Mesti ingat, mesti buat

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Adakah anda orang yang gemar menampal peringatan/kata-kata dorongan/senarai tugasan/matlamat-matlamat di dinding atau soft board anda? Misalnya, kalau anda pelajar universiti, mungkin anda tampal besar-besar senarai subjek yang diambil berserta angka 4.00 di sebelah semua subjek tersebut. Lebih terpuji, ada yang meletakkan senarai amalan sunat harian yang dimestikan ke atas diri sendiri. Mungkin juga anda letakkan target penurunan/penambahan berat badan. Seorang room mate dia dahulu, melukis gambar kubur dan menulis di bawahnya "Di sinilah tempat aku kembali nanti". Lagi, ramai juga yang menampal target-target hidup (25 tahun: graduate; 26 tahun: nikah; 30 tahun: umrah). Ada orang yang tiap-tiap hari menukar nota Post-It "To do list" mereka.

Atau, adakah anda suka soft board anda dibiarkan kosong (yang ada mungkin kupon piza; random keychains pemberian orang yang tak tahu di mana lagi mahu diletakkan kerana kunci cuma ada dua set: kunci rumah dan kunci mahallah sedangkan keychains sudah berbelas-belas; dan kerongsang tudung tinggalan kawan-kawan anda yang suka meninggalkan kerongsang di bilik anda) kerana anda berpendapat bahawa motivasi dan peringatan ialah perkara peribadi. Lagipun anda paranoid, tak mahu orang tahu apa yang sedang anda fikir, rancang, atau risaukan.

Dia termasuk dalam kategori kedua.

Tapi kadang-kadang, perbuatan mengumumkan matlamat dan peringatan diri sendiri boleh menggesa kita untuk bersungguh-sungguh memenuhi perkara-perkara tersebut.

Maka hari ini, dia dare to publicize (sedikit).

Dalam perkataan lain, kalaulah dia jenis yang menulis di soft board, beginilah rupa peringatan di soft board-nya:

1) Don't lose more than 5 marks for carry marks OF ALL SUBJECTS from now on. Okay too much. At least get 50/60 FOR EACH SUBJECT.

2) That means:
    a) minimize daydreaming during lectures
    b) update lecture notes, at least once a week
    c) stop your stupid begin-revising-the-night-before-the-test habit because you know you can do better than that
    d) haunt the library. (But not the leisure reading section or the TV area.)  

3) You have enough clothes already (don't buy any more tops just because "it's really pretty and it's on sale")

4) Buy formal shoes -- maybe dark grey Mary Janes. Are MJ's formal? Whatever, get dark grey Mary Janes.

5) Read more, read seriously. Are you a history student or what?

6) Write letters more.

7) Blog more regularly. Ask questions, answer them; share experiences; show/tell others about the interesting people you meet; think aloud; record the good things and the useful things that happen to you; be careful, don't reveal too much, this is the Internet; but if it's a good thing, don't be afraid to hit "publish".

8) Don't get any grade lower than A. To achieve this, refer to #1.

9) You won't be able to raise your CGPA if you don't fulfill #8.

10) People don't die of low grades. Their hearts just break from regrets.

Dia pelajar santai (nota tak pernah lengkap, tak melazimi bacaan serius harian, malam sebelum exam baru nak tidur dengan bahan bacaan), sebab itulah mesti diingatkan bahawa gred A hanya boleh diraih melalui sifat istiqamah. Sebab itulah public(-ized) self reminder ini di-overload dengan perihal pelajaran. Lagipun, esok semester pendek bermula (kelas English for Occupational Purposes jam 8:30-11:30, English for Academic Writing jam 2-4!), dan semua orang tahu bahawa semester pendek ibarat roller coaster -- sekejap sahaja berlalu dan habis, sakit kepala sedikit sebanyak sepanjang perjalanan, kerap kali rasa ingin menjerit -- kalau tak diingatkan akan kepayahannya dari awal, nescaya lalailah pelajar-pelajar santai se-UIA.

Dyeing helps me relax, too

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My brain went into overdrive while answering Thursday's Islah & Tajdid paper. First question totally threw me off: Discuss the main features of Al-Ghazali's views on philosophy [14 marks]. I was all, "What, you mean I have to give specifics? Fourteen marks?" I allowed myself one round of heavy sigh, inward groan, and an eye roll, and moved on to the next two questions. (This has been my modus operandi since I sat for exams in primary school -- wait I think we had exams in kindergarten, so okay, my MO since kindergarten -- if you no idea what a question wants straightaway after reading it, skip to the next question. Don't waste your time mourning over that topic you didn't revise. My general motto in life -- regarding the past -- is don't cry over spilt milk; mop it up and pour yourself some more, or drink something else if there's no more milk to be had).

Still, after "Giv(ing) a comparative analysis of the careers and thoughts of Ibn 'Abdul Wahhab and Shah Waliullah (Dehlavi) [12 marks]", and "Describ(ing) the career and thought of (Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1983) in the Muslim world [12 marks]", I forced myself to recall Al-Ghazali's ideas on philosophy (bother, bother, bother!). Background of his times, the Mu'tazilism-Al-Ma'mun thing, the whole Nizamiyyah schools yarn, the Islamic Golden Age trend of rational thinking, too much thinking, admiration for Hellenic philosophy, how the great shaykh trumped neo-Platonic philosophy forever with his arguments (which I described really vaguely), his period of disenchantment with philosophy-'Ilm al-Kalam, etc etc. Threw in some description of the Ihya' Ulumuddin, explained how it reflected his approach towards knowledge, etc... ya Allah. That doesn't seem like I actually discussed the main features of his views on philosophy, does it?

Naaah.

Anyway, to console myself after that paper, I spent the entire evening and night dyeing some fabric I'd brought along to campus for de-stressing purposes. 2 meters of white cotton were cut into three pieces (unequal sizes), and dyed into blue, pink, and light purple. Then I changed my mind and cut the now-blue piece into two and put it into the pink dye to make it purple. I hate blue and purple (which doesn't mean true hate, but that on a list of most-liked colours, they're at the bottom. They're nice colours by themselves, but rather flat I think), I'm still not sure why I bought those shades.


Splotchy dye job.
Wear long gloves unless you want to dye your hands as well, like I did. I went through three pairs of latex gloves, which were no help at all because the hot dye-water kept filling them in when I sloshed the fabric around in the pail.

The colours aren't as bold as I'd like them to be, though, so that means another round of dyeing later. 

I don't know what it is about exams that make me suddenly hate reading the materials I need to be reading for the exam. Yesterday I was supposed to prepare for today's Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya paper, but all of a sudden, Kak Ely's Philosophy of Religion (or whatever that subject is) notes seemed far more interesting than the BM book. I even (happily and willingly!) read through her notes about Al-Ghazali's ideas on causality (don't ask), although I've had a nightmare with that topic only the day before in a History paper! And her notes were what I'd call boring under normal circumstances -- they (Comparative Religion students) actually have to study Hume and Kant and all those thinkers. Ugh. But last night those subjects were like Harry Potter compared to my Bahasa Melayu book.

Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is actually rather interesting. Practical is the word. Ridiculous workload: contact hours:  credit hours: exam time ratio, but useful subject. This morning before the exam, I crammed down all the gelaran Diraja and gelaran kurniaan (Yang Berhormat for elected MPs or State Reps; Yang Berbahagia for the PM, DPM and Menteri Besars; Yang Berbahagia for non-elected people who work in the civil service, yadda yadda) details for the Protokol Majlis topic. One of the questions wanted us to prepare the introductory remarks for the Rector's speech in a majlis, that, get this...disempurnakan oleh Tengku Mahkota Pahang. Have you ever written a speech that addresses the Malay royals? Have you? I thought not. See, Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is very useful.

Did you know that the Raja Muda/Tengku Mahkotas of the different negeris have to be addressed differently? The Sultans, too. And before this I didn't know that when a royal is in the audience, you have to -- after memohon sembah beribu-ribu ampun, menjunjung kasih Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tuanku (this being the proper gelaran for the Raja Muda of Kelantan and Pahang only) kerana berkenan mencemar duli... -- ask the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota's consent to address the rest of the audience? That means the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota acts like an observer throughout your speech. I'm sorry am I making sense?  You didn't have to read all that. But it's really interesting, honestly.

On a happier note, I'm now done with my minor courses (with the Communication Law & Ethics paper over last week), and also with the Bahasa Melayu subjects. After this, I have 7 history subjects + 2 English subjects (university requirement courses) to go, and then, by the end of January 2013 Insha Allah, I'll be done with my undergraduate life here. Rabbi yassir wa la tu'assir, Rabbi tammim bilkhayr!

P.S.: Next up: Indonesian History from 1500 C.E., History of the Ayyubids & Mamluks, and Colonialism in the Muslim World. Now we're talkin'!

P.P.S.: I always seem to have more time for blogging during the exam weeks.

Sewing for sanity

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Esei panjang lagi. (What? Don't look at me like that.) 

Bahagian I (Pernyataan masalah): Perlukah belajar tinggi-tinggi? Perlukah berkerjaya? Cabaran perempuan alaf ke-21.

Anda ada cita-cita? Contohnya, "Saya mahu tanam buah pic di belakang rumah dan menjaga pokok tersebut sehingga mendapat hasil. Kemudian, saya akan menjual buah-buah pic tanaman saya kepada orang kampung". 

Bagus. Manusia normal perlukan cita-cita. Tapi, pernahkah anda berasa terlampau terbeban dengan cita-cita sendiri, sehingga mahu lupakan saja impian anda? Contohnya, "Susah pulak jaga pokok pic. Tanam pisang sudahlah. Pisang goreng lebih dikenali, lebih komersil, lebih marketable. Lagipun orang kampung ini tak gemarkan buah pic". Dan akhirnya cita-cita anda terkubur di belakang rumah.

Pisang lebih marketable berbanding pic?
BBA (atau undang-undang) lebih marketable daripada History? *wink wink*

Cita-cita dia tak banyak. (Rasanya cita-cita tak perlu banyak; cukuplah kalau boleh memandu usaha kita sehari-harian.) Dia pun ada impian. Sejak usia 16 tahun, dia telah meletakkan matlamat untuk mendalami Hebrew/Jewish studies di universiti.

What studies? (Rasa macam tak considerate pulak kalau tak letak subtitle dalam post panjang)

Bila orang tanya kenapa Jewish studies, dia selalu terdiam dan sekadar menawarkan jawapan ringkas "Sebab minat". Bukan sebab tak tahu jawapan, tapi sebab jawapan sebenarnya terlalu panjang, iaitu seperti yang berikut:

This is what I want to do because:

[1] Personally, I think Jews are fascinating; 
[2] I think it's important to learn about the Jews from the Jewish worldview;
[3] Judaism and Islam have had a long history together, but I know so little about Judaism. Experts on Islamic history, we have quite a number already. But Muslims who specialize in Jewish history? Come on!
[4] I think Jews will play a major role (or, since they already are doing that now, an even greater role) in the administration/politics/global engineering of everything on Planet Earth in the near future, so we'll need people with qualified knowledge about them to help ourselves deal with them;
[5] I need an excuse to learn another language;
[6] I enjoy doing things that other people don't do;
[7] I have to see other places. There's no chance of doing Jewish studies in Malaysia, so this is one solid reason for finally going overseas;
[8] A lot of what I've heard about Jews are linked to conspiracy theories, but I have no idea about how to find out what is true and what isn't;
[9] I've heard so much about the Jews, but have never met one in my life (refer to #1);
[10] I look forward to hearing "You're studying what?!" and "Why would anyone want to study that?" again after this, harhar;
[11] Curiousity about The Other, Them. I want a first-hand experience. At the tangible and intangible sources for Jewish history and civilization. (I'm a history student, I swoon over old and ancient stuff). And I want to be able to understand when I see them.
[12] So that I can help Muslims understand Judaism and the Jews better, insha Allah;
[13] I want to learn something new. New is good.
[14] I'm bored (Is this the same as #13?);
[15] I really need to specialize in one civilization/culture/period. As of now, I'm taking in too much information about so many eras and cultures, but am digesting too little.
[16] Fardhu kifayah.

Kesimpulannya, kerana dia minat, rasa perlu, dan rasa mampu.

Prof. Khoo kata, "Studying history is not about saying 'this is right' or 'this is wrong'. That is not the job of historians. Your primary job is to find out what really happened." Tapi bagi dia, untuk mengambil pengajaran daripada kejadian-kejadian lalu, kita harus faham apa yang hak dan apa yang  tidak hak. Dan memang Profesor Khoo sendiri selalu ingatkan, tujuan kita belajar sejarah adalah untuk mengambil pengajaran untuk masa hadapan. Tak mengapa. Yang jelas, tanggungjawab ahli sejarah profesional adalah untuk memastikan dahulu apa yang sahih; perihal menilai itu, tanggungjawab bersama masyarakat.

Sebagai sejarawan, dia mesti objektif. Sebagai manusia, dia mesti berprinsip. Sebagai Muslim, mesti kenal apa yang hak dan apa yang batil. Pandai-pandailah gabungkan semuanya.

Takut! 

Rasa seperti takkan boleh bahagia kalau impian yang satu ini terkandas. Ibarat Rapunzel yang tak dapat bebas dari menara kurungan, hari-hari tengok rumput dan tanah dari jauh. Ibarat pungguk rindukan bulan di Kutub Utara di musim siang. Ibarat cinta yang tak kesampaian, malah lebih mengecewakan. Cita-cita ini sudah menjadi sebahagian penting daripada diri dia. Sehingga menakutkan dirinya sendiri...ibarat takut tanaman pic takkan pernah menjadi!

Tolonglah doakan kejayaan dia untuk mencapai cita-cita ini (jika ini haluan yang terbaik). Dan kalau ini bukan jalan terbaik, supaya dia menemui jalan yang lebih baik dan jauh lebih baik. Allah Maha Tahu.

Malangnya, setelah lelah membuat assignments, bacaan dan kajian saban hari, kadang-kadang terfikir untuk menghentikan sahaja impian-impian lalu, lantaklah. Hilang percaya pada kesanggupan diri sendiri.

Dan pada masa-masa kepenatan seperti ini, pasti dia mengadu kepada Iimaan, ataupun sesiapa yang kebetulan melepak bersama-sama.

"Iimaan. Kita rasa macam tak nak sambung belajarlah. Nak buat ape sambung belajar. Kalau sambung belajar kita boleh buat ape? Kalau sambung belajar, nanti kita kena mengajar. Mesti kita rasa kita kena (perlu) mengajar, kalau tak, sia-sia jelah belajar tinggi-tinggi. Mana boleh belajar banyak-banyak tapi tak sampaikan. Tapi kita tak nak kerja. Alaaa tak nak kerjaaaaaa, penatlah. Nanti balik rumah lewat malamlah, bawak kerja balik rumahlah. Tapi kita nanti mesti bosan kalau tak sambung belajar." Dan seterusnya, dan seterusnya.

Iimaan pun melayan sahaja. "Hah. Habis tu awak nak buat ape? Nak jahit baju?"

"Ha ah boleh jugak. Hee bestnya kan, design barang, jahit. Eh tapi nanti kita mesti bosan. Hari-hari menjahit je. Mesti kita nak belajar jugak."

"Habis tu macamana?"

"Lepas tu jual kuih kat depan rumah ke. Bestnya. Tapi kena cari rumah yang kat tempat strategik ah kan. Heh bestnya jual kuih, macam Kak Ina dengan Auni hari tu." Diam. "Eh tapi nanti mesti kita rasa bosan kan? Tapi betul ke kita nak sambung belajar? Kita tak nakla buat PhD, nak buat ape. Nanti orang panggil kita Doktor, entah apa-apa je. Kadang-kadang bila fikir balik, kita rasa macam dah tak nak sambung lagi."

Iimaan sudah menampakkan kerisauan. "Ish. Betul ke. Habis apa yang awak nak?"

"Taktaula Iimaan. Kena istikharah lagi."

Sekarang Iimaan selalu memberi nasihat positif. Kadang-kadang, tengah senyap-senyap melepak/makan/belajar tiba-tiba Iimaan cakap, "Kita rasa awak kena jugak belajar lagi. Mak kita pun kata, perlu. Sebab kalau awak belajar, nanti awak boleh ajar kat orang lain pulak." Kawan-kawan lain pun begitu. Hilda, course-mate yang cuma dikenali dari kelas Usul Fiqh pernah menyapa  dia di tengah jalan: "Hari tu I was talking with my lecturer pasal your plans nak buat Jewish studies tu...and she said, betul jugak, we need people to study those things..."

Terima kasih sahabat! You believe in me more than I believe in myself. 

9 to 5 jobs (7 to 7, actually, if you consider all that commuting etc): my ultimate nightmare.

Ini bukan setakat krisis peribadi dia, atau Iimaan, atau kak Solehah, atau kak Seri, atau Nisa', juga kawan-kawannya yang lain [yang semuanya pernah menyatakan keinginan untuk bebas memilih antara berkerjaya dan tidak berkerjaya. Hakikatnya kebebasan pilihan ini tertakluk pada keadaan masing-masing kan?]. Dilema ini pernah juga disuarakan oleh seorang sister jurusan Bahasa Arab dari BosniaKatanya: "Muslimah(s) today are so confused. To work  or not to work? To further our studies or not?" Kami perlukan nasihat orang-orang yang lebih tahu!

Kami mahu jadi manusia berguna. Tapi adakah kami lebih berguna jika berprofesion, atau lebih berguna sebagai stay-at-home-wives/mothers? (And you know what, kalau tak berkeluarga pun, tak mahulah kerja yang keluar pagi balik petang.) Sebab kalau anda belum perasanlah, sangat susah untuk seimbangkan kerjaya dan keluarga, apatah lagi untuk orang perempuan yang banyak tuntutan di rumah. Dia tahu, Mak-Mak kita banyak yang bekerja, boleh saja survive. Mak dia juga. Tapi kelegaan Mak bila akhirnya berhenti kerja setahun yang lepas, tak dapat digambarkan dengan kata-kata. That said, pasti bosan kalau tak bekerja langsung. Sumpah bosan. Serabut betul.

Tapi rasa bertanggungjawab untuk mencari dan menyampaikan ilmu asing selalu menghantui! Mungkin disebabkan proses menimba ilmu yang sangat addictive. Kerana lebih banyak kita belajar, pasti kita lebih sedar betapa banyaknya lagi yang kita jahil.

(Yang sebenarnya, tekanan membawa kepada putus asa. Hilang tekanan, hilanglah putus asa.)

Kesimpulannya, (1) Jangan biarkan stres membelenggu hidup anda (2) Carilah cara yang sesuai untuk melepaskan tekanan (3) Kita perlukan sahabat (4) Dia masih keliru (5) Semoga Allah menunjukkan jalan yang terbaik untuk masa hadapan kita semua.

Bahagian II (Design bag, make bag, feel good): Hobi itu penting.

Warning:


Intense sewing and needle-work talk and photos all the way from here. If you are not interested in sewing, fabrics, bags, or detailed descriptions about sewing failures and fabric/sewing-notion prices, don't bother scrolling down. I'm sure other people have updated their blog recently, too, (with far more interesting stories). Might as well close this tab now. Go.

But in case you're wondering what this bag story has to do with all that "Oh no my dreams are terrifying me" drama: Well, because, the whole bag-designing and -making experience was challenging and very satisfying, helped me calm down, take a mental break from my studies, regain my senses, and most importantly, ditch any thoughts about giving up my dreams. It made me realize that I shouldn't start second-guessing my own plans just because I was so sick of reading and stressed out from research and work. The situation was simple: I was spent, and badly needed a creative release. In other words, this is how I relax.

Now you can close the tab.
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(My not yet finished) 2-in-1 watermelon laptop/book bag
Except that at the moment I don't have a laptop to put in it because mine is being checked/repaired. The screen died.

Why I made it: I had bought myself some thick, sunshiny yellow cotton (in the form of a pair of jeans from the bundle shop) a couple of months back. The colour was so cheerful, I just had to take it, only I didn't know what exactly I was going to do with it [I bought it for the fabric, not to wear it]. After staring at it for some time and mulling over my options, I thought: Yellow watermelon! I need a bag for my laptop! I'm itching to make something! Make a watermelon laptop bag! So many exclamation marks.

And so the yellow/red watermelon laptop bag was born. (Yellow to match my yellow rubber flats and red to match my red canvas wedges. Okay not really. I just happen to have a pair each of yellow and red shoes. Watermelon colours.) My point is, this is like a 2 styles-in-1 bag. One side yellow, one side red. Wear either colour to match my outfit or mood.

I measured my laptop, did a lot of drafting on brown paper, and finalized my design along the way (basically a tote shaped like a slice/wedge of watermelon -- thicker at the base, thinner near the zipper -- padded lining with partition, recessed zipper, non-adjustable straps. Just your basic tote, really). Had the pattern ready in a couple of days, with the aid of a variety of bowls and round-edged trays to shape the watermelon.

A couple of weeks of fabric-hunting followed. I had a stash of fabrics waiting to be made into bags, but I still needed to get some red and green ones for the watermelon. Eventually I found the red and two shades of green that I wanted for a bargain (more on this below).




(a) Outer body yellow side (b) Outer body red side. My mother said that this isn't the right colour for a watermelon, because watermelon red is different, pinkish really. But I don't think I can be happy carrying around a pink bag, so although this shade of red is a bit too strong for a watermelon, I chose it over the deep pink fabric I had. (c) Lining/the actual body of the bag. I sewed the straps to the body (and will sew them to meet at the bottom) to strengthen the bag.



Yellow half, lining stuffed into the outer layer for show here. Yep, they still need to be sewn together but that's not going to happen until I get hold of a sewing machine. Which means when I'm done with the exams and get back home. (1) Watermelon skin stripe detail (2) I wanted to use buttons for the seeds (because who wants to spend their time embroidering watermelon seeds, really), but I couldn't find any seed/teardrop-shaped buttons anywhere. So embroidery it is after all. I embroidered the seeds using regular DMC floss, 2 strands for the padding, and one strand for the final satin stitch
(3) & (4) More details.


Red half. (5) The striped part of the rind is supposed to be the sides of the bag (7) The dark grey material was too dark to be friendly with the red one, so I had to use off-white floss for the seeds and heavy white cotton for the eaten-out void because white contrasts much better with the red 
(6) & (8) So much top-stitching, so much fun.



(9) Recessed zipper: I used a larger-than-normal zipper, not like the regular ones you'd sew on to garments. Cost me about RM6, I think (at Haby & Wools, Ampang Park. God knows how often I haunt that place). I haven't finished this part -- see the basting there? -- it needs to be attached to the outer watermelon thing. (10) Every seam and every allowance had to be marked so that no stupid, frustrating mistakes will happen from start to finish. Of course I still had quite a few "Oops" moments, but they were manageable, thanks to all that pain-in-the-neck tracing-wheeling and triple-checking I did before I cut out the pieces. Alhamdulillah. (11) Lined right up to the zipper. (12) Oh and I had to quilt the inside pieces first (and the padding was recycled from an old mattress cover, so I had to wash, bleach, dry, and unpick the original quilt before I get to use the padding. I get tired all over again just by remembering the whole process) before actually assembling them together. (13) The partition, to separate the laptop from its charger et al. I didn't make a restraining strap to hold the laptop in place, nor did I make ANY pockets, 'cos even without the pockets and straps, it was already a very involved project, and I just couldn't bring myself to even think about drafting, cutting out, and sewing any more pieces.


The inside story: (14) & (18) This is how the back of a satin-stitched thing looks like. 
(15) & (19) The bitten part. (16) & (17) Clipped curves. 


More bag talk:

(1) Cost

a) The quilt padding, like I said, was recycled. So no cost there. Just doing one batch of laundry plus hours of unpicking quilt stitches to get rid of the old outer quilt material. But it felt really good because I get to re-use the thing.

b) And the best part of making this bag is...the red, yellow and both green materials were all upcycled from pants (jeans? Jeans can be not blue, right? Right?) I bought from bundle shops. The pants cost me RM5 each at the Friday pasar malam at Bandar Bukit Mahkota, except for the yellow one (RM10 I think), which I got from a bundle shop in Bandar Baru Bangi, section 15. 

I am usually rather apprehensive about using old stuff to make new ones (because fabrics, especially, wear out, and lose their weight/texture/nice finish), but jeans material is very hard-wearing, and I'm seeing great results with my first try here. Heavy cotton make the best bag material (I think, because I like my stuff to be sturdy but washable), but the good ones are usually quite expensive (around RM20-40 per meter), and even so, finding the right colours is another headache [and I'm very picky with my colours and fabrics]. So I'm happy to say that from now on, I'll definitely use second-hand jeans to make bags again. The bundle shops sell so many colours! On top of that, most of them are skinny jeans, or very low-cut ones, so I like to think that they're better off being bags rather than pants that don't really cover people's awrah.

[And as much as possible, I choose the ones that look the newest.]

And after taking what I need from the trousers for this bag, I still have about half-a-jeans remaining for each colour.

c) The material for the lining is some sort of light linen/cotton (I'm a fan of naturals) that I bought for RM4 per meter, which is a very happy price;

d) But the dark-grey cotton I used for the straps, zipper panels, and bitten out void (for the yellow side) cost RM25.90 per meter (MINNA fabric from IKEA). I probably used up at least half a meter of the dark grey for all of that [so around RM13].

e) The white material used for the bitten out space (for the red watermelon) is also MINNA, but it's not like I used even a quarter of a meter for that part. Just several inches square, really.

f) Threads and embroidery flosses in all, maybe RM10. 

Overall, I think it's a reasonably-priced project, and could be even cheaper if I'd used recycled materials for the dark grey and white parts (or maybe even the entire bag!).

(2) Postscript

I wish I could do a tutorial on this, but since I took no pictures along the way, I don't think I can do one properly. The steps are way too many, anyway!

If anyone is thinking about making a bag like this, here's a tip: If you want a quicker bag, just paint a watermelon on a piece of heavy fabric! I find applique-ing and patchworking the watermelon therapeutic, but it takes a lot of time, precision, and patience.


Painting will probably be cheaper, too (but I'm not really sure). Because if you use Dylon fabric paint, that'll cost around RM10 per paint tube/colour, which is quite a lot, especially if you want multiple coats of paint to make the image really stand out. The Dylon 3D paint (also around RM10 per tube) would be perfect for the seeds (I considered this, and even bought a tube, but I imagined people -- me, mostly -- digging my fingernails in the shiny, rubbery 3D seeds later on, so I chose to embroider them instead). Use other brands of fabric paint for cheaper options.

Gotta study for the exams now.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mesti ingat, mesti buat

Adakah anda orang yang gemar menampal peringatan/kata-kata dorongan/senarai tugasan/matlamat-matlamat di dinding atau soft board anda? Misalnya, kalau anda pelajar universiti, mungkin anda tampal besar-besar senarai subjek yang diambil berserta angka 4.00 di sebelah semua subjek tersebut. Lebih terpuji, ada yang meletakkan senarai amalan sunat harian yang dimestikan ke atas diri sendiri. Mungkin juga anda letakkan target penurunan/penambahan berat badan. Seorang room mate dia dahulu, melukis gambar kubur dan menulis di bawahnya "Di sinilah tempat aku kembali nanti". Lagi, ramai juga yang menampal target-target hidup (25 tahun: graduate; 26 tahun: nikah; 30 tahun: umrah). Ada orang yang tiap-tiap hari menukar nota Post-It "To do list" mereka.

Atau, adakah anda suka soft board anda dibiarkan kosong (yang ada mungkin kupon piza; random keychains pemberian orang yang tak tahu di mana lagi mahu diletakkan kerana kunci cuma ada dua set: kunci rumah dan kunci mahallah sedangkan keychains sudah berbelas-belas; dan kerongsang tudung tinggalan kawan-kawan anda yang suka meninggalkan kerongsang di bilik anda) kerana anda berpendapat bahawa motivasi dan peringatan ialah perkara peribadi. Lagipun anda paranoid, tak mahu orang tahu apa yang sedang anda fikir, rancang, atau risaukan.

Dia termasuk dalam kategori kedua.

Tapi kadang-kadang, perbuatan mengumumkan matlamat dan peringatan diri sendiri boleh menggesa kita untuk bersungguh-sungguh memenuhi perkara-perkara tersebut.

Maka hari ini, dia dare to publicize (sedikit).

Dalam perkataan lain, kalaulah dia jenis yang menulis di soft board, beginilah rupa peringatan di soft board-nya:

1) Don't lose more than 5 marks for carry marks OF ALL SUBJECTS from now on. Okay too much. At least get 50/60 FOR EACH SUBJECT.

2) That means:
    a) minimize daydreaming during lectures
    b) update lecture notes, at least once a week
    c) stop your stupid begin-revising-the-night-before-the-test habit because you know you can do better than that
    d) haunt the library. (But not the leisure reading section or the TV area.)  

3) You have enough clothes already (don't buy any more tops just because "it's really pretty and it's on sale")

4) Buy formal shoes -- maybe dark grey Mary Janes. Are MJ's formal? Whatever, get dark grey Mary Janes.

5) Read more, read seriously. Are you a history student or what?

6) Write letters more.

7) Blog more regularly. Ask questions, answer them; share experiences; show/tell others about the interesting people you meet; think aloud; record the good things and the useful things that happen to you; be careful, don't reveal too much, this is the Internet; but if it's a good thing, don't be afraid to hit "publish".

8) Don't get any grade lower than A. To achieve this, refer to #1.

9) You won't be able to raise your CGPA if you don't fulfill #8.

10) People don't die of low grades. Their hearts just break from regrets.

Dia pelajar santai (nota tak pernah lengkap, tak melazimi bacaan serius harian, malam sebelum exam baru nak tidur dengan bahan bacaan), sebab itulah mesti diingatkan bahawa gred A hanya boleh diraih melalui sifat istiqamah. Sebab itulah public(-ized) self reminder ini di-overload dengan perihal pelajaran. Lagipun, esok semester pendek bermula (kelas English for Occupational Purposes jam 8:30-11:30, English for Academic Writing jam 2-4!), dan semua orang tahu bahawa semester pendek ibarat roller coaster -- sekejap sahaja berlalu dan habis, sakit kepala sedikit sebanyak sepanjang perjalanan, kerap kali rasa ingin menjerit -- kalau tak diingatkan akan kepayahannya dari awal, nescaya lalailah pelajar-pelajar santai se-UIA.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dyeing helps me relax, too

My brain went into overdrive while answering Thursday's Islah & Tajdid paper. First question totally threw me off: Discuss the main features of Al-Ghazali's views on philosophy [14 marks]. I was all, "What, you mean I have to give specifics? Fourteen marks?" I allowed myself one round of heavy sigh, inward groan, and an eye roll, and moved on to the next two questions. (This has been my modus operandi since I sat for exams in primary school -- wait I think we had exams in kindergarten, so okay, my MO since kindergarten -- if you no idea what a question wants straightaway after reading it, skip to the next question. Don't waste your time mourning over that topic you didn't revise. My general motto in life -- regarding the past -- is don't cry over spilt milk; mop it up and pour yourself some more, or drink something else if there's no more milk to be had).

Still, after "Giv(ing) a comparative analysis of the careers and thoughts of Ibn 'Abdul Wahhab and Shah Waliullah (Dehlavi) [12 marks]", and "Describ(ing) the career and thought of (Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1983) in the Muslim world [12 marks]", I forced myself to recall Al-Ghazali's ideas on philosophy (bother, bother, bother!). Background of his times, the Mu'tazilism-Al-Ma'mun thing, the whole Nizamiyyah schools yarn, the Islamic Golden Age trend of rational thinking, too much thinking, admiration for Hellenic philosophy, how the great shaykh trumped neo-Platonic philosophy forever with his arguments (which I described really vaguely), his period of disenchantment with philosophy-'Ilm al-Kalam, etc etc. Threw in some description of the Ihya' Ulumuddin, explained how it reflected his approach towards knowledge, etc... ya Allah. That doesn't seem like I actually discussed the main features of his views on philosophy, does it?

Naaah.

Anyway, to console myself after that paper, I spent the entire evening and night dyeing some fabric I'd brought along to campus for de-stressing purposes. 2 meters of white cotton were cut into three pieces (unequal sizes), and dyed into blue, pink, and light purple. Then I changed my mind and cut the now-blue piece into two and put it into the pink dye to make it purple. I hate blue and purple (which doesn't mean true hate, but that on a list of most-liked colours, they're at the bottom. They're nice colours by themselves, but rather flat I think), I'm still not sure why I bought those shades.


Splotchy dye job.
Wear long gloves unless you want to dye your hands as well, like I did. I went through three pairs of latex gloves, which were no help at all because the hot dye-water kept filling them in when I sloshed the fabric around in the pail.

The colours aren't as bold as I'd like them to be, though, so that means another round of dyeing later. 

I don't know what it is about exams that make me suddenly hate reading the materials I need to be reading for the exam. Yesterday I was supposed to prepare for today's Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya paper, but all of a sudden, Kak Ely's Philosophy of Religion (or whatever that subject is) notes seemed far more interesting than the BM book. I even (happily and willingly!) read through her notes about Al-Ghazali's ideas on causality (don't ask), although I've had a nightmare with that topic only the day before in a History paper! And her notes were what I'd call boring under normal circumstances -- they (Comparative Religion students) actually have to study Hume and Kant and all those thinkers. Ugh. But last night those subjects were like Harry Potter compared to my Bahasa Melayu book.

Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is actually rather interesting. Practical is the word. Ridiculous workload: contact hours:  credit hours: exam time ratio, but useful subject. This morning before the exam, I crammed down all the gelaran Diraja and gelaran kurniaan (Yang Berhormat for elected MPs or State Reps; Yang Berbahagia for the PM, DPM and Menteri Besars; Yang Berbahagia for non-elected people who work in the civil service, yadda yadda) details for the Protokol Majlis topic. One of the questions wanted us to prepare the introductory remarks for the Rector's speech in a majlis, that, get this...disempurnakan oleh Tengku Mahkota Pahang. Have you ever written a speech that addresses the Malay royals? Have you? I thought not. See, Bahasa Melayu Kerjaya is very useful.

Did you know that the Raja Muda/Tengku Mahkotas of the different negeris have to be addressed differently? The Sultans, too. And before this I didn't know that when a royal is in the audience, you have to -- after memohon sembah beribu-ribu ampun, menjunjung kasih Kebawah Duli Yang Teramat Mulia Tuanku (this being the proper gelaran for the Raja Muda of Kelantan and Pahang only) kerana berkenan mencemar duli... -- ask the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota's consent to address the rest of the audience? That means the Sultan/Tengku Mahkota acts like an observer throughout your speech. I'm sorry am I making sense?  You didn't have to read all that. But it's really interesting, honestly.

On a happier note, I'm now done with my minor courses (with the Communication Law & Ethics paper over last week), and also with the Bahasa Melayu subjects. After this, I have 7 history subjects + 2 English subjects (university requirement courses) to go, and then, by the end of January 2013 Insha Allah, I'll be done with my undergraduate life here. Rabbi yassir wa la tu'assir, Rabbi tammim bilkhayr!

P.S.: Next up: Indonesian History from 1500 C.E., History of the Ayyubids & Mamluks, and Colonialism in the Muslim World. Now we're talkin'!

P.P.S.: I always seem to have more time for blogging during the exam weeks.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Sewing for sanity

Esei panjang lagi. (What? Don't look at me like that.) 

Bahagian I (Pernyataan masalah): Perlukah belajar tinggi-tinggi? Perlukah berkerjaya? Cabaran perempuan alaf ke-21.

Anda ada cita-cita? Contohnya, "Saya mahu tanam buah pic di belakang rumah dan menjaga pokok tersebut sehingga mendapat hasil. Kemudian, saya akan menjual buah-buah pic tanaman saya kepada orang kampung". 

Bagus. Manusia normal perlukan cita-cita. Tapi, pernahkah anda berasa terlampau terbeban dengan cita-cita sendiri, sehingga mahu lupakan saja impian anda? Contohnya, "Susah pulak jaga pokok pic. Tanam pisang sudahlah. Pisang goreng lebih dikenali, lebih komersil, lebih marketable. Lagipun orang kampung ini tak gemarkan buah pic". Dan akhirnya cita-cita anda terkubur di belakang rumah.

Pisang lebih marketable berbanding pic?
BBA (atau undang-undang) lebih marketable daripada History? *wink wink*

Cita-cita dia tak banyak. (Rasanya cita-cita tak perlu banyak; cukuplah kalau boleh memandu usaha kita sehari-harian.) Dia pun ada impian. Sejak usia 16 tahun, dia telah meletakkan matlamat untuk mendalami Hebrew/Jewish studies di universiti.

What studies? (Rasa macam tak considerate pulak kalau tak letak subtitle dalam post panjang)

Bila orang tanya kenapa Jewish studies, dia selalu terdiam dan sekadar menawarkan jawapan ringkas "Sebab minat". Bukan sebab tak tahu jawapan, tapi sebab jawapan sebenarnya terlalu panjang, iaitu seperti yang berikut:

This is what I want to do because:

[1] Personally, I think Jews are fascinating; 
[2] I think it's important to learn about the Jews from the Jewish worldview;
[3] Judaism and Islam have had a long history together, but I know so little about Judaism. Experts on Islamic history, we have quite a number already. But Muslims who specialize in Jewish history? Come on!
[4] I think Jews will play a major role (or, since they already are doing that now, an even greater role) in the administration/politics/global engineering of everything on Planet Earth in the near future, so we'll need people with qualified knowledge about them to help ourselves deal with them;
[5] I need an excuse to learn another language;
[6] I enjoy doing things that other people don't do;
[7] I have to see other places. There's no chance of doing Jewish studies in Malaysia, so this is one solid reason for finally going overseas;
[8] A lot of what I've heard about Jews are linked to conspiracy theories, but I have no idea about how to find out what is true and what isn't;
[9] I've heard so much about the Jews, but have never met one in my life (refer to #1);
[10] I look forward to hearing "You're studying what?!" and "Why would anyone want to study that?" again after this, harhar;
[11] Curiousity about The Other, Them. I want a first-hand experience. At the tangible and intangible sources for Jewish history and civilization. (I'm a history student, I swoon over old and ancient stuff). And I want to be able to understand when I see them.
[12] So that I can help Muslims understand Judaism and the Jews better, insha Allah;
[13] I want to learn something new. New is good.
[14] I'm bored (Is this the same as #13?);
[15] I really need to specialize in one civilization/culture/period. As of now, I'm taking in too much information about so many eras and cultures, but am digesting too little.
[16] Fardhu kifayah.

Kesimpulannya, kerana dia minat, rasa perlu, dan rasa mampu.

Prof. Khoo kata, "Studying history is not about saying 'this is right' or 'this is wrong'. That is not the job of historians. Your primary job is to find out what really happened." Tapi bagi dia, untuk mengambil pengajaran daripada kejadian-kejadian lalu, kita harus faham apa yang hak dan apa yang  tidak hak. Dan memang Profesor Khoo sendiri selalu ingatkan, tujuan kita belajar sejarah adalah untuk mengambil pengajaran untuk masa hadapan. Tak mengapa. Yang jelas, tanggungjawab ahli sejarah profesional adalah untuk memastikan dahulu apa yang sahih; perihal menilai itu, tanggungjawab bersama masyarakat.

Sebagai sejarawan, dia mesti objektif. Sebagai manusia, dia mesti berprinsip. Sebagai Muslim, mesti kenal apa yang hak dan apa yang batil. Pandai-pandailah gabungkan semuanya.

Takut! 

Rasa seperti takkan boleh bahagia kalau impian yang satu ini terkandas. Ibarat Rapunzel yang tak dapat bebas dari menara kurungan, hari-hari tengok rumput dan tanah dari jauh. Ibarat pungguk rindukan bulan di Kutub Utara di musim siang. Ibarat cinta yang tak kesampaian, malah lebih mengecewakan. Cita-cita ini sudah menjadi sebahagian penting daripada diri dia. Sehingga menakutkan dirinya sendiri...ibarat takut tanaman pic takkan pernah menjadi!

Tolonglah doakan kejayaan dia untuk mencapai cita-cita ini (jika ini haluan yang terbaik). Dan kalau ini bukan jalan terbaik, supaya dia menemui jalan yang lebih baik dan jauh lebih baik. Allah Maha Tahu.

Malangnya, setelah lelah membuat assignments, bacaan dan kajian saban hari, kadang-kadang terfikir untuk menghentikan sahaja impian-impian lalu, lantaklah. Hilang percaya pada kesanggupan diri sendiri.

Dan pada masa-masa kepenatan seperti ini, pasti dia mengadu kepada Iimaan, ataupun sesiapa yang kebetulan melepak bersama-sama.

"Iimaan. Kita rasa macam tak nak sambung belajarlah. Nak buat ape sambung belajar. Kalau sambung belajar kita boleh buat ape? Kalau sambung belajar, nanti kita kena mengajar. Mesti kita rasa kita kena (perlu) mengajar, kalau tak, sia-sia jelah belajar tinggi-tinggi. Mana boleh belajar banyak-banyak tapi tak sampaikan. Tapi kita tak nak kerja. Alaaa tak nak kerjaaaaaa, penatlah. Nanti balik rumah lewat malamlah, bawak kerja balik rumahlah. Tapi kita nanti mesti bosan kalau tak sambung belajar." Dan seterusnya, dan seterusnya.

Iimaan pun melayan sahaja. "Hah. Habis tu awak nak buat ape? Nak jahit baju?"

"Ha ah boleh jugak. Hee bestnya kan, design barang, jahit. Eh tapi nanti kita mesti bosan. Hari-hari menjahit je. Mesti kita nak belajar jugak."

"Habis tu macamana?"

"Lepas tu jual kuih kat depan rumah ke. Bestnya. Tapi kena cari rumah yang kat tempat strategik ah kan. Heh bestnya jual kuih, macam Kak Ina dengan Auni hari tu." Diam. "Eh tapi nanti mesti kita rasa bosan kan? Tapi betul ke kita nak sambung belajar? Kita tak nakla buat PhD, nak buat ape. Nanti orang panggil kita Doktor, entah apa-apa je. Kadang-kadang bila fikir balik, kita rasa macam dah tak nak sambung lagi."

Iimaan sudah menampakkan kerisauan. "Ish. Betul ke. Habis apa yang awak nak?"

"Taktaula Iimaan. Kena istikharah lagi."

Sekarang Iimaan selalu memberi nasihat positif. Kadang-kadang, tengah senyap-senyap melepak/makan/belajar tiba-tiba Iimaan cakap, "Kita rasa awak kena jugak belajar lagi. Mak kita pun kata, perlu. Sebab kalau awak belajar, nanti awak boleh ajar kat orang lain pulak." Kawan-kawan lain pun begitu. Hilda, course-mate yang cuma dikenali dari kelas Usul Fiqh pernah menyapa  dia di tengah jalan: "Hari tu I was talking with my lecturer pasal your plans nak buat Jewish studies tu...and she said, betul jugak, we need people to study those things..."

Terima kasih sahabat! You believe in me more than I believe in myself. 

9 to 5 jobs (7 to 7, actually, if you consider all that commuting etc): my ultimate nightmare.

Ini bukan setakat krisis peribadi dia, atau Iimaan, atau kak Solehah, atau kak Seri, atau Nisa', juga kawan-kawannya yang lain [yang semuanya pernah menyatakan keinginan untuk bebas memilih antara berkerjaya dan tidak berkerjaya. Hakikatnya kebebasan pilihan ini tertakluk pada keadaan masing-masing kan?]. Dilema ini pernah juga disuarakan oleh seorang sister jurusan Bahasa Arab dari BosniaKatanya: "Muslimah(s) today are so confused. To work  or not to work? To further our studies or not?" Kami perlukan nasihat orang-orang yang lebih tahu!

Kami mahu jadi manusia berguna. Tapi adakah kami lebih berguna jika berprofesion, atau lebih berguna sebagai stay-at-home-wives/mothers? (And you know what, kalau tak berkeluarga pun, tak mahulah kerja yang keluar pagi balik petang.) Sebab kalau anda belum perasanlah, sangat susah untuk seimbangkan kerjaya dan keluarga, apatah lagi untuk orang perempuan yang banyak tuntutan di rumah. Dia tahu, Mak-Mak kita banyak yang bekerja, boleh saja survive. Mak dia juga. Tapi kelegaan Mak bila akhirnya berhenti kerja setahun yang lepas, tak dapat digambarkan dengan kata-kata. That said, pasti bosan kalau tak bekerja langsung. Sumpah bosan. Serabut betul.

Tapi rasa bertanggungjawab untuk mencari dan menyampaikan ilmu asing selalu menghantui! Mungkin disebabkan proses menimba ilmu yang sangat addictive. Kerana lebih banyak kita belajar, pasti kita lebih sedar betapa banyaknya lagi yang kita jahil.

(Yang sebenarnya, tekanan membawa kepada putus asa. Hilang tekanan, hilanglah putus asa.)

Kesimpulannya, (1) Jangan biarkan stres membelenggu hidup anda (2) Carilah cara yang sesuai untuk melepaskan tekanan (3) Kita perlukan sahabat (4) Dia masih keliru (5) Semoga Allah menunjukkan jalan yang terbaik untuk masa hadapan kita semua.

Bahagian II (Design bag, make bag, feel good): Hobi itu penting.

Warning:


Intense sewing and needle-work talk and photos all the way from here. If you are not interested in sewing, fabrics, bags, or detailed descriptions about sewing failures and fabric/sewing-notion prices, don't bother scrolling down. I'm sure other people have updated their blog recently, too, (with far more interesting stories). Might as well close this tab now. Go.

But in case you're wondering what this bag story has to do with all that "Oh no my dreams are terrifying me" drama: Well, because, the whole bag-designing and -making experience was challenging and very satisfying, helped me calm down, take a mental break from my studies, regain my senses, and most importantly, ditch any thoughts about giving up my dreams. It made me realize that I shouldn't start second-guessing my own plans just because I was so sick of reading and stressed out from research and work. The situation was simple: I was spent, and badly needed a creative release. In other words, this is how I relax.

Now you can close the tab.
_____________________________________________________


(My not yet finished) 2-in-1 watermelon laptop/book bag
Except that at the moment I don't have a laptop to put in it because mine is being checked/repaired. The screen died.

Why I made it: I had bought myself some thick, sunshiny yellow cotton (in the form of a pair of jeans from the bundle shop) a couple of months back. The colour was so cheerful, I just had to take it, only I didn't know what exactly I was going to do with it [I bought it for the fabric, not to wear it]. After staring at it for some time and mulling over my options, I thought: Yellow watermelon! I need a bag for my laptop! I'm itching to make something! Make a watermelon laptop bag! So many exclamation marks.

And so the yellow/red watermelon laptop bag was born. (Yellow to match my yellow rubber flats and red to match my red canvas wedges. Okay not really. I just happen to have a pair each of yellow and red shoes. Watermelon colours.) My point is, this is like a 2 styles-in-1 bag. One side yellow, one side red. Wear either colour to match my outfit or mood.

I measured my laptop, did a lot of drafting on brown paper, and finalized my design along the way (basically a tote shaped like a slice/wedge of watermelon -- thicker at the base, thinner near the zipper -- padded lining with partition, recessed zipper, non-adjustable straps. Just your basic tote, really). Had the pattern ready in a couple of days, with the aid of a variety of bowls and round-edged trays to shape the watermelon.

A couple of weeks of fabric-hunting followed. I had a stash of fabrics waiting to be made into bags, but I still needed to get some red and green ones for the watermelon. Eventually I found the red and two shades of green that I wanted for a bargain (more on this below).




(a) Outer body yellow side (b) Outer body red side. My mother said that this isn't the right colour for a watermelon, because watermelon red is different, pinkish really. But I don't think I can be happy carrying around a pink bag, so although this shade of red is a bit too strong for a watermelon, I chose it over the deep pink fabric I had. (c) Lining/the actual body of the bag. I sewed the straps to the body (and will sew them to meet at the bottom) to strengthen the bag.



Yellow half, lining stuffed into the outer layer for show here. Yep, they still need to be sewn together but that's not going to happen until I get hold of a sewing machine. Which means when I'm done with the exams and get back home. (1) Watermelon skin stripe detail (2) I wanted to use buttons for the seeds (because who wants to spend their time embroidering watermelon seeds, really), but I couldn't find any seed/teardrop-shaped buttons anywhere. So embroidery it is after all. I embroidered the seeds using regular DMC floss, 2 strands for the padding, and one strand for the final satin stitch
(3) & (4) More details.


Red half. (5) The striped part of the rind is supposed to be the sides of the bag (7) The dark grey material was too dark to be friendly with the red one, so I had to use off-white floss for the seeds and heavy white cotton for the eaten-out void because white contrasts much better with the red 
(6) & (8) So much top-stitching, so much fun.



(9) Recessed zipper: I used a larger-than-normal zipper, not like the regular ones you'd sew on to garments. Cost me about RM6, I think (at Haby & Wools, Ampang Park. God knows how often I haunt that place). I haven't finished this part -- see the basting there? -- it needs to be attached to the outer watermelon thing. (10) Every seam and every allowance had to be marked so that no stupid, frustrating mistakes will happen from start to finish. Of course I still had quite a few "Oops" moments, but they were manageable, thanks to all that pain-in-the-neck tracing-wheeling and triple-checking I did before I cut out the pieces. Alhamdulillah. (11) Lined right up to the zipper. (12) Oh and I had to quilt the inside pieces first (and the padding was recycled from an old mattress cover, so I had to wash, bleach, dry, and unpick the original quilt before I get to use the padding. I get tired all over again just by remembering the whole process) before actually assembling them together. (13) The partition, to separate the laptop from its charger et al. I didn't make a restraining strap to hold the laptop in place, nor did I make ANY pockets, 'cos even without the pockets and straps, it was already a very involved project, and I just couldn't bring myself to even think about drafting, cutting out, and sewing any more pieces.


The inside story: (14) & (18) This is how the back of a satin-stitched thing looks like. 
(15) & (19) The bitten part. (16) & (17) Clipped curves. 


More bag talk:

(1) Cost

a) The quilt padding, like I said, was recycled. So no cost there. Just doing one batch of laundry plus hours of unpicking quilt stitches to get rid of the old outer quilt material. But it felt really good because I get to re-use the thing.

b) And the best part of making this bag is...the red, yellow and both green materials were all upcycled from pants (jeans? Jeans can be not blue, right? Right?) I bought from bundle shops. The pants cost me RM5 each at the Friday pasar malam at Bandar Bukit Mahkota, except for the yellow one (RM10 I think), which I got from a bundle shop in Bandar Baru Bangi, section 15. 

I am usually rather apprehensive about using old stuff to make new ones (because fabrics, especially, wear out, and lose their weight/texture/nice finish), but jeans material is very hard-wearing, and I'm seeing great results with my first try here. Heavy cotton make the best bag material (I think, because I like my stuff to be sturdy but washable), but the good ones are usually quite expensive (around RM20-40 per meter), and even so, finding the right colours is another headache [and I'm very picky with my colours and fabrics]. So I'm happy to say that from now on, I'll definitely use second-hand jeans to make bags again. The bundle shops sell so many colours! On top of that, most of them are skinny jeans, or very low-cut ones, so I like to think that they're better off being bags rather than pants that don't really cover people's awrah.

[And as much as possible, I choose the ones that look the newest.]

And after taking what I need from the trousers for this bag, I still have about half-a-jeans remaining for each colour.

c) The material for the lining is some sort of light linen/cotton (I'm a fan of naturals) that I bought for RM4 per meter, which is a very happy price;

d) But the dark-grey cotton I used for the straps, zipper panels, and bitten out void (for the yellow side) cost RM25.90 per meter (MINNA fabric from IKEA). I probably used up at least half a meter of the dark grey for all of that [so around RM13].

e) The white material used for the bitten out space (for the red watermelon) is also MINNA, but it's not like I used even a quarter of a meter for that part. Just several inches square, really.

f) Threads and embroidery flosses in all, maybe RM10. 

Overall, I think it's a reasonably-priced project, and could be even cheaper if I'd used recycled materials for the dark grey and white parts (or maybe even the entire bag!).

(2) Postscript

I wish I could do a tutorial on this, but since I took no pictures along the way, I don't think I can do one properly. The steps are way too many, anyway!

If anyone is thinking about making a bag like this, here's a tip: If you want a quicker bag, just paint a watermelon on a piece of heavy fabric! I find applique-ing and patchworking the watermelon therapeutic, but it takes a lot of time, precision, and patience.


Painting will probably be cheaper, too (but I'm not really sure). Because if you use Dylon fabric paint, that'll cost around RM10 per paint tube/colour, which is quite a lot, especially if you want multiple coats of paint to make the image really stand out. The Dylon 3D paint (also around RM10 per tube) would be perfect for the seeds (I considered this, and even bought a tube, but I imagined people -- me, mostly -- digging my fingernails in the shiny, rubbery 3D seeds later on, so I chose to embroider them instead). Use other brands of fabric paint for cheaper options.

Gotta study for the exams now.