Archive for the 'tips, hints & other experiences' Category


how to: shopping without a car

The day I sold my car was summery, dry and warm.  Of course, the very next day the skies opened up, the temperature dropped to just above freezing – and I had no vehicle. It was as if the universe was testing me. This was also he first day of figuring out how to get around in this very car-driven (sic!) society. What about shopping?  How do I get home the carton of half gallon milk along with bread, eggs and a six pack?

blue bug fleeting

Of course, I can do this. Not only do I have a bike with a basket, I also signed up for Car2Go – where I can find a little Smart pretty much everywhere in my neighborhood.  This whole car situation and my renewed motivation to preserve to environment and live sustainably triggered a bunch of other observations and experiences.

What does it take to feel satisfied with your choices? How much does one need to live safe and comfortably?

I went to a fast-food outlet to get some lunch. We were on the road, with not much time to spare, and hungry. I chose a Mexican fast-food restaurant, they make some filling, not too offensive food. The quesadilla I had was done with a ‘four cheese’ mix and some salsa. Filled me up.  For the moment.  It did not take long and I was hungry again. And while I could have just gotten another little thing, the taste of the quesadilla lingered in my mouth, the salty quick fix and I almost wanted more. They say there is an addictive quality to fast food. And while I don’t think I got ‘hooked’ after one experience, I do get a sense on why people want this food – it never leaves you sated, well fed and happy.  You want more.  More of the addictive salty taste, the easy texture and non-offensive spices.

Inside Pike Place MarketAnd then, look at all the beautiful meals you can make out of these vegetables! You know what is going into your food, no additives, no processed stuff. My one-time fast food experience made me realize how good I feel when I prepare my own food and use interesting spices.

A few days later, I had a conversation with a customer about the book Overdressed. You know, the one where the author tries to shed light on the cheap clothing industry. The conversation was triggered by the recent fire in the garment factory in Bangladesh.  I equal the fast and cheap clothing industry to the fast food chains. Cheap, bland clothing leaves me just as dissatisfied as the quick meal. Yet, because the clothing is so cheaply made and basically un-interesting, people go back for more.  More bargains, more color for their -already- overstuffed closets.

Maybe I am generalizing here but the feeling you get when you wear a well-made, interesting garment on your body –  just leaves you … satisfied.

kattalin-023I can’t help it – but losing my car, this instant gratification at my fingertips, opened up a few pores and now I’m sensitive.

Or blame it on the full moon.


I’m saving for one.

In case you do not know about Peter Lappin of malepatternboldness – you have to get started on reading his blog. Not only is he wildly funny but he also knows how to sew. Many of his experiences I also had. I admire his zest for learning how to tackle difficult problems and the resulting tutorials. His photoshoots are priceless.

Peter lives in New York, has a passion for flea markets, vintage sewing machines and only began sewing in 2009, the time he started writing the blog. He is pretty much self-taught and has mastered quite a few techniques beautifully!

A few days ago, he wrote about the Bernina sewing machines and Switzerland, which hits right home with me for a number of reasons. 😉  In his post, he is asking readers about their opinion of the brand and whether or not it is worth the high price.  This entry must have gotten the most comments ever!  (most of them are positive, too)

I own a ‘Mercedes Benz’ of the overlock sergers and could not be happier.  It was worth every dollar I bled for it.


Maybe once in Switzerland, I should start saving for a Bernina.

Now go and read Peter!




rude awakening

A few days ago I finished this book:2013-04-09 11.05.28

I shall not give a book report here, there are good reviews out there like this one from the Huffington Post and a summary that I found on the author’s website.

Elizabeth Cline’s writing style did not really excite me but she sure gets her point across. And while I thought I knew a lot about the fashion industry, sewing and how seamsters are paid, I learned a LOT more.

Take for instance the amount of clothing that ends up in the landfill. I already knew that in Germany, when they are trying to ‘add’ more caskets to existing cemetery plots, they discover that more and more bodies haven’t decomposed the way they should have. This is due to the clothing the people are buried in.  More and more people are being buried wearing synthetic fibers and they take FOREVER  to decay. Here in the US burial practices are different (and we have way more room) , so this might not be an issue. However, the practice of donating used clothing to charities and thrift stores is very, very common. So much gets donated that it can’t possibly get sold, made into rags OR even be sent to developing countries.

Yes, you guessed right – it ends up in the landfill.  Where it doesn’t disintegrate. And pollutes the land.

The overabundance of ‘used’ clothing has much to do with the ‘overproducion’ of clothing, especially cheap clothing.

Most chain stores, especially stores like Target, H&M, Zara, Kohl’s, bring a constant flow of clothing into their stores. The sheer volume that gets sold at rock-bottom prices generates a nice profit for these stores. Cline interviews people in her book who confess to not even washing their clothing item – it was so cheap that they rather buy a new one.  Or they wash it a couple of times, it then falls apart and ends up in the trash, again. In addition, there is this thrill of owning something new, so these stores make sure that they turn over their stock every two weeks to a) make you come back often and b) buy something every time because it will be gone if you don’t.

Cline illustrates an aspect in the book that strikes home with me: sewing your own, caring for, mending and altering clothing.  She calls this the ‘slow clothes movement’. The point is that if you own something that is well made, out of nice fabric –  preferably wool, silk or cotton – you can have it for a long time. You may be able to alter an item into something more ‘trendy’, mend something that has a hole or re-fashion the entire garment into something new.

I’m all for that.

PS – this book is well worth the read, especially if you are a shopper.  Or a clothing horse like me.

The library has it.



This morning I was pulling a pair of socks out of my sock drawer and discovered

a big hole!

a big hole!

Lately, I have stumbled upon a few blogs on the interwebs which -actually- discuss MENDING, much to my surprise. Mending of old garments, carpets, embroidery… just about anything. For some reason I thought that mending was old-fashioned. That people rather buy new and not mend. Or enjoy the tattered qualities of their possessions. Unless you are as old as I am and your mother taught you how to mend.

Which is why I will share with you how to mend a good old-fashioned toe hole in a sock.  Because we all have them.

First, it is VERY helpful to have the appropriate tools to attempt mending a sock hole:

a darning egg, suitable color thread and an embroidery needle

a darning egg, suitable color thread and an embroidery needle

Instead of the darning egg (this one is from my grandma), you may also use a smooth rock or maybe a glass. However, you will need something to spread out the hole over, because otherwise you’ll either prick your finger or you will end up with an unsightly glob of thread.  It DOES help if you have the right color darning wool for your sock but you might enjoy a patchwork look. Lastly, a needle with a big enough eye to thread your yarn. An embroidery needle helps, especially one with a dull point so as not to break the threads of your sock. I just use what I have, which in this case is a pointed one.

My mother taught me to basically ‘weave’ a patch into the hole.  You start the patch by adding a few lines of thread by going back and forth over the hole, picking up a few threads at either end. I leave a bit of space between the lines, the closer they are, the tighter your patch will be.

see how helpful the darning egg is?

see how helpful the darning egg is?

Then you start the actual weave; again picking up a few threads at either end, you move over one line of thread, then under.  On the way back, move UNDER where you went over and move OVER where you went under. One up, one down , using the needle to lift the darning thread.

one up, one down - see?

one up, one down – see?

(Of course, I had to use black for this sock – which is harder to photograph than anything!)  I usually try to match the stitches of the sock and weave as tight or loose as the sock is knit.

Finishing up, I  also weave through the neighboring stitches  – as you can see, they also look worn and may produce the next hole right away!

helping the thinning sock...

helping the thinning sock…

Voila!  That wasn’t too bad, eh?



my love/hate relationship: airplanes

My first love was the train.

For hours and hours I would watch the train tracks and dream myself to places where the train could take me.

I was almost 20 when I took my first flight – to Athens, Greece. I still remember where I sat on the plane and how grown-up I felt.

I kept my first boarding passes; Israel, South America were among my first itineraries – I was just too excited to throw them out.

Since then I’ve lost track how much I fly. Living pretty much at the very edge of the Western World, I rely on airplanes to get me anywhere. If I want to see some of my best friends, I have to fly. If I want to see my aging relatives, I have to fly. If I want to see my brother, cousins, nieces and nephews, I have to fly. If I want to travel to warmer climates, I have to fly too.

I have a love/hate relationship with airplanes and airlines.

on my way to Chicago - Mt. Hood in the distance

on my way to Chicago – Mt. Hood in the distance

I feel for the flight attendants who have to keep a smiling face at every passenger who tries to squeeze yet another overstuffed bag in the  – already overloaded – overhead bins. I would never try to get at my fellow passenger’s throat with a plastic knife. I’m glad I do not have ‘chicken or pasta?’ for my regular dinners.

I love it when they deliver my lost bag to the door because it somehow went through Montreal, Canada.

I am on so many frequent flyer programs and sometimes forget where can I redeem my miles.

I resent lingering on ugly concourses. I have missed a few flights because I hate to waste time at the airport and am cutting it too close.

And yet, for the the most part, I fly because I am  A TOURIST – I CHOOSE to fly, I’m glad I don’t have to do it for work.  I look forward to getting to my destination, even with a screaming headache.

Zurich airport - that plane will take me to Lisbon!

Zurich airport – that plane will take me to Lisbon!

Heraklion, Crete - going home :(

Heraklion, Crete – going home 😦

I’m not really grumpy – I only wish I could time-travel to see you next time!



Where I (also) shop.

As many of you know, I own a small beautiful clothing store and pride myself in selling high-quality fashionable clothing. My bread and butter comes from the lovely customers who support an independent retailer and are willing to spend the money to wear something nice.

So I fear very much the arrival of the the book ‘Overdressed. The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion’, which I have on hold at the library. Not only will I find out about clothing production, especially overseas, I am also afraid that I cannot look at fashion the same way ever again.  And that includes the items I sell at my own store and frequently buy for myself.

This is precisely the reason I have to write what I am about to write about TODAY and not after I’ve read the book.

I do trek to the outlet mall. I also buy clothing at thrift stores.

my latest find - an awesome LEATHER jacket

my latest find – an awesome LEATHER jacket

There you have it. I confessed.

I know, this is not a big deal and I don’t have nightmares about it. I partly justify my mall-ventures with the fact that I ONLY do it about once or twice a year. And, of course, there is nothing wrong with buying and wearing second hand clothing.

I have found incredibly unique items, discounted, sometimes in need of repair or alteration… and most of them I love dearly.

Anni Kuan beaded sweater

Anni Kuan beaded sweater

a reworked '60ies skirt and a thrift store jacket

a reworked ’60ies skirt and a thrift store jacket

So far, I have included pictures from finds at the outlet mall (the orange leather jacket), eBay (beaded sweater), the thrift store and my aunt’s closet (skirt and cord jacket).

this coat was half off on an already really good price

this coat was half off on an already really good price

striped tights, 2nd hand jacket

‘free’ jacket, dress sewn by me

What’s more – I sometimes find something in a ‘free’ box on the side of the road, such as the black long jacket above. I thoroughly cleaned this one, shortened the sleeves and mended some holes.

Maybe this is a good balance after all. My closet has everything that was priced ‘free’ to several hundred of dollars.

What about you?  Where do you shop and how do you feel about it?





update … and a close call

It is a good thing that squirrels have long, bushy tails. Otherwise that poor critter would have met his demise when he hurled out of the park and onto my bike tire. He scared the hell out of me, too. Lucky for him, the combined weight of me and my bike along with my speed only hit his tail and he wooshed away as fast as he had come.

Which reminded me that I owe you all an update.

Remember the snake that I mistook for a fireworks wrapper and almost killed this summer? He kept us busy for quite a while – I had posted him on Craigslist and M. (the dad)  asked around the neighborhood for a few weeks.  The first improvements to Mr. Slither’s life came in the form of graduating form his temporary cardboard box to a glass terrarium. Then M. and his family took him to be examined. By now, his kids had taken a BIG liking to Mr. Slither. Now a good 5 weeks after finding him, we still had no bites (sic!) on the ad or the neighborhood.  And so they decided to keep him. A happy ending indeed.

The other neighborhood development I was following included the destruction of a ranch home in my street. While I still believe that the house they took down was in decent shape, I understand that sometimes it might be more cost-effective to take down rather than repairing.  However, this place was just demolished and taken to the dump.  In my mind that is careless, unsustainable and a total waste.  I much rather have them dismantle the place and reuse the materials (like they have done next to the shop – that is another blog post, though).

They finished the buildings.  Yes BUILDINGS, plural.

picture taken at the end of July

These houses are large and very high.  For comparison, look at the cottage to the right. I love Portland but I don’t get that they will allow such out-of-scale additions to the neighborhood.

They also have a garage at the end of a long driveway and a picnic table sized yard.

taken October 17. for sale.


Flickr Photos


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