Close-up of Kielo wrap dress tie detail + my knit fabric from Girl Charlee. Notice the gold flecks (threads) in the fabric!
Laying out the 4 pattern pieces on my new large cutting table! (Only 3 pieces if you exclude the sleeves.)
Hello from Vietnam! If you’ve been keeping up with my instagram you’d know that I’m on the other side of the world! One of my oldest friends from elementary school has found the love of his life in Hanoi and I couldn’t be happier to be here to celebrate. And that’s where this Kielo wrap dress comes in. I wanted to wear a nice dress for the wedding that was appropriately chic for the occasion while being able to throw this dress in my luggage without worrying about silly things like wrinkles. Hanging this up in a hot shower room = problem solved.
Am I the only one that feels that clothes look about 100% better on the human it’s made for verses the dress form? This time I do stand corrected – I absolutely LOOOOVE how this Kielo wrap dress draped on my form.
(Sidenote – it’s times like these I wish I had a catchy/cutesy name for my dressform. Oh well.)
But how this dress decided to look on ME!? Not all the fireworks that I had invisioned in my mind, to be completely honest. I’m pretty confident though that I’m the harshest critic of my work that I know of. But even that being said, there’s a couple of things that bring me to that final conclusion:
1. This fabric. It looks nice, but do you notice the chevron faintly peeking through in the last photo? This could be a problem. I’m wearing this dress to a wedding today, and I really don’t want to find out later what happens to all photos taken with flash while wearing a black bra underneath this dress. I am already committing to black drugstore tights while the average weather here in Hanoi has been around the mid to low 70’s F during the day and no wind. To camisole or not to camisole? That IS the question.
2. And this fabric (part deux). Did I mention I ordered this specialty knit online? I have come to find out first hand that Girl Charlee is fantastic, and they have quite the selections of knits online to choose from. Only problem is, I’ve never been the no-look no-feel type of fabric purchaser. The screenshot looked great and the amount of stretch the fabric description gave seemed perfect, but if I had handled this fabric in person I definitely would’ve passed on it. Between the sheerness, lack of enough stretch and the just so-so drape, I know I could’ve chosen other suitable options.
Despite my complaints, I do really like the style of this dress! It is a great beginner’s pattern, and I think it looks extra sophisticated with the FREE added sleeve modification pdf pattern + instructions. More on my actual thoughts on the pattern later, but truly not bad for my first go at this pattern.
You didn’t really think I did a muslin first, did you? Lol.
Anyway, I must start getting ready for the wedding! Pics to come. Xo
Wool and the Gang beginner knitting set. BEYOND excited about this!
Before I get to the bad stuff, first things are first – how cute is this company? Their play on words is absolutely genius. This photo alone pays homage to the epic 70’s r&b band, an unforgettable 90’s rap girl trio and the one-and-only Snoop Dogg himself via one skein of 100% Peruvian wool yarn and mammoth knitting needles. Consider me impressed and excited to once again try to learn this skill called knitting.
Obviously it’s the holidays, so I wasn’t just completely being selfish here. Last year, I ran a sweatshop out of my parents house and made a total of 80 coasters to give as gifts for friends. Since this year I’ll be working through both of my favorite holidays, I just didn’t have the energy to be the bearer of awesome homemade gifts for 20 friends again. But I’ve had my eye on Wool and the Gang for around three years now. I couldn’t help but take advantage of their buy 2 get 1 free (for ME!) gift deal and snag a beginner knit kit for both my best friend and my bf’s mom to enjoy this Christmas.
I swiped the freebie gift for myself because I’ll definitely need some sort of new creative distraction after dealing with crazed holiday travelers for these next 2 weeks straight. And this seriously may be the only gift I get this year anyways, so I refuse to feel bad about it! Besides, I seriously can’t wait to see how this turns out for all of us!! I think if you already know how to knit, this Lil’ Snood Dogg project could take you less than 2 hours to complete. That surely won’t be happening here, but honestly I will be so incredibly impressed with myself if I can figure this out soley via the online tutorials, haha.
Regardless, I managed to somehow squish my beginner kit into my rollerboard so the finished result will most likely be modeled on one of my layovers before the New Year (hopefully). I’m going to Canada a few times, so I would love to have it ready for snow!
Konichiwa! Tokyo is definitely a great city to visit anytime of the year, but this time I had my heart set on visiting during the cherry blossom season. Unfortunately my friend and I were a week late for it AND it rained the first 2 days of our visit -_-
But no worries! We made the best of our trip and I scoured the drugstores and markets bringing some goodies back for my friends. I usually bring boxes of flavored Kit-Kats, but this time I decided it would be fun to try out a few Japanese beauty products instead!
Also on this visit, I got a chance to stuff my face at the Tsukiji fish market, which is THE largest wholesale fish market in the entire world!
That’s sweet egg on a stick with a radish-based sauce? Whatever it was, it was seriously bomb. If you are curious about the street foods in the market, you can see a few food porn pics on my IG account.
Just to let you know that in this video of course I’m all about THE FOODS; from touch-screen sushi to the fish market finds. But care to see my swanky capsule hotel and some clips around the big city? Check out my latest visit smashed into 3 minutes!
This is the story, er guide, of 2 college friends from Houston, TX that decided to take a 5-day trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai together. Read on for details of how we found inexpensive flight tickets, things to do, and helpful tips of how to get around.
Overall, Dubai is a very safe city. So many expats and travelers from all over come to Dubai for work and play alike. Language was never an issue for us; the majority of folks you’ll encounter will speak both Arabic and English. The city offers a varied cuisine, most especially in the area of Old Dubai. In the more contemporary areas they have an overwhelming amount of popular American joints that you already have at home, but there are also lots and lots of middle eastern food spots to try too.
Keep on the lookout for great flight deals. Scoring cheaper flights really helped with budgeting for a trip like this from the beginning. Theflightdeal.com offered a fare alert on Christmas Day last year to Abu Dhabi from DFW. I was able to book on Orbitz (my friend used Priceline) with a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany for $378 – roundtrip and all taxes included! At that price, I didn’t care if we had to sit with the cargo. But you have to be really fast on the draw because fares like that go insanely quick!
Just a note if you are traveling on Etihad airlines. I must say, they are awesome! The food in Economy was actually fantastic (no plasticware!), plugs/usb connections available at your seat, and the in-flight entertainment was great. If you are flying into Abu Dhabi first, Etihad offers a complimentary shuttle to Dubai if you reserve up to 24 hours before your flight. It’s a 75 minute ride on a clean bus with free bottled water, mints, and onboard entertainment. It takes you to the Etihad Travel mall, which is within an easy walking distance from the ‘Noor Bank’ Metro station. (More on the Metro later.)
If you do have time to visit Abu Dhabi, the Sheikh Zayed mosque is a MUST SEE. We planned most of our trip time to be spent in Dubai, but since we were flying into the capital of the UAE we dedicated our first morning to visit the ‘Grand Mosque’. Not only is it the most expensive, one of the world’s largest, and only one of two mosques in the entire UAE that is open to non-Muslims, it’s absolutely exquisite!
Visitors are welcome to take as many pictures as they’d like, but respectful dress and manner is strictly enforced. I tried to take a shot of my friend putting a little sass in her hips while holding her arms up in a ‘V’, but a guard kindly told us not to take any “action” pictures in front of the mosque. Also, ladies, make sure that you are dressed appropriately when you are on the grounds. A long dress or pants is recommended, and definitely a shirt that covers the “girls” and your shoulders well. Be sure to bring your own scarf with you to cover your head too if you’d like to wear your own clothes. If you aren’t completely compliant, it’s definitely okay. We didn’t bring our own scarves, so we were given an ‘abaya’ to wear; a loose robe or overgarment that covers the entire body with the exception of your face, hands, and feet. Just be ready to hand over your ID in exchange for it. Also know that you will be taking off your shoes when you walk the interior area, so sandals or easy flats are a good idea.
I would highly recommend starting your visit early to avoid the crowds and the heat. The mosque opens at 9am most days with the first free guided tour of the day beginning at 10am. Admission into the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is completely free!
People come from all over to be thrown around the sand in a jeep and pose with a camel. Do yourself and your travel buddies a favor and book a Desert Safari. We met folks from various parts of India, Russia, Australia, Germany and of course a few locals that were getting in on the experience too. Believe it or not, one of the easiest methods of booking a safari tour on the cheap is Groupon. The itinerary usually includes a meal, a crazy ride over the dunes, a camel ride, henna, an area to try on traditional clothing, and live belly dancing. There are several companies to choose from, so be sure to read the fine print and check Tripadvisor.com to do a little comparison shopping. The company we selected picked up and dropped us off at our hotel afterwards, so it definitely made transportation a non-issue for us. Although the weather in mid-March was rather mild, we chose a sunset tour to avoid the heat of the day and to take the best photos.
Got Camel milk? While you are in Dubai, why not treat yourself to a ‘Camelccino’ or ‘Camellatte’? At The Majlis Dubai cafe, located on the ground floor of Dubai Mall in the middle of the ‘souk’ (a bazaar or outdoor market) you can order a variety of coffees with the camel milk added. Camel milk is extremely high in iron, vitamin C and low lactose. Unlike the tang of goat milk, camel is extremely similar in taste to cow milk. It’s very mild and smooth with a slight aftertaste. Although we only tried the chocolate camel milkshake (which was absolutely delightful) and a cold glass of plain camel milk, they also offer camel milk muffins, ice cream, chocolates and more!
Also, lots of people pose and take pics with the camel statues in front of the cafe area, so be prepared to take a ask a stranger for a quick shot or get your selfie-stick ready. I brought a couple boxes of camel milk praline chocolates home as gifts for my close friends and my parents, which they really enjoyed!
Cross the Old Dubai creek by ‘abra’ + visit the souks! Abras are little wooden boats that ferry passengers from one side of the creek to the other, are incredibly frequent, and will only cost you 1 Dirham (approximately 27 cents)! It is a short ride 5 minute ride, but it’s really the most convenient and charming way take in the city’s history by floating between Deira and Bur Dubai.
Walking the souks are so much fun, but be aware of aggressive sellers everywhere trying to get you to see/buy their wares! Everything from belly-dancing costumes and pashminas in any color/design to Louis Vuitton knockoffs is available for sale, but don’t accept the first price you get. HAGGLE BEFORE YOU BUY ANYTHING!
Visit the only completed World Island of Lebanon. This cluster of artificial islands were developed to make an approximate map of the world, but the project hasn’t been touched much since 2006. My travel buddy found yet another deal on Groupon that lets you hang out on one of the islands! The $95 included boat transport to and from the mainland, an included meal, a select adult beverage, kayak rental, and a chance to kick back on the private island of Lebanon while looking back at the Dubai skyline. Honestly, it’s an experience that could be passed up since it’s just hanging out on a relatively sparse island amongst other nearby mounds of sand on the water, but I’d imagine the top-down helicopter view would be pretty interesting though. If nothing else it was an excuse to do some sunbathing and posing on a unique part of history.
The Burj Al Arab, the world’s “7-star hotel”, is a beautiful architectural feat standing on a man-made island and designed to look like a sail. This is also the 3rd tallest hotel in the world. The interior of the hotel has grand gold columns, unbelievable floor tiles, solid swarovski crystal door ways and other extravagant eye-fulls (see video for views inside). Unless you are a guest at or have a dining appointment at 1 of the 9 restaurants in the hotel, you aren’t even permitted on the premises. We booked an afternoon tea online at the Junsui restaurant several weeks prior. It consisted of 7 light courses, your choice of two teas and an amazing view for about $112 per person. Oh it’s expensive, but the experience is amaze! Not to mention the wifi connection is FLAWLESS.
If a visit inside the Burj Al Arab hotel doesn’t sound the least bit interesting to you budget-wise, be sure to get an almost equally incredible (and complimentary) view from Jumierah Beach.
How to get around and where to stay.
Limit your Taxi use. Honestly the first two days we relied on taxis to get everywhere, which got expensive rather quickly. Not to mention the traffic was terrible most of the time. It wasn’t until day three that we actually wised up and realized how extremely easy it was to just use the Metro. It is so much more efficient and the facilities were so clean! We usually paid for a daily pass from the automated kiosk so we could hop on and off of the train as much as we pleased for about 22 AED (approximately 6 USD). The kiosks accepted both Dirhams and credit/debit cards.
Just a quick note for the male travelers on the Metro. Watch for some signs that designate zones for women and children only. Sure, we saw plenty of men sitting/standing in these zones too, but an official randomly came on one of the stops and fined at least 10 guys 100 Dirham each (approximately 27 USD) for breaking the rule. They were all escorted off at that stop too. Just be sure to read all signs, well, everywhere! You can also be fined 100 dh for eating or drinking, and there is no gum-chewing allowed on the train either. Smoking is prohibited too of course (200 dh penalty).
If you choose to stay in the more contemporary areas of Dubai, I definitely recommend staying in a hotel close by a Metro station. We stayed at City Max hotel (Al Barsha) which couldn’t have been more perfect. For 4 nights my travel partner and I split a room with double beds about $180 each total for a place in walking distance from Emirates Mall, which is connected to a Metro station.
City Max hotel has free wifi in the rooms, they offered a sign-up sheet for (free) shuttle times to and from Jumeirah Beach, has a gym, and rooftop pool. The downstairs area included a small cafe, restaurant with buffet, small night club on one side, and a small sports bar on the other with the lobby area in the middle. A taxi was always available if we needed and an ATM is located near the entry. Not to mention the hotel staff were very accommodating!
Here’s a link to a downloadable Dubai metro route map to keep handy on your phone or other portable device.
Extra things recommended to bring with you:
A travel adapter with a USB and two outlet spaces. I ordered the OREI 3 in 1 UK travel adapter plug with USB and Surge Protection, type G (in the USA we use types A & B). City Max hotel did have at least one adaptable outlet available in the rooms already for our use, but it was great to have at our 1-night hotel stay in Abu Dhabi (which didn’t) and while waiting for the airport shuttle in the Etihad travel mall. Besides, trying to find an available plug in an airport can serve as a challenge since everyone needs to power-up their devices at the same time. We only needed to use a single plug to charge 3 different devices, thus avoiding being that typical charging station jerk taking up multiple outlets.
Speaking of recharging devices, I also purchased the Anker 2nd generation lipstick-sized portable battery charger for my iphone. Most of our time was spent outside of the hotel room, so it was super handy to have an option for back-up charge on the go. It charges up to 150% (or a total 1.5 times on a single charge).
The final addition to my packing was this pocket guidebook to Dubai. This small guidebook was an easy flip-through on the plane ride with details on Abu Dhabi as well. The included full-color pull-out map came in extra handy when we got a little turned around trying to locate some areas in Old Dubai. I mean, yah you could get the kindle version for like a $1 less, but you miss out on the map and it’s actually convenient to have at least one tool in your travel bag that doesn’t rely on a battery.
If I had another 5 days, this would definitely be on my list to do & see.
Lastly, 7 minutes of your life that you will never get back.
If you’re interested to see a bit more, here’s a collection of randoms and candids from our trip that I (lightly) edited for my youtube channel.
Welp, that’s about it! If you have any questions about my trip, please ask below. From now own, I intend to write more reviews after my travels to pass along any information that I have. Hope this helped!
I’m making it a point in 2015 to try to sew more for myself regardless of all the other things that get in the way. That means hand sewing or project planning on both work and fun travel days. Days at home mean quality time on my machine. No excuses.
It has been so tiring – but so fun!
If you follow me on Instagram (@diyraven) you’ve already seen a sneak peek of the box pleated skirt (Butterick #B5929) that I’m making out of one of the fabrics that I purchased on my last Japan visit. I’m almost finished, but I had to complete this kimono ASAP before my trip to Abu Dhabi/Dubai coming up this week after my 4-day work trip!
In the UAE it is required for ladies to dress modestly in public (covering shoulders to knees), but most long sleeves I own are for cold weather only. Dubai is going to be pretty blazing hot, so (at the last minute of course) I dug out this recently purchased Simplicity pattern from my collection. I bought 1.25yds of a light, silky polyester fabric and lace trim from JoAnn fabrics and got to work that evening on this kimono.
Even though I was a bit hesitant how the cropped version would look and although I had a couple confusing moments during the construction of this little garment, I’m so pleased with how it turned out! I’ll be able to cover up all my tanks and skimpy tees without being offensive NOR having a heat stroke. It also won’t hardly take up any space in my luggage.
That last statement is actually the most important because I really need the extra space to bring back new FABRIC!!
1. Strolling along Waikiki Beach in Oahu, Hawaii (!!!!!) 2. Panoramic shot of Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve in Oahu. 3. This is what you look like after you swim with a school of fish in Hanauma Bay. AMAZING. 4. Me in front of the Naritasan Shinshoji Temple, which is one of the largest temples in Japan. Want a fun fact? We got here by accident. The cab driver dropped us here instead of our hotel….which is why I’m pictured at the temple entrance with my luggage. So frankly I still have yet to visit the grounds. Talk about lost in translation. 5. Apparently this is the best place to go for fresh Unagi (Eel) !! 6. Me in my latest handmade look on these Japanese streets! 7. Front + back look at Simplicity pattern #2222, version B. 8. Closer details of buttons, drawstring enclosure + pockets.
Since embarking on my third decade of existence, it seems like every birthday I get the recurrent itch to spend a few days as a clothing minimalist choosing to strictly live in only cute bikini tops + bottoms. This also means giving up real shoes, everyday life stresses and my usual concerted effort to avoid terrible tan lines and the overall process of natural skin-darkening in general. I think my back JUST finished peeling, and if I dropped trou right now I am totally the Coppertone girl doppleganger. I spent 3 full days in Hawaii tanning and catching sand between my toes (and other crevasses) for a living.
I am 31, and I have no regrets.
And I actually got in the water. Like, I didn’t just dance along the coastline and let those baby waves cover my shins this time. With some major coercing from the fellow pictured above I went rolling in the deep. Er, more like wading on a floater board that is. I’m so in love with the ocean, but it’s a beautiful force I’m deathly afraid of. It’s something about viewing the world as merely a head above water and all that is visible to you is endless sky stacked on a layer of endlessly unsettled water with no ounce of land cut in between because it’s mysteriously hiding somewhere far below your feet. Even the smallest wave becomes your own personal giant that can reel you far from the shore. The same shore where those people you recall who were your size now look a like a collection of ants on a sandy ledge.
Yep. That doesn’t sound unsettling at all.
But I didn’t come all the way to paradise to stop living. The next day we went snorkeling and even with a florescent life preserver I was terrified too. Did you know they have prescription goggles for blind folks like me??!! I was so impressed. All the while I wanted to breath through my nose, and I sincerely panicked when water seeped through my equipment a few times. But I did the whole little mermaid thing. Not to mention the romantic swimming hand-in-hand thing (he’s going to kill me for this, lol). These awful tan lines were not earned in vain I tell you.
Then onto Asia. This marks my 3rd time back to Japan. My Japanese tongue is still underwhelming. I told a hotel cleaning staff person ‘good evening’ at 8 in the morning. Oh well, I do try.
We spent two hurried and rainy nights at a hotel in Narita, which is the enclave nearest Tokyo airport. Japan is 19 hours ahead of Hawaii, so we lost a day and gained more jet lag. Determined not to be total bums, we managed to get a nice dinner out and some drinks in the city before his journey back to base in southern Japan and my 12-hour flight back to Houston.
I made this outfit in time for my birthday, so it would’ve been a total waste if I didn’t wear it out on the town. As with most shorter dress patterns, the skirt is always a bit TOO short for my taste. It’s my *ahem* backside. Other than that I think it turned out pretty awesome! I initially had other plans for this fabric, but this romper-style option from my pattern stash with racer-back detail AND pockets was too good to pass up. Not to mention a quicker project to sew overall.
Getting older is supposed to be terrible I think, but I couldn’t be happier about my 30s so far. Goals for next birthday definitely include going to another amazing beach, but not being as terrified of the water next time. So I guess the first step is learning how to swim beyond doggie-paddling and the deadman’s float in a regular pool.
And I’d also like to learn a little bit of French. Is that totally random?
It’s a small world until you sit on a plane for 13 hours sitting as an uncomfortably captive time traveler. I’m too cheap to swipe my card for in-flight entertainment, even for a travel so long. I had stayed up the entire night before my departure day and kept my goal intact – remaining sleep to reduce jet lag and peek up at the interactive flight map every now and then just to see how much longer until we arrived. But even with a few good naps, you just can’t cheat time.
Just realize that these are the opposite of complaints though. 18 days were spent taking in a new country and language, spending more life than you’d think on public transportation (even the old folks play portable handheld games to pass the extra time), lots of pantomiming to communicate, discovering Chu-his in all of their wonderful varieties, LOTS of noodles + sushi, and last but not least – my first squatter toilet experience.
Which, after checking out the above link, I realize that I totally used it backwards the 3 times I used it.
But I mean whatever, right? I MADE IT WORK.
Three perfect days in Tokyo. Akihabara during the day + night.
But before you shudder at the thought of squatting into a porcelain hole in the floor, I mean how nasty are usual restrooms right? I usually squat and hover anyway in public restrooms, but obviously not as low of course (TMI?) They are arguable considered more sanitary because you are not sharing bare-booty germs with another person. Plus you get a workout out of the deal.
Please realize I’m not an advocate, I’m just saying.
Actually bidets are more prevalent there though. Friends, this is a toilet that is plugged into the wall. And they’ve got mad features such as controlling the pressure of the *ahem* water stream (it’s optional to use, but I was terrified every time), electronic flushing or other more “pleasant” sounds to mask “other” sounds, a seat warmer, and an air freshener. Sometimes they have a sink included on top (where the tank is) that dispenses water when flushed so you can wash your hands immediately. It’s not gross. In fact it’s eco-friendly and smart, especially seeing as though toilet water is actually potable (or drinkable). My architecture background taught me that.
But, thank the heavens it is clean water! Because I used a bidet toilet in a public restroom around day 12-13 of my visit, and I had convinced myself that I would try once more to use the feature. It was at nice coffee shop connected to an even nicer office building. So after business was done, I adjusted the stream to a med-low setting and hit the Go button. But something in me didn’t want to do it anymore, so I quickly shot up and looked down at this apparatus that was slowly peeking out from the back of the bowl. Pants down and no longer committed to this decision, I panicked and before I could figure out what picture icon could be the Cancel button, water shoots up as I furiously try to dart backwards in the stall. Yeah, of course there’s nowhere to go though right? Bidet water on the floor, some on my shoes, and dribblings on my jeans. This was straight I Love Lucy style. But I washed my hands, grabbed my purse and my dignity and told not one soul when I went back into the coffee shop.
This wasn’t the highlight of my trip, but is it fair to admit that it kinda blew my mind? And like who else is going to give you the dirty details like me.
Exactly. So you can thank me later when YOU visit Japan.
Overlooking the neighborhood from the apartment I stayed at in Sasebo.
Westerners Bar (all senior lady bartenders in cowgirl gear!)
Sasebo, Japan (Naval Base)
This is where I end up spending most of my time. Sasebo is a definitely a slower pace than the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Kyoto, Fukuoka, and other major cities in Japan. It’s also home to a U.S. Naval base that I was able to visit. It was just so strange to step over base lines and feeling like being in little America. Obviously everyone on base speaks English, they’ve got their own movie theater and a few popular American chain restaurants (the last time I’ve eaten Taco Bell was in Japan!), and their major box-type store even carried black hair care products. That last fact alone was awesome, because it’s not like I was going to find them anywhere else!
I met some really great people. Some of which I could successfully talk to, and others I could not. But I did learn a few basic Japanese words to use along with my arsenal of over-exaggerated, yet universal, facial expressions. I had morning/midday/evening greetings, please, thank you, and water DOWN. That’s about as far as I got. But just as it’s fairly common to learn Spanish as a second language here in school, it’s the same there for English so many people are pretty darn helpful. Lots of menus have at least some English translation, and many restaurants I came across had plastic food displays of the meals offered on the menu in the windows along with prices.
So, I’ll just stop there. It’s just getting so long, and I could definitely ramble on more about it all. If there’s anything specifically you want to know though, even if it’s more about bathroom stuff, don’t hesitate to ask! I seriously had an AMAZING time, and I actually wanted to extend my stay. I would recommend to anyone to visit there and create your own adventures, because I definitely plan to go back someday. My wanderlust is just getting started.