Friday, 30 April 2010

Maharajah de Kapurthala

part I.

I'm not an avid collector of shoes.
Not that I wouldn't want to be but I fall even of the lowest of heels and there is rather limited variety of funky shoes on flat soles or platforms. I have a pair of dress Birks, had thongs with rhinestones... and the rest is plain vanilla whatever comes in size 42. Which does not necessarily mean that I wouldn't appreciate looking at shoes. The other day, many months ago, I wandered to the Ferragamo museum to, well, look at shoes. It was nice to see all those creations, I was never aware how much of it was custom-made, all that crochet and lace. But then there was this one:

Jewelled sandals made for Maharani of Cooch Behar. While I searched for the picture, I learned that she was a real fashion icon of her time. The tag in the museum cupboard also said that a handful of replicas are reserved for customers of the Ferragamo store in Tokyo, upon which I bitterly regretted that I'm not filthy rich.

I spent the afternoon searching the internets. I discovered that Kapurthala is a real place (sorry.... my geography is no big deal) and that, among other interesting tidbits of information, it's where the Shalimar gardens are located (1).
And then there's Parfum du Maharajah de Kapurthala by Lenthéric. Perfume Intelligence says: "Named after the Maharajah; possibly commissioned by him." Or, wide choice, low prices (2). At least Perfume Intelligence says that the perfume was launched in 1925 and should it have been comissioned by the Maharajah, or named after him, then it was Jagatjit Singh:

While researching for something useful for this post (4), I found lots of articles about how the Indian royalty had nothing constructive to do, being under the British rule so they toured Europe spending money by handfuls and were glamorous. See the sandals above, after all.

It's not an exciting piece of information but I'll check some books for part II. Meantime, you can disentangle the recurrent and less recurrent notes. (9) The actual perfume review will be up as soon as Plague is over and I can trust my smell again.

Images snatched from The Tribune (the jewel-covered sandal;

(1)Think Guerlain's Shalimar. Clicking the linky in the wikipedia article about Kapurthala, I was redirected to an article about Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. Low prices, wide choice (3). See also (5)
(2) that's sarcasm
(3) that's also sarcasm.
(4) whose usefulness is at your judgment, as well as my research result
(5) The Shalimar Gardens of Lahore, I read at Wikipedia, source of all knowledge (6), were built by Shah Jahan of Taj Mahal fame and I've hereby judged that it's these gardens that gave name to the perfume. (8)
(6) albeit sometimes very wrong, but all
(8) It is also possible that Shalimar Garden means Municipal Green in some language I do not know so it's up to the readers to educate me.
(9) I wasn't drunk while writing this. Neither insane. Just playful. (10)
(10) tee hee, see how much can be written just about nothing.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


Warning: this post contains vivid descriptions and enthusiastic discussion on green mucus. Sensitive souls, check tags like cats, knitting and occasional perfumista for your own safety and well-being.

Mom got the same mixture of rhinoviri or some such nasty thing so our morning skype conversations go like Oh, my cold got a bit better - Cool, Mom, so did mine. Today there was some collective whining about hamburger noses (raw meat, wink wink hint hint). Now she's having an editorial meeting while I'm doing the laundry (sweaty bed linen, mainly), drinking my third coffee (addiction, I have it) and out of sheer interest, trying to verify my guess that the green gunk is made of dead leucocytes and dead viruses/bacteria. I found a ton of moreless disgusting pics on Wikipedia but no detailed description of what is green gunk made of.

To make things clear, I'm all for natural sciences. However, I've lived on the arts faculty for so long that the lack of will to get my hands dirty is pretty deeply rooted. I wanted to go to the medical school when I was 19, by the way, and the only thing that turned me off was the fact that before getting to some cool pathology lab where I could slice tumors, I'd need to meet the live, annoying people. I wasn't particularly cuddly type even then.

In other news, a friend of mine got a Siamese kitten. Squeeee. I'll be seeing them next weekend, expect teh cute.


Last Thursday, I ran out of coffee. Since I'm short of cash and it rained, I drank tea. Also, the idea of a sixpack of Davidoff at parents' prevented me from actually buying some. It was tough.

I got cold. It felt nasty yesterday, today it feels nasty, it hurts and I cough. Mix that asthmatic type cough, bronchospasm and that productive cough that expels goo from your lungs.

In attempt to relieve my sore throat, sore Eustachian tube and sore trachea, I decided that booze may work. It relaxes muscles, it's a vasoconstrictor so there should be less mucus to annoy. Another disaster struck, I ran out of Cordial Médoc.


Tuesday, 27 April 2010


The hair dye I got from hairdressers' supply shop is some tough shit. Also fun to play with, the goo to work with is blue. To explain, I bear a grudge against my genetics. I am blonde, it's my phenotype (1) that doesn't fit. I struggle hard.

The other day, I was meeting one of the friends who had hitherto lived only in my computer and knew me from the pics. When we met in person, she exclaimed "Oh! What a surprise! From the pics, I'd guess you'd be a tiny fragile beauty and you're...." she was thinking hard how to say that I'm big, fat (2) and tall. "March of Valkyries," I hinted.

I like going to the gym. I admit that it's stupid to move around big pieces of steel and that a long walk would be more refreshing but I still like it. I noticed that I got to the laughable habits of watching myself in the mirror, checking whether my muscles are growing. Well, not really so. Having done ballet for years, I'm used to tough stretching and it helps to have a mirror to look how wrong I do it.
I ranted happily about that at home. Mom said that I should give it a break, that I already have more muscles than what's pretty and I want to look feminine, don't I.

Mom would be that fragile waif although she has some thyroid problems and it's tough for her to keep her weight down - and she gets obsessive about it. She would want me to look like hers in her younger years forgetting the important fact that I'm built like my big, massive tall father. And I believe that muscles are cool, if not feminine. One can use them whereas femininity is just a sticky label that gets in one's hair or causes skin irritations.

Cousin was visiting. She wanted to go for a shopping spree, needing some professional clothes. I went along with her since I could use something serious, too. While watching the cousin trying on pants and blouses, I made an exciting discovery: I feel like shit in formal wear because it doesn't fit. I've not worn pants that go up to the armpits natural waist since I reached my actual height... while formal pants go somewhere to the chest. If I had belly so flat that I'd look okay in this cut of anything, I wouldn't cover it, folks. Same with jackets, whatever fits across the shoulders is baggy elsewhere. After inquiring carefully in the local salon, I found out that having stuff tailored is not really expensive than buying it off-rack. I'll get civilized one day, wait for more information.

Sephora has green nail paint. Hallelujah, the last decent green was in Dior's spring collection in around 1998.

While shopping at the hairdressers' supplier, I got a bun form. Festival of kitschy hair may begin.

(1) genetics exam looming ahead
(2) somewhat less so nowadays. Somewhat bigger, too.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Random observations

I have quite a heap of odd balls that don't match anything in a reasonable manner to knit them into a decent stripped sweater. The rainbow-coloured boucle looks okay when knitted so there's another baby sweater in the making.

I bought hair dye from a hairdressers' online store. There's a box of powder and a bottle of liquid. Big box, big bottle. Should be mixed together but the whole amount would dye the whole street. Yet another reason to buy a digital scale.

In an attempt to do something about my last new size 41 shoes, I soaked them in the stretch foam, wore them around the house and then decided to go out. I was wise enough to plaster the most potentially problematic posts with the foam toe wrap. but at the metro station, I was sort of forced to change in the much less stylish but comfy Birks.

Bizarre in peoplewatching:
Two Nazi types wearing distinctively feminine perfume of a fashionable sort - that synthetic flowers and patchouli thingy. Think Idylle, Idole or just about every other release of 2009.
A female tennis player. Rather fat, wearing a tennis dress one size smaller than herself. With a very short skirt. Not that type with sewn-in underpants. Some things just shouldn't be done.
A gal wearing a kimono. Along with ugly and worn-out suede shoes on high wedges and a big winter jacket (think Michelin Man).
Mother with a toddler girl. Toddler girl dressed head to toe in pink and ruffles, mother with loooong fake nails, hair extensions, ten centimetres heels, all fashionable, cool and in. And travelling with the pram and two suitcases. Whining how travelling is tough.


I've heard around five times in the news that today, it's the birthday of Queen Elizabeth. Not that it mattered to me in any particular way but it prompted me to blow dust off the bottle of Houbigant's Chantilly.

Houbigant is a brand that has fallen deep. From supplying the court of France and England to a drugstore brand. The history is neatly summed up here. The main point is that after around 1994, Houbigant is an empty name.

I got Chantilly because I liked the icosahedron shaped bottle. The tag says Collection Royale and I haven't found such a flacon elsewhere so I don't really know. I guess it was a limited edition, the idea offers itself, but I have no idea when it was launched. the tag also says Blended in U. S. A. so it may be after the Houbigant brand was taken over by Dana. I have no idea.
Not rarely bottles are better than content but this wasn't the case.

Now, the fragrance. I was struck. It is old-fashioned in the best way, a generous bouquet of roses and other flora with a pinch of salty leather and spices and quite some oakmoss. It's pretty hard to discern the notes, the thing is very well blended. I read various descriptions of it, along the lines of Ptuiii, a grandma scent, boring soapy powdery ugly. I would agree only with the grandma scent, after all, good part of the Guerlain classics are grandma scents and grandma's grandma scents so what. When thinking how to describe the scent, words like lush, rich, glamorous, luxurious sprang into my mind. And happines and joie de vivre. I'll wear it for errands, and mind you, I'm far away from anything glamorous (1).
And... the drydown is all oakmoss and leather. It has almost mineral qualities and at least referring to inanimate nature seems to be a bit of a trend (Sel de Vetiver, Olivier Durbano's line, Lalique's rather uninspiring Amethyste...) so to hell with grandma scent.

Houbigant was launched in 1941, a creation of Marcel Billot.
Nowadays it is available cheaply all over the internet but I have no idea whether it's the same thing as mine.

top notes: fruity notes, neroli, bergamot, lemon
middle notes: spices, carnation, jasmine, ylang-ylang, rose, orange blossom
base notes: leather, tonka bean, musk, benzoin, oakmoss, vanilla, sandalwood

(1) like, faded hoodie, secondhand jeans and I don't accept criticism. I don't care about clothes that much as long as they fit, last long, are comfy and black - which ends with expensive tank tops and hoodies that don't look the price, after all, I carefully remove all offending logos. I like to get up, pick whatever and be sure that it works.

Monday, 19 April 2010

How I didn't get another cat

... and I'm telling you, it cost me quite some effort.
I miss my Meezer. Alas, due to my somewhat itinerant life, it would be too complicated to have the cat with me and drag her around but I do miss the little creature walking at my heels and commenting, playing hide and seek, being vocal, and the little paws and soft nose and... anyway.
The local shelters organize a cat show of shelter cats where one can come and pick their new pet. I wanted to have a look and to cuddle a few cats so yesterday, I got a triple dose of my allergy meds and went.
And there she was. A black Siamese mix that looked like a random black cat, she was bigger than many of the cats around because her previous owner died, she wasn't an underfed stray. But while a good part of the cats was nervous or just ignoring the buzz, this one went from person to person and when she was put back to the cage, she started whining in a very Siamese voice. And she had that soft Meezer fur, big ears, facial expressions. Squeee.

She had even Siamese facial expressions. I spent most of my time at the show holding this beauty.
I did restrain myself from taking her home, though, and left covered in cat hair, with itchy swollen face. But... squeee.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Designing a sweater

I've been asked how do I do that, those pretty sweaters.
There's no easy answer since there are many knitting techniques to start with and an endless choice of possibilities in using them but I'll concentrate on what I'm doing these days: a garment that is simply constructed and made of several different yarns that are selected for a desired colour and texture effect.

Captain Obvious' comment: First, you should know your measures. Not your clothing size. Tables do exist but it's always better to measure the wearer. Good trick is to take a fitting garment similar to the desired result and measure that one.

Now, I've been known for collecting yarns. I get them from various sources in quantities that are available so I'm bound to improvise. It is quite easy to have a burgundy red sweater in your mind and go into a yarn store and pick a burgundy yarn in solid colour that just convenes to one's taste in texture and hand. Now, having one skein of this and one skein of that, where this may be cotton chainette in swamp brown, 40 metres per 100g, and that being laceweight merino in shades of lilac, 400m per 100g, is more of a challenge. These yarns wouldn't go together to make a wearable garment. Maybe a lace shawl made of that merino, where cotton chainette would be used as piping around the edge of the shawl. I'm not sure whether it would work but it could. I'm not trying it, should you want to know.

A practical example: I got ten skeins of Noro's Suzuran which has been discontinued for long. It's thin and thick yarn and it's printed. The resulting fabric is somewhat uneven, with nice stitch definition and small blobs of colour:

It doesn't look entirely bad as such but...

In my knitting, I'm a purist. I knit. I don't sew, tweak things around, I knit. I prefer to have any garment knit in one piece. Admittedly, one reason is that I cannot do any seaming really neatly but I like the engineering process: I start at one end and finish at another and then I'm done with that. The advantage of knitting is that one can shape the fabric on one go so why not use this possibility to its best. I love to experiment with various ways how to construct a garment and one reason why I like striping yarns is that the process can be seen.

... the resulting fabric is blah. The colours match nicely, the texture is interesting but they clash each other and at the end, it's not possible to discern where it begins and where it ends. The sweater would be one of those bland garments that do not actually clash with anything but neither they match anything, themselves included. Just blah. I decided to combine this yarn with something else and after some digging in my Stash of Doom And Two Days More, I found a few yarns that might work colour-wise:

Noro's Shirakaba, silk/cotton/wool blend. The colour is outstandingly beautiful.

Noro's Akogare, colourway 19 (1), another pretty yarn. This one is striping and the colours of Akogare and Suzuran go together well. So... let's give it a try:

And we get clown puke.
Shirakaba is much shinier and stands out too much to create a pinstripe effect which I don't want. Akogare is too colourful and it's not the thing.
The last attempt for now:

Leftovers of Tsubaki. I've used this yarn for another sweater but I kept cutting out the colours that didn't match my chosen colour scheme and these are the bits and pieces of the other colours. The mustard yellow contrasts nicely both blues and greens, greens and blues and the cold purples are at the same end of the colour spectrum.
Speaking of matching colours, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I do have my preferences and I tend not to have things too wild. In the last yarn-matching picture, there's yarn in blue, cerulean, magenta and neutral earthy brown. And another yarn that contains green, cerulean, cold shade of pink, cold shade of lilac and mustard. The only really contrasting colour is mustard, the rest play together nicely. Tsubaki is a striping, or rather colour-shifting yarn (there are no breaks, green slowly changes into pink etc.) so mixing it in will show the construction of the sweater as it can be partly seen here:

(It's somewhat hard to explain the construction without sketches but I may write down the pattern someday, should someone want.)

I'll keep you informed about the progress, want it or not.

(1) This yarn is discontinued for long but they still have some here. NAYY.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Work in progress

I suffered a bout of startitis and at the time being, I have six sweaters and one tank top in progress.

Top to bottom:
Green sweater with bat sleeves for O. in Sifa's Maila, a nice fluffy mohairy yarn
Yellow-ochre-pink-turquoise baby sweater which now misses sleeves and a zipper, having progressed from time of taking the picture. The yarn was originally Gedifra's Iglu and I dyed it crazy.
Dark blue and gray sweater for yours truly in Malabrigo Worsted. Around a month ago, I was cold. Now the spring has advanced but... still. Just now I'm done with the sleeve and yoke part and I need to do some engineering. Or maybe no engineering will be needed and things will go smoothly - if so, picture tomorrow.
First row of an orange and pink tank top in Noro's Temari - since it's cotton/viscose blend which would have too much drape, I'm waiting for another yarn I could possibly use with it.
The last one is a sweater where rows of Noro's Silk Garden Sock and New Ruby are alternating. New Ruby is a viscose/cotton blend and I made a sweater from that one alone but it was unwearable. First, cotton is rather heavy (viscose is moreless the same, another cellulose fibre) and second, despite careful swatching and stuff, the sweater grew quite a bit and since the sleeves were knitted across, there was no way of fixing it I would accept. Cutting and sewing is too much for my purist heart, that's it. So, after digging through my messy and extensive stash, I discovered a single skein of Silk Garden Sock, the colours matched rather well... and that's all, folks, new sweater in the making.
The sixth one is at home II. and the seventh one exists in my mind and in a form of swatch sample.

Now, I should say something along the lines of "Otherwise, I'm normal." It would be too much of a disputable claim. However, there's a reason why I have so many things in progress.
First, I knit a lot while reading. That needs knitting which doesn't use up brain capacity, meaning going in the round from here to infinity, or at least for 40cm, which is the distance between a reasonable start and gussets in the armpits.
Second, I knit everywhere. I need something small to carry around, which is not 3/4 of a bulky sweater. It's either something small like sock, which I don't particularly like to knit, or a sweater just started, or something in fine yarn.
Third, variety. Knitting boucle is pain in the arse because I stick the needles to the yarn itself, namely the loops, so after a while, I might want something smooth and easy. I have problems with small gauges - knitting on 2,5mm needles causes pains in the fingers after a while because I need to grip tightly on the small needles. Knitting with big needles, like 6 or 7 mm is similar to shovelling and the wrists may and happily do get achy.
Undeniably, some cray-zee does play its part.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Philtre d'Amour

Philtre d'Amour was launched in 1999, now it's discontinued and sometimes you can come across it in the internetz. Which is how I got it. Just... I don't know why, I have rather a complicated relationship to Guerlain.

For the purposes of accuracy, I checked a dictionary and discovered that Philtre d'Amour means love potion. And vomited in my mouth a little. I know, I know, it's just me who detests these innuendo-implying names of things. I'll rather stick to thinking that philtre means filter (yay for dog French) and put it to the vicinity of Calandre, which works much better for me. Now excuse me, I need to ponder about it for a while and to check that I actually like the fragrance.

Alright, for my purposes, I've renamed it Verdante Effluve. Because it's quite a bit green. Very sharply and intensively green. I needed to wait until spring to find out, for some reason, in winter, I found it intolerable and after four or so hours when the sharp verbena and citrus faded, something like Metallica came to the surface... and I'm telling you, Metallica with lemon zest is evil.
But, then spring happened to begin and the fragrance worked much better. It is green and pungent, with a patchouli base (modern chypre, they call it. Well, no oakmoss, cistus and bergamot, no chypre for me) that makes it somehow more stable than just another cologne. There's also some myrrh which blends so well into verbena and citruses that it's imperceptible on its own, just adding another tangy facet.

I can't think of any similar fragrance, which means that there are many of them out there and I, as a citrus non-liker, keep missing them.

Verdante Effluve (1) Philtre d'Amour (ptooooi!) was launched in 1999 as eau de parfum in the pictured 30ml bottle. Now it is available from Maison Guerlain in the 125ml bee bottle for 180 euros.

(1) I'm keeping this name in stock for my purposes. Just saying.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Intimately Beckham

Last week, I packed a heap of crap things. Books, clothes, yarn... and threw in a handful of samples to possibly review, for a good measure, and a few bottles of my own creations to send off to Pat of Olfactarama who should already have got them but The Post apparently ate them. Among them was what I spontaneously renamed from Sample Number Three to Étude on white flowers, which leaked and stained the cards of the Intimately Beckham samples. Even chaos has a sense of irony.

And now it'll get short and sharp. Intimately Beckham for Him is better less awful of those two. I suspect that the mad fans won't care that it's a late spawn of Fahrenheit, inbred and demented, although the drydown gets somehow lighter and fruitier so a point for not being entirely linear. Now, the ladies version... I had a bit of expectations. Mrs. Beckham, celebrity without reason, famous for being well-dressed (whatever that may mean but I don't want to digress and rarely I won't) and underfed, coulddo better. I know, I know, the celebrities rent their names to companies and don't care but hey, they rent their names for that so they should care. So, our fashionista has a namesake perfume that's... another boring heap of synthetic flowers on patchouli. The stuff I used for cleaning my toilet was at least pure unadulterated vinegar and chlorine.

Now I need to open the windows to get some fresh air in and then I'll go sniff the freshly cleaned bathroom.

The who leaves the funniest comment will get a sample of Intimately Beckham both for Him and Her, along with my own Étude on white flowers.

Friday, 2 April 2010

La Vallée Bleue

Take a heap of lavender, add a bit of petitgrain and for the base, some benzoin and a touch of civet or some such.

No, it's not as easy. At the very beginning, the citruses are more complicated than just petitgrain - my guess is grapefruit, lemon and maybe even touch of lime. There are definite woody undertones, maybe a touch of sandalwood and that buttery something which is for certain benzoin may also contain a bit of tuberose. I guess that without the huge bucket of lavender, it may be a decent fragrance on its own.

But... well, go and sniff Penhaligon's Lavandula. Great soliflor. Or check the lavender essential oil you have in your bathroom. That's lavender. (Yes, I'm being Captain Obvious. It's to increase the suspense and to underline my nearly-genial thoughts. Now leave me alone, you damn nitpicker there.) Or your grandma's soap. But for Lavandula, I can't remember a lavender fragrance which wouldn't be a room freshener. Lavender is used frequently as a component in perfumery and cosmetics but it is hardly ever given a prominent place. Alas.
Now, La Vallée Bleue is lavender revisited and lifted to another level. The only place I've been to where lavender grows in the wild was the isle of Hvar and I don't remember how that place smelled, it was umpteen years ago and a few more, but the idea conveyed by La Vallée Bleue is close. A lavender-grown landscape.
I've always loved lavender. The smell, the taste, the colour of the blossoms. There is something cooling about them, which is happily absent from the essential oil. Now I got a rendering of live lavender...
... and it was launched in 1943, discontinued some time later.