Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New Colour, Old Style

In May I wrote about the red skirt which seems to pop up in all official ballroom events (Intervarsity, medal tests, socials etc). I've been meaning to make another one in a different colour and my mom beat me to it recently. Turns out the pattern is fairly straight-forward. A simple tube skirt made from Lycra and six full circles inserted at regular intervals. The only terrifying thing is making sure you sew on a straight line (not my forte).

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hail the Victorious Parasol

I tend to read a fair number of vampire novels in my spare time and am currently awaiting the next instalment of The Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger. It is a wonderful mix of werewolves, vampires, Victorian England and Steampunk.

I'd highly recommend the series to anyone who likes British humour and some fantasy thrown into the mix.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Latin Flavour

As well as my ballgown I've been sewing a Latin outfit. The joke goes about a 1/10 of the fabric and the same amount of sparkle. After much debate I went for blue (options were lumo pink, green, red or blue). You need to be bright and sparkle for Latin, not my strong suit!

I wish I had proper photos of the inbetween steps but I changed design halfway through the process so what I started with is not at all what I ended up with.

Once again I used Swarovski Crystals from Crystal Catalyst and had to Hotfix each crystal on by hand with an applicator wand. Talk about taking forever. The sense of accomplishment when you're done is awesome, the hours prior are just painful. You can vaguely see the starburst pattern on the top and then there are crystals dotted over the whole skirt.

The skirt is two full circles, so it flares nicely when it spins and because it was sewn on the diagonal it flares more on one side than the other.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ballgown Construction

I previously wrote that I've been working on a ballroom gown for Intervarsity. Well Intervarsity has come and gone and I can breath slightly and put up my aching feet (you try dancing in 2.5 inch heels everyday!).

I stated that I had learnt a lot while doing the project but my first major learning curve was a lack on any pattern that fitted me. I went browsing online and found this wonderful blog post: Step-by-Step Gown Construction Project but you needed a pattern. Never fear, when you can cut until it looks vaguely the same shape :)

I cut the dress out of Bon Bon Spandex, something I hadn't heard about before but has a beautiful 4 way stretch. My fuchsia/purple/pink fabric was attached to the mannequin (roughly my size) and cut to fit according to the step by step process outlined above.

The basic finished "shell" ended up looking like this. Please Note the black triangles that are added. Each is a quarter circle and makes the dress flare when you turn, looks cool, not so cool to sew.

At this point you can decorate the dress however you like. I ended up cutting out the back of the dress and adding criss-cross straps for my effect (turns out its pretty cold without material on your back) and adding lots and rhinestones and crystals from Crystal Catalyst (and a few sequinned flowers). The result...

A ballgown is not finished without wings (or whatever they are called). There are many different styles, sleeves, bits etc. Given my lack of sleeves I made three bands to slide onto my arms and attached chiffon in purple and black.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Gearing up for Intervarsity 2011

Its that time of year again. I missed Intervarsity last year due to my jaunt in Europe for the YSSP but as it is my last full year as a student I'm dancing again!

Things have been a little chaotic over the last few months preparing to dance a level I've never tried before: Novice. For those non-dancers, its the first level where you can wear sparkly outfits.

Cue sewing time :)

I've been sewing frantically for the last month to create both Latin and Ballroom outfits for this Saturday. The final pieces are going to a surprise (so no final photos til then) but I've learnt a huge amount in the process. I'll post the full process when I have decent final pictures, I've been capturing the inbetween stages on my phone with its poor excuse for a camera. Sneak peek:

Monday, June 20, 2011

Klein Joostenberg

Joostenberg is a wonderful venue for an outing on a sunny day. There is a bistro, pork butchery, nursery, honey shop and Ludwig's Roses.

About 35 minutes along the N1, a little before Stellenbosch, the little slice of vibrant colour has some of the most amazing pork you'll find in Cape Town. The prices are very reasonable and the portions large. There are even fires to keep warm in Winter in the bistro.

Ludwig's Roses is also well worth a wonder through. The have all sorts on sale and the names are hilarious. On the last visit there I spotted a "Steve Hofmeyr" rose, you never know what you'll find. My favourite though is still the "Durban July" climbing rose.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Medal Tests 2011

It is that time of year again, Medal Tests!

This year I did both Gold Ballroom and Gold Latin which proved to be a bit of challenge, mainly in finding time to practice. I'm busy moving, so that has taken up all my free time. I've also learnt something new, Corenza C and Vitathion when mixed will get you through a dance test if you have flu! (it is not advised for more than 1 dose).

Notice the red skirt, it seems to make an appearance at every medal test for the last few years, next time I promise to wear a different colour (my goal is to make another just like it). I'll post the results when I'm done.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Poverty and Equity

During the IIASA/NRF Poverty and Equity Workshop last week we heard a lot of people talk about Poverty and Equity but really what is the definition of poverty? Should we be focusing on the relative rather than the absolute?

My interest in the workshop was to speak to both IIASA and the NRF on the possibility of a Southern version of the YSSP I participated in last year, a YSSSP if you will. Nimi (the other South African YSSPer from 2010) and I discussed the concept and I wondered afterwards. Why do we as South African researchers try so hard to collaborate with European and American researchers, but what about the rest of Africa, the SADC region or even the other "south" nations, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Egypt? Surely they have more insight into the problems we face and have perhaps created unique solutions that are more indigenous in nature than a possible "north" solution? I've often thought of "North" vs "South" mentality as an Ivory Tower vs African Optimism.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Visiting Research sites in Cape Town

I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the joint conference between the NRF, SADC Science government officials and IIASA in Cape Town last week. As part of the conference various visiting officials were taken on tours of some of Cape Town's research centres. We had a glorious walk through Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where much of the countries biodiversity research is done, as a guide pointed out various species of interest. My favourite section of the gardens is still the Cycad garden and Bird Bath.

Rhodes Memorial and District Six featured as our historical element of the tours. For those unfamiliar with either the context or their meanings I suggest reading up on both. The District Museum is a veritable font of information and the map on the floor that ex-residents have personally filled in on their visits is rather enlightening. The guides are ex-residents and can tell many a story from the time.

Our site visits also included Koeberg Nuclear Power Station(including the inside!) complete with safety boot, earplugs and glasses. Let me just mention at this point that it is loud in there, I do not envy their resident engineers. One of the most interesting parts of the tour was the safety procedures in place and the emergency evacuation strategy in case of an accident.

Another facility that I have done a lot of work with in the past is the Centre of High Performance Computing (CHPC) in Rosebank. Open to research institutions throughout the country and potentially other SADC countries, the CHPC has a number of clusters for simulating various "Grand challenges". A few examples off the top of my head is protein folding, climate modelling, fluid dynamics for planes, ocean current modelling etc. These are applications I have seen presented at CHPC conferences over the years. I am sure there are many more.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

A wedding on the 1st of January is definitely a nice way to start 2011 and especially when it happens to be in Hout Bay overlooking the ocean.

A new year starts with a new set of challenges, thesis chapters to complete and new dancing steps to learn. Hope everyone had an awesome party to ring in the New Year and made a few New Years resolutions (that aren't going to be broken by the end of the week)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Sun Sets on 2010

The perfect end to a interesting and travel filled year...a Cape Town sunset taken across Hout Bay.