Friday, December 30, 2011

BCN love story Part III Sant Andreu

Now you too know how to say Merry Christmas in Catalan. The is Part of the main plaza in Sant Andreu, across from the church.

The areas that I love in Barcelona would be incomplete if I do not mention Sant Andreu. This is a town that used to be independent from Barcelona until Barcelona grew to incorporate it. This neighborhood is where my husband grew up, and where his mother still lives. The majority of my time in Barcelona has been spent here. Being able to stay in this working class neighborhood has been quite an experience. 
Here I am a 1/2 hour metro ride from the center of town. Here tourists generally do not go. Here my fair coloring and red hair stand out like a beacon and I get the most stares here then anywhere else I have been to in Spain. Here is where I can (and have) almost experience what living in Barcelona is really like. I have never stayed at a hotel in Barcelona, so I do not know what it is like to stay in the noisy center of town. If I go play the tourist I always come back to this (fairly) quiet neighborhood at night.
If it where not for the fact that once I was lucky enough to spend a whole month here in this neighborhood. I would have had big doubts about moving to Spain when the opportunity came up.

It is a regular working class neighborhood in BCN, but there are also little gems of history here too.
Above you see part of a very old textile factory across the street from a fairly new apartment building. In the picture below you can see an old carrier pigeon's entrance into a building right next to the church.

The prettiest gem of all, I think, is the church of Sant Andreu. While it is still "fairly new" by European standards, being built in 1850 (at least that is the date above the door), I think it is beautiful. These old buildings add, for me, to the romantic air of this neighborhood 

 My husband informs me that they used to set off fireworks in the tower until they figured out that t was making the tower crumble. Luckily the neighborhoods seems to have the money to restore this beautiful building because various sections have been under restoration for some time.

 Also least you forget we are still in the Christmas season, which actually starts on Christmas day and ends on Three Kings day which is the 12th night (January 6th). I am wishing you a Bon Nadal with a present of this last image of some Caca tios. (Yes it means what you think it does when you translate it) The following is an excerpt I took from about the Caca tios:
 Editor’s Note: In Catalunya they have what’s called the “Caca Tio”. Caca Tio is a a log propped up on one end with a face and a Santa hat. A blanket is draped over the Caca Tio’s body and the kids hit the Caca Tio with a stick till the Caca Tio kinda poops out a gift (hence “caca”). The secret is that a family member effects the pooping action from the other side of the log while the kids work themselves up into a frenzy with the stick bashing and singing.
The logs in the picture are solid (for decoration not present pooping) and are wearing the men's traditional Catalonian hat.

¡Bon Nadal a tots!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

BCN love story Part II

A picture post with more Barcelona for you to enjoy.

 I was pointing out the beautiful frescos on the wall when I noticed that this is also a museum.
 The most famous market in the city.
 The sign is sooo pretty.
 A peek inside the market.
 How cool is it that they built this building like this so that you have a view of the gothic tower beyound?
 I LOVE the use of tile in this town! I need to do more research to see if Gaudí started it or was just continuing it.
 More tiles from the same famous pastry shop. It was so pretty and smelled like warm chocolate pastry.
 This fountain thing (Spanish link) is to commemorate that the old wall of Barcelona used to stand here. There are pieces that of the roman walls that still stand, but this is a plaque saying that here stood a door to the med-evil wall, built in the 13th century. What I am unsure of it wether or not the bricks surrounding this are part of the wall. My guess is that they are.
 We went To see an Belén exposition, and then the four of us (MIL and SIL, DH and I) went to have Spanish hot chocolate and Chorros (or for my friends Stateside melted candy bar in a cup and Chorros).  It was really good, and this is the tile address plaque of the restaurant (where you can read some Catalan). I know about 5 words in Catalan and Cream (nata) and Chocolate (xocolata) are two of them, what does that say about me?
A very cool scissor display.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Flat Needle felting tutorial

With a little bit of regret I am interrupting my Barcelona series with a requested needle felting tutorial. Most of Spain is shut down for the holidays, so I have less classes and more time to do a tutorial of this size. Please let me know if you have any questions.

Here is my my stained glass flower series that hangs on my wall. I have had a lot of interest in tutorials for this type of art. I did the "paintings" in the order you see here. I started with the poppies and my husband suggested that I do series for the living room wall. So I chose flowers as the theme, and made sure they were all surrounded by a blue and white sky.

Purple roses


Instructions to make your own:
(Remember you can click any picture to make it bigger.)

Get a piece of felt (the flowers were done on a thrift store sweater I shrunk down). It is necessary to use a piece of felt larger that the size you want to make the finished object. I think that 1 inch or 2.5cm would suffice. The needlefelting process makes the fabric shrink more. The thicker the fabric, the less it shrinks. This fabric is a 1/2cm thick fabric I got from a felt store in the center of Madrid. (Which is a lucky find as I do not know where there are thrift stores here.)
 Find a picture of a stained glass piece that you wish to imitate but not perfectly copy (unless you are a better artist than I). I usually find multiple pictures and take the elements I like out of each of them. However, it is not as important to find multiple pictures for a 2D image, and especially stained glass. Simple designs can just be winged, like this one for tutorial.

Get some black yarn it would be best if you got non-superwash 100% wool. Superwash and non- wool yarn is harder to felt into the piece (and can flatten out in strange ways as you can see). It can be done, but it is very fragile. I used fingering weight yarn, but you could use any size to vary your "glass seam" thickness. You could of course use silver yarn as well. All I had was 75% wool 25% nylon superwash fingering in black for this tutorial.

Get felting needles of all sizes, scissors, and a piece of felt to felt into.

Felting needles are different from sewing needles. They are either triangular or star shaped, and they have barbs running down the lower portion of the needle. The barbs are able to help tangle the fibers together, or felt, without the addition of water. This website has a clear list of sizes of needles (I have never bought from them, but they look nice).
Basically the smaller the needle the higher the number (like with wire). The bigger the needle the less times you have to punch down the fiber but the bigger the needle hole you get in the fiber. The smaller the needle size the more times you have to punch down the fiber, and the smaller the needle hole. It is a good idea to start with a bigger needle then move on to a finer needle for the detail work. Star needles have more barbs and felt faster than triangle needles. For this piece I used a 36 Star needle and then a 38 triangle needle to finish.

I felt in my lines first, and then color in the space in between. Not only is it charmingly like coloring when you where little, it is easier this way. The only draw back is that you then have to be very careful to felt in the color up to the lines but not cover the black.

 Scissors are your friend in felting, it is always a good idea to have then near by. Do not be afraid to cut the fibers if they are too long. A lot of long wools felt well, but if you try to fold them on top of each other it can be a mess. Use the scissors freely. The really good thing about flat felting is that it is easy to add more fiber, it is also fairly easy to rip the fibers completely from the "canvas"if they are not really attached. This will allow you to "place" fibers and see if they look right and them tear them away if they do not.

 The best thing about my stained glass idea is the mixing of the colors. ALWAYS mix your colors, it gives them great depth, and it is a fun way to play with colors. If you do not like the result rip it out, and start again. This technique uses minimal wool so the waste is minimal, and often you can reuse your wool elsewhere.
 In this piece I am mixing colors randomly (actually using up already mixed colors from another project). For general "stained glass" you can put in you lowlights and highlight wherever you want, you do not have to worry about creating shadow or light. like you would on more tradtional pieces.
 Above you can see that I mixed in green as well as various oranges and yellows.
 Finally I made sure that all of the edges next to the black lines where tidy and not showing "whitespace". Then I went over the whole pice with smaller needles (I think a 40 triangle), and finally I did something I have never done before and ironed it. Iron fills in the holes nicely. Here is how you iron: wet a wash cloth or small towel completely and then squeeze out the water until it is not dripping heavily. Then put the "piece" on an ironing board, put the washcloth on top of it (I fold mine at least once to have the iron farther away from the fabric, and let in more moisture) and press a hot iron on top for 3-5 seconds.

Then I trimmed the edges to tidy up everything.
Finally a picture of the back, where you can see that some wool came through the other side. This kind of art is very bulky, and it is difficult to frame, I am still looking for different ideas on how to frame. Glass can cause reflection that take away from depth you put in with shading, and plus frames that our deep enough are hard to find (both in the US and here in Spain).

Here is a link to my Flickr needlefelt folder if you wish to look at my projects and see different varieties of needlefelting.

Part two of my Barcelona trip will be up tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Barcelona, a love story in three posts, Part I

I am in love with Barcelona, and there are several reasons why.
Part of it is that it is the first city I went to in Europe as an adult. Why you ask, Barcelona of all places? Was it is the culture, the art, the architecture, or the beach? No it was simply the fact that the man I loved lived in that city.

I have been to Barcelona a lot of the years, and I think part of the charm of the city is the rather organic way I have learned about it. I have never read a guide book about BCN (as the locals abbriviate it), instead I have simply learned about the city through the eyes of the people who love it and call it home. (I suppose I am learning about Madrid the same way.)

It will always be a city of romance to me. Not only because I once fell more deeply in love there with my husband, but simply walking down the street there is a romance to the buildings.

 Just look at the picture above (click to enlarge). You could spend about 10 minutes simply drinking in the detail work on the lamp post, let alone the buildings behind it.
 The details are everywhere. Details of little faces above windows......
 Statues resting in odd nooks in buildings.
 I tried not to, but as I wandered the city I could not help but to make comparisons between BCN and Madrid.
 BCN is a stunningly beautiful place, full of romance and mystery. It is older then Madrid dating back to  roman settlement. (Note: Madrid is not a very old city...for a capital city in Europe.)
 Barcelona is full of art. So many artist have lived, or live there now. It is a truly inspiring place for artists of all kinds (judging by the art, and crafts I saw for sale there).
 BCN has it all: The weather, the mountains, and the beach. As the capital city of Catalonia BCN (and by extension, Catalonia) is also rich with it's own language and culture. I love all of this about the city.
I did not take many pictures this trip, but I did take a series of photos down the beautiful Las Ramblas. Which will be in this and in the next post for you.

Most of this trip was about family, and spending my first Christmas with my in-laws.

 These are part of Catalonian heritage, giant puppets that are mounted on a frame to fit on an adults shoulders (the person would be hidden by the lower part of the costume). Brought out on holidays these figures dance and spin around revelers.
Christmas camels are big in Spain. (I love the smug look on this one's face). Spain has historically concentrated holiday celebrations on the 12th night of Christmas (January 6th) when the three kings arrived bringing presents. 

I am not sure I could ever live Barcelona for the same reasons I love it. The mountains, the beach, and a river effectively create a natural barrier around Barcelona, making it very crowded city. The culture of the Catalonians is long and rich, and I look forwarded to learning even more about their history and their language. However, right now I am trying to master my second language (Spanish) and do not have anymore room to process another language.

Madrid is more spread out and even though there is more people that live there, they are less condensed (kind of like the difference between LA and NYC). There is also a comfort to know that most people in Madrid are speaking Spanish and not Catalonian. The cadences, and indeed many of the words, are the same in both languages and it can sometimes take some time to figure out what language a person is speaking.

In short, going to Barcelona is wonderful, but I am glad that I live in Madrid.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tis the season

On Sunday DH and I went out with our friend Sarah to see the decorations and do some window shopping.

Look what we found!:

Peat! Apparently sold for the nativity scenes, or Belens. They really take it seriously here. We saw a beautiful one last night, but sadly there is no pictures as I though it impolite to play tourist in the midst of such faith.

 Sarah found some Mistletoe in the Peat boxes! I must have lived a sheltered life because I have never seen Mistletoe in person before!

There is a plant stand across from the Barnabeau that I love to walk by. They always have such wonderful displays! Their Christmas display is no disappointment (this is just part of it).

I love these little cactus Santas!

Usually these "signs" just have advertisement posters facing three sides, but yesterday we discovered that they all had Christmas trees, how cool!

Down the middle of the Castellana (big street) there is a open air (Christmas?) market.

 There is the famous Jamon, a salted pig that 90% of Spaniards love. You can see half a dozen of these legs in any local market, as well as the already thinly sliced product (which you can see displayed on the wall).

Two welcoming holiday figures welcome you to the Nuevos Ministerios plaza.

I do not think this last picture was ment to be holiday oriented, but I am going to include it anyway.

OK I am off to Barcelona for my first holiday with the in-laws (and some yarn shopping).

I hope that you and yours have a wonderful week/holiday!