Vendors with sprawling smiles and sweeping arms gesture at passersby offering, "Let me show you my store".
They pause their track to playfully yell, "Andele! Andele!" as Michael and I dart in and out of the crowd.
We hadn't planned to run on vacation. In fact, I rarely volunteer to. But, Playa Del Carmen very nicely lends itself to the activity.
Somewhat spontaneously, we stopped into an active wear shop and bought ourselves watershoes- Not our typical choice for running, but perfect footwear for transitioning between bricked streets and sandy beaches as we looped from our hotel, down near the ferry docks, and back around, up the coastline.
We dripped in sweaty satisfaction, pleased for having made such a good choice-then we rewarded ourselves handsomely, " Un cono grande con chocolate y coco, por favor".
This dress begged to be photographed at the beach.
Sometimes, my mind is too literal. I couldn't break away from the obvious palate similarities between this fabric and sand/water. Also, the single shoulder and necessary belted shaping had me feeling a little "shipwreck chic"
Vogue, Very Easy 7699 is, well, very easy. There are two main pattern pieces. That's it. If it weren't for the side pockets, the construction could be summed-up as three seams and a shoulder gather. A belt is critical- In order to achieve a flattering line, the dress is bloused over the top of one. The fabric is sheer, so I underlined completely. Aside from being a bit heavy, the fabric(s) is suited well to the pattern.
The pattern was printed in 1980 (I'm not sure what the bench-marker is for vintage...I consider anything that pre-dates me as vintage, for now).
It would be redundant to breakdown our daily activities while we were away. Every day looked like this. We considered going on excursions. We talked about the possibility of rotating around the three different resorts we had access to as patrons of Hotel Casa Ticul, but we so very much enjoyed the atmosphere at Las Palapas, we continued to turn-up there like clockwork at 10am for the duration of our trip.
We read. We napped. We sipped drinks. We bobbed in the waves.
You can go ahead and tell me there's no enhanced protection in SPF over 50, but skin cancer isn't a joke people. Either is sunburn. And, if you were as pale (pasty) as I am, would you risk it? I didn't think so.
Late afternoons, we strolled back to the hotel for a shower and costume change before spending the remainder of our waking hours walking down 5th Avenue.
5th Avenue is the "Magnificent Mile" of Playa Del Carmen. You'll find shopping, restaurants, bars and art galleries along its length. Most of the buildings are open air and numerous four-legged customers accompany their two-legged counter-parts in and around downtown.
There is a good amount of green space in the area. And, many of the trees lining the street are flowering varieties, providing beautiful views from all directions.
We did our best to seek out authentic restaurants amidst the multitude of pizza and pasta haunts that were obviously aimed at catering to the typical tourist family. I ate two varieties of cactus, lots of plantains, goat cheese tomales and oaxaca cheese.
We indulged once with Tex-Mex. And, after daily pit-stops, we can order gelato and truffles in perfectly seamless Spanish.
A gratuitous photo of Michael, because I like looking at him and because so many of the photos we came home with are ones he took of me; a contrast to the ordinary.
Pattern: Butterick 6655, View A c. 1970
Again, my final product looks exactly as the envelop leads the sewer to believe. I'm short enough, I was able to sew the tunic length halter and have it pass as a dress, comparable to the intended length in view B. My fabric, a sheer border print, required complete underlining. But, the simplicity of the construction made this simple. I reversed the border print from its intended positioning in order to better use the full piece I had available, and I love the way it turned out.
We entered Playa Del Carmen by ferry. The boat ride is a quick 30 minutes from Cozumel; salt water breeze, sunshine and the sway of the sea rocking us into relaxation as we voyage.
Between the coastline and fifth Avenue, Playa Del Carmen is primarily pedestrian; many of the roadways are blocked from vehicular traffic. The streets are lined with souvenir shops, restaurants, bars and art galleries. Everyone is very friendly, overly so, and trying to sell something.
We traded a resort for a stay at a small, 20 room, boutique hotel at the end of 5th. It's perfectly charming. From the purple chesterfield in the lobby, to the hand-crafted and embroidered "Do not Disturb" dolls that hang from the doorknobs, it's a warm and inviting environment. Generational family photos hang over wooden sideboards and cabinetry, and we feel instantly at home- guests at the hacienda of a very fortunate friend, perhaps.
The complex is structured over three levels, each with its own outdoor patio area. Perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee and checking email (via complementary wifi). The main level courtyard features a pool, but the most impressive communal area is the rooftop flattop grill where in-house chefs prepare made-to-order breakfast, in addition to fresh fruit, toast and freshly squeezed juices, for patrons each morning (also complementary).
After our first full-day on the beach, a shift dress seemed the perfect pairing for my sun-scorched skin. Loose fitting, light weight, and breezy.
Prior to sewing this project, I'd never worn a dress like this. I wasn't sure the straight-cut would be suited to my short stature and curvaceous hips. The shapelessness of the silhouette did make me a bit self-conscious in the beginning, but within an hour of wearing, comfort trumped all else, and I was at ease. For the first time, ever, I can completely understand the appeal of a muumuu.
Not that I consider this dress to be a muumuu...
OK. There are similarities. The beach shift = Hipster muumuu?
This is my best attempt at looking tragically hip. I don't have it in me. Not cool enough to keep from smirking. Hipster card denied.
These AMAZING action shots of me ascending/descending the stairs (I do my own stunts) do well at showing how breezy this dress is.
Human wind sock! But, seriously, so comfortable.
There isn't anything fancy here, folks. Machine hem and sleeve. Bias bound neckline. Easy. Fast. Satisfying.
Pattern: Simplicity 4514 View 2, c. 1960s
Overall, the dress looks exactly like it's pictured on the front of pattern envelop. I didn't make any modifications, because, frankly, I didn't give myself the time. Will I wear it again? Most likely. If I make it again, I'd try to bring in the shoulder a bit- Mine are obviously narrower than the pattern anticipates. It would also be nice to adjust the amount of ease across the back to make for a closer fit. My fabric is a light-weight rayon. The drape of it is perfect. I'm not really sure what the pattern is, heart shaped volleyballs?, I just liked the colors.
I know, I know. I've left you with expectations of sewing projects and pattern information. But I have to get one nasty bit out of the way and wallow a while before I do. After many, many, many trips on airplanes with knitting projects. It's happened. I left Mexico down a pair of Sigs (Let's please take a moment of silence for the fallen). I suppose I let my guard down after the whole Heathrow needle smuggling success. Frankly, I was caught completely by surprise. And, after waiting in line to have my bag searched behind a woman who clearly has never flown and is unable to read (two, gallon sized bags of liquids in your carry-on? TWO. Gallon Sized. Really?), the look I shot the woman who relayed the devastating blow probably only further convinced her I was not to be permitted to fly with sharp objects. 1,2,3....3,2,1....I'm not mad at anyone... Except I was; freaking steamed, actually.
Let's take a look, shall we, at Cozumel's restricted items list. You'll note the vagueness. Surely, I'm not going to try to argue or convince you that knitting needles can't be classified as "Sharp or Pointed Instruments". It's a catch-all, an item left to the discretion of the attendant. I mean, HELLO, the item immediately following "sharp instruments" is "blunt instruments". Could you be any less descriptive? I could package most anything into one of those categories.
I had zero leverage. After a several minute stare down, I had to choose. Check the bag or toss the needles. I weighed the cost of replacement vs. luggage fees, and I did what I had to do.
Now... you might be feeling sorry for this poor woman, who was only doing her job and looking out for safety, etc... Let me tell you what she DID let me travel with. To start. Scissors. Really sharp, exacto brand scissors, to be precise. One of the only items specifically printed on the Prohibited Items list*. Oh, and, wait for it... the second set of Signature needles that were hanging out at the bottom of my bag on my back-up project. Seriously.
So, it could have been worse. I could be down two sets of circulars. I could have had to fly without anything to knit (THANK HEAVEN FOR BACK-UP PROJECTS!). I probably should have been forced to leave my scissors behind. Yada, yada. None of these optimistic, glass half-full thoughts make me any less upset about the loss. In the future, I will resort back to my 007/Mission Impossible mannerisms. And, I heed you, travelers beware!!! .
* These scissors 100% comply with the TSA prohibited items list in effect at O'Hare.
Last week, Mike and I slipped away from Chicago, winter and the grey that promises to consume the city until spring arrives. We boarded a plane flying south. Destination: Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. This isn't a travel blog. I do my best to keep subject matter limited to the things I make; primarily knitting & sewing and related content (fabric, yarn, patterns, etc....). But, sometimes, there's overlap. For instance, I like to find yarn shops and fabric stores whenever I stop in a new city. And, sometimes, I sew a vacation wardrobe to wear during my trip.... OK. That's a first, actually.
As part of my New Year Resolution to build a better and more purposeful self-stitched wardrobe, I set mini-goals to keep me motivated and on track. One way I thought I could assure success was to pledge participation in Me-Made monthly challenges (March, May, September), and I added the proposition of applying the same concept towards vacation. After all, if the goal is to have a wardrobe of clothes I made myself, I need to wear the things I make.
As soon as Mike and I agreed we were going to take this trip, I started planning the things I wanted to sew. I pulled out patterns for really adorable 50's sundresses, skirts, coordinating blouses, and vintage play suits. I rummaged through my stash and started matching fabric with patterns. I gave each of my projects a level of priority and decided in which order I would sew them. I planned A LOT. And, then, it was a week before we were scheduled to leave, and I hadn't sewn a single stitch.
I started to re-evaluate my situation. I dove headfirst into this resolution at the beginning of the year; I cleared my closet of every item of clothing I didn't deem essential. And, trust me, in January, in Chicago, summer clothes are not essential. Consequently, I have almost no store-bought warm weather clothing. I started to panic. I briefly considered running out to purchase all new attire. But, the thought of doing that was so incredibly contrary to the plan I had set for myself, I couldn't do it without conceding failure.
I considered packing some of the spring/summer dresses I made in years prior. That's when it occurred to me. The types of clothes I wear during summer in the Midwest, aren't the type of clothes I want to to wear while I'm near the beach. Tailored, fitted dresses with frilly details and full skirts are marvelous in Illinois; lots of seams, buttons and zippers aren't much of a burden when you spend most of your time in a temperature controlled building. But when you apply those elements to sand and sun, the narrative changes.
Words that come to mind when I think vacation clothes: breezy, nonrestrictive, comfortable, easy. Using my new template, I returned to my patterns and chose designs that fell within these parameters. Fortunately, I have a decent number of patterns that fit the bill and I was able to get to work immediately. When I finished my first dress in one sitting, my confidence and conviction were restored.
Excluding the play suits (which I am bummed I ran out of time to make), none of the original patterns I intended to sew for my trip would have been what I wanted to wear. I got so caught-up in the daydream of planning, I completely lost sight of practicality and reality, and I nearly needed to reroute to a nudist colony. This process has opened my eyes immensely. I can't wait to evaluate my daily attire in the upcoming month(s) and apply some similar concepts and lessons to future projects.
Since these are all new makes, I intend to give each outfit the proper post it deserves. But, before I got caught-up in the overall success of this endeavor, I wanted to start with an explanation of the whole process, how it nearly was a disaster, and how I needed to revamp my plans. I think it's important to share and document it for future reference. I hope you don't mind the photo tease. I have more where those came from and pattern information for you as the week progresses.