Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wednesday Mini Tutorial-simple piping and basic neck shapes

Asalamu alaikum,

InshAllah I will be posting mini tutorials for neck embellishments and designs, as well as different sleeve options and other little tidbits. I will try to publish something every other Wednesday, InshAllah. First up for a mini tutorial is one of the simplest ways to embellish your kameez, Piping, and some simple neck shapes.

You will need to follow from step one to step eleven(but make only one line of stitches after folding over the neck facing) of the simple kameez tutorial.

After you have completed the steps your kameez front is now ready to apply the piping.
Step 1

You will need to buy or make bias tape. I usually don't buy it but use left over bits from the shalwar for contrast. I found this tutorial (posted by a Raveler in the sew obsessed group on Ravelry), to be very helpful when learning how to make the bias tape. Your finished bias tape should be a half inch wide, though you can make it wider if you like.

Step 2

Line up the bias tape at the very edge of your neck line and sew around the neck.

Step 3

Fold the bias tape to the wrong side of your fabric.

Step 3

On the right side of your kameez, sew a line of stitching on the very edge of the kameez right next to the bias tape but not on it. Make sure that you are sewing through the bias tape on the wrong side also.

Your finished piping should look somewhat like this.

Here is a back view, and a close up.
If you have used the half inch bias tape you will only need to sew the one line, but if you have used a wider tape you may need to sew a second line of stitches about a quarter to a half inch away from the first line.

Also here is a diagram of some very basic neck shapes to use on your kameez.
You would follow all the same steps in the Simple kameez tutorial posted above. In step six simply draw half the desired shape on your interfacing and then cut. If you choose a neck that is not symmetrical(like the pink one above) then you would not fold your interfacing in half but simply draw the full shape.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Speaking in three languages

Asalamu alaikum,

Now for something a bit lighter. ;-)

Saad primarily speaks English. He knows a bit of Urdu, but since we have been here in Pakistan and most of the in-laws are in UAE, Tariq has mostly just slipped into using English with him.

There are some Urdu words that he uses instead of English regularly though, like "pani"(water), "khana"(food/eat/meal), and "hawa"(wind). Simple stuff mostly. We have started to try to teach him more Urdu and have gone back to the "Mommy speaks English, Daddy speaks Urdu" method.

He is also learning a tiny bit of Arabic. He knows "Bismillah"(in the name of Allah[swt]), and he uses it regularly. MashAllah, he will now tell Tariq and I to say it before our meals if we don't say it out loud. He also knows "Alhamdulillah"(all praise to Allah[swt)], and the first kalima, and is learning Surah AL-Kawthar.

MashAllah, he sometimes says two little phrases that make me so happy. "Bismillah Eat Khana", when we start to eat and "Alhamdulillah Light Agae", when the lights come on after load shedding. Phrases in three languages!

Monday, June 27, 2011

What's up with all of us?

Asalamu alaikum,

Umm Aaminah's post the other day got me thinking(mashAllah, the sister really gets me thinking a lot!) about manners in general, and the differences between people(Muslim and non-Muslim) in the USA, and other places I've been.

I also miss my masjid back home, there were so many lovely sisters, it felt like a family. There were some times when rudeness/bad manners were there, but overall it was a good environment.

Sometimes people here in Pakistan will tell me how bad Americans/the West/Non-Muslims are. I have bitten my tongue many many times, because the behavior of many Muslims here is worse than most of the non-Muslims that I know. I have seen more racist crap here and in the UAE than I have ever seen in the USA. In Abu Dhabi they are allowed to advertise for people of a specific race/ethnicity/nationality to fill specific positions. Women and men here are often judged on the basis of how fair their skin is, passed over as suitors because they are "too dark", or the wrong "caste"(or tribe) People steal, lie, cheat, bribe, back bite, and a whole host of other things on a daily basis, and then go on to say how Americans have no morals.

This kind of negativity and hypocrisy is just pathetic. We are Muslims, we are suposed to be brothers and sisters of each other. Why are we some of the worst offenders?

In general I have seen more respectful treatment of our fellow human beings in the non-Muslim countries than I have seen in the Muslim countries. Non-Muslims give me more respect, and respect my religious and personal rights more than Muslims in a Muslim county. Why are so many Muslims so bad to each other and to others? It certainly isn't Islam, which promotes good manners and brother/sisterhood.

Sometimes I feel like shouting to people to look at them selves before they complain about the non-Muslims, but then I take my own advice and look at myself and that helps me calm the urge to scream at them. But there are somethings that just go beyond what I can stand, racism and bigotry are the worst. Why can't we all just treat other human beings with a bit of respect and decency?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Feature-My Reversion Story, and Marriage

Asalamu Alaikum,

Inspired by a thread on Ravelry that I was reading I realized I never really explained how I came to revert. So I decided to write about how I came to Islam.

When I was very young we went to church just about every Sunday. The church we attended was called the “Boston Church of Christ”. My mum used to french braid my hair so tight that my skin would be pulled back and I would whine and complain. I didn't like it(the braiding or the church).I spent time in Sunday school, then when I got a bit bigger I sat with the adults.

My experiences in the church were strange, everyone else seemed content, it looked like they felt something. The only time I ever felt anything spiritual in church was if I forced myself to, like I had to trick my mind into believing what everyone else did. I could never really believe that Isa(as) was related to God in any way, as a son, or anything else.

As a teen, I just stopped going to church. I didn’t know what to believe, I felt like something was missing but what was it? I found Paganism and that seemed like a better fit in a way. Close to nature, respect for the earth, that felt pretty good, but I still had the same problem as when I was going to church. I had to force the feeling of belief.

After a while I drifted away and started reading about different religions. I read about Judaism, skimmed the basics of Islam, but mostly ended up finding the negatives. More on Christianity, thinking maybe I just hadn’t been in the right church, maybe if I did find the right one I could believe what they said about Isa(as).

Soon after I started to research more, I met Tariq(at the time my not quiet yet DH), I liked him, and he seemed to be so content as a Muslim. So I went back to look at Islam. I went straight to the source and bought a translation of the Qur’an. As I read it I felt something, absolute peace, belief, I didn’t have to force it.

After reading the Qur'an, and studying more, I wanted to talk to some Muslim women, to ask them questions. On Christmas day of 2006 we finally had the day off from work(retail jobs are killer in the winter), so we went to the masjid. At first it appeared to be empty, it was between Asr and Maghrib, and so we figured we would wait around a bit and see if anyone showed up. Just as we were about to leave a young woman came down from the balcony area, Tariq explained that I was a non-Muslim and I just wanted to ask some questions and talk to somebody. She agreed and we sat down to talk while Tariq wandered around. I asked her all the questions I had and just chatted for a bit, the more I talked to her, the more I felt calm, peaceful.

We left after a while and I was pretty sure that I wanted to revert, it just felt right, but I didn't tell Tariq right away. Two days later on December 27, 2006 Tariq and I got married in a civil ceremony. Then on December 29th in front of Tariq and another friend of his from work I said my shahada.

The next day, was Eid al-Adha(December 30th), so we went to the masjid again. Tariq found a space for me near the women, and went off to the men's section. While standing there, I felt lonely, I didn't know anyone. Just when I was getting nervous being all on my own the same sister that I had talked to the week before came up behind me. I was so happy to see someone I knew. She help me to wrap my dupatta up properly, and we went to find a space to sit down.

When the time came to pray she told me just to follow what she did. Standing there and praying beside her felt like the most natural thing in the world.

After the prayer and khutbah were over we said salams and she had to leave. I found Tariq, and then together we went to find the Imam. Tariq explained that I wanted to say my shahada(I felt like I had already said it but I wanted it to be more official), and we wanted to have our nikah. So that is what we did. From the start of my shahada to the end of my nikah was less than 15 minutes.

Alhamdulillah, I have been a Muslim now for almost five years!

I have in the past thought about writing about my reversion, but always ended up putting it aside. I sometimes get a bit defensive about it. People sometimes think that I reverted for my husband, so that I could marry him, or out of pressure from him or his family. I did not revert for him but because of his example. Even with his flaws/bad habits, he was a good person who was trying to follow his deen. Alhamdulillah that I met him, whatever good or bad happens in our life I am so thankful to have met him and found Islam.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

For those thinking of moving here to Pakistan, or south east Asia generally

Asalamu Alaikum,

Thinking about what it is like for me to live here, and trying to put it into words for anyone thinking to do the same is difficult. I don't want to complain too much, because it is just depressing, but it is important to see all sides. I have been here in Karachi for more than 2 years, and I was in the UAE for a year before that. I have never left Karachi and have no experience with what life is like elsewhere in Pakistan.

Also, any Pakistani who would like to comment please do, I think there are some things that only those born to a place will be able to understand. I would like to get input on what you view as the positives and negatives of life here. Please do keep in mind the comment policy of this blog, on the bar at the top of the page. I am not trying to attack Pakistan/Pakistanis, just showing what I view as the negatives of living here, I can only speak to what I have seen and experienced, in my own family and area of the city.

Pakistan is a very difficult place to live. I will not sugar coat it for you. It has some benefits and many drawbacks. You just have to look at your particular situation and decide if you can take the negatives and live with them so that you also get the positive benefits.

I like to see the positives, but for anyone who wants to move here it is important to see all sides, here are some of the negatives-

Water is a big problem, we only drink and cook with bottled water. We have tried to get used to the "meetha pani", that everyone else drinks, but it makes us violently ill every time without exception. You may have to use bottled water as well. This can get expensive, we use the big water cooler types(5/6 gallons), and get eight to ten delivered weekly. They are 70 Rs each.

Food is another issue. What we cook ourselves is no problem but when eating any type of outside food we are very careful, because cleanliness is questionable in many of the smaller restaurants/food stands. Also prices increase all the time, especially during Ramadhan. Last year in Ramadhan sugar was double the price it is right now, and basic foods like chickpeas, besan, dals, got very expensive also.

Electricity is a major issue, in Karachi is it getting worse and worse because it is summer now and in some areas of Pakistan they have no lights for 18-20 hours a day.

Muslim country-this is both a negative and a positive. It is nice to go to the market and find abayat, scarves, niqabs, and modest clothing very easily. I love the fact that I can hear the adhan anywhere in my house. But as a foreigner it can be hard(depends on where you live) to find places that can teach you(especially if you don't speak Urdu very much).

I do like the way I don't get stared at for wearing abaya, but that is because they are too busy staring at me because I am a woman. Even when wearing an abaya/hijab/niqab, I still get cat-called, and stared at as if I were naked. Some store keepers try to brush my hand when handing me my items, or try to flirt by complimenting you on what is visible-white hands/feet, blue eyes, you have to watch out. This is why I prefer to go with my husband rather than his sisters, so they don't try sleazy stuff.

Corruption/bribery-it is endemic, top to bottom it is everywhere.

Begging-beggars are everywhere, it can be heart breaking. It is difficult to tell if they are truly needy or just scamming. I have come home from the market several times in tears, because I just can't help enough, and I don't like to say no. I get depressed because there is no real safety net for people who truly need help, little elderly men and women, who should be at home, being taken care of by family, either have no family or have been turned out as a another mouth to feed.

Healthcare-HMMMMM, Both the baby and I have been ill on multiple occasions(mostly due to the water, and also the milk). Once the baby was so ill he had to have an IV, while we were in the hospital a cat walked right through the room. This was in a medium nice hospital. There are very nice hospitals, but they cost a lot. If you have serious chronic health issues it would be wise to really think twice(or three to four times) about moving overseas.

Since or son is so little and we are planning to go home we have not enrolled him in a school here(we also worry a bit about security issues). I have no real experience of schools here except second hand information from my DH and his sisters about what they learned. There seem to be rather large gaps, for instance WWI and WWII(any Pakistanis please correct me if I am wrong in this). Tariq learned all he knows about it from war movies he watched in the US, and his sisters had only a vague notion that there had been some wars before Pakistan was formed. I guess it would be different depending on what schools you send your children to, and maybe things have changed recently, since Tariq's smallest sister is now 21.

Politics/violence-ugg, I try no to think about this, at the local level political parties can often be run more like gangs. Also, especial in Karachi, there are "target killings", someone from one political party/ethnic group/tribe, will go out and kill someone from another political party/ethnic group/tribe, as a way of taking revenge or scaring a group of people. Last week a couple streets over from us, a man was shot dead in the middle of a crowded street for not allowing a thief to snatch his mobile phone.

Monday, June 20, 2011

It's all in how you look at it

Asalamu Alaikum,

Today has been another day of trouble with the lights. In the morning it went out 4-5 times, coming on only for 15 minutes before tripping again. It was a very frustrating morning.

After such a frustrating morning, the lights went again at 2:00pm. After that we were hopeful for a bit of a respite. Around 5:30pm Tariq had brought some cholay chaat as a snack so we sat down to eat.

We had just finished eating and it was almost 6:00pm. All of the sudden the lights went again. As the lights go you can hear four different types of exclamations-

1. Son of a B****
2. A long, drawn out "nahiiiiiin"(no), like in a dramatic scene of a bollywood movie.
3. Alhamdulillah, lights go way.
4. A great big belly laugh.

There are four people in the house, Saad, Tariq, one of his sisters, and I, can you guess which exclamation was from which person?

There are times when it is absolutely true that if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday Feature-Load shedding, and sleeping on the roof

Asalamu Alaikum,

Load shedding has been on the increase lately. The lights were going out three times a day for and hour and a half, and it was always on schedule. Then they started to go out for two hours, still three times a day. Then two hours four times a day, but still on schedule. Now they go four or more times and it is seemingly random. And in between all the load shedding there is tripping, when the load is just too much and two or three streets go out, but somebody will get to that pretty quickly(15-20 minutes). Occasionally a transformer will blow, if you are sitting on the roof at night you can see it-a big flash of light and then the area will go dark. That always takes a while to fix.

Last night around 1:30 am I decided to turn in early(we are late late night owls). I had just sat down on the bed, and was trying to adjust my pillow when the lights went out. We left the room and sat on the second floor landing to catch a breeze while we waited for the lights to come back on. While we were sitting, Tariq was chatting to on e of the neighbours out the window, apparently it wasn't unscheduled load shedding but the power line for our street had broken.

When I heard that I said to Tariq, "They're not going to fix it now, it's two o'clock in the morning, lets go sleep on the roof." So we all grab our pillows and a couple sheets and head up to sleep on the char-pies(like a cross between a bed and a hammock). While we are up there we here firing. It goes back and forth a while, but nobody pays attention. It has be come back round noise, and that is the weird thing for me. The sound of gunfire is now normal, like a car horn, or bird song.

It is strange what people can get used to with enough exposure.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A site I love-Digital Dua

Asalamu Alaikum,

When I was a new Muslim I used to go to a weekly sister's halaka in the local masjid. After the main discussion, we would alternate learning either a dua, or a hadith. The duas came from a little booklet that they had given us-"Forty Rabbana". I love the book, and still have it today. Each dua is first written in Arabic, then a transliteration is under that, then a translation of the meanings.

My problem is that I don't read Arabic(well not really, I know the alphabet and can make out some words with difficulty), so even with the transliteration I still have difficulty with making what I say sound proper.

Some time ago I happened on this site that has the same duas as in the book plus others, and all the different parts of salah. Each has Arabic, a transliteration, English translation and most helpfully for me a recording. The site is called-Digital Dua. I find it very useful, and just wanted to tell as many people as possible about it.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Feature-Cheel Feeding Time

Asalamu Alaikum,

In Islam, many things are considered a charity, not just giving money but also anything that is helpful(as long as the intention is right). Holding a door for someone, or making up two people who are fighting, giving water to a stray animal, or even just smiling at someone, are all types of charity. One type of sadaqah(charity) that some people here like to do is to feed the cheels(kites). Our neighbors sometimes do this, and Tariq does too every once in a while.

First he goes to a butcher and buys some meat and fatty scraps, then we all go up on the roof. Saad, my SIL, and I stand in one corner that is roofed, and Tariq stands out in the middle of the open section.

In order to attract the attention of the cheels, he first finds a crow and throws a chunk of meat at it.

The crow will start to make so much noise that soon the whole wall is lined with crows, all squaking loudly.

Soon after the crows, the cheels are attracted to the noise, and fly over to see what is going on. Tariq just keeps throwing chunks of meat up in the air, sometimes the cheels catch them, and sometimes they fall down to the roof and a quick crow will dart down from the wall and snatch it up fast.

Eventually your house will be surrounded by a cloud of birds. The cheels will swoop down so close that you can hear the sound of theirs wings, and almost touch them. After the meat is finished the cheels will disappear pretty quickly, but the crows just stay lined up. Getting them to fly off is Saad's job, he runs screaming towards them flapping his arms around until they all scatter.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What's going on on the blog?!

Asalamu Alaikum,

InshAllah, I am going to be going through old posts to add labels, and am rearranging the blog a bit to try and make it easier to read and to find stuff. So please excuse any old posts that may show up in your blog feed, and please ignore the mess while I redecorate! :-)

Pleated Belt Shalwar w/wide leg-Part 3

Asalamu alaikum,

After finishing up all the pleats we will now attach the belt and finish up our shalwar.

Step 1

With the right sides facing sew a half inch seam in the belt pieces of your shalwar.
Step 2

Fold over the seam allowance and sew a line of stitches 1/4 of an inch away to secure the seam allowance.

Step 3
With the right sides of the legs together, sew the center back seam of your shalwar.
It should look somewhat like this.
Step 4
Take one end of the belt and place it on the top of the leg pieces, the right side should be facing each other. The belt should be half an inch to the left of the center seam(this will be the center front seam allowance of the belt).
Pin the belt in place all around the legs, the center back seam of the belt and shalwar should be roughly at the same point.
What it looks like when you have finished pinning in place. The centerfront of the belt should over lap by half an inch for the center front seam.

Step 5
Sew from the center front seam of the legs around the shalwar and back to the front. Then sew up the center front seam of the belt, stopping 1.5 inches from the top(to leave a space for the drawstring.

Here is the belt attached to the legs.

Step 6
Now sew a line along the bottom of the belt to secure the seam allowance, it should be facing upwards.
Step 7
At the center front seam of the belt, fold the seam allowances away from the center by 1/4 inch and then fold the over 1/4 inch again. Sew a line down one side across the center seam and up the other side, this will be the opening in your drawstring casing.
Step 8
Starting at the openingyou made above, fold the top of the belt over by 1/2 an inch towards the wrong(inner) side.

Step 9
Fold it over by another inch to form the drawstring casing, do this all around coming back to the opening. Pin in place, and then sew a line of stitches all around on the bottom of the casing.

Step 10
On the wrong side of your shalwar, fold the leg in half and measure out along the hem from the fold 7", and mark, this is your foot opening.
Step 11
At the center crotch seam mark up 1/2 inch.

Step 12
Keeping the shalwar folded in half mark a lin from the foot opening to the center crotch seam, one inch away from the edge of your fabric. Do the same on the other leg. Sew the seam, starting at one foot, going up the leg to the center seam, and then down the other leg.

Now your shalwar is completed, give it a good pressing and it is ready for wear.

Front view of the finished shalwar

Back view of the pleated shalwar.

End of Part 3 for any questions please leave a comment.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Pleated Belt Shalwar w/wide leg-Part 2

Asalamu alaikum,

After you have sewn your leg pieces together, we will start the hem of the legs.

You will need two pieces of heavy weight interfacing or buckram. They should be 1"x16".

Step 1

Center the buckram on the wrong side of the bottom of the leg opening, about half an inch up from the edge.
Step 2

Fold the half inch of fabric up over the buckram, you can sew one line of stitches along the edge to hold it in place if you like.

Step 3
Fold the buckram up one inch, so that is completely enclosed in the fabric, if you have not sewn a line of stitches to secure it then you may like to pin it in place now.

Step 4
Sew anywhere from 2-10 lines of stitches running perpendicular to the bottom of the leg opening. The minimum is one line at the very top edge of the buckram and one at the bottom.

A bit difficult to see but on this shalwar I sewed 6 lines.

Step 7
Place the two leg pieces with right sides together and sew only one of the crotch seams, this is the center front.

Step 8

Make a "knife pleat", pinch about one inch of fabric on one side of the center seam and fold it over towards the seam, pin it in place.
Step 9
Do the same on the opposite side of the seam.

Here is what your first two pleats should look like.

Step 10
Continue making knife pleats(they should be overlapping by about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) that face the center seam until the distance between thecenter seam and the center of the rectangular center leg piece is about 5"-6", so the total width of the center pleated section should be 10"-12".

This diagram basically shows what you are trying to do, the center of the leg pieces should fall from your hip bones in a line down the front of your legs, so the area between points A and C should be roughly the distance across your hips, somewhere in the neighborhood of 10"-12"(can be more if you need it but not less).

Step 11
Sew a line of stitches to secure all the pleats in place, it should be between 1/4 to 1/2 inch down from the top edge.

On this shalwar I have made nine pleats on either side of the center seam, total of 18 pleats across the front.

Step 12
Now to make the pleats on the back side of the shalwar-lay it out flat, and make knife pleats that face away from the center back seam.

Step 13-
Pinch one inch of fabric, and then lay it flat, facing away from the center back seam, pin in place.

Step 14-
Make several pleats, until the distance from the center front seam to the center back is half the width of your belt. Do the same on the other side of the shalwar. On my shalwar I made 3 pleats on either side of the back seam for a total of 6 pleats.
Step 15
Sew a line of stitches to secure the pleats, in the same way as you did for the front pleats in Step 11.

Here is what you should have so far, the two leg pieces sewn together with a large section of pleats in the center and two smaller sections at either side(this will be sewn to make the center back seam).

End of part two, if you have any questions please leave a comment and let me know.