Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year

Last night Scott and I went out for a walk (at 7:30, I'm not 35, after all). It had been days since I'd gone outside. This "vacation" has been punctuated by long stretches of in-home activity - sorting, going to the dump (that's the extremely appreciated friend-with-a-car part of our experience), trying to find a place to live (do not get me started), getting party-wall permit letters done... I could go on.

And while I really needed some fresh air, alas, it was raining last night (sometimes freezing, sometimes regular). Not good weather for pain. (Apparently, it's really bad weather for osteoarthritis - which my husband has in his right large toe - to a rather extensive degree. We were out for 90 minutes and, by the time we got back, he was all but hobbled. I reviewed his foot with shock. I made him drink cherry juice and I rubbed it (yoga therapy style).) This morning when we woke up, it was way improved - far less inflamed. The sun is out in force today, miraculously for this time of year. It's dry and cold again.

I too began very stiff and sore today, particularly in my hips (the original seat of my pain, starting 20 years ago - but much less painful than the rest of my back most of the time, these days).

I swigged a ginger shot. Went into the yoga room, wherein I sat for a while, wondering what would come of my session. Some days are very fortunate. Some days I realize things (big and important, small and intriguing, part of a larger, emerging whole). My mind drifted first to self-inquiry. The stream of my consciousness: Why am I in pain, in my hips, of all places? and then Ah, Kristin, remember when you hated standing poses? (Ed. note: In the old days, during the first week of every month - the standing pose focus week in the Iyengar system - I'd be in semi-regular hip misery.) Then I thought about how so many yoga practitioners believe that being able to do a pose automatically imparts the benefits of that pose. I could do any damn standing pose proficiently - and I really believed I was feeling its benefit - but it would hurt me a good 50 per cent of the time (to say nothing of potential micro injuries).

Then it struck me. Standing poses are the way of the future.* But, as I know (and have been reflecting in my practice methods), sometimes I cannot do the full physical expressions of some of those asanas (the more weight bearing ones) without producing joint and myofascial pain thereafter. Sure, sometimes I'm fine, after the fact, but I often feel on the edge (which is unsettling and not the point of bodywork, IMO).

Increasingly, I've been doing standing poses at my rope wall. I can happily manage bearing @ 75% of my body weight on my hips, without running risk of causing pain, as long as I can keep my back hip open and as long as I can defer about 25 per cent of the weight of the front leg to the wall-attached rope at which I'm perched (traction allows for this).

I did many side-angle standing poses this way today. Because I could control the minutest of actions, I was able to have a really rich experience. I felt my musculature from foot to head on a number of occasions. I moved things around from the inside which allows for a lot of shifting, very little of which expresses itself in movement of the muscles and bones. When I did a supported backbend, instead of keeping my legs in my "regular" position, I extended them slowly in different directions, lengthened them to straight and observed how the movement (and limiters of that movement) interacted. My brain talked to my body. Increasingly I wonder if this sensation is straight-up neurochemical or meta. You know, energetic, for the Californians among us. I happen to feel that it matters not and, either way, I am privileged to have this awareness.

And then I went to my next thought wave: What is the relationship between pain and mobility?

Hear me out. In yoga, we talk a lot about quantifying pain as a mechanism by which we can ascertain safety in the pose. That's a post in itself, so I won't dwell here, but today I want to consider this question through the prism of myofascial and/or arthritic pain. All you need to do is pull up a website and you'll see pretty pictures articulating the simple (and hurtful) mechanism of joint and bone degeneration which drags muscles and nerves along for the ride. People with arthritis experience pain at a most interior (amorphous) level, sometimes extremely and relentlessly.  I posit that, when the arthritic person doesn't engage the affected area(s) in very frequent targeted activity, inflammation catalyses a decrease in one's mobility as pertains to one's previous full range of motion. But to move, except very consciously, can also bring pain. The less refined one's movement (and this is defined entirely by the individual), the more the muscles and bones have to work with brute strength - and if they misfunction just slightly - nerve compression can be the result.

Sort of sounds like you're damned if you do and you're damned if you don't.

But I believe that's a flawed perspective. What careful movement does is maintain mobility. And stability is in mobility. Incremental improvement and the delayed onset of serious symptomology are prime features of mobility. Mobility isn't a "nice to have" - it's core.

Yoga is the most profoundly personal thing I have ever experienced. I am a constant student in that I am always learning and in that I am sincere. Mind you, I spent a very long time being sincere and yet I couldn't quantify what was happening in my body. Ironically, though I was probably seeking contentment, pain has been the self-awareness tipping point for me - particularly given its phased onset. It's compelled me to move my practice out of my extrinsic body and into the crevices.  

So, if I must sometimes incur pain to be agile (and I speak of this as an intermittent outcome of a mindful practice) that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. Strangely, it's empowering. Because it makes me feel like my pain is meaningful, maybe even slightly volitional. It makes me feel like it's for the greater good.

*In truth, one doesn't need a degree in yoga to know that standing poses are indicated for arthritis / musculoskeletal conditions. But, really, it eventually becomes very clear that any number of poses which might, theoretically, be good, can actually be very harmful (likely because of how they're being performed but sometimes because a pose is not warranted).

Friday, December 23, 2016

Full Wheel

Today I went into the sewga room (really,  it's the single-purpose yoga room these days, cuz for how long can one ride on past activity?). I couldn't decide what to do. I'm recovering from an eye infection (but it's almost gone, thankfully, as it made me look like I'd been hit in the face and it hurt like hell). I'm not in a high-pain moment but it's really damp outside (which can be tricky for me). I'm also very tired. I know it's important to be active, to lift weight, but right about now I feel it's even more important to retain some perspective on movement.

As a sidebar, you know I've had some time to consider the nature of mobility. I've also had a lot of time to consider what it means to gauge everything by one or 2 indicators. So often, I think about how perhaps I've lost pose X, or my ability to do Y, instead of being super fucking grateful for how much extraneous flexibility and strength I actually possess. I mean, how much do I need? What is it that I'm searching for when my time to regenerate is focused on abstract loss? It's no new question, natch, but what would practice be like for everyone if, as a society, we started to laud the stiffness and weakness of which we are all, to some extent, comprised?

You've heard it again and again - I mean, I've said it again and again - one's practice is in no way dictated by how a pose looks. I wish I had been able to understand this in my youth, though youth is rarely wise. I wish I'd spent more time engaging subtly to gain awareness about how a microscopic movement can produce transformation, sometimes merely for a moment, other times forever. But evolution is on its own timeline.

When I say my practice is random, I'm both entirely serious and probably wrong. I walk into the room and I intuit what to do next. I ask my body the question. I listen intently for the answer. I push aside what I want to hear. I listen again. And I'm continually amazed by what craziness I get up to. Sometime I do whack interpretive dance without music (?!) Sometimes it's MELT and body rolling. Sometime it's lying in therapeutic poses, doing pranayama, for an hour. Sometimes I hang in ropes - I do every pose using some sort of prop for traction. I rarely practice with online classes in the winter, but I have a bunch of them. I prefer restorative and alignment classes (though I do vinyasa too).

Today was a strange day. Today I did active back bends. Ah, these used to be my prized poses, the ones that made me lively and flushed. They gave me access to the the dark flip side, as it were. These, and the inversions, were my go-tos. I haven't done urdhva danurasana (full wheel) in a long time - maybe a year - and I really don't know how the impulse came but I gave it ample opportunity to wander away, and it didn't. First, I worked on thoracic and sacral opening in a variety of traditional Iyengar set-ups (using chairs and belts and blocks). Then I did some rope work for traction. Then I got on the floor, with one belt around my upper arms and another around my upper legs (not regular practice for me but I'm not doing backbends on a daily basis and I wanted to be stable). I spent about 30 seconds fighting with my anxiety (not of doing the pose but of not being able to do the pose or of causing myself pain). Then I smacked myself metaphorically, like any good Iyengar teacher of the 90s, and I lifted up. Cuz thinking more about it wasn't going to get me anywhere.

A minute or so later, when I came out of the pose - which didn't cause pain - I lay on the floor and argued with myself. Should I do it again? Did I want to do it again?

I did not repeat the pose, though I wondered if it would have been fun the second time. I did not repeat that pose because it only needed to be done once. I used my muscles. I flexed my flexibility. I bore weight (all these things that are important for my spinal health). And the person I am, right now, needs to expend the minimum amount of effort for the maximum gain. It would have been hard to keep going. I would have achieved more. And in that achievement, I may have brought on pain.

How many times have I caused myself injury because my desire to achieve outweighed my better judgement? How many times will I do it in the future? No sense in worrying. Today my body and mind got it together and we came up with a viable plan. Can't wait to see what happens tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Knotty and Nice

I'm sitting in my living room, practically shivering, imagining a world in which the entire first floor of my house will be equally heated (and entirely warm). Admittedly, I just drank some almond milk straight from the fridge and I'm not wearing a double layer - unless a large scarf and shearling slippers count. But man, I can almost feel excited by the prospect of the reno when the temp drops to minus 8. I'm really hoping (understatement) that stable indoor temps will help keep pain (which doesn't like cold or wet) in check during the winter months.

But this post is not about that. This post is about knitting - and unknitting - a subset of the craft that every knitter should get with to some extent, IMO, if perhaps not to this extent:

The Jan Sweater by Susan Crawford
This sweater, the second thing I ever knit, was suboptimal from the start. It's how I learned yarn-overs (a lacework stitch), something I've really never loved, even if I've grudgingly accepted them. The fit was all wrong - too big everywhere, too wide in the boat-neck (I actually had to seam it up after the fact), too see-through (given colour, yarn-weight and the holes). I didn't enjoy the pattern. Susan Crawford patterns, I have learned, are not to my liking. The instructions are weak (and slim, in keeping with the vintage thing) but more than slim they're weak.

Destined to be something much better than the sweater ever was~
I used Excelana, also by Susan Crawford, yarn which I wouldn't recommend. Firstly, I believe you have to buy it online - and it's just not that exciting. Secondly, there were SO many knots (like, regular knots) holding every skein of this yarn together, that those myriad balls you see above are as much because I had to snip the yarn every 50 yards, as because I didn't snip my side seams cleanly. There are only a few comments on this yarn in Ravelry and one of them indicates that this hasn't  happened only to me. I can forgive a few knots (like 2) in my artisanal yarn, but don't make my life a misery. Also, what does it say when you can't keep your yarn in one piece as you spin it?? Finally, it's not expensive (though it's not cheap for those who have to ship it and pay the exchange), and it doesn't feel high-end. It's got a somewhat generic feel - even as I imagine it is EXACTLY like what affordable yarn in wartime England would have been like.

I've been thinking more and more about this whole "rip back a sweater" thing and I've put my money where my mouth is. To wit, in the last year I frogged a sweater 3/4-finished. I ripped back 3/4 of this to improve the bust fit (so it's still not done) and now, I've gone whole hog and undone a whole finished garment.

Not only am I reminded of my newbie-knitting parents sheer horror at the thought of losing a stitch of work (till you get what's happening, it can be so awful not knowing how to fix things), but it's a pretty awesome metaphor. I mean, it's hard to deconstruct something back to its component parts, even if you're very laissez-faire. When you mess up a cooking project, you get to throw it out and start again. Like, with new material. There's something so in-your-face about the way yarn comes undone. About how it teaches you the value of your work, which is to say, it's only as good as what you've learned and what you'll do next. People, there is liberty in this activity. But man, it's hard.

It's messy, it's scary (What if you snip the yarn accidentally? Note: You probably will.), It's a reminder of the sometimes endless-seeming journey you've traveled (you remember all the stand-out bits, bad or good). It's a perfect visual representation of disintegration. It's a mega recontribution to your stash which, let's just say, may be adequately robust already.

By ripping back a sweater (perhaps a nice cashmere one from a thrift shop) you get to see your work in reverse - which is actually illuminating. Doing this will make you a better knitter. And I don't mean in a spiritual way. It'll provide an opp to see how things come apart so that you can be better at putting them back together. It'll also teach you about how much you've learned since last you touched that garment you're, ahem, yarn-retrieving.  (Let's give it a euphemism, shall we?)

I've decided, in future, if I'm at all on the fence about a garment, I will rip it back after blocking (or sooner). It will not torment me in my closet. Hopefully I like the yarn (so that I'll want to knit with it again) but, if not, I'll give away the yarn. I also intend to some of reclaim some of my other already-closet-hogging, hand knit sweaters. Gotta admit, if I never want to work with a particular yarn again, chances are that I'm not going to rip that one back soon - cuz it's a lot of work. Like a couple of hours to do it well (and depending on the amount of yarn to rewind).

I always thought the hardest part about the unknitting process would be contextualizing the loss of time - and feeling inundated by yarn I've already experienced. Now I realize that the yarn is different every time I use it. It molds (literally) to the thing I am creating. And, inasmuch as I am its machinery, it is as prone to nuance as I.

Knitting brings it all up, as every knitter knows. It's as much an act of meditation - of grace - as prayer or therapy. I struggle with the ends of my yarn because, in order to use every yard, I must find a way to use every freakin' yard. Yes, this is an affect of my OCD, but it tells me about myself. I don't like to rip back finished work (or do I?) because it's like loss or waste. I can't bear reknitting with the yarn because it denies the satisfaction of acquisition.

But here's what I didn't know and what has made all the difference: Unknitting is its own kind of craft! Have a glass of wine. Watch a movie. Do a good job of it (I did not, particularly, so I lost about 30 g of yarn due to short lengths). Start with a garment made up in a yarn you care little about. Do NOT snip your main fabric when you go after the seams. Wind the yarn in to your fave kind of ball. Be considered. Note: I don't intend to soak the kinks out of my yarn, at least not at this point. I'll do what a Ravelry friend suggested: swatch and block that swatch for a long time before leaving it to dry.

Unknitting is just as miraculous as knitting and its made from the same component parts. You get to touch yarn. And you get to start again. Maybe that next thing you make will be everything that the last thing was not. How sad would it be not to have a go at that experience?

Honestly, if you can bring yourself to do it, take some unloved knitted thing apart this week - and tell me about it. It will be nothing like you expect, I promise.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

It's Been a Long Month

Thank you so, so much, everyone who commented on my last post. I had no idea my reno is such a topic of interest! FWIW, I have every intention of torturing you with stories about it (and pics). Why keep that gift to myself? :-) And, gotta say, overwhelmed or no, I feel like a part of me is amputated when I don't write.

So many things have happened in the last month - too many to relate. Maybe it would be best to return with some fodder about knitting (light, and all, even if ripping back a sweater isn't fun). Alas, I've experienced death (my best friend's much loved and admired father), grief and adaptation. There's been pain and, I can't lie, fear.

But in those moments of fear (which, for me, are inextricably linked to physical pain) there's a lot to be learned. In fact, I may have learned more from pain than from anything else I've ever experienced. It takes no prisoners and it doesn't pander. Having said this, in no other context is Stockholm Syndrome more beneficial. One has to make friends with fear - the emotional manifestation of pain - to trust it. What you can't beat, join, and all that...

My most recent encounter with death (and they are all different even as they're all the same) has taught me that, in order to accept mortality - inevitable human decay and ending (that thing I fear most of all) - one has to be exposed. It stands to reason that the best way to accept the continuum of life is to see it from all sides. I realize this is banal to read. But to live it is profound. We must normalize pain, death, fear, loss. They are worthy and human. They give ballast to the things we seek out intently (love, prosperity, health, contentment).

Big thoughts aside, I am always informed by my yoga practice. The benefit of being an early adopter is that I have the opportunity to watch this faction age as I do. Really, I suspect this community's dialogue is going to help everyone, at any age, because we're all on this trajectory. But for me, a woman of a certain age, who sees the subtle erosion of athleticism in her practice, it's rather kind.

Often these days, when I practice - and when I practice through pain my sequence is an odd array of methodologies wrapped in the philosophy of pranic yoga - I remember a moment in my early years of teacher training. I was demonstrating chaturanga dandasana (push up) while my teacher expounded, interminably, on the pose. I stayed there seemingly forever. She smacked my arms and militaristically commanded me to rise, time after time, with attention to the energy in the pose. She advised us all that my attention was scattered. You should know that this asana has always been my nemesis - even at my most physically capable. I can hang out in high plank indefinitely. I can bring myself to the floor and hold the plane. But pushing back up, from the full pose, has always been some variation of miserable to impossible. Effectively I am stuck.

In my mid-40s, I do the pose with knees down. It's just sensible. Why the fuck would I contribute to pain to feed my ego? I need to retain strength, not to prove my prowess.

But here's what I posit: There are so many experiences you will never be able to contextualize until they're just memories.

Today, as I did full chaturanga in an effort to strength-train (and remembered my teacher training moment), I recognized for the zillionth time that my attention was not scattered - had not been scattered. I realized at the level of my bones and nerves that I've never been able to locate the graceful exit in this pose because my body can't find it. My body can find so many things - so many other poses, so much joy, so much depth, ecstasy - but it cannot find the ergonomic stasis required to lift out of that full pose elegantly (if at all) probably because I've got fucking osteophytes all over my spine, messing with the dynamism, and they've likely been there since my late teens. No fucking surprise I can't do it. It doesn't define me.

So here's where I'm going with this post. The next time you can't find something - closure or peace of mind or some stupid physical outcome that in no way defines you - remember that, someday, the fog will clear. You may still not find what you're looking for, but you'll know why it's lost to you and you'll accept it.

My teacher used to say that she didn't know what would happen when she could finally attain (mega-complicated) Pose X. She suspected she'd go up in an illuminated puff of smoke - illumination being the unsaid subtext. (In no small irony, she cut herself the slack she couldn't give to others.) I'm telling you there's no puff of smoke. There's just the emerging awareness that comes with experience.

So I welcome everything. I welcome life and joy and death and sorrow and pain and whatever each is there to tell me. Intermittent limitation is a gift, because it shows, in containment, what will eventually come. There's liberty in that, I propose. But then what do I know?

Monday, November 7, 2016

That Post That Every Blogger Writes Eventually

The trajectory of a blog is rather knowable, as it happens. One senses the ebb and flow. As a serious reader - and a pretty conscientious contributor, for a decade, give or take - I'm rarely surprised when the light dims in one of our metaphoric spaces. And it's rarely without a considerable degree of regret that I say good bye to one of my long-time blog friends.

I'm not much of a mover-on. I've managed to invest myself in every loss I've ever felt, at terrible personal cost, I might add. I hold fast. I do not give up. And, damn, I love to talk. Good conversation is my drug of choice. It's the thrum that underpins everything for me. And writing is its right-hand man. To those of you who also write, I don't need to speak of its delicious pleasures. What is more wonderful than words that hang together?

Which is why I find myself in the most absurd of situations - about to draw the curtain on a decade of community. I've hesitated to commit to this for weeks. I knew, when I took the new job, that my responsibilities would be upended for a period of time. But I've also felt for months that my life has called upon me, ever more, to Be Here Now. My kid needs me, my job needs me, my house needs me. My husband needs me. And I need space. The truth is that I have as much to say as ever (for which I am so grateful), but I have no time to say it (when I have energy) and no energy to say it (when I have time). At at some point, one needs to recognize that the virtual - though as real as anything real - cannot be prioritized.

I want to say - and this is not a platitude - that I care tremendously about you. Not "you", as in a spectrum of generalized readers. I mean you. You have heard me. You've commiserated when things have been truly hard. You've shared my joy and successes so many times over. You've taught me lessons - metaphoric and practical - and you know I love to learn. You've shown me wisdom when I've been at my wits' end. You've indulged my ego. You've kindly set me straight.

You are not an abstraction. My husband probably knows you by name - well by blog name, that is. Your feedback shows itself in the clothing I wear daily, in the crafting that comes a close creative second only to my writing and communicating here.

It seems likely that I'll reclaim this space again. Lord knows I intend to when the opportunity presents itself. But it won't be what it has been - it never is. It won't be the thing I've dedicated myself to, multiple times a week, for a decade, unceasingly. So I want to acknowledge this loss. I want to acknowledge what this place has meant to me and what it will always mean to me - a sign of  commitment and creativity which brings community - my greatest joy. It's the place where I have come to know you and to be your friend. So thank you very much and much love. I mean this sincerely.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Finished Project: Sweet Jane Pullover

My Sweet Jane Pullover is finally complete:

Disclaimer: As per all plain stockinette garments, the beauty is in the hand and in how it fits and wears. I can't say that these photos show off this pullover to its best effect. And while it was carefully blocked, it hasn't been worn, which is why the sleeves look vaguely wonky. I did a bit of assertive blocking in the upper arms and you can still see the pin points. They disappear completely when worn, of course.

So, what can I say about this knit?
  • It's not difficult but you have got to like short rows because they're everywhere (hem, shoulder shaping, sleeve head).
  • It's boring knitting. So, so boring. One perks up at the thought of the short rows, if only for novelty.
  • Amy Miller, the designer, most definitely has the tightest gauge on the planet - if her pattern recommendations are anything to go by. As mentioned previously, I had to go down 3 needle sizes and I still obtained a gauge that would produce a finished sweater many inches too large. I think her patterns are quite chic, well-instructed and innovative, but we're at opposite ends of the gauge continuum. As a result, it's unlikely I'll knit one of her patterns again soon. There was too much math and near-constant sizing consideration to justify the simplicity of the end result.
  • A propos of the bullet above, there's a point to be made that, if you have to go up or down by more than 2 needle sizes, you're going to have to work hard at reproducing the pattern - unless it's something unfitted, like a scarf, and you like the fabric produced by working with the proposed needle size.
In terms of sizing:
  • You must fit this perfectly for you, or it will look hideous. Pay careful attention to the shoulder width - which must align with your shoulder tips exactly. The arms should be fitted too - though perhaps not as extensively as mine are! Note: My Quince Chickadee is very yielding (if springy), so blocking achieved my objective. But I would give myself an extra half-inch of circumference in the upper arm next time, if only to avoid having to assertively block.
  • If the length isn't also perfect, you'll look wide or boxy. I blocked the short side to 16" of length, and the long to 23", and I might have gone a bit longer (by an inch) on either side. I actually undid the finished hem at the end - such a pain in the ass once I'd bound off 200 plus stitches in rib - and I added another 5 rows to the rib because it really was shorter than I liked. I'd add another inch still, above the hem short rows, were I to make this again.
  • Obvs, this garment has no waist shaping but the pattern instructs A line shaping under the bust. I opted to go straight down from the bust (i.e. 38" all the way) and that toned down the volume. If you are a waif - or you have a small bust - then the true A line may flatter. If you have proportionately large breasts, I suggest you tread carefully with the dimensions. I'm still on the fence about whether I love the fit through my mid-section but I'll have to see how my opinion changes with wear because, one thing I've learned: My relationship to my handmade clothing changes as a garment becomes familiar. I become less critical (and often more pleased) over time. Unless I never wear it, that is.
  • I always find it ironic that the hardest sweaters to size are the ones without shaping. Remember the 80s, peeps...
  • Unless you have very long arms, you're going to want to cut a number of inches off the length. If I'd worked as the pattern instructed, the ribbing would have covered half my hand (and the instructions are for a 3/4 sleeve?!) Others have corroborated this on Ravelry.
In terms of the yarn (which I've written about many times before):
  • Quince Chickadee is a very springy plied yarn. It manages to walk an usual line between "nice" and budget - almost like Cascade, but of somewhat higher quality (not that Cascade is in any way low-quality, but it is mass-produced at a certain price point). This makes it quite a good choice for projects requiring lots of yarn. Quince colours are infinitely better than Cascade's, IMO, and the post-blocked hand of the fabric is firmer. There are no synthetics added to the wool. There is no super washing. Quince holds its shape. It's durable. It's doesn't stretch out notably after blocking. In fact, it tends to shrink a bit. I really love whatever sheep are used to produce this yarn. Unsurprisingly, it has a more Northern feel than a Peruvian yarn. There's nothing halo-y or drapey about it. But it isn't at all like that woolen-spun, toothy/crunchy thing Brooklyn Tweed's got going on. 
  • Quince works well for many of the kinds of patterns that appeal to me. It's entirely soft enough to wear against the skin but it doesn't bag out. It's particularly good for cowls, mitts, gloves and hats, btw, because it keeps its shape, it's got great stitch definition and it's warm.
  • What I don't love about it is that it's quite robust for weight. The fingering feels like sport to me. The sport, like DK. The DK is almost like worsted. And because it holds its shape and springs back - it's not delicate. It can seem a bit thick. You might wonder why I don't just size down when I use it and, you know, I've considered it. That's probably what I'll do next time. If it were easier for me to buy (I have to order it online), I'd experiment. I wish I didn't have to purchase in large batches to justify the cost (which is still acceptable to me, even with the exchange rate). America-dwellers: You can often find it in store - or with very reasonable shipping - and the price point is fantastic. For you, this yarn is a terrific bargain and I urge you to support your economy.
  • Never put this in the dryer unless you want a child-size result at the end. You can machine dry it briefly, when almost air dried (to block it to a smaller size) but be careful.
What I did differently this time:

Usually, when I knit a sweater, I weave in the ends before wet-blocking, because I want a finished garment as soon as its dry. But, as you know, I really don't wear any of the dozens of sweaters I've made (some have been given away, 10 sit in my closet). Once you weave in the ends, unraveling a sweater becomes a very unpleasant and challenging task - like it wouldn't be already, what with undoing a hundred hours of work?! This time, I wanted the option to just rip it back immediately, if the fit wasn't right or if I felt I'd never wear it. Then at least, I figured, I could restash the yarn.

Alas, I have issues with this concept. Even more depressing than sacrificing time, unknitting a newly-complete garment is not appealing on other levels. It feels like mending / alterations to me. Or like watching reruns. I don't like to revisit the past, even if it is ecologically-minded. How can I buy NEW soft, delicious, addicting yarn if I still have masses of it in unwound projects? I mean, if I just unravelled the sweaters in my closet (some of which I do have a strange, sentimental attachment to - if only as learning experiences), I'd have so much stash yarn, I wouldn't know what to do with it. And part of my issue with some of those sweaters is the yarn itself! It may have knit-up nicely but I didn't like working with it.

I recall reading about some guy who actually unravels his latest garment whenever he wants to make a new one, because one is enough. Who has this kind of fortitude and obliviousness to novel tactile experiences?

I did opt to weave in the ends, in the end, because I do think/anticipate/hope this pullover might be worn semi-regularly - not in spite of its plainness, but because of it. It's a neutral-toned, blank slate with interesting lines. Which is generally what I wear. What I can't say is whether my perception of its chunkiness (you know I wear FINE denier, RTW cashmere most of the time) will preclude me from choosing it. And if that happens, really, I'm not making any more sweaters. Not until I get a knitting machine and teach myself how to use it (and given my current lifestyle, this may be many years hence). Famous last words, I realize. But let's see how this goes.

I was concerned that blocking first would produce more visible woven-in ends that wouldn't stick as well (given that water and drying didn't integrate them into the main fabric). I needn't have worried. I actually think it was a bit easier to weave in this order - and the final ends are completely invisible / stay put.

So that's everything I have to say about this project. But what about you? Do you like it? (Feel free to be honest - I mean, I'm not the designer! :-)) Would you wear it? Have you made it? Any thoughts on Quince yarn? Let's talk!

Friday, October 14, 2016

Bra Review: Unlined Piper Longline by Cleo

That unlined Cleo Piper longline I've been waiting for just arrived and it is ALL that:
I mean to take my own pic but I cannot say when that'll be. In the interim, please enjoy this photo from Dreams and Underthings.
No question, it is a rare, as-yet released bra that raises this degree of expectation and lust. Most who wear full bust/small band sizes have felt terribly neglected when it comes to unlined longlines because, well, they simply haven't existed till now. Sure, about 5 years ago, the regular full-bust players started producing seamed (but lined or lightly padded) versions. Note that those don't play nicely with projected breasts. Moreover, having tried them, I find that the engineering isn't noteworthy - the bands are wussy, too short and incline to buckle.

I've read a number of reviews of this cobalt-shade, unlined Piper (not that there are tons of them because this bra is newly-released). It would appear to fit a broad variety of different breast shapes - tall roots, short roots, wider or narrower breasts, full on bottom (everyone agrees it excels for this subset), a bit full on top (but not overly). It's odd to hear of this degree of modularity in a bra.

I'd read one review and think: Phew, this one's going to work well for me, I know it. Then I'd read another and start feeling concerned. But I needn't have been.

I can now corroborate that this bra also works for the even/full bust (that which is equivalently both lower- and upper-cup "full", having considerable projection). My bust is high-set on my chest, but my roots are short. This gives me functionally even root-height and I do not find this too high at the underarm. The wires may be a bit wide, but there's enough depth in the cups to avoid shape-distortion. There's also enough centre-projection (and dimension to the outer cup piece) to allow for projected breasts to sit front and centre. The gore's a bit wider than the close-set might prefer, but my boobs are very close together and this gore tacks without issue.

So let me tell you why, IMO, this bra is so easy for so many:
  • The band of a longline, when it really fits the person who's wearing it, provides an optimal amount of support. This support is not only flattering (and tends to improve the lift-ability of the cups given that wider bands distribute weight over a broader surface area), but it's good for those who may experience back or shoulder pain due to bras that are too loose in the back (or too flimsy of fabric) and too small in the cups. This band's robustness, in addition to its deep cups (see more below), make for a bra that's very comfortable.
  • In full disclosure, the cups are constructed in such a way that generally doesn't work for me as there's a reasonably horizontal seam (not as diagonal as I prefer) delineating an upper cup from the under cup. What saves the day, IMO, is that the under cup is actually 3 pieces, vertically seamed). This construction provides a lot of volume for full on bottom breasts. 
  • Moreover, the horizontal seam is set above the bust apex, to diminish the cup shallowness which this sort of seam tends to produce. Also, because the lower cup is so volume-friendly, those who often use the volume of an upper cup to redistribute full on bottom projection (and most full on bottom peeps who wear the wrong size do this) are able to use the upper cup volume for its intended purpose. That's why those with projected, even, or slightly functionally full on top breasts, who also have lower fullness, can wear this without feeling like the upper cup is too closed.
  • Finally, back to the band: It's the perfect length for me, a short-waisted gal, and the plastic boning is adequate to keep things in place. You could replace the plastic with metal, easily enough, but unless your ribs flare or you have some strategically-located, flare-producing torso flesh, I don't think it would be necessary. Because it has 5 hooks/eyes, it doesn't need to be overly snug to provide optimal support. But I don't find this band particularly snug.
 Now let's talk about how it looks:
  • This bra is much more luxe-seeming than any other Cleo bra I've come across. The fabric is great. The eyelash lace is soft and delicate, but not weak. The colour is as delicious as everyone else says. The Cleo Piper is gorgeous - and really sexy - and it's a great foundation garment under slim-fitting clothes. I actually think it's a steal at the cost, which is one of the reasons I bet it'll be very popular - and one of the reasons why it's selling out fast.
The bottoms, an adequate, plain brief in matching fabric, are in no way up to the standard of the bra. A high-waisted, lacy number - or even a good thong - would create a more attractive set. These undies are merely passable. And they fit on the loose side. I hope that if this bra sticks around that Cleo will up its game, on this account, to perfect the finished look.

Today's questions: Have you tried this bra? Did it work? Do you want to buy it? Think it's overrated? Let's talk!