A Highly Concentrated Dose of Adventure: and the Front Page News

We’re freshly back from a weekend trip up the Coromandel Peninsula, and let me tell you- it was an adventure in more ways than one. The weather was cloudy with a bit of rain, but what’s a bit of water in the face of adventure?

cloudy hazy bay at tairua new zealand

Photo-stop in Tairua. Pretty sure if you look close enough, you can see Smaug back there somewhere…

The road is long and impressively winding. Where the highways I’m used to cut forcibly through the landscape in unforgiving straight lines, this one winds gracefully up, down, and between the mountains. They’re the kind of roads you see in Bond movies, with a vertical cliff face to your right and a straight drop miles down to your left. And bonus points for the frequent scenic outcroppings complete with parking areas.

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Adventure waits for no one- It’s surreal to be surrounded by mountains and oceans at the same time.

At one point, there was a narrow, overgrown pathway that led to a view that Sheep couldn’t get enough of. He even thought he heard some Kiwi birds…

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Sheep’s Adventures in Birdwatching, anyone?

Upon arrival in Whitianga, we did a bit of exploring and went out in the bay for a bit of swimming and kayaking. It was still rainy, so the escapade was cut short by my worry at the level of waterproofing of my camera bag, but it was fun while it lasted. The next morning we spent a bit of time wandering around in town, where one of the local shopkeepers recognized me from the day before by my hair. It’s a good thing I’m not a spy, really- hard to keep a low profile with a highlighter on your head…

Next, Hot Water Beach!

hot water beach new zealand

It’s like a treasure map… “twenty paces in front of the rocky outcropping, you must start digging.”

Hot Water Beach has a hot spring under it, and people can go during low tide and dig holes in the sand. The holes fill with spring water from under the ground, and you get a nice hot tub effect while hanging out on the beach. It’s a great idea in theory, but there are some issues. First is people- it’s a very touristy spot, and I was lucky to be able to take a few pictures before too many came to stake their claims.

hot water beach new zealand

There’s so much nature, and it’s just…everywhere! I love it.

The second issue is that you’re supposed to start digging your hole while the tide is still moderately high for Maximum Hot-Spring Enjoyment Factor… which is difficult. You start digging your hole, and a wave comes in and washes the whole thing flat again. you try to build a barricade, the wave washes it away. You try to use a human as a barricade, the water gets around him and washes sand into his shorts. It’s sort of destined to fail from the beginning. Didn’t stop us from trying, though!

digging a hole at hot water beach

Maybe we need a different strategy? Or an earth-mover. That would work…

The boys tried a couple of approaches while I stood by with the camera. Eventually, they started trying more obscure digging methods…

digging at hot water beach, new zealand

What if we brought a team of German Shepherds to the beach, and told them a bone was buried down there?

The cool thing about it is that you can see the hot water bubbling up through the sand if you’re looking- too hot, actually, to stick your foot in. I heard surprised yelping in several different languages in the few hours we were there- like I said, it’s a very touristy place. Eventually, it became impossible to dig without fear of beaning an innocent bystander with a spade full of sand, so we left in search of less crowded adventures.

hot water beach new zealand

The areas of the beach that do not boast of hot springs are deserted. Way to show the love, guys. What if this poor section of beach is lonely?

We decided to go explore Cathedral Cove next- it’s a spot I wanted to visit and also a pretty cool hike.

cathedral cove beginning of hike

This week, on “Scenic portraits of seagulls”…

The hike takes about 30 minutes, and there’s all manner of interesting things to see along the way.

gemstone bay, new zealand

Overlooking Gemstone Bay. Sadly, no actual gemstones are present…

The interesting thing about the New Zealand countryside is that there is so much of it, and yet it’s all so different.

new zealand foliage and forest

The (albeit slightly rainy) hike to Cathedral Cove

At one point, as you walk over the top of one hill (It’s about the halfway point)- the view to the left is a perfect description of the rolling hills, rocky outcroppings, and lush greenery that seems to mark New Zealand’s summers:

new zealand

Title shot for more Hobbit movies right there- no wonder those movies were so good- with this landscape, half of your work is done from the start!

Standing in the same place and looking to the right, however, reminds you that there is in fact an ocean surrounding this place, and you’d do well to pay attention or risk falling off the edges of the earth.

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Views to the left of me, views to the right- here I am, stuck in the middle with you!

After the 30 minute hike to Cathedral Cove, which may have been slightly longer on account of all the breath-catching that had to be done because ‘lung capacity’ is not on my list of strengths… we emerged:

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Sometimes, trees get the best views.

Cathedral Cove is exactly as beautiful as they say: times about a million. Because of the weather and the time of day, there were only about 12 other people there with us, so I took advantage of the photography. The wave sounds that can be heard echoing through the cavern are haunting and beautiful, and the water is so clear that you’d swear you were the only other human on the planet.

cathedral cove

I can see why Macklemore filmed his music video here…but I know he didn’t hike 30 minutes through the bush to do it…

I’m having this problem with the scaling of everything- there are no words, and no photos that can accurately describe the intense largeness of the cavern- or the feeling of smallness you get from standing inside it.

catherdral cove

just going to sit here and contemplate the smallness for a while…

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is what the start of the return hike looks like:

cathedral cove hike

“…and then, they disappeared into the jungle, never to be seen again…”

On the way back, we met this dapper fellow and his lady friend- at first they were afraid, but I crouched down to take photos while Jon made some whistling sounds, and our new feathered friend came over and posed on a rock so I could take his picture.

quail

Too bad his lady friend wasn’t interested in the photography…

By the time we got back to the house it was dark, which turned out to be just fine considering the sunset. Although it was cloudy and rainy for most of the weekend, the skies cleared up enough for a night-shot of the view from our front porch. Off to the left is Shakespeare cliff, which was on the list of things we would have done had the weather improved.

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It’s supposed to be ‘red skies at night, sailor’s delight’…don’t trust the wives tales, kids.

The next day, we went on a new adventure to see what apparently has been voted “New Zealand’s Most Beautiful Beach”- It’s another one that you have to do a bit of hiking to get to.

hike to new chums beach

It starts with a rocky beach that is absolutely full of the most beautiful shells and rocks- you walk around the edge until you think you’ll run out of land, and then a path appears to lead you into the brush. Hinky.

After getting distracted looking at seashells for a good half hour, we went inland where I was surprised to discover an area that looked like it was the hand-built set from a Jurassic park movie. Everything was still, and you could hear but not see the ocean through the undergrowth. It was beautiful, and creepy all at once.

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you just expect to see a cameraman on a little track waiting to film our reactions to the monsters that jump out…

It was, actually, a beautiful beach. Another stroke of luck with only 10 or so other people around, and this little lean-to constructed out of palm fronds and tree bark:

lean to shelter at new chums beach

Ah yes, I’ll move in next Tuesday if that’s alright with everyone. Look at those pohutukawa trees blooming in the background!

Far enough up the beach, there are even sand dunes that look out over the water. Birds nest on the dunes, which is cool as long as you abide by the natural order of ‘you stay on your side of the rope, I stay on my side of the rope’ -Otherwise, eyeballs get pecked out.

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Just realized I spent an awful lot of time taking pictures with my back to the beach. That might be considered somewhat backwards by some…

Here we are: the sun sets over New Chums beach…

new chums beach

…except you can’t really see it because of those pesky clouds…

And walking back, we could see the beach from between the trees:

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never really considered myself to be a beach person, but this is pretty excellent.

You’ll forgive me for saving the biggest adventure for last.

After all the adventure we crammed into the ‘annual camping trip’ this weekend, I figured we were about finished with it all when we packed the kayak and everything else up and headed for home. Sheep was more than happy to stand guard while we put everything else into the car and took off- after a quick pit stop for fish n’ chips, of course.

kayakdeparture

As you can see, a very securely tied, properly attached, and correctly facing kayak. This is the ‘before’ part of the story, you see.

Unfortunately, about an hour and a half into our return trip (and stops every 15 minutes or so to let people pass us and make sure that the kayak was in fact secure- it was) we drove around a corner and a gust of wind hit us so hard that it shook the car. There was a loud clap and a bang, and I watched as the nose of the kayak swung around over my window. We pulled off the road, and Jon started working on assessing the damage. I, meanwhile, was trapped in the car by a twisted piece of the roof rack which had levered itself against my door. About a minute after we pulled over, a police officer found us and pulled off. She saw the twisted pieces of metal that remained of the rack, and Jon told her that it had snapped in the wind, and we were trying to fix it. She helped to twist the kayak back to its proper position, which partially freed the piece of metal against my door, and then apologized because she was on her way to an accident further up the road, and left.

After Jon pried me out of the car, we set to disassembling the wreckage and reattaching the kayak facing, once again, front to back. It took about two hours, one tarp, a duvet, a bungee cord, and 20 feet of rope to get it tied back on, and by the time it was tied, the car battery was dead from the hazards and headlights. When we attempted to flag down an officer for help, he refused, laughing, and drove away.

I was a little miffed that nobody else stopped to help us (considering the eight other police cars that drove by), but I counted it as a win because the only major damage was to the roof rack. I figured that was the end of it, until this popped up on the NZ National News two days later:

windblown kayak sideways

Thank you, good Samaritan who stopped to take this picture and didn’t bother offering any help at all. On the other hand, it’s cool to have a picture…

According to the original article, police pulled over an Irishman who told them he though that was how kayaks were supposed to be transported- and was ‘unrepentant’. Basically, the story went viral, and even more viral when they found out that the driver was actually about as close to being Irish as a bottle-nose dolphin. The police ended up having to actually apologize to the entire Irish nation -Foreign relations and all. They are, however, still claiming that they pulled us over for driving with the kayak sideways like that. First, nobody pulled us over- the car pictured pulled off to try and help after we were already stopped- and second, at no point were we actively driving with a sideways kayak on the roof. Someone who “was not there to comment on the situation” appears to still be commenting on the situation.

So far, I love New Zealand, and I’m happy to be able to call it home for another two and a half months. I love everyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and I’m jealous of this fine place they call home- especially this summer in December thing, that’s awesome. That said, a little grey rabbit once told me “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”- and I think Thumper would agree that spreading lies for any reason isn’t nice, no matter the intent.

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Jet Lag, Doorknobs, and One Pair of Socks: The New Zealand Mission Begins.

Do you remember when I said that thing about how I was going to get all nice and caught up on my blogging by December, so that I could switch gears and tell you all about New Zealand when I got here?

Sorry.

I’m most of the way through the screen printing post, and still have to do my moccasin boot post as well. I’m going to save those for a rainy day- and let me tell you, those seem pretty hard to come by in my current corner of the Pacific…

North Head, New Zealand

A beach below the old Navy base at North Head- My very fist New Zealand Adventure!

But first, a bit about travel (in case you’re interested in visiting little old me)… The flights were fairly uneventful- a good thing when your total travel time is 26 hours. It gets to the point where you give up on trying to keep track of what time it is. My layover in Los Angeles was 6 hours, which went by really quickly because, as it turns out, the most interesting people you’ll ever meet can be found in the international departures wing of an airport. We bonded over a singular need for electrical outlets and talked for hours. I met JD and his twin brother Sam who are travelling around the south island for 3 weeks (mostly hitchhiking, and I am very curious to know how that’s working out for them), and Ashley who studied fashion design and now would like to start a business with her twin sister who she’s meeting in Australia, and last but not least Tim and Mary- who told stories of their grandkids and offered us all a place to crash if we ever found ourselves near Wellington. Mary was astounded to hear that JD had only brought one pair of socks for his entire trip, and even went so far as to find him another pair (so he can wear one pair while the others are drying)- which I believe she gave him as we were boarding the plane.

boeing 777 airplane landing

This is my plane landing in Auckland! WHEEEEE!

Tim also told us that in New Zealand socks do not come in pairs, and that we would get callouses on our heads because of the waking up upside down- and managed to keep a straight face while he said it.

new zealand pohutukawa tree

the Pohutukawa tree- which flowers in December and is bright red and green. It’s symbolic of Christmas here, and- bonus points- has really tasty nectar.

We landed at about 8am local time and my jet lag had not yet set in- so we went on an adventure, of course! There is an old navy base on a mountain near Auckland called North Head (I say mountain. It is a little mountain, but big enough.) It’s very park-like, with flowers and trees everywhere, and at the top there’s a great view of the city and surrounding beaches.

north head auckland new zealand trees and nature

It’s December and everything is so green!

The old Navy barracks are here, along with some very cool, very large cannons. New Zealand’s Navy is currently located one mountain over, this stuff is circa World War II. Part of what makes this place so interesting, though, is that most of the stuff that goes on here is underground- the barracks, ammunition storerooms, and even the places the cannons are stored- are built into the mountain. Some of it is open for wandering, and some areas are closed off.

north head underground tunnels new zealand

Little Hobbitses must watch their toes in the darkness!

After a thorough exploration of the above-ground areas, we ventured inside the mountain.

north head underground tunnels

What even is real life? Tunnels and rooms inside of mountains? I feel like Bilbo Baggins is going to come running through here yelling while Smaug tries to fit his head through the little corridors…

It’s a very interesting combination of manmade and natural structure inside, this little room, for example, was right off one of the hallways and yet held no trace of ever having been effected by people.

nature and rocks in new zealand

Let me just stay here forever, please and thank you.

When the base was in use, this cannon used to fire and then flip down inside the underground room for storage. Sneaky.

north head navy base cannon

A cannon with a hidey hole, is pretty much what this is…

By some other cannons, there was a plaque that talked about how the locals were upset that the sonic boom from the blasts would shatter their windows, so the Navy planted trees to dampen it…but by the time the trees were large enough to make any difference, the cannons were obsolete.

There were a lot of ways in and out of the tunnels, and we tried to explore all of them. A lot of them are covered in graffiti, and some were more overgrown than others.

north head explorations, new zealand

Hobbits, I keep telling you…

It would have been a great place for a picnic if I hadn’t been utterly and completely confused about what time it was. Feels like dinner time, looks like lunchtime? Even at dinner time here as it turns out, the sun is still bright in the sky. It doesn’t go down until nearly 9:30.

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It all just sort of screams ‘adventures!’ doesn’t it?

We emerged from the tunnels at a perfect vantage point- overlooking Auckland on such a beautiful day. Everything is so blue!

auckland CBD from north head new zealand

The pointy thing is called the ‘sky tower’ but I keep forgetting that and calling it the ‘space needle’. Jon is less than amused.

If cityscapes aren’t your thing, feast your eyes on the aptly named ‘fire poker’ flower.

new zealand fire poker flower

If I were seven, I would definitely be having sword-fights with these…

Travelling to other countries is so interesting- the people are still people, and the important things are the same, but then there are these weird differences that you sort of notice along the way, like all the trees and flowers are different, or the doorknobs are located at least a foot higher on the door… or that you drive on the left side of the road. Still not comfortable with that last one… I’m trying to practice deciding which lane I would turn into when I ride along in other people’s cars, and I keep getting it wrong…

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Let’s just take a minute to realize how large this tree is, shall we? and think about how long it has been there in that sandy soil, watching over the bay.

It’s been five days now since I got here, and I think it’s safe to say I’m over the jet lag. It took about four days to wear off completely. The second day (before I got super sleepy like a 90 year old lady at the ripe old hour of 7pm) we went to Parnell rose gardens, which turned out to be a lot more than roses (though also a lot of roses)

pohutukawa tree at parnell rose gardens, new zealand

Another Pohutukawa tree. I absolutely climbed around in it, and it was excellent.

Long stalky flowers are difficult to take photos of when it’s ridiculously windy outside, but I managed..

new zealand flowers

Sorry, I don’t know the name of this one. Pretty speckled bell flower? Let’s go with that.

And of course, roses. So many roses, in so many colors.

pink and yellow rose bud at parnell rose garden in new zealand

And not a single sneeze was sneezed that day: I understand the appeal of flowers now…

Sheep also made an appearance once he saw some flowers he liked.

adventures of sheep at parnell rose garden

Sheep was less than impressed with the flowers, but posed nonetheless. He was worried about getting sunburned, and weren’t we all.

 

As if by magic, as soon as I said “I wonder if any of these roses match my hair”- there they were!

pink hair matches pink flowers

I am a princess, and I am flowers.

Those were the two big adventures this week. It was nice to have a few relaxing days around to adjust and talk to home and stuff. On the list of things not covered however, we have:

  • Ate octopus (eh), squid (yum!), papaya (nope), and green-lipped mussels (yum, but want to cook with them myself)
  • Tasted the nectar of the Pohutukawa tree (yum!)
  • Went to two night markets (full of Asian food and trinkets- the kind of place that makes you want to hold on to your wallet…but the kind of place with the best mango smoothie ever)
  • Went to the Largest Shopping Mall in New Zealand- which is roughly equivalent to a smallish shopping mall in the states.
  • Experienced unrefrigerated eggs, and solved that mystery: Eggs in the US are washed which strips them of their protective coating, making them more likely to absorb contaminants. Eggs almost everywhere else are not washed, which means the protective coating stays intact,and also gives farmers more incentive to keep their chicken’s environments clean, so that the eggs stay cleaner anyways.
mission bay, new zealand

Mission Bay: That little land mass in the distance is North Head, where all the tunnels were. If you want a beach in this country, you’ve got options.

So far, New Zealand and I are getting along excellently. Now that I’m here getting acquainted with things, it’s a lot easier to do my travel planning, so I’m working on my list of things to make happen before I leave. The exchange rate works in my favor, which is helpful, and once I get a bus card in my hand I’ll be unstoppable!

 

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Wax on, Wax off

Questionable Karate Kid reference aside- one of my favorite parts of this new-found freedom I seemed to have developed (read: I had never realized how much creative energy school sucked out of me….) is the opportunity for new projects!

Batiking, for those of you yet unaware, is a traditional Indian technique for creating colorful patterns on fabric using wax as a resist, and multiple layers of dye.I’d always wanted to try it, but hot wax kind of scares me a tiny bit, and I could never really think of a project I wanted to do badly enough to bother with buying all the supplies. However, once I came up with a project, I did a bit of research and it turns out the tools you need aren’t all that expensive!

 

batiking fabric completed

I love it when a plan comes together!

I’ve so far spent two weekends batiking- It’s kind of an all day affair because of the waiting time while fabric is dyeing, and then drying. I set myself up a nice little workstation (on my handy-dandy-all-purpose-worktable-that-is-mostly-for-screen-printing) and put on some tunes:

batiking supplies

The fixin’s of an excellent day!

The Supplies:

  • Test Fabric (I used some scraps of muslin I keep on hand for days like this)
  • Dye (Fiber Reactive dye. You can’t use acid dye because the heat needed for that chemical process would melt the wax. sigh.)
  • Fabric (for your actual project! Stick to cellulose based fibers like cotton or rayon- not too delicate, and not too tightly woven, or the wax won’t penetrate.)
  • Batiking Wax (a blend of paraffin and beeswax. It’s available premixed, or you can buy them separately and mix them yourself!)
  • A wax melting pot (Not for food! choose one that’s as small as you can find, but deep.)
  • An electric burner (for obvious, wax-melting purposes. With a fairly accurate adjustment knob)
  • A clip-on thermometer (of the non-digital variety)
  • Tjantings (the copper tools for drawing wax onto your fabric)
  • Large wax pot (Not for food! Your project must be able to swim freely in this pot)
  • Wax tongs (Also not for food!)

There! That’s a start. We’ll get to the why’s of some of those specifications momentarily. None of it’s very expensive- the most expensive item was the electric burner, which I found on amazon for $17, and which I can totally use for other things. It’s handy. Even the Tjantings are hardly a budget breaker. I bought all my supplies at dharma which I love and would be nowhere without. Also, if you have questions about anything fabric-related, the nice people at Dharma will probably know the answers.

Here’s a closeup of the tjantings- I bought three different sizes- the holes in their spouts are different sizes so the molten wax will come out at different speeds, allowing for thicker and thinner lines. That said, I definitely used the thinnest one about 95% of the time, after I played with the three to get a feel for them. The largest one deposited so much wax so quickly that it dripped through the fabric straight down onto my hands, which was fairly unpleasant. Wax at this temperature will probably hurt a bit if it drips on you, but it shouldn’t burn or blister. It’s about the same as a low-temp hot glue gun. I’m a bit more sensitive to temperature extremes than most people, so I was careful. That one’s best used for thicker fabric, I suppose.

Don’t stick your fingers in the wax pot. Did your mother teach you nothing as a child?

tjantings for batiking in three sizes

note the copper,which is actually surprisingly thick and retains heat very well.

Wax On:

As to how one physically goes about the task, there are a few ways to do it. A lot of tutorials I found have you pin the fabric so that it’s suspended above your workspace, but if you look at most videos of Indian women batiking on YouTube, they’ll just be holding the fabric in their hands, suspended using their fingertips underneath and drawing lightly from the top with the Tjanting. Tjaps (the copper stamps used to make repeating and intricate patterns for batiking) are a different story that I’m not talking about because Tjaps really are out of my price range. By a lot. Which is unfortunate given how beautiful they are.

When starting to draw in each color, or when switching tools, hold the Tjanting’s head submerged in the wax for a few minutes so that the copper can heat up; your wax will flow more easily that way, and you’ll be able to draw for longer without a refill. Anyways- this is how I ended up holding my Tjanting- you, should you choose to batik as well- should obviously play around with it and decide what works for you. Especially if you’re a leftie.

tjanting proper holding technique

You can also see the wax lines on the fabric! Squiggles are good. Squiggles are easy. Nobody can tell when you mess up squiggles.

The wax burns at 245 degrees (Farenheit!)- and the internet tells me that it erupts violently in flames and is very difficult to put out once it ignites. This is why you need a thermometer and a burner with a fairly accurate adjustment knob. You need your wax to be around 23o in order to be hot enough to flow easily, but don’t let it get above 240! Also, don’t put water on a wax fire- use baking soda to extinguish infernos.

Now that we’ve gotten through the setup, the rest of it is pretty straightforward. Draw on your white fabric, with the wax, in whatever areas you would like to be white. Then, pop that sucker into a dye solution (cold water only, or you’ll melt the wax!) If you’re using a soda ash solution, which you should be if you’re using fiber reactive dyes, you’ll want to make sure to take your fabric out after no more than 30 minutes, because the soda ash has a nasty habit of eating away at the wax.

batik in progress

Here’s a tester after two dye baths- you can see the yellow and white areas that are protected by the wax!

Rinse (literally) and repeat: Draw more wax in the areas you want to remain that color, dye, rinse, draw… you get the picture…. The most awful part of the process is waiting while the fabric is in the dye bath, and waiting for it to air dry once it’s out (Can’t put waxy fabric into mom’s dryer. Would probably be disowned…or yelled at…)

In the above photo, you can kind of see the cracking in the waxed areas where the darker colors are coming through. That’s because of the wax mixture. Beeswax is very flexible at room temperature, but it gets gummy really quickly on its own. Parrafin wax is very flaky, and also doesn’t adhere well alone. The combination of the two produces the crackling, while still keeping the wax adhered. People who do this a lot make their own mixtures with more of one or the other, depending on how much or little crackling they wish to occur. I happen to really like it just how it is, so I’ll keep on keepin’ on with my 50-50 blend.

batik project in dye bath

Dye from lightest to darkest! I shouldn’t have to tell you guys this, though- I feel like you’re pretty smart cookies.

Eventually, you’ll either fill up your fabric with wax or run out of darker colors to dye your fabric. If you haven’t already, you’re probably wondering how to get all that wax out of there.

batik example fabric

My final color order went yellow->blue (for green)-> red (for red-orange)-> purple (for maroon), and black (for slightly darker maroon.)  We’re working on that last one. I wanted it darker.

Wax Off:

This is why I said not to choose anything delicate. The definition of that, in this case, is don’t choose anything that wouldn’t like to be boiled- because that’s how you get the wax out. I found my pot at goodwill for $4.50- it’s a canning pot, and will be just large enough for my dress when it’s time to make that.

This is a pretty fun part of the process- you fill the pot with enough water that your fabric is completely submerged (the more wiggle room the better), and boil the living daylights out of it. I don’t mean just bring that pot to boiling and then shut the stove off, you have to boil it and agitate it while you’re boiling it for a good 10 or 15 minutes, so that all the fabric that is caught in the folds of the fabric is dislodged and melted. Then, take your pot off the heat, and use your tongs to carefully drop some stones into the pot. These will weight down the fabric so it doesn’t float up and touch the wax layer while it’s cooling. I used some smooth river rocks that I stole from the garden in our front yard. If you get rocks from outside, give them a good scrubbing first, your fabric will thank you. You could also use any other object as a weight, as long as it’s heavy and rust-proof.

The wax will cool in a skin on the top of the water (Science!) and the fabric will remain safe and wax-free underneath. Now, you have to wait for the pot to cool entirely….

batiking wax pot cooling

The wax layer sometimes fractures as it cools- that’s alright, it won’t effect the awesomeness that’s about to go down.

Impatiences sparks ingenuity- I didn’t want to wait for it so I filled the sink with cold water and ice cubes so that the water inside the pot would cool faster. After you’re sure it’s completely cool (this next part won’t work if it’s not) it’ time to remove the wax. Take your wax-only tongs, and pinch the wax at one side of the pot, pulling up and around slowly. This bit reminded me of peeling Elmer’s glue off my fingers- it comes  off like a layer of skin. there may be some pieces stuck in a ring around the pot, but that’s okay, The water is cool so the wax can touch the fabric without anything bad happening.

wax removal from batiking pot

Voila! Wax off!

Put the wax on a paper towel to dry- the great thing about Batiking is that there’s very little waste! After you’re sure there are no more water droplets adhering to your wax, you can drop it back into your small wax pot and use it again! Then, get your stones out of the bottom of the pot so they don’t scratch it, pour the fabric out, and give it a good washing. If you can still see spots of wax, you didn’t boil it for long enough. and Voila! your batik project is complete!

finished batik sampler

Seems like I’m king of the blurry photos lately, but they’re the only ones I have…

After the test swatches, I made a head scarf using some of the rayon fabric I’m eventually going to make my dress out of, so that I could make sure it handled the dye adequately.

batik headscarf in progress

I got really good at those flower motifs…they look a tiny bit Hawaiian but I’m okay with that.

It dyed a little lighter than I was anticipating, and it seems like a lot of batikers have this problem. If you want to get dark colors, especially after multiple previous layers of dye have gone into the fabric, try some of Dharma’s after-soak. Basically, it sets some of the dye that’s still bonded to the water in your dye bath to the fabric,and you end up with richer, darker shades without having to soak for longer and risk having your soda ash dissolve the wax.

batik headscarf in progress

two more colors to go! The rayon was more tightly woven so the thicker Tjantings were necessary. They’re also excellent for filling in large areas.

After the batiking was done, all I had to do was hemstitch the edges and I had a brand new handmade headscarf! I’m so looking forward to this dress….

headscarf selfie

yay for grainy selfies!

There are a lot of applications for wax-resist color techniques- I sort of thought the most popular was batiking but that idea bubble was popped as soon as I started telling my friends what my plans were that weekend: “I’m Batiking!”… “You’re what?”… “Batiking!”… “That’s not a real word. You made that word up. What is that?”

India uses wax resist for batiking, the Ukraine uses it to make multicolored and beautiful eggs called Pysanki- something we used to do around Easter every year as a family before we ran away to college. China uses something called Guetta in place of wax to draw on silk, because part of the silk dyeing process involves very hot water (wax is no good melted!) There are some countries in Africa that do something very similar to batiking, but with different designs and usually earth tone colors.

This project was an incredibly good time, and I’m excited about more like it in the future. As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t particularly matter what I’m doing but I’m happiest if I can learn something from it.

 

 

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The first dress of 2014, and its first day out on the town.

So, here’s the thing. When you’re a student, you spend most of your time either in a classroom or doing homework. Sometimes all of your time. Sometimes so much time that there’s none left to spend on sleeping. Or eating. Or friends. When you’re working, it’s the same although I’ve been lucky so far to not have the kind of work that comes home with me, past the occasional entertaining story at the dinner table. When you’re travelling, there’s no time for crafty business but it’s alright because SELFIES! Sorry..It’s alright because you’re enriching your knowledge of culture and diversity and taking pictures of all of the exciting things (ahem)…

There’s not a lot of time for craftiness, unless you make it.

Usually.

Unless you’re in a holding pattern between Job A, Job B, and more travelling- in which case, you attempt to make up for all the crafting time lost!

I made this dress last month- in October- and it was the first dress I’d made yet this year, which is tragic. I have since nearly finished one more and have plans and fabric for a third, but that number is still much too low for something on my list of favorite things to do.

Grey and Brown Floral fabric for dressmaking

Floral doesn’t have to mean ‘old ladies’- and besides, in my experience old ladies are pretty awesome.

I found this fabric without really looking at Joanns, and brought home enough to make ‘some kind of dress’… Sometimes there’s a plan, most times there’s not.

bow shaped spacer beads

I decided upfront that I wanted it to lace up the back, so I got bow-shaped spacer beads to thread the laces through.

I drafted the lace-up bodice pattern myself, and then just kind of made up the skirt part as I went. The fact that this pattern only exists in my head, though, doesn’t mean it can’t be learned from.

Materials

  • 3 yards Brown Floral Fabric  (100% Cotton)
  • 1/2 yard Contrasting Grey Floral Fabric (also 100% Cotton)
  • 12 ft. of Grey Paracord
  • 10 Spacer beads (for lacing)
  • Contrasting silk thread for topstitching
  • Zipper (I eventually replaced mine with a metal one, after my invisible zip ended up having a flaw)
  • Lining fabric (I used some undyed muslin from the stash because I’m thrifty like that)

Having a bias tape maker was also helpful, since there’s a lot of that in this dress. Also the usual sewing machine, needles appropriate for the job, etc.

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And of course, I’d be nowhere without my mannequin, the trusty lady Lucille!

After making a mockup out of cheap woven fabric I keep around for precisely that job, and making sure it fit how I wanted it to, I started working on the bodice. I consists of 7 panels- center front with princess seams, then side front, side back, and center back. The center back piece supports the lacing. I had originally planned for the zipper to be at the center back, but that kind of went out the window when I decided there needed to be bias tape at the waist and a little design under the lacing. Side zips are easier to manage getting in and out of anyways.

floral dress bodice dressmaking process

Progress! This is where I figured out placement for the back laces. They’re functional but they also aren’t necessary because of the zipper.

After I had the bodice  constructed, I made the entire 1/2 yard of grey contrasting fabric into 1/4″ Bias tape. If you’re unfamiliar and you wish to be, there are excellent tutorials for this in most quilting books, which is how I refreshed my memory. I used a few inches of the tape to bind the center front, and then cut two 72″ pieces that bound the reset of the top edge, starting with the center back at the base of the lacing and then going up under the arms. When these pieces met the princess seam in the front, they became the straps, which cross in the back and then lace down. The bias tape is handstitched (invisible mattress stitch- my favorite!) closed over lengths of paracord which I used to add strength and roundness to the straps. I finally found an use for the stuff!

back of lace up floral hand sewn dress

Finished! My favorite part is the lower back… also check out those glove tan lines…

After adding the skirt (just six triangular pieces- take the waist measurement of the bodice, divide by six- that’s the measurement of each skirt panel, add seam allowance of course. The hem measurement was based on maximizing the fabric I had leftover.) I decided it needed some extra flair, so I used some of my (plentiful) leftover bias tape to add interest at the waist and hem. These pieces were pinned in place while Lucille wore the dress, and then machine top-stitched with yellow silk thread. I like silk because it tangles less, and the thread has a different sheen than cotton or polyester- and it stands off the surface in a lovely way. I also generally try to avoid sewing with polyester thread if what I’m sewing into is cotton. I’m not actually sure if it matters, but I like it anyways.

front of floral lace up handmade dress

Finished! Thanks to Val for taking pictures while I tried to figure out what to do with my face…

The hem is more bias tape (continuity!) with a top-stitched piece 2 1/2″ from the bottom. Because of the way the bodice is made, the skirt is lower in the back than it is in the front- the perfect length so that I’m not sitting my bare legs down on chairs and such! The nice thing about making your own clothes is that you can account not only for the way you’re shaped, but the way you prefer to wear them. All my store-bought dresses are a bit short, so I compensate by making all my handmade dresses a bit long. Things even out.

front of brown floral handmade lacing up dress

Yay for fashion shots of pretty dresses! Finishing projects like this just makes me want to start more…

I hope that if you happened upon this blog because you’re interested in dressmaking- that I have provided you with at least a bit of an explanation of the proceedings. One of the best parts about making new clothes is getting to wear them though, so that’s what’s happening next!

detail of floral handmade corset back dress

Check out that fabulous silk top-stitching!

Less than a week after finishing this dress, I drove up to the lovely city of Chicago for two days to catch up with Jon.

sheep selfie at the Bean in Millenium Park, Chicago

What actually happened was that Sheep decided he wanted to go on an adventure, and we spent the weekend running around Chicago taking photos for his instagram page.

The weather was spotty, but acceptable. We were for a short time trapped in a Starbucks due to the rain, but even that wasn’t too bad. We spent a day in the Museum of Science and Industry which was fantastically awesome- albeit dimly lit so photos were difficult.

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Blurry. But still a cool photo! It looked a bit like mars..

The building the museum is in is mostly underground so it looks oddly small on the outside- and then you wander in and realize that there are 12 planes including a Boeing 747 hanging from the ceiling…

Inverted Jenny

The ‘Inverted Jenny’ was a postage stamp from 1918 which, due to a printing error, featured an airplane then commonly called a Jenny upside down. They’re very rare now and worth up to $2.7 million dollars. I know this because I spend too much time in post offices.

This is a wonderful place! Full of not only exhibits that teach science in interesting ways (Launching balls across rooms over innocent bystanders below, anyone?) but also some pretty excellent historical artifacts.

museum of science and industry airplanes in chicago

 Sheep was enthralled by all the different methods of air travel. He’s very excited to do some more flying, and would maybe like to sit in a cockpit some day…

There was a special exhibit while we were there called ‘Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives’ which had a whole chronology of Disney- from the movies and shows to Disneyland itself. There were examples of the multi-plane camera technology he used early on, plus lots of models, sketches, and video clips, and some incredibly exciting newer stuff…like, say, costumes from some recent films…!

captain jack sparrow selfie at the museum of science and industry

The actual, real live Captain Jack Sparrow outfit from Pirates, because I am a Huge Nerd and not even sorry that its grainy…

I had no idea that these would be here and I think there was probably a scary amount of excitement going on…especially when I turned around:

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THE ACTUAL MAD HATTER OUTFIT (Also Alice was there holy crap) I may have died and gone to heaven because how is this even real life?

I MADE Alice and the hatter from photos right after this movie came out- I may have taken some liberties with the hatter, but seeing in person that my Alice was spot on- that was such a cool feeling. I’m sure that I got some strange looks for the complete freak out I had about the whole thing…. even Sheep was looking at me like I was a little nuts-o. Worth it. Worth it times a million.

 

After the Museum, we walked around the zoo for a bit (I love cities with free zoos. St. Louis’s is totally better though…Sorry, Chicago) and then headed off to Gino’s for some super tasty Chicago-Style Deep Dish pizza.

sheep visits ginos chicago style deep dish pizza in Chicago IL

In which sheep gives us insolent looks for not sharing.

The thing you have to understand about Chicago style deep dish pizza is that it’s basically cheese, flaky crust, a little bit of tomato sauce and toppings, and then some cheese… and some more cheese.

The thing you have to understand about me is that I love cheese.

That’s really all you need to know.

 

Day two of Chicago was some exploring of shops, and general walking about the city. What more fitting than to see this totally epic two story display of old sewing machines in front of a clothing store… in a dress I made myself! Many selfies were had by all… especially since we have some of the sewing machines that were displayed behind me.

old vintage singer sewing machine storefront in chigago selfie

I was a little sad to see hundreds of sewing machines in a place where nobody could access or use them, but it’s nice that they get to be seen by so many people this way, for they are beautiful.

I got lots of complements on my dress while we were walking around the city, and I love when strangers tell me I’ve done a good job on something like that… They have no motivation to lie to you so you know you’re doing alright.

chicago

We wandered into this building because it looked cool… It’s some kind of government building where none of the signs really tell you what goes on inside

We sat in a park to people-watch and were at one point offered free cookies- which is the marker of a fantastic day- and sheep was indeed very unhappy when it was time to leave.

sheep in Chicago

First time Sheep has gotten a perplexed look from a Taxi driver while posing for a picture… Worth it.

Chicago is another city I hope to be able to explore more at some point, and it seems like a pretty spectacular place to live- if a little windy. It’s nice also to be in such close proximity to the great lakes, because those are always good for an adventure or two. I’m so happy to be able to finally get back into making moderately large-scale projects again, something I’ve missed pretty incredibly basically the whole time I’ve been in school. Obviously, having a job slows things down a little but not as much as school ever did. There are so many more dress-related projects and assorted other crafty adventures to come, and I have never been so excited with the prospect!

 

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A Rainbow in Maine (with a little help from my friends)

It’s incredible to me- and I don’t think you can understand it unless you’ve experienced it- how quickly the people you meet in the places you end up go from strangers to best friends. I met so many people at camp, and I won’t forget a single one of them. They’re all such wonderful people, and sure, some of them got on my nerves sometimes (six cups of my coffee at once, Wojciech. We have to ration the caffeine!) and some of them I didn’t get to know as well as I would have liked (Brodsky- even though I’m still not sure if you’re a bigger feminist than me, you’re still pretty awesome.)

The only thing I can think that might be responsible for all the bonds we’ve formed is the environment that camp has created for us. Whatever it is, these people are my people now- and I love them all.

jonandsophie

Here’s my people taking selfies on my computer! (One of them didn’t know a selfie was happening. Does it count as a selfie if one of the participants is unaware?)

One very special and particularly important person is the reason I not only retained my sanity, but also ended up with rainbow hair for half of the summer! Ashley, it seems that this is the only photo I have of us together- which is tragic- but at least that night was loads of fun! I’ll have to come to New Jersey and then we can take a million selfies and I’ll do a blog post all about our adventures.

We both stayed up way past bedtime and painted a Manic Panic rainbow into my hair:

rainbow hair dying manic panic selfie

Excuse me while I have a moment where I miss all of my camp friends intensely…

After sending her an early-morning completed-hair selfie so that we could make sure that she was the first to see it (that’s only fair)- I paraded this new look around for the rest of camp!

As a side note to all you boys and girls out there who are afraid to dye your hair interesting colors because you’re afraid you’ll reduce your job prospects- that is silly. If I can do this, so can you. Rainbow hair, much like Camp, is all about expressing yourself in ways the rest of the world may not necessarily agree with, and it’s a good way to test out things before you take them out into the real world. I, for the record, also got hired and currently have a full time job in the field I went to college for and was hired for said job with this very head of rainbow hair.

Take that, society.

 

rainbow dyed hair

Don’t say tie-dye. It’s not tie dyed. There was no tying involved. Tie dye without the tying is just dye. It is, however, a rainbow- and that is excellent.

My freshly rainbowed hair coincided (totally on purpose) with my last two days off, which were spent wandering the busy streets of Boston and having Huge Nerd Moments about history (and teaching a certain person from New Zealand that The Boston Tea Party was not a literal tea party)…

sheep at the paul revere memorial and cemetery in Boston

Sheep had an excellent time in Boston, as it is full of photo ops, and sheep loves nothing more than having his picture taken! (except travelling. He likes travelling more than having his picture taken…)

Boston is a really excellent city for history-viewing, because it’s all in a very small, walkable area and they even have these clever lines in the sidewalk  (the freedom trail) to let you know if you’re close to something, and what it is. Paul Revere, incidentally, is buried in the same cemetery as Mother Goose, so we got to see that too. After time spent in some really interesting and cool graveyards, we headed to a shopping area to people watch (and, okay, maybe shop a little tiny bit…)

I found this giant rainbow slinky in Newbury Comics, and obviously a girl with rainbow hair who finds her first giant rainbow slinky has to document the experience…

Rainbow hair with a rainbow slinkey at newbury comics

Rainbow hair? Meet Rainbow slinky! I didn’t buy it… photo evidence is good enough.

Day two centered around a field trip to the Science Center- which is located next to a loch, and whose main set of windows overlooks a pretty spectacular skyline. There’s also a butterfly house on the roof (also overlooking said skyline)- which makes it practically the coolest thing I can currently think of.

They say if a butterfly lands on you it’s good luck- but what if it doesn’t stay there long enough for you to take a photo? One of this little guy’s friends sat on my wrist for a couple of seconds until he was distracted by a colorful flower.

These butterflies (much like the sheep in Bath or the ones in the pasture next to Stonehenge) don’t know how jealous I am that their views are better than mine.

Butterfly house overlooking Boston City Skyline

Am I learning about butterflies, or am I devising clever plans to move in to the butterfly house on the roof of the Science Center without the employees noticing…?

On our way to a fantastic little Irish Pub for dinner, we passed the site of the Boston Massacre, and Sheep insisted that we stop for selfies. Sheep insists that this is the epitome of American tourism and is not an opportunity to be missed.

sheep travels to visit the site of the Boston Massacre

There were a lot of people around for this photo. I think it’s possible that you actually get fewer looks when you’ve got rainbow hair and you’re taking photos of a stuffed animal than when you do it with ‘normal’ hair…. (I’m having a hard time with this. This IS my ‘normal’ hair….)

City Hall, where that particular historical event occurred, obviously still exists in Boston. The incredible thing about it, though, is that nothing else that originally surrounded it is still intact. Instead, it’s been blocked in by tall skyscrapers and taller skyscrapers. That little building has a completely different view of the world than it did when it was built, and I think it’s really wild that we get to experience it in this way.

City Hall at downtown Boston, Massacusettes

That’s essentially all of Boston, though. These small bits of historical oldness sandwiched between modern buildings and new-ness.

Boston was a great city, and perfect for doing all those touristy things you think about doing in places like that. It was, however- and very surprisingly so- the first city I’ve ever been to that I don’t think I’d want to live in. Places give you vibes I think, and Boston is a place of rushing and doing and getting done, and I’m not really looking for that kind of thing presently. It seemed disconcertingly… normal. Weird.

fourth of  july fireworks photography

Fireworks on the 3rd of July because we were all trying not to get blown away in the storm on the 4th….

In between all the sports photography I was up to during the day, I used my nights (and occasional early mornings) to my advantage. I love nighttime photos, so that sort of worked out. Opportunities like this sort of make up for all the balls you get hit with… occupational hazard.

star photography skyline

The deck of the wood shop overlooks Coffee Pond, and some pretty spectacularly starry nights are visible when the clouds are gone. (30 second exposure)

Just as things were beginning it seemed, the end of the eight weeks was upon us. I made my end-of-summer slideshows, we packed all the kids into busses to airports and trains, and suddenly camp was much emptier than it had been. I was feeling a little down when I got on my plane, but was swiftly cheered up by a very friendly delta flight attendant who presented Sheep and I each with a pair of Delta wing pins. Sheep wore his all the way home, and so did I.

sheep with a southwest airlines pin

Sheep’s face has a way of always fitting the mood. Clearly, he knows what’s going on in the world. And maybe secretly pleased that he got his very own seat on this airplane…

Camp couldn’t have been a more wonderful experience. I don’t actually know what I was expecting when I signed up in February (other than that I’d be able to delay getting a grown-up job by a few more months) but it turned out to be one of the most incredible summers I’ve had in my (short? long? time is relative, grasshopper) life. I’ve made friends from Canada to New Zealand, and I have couches to crash on all over the world. We all made some pretty spectacular memories, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing (except I maybe would have brought, like, three more hoodies and a sweater. Nights are cold in Maine…)

In addition to having made approximately 90 friends (and four or five new best friends)- and getting a chance to spend at least a little bit of time with that pesky sister of mine who was too busy travelling the world last year to be home pretty much at all- I also somehow evolved from a sun and physical activity/sports hating indoor person to a fairly outdoorsy, somewhat tanned person who hates sports slightly less. Okay, perhaps ‘evolved’ is too strong a word…No miracles were performed at camp (at least none by me…) but I realized there’s a lot more on the list of things I can do than I previously thought. I managed, for example, for the first time in my life to kick a soccer ball in exactly the direction I intended for it to go. I climbed (the easy side of) the rock wall, and took photos of kiddos from the top. I even attempted baseball, which hasn’t been a thing for years. I swam in the ocean, and I climbed a mountain.

I did literally climb a mountain but it’s also a metaphor.

It’s possible I would have learned all that stuff and tried all those things on my own accord, but it most likely would have taken me years to make it happen. Camp provides a safe and supportive place for everyone who shows up-campers and staff alike-to try things before they go back out into the real world; I took advantage of that, and it has instilled in me a desire to climb more mountains. As for the meeting of the people- there’s no way that would have happened without camp, and I’m so happy to have met every single one of them. Even the weird ones.

Especially the weird ones.

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