries gardens in Paris
That afternoon the kids went with Mr UpSewLate to the Musee de la Magie (but they were disappointed as they felt the magic was more about clever machinations than magician's tricks, and everything was only in French), and I went off to meet up with Busy Lizzie in Brizzy!  It seems crazy to meet a fellow Aussie for the first time in Paris, doesn't it! Lizzie had been on a fabric tour of Paris that morning, and I think she'd also been on one last year, and she kindly showed me a couple of places to shop for fabric in Paris. We went to Lil Weasel first, which is a really sweet shop in an old passage. This shop sells indie patterns (many local French patterns), pretty cottons incuding locally designed prints, Liberty bias binding, and lots of other stuff you'd want, and has a sister shop across the passage that focuses on wools and knitting. I bought a couple of pieces of (local) Atelier Brunette fabric for summer tops and a Sarah Jane Out to Sea pirate girl remnant to use for my daughter.

Outside the Passage du Grand Cerf in Paris, where you'll find Lil Weasel
Interior, Passage du Grand Cerf in Paris

Some of the fabrics in Lil Weasel, Paris, including Atelier Brunette fabrics on the left
Atelier Brunette and Sarah Jane cottons from Lil Weasel in Paris
Lizzie also showed me a few shops on rue du Sentier, which looks like it's a fabric district, but I didn't buy anything there. Lizzie has a post up about fabric shopping in Paris, and I later found out that Susan Khalje wrote a very long, comprehensive guide to sewing shopping in Paris for the June / July 2013 edition of Threads magazine. I don't have the article, but if you do, this related article tells you how to find some of the trickier spots mentioned. We finished up in Les Halles with drinks, then dinner, then it was time for me to get back before the kids went to sleep. And here they are in their homemade pajama pants, which were nice and cosy for a not so warm summer in Paris:

Burda 9482 leggings as PJs, front view

Burda 9482 leggings as PJs, back view
Burda 9482 jogging pants as PJs, front view
Burda 9482 jogging pants as PJs, side view
Both PJ pants were made using Burda 9482, which includes patterns for leggings (made for my daughter), jogging pants (which I made for my son), and a chunky looking hoodie and high necked long sleeved top in kids sizes 4 - 14.  I made the striped leggings in a size 6 width and approximately a size 9 length, and the green jogging pants in a size 8 width and approximately a size 11 length. These patterns are so easy that you don't really need the instructions, and so I'm not sure if they included a pattern piece for the elastic - but I always just measure the elastic directly on my kids' waists as the last step in finishing up PJ pants. The leggings have no side seams, so there aren't many places to match up the stripes (do you recognise the fabric? It's leftover Jaywalk fabric from my competition dress!). They look a little tight, but my daughter is happy with the way they feel - if I make them again I'll make them looser. And if I make the jogging pants as PJ pants again I'll take them in, even though they're already looser than my son's RTW PJ pants. I'm not convinced by the cuffs, but when I made another blue pair with a regular hem (shown hanging from my picture rail) my sewing machine was playing up and mangled the stitching...

Cuffs on Burda 9482 green jogging pants
Mangled regular hem on blue Burda 9482 jogging pants

On Thursday we walked around the Marais, and then trekked over to the Jardin du Luxembourg. We had yummy lemon gelatos, played a family match of handball on unused basketball courts near the kids playground (which was unfortunately a bit young for my two), resisted the pony rides, then sailed a boat on the Grand Bassin pond. The sail boats are terrific fun and definitely worth the few euros it costs for a half an hour. You choose your own sail boat (we chose Australia, what a surprise), and you're given a bamboo pole with which to push it. Once your boat is on the pond, the breeze will blow it around, sending you racing to the other side, it'll come perilously close to the ducks, and it'll crash into other boats, and maybe even get itself attached to another boat! 

Kiosk in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Sailing boat ready to launch, Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris
AU and UK sailing boats get stuck together, Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris 
Sailing a boat in the Jardin du Luxembourg is more fun than you'd guess... 
Sailing boats in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris 
Reluctantly returning the sailing boat, Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris


And after lunch break back at the apartment, we headed back out in the late afternoon to go to the Eiffel Tower. [Although you can of course just go there and line up and wait, if you buy your tickets online ahead of time you get to go straight up the tower when it's your time - a lot easier.] Last time I came here I'm pretty sure I walked up, and it was a long scary walk, but this time we got the lifts up (not too scary) and walked down (only a bit scary). The views of Paris from the top level are brilliant, as you'd expect, but the queues to go up and down between the 2nd and 3rd floors were unpleasantly crowded - I know this is heresy, but next time I might look for alternative views!
Approaching the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Looking up from the Eiffel Tower, Paris - it's a long way up!
View of the Seine from the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Rooftop view from the Eiffel Tower in Paris
A view from the Eiffel Tower in Paris

On Friday morning we just faffed about, but in the afternoon we took the kids where they really wanted to go - Oya, Jeux a Jouer! Oya is a game-playing shop in the 13th arrondissement. Their website is unprepossessing, but it's a really fun place to go with family or friends. You get a table, and one of the staff comes and talks to you about the games you enjoy, interests, ages etc, then recommends a few games to choose from. The person looking after us spoke excellent English, and showed us several games we'd never seen before. We chose a game called Indigo - a tile laying game that with 4 players benefits from some teamwork :). You pay to play at Oya (5 euros per person per game tried, and we played several rounds of our game), but I think you can also buy games here, and it would be a fun place to spend a rainy day. I really liked that our staff member discouraged my kids from choosing a branded game; he advised that these games are NOT usually the best...

Playing Indigo at OYA in Paris
On the way home, I decided I wanted to pop back to the fabric shops around rue du Sentier. My recollection was that this was where General Diff was located, but turns out it's round the corner on 44, rue de Clery. I got there about half an hour before closing time, and checked out the basement specials (nothing that interested me, but I did get a photo) before perusing the fabrics on the ground floor. The shop is very crowded with bolts of fabric and prices aren't marked, so I soon found myself chatting with M. Max, the owner, as I enquired about various silks. And then it was nearly 6pm which should have been closing time, but Max asked if I wanted to see the fabrics upstairs. Yes please! (If you get the chance, you should take it!) To get upstairs you have to leave the shop and be let in nextdoor, then climb a few floors of stairs. A door is unlocked, and shazam! before you are several rooms, less crowded than downstairs, and far more sumptuous than what you've seen on the ground floor. Max showed me amazing silks, linens, wools, crepe de chines... and matched up fabrics to photos of the original runway garments they were made into. There were Issey Miyake pleats (how do they make that fabric?), wild Lagerfeld wools, Chanel silk/ wool tweeds, Swiss laces, Dior and Lanvin silks, stunning linens, wool crepe de chines, and every type of amazing fabric and designer I could have dreamt up. There was a lot I really wanted, but I ended up with two 1.5m lengths only; a hot pink heavy Dior silk, and a very heavy (double layer?) Lanvin silk with an oversized floral pattern loosely woven into the fabric. I think the pink will be a simple dress, and the floral will be a simple jacket - nothing fussy, as both fabrics are stars.

Lanvin and Dior silks from General Diff in Paris

And then it was Saturday. Our taxi to the airport arrived super early, and we were off to Barcelona!

Statues in Paris

I'll blog again soon about our time in Spain - and some kids swimmers (mine didn't work out).

See you soon!


- Gabrielle xx







Wednesday, August 13, 2014

New Swimmers: Inspiration

Getting ready to go to the beach several months back (summer - I MISS you!) I realised that I had only one weary old one-piece to wear. A very nice cossie in its day, but as it still had sand in it from the last beach visit, I had to resort to a mismatched bikini, and that made me feel like very self-conscious of my lingering mummy tummy. I chucked a t-shirt on top (I didn't have my rash top back then), and the t-shirt got cold and heavy in the surf but I couldn't take it off because I was wearing a bikini, and the whole experience was just irritating.

Blah, blah, blah, and what happened next? Well, sewing inspiration, of course!

I went looking at swimmers in one of the local department stores, and I found this swimsuit from Seafolly that I loved. It comes with a halter strap too, not shown in these photos:

source: Seafolly
source: Seafolly
Amazing print, isn't it! There's an unhemmed, deep ruffle on the bust, and the bodice has cups as well as boning at the sides (!!). There are gathers on one side of the front, and the whole thing is lined. But - $250. Woah! 

I've sewn swimmers before for my daughter (this swimsuit and an earlier one, unblogged) so I know the sewing part of making a swimsuit isn't hard and doesn't require perfection:

 
My daughter wore this swimsuit till it disintegrated :).


I've had a stab at sewing one for myself before, so I also know the fitting part is a challenge, as is the turn-this-mummy-tummy-into-something-flat illusion (please share if you have sewing tips on that topic!):


 

To save $250 I am definitely prepared to make another effort at fitting though. I searched for similar fabric online - and hooray! found these two close cousins over in the printed lycra section at Spandex House:



I'm currently close to finishing a swimsuit for my daughter from that upper fabric (yes, I bought some of both) but there will be enough left for me too. Time is short though (ah, we love a sleep deprivation challenge, don't we?) as I'm heading off on a big trip soon, so I'm not likely to make a swimsuit with boning channels, though I'd love to make something with a bust ruffle! And I'm hopeful the crazy print will be tummy camo, even if it makes me stand out like a galah. So the big question: what pattern(s)?

Any suggestions gratefully received :).



Thank you,  and see you soon

- Gabrielle x  



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