Holland Hup!

This is what the signs are saying in many shop fronts, with displays of brilliant orange feather boas (something for the lady soccer football supporter), t-shirts, soccer footballs and bunting. Although when they’re following a game in an airport terminal say, in Frankfurt, the Dutch seemed amazingly restrained. Two handclaps and a brief cheer at my airport gate and even that included the Dutch national swimming squad who could be forgiven for sporting zeal.

Already, I am in love with Leiden. So pretty, such a human scale, friendlyand it has a university. The other posters in the street remind us that it is Leiden University’s 435th anniversary this year. It is very difficult to stop myself from parking myself in front the Political Sciences Department until they give me a job. In the meantime I shall content myself with scenery such as this.


The Douro Riverfront

If you’re in Porto there are two things you must do: visit a port cellar and take a boat cruise. The commentary isn’t particularly interesting unless you’re a structural engineer (lots of bridges) but it is a fabulous way to see Porto.

This is the view to Ribeira, part of the World Heritage old town.

This bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffel.

And the locals go about their business.

There’s a renovation opportunity as well, though I suspect the heritage overlay may be a little bit restrictive.


I felt so at home in the cellars – it’s about the only time I don’t mind being underground. The dirt smelled different to Rutherglen dirt but the rest of it was like a wine tasting at home.

And how’s this for completely brilliant? They make a white port and serve it chilled. It’s delicious.


The following admission will come as no surprise to my nearest and dearest.

I get lost very, very easily.

The asperger’s diagnosis at least explains why – I have discalculia which is often associated with it – and that means I don’t have a very good relationship with numbers. Or space. Or maps.

The kids don’t panic nearly so much now when I turn into a side street and grab the Melways. I think they’ve figured out that the sooner I recognise I’m geographically misplaced, the easier it usually is. A slightly longer car trip perhaps, but not an epic voyage.

Porto is not helping me. And I have the blisters to prove it.

Apparently my hotel is walking distance to the university. It was, after one and a half hours walking in new shoes, and realising the hotel staff had directed me to the wrong university. Fortunately I walked home the first day with two other attendees staying at the hotel. I carefully memorised landmarks (the birds would’ve eaten breadcrumbs) and safely navigated my own way thereafter.

Anything other than that daily walk is a bit of a problem. While I’ll readily admit I’m responsible for deciding to turn left instead of right, I’m not the one making these bloody awful tourist maps. Conference attendees have taken to comparing different tourist maps, just to see if one has more landmarks on it or street names.

The one I have conveniently leaves off some of the street names. It helpfully labels the major hospitals and tourist landmarks in the tourist district, which does leave aside the question of how tourists actually make it to the tourist district. It doesn’t indicate bus routes, other landmarks of interest (say, the other university in town), nor does it indicate scale or north.

This is combined with a road system that places road signs at the beginning and end of the relevant street regardless of how many intersections it may run through. And all the major street signs indicate the direction of all those helpful landmarks that don’t appear on any of the maps.

I want a personal GPS implant now, people.

But there are upsides. Like this picture.

Daily walk

The walk to the university looks something like this.

Northern summer

Sunset in Porto last night, 10:03pm

And if anybody’s wondering, I really am working.

Edited to add: I seem to have a history when it comes to travelling to Europe. Significant events on the three occasions I have been in Europe: death of Princess Di, Cheryl Kernot defects to the ALP and Julia Gillard in a leadership spill to Kevin Rudd.


Which is ‘hello’ in Portuguese. Handy.

It’s so good to be back in Europe. It feels like a kind of home coming, I’m so familiar with its history, politics and geography. My German still works, which is nice, mainly because it got me coffee and a croissant.

The long haul flight is not a bundle of fun though the new Airbus A380 from Melbourne to Singapore was comfortable. By the time I got onto the 747 for the Singapore-Frankfurt leg though, I was looking longingly at the floor as somewhere to sleep. I resisted heroically, I thought.

I have photos of my hotel room – I think it was meant just for me.

Note the burnt orange (faux) mohair throws? So very me. And my bag fits right in.

My explorations of the town will begin after the nana nap.


Leaving on a jet plane

The suitcase is in the hallway, my carry on luggage is all set and allĀ  I have to do now is call the taxi in 20 mins. And keep myself occupied.

I finished that linen skirt this morning and I’ll set up some shots once I get to Porto. It’s worked out beautifully and will be delightful with the wrap blouses and others.

One of the things to manage over the last few days is saying goodbye to the kids. The lad I knew would be incredibly low-key in that aspie way (he hugged back and smiled sheepishly) while the lass could be rather more demonstrative in a very wet and clingy kind of way. She wasn’t as it turned out – big hugs, extra snuggles yesterday – but no distress. We’ve let them both know that we can skype and text regularly and it’s that which makes such a huge difference. The lad just wanted to make sure that I texted him once I had the soccer jumper with Ronaldo’s number on it.

I enjoyed packing with so many items either hand made or modified by me. There’s nearly all my scarves (tip off from Mum about the weather in Amsterdam), the summer sewing (25- 27C in Porto) and knitting projects for the plane (one for the way over and one for during and the way back).

I’m planning to post photos regularly while I’m way so keep an eye out.

Vintage style

All of the pieces I chose to sew for this trip come from vintage patterns, in one way or another. I really try to get something that’s my ‘style’ when I sew – beyond fit and flattery – and out to ‘this is me’. It’s not dramatic, outrageous or the height of fashion but it is me. And in searching for that style I’ve found out a few things: the 1930s are very kind to me, the 1950s shirts and blouses are great but not with the skirts; the 1960s and early 1970s love me. Not only do the lines look good on me, I don’t have to alter the patterns.

I’ve also been referring to the Fit to Flatter series over here at stashknitrepeat. Although intended for knitting, it’s a really informative discussion of why particular garment features flatter certain body types, guides you through determining your body shape in a positive way (and going beyond the simplistic straight, hourglass, pear descriptions) and takes a look at a selection of garments and comments on why they flatter the model or how they might be modified to flatter other body shapes.

Getting back to the traveling exoskeleton, I present a wrap blouse from the 1950s (republished from Pattern Retrospective) and a shift dress from 1971 (original, op shop) for your inspection:

I have an hourglass figure with thighs that tend to ‘flare out’ and I’m average height. Based on reading Fit to Flatter and what I’ve learned from experience, I think these pieces will serve me well. The wrap blouse has a high structured collar and neckline which draws the eye up toward the face. The wrap around the waist is something to be careful about because if it’s too full it turns my hourglass into a wide rectangle. Attention to folding and the line of crossover should make it OK. It’s helped by the fact the front hem is 15cm higher than the back hem – the shorter front won’t confuse the line of the blouse.

The shift dress is a fairly standard style but there are little features about this one that I like. The shoulder straps are closer to the edge of the shoulder than to the collarbone and that helps keep the hourglass balanced. It has a princess line construction so that the vertical fit gives a subtle long line to the dress while keeping the hourglass shape (not so evident in this photo). I loved making this. The Japanese cotton is soft and I could make the dress without the instructions (which I found later under the cutting table). It was blissful. Even when I found out I should do armhole facings before the neckline facing. Live and learn.

The next garment to finish is a 1930s long skirt with a structured front seam. I’ve made it before as an evening skirt and it’s flattering and comfortable. I’ll be making it in a chocolate brown linen (how I love the remnant table at Tessuti!) and it has a beautiful hand and drape. I think that tone-on-tone embroidery may eventually make it’s way onto that one.

And then I have to sort out which knitting or crochet project I’ll take on the plane. Ah, the travails of travel.

Travel bag

I decided that I needed a dedicated travel bag for this trip. It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of conveniently sized sturdy bags but I decided they weren’t quite right. Perhaps one lacked an internal pocket while the other was too dark inside and difficult to find things. The real reason for making a new one was to go with the traveling exoskeleton. It called for practical construction, a design that suited me, and use of precious, stashed vintage fabric.

The pattern I used was the Wasp Bag from machen|machen and I’m very happy with the result. I added an internal zipped pocket by attaching a zip to two ends of a rectangle, creating a cylinder.

The zipper itself is from an op shop – I figure it’s probably thirty years old or more. The contrast fabric I used for the pocket and band of the of bag was a chartruese rubber(?)-backed drapery fabric. I picked up two squares of it from another op, in Brisbane I think. I’m picky about getting fabric remnants from op shops and Savers because it’s rarely good quality stuff that I would enjoy using. But when I came across this colour, I had to have it. It was always going to be just right for an accent piece. But a word of advice on the rubber backed drapery fabric – it’s a bugger to sew with because it tends to stick to the metal throat plate of the machine.

The main fabric was a heavy polished cotton of 1950s vintage. I loved the leaf print and the colours are exactly the ones I often wear. I think this one was an ebay purchase a few years ago. I’m really happy to have used it with this project.

I wasn’t able to get the strap standing up for this shot mainly because I had to walk out the door in three minutes. I’ll do another shot later which better shows off the bag.

It’s not a huge, carry everything kind of travel bag. I needed something smart, able to match most of my travel outfits, big enough to hold things I’ll need on the plane and during the conference. I’ve learned one thing about conference attendance: coffee breaks, lunches, spur of the moment let’s all go out to dinner, here’s a bunch of papers, are much more easily handled with an over the shoulder bag rather than a satchel or briefcase.

And if nothing else, I’ll probably be easier to spot in a conference crowd.

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