Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Quick Hello

Hey y'all - it's radio silence here because work has gone super nova. The last week has been non-stop and between life and work commitments, the next couple of weeks are going to be busy too. If you don't hear from me till then, that's why. Mind you, I do hope I'll get a few free moments in the meanwhile (wherein I'm feeling creative - with something interesting to say). You know how I like to announce a brief hiatus and then to write incessantly :-)

PS: It's dark in the mornings, the temp has dropped 8C and it's been raining for the last 2 days. Need I say more?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Casual Tuesday

I put on my new cocoon top today (cold as it was) and my kid told me it was bland and my husband told me it was meh. Admittedly, I asked them for their true opinions. I'm inclined to agree that it's not quite optimally drapey in the French terry. Don't worry - I'm wearing it as a lounge top even as I write (this thing is comfort and softness incarnate). And the next one I make, in bamboo, will have the drape that M and I appreciate about the first version (which didn't fit me well and which she gladly took).

Instead, I wore this:

Denim leggings, you say? I thought you were changing it up. Well, we had a staff "retreat" today and, between that and intense PMS, there was no way I was wearing something with buttons around my waist. So, this ain't a nod to my new style but it did facilitate the eating of grilled cheese sandwiches at lunch. In case you're wondering, I couldn't wear the new Club Monaco pants today because I already wore them yesterday. And I love them.

A couple of other things:
  • That's the Aisance cardigan, btw, which I finished 15 months ago. It's one of the handmade sweaters I wear the most. In truth, I barely wear any handmade sweaters so I'm just about finished with making them. Till I get a knitting machine (and learn how to use it), I think I'll hand knit accessories. They get much more wear. I should say that the Shibui Staccato silk/merino blend is quick to pill and to stretch (neither comes as a surprise). I wouldn't use it for a sweater again, much though I appreciate its silky drape and hand. The pilling and stretching age it.
  • I went out shopping (again) on Sunday - ostensibly for a friend who ended up finding my fab new Pilcro Superscripts in my perfect shade of dark wash. They're fancy denim - like, to wear with the cashmere or a tailored jacket. Not sure if I mentioned this but, after buying my first pair (on sale), I went to the Anthro website to get a second pair. In the time it took me to make up my mind about whether this was a sound idea (a couple of hours) they were sold out in my size. Live and learn. So I vowed that, if I could find another pair, I'd snap them up - price be damned. And then, less than a week later, my wish came true, but better - cuz who wants the same pair of pants twice when there's a dark wash to be had. (They're slightly different in the front pocket detail too). They looked as great on my friend (totally diff shape than me) as they do on me, so we both bought them. And then we discovered they were on sale for 20 per cent off. Ain't the 40 per cent off that I got on the first pair, but I'll happily take it! The trouser denim dilemma is resolved.
  • I should hire my friend Jeanette to take my photos because she really gets it. I want you to know (lest you concur that I don't look overly PMS-bloaty here) that it truly is the power of camera magic. Prior to bossing me into positions, she took a bunch of Kristin freestyle shots that were hideous. Unusable. Then, she suggested I stick my chin out in a certain way, move to a place with a plain background, cross my legs demurely and I look adorable. You cannot even see the zit on my chin! At the retreat, later in the day, there were a dozen "candid" pics of me taken (and distributed??!) and they are SO horrendous that I'm inclined to force everyone with access to them to press delete. Like double-chin, pale and blotchy, top-heavy hideous. In truth - and this is in no way self-pitying cuz I'm over that! - one of the things I miss about my slimmer stature is the relative ease with which I could take a photo that made me look slim. :-) I have never been a particularly photogenic person but my thinnest iteration is kind in pics. No mind, it can still be done with a bit of skill - so read up on Gillian's Better Picture Project series and learn. Or bribe a friend who knows what she's doing. That works too.
PS: Needless to say, Gillian's series is not about taking photos to make oneself look slim because what an unnecessary aim! I blur those lines for myself because I like a photo that highlights this trait and I figure, why not be honest about it? Perhaps it's 30 years of fashion mags (though I have never once felt remotely bad about myself because of a supermodel's beauty. Um, it's her freakin' job. She should be good at it!) Maybe it's just my preference. Whatevs. Just want to clarify...

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Fall Shopping: Head to Toe

I have a lot of things to do this weekend. I just finished having a brief moment of resentment about this, even though, as I work my way through the list I know I'll feel productive and pleased. Gardening (the thing that's tormenting me in the back of my mind) will not be on the list because there's a projection for rain. Tomorrow, when the cold front moves in, it'll be 10 degrees cooler but sunny again. I suppose there's time enough to get into the weeds (literally) then. But I've also got tons of stuff on the agenda for tomorrow and I'm loath to leave the least fun of the activities for Sunday morning. Could this paragraph be more boring?

So let's move on to something endlessly interesting: new clothing. I've had a bit of a shopping moment lately (in addition to sewing and knitting moment). Truly, I'm in a stage of renewed interest in being chic, updating my style choices and going for something novel. Can't say my bank account is thrilled but in the spirit of that Marie Kondo book (which I did not read so don't take me to task if I'm misconstruing), I'm going with the things that thrill me. I do wish I'd beat her to the punch and written a best seller about going for the things that thrill you (and getting rid of the other stuff) cuz I've been doing it forever.

For starters - DO NOT go to Club Monaco if you don't want to have to put down 60 things you love (and which would look fantastic on you) because they happen to cost 795 bucks each. I hate how they've raised the prices by 100% over the past 5 years, but I cannot quibble with the quality, fashion-forward nature or deliciousness of Club Monaco goods.

I've always been experimental with pants. I was wearing the harem pants 2 years before anyone found them tolerable (again). I led the skinny-charge. Cropped jersey pants, check. Culottes (I did that sewing series). Gauchos (yeah, they're diff than culottes), I've done those too. Sexy sweatpants - a fave. Oh, and lets not forget Danskin body suits (that's what I wore to yoga in the 80s, before yoga pants were freakin' invented). Y'all know I was first on the scene when they started small-batch producing that new style of "lounge and fitness wear". Point is, I don't eschew the new styles and I'm glad of that - because pants are fun (especially if your challenging fit area is tops).

So I've been watching the cropped tapered tulip pant with interest. And yesterday, at CM, I found a pair that may be a very useful wardrobe addition:

Odiel Wrap Pant
What you can't really see is the wrap front (thanks black fabric) which is quite sassy. The fabric is a very strange, slinky, slightly stretchy viscose (3% elastane). It's got excellent drape and I cannot be unhappy about the elastic waistband because a) so comfortable and b) it doesn't appear to be a fashion faux-pas anymore.

One of my new style directions is to be a bit less "fitted everything" and a bit more industrial "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" - but the luxe version and without the tattoo. I used to feel that would be a terrible waste of my god-given curves - and I don't regret maximizing those for a quarter century - but it's not like I'm at my most knowable shape ever (trust me, if you can't see it it's because I'm masterful at bamboozling!) and I'd rather maximize great fashion - well-applied - than continue to work a look I did better in another time and place. Note: I'm not suggesting that I won't return happily to highly fitted looks on a regular basis, but I want to have equally chic options.

I am entirely committed to feeling and being as gorgeous in my 40s as I was in the other decades. It's a gift and responsibility to myself (to sound totally therapy-plus) - and let's face it, it's stupid to be otherwise.

In case you feel like I'm taking the boxy look too seriously, here's the other item I got at CM:

Club Monaco Wylda Top
One of the reasons I bought this (and it looks really good with the boobs) is because I intend to copy it in the future, with some of my new-found bamboo jersey.

But where I did the real damage made the most novel impression was at Marshall's?! I'm not a lover of Winners (my only discount store of choice is Loehmann's - the one in West Palm Beach). But I gave it a go, on a whim when I found myself in the building. Lord - the shoes!

I found Ash wedge boots (a polarizing choice, if all of the peeps I've shown them to are anything to go by). I can't find a stock photo of the ones I purchased but they're not dissimilar to these except that mine are tougher looking - and more streamlined - because they're black leather from top to toe (including the sole). Mine have the same basic lines, though (and velcro!) and this brown pair shoes off the details well:

Ash Wedge Ankle Boots
Ash is a Dutch brand and those people know the shoes. Let's just say that the brand does not design for sunny car culture which is why these will serve me well through much of the winter. Mine are real (if not fine) shearling. While they're technically heels, I find wedges are walkable in moderation (i.e. one way to work rather than there and back).

Finally, I spent a lot of money to get the deal of the century (ain't it always the way?). I found one lone pair of these Stuart Weitzman 50-50 knee-high boots in olive suede. Amazingly they were in my size, though I didn't bother to look before trying them on. They're lined in leather:

Stuart Weitzman 5050 Suede Olive
These are spectacular because the calf (back portion of the boot) is stretch fabric so the hug one's calves and ankles perfectly - a rare feat when one has skinny calves and ankles. And when the universe sends you hella sexy flat-fucking-boots, you buy them.

Let me save you the trouble of looking up the absurd price on Nordstrom. They cost 900 bucks in Canada, before tax. I got them for 300 bucks, before tax. Yeah, that's pricey, but even in the States these cost 2 and a half times that amount USD. I'm viewing this as kismet because they go perfectly with all kinds of fall skirts and dresses. And they're hot (do not let the photo deceive you).

So, that's where I'm at this September. Curious to know if you're in the midst of a change in style (or fashion). Whatcha think of my new pretties? Let's talk.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Updated CURIO skin care* (*potions for skeptics): Eye Balm A (Rose)

Updated: I updated this post with a photo of the current Eye Balm A: Rose packaging as my blue glass supplier seems to be having challenges stocking my original glass jars. These amber ones are just as lovely and the same size. Also want to let you know that I just made a new batch of eye cream (it got popular when September hit) and I've got a small number of samples of this eye balm put aside. If you'd like a sample (with purchase), feel free to note that when you buy any product in the shop. Happy to send them out as long as they last.

Let's talk about skin care for a moment. It's always top of mind for me, but now that the summer is fading, it's a good time to remember that we are moving back into the season of moisturing sera and salves. (Sob.) Part of my weekend plans include making up new batches of my Face Cleanser A (soon to be offered for sale, still in the testing phase), shampoo, conditioner and body wash (simply for personal use). FWIW, I have exclusively used my own skin care products for many months now and I'm not too polite to brag.

You know my alter ego, OTG Krissie . Well she is so freakin' chuffed every time she gets in the shower and washes her face with subtly sudsing neroli cleanser, her body with orange and vetiver body wash, her hair with rosemary shampoo (followed by conditioner) and then indulgently applies ylang-ylang and grapefruit body oil, neroli face toner, lip balm and face/eye moisturizers and deodorant, all of which are handmade. Yeah, I'm channeling my inner Martha S and I don't care!

Before I fell down the rabbit-hole of mid-summer (a great place to get lost, btw), I mentioned one of my newer favourite handmade products: Eye Balm A.

CURIO skin care* Eye Balm A
Here's a list of ingredients:

Squalane Oil, Organic Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Organic Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Kernel Oil, Cera Bellina (Polyglycerol-3 Beeswax), Organic Rosa Rubignosa (Rose Hip Seed) Oil, Rosa Damascena (Rose) Essential Oil, Daucus Carota Sativa (Carrot) Seed Essential Oil

And here's a bit more about ingredients I love most:

Squalane is one of the barrier lipids our own faces produce to provide non-greasy moisture. It's antibacterial and very high in antioxidants. In addition to being one of those "anti aging" ingredients I refuse to dwell on (apparently our own faces reduce in squalane production after the 20s), oils high in antioxidants are very stable, which makes for a product with a happy shelf-life.

You know how I love jojoba seed oil. I also get a kick out of calling it Jo-Jo-Baaah (emphasis on the last syllable and I pronounce the "j"s). Brief aside: One day I was talking with a local client, raving about the substance and, in my enthusiastic rant, I neglected to pronounce it correctly. Hmmm... Let's just say I did a healthy amount of overcompensating thereafter. As I've mentioned in the past, jojoba is not an oil, but a highly-emollient wax.

Rosehip seed oil is my fave (not so secret) secret. It's super high in pro-vitamin A and it absorbs beautifully.

Rose essential oil is harvested from damask rose (an edible flower) and it's known for its delicious, uplifting fragrance and antibacterial properties. I use a subtle amount of this essential oil because balanced rose fragrance is mood-perfecting (while excessive rose fragrance ain't fun).

The Benefits of an Anhydrous Gel

My rather-longer-than-optimal-marketing copy (aka the Item Details section of the Eye Balm A listing) says it all and then some, but I do want to point out one of the things that thrills me most about this product: In short, as a water-free (anhydrous) gel, it walks the line between oil and cream - a rare bird of natural skin care, because oils can be greasy around the eyes and creams require cosmetic preservation.

As it happens, I concocted an eye cream shortly after embarking on potion-making and it was very well-received. Because it contained water, I added a cosmetic preservative but I wasn't really happy about that. Don't get me wrong, in no way do I think the preservative was or is dangerous (NOT adding the preservative would have been dangerous), but of all the places I feel naturalness should prevail, the gentle skin around the eyes tops the list. 

So what I spent a long time researching was how to make something more viscous and less greasy (more immediately absorbent) than an oil without using a preservative. Eye Balm A employs a modified version of beeswax to create an oil gel which works fantastically. Because there's no water, there's no need to chemically preserve it. Like an oil serum, it doesn't go germy when its reached the end of its lifespan.

This eye balm doesn't look and feel like your average water-based gel (think aloe vera), it's like a very delicate ointment (think solid honey without the stickiness).

Off-Label Use: One of the things I didn't predict, when first I started testing and selling this product, is that some of those who have very dry skin (especially mature dry skin) would choose to use it as an all-over night moisturizer. If you're one of those people who feels that a pure oil serum (like Serum A, for example) isn't quite moisturizing enough, then this may well be the face potion for you!

As I have the greasiest skin in the land, I am very sparing in my use of Eye Balm A. So I don't recommend it as a day cream for the oily-amongst us :-) But if you want to pamper and protect the skin around your eyes - and/or to maximize moisture all over the face, this is certainly a product to try.

As always, if you'd like to learn more about this, please check out my Etsy listing

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Casual Monday

Here I am in my new jeans (tapered and shortened by me) and hand-made surplice top (V8323):

Thanks to my friend Jeanette for taking my photo at work...
I'm actually liking the look a lot but, on wearing the top for the day, I can see I'm going to have throw it out and start again.

What's wrong?

  • The shoulders are still an inch too wide. Problem is that the top is made of 4 shoulder-princess-seamed panels. I sense I'm going to have to take the extra fabric from the surplice panel (the front) which may have implications I've not yet considered. But I hope not. I can't simply merge the two panels into one (as my means of diminishing width) because the surplice attaches at the front/side front seam. Which means I need that seam. And I can't remove anymore width from the side front shoulder width because there would be no shoulder width left. The side panel would effectively become an armscye princess seam, not a shoulder one. Although, now that I think about it, theoretically that could work... But looking at the fit, I feel that there's too much volume over the side bust and the side front / front seam is falling too far to the outer bust. That implies, to me, that the place I need to take the fabric from is the front panel - to move that seam where I'd like it.
  • The bust apex is too high. That's probably because I removed 3 inches of height / depth at the shoulder seam (an alteration I made to the pattern when first I constructed it 3 years ago. I didn't know much about fitting then...). It would stand to reason that the fullest part of the bust would need to be re-set lower to accommodate this. I didn't consider that at the time.
  • Aligned with the bullet above, I'd like to lower the height of the surplice wrap (where it attaches to the side front seam) about 1.5 inches lower (so that it stays under my bust instead of riding up as I move around).
It's amazing that this top - which looks alright in a photo - is as messed-up, fit-wise, as it is. It's slightly more amazing that I seem to take 1 pic a quarter and I've choose to make it one in which I dis the fit of what I'm wearing - given that fit is what I pride myself on! You know I believe in keeping it real here. No sense in pretending I have achieved something I have not.This is a really lovely basic and I'm sure I'll wear it when it fits. Till then, this top is retired.

(PS: Too bad cuz the fabric is luxe.)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Weekend that Was

I was more productive this weekend than I imagined I could be. I'm actually totally unmotivated. So I don't know how I managed to alter a pair of jeans (substantively), finish and block a sweater and make 2 pairs of pants. But no, I didn't garden and the front of my house is shabby.

How did this happen?

Altering the New Jeans

Well the jeans were my priority. The weather has shifted (it'll warm up again but we're moving slowly towards an inevitable temperature and it's cold) so I need some pants that work. I'm bored of my skinnies (though they serve my wardrobe well) and most of the things in my closet either don't fit or they're just not doing it for me right now. I ended up narrowing the flare by 2 inches on each leg and the jeans are still flared, if mildly. It's a sailor-y look that works well on my figure. I also removed 5 inches of length from the hem. (Man, I could have made jeans for a baby with the volume of denim scraps.) Let me say that the pants are really well made. The inner outer leg is sewn with an inch of seam allowance - not serged shut - so that, if you want to make these wider, theoretically you can with relative ease. There was also an extra inch of fabric at the original hem to work with. It's not often I see that. Given the high waist and wide-leg, I sense these will look great with my new Jenna cardigan.

BTW, I do intend - as mentioned - to take photos of my new handmade (and purchased) garments. But factors must align (time in the morning, weather). I haven't forgotten.

Making the Hudson Pant(s)

The Hudson pants were fun to make. I had a mini-assembly line going as I made 2 pairs of these simultaneously - one ankle length and the other cropped. I used my two, rather helpful (if I do say so myself) tutorials on sewing in a flat elastic waistband. In case you're interested, here's the first tutorial. Here's the second.

I should take a photo of the finished pants, flat, just to show them off but I don't know if they'll look any more interesting than any other photos of sweatpants I photographed unworn. Their genius is in the INSANELY comfortable French terry of which they are constructed..

I'm really happy with the cropped version because it will replace a RTW version that I've worn into the ground over the last 5 summers. I'm pleased to know (understatement) that I can recreate these again and again because the cropped sweatpant is a surprisingly attractive look on me.

Finishing Kristin's Cowl Pullover

It appears that the easiest way to finish a cowl-neck sweater quickly is to decide, after an inch of edging, that you'd prefer to wear a crew neck! That's what happened to me and - I swear - it wasn't just a decision based on my urge to be done with this project. The pullover is blocking now and I do hope that it springs back, to its former dimensions and shape, when dry. (Of course, I didn't measure before blocking - like an idiot.) I know it's not going to align entirely with the measurements provided to me in the Custom Fit pattern. (I measured it a number of times while knitting.)

What I can say is that all of the pre-block vertical measurements were spot on. The horizontal ones I can't really comment on because I had that rip-back (requiring me to ease in a lot of extra yarn). As such, my gauge in the waist is totally messed with; it's beyond my ability to assess the pattern's accuracy there. I will say that the hip circumference was larger than it should have been (pre-blocking) and the shoulder width was spot on. I can't quibble much with the validity of one's ability to achieve Custom Fit measurements - though I'm not sure those are entirely accurate unless you use a really large swatch and you know exactly what finished dimensions you want (not necessarily what you'll get automatically). I have lots of other things to say about the system, which I'll get into when I post on this again, following blocking.

TL/DR: If you don't know how to fit I don't know whether Custom Fit is actually going to fix the problem for you.

So that's my weekend. Now I'm eating cheezies for dinner because I feel like it.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Short and Sweet

Never do I love being small so much as when I'm sewing.

Turns out that I was more than 10 inches short-changed on the 2-yard length of French terry I bought at Chu Shing. They're definitely not generous with the cuts there but that's flat-out annoying. I don't like to be the kind of person who has to eye up fabric as it's being measured out... What worked in my favour is that the terry is 66 inches wide (I thought it was 60 but I was in error).

Nonetheless, apparently, if you're not tall you can get 2 pairs of Hudsons out of 1.5 yards of 66 inch wide fabric:

I haven't yet sewn these - that's tomorrow's activity - but they're good to go.

Admittedly, one pair is cropped and I left off the pockets (I don't need the lower waist bulk). One pair's for jammies and the cropped one is for chic summer Friday-wear. I suspect that pair's going to spend a few months in the closet before making an appearance next summer.

On the topic of being short and making cropped things, this is what was left of my 1 yard of 60" ponte that I used to make my ill-fated version of the Jenna cardigan (the version I threw away):

Sure, it's great being 5'10' but when you want to get a sweater out of a yard of fabric, being a short-waisted 5'3" works just fine :-)