Friday, 15 February 2013

In lieu of actual sewing, here's some stuff about me

Trisha over at Made By Trisha thinks I'm interesting enough to get in on the Leibster awards, so who am I to argue?  ;)  Here, in no particular order, are 11 random things you should know about me:

1. I choke on everything.  I can't remember the last time I went a day without choking on something.
2. Hence, I'm a certified First Aider.
3. I've travelled in 26 countries on 5 continents, most independently, but in Bhutan I had to go with a tour group because independent travel isn't allowed.

4. I can only speak English and passable French, but somehow I always manage to make myself understood wherever I travel with my smattering of other languages.
5. I first went to Africa at 8 month pregnant.


6.  If you ever visit me, don't eat the ice cream.  I always eat straight out of the container.
7.  I used to work at a kayak club, even though I am a very weak swimmer and I had never been in a kayak before my first day on the job.
8.  I love red wine, and the heavier the better.  I generally don't like anything lighter than a malbec.
9.  I can't remember the last time I read fiction.  I'm a non-fiction junky.
10.  Thanks to having the combo of kids + Netflix, I've now been tortured with the entire oeuvre of Dora, Diego, The Last Airbender, Wonder Pets and Futurama.  When do I get *my* turn to choose the show?
11.  I haven't sewn anything yet this year.  Eeep. 


1. what's your day job when you're not sewing?
As you can probably tell from my incredibly mysterious blog name, I am a scientist by day.  I work for the chair of parasitology in a university research lab on a drug discovery project, with partners in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Sudan, Kenya, and USA.  It involves growing a lot of stinky microorganisms in between exciting meetings / tech transfers to the above mentioned countries (only USA, Botswana and South Africa so far).

2. what's your birthday (you don't have to include the year if you don't want to)?
April 5th.  I'm coming up on mid-40s which used to sound old to me, but with two little kids and 20+ years left to retirement, now seems young.  

3. what's your favorite fabric to sew with?
Shwe shwe.  It's a medium weight cotton that is traditional in South Africa and Botswana, and comes in a mind-boggling array of prints.  It's easy to sew, and because print mixing is traditional, I'm afraid that I get carried away and want buy everything.   

4. what's the best sewing tip that you could give me?
Have a dedicated, organized sewing space, even if it's just a small coffee table.  Setting up and clearing away takes time.  If everything isn't ready and waiting for you to grab a spare minute, you're less likely to even start.

5. what's your favorite notion?
Tracing paper and wheel.  I had so much trouble marking patterns before I started using these, much to my detriment.

6. what's your favorite project you've sewn (and include a link if you posted about it)?
The project that excited me the most was my Venda skirt, sewn almost two years ago.  I don't wear it that often because it's pretty loud, but whenever I do, strangers stop me to ask about it.  The project that gets the most wear is my Sick as a Leopard skirt.  It goes with everything and works all year 'round.  In fact, I wore it yesterday!

7. what's a pet peeve of yours?
A sewing pet peeve?  setting in sleeves.  I've never done a nice one.  No matter how carefully I gather, how nicely I baste, how well I ease....they end up terribly.  I need some professional help.

8. what are your favorite tv shows or movies?
Anything BBC.  Like everyone, I love Sherlock, Downton Abbey, etc. but I've recently gotten into Call the Midwife, The Paradise, and old Ms. Marples and Poirots on Netflix. 

9. what's your favorite type of music (name specific bands if you'd like)?
Lyric driven.  Tom Waits is a god, and Blue Valentine + Franks' Wild Years could be my constant theme music.  Leonard Cohen, the whole McGarrigle/Wainwright clan, and Joni Mitchell for CanCon.  I've recently jumped on the Regina Spektor bandwagon too.  

10. why did you decide to start blogging?
I hadn't really done any sewing for about 10 years, then I was home on maternity leave with my daughter in 2009, I started doing a bit of home-dec sewing, and then the daycare asked me to sew all the covers for the new sleep mats.  Once I got re-started, I wondered if there were any free sewing patterns available online.....and I discovered that the online sewing community was huge!  I started with Burdastyle, then started reading blogs and commenting, so it was a natural progression.  It was an extension of my usual habit of keeping notes on everything.

11. why did you decide to start sewing?  
I never decided to start; I just grew up in a house where there was a sewing machine in regular use and learned the basics from my mother.  She sewed a lot for us when we were little and she was taking care of us at home.  As a teenager, I took classes in school and through my local 4H club, so I had the foundations before I left home.   I toyed with the idea of studying costume design at university, but I was more enthusiastic about the sciences, and I figured it would be easier to be a sewing scientist than a sciencing costumer, if that makes sense.   

Thanks Tricia.  Now go check out her blog too.  


  1. Your life sounds very interesting! I am going to try sewing with shwe shwe this year (we can order it online in the UK from The African Fabric Shop). I am going to start with an a line or wrap skirt to see how it drapes (or not!). Thank you for sharing!

    1. What if I told you that I'm a mother of two and live in the suburbs? Does that still sound interesting? HAHA!
      You'll find that shwe shwe is about the same weight and thickness and non-stretch denim, until you wash it about 20 times. I've made A-line skirts and dresses with great success.

  2. Hooray! I agree with Philippa--your life sounds very interesting! Thanks for taking the time to play along.

    I agree that having a dedicated sewing space is vital. (Also, I regularly choke while drinking water. Ha!)

    1. Thanks again Trisha - these are always a fun way to discover new blogs and gossip.

  3. You are certainly making the most out of your life! Thanks for sharing some bits-n-pieces of it with us all. So glad you started to blog...and sew...J

  4. i love reading these; afterwards i always want to say something that lets the writer know i really read it and feel i know them on a deeper level...

    but you'll have to take my word for it, as i must tell you i choked on numbers 1 & 2.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. whoops, bad link. tadaaaa:

  7. I'm with Oona, I love reading the mix of questions for these awards.

    If'n' you like lyric driven music and CanCon, may I suggest Corin Raymond/The Undesiareables or Dave McEathron/The Warped 45's? Both are pretty easy to catch around Toronto but Corin tours more than Dave.

  8. I think you're fabulous and hard core, especially because the lightest wine you like is a Malbec. Seriously. You are a hard core lady. Favorite piece of non-fiction? Someone just renewed her library card and is looking for things to read :) And whenever I see shwe shwe mentioned, I immediately think of you!

    PS. Regina Spektor's "Us" is my fave. I sing it loud whenever it comes on Pandora.

    1. I've started playing piano again because Regina makes it so cool. Now if I could just manage to pick out the notes to Us, I'd be on the road to cool too.

      I read a LOT of travel narratives: anything by Dervla Murphy is astounding, especially "Where the Indus is Young". I'm also reading books about social entrepreneurism (sp?) - "How to Change the World" by David Bornstien is a great start. Oh, and I totally lied about not reading fiction: I forgot about all the No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency books that I've read!


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