Friday, August 31, 2012

Having Your Cake

OK, I continue to feel like utter crap. I appear to be a) sick and b) unable to sleep. WTF? That's a treat of a combo, let me tell you. And, since Scott has advised he can't stand to hear me complain one more time, I have to use this as my platform. 

But, enough about me, let me tell you about a new pattern that flips my sewing switch:

Tiramisu by Steph at Cake
 Have you seen this? No one's made it yet because it doesn't quite exist - it's Coming Soon.

Why does it appeal so much to me:
  • The designer, Steph, has an awesome blog which is how I know she takes fit very seriously. In fact, in one of her posts she discussed how the dress will come with bust sizes (A, B, C, D) though you can't go by those measurements alone because they aren't relevant independent of back sizes. So true, peeps. So true.
  • The line drawing appears to show a dress cut for a woman with a prominent chest / small frame. I mean, of course, one assumes most busts will look lovely in it (cuz the sizing is plentiful and targeted). Though you can't go by pictures alone, it does appear to be the kind of shape that will work well on me.
  • To wit, Steph models her version of it and it looks adorable:
  • In case you're into chevrons, the pattern is comes with stripe-alignment instructions.
  • I love the drape, the straight-meets-bias grain fall, the highlighting of real-waist. My mother used to wear dresses like this when I was a kid.
  • It's designed for a knit. Who doesn't love a lovely weekend project that produces a dress in a knit fabric.
At any rate, there's a giveaway happening on Steph's blog today and, if you win, you'll have some lovely fabric perfect for making this dress when the pattern is available.

Now I'm going to curl up on the couch with hot water and Netflix. Note to people who live with me: If you don't want to hear me complain, don't work from home.

PS: Did I mention they've been banging around like banshees on the new third floor. Dry wall, taping, plastering, siding - could they not be slightly fucking delicate about it?

PPS: They're not going to meet the "on-time" portion of the project plan. This thing was supposed to be done today. What a surprise.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Consumer Report

I'm lying here feeling pretty fucking wretched. Like, can't-drink-a cup-of-coffee-even-though-I-have-a-serious-addiction-to-caffeine wretched. Somehow I've managed to catch a cold and my stomach is a mess. Just in time for the long weekend! I've decided to take my mind off the misery by sharing some shopping-related info.

Not sure if you've heard, but Tasia is having a pattern sale in advance of an upcoming office relocation. It seems this hard-working talent is moving on up and it couldn't happen to a nicer designer. Till Sept. 6, you can save 20% on orders if you type in the promo code MOVING. I finally purchased the Cambie dress:

Photo from Sewaholic Patterns
And speaking of patterns, you know I've been easing myself back into the sewing world by making a muslin of the Salme Sewing Pattern peplum top:

Photo from the Etsy shop
I'm always on about how I don't sew on weeknights because I am generally too occupied by household things and tired from a long day at work. Well, I've made an exception for this project, which is probably a good thing given that the muslin has managed to take me since Sunday, so far, to put together. Partly this is because I've gone soft. Partly it's because I realized, fairly soon after cutting the pieces and basting them together, that the top is practically perfect for my shape without so much as an alteration. All I can say is "wow" and "thank you sewing goddess for making a non-stretch top experience something more than a crushing exercise in fit-challenges".

So, of course, I decided that it would be prudent to properly finish the muslin to make it wearable. The grey/taupe fabric I used, purchased ages ago, really has amazing drape and has worked better than I could have imagined. But the actual pattern calls for a lining, something I hadn't factored into the construction of the practice garment. Since when have I become the kind of person that decides: No mind, I'll just make myself some bias tape and bind the edges to make a cute, unlined top. Especially in light of the fact that I've barely glanced at the instructions (because they're not so relevant to a non-lined version, and they're pretty minimal in the scheme of things).

OK, it's a 3 piece pattern. There are only so many ways it can go together in the first place. But I find myself being very "confident, modern sewist". Three years ago I couldn't have imagined having the ability to do this. I'm so grateful to see that I'm developing as a crafter.

I will write in more detail about this pattern when I've finished the muslin, but let me say that:
  • The designer responded to advise me that the top is designed with 4" of ease in the bust and 2" in the waist.
  • I still cut the 12 - she suggested that I cut the 10 but it was too late by the time I'd heard back.
  • However, I was (as I tend to be - more on this later) fairly casual about the cutting. Of course, I made sure the grain was right and I use a rotary cutter. But I wasn't so fussed about getting an exact 12 because I thought it might be too big. Point is, between vaguely inaccurate cutting and serging all of the edges (which probably cut off another 1/8"), and messing with the sewing lines (despite my 5/8" seam allowance), I have made some sort-of unknowable hybrid size, like a small 12 or a large 10. S, my fitting friend, always cautions me against this tendency - because it's freakin' hard to duplicate! - but it's a way I express my inner sewing badass, I suppose. I've taken notes to the extent that I can, given that all fabric works uniquely with any given pattern.
  • When I've got a finished garment, I will speak about sizing in more detail. For now, though, let me say it's a great design and a very good choice for a woman of narrow-frame and full-bust. Still not sure about the adequacy of detail in the instructions - I'm going to have to use them first. There are few photos and the technical writing, on perusal, seems strung together in a way that may not be so intuitive. Stay tuned for more.
I was going to tell about some fun Etsy purchases in this post too, but I really have to lie down. Next time.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Convertible is Relative

Man, when knitting fails, it does so writ large. Undoubtedly, the McCardell Convertible sweater is in the top 5 of the least successful garments I've made. And given how long it took to make, it may just head the list.

Oh, I suppose it looks ok when I tie it in front (not a great tactic vis a vis maintenance of hand-knit fabric):

But the back is an utter disaster, which I cannot bring myself to show you (read on for the deets).

Honestly, I have no idea if I'll actually ever wear this thing but I can't bear to throw it out right now. On the plus side, if I do, by some miracle, manage to incorporate it into my wardrobe, at least I won't feel compelled to treat it preciously.

We'll never know - as I don't intend to waste another minute on the pattern - if that's what sucks or if the alterations are to blame. According to this thoughtful post, my money's on the alterations:

Let's say that your pattern instructions direct you to create a sloped edge by decreasing 1 stitch every row over 10 rows, 10 times: a total of 10 stitches decreased over 10 rows. When knit at 5.5 stitches and 7.5 rows per inch, that's 1.8 inches difference horizontally, and 1.33 inches vertically, or a length of 2.25 inches forming an angle of 36.26 degrees with the horizontal. But if you decided to resize your pattern by changing your gauge to 4.5 stitches and 6 rows per inch, you'd wind up with 2.2 inches horizontally and 1.6 inches vertically, or a length of 2.72 inches forming an angle of 53 degrees.

This difference may have an impact on the way your garment is put together, causing seams to not fit together correctly, or altering the pitch of the sleeves when they're joined to the garment. The difference may not be significant, and thanks to the stretch of knit fabric, you might be able to fudge it; but there are circumstances where changing the stitch gauge and not altering the pattern can potentially result in a misfitting garment.

There are too many fit challenges to dwell on, but the main ones are these:
  • The side seams pull forward towards the centre front of the garment when the front is wrapped even the smallest amount. 
  • The fit under the arms is too big (Remember, this garment came together like a sewn pattern - 2 wacky looking pieces seamed at the centre back and side seams / sleeves. The sleeves are kimono-style aka part of the bodice / not sewn in.)
  • The back of the garment - even when the front is wrapped - is so big, it resembles a swing coat more than anything. Not good when you're making a fitted surplice sweater. I ended up taking 2 tucks in the back on either side of the centre seam (each extending about 6 inches in length) which made things wearable, if no less dire. Of course, it looks totally "handmade" as a result. Kiss of death in my book.
I've never before felt the wrath of the knitting gauge gods, but I'd do well to choose my future patterns more wisely:
  • It's going to be a while before I tackle another vintage pattern - at least one that hasn't been modernized by a skilled (read: living) designer.
  • I'm never going to make another pattern with no schematic, no pattern drafter (to consult with) and no reviews online. That's just stupid.
  • It's one thing to alter, for example, width gauge (up or down an inch or 2 at most), when you're working with a pattern designed on the straight of grain. Attempting it on a garment, seamed on the bias, is insane. To my credit, I didn't realize this was what I was undertaking until a long way into the project. Not being able to envision how the pattern pieces were to go together, cuz there's nothing - not even a full page of instructions - to pave the way, makes it hard to tell what's what. Not that I'm any less to blame.
Even given all of this fit badness, with most of my knitting attempts, I've learned tons from the first garment (the wearable muslin) and have successfully been able to apply that knowledge to the second version. I suppose might be able to do it again with another try at this sweater, but there are too many unknowns which may adversely affect it: the impact of the bias cut, the next batch of yarn I use (I don't much love the finished feel of the Lorna's) and the gauge that new yarn will have / its drape.

You've got to know when your skill set - plotted against your fortitude - is up to a challenge. I don't generally go the easy route, I hope you would agree. But I don't like to set myself up for failure.

PS: For those of you who are curious about the look of the finished pieces, before seaming, here you go:

Totally bizarre, no?

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Another Way To Get Your Own McCardell

When I clicked on Couture Allure this morning, I knew my eyes did not deceive me.

Photo and garment courtesy of Couture Allure Vintage
That designer was most definitely the champion of the surplice. Do you see the elements of the sweater in this bodice? Look at the drape of the wrap and how it's carried into the fluted shape of the skirt.

It's a good thing this dress would be too small for me or I do not know how I could resist. It is a wearable piece of history.

On the topic of the sweater, Lord, this thing is apparently endless. I started to freak out about the amount of yarn I had left (despite my careful calculation, it was close to the wire people) and cut a few additional rows out of the second side. Of course, math doesn't lie. It was unnecessary and now I may have compromised the fit still further. I was trying to keep the faith, really I was, but I sucked at math in school and I must have had a flash-back or something.

After 3 hours I didn't account for (?!) the fabric is knitted and it's time to prep it, seam it, hem it and finish it. I have to speculate it's going to take me far longer than I can imagine right now. That's how it goes with this garment.

And quick update on the peplum top: I've cut out the muslin fabric (the taupe fabric here) in a straight 12 and serged everything, in the extremely weird event that the first attempt fits out of the box. (If it fits, with finished - if not pretty - edges I will be able to wear it instead of merely sacrificing it to the muslin goddess.) The fabric, while it didn't thrill me before I cut into it, has a lovely drape so it would be nice not to have to scrap it. It would also be nice to figure out a way to make this top without lining it, in case I want a fast garment that doesn't take up much fabric.

Initial impression: The instructions are weak. I'm almost inclined to just make the garment without attempting to follow them - and, people, I'm an instructions-follower! I don't go off-road unless I absolutely have to. There's no way to use them to make the muslin, particularly, because without the lining the order of operations (and the actual operations, natch) are somewhat-to-entirely different.

If the stars align, I'll make a muslin and finish a sweater today but, really, what are the odds of that. I don't know if I've gone soft after my crafting summer-hours or if I'm underestimating the volume of work ahead of me. Maybe I'm starting to understand that, what you don't finish today, you finish tomorrow. (There's always another project.)

So, today's questions: What do you think of that spectacular dress?? What do you think of the surplice neckline, in general?

And for the crafters, specifically: Have you been on slow-gear lately? Do you feel that finishing things quickly undercuts your experience or adds to it? Do you work more quickly in the winter?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Pool of the Week

I'm not picky, I'd take the rest of the house too...

All photos from Desire to Inspire
People, get your swim on. There ain't much longer in this season...

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Tip Top

It must be the change in the amount of daylight, or the sun's angle in the sky, but my brain has really kicked into craft gear. I can't stop thinking about upcoming projects. Some might call it rumination. I like to call it creativity.  At any rate, here's where I'm at:

The Peplum Top

Since I didn't hear back from the pattern designer, I opted to cut out the Salme paper pattern in a size 12.  (Update: Elisa, pattern designer, just replied with very helpful feedback. She thought she had replied to my question but her email got shuffled to her drafts. More on this feedback in a later post.) S, my fitting friend, gave me this awesome double pencil gizmo that lets you trace the outside of your pattern while simultaneously drawing a 5/8" seam allowance. Really made that part of the job less onerous than usual. It took about an hour to tape the paper, cut the 12, tape it to tracing paper and add the seam allowances. Very reasonable, IMO.  

What I like about patterns that don't include SAs is that it's easy to see what the finished garment dimensions will be because you can actually observe the outer edge of the pattern, minus those allowances. I suspect the 12 is going to be too large, though it remains to be seen. It would appear that the shoulders will be 16" (a good inch wider than mine) and the bust will be 41" (2.5" larger than mine). Of course, how this will fit is much more ephemeral than simple flat pattern math so I'm going to have to make a muslin to check it out. (Ain't avoiding that, apparently.)

It occurs to me that, for my body - in my experience, so far  - I'd rather cut to fit the bust and then grade all the other areas down a size - exactly what the experts tell you NOT to do. Thing is, the more I learn about my shape, as it interacts with various patterns, the more I discover that I am generally the larger size in the bust only and the smaller size everywhere else. I think this is a strange feature of my narrow proportions. Maybe an FBA won't work for me because I really just need a bit more space in the bust (rather than everywhere). Anyway, this is my latest experiment, based on the learning I've done on bodice fitting in the past few months. Of course, were I draping or drafting to fit my exact size, or working with someone else (S is very occupied at the moment and we're not well set up in my sewga room with the reno) then I would likely approach this another way. But different circumstances call for different measures. And all learning is invaluable.

Moving onto the fun part, here's how I've decided to a) use my stash fabric to b) make something sassy:

Remember this garment:

It was made of 2 fairly expensive fabrics - navy lace and navy silk charmeuse. It just so happens that I have just enough left of each to make this top.  Instructions for the peplum top indicate that the top is lined (the finishing method). Lace, being see-through, will not hide ragged seams, so I will need to underline the lace with the charmeuse in order to create the fashion shell. (Note to reader: Haven't done this before so I wonder how it's going to go.)

Natch, that leaves me still in search of a lining. What to do?

Well, I'm going to use this silk charmeuse, presuming it's compatible with the weight of the navy:

It's an unusual pairing, but I'm motivated to give it a go.

In summary, vis a vis the peplum top, I've got 2 things to work on: fitting this garment (muslin-process) and then making it up. I'm hopeful I can get through the fitting process this weekend.

The Sweater

The other thing to occupy my attention this weekend is finishing the McCardell Convertible. I hope to have the final knitting done tonight or tomorrow. I've sure made a lot of progress in the last 2 days. After this, I still have to block (trying to determine which method to use), press, seam, hem, use ribbon or seam binding on the hem and insert the closure.

I have to say that the second side has gone WAY faster than the first, partly because I figured out how everything will work while making the first side (so I could apply it to the second) and partly because of the detailed instructions I wrote for myself. 

I really hope this thing is going to be wearable - though I'd be wise not to get my hopes up too high. As a distant alternative, I suppose I can hope that it will work perfectly on someone else. You know you've become some crazy-ass crafter when you'll consider your project to have been a success if it teaches you how to avoid pitfalls in your next version.
Today's question: What do you think of the strange pairing on the peplum top?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My Next Project

You know how I love the shopping online and buying vintage and handmade things. Well, Etsy really covers all my bases which is why I try so hard to stay away from it. Inevitably, every couple of months, I have a moment (aka a week where I find 8300 awesome things I must own) and it's all Etsy, all the time. 

It's a particularly fabulous resource for the home crafter. 

What I've discovered is that, if you "need" something, you can probably find it gently worn / dead stock / vintage at a very good price, especially if you're willing to do the research. I've also found the service to be incomparably professional. Often, when I email a seller to request a discount on shipping (you know how I hate mark up on that element of any purchase), he or she will offer it at cost, which can easily delete 10 bucks from the final price. Some sellers do not take returns, while others are very happy to reclaim their merchandise if it doesn't work for you. I am careful when ordering tricky-to-fit things i.e. shoes (you can get AWESOME, almost new, designer shoes for a fraction of the cost) or clothing.

The categories I have so far experimented with include: jewelry (generally vintage, sterling silver), books (so many awesome vintage books to be had. How I love these!), potions (i.e. all-natural face serum), sewing supplies and (very recently i.e. the parcels haven't arrived yet) vintage clothing and shoes. FYI, I rarely spend more than 30 bucks on any given item (including shipping) and the most I've spent on anything, by far, is $95.00. My point is that this is a place where you can have a terrific time, buy yourself something sweet and not even vaguely break the bank. FYI, you can also break the bank.

What does this have to do with the next thing I'm going to sew?

Well, I discovered this store and purchased a pattern last night:

Yes, it's one of those tape-together-for-yourself patterns, a format I don't love, but it's only got 3 pieces. I will need to add seam allowances, so I'll end up doing some extra work, however I can manage this in the evening (unlike sewing which is too energy-intensive after a day at the office).  I haven't found any reviews of this top, but I have emailed the designer to ask her what body-shape she based the sloper on, to get a sense of whether I should make the 10 or 12. As it has no sleeves to mess with the armscye fit, I suspect the 12 might work better (bust size is exactly mine). It also has side darts and darts below the bust so that I can (hopefully) easily work around my curves.

There are a few reviews online for this company, and none I can find for this top, but they're all good. However, they do indicate that the designer assumes that you know a fair bit about sewing, even with Beginner patterns. I'll keep you posted as I start making this garment.

You may wonder why I've chosen an entirely new pattern from a new-to-me pattern company though I've said I don't want to fiddle with fit. Beats me. I just can't get psyched by anything in my inventory. This top seems like a good staple that will work in 3 of the fabrics I've already got hanging around. (It calls for lining, somewhat concerningly, as I don't know if I'll need to go out and find some, or if I can just use self fabric to accomplish this task. It does raise concerns about how much fabric I have vs what I will require. Hmmm...) I appreciate the opportunity to adjust size on the basis of lots of darts. My bodice fitting project, though still in process, has taught me that my shape is best suited to a fitted woven top with vertical waist darts. I like that this pattern has already built them in. And, who doesn't love a peplum? It's kind of fancy but in an easy way. I sense the top will work well under jackets or with jeans.  As well, I'm happy to support small business, wherever I find it, so I really hope this garment works well on me. Elisa, the owner, stocks a variety of rather wearable and cute designs which intrigue me.

So, let's get the ball rolling... 

For sewists: Have you tried Salme Sewing Patterns and, if so, what do you think? How do you like the look of this pattern? Do you suppose I can use self-fabric for lining? 

And for everyone: How do you feel about online shopping? Are you an etsy-holic? What kinds of stuff are you comfortable buying sight unseen?

Let's talk!

Monday, August 20, 2012


The last time I owned a bike it was 1989. I was at U of T and I rode it daily during the infamous, 41-day TTC strike. I was living at Clinton and Harbord then, my first apartment, in a crazy flat with floors so crooked that it was like being in a fun-house. I locked my bike to my 90-something landlady's wooden front porch (which she objected to, on the principle that it would get stolen). Sometime during the strike, it was stolen from the porch. I assure you, thereafter, she continually told me so.

My father had bought me the bike a few years earlier. It was one of those perfunctory, parental purchases when, as an adolescent, I lived in The Kingsway. Lord, I hated that neighbourhood. It was so isolated, to my teenaged-perspective. I went to school at the other end of the city. The bicycle (which I barely remember the look of, in truth) was my ticket to freedom. I remember riding it everywhere, for hours at a time. I'd zoom along while singing along loudly to my Walkman. I knew every cadence, every syncopated beat of every song on Zenyatta Mondatta. (On a side note: I remember begging my parents to be able to go to the Police Picnic, but I was too young. My husband, 6 years older than me, felt the same way in 1983. Alas, he couldn't score a ticket; it's a sad, near-miss we share.)

By the time my bike was stolen, I didn't have the appetite - or the funds - to replace it. I suppose I could have asked my father for a new one, but I felt violated by the theft. I fumed internally; it was beyond my comprehension (having grown up in affluent areas with absolutely no crime) that someone might steal something I owned (not that I'd worked to pay for it, mind you). So I started to walk - an activity that has served me well, nay saved my anxiety-prone ass with its meditative quality, for many years.

Fast-forward numerous flats and houses and decades and circumstance. When M went to visit my parents for the summer, I started to use her bicycle to get to work. It was expedient. (I can be from point A to point B in 10 minutes, give or take. My workplace is very cycle-friendly and there's a sheltered lock-up area. My route has bike paths, to increase safety and ease-of-travel.) Scott, who cycles everywhere, has been bitching at me for years to give it another go. Having never known me as an avid cyclist, he can barely believe how easily I've adapted.

Y'all know me by now. When I decide to do something, I do it.

M came home 2 days ago, and 3 hours later I bought a bike. (Scott said, as he very generously paid for it, I'm surprised it took you so long.) He'd found it for me 6 weeks ago, just after M left for North Carolina. It happens it was still at the store when I was finally ready to commit:

Fuji Crosstown 4.0. It's cream and green ombre with painted flowers!

This baby is SO DISCO. Oh, the mega-low standover makes it unbelievably comfortable for urban transport. The seat is fluffy soft. There are 7 gears (perfect for city riding). Mine has an awesome kick-stand, fenders (to keep crap off my clothes), a solar/crank front light, a tail-light - both removable. I got a great front basket, a cool (long and flexible) lock and a terrific helmet. Note: The helmet is ugly but it fits really well and it protects my brain, which I care about.

Don't misunderstand: I'm a fair-weather rider, to be sure. But I am psyched to have the opportunity to travel the city with Scott and M, to get myself hither and yon, to be just about everywhere in 10 minutes, should I so choose.

Everything old is new again, I guess. (Specifically my porch railing - metal rather than wood.)

So, what do you think? Cool ride? Do you cycle on a regular basis? If so, do share your experience...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Review of My Fabric Inventory

The best way to figure out what you want to make, is to see what you've got hanging around. (Rachel's done it particularly well, lately.)

I visited with my stash today, pulling out the larger lots of fabric. I don't intend to get carried along on the little wings of half a yard.

Here are my best options:

Silk Crepe - About 1.25 yards (every shot was blurry for some unfathomable reason...)

Synthetic (like a heavy silk) - 2 yards

Modal - 2.5 yards

Synthetic (like a heavy silk, but with firmer hand and less drape than the electric blue above) - 2.5 yards

Synthetic - thin-gauge sweater knit with good drape - 2 yards

Insanely beautiful reversible cashmere knit, another wonderful gift from Mardel - 2.5 yards

As you can see, everything I've got in stock is best for making a dress or a top. Next up, I've got to determine what patterns I might use for each of these. But, again, if you've got any suggestions, I'm happy to hear them!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The View From Up Here

Neighbouring gardens as seen from the balcony of our third-floor renovation
One of the unexpected pleasures of the new third floor is that the view from the window-wall and balcony is spacious. In truth, I thought it would be rather ugly. We don't live in a neighbourhood known for architectural homogeneity. The supremely hideous interacts with the mildly interesting and, occasionally, with elegant design.

But the sky seems vast up there. Fluffy cotton-ball clouds hover. The gaudy, faux-byzantine Greek Orthodox church looms strangely-large in the distance. We see dense pockets of trees where the parks are. Intersections of traffic where the residential slides into the industrial. We'll know when the ice-cream truck is coming, when the rain is coming. Never again will we have to climb out onto a pitched-roof to watch the air-show or fireworks on the lake.

Voyeur that I am, I love to view the gardens around me, bustling with squirrels and cats and people setting out their supper, the cyclist on the street, arguing with a careless driver. And I'm really seeing some interesting plant-life.

Mind you, everything loves you up in the green of summer. I wonder what the view will be come February.

Friday, August 17, 2012


It must be moving towards fall (if slowly) because my impulse to sew has returned. The question is "what to make"? Seriously, I have a zillion patterns and tons of fabric, but I haven't so much as looked at either in a couple of months. Why not? Well, I've been living the summer of perfect weather coupled with the summer of child-freeness. (M comes back tomorrow after six weeks away, fyi.) 

Then there's the small matter of the renovation, which continues. I am grateful to be able to tell you that a very stressful element of the project (that's code for "potential big problem") has been resolved. But unknowns are par for the course with this kind of project. The latest is: Will this job be done by Labour Day?  

Finally, there's my seemingly natural urge to knit when the weather gets warm.  It's not like I've been craft-free all summer. I mean, I made this and this. (I also knit a baby gift set.) And I'm about 60 per cent through the sweater that time forgot

This week, I reworked a paragraph of vintage "instructions" into 10 pages of typed up notes, including every row by number and specific stitches required. That took hours but now all I have to do, and I say that with some irony, is to follow these (painstakingly achieved) directions. I debated the merit of investing this kind of extra time on a garment which, as we know, may not fit. (It's somewhat like a bra. Given the construction methodology, there's no way to tell how it's going to work until it's seamed up.) It's not like I haven't also kept pages of hand-written notes.

Thing is, I do intend to make it again. (Stay tuned for more about this.) Even if version 1 isn't a perfect fit, I believe that it will give me the information I require to vastly improve version 2. Right now, I sense version 1 might be too short. That's because I ended up having to cut 2 inches off the bottom in order to ensure I'd have enough yarn to complete the project. (There are times when having a short waist is merciful, for what it's worth, but this thing is true-waist vintage-short to begin with...)

Note (And This Doesn't Make Me Seem Like The Sharpest Tack in the Box): When buying my yarn I neglected to consider that, when one changes one's gauge intentionally to achieve a sweater having a larger circumference, one will require MORE FREAKING YARN to accommodate the increased size. By the time this occurred to me, the LYS had no more of my yarn in stock. The brand is one that hand-dyes lots for individual stores so apparently there is little likelihood of procuring another skein. 

My work-around was to weigh my yarn every other row as I neared the end of the sweater's left half. I knew I had to finish with 160 grams of yarn left over, though how to ensure that would happen (all of the rows increase and decrease and the sweater changes shape radically towards the end) was beyond me. My hack was part math and part intuition and, as it happens, I was left with 160g,  EXACTLY half of my remaining yarn to complete the remaining half of the sweater.  One thing's for sure, I will never know how to alter this sweater for better fit on the next go-around, if I can't produce a finished version 1. So this was a necessary (potential) evil.

Knitting is so "live and learn". While I despise having left over lots of yarn that are too small to do anything with and too large to dispose of, I am starting to see the merit of starting a project with more yarn than I will reasonably need. It seems I often complain about the very real potential that my project is in peril because I a) don't have enough yarn and b) there's no more to be had. It's much less compelling to write about how I have left-over yarn that's just sitting there gathering dust. And, all things considered, it's much less stressful.

But back to sewing. What to make?

For starters, I intend to compare my trove of patterns (many of them new or unconsidered as yet) against my stash of fabric (not inconsiderable) to see what clicks. I suspect a quick win is in order - something that doesn't require too much fitting or more than a weekend in the sewga room to complete. Between the math lesson that is the McCardell Convertible and my last couple of projects (the labour-intensive Tailored Suit and the Fitted Bodice, still in process), I would simply like to enjoy the hand and drape of a (stretchy?) fabric and a garment shape that's known to flatter. I'm itching to sew: to cut and press and stitch. I don't know how much I feel like making a muslin. I guess, the garment will call me and, depending on what it needs, I'll proceed accordingly.

Many people have been very happy with the Renfrew pattern, which I do own. I am also thinking about trying something with buttonholes (?!) because my Singer really does them very nicely and, generally, without incident. I've got some beautiful modal and a sweater knit. And there are lots of garments I've made before, with some success, that I'd be happy to recreate in a new fabric.

What do you suggest? Have you made a pattern recently that fits the bill (good instructions, great finished product, reasonably quick)? I totally want to hear about it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Start Saving

Austerity is not my strong-suit, though I would be wise to exercise a modicum of it in the next little while.

Which is why I am so tormented by this post today. OMG, if you are a lady with an ample rack, you need not fear this spring. A shout out goes to Cheryl, from Invest in Your Chest, who is super plugged into the UK lingerie scene (IMO, the best scene evah for the large-breasted among us). She writes some excellent reviews of some excellent brands - and she doesn't pretend to love everything.

I've pulled just a few photos (all courtesy of IIYC) of the sets I suspect that cannot live without:

Look at the awesome patchwork thing going on in this Miss Mandalay set. Sure, it's lightly padded (aka structured), which is the only thing that may prevent me from purchasing it.

Egad! It's shiny! It's floral, but weird. I love the colours. This set is by Elomi, a brand that tends to work for women with broad backs and those who aren't twigs.

I refer to this tonal palette as "ballet coloured". I have wanted a yellow bra for so long. Just ask anyone to whom I've bitched. This one's a Freya, my best brand. I don't think there's a chance in hell I won't be pre-ordering this one :-)
While we're on the Freya bandwagon, and I have been for about 10 years, here are some other fantastic options.

Pretty Dots:

Pretty Bows:

Pretty Florals:

Do you see how the under band is fluttery? Sigh.

Oh how I wish someone would invite me to participate in one of these trade shows, all expenses paid (natch), so that I could write of these reviews first-hand. In the meanwhile, Cheryl provides some very interesting observances about the trends for next spring.

I just want to reiterate this: If you've got big tits, there is no reason to feel like the lingerie fairies have forgotten you. Sure, the cheap lingerie fairies have forgotten you - but there are only so many of them to go around. And the truth is, your boobs (if they are large), need more architecture than the cute, cheap brands are able to provide. Consider it R&D. Then save your pennies (if you don't have lots of them), and buy some good stuff. You will never regret it. And you'll be supporting an industry that matters to an ever expanding subset of the population.

Questions: Which of these is your fave? Do you like the pastel palette? Have you tried any of these brands and, if yes, what are your thoughts?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

I'm Getting Somewhere

OK, people, I think I may actually be getting somewhere. I've spent hours on the numbers and draping this morning and finally squealed to Scott: "Eureka! Lord, I'd be lost without math." Whereupon he spit-choked his coffee.

I'd like to advise that, despite his fantastic spatial reasoning skills, he was of no help whatsoever.

Have a look at this:

My speculation is that the vertical piece (wrong side up) that follows the general length of the hardwood seam is the centre back. The pointiest part at the bottom tip  of that vertical line is the left centre back. The part that curves up to the right-hand side of the photo is the side seam leading to the arm seam (obviously, the entire front isn't done, I'm still knitting it). The part of the sleeve you can see is the front. Then, the diagonal bit on the left-hand side of the photo is the front left side of the surplice, the left wrap, if you will. Right now I'm making the front of the left side of the sweater.

In as much as something can be knit on the bias, I believe this puppy is.

Now, let's talk about some of the hideous features of this pattern (which I hope are contained within the instructions and do not spill over into the finished object):
  •  OMG, would it have killed Ms. McCardell (or her people) to put together a fucking schematic?? It's not like this is a shell with increases and decreases at the arms and neck.
  •  And while we're at it, on nature's most complex pattern, could we go with something more in the directions than: Right Half - reverse shaping from left half. There are increases and decreases on just about every freaking row. I. am. not. joking. One false move and you are making a thneed.
  •  The instructions refer to the sleeve edge and the side edge in addition to the centre back edge and the neck edge and the neck facing edge (fucking hell). Technically the sleeve and side edge are the same edge, but when you don't know how the thing comes together, that's impossible to know. By that logic, the neck edge and the centre back edge are the same.  In fact, a big part of the reason that I started draping the fabric is because I couldn't figure out where to do my next batch of increases. Sidebar: Let's assume I'm right about this. I consider this my crafting public service of the month. Maybe even the season. Cuz there's no one else I can find who's made or written about this pattern.

On my math-path (as I call it), I figured out that I've got another 10.5 inches or so to knit on the front left side. That will definitely make the front longer than the back. I have to assume that's the goal of the pattern, to allow for the cross-over at the waist. But that's about 5 inches of extra length over the back. I really hope this isn't going to mess me up.

Why am I so concerned, since I am following the instructions? Well, my gauge is not the same as that of the pattern instructions, of which I'm well aware. This suits me in terms of circumference. BUT: My vertical gauge is 10 stitches per inch rather than 11. You might think it shouldn't matter since I've knitted the entire sweater with that gauge in the same yarn.  However, the sweater instructs - at some points - that one knit to a certain length and at other points that one knit a certain number of rows. Since, all things being equal, my gauge will give me a longer sweater than the pattern's, I'm a bit concerned that the ratios for front and back may be off.

Egad! I love blogging and I love math!! I just figured out how to fix this problem. And I did it just in the nick of time. If you want the deets, let me know, but in short I figured out the difference in length of a variety of rows (my gauge vs. the pattern's) and I'm subtracting it from the part that directs you to knit numbers of rows (rather than the spans wherein you're directed to knit absolute length).

My one other concern at the moment is that this thing isn't going to fit. But I can't really do anything about it at this point. I need to finish at least one side before I can drape it on my dress form for confirmation. If the size is off (up or down), then I'll need to decide whether to frog it or to keep on and give this thing away. One issue at a time...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shout Out To The (Knitting) Experts: WTF?

Um, if anyone can tell me exactly how this is supposed to turn into a sweater, I'm all ears:

This is the LEFT side of the sweater. It's a mirror pattern. The theory is that the right side will look exactly the same, only in reverse.
My understanding is that the top left side and the top right side (on either side of that notebook) will be seamed together to form a sleeve.

Of course, this side is not finished, there's a decreasing section that's set to start in about an inch and a half.

In case you need a refresher, here's the only pic of the sweater I can find:

It appears that this thing is knit on the bias. Ok, ok, I suspect that's impossible. What I really mean is that it will be seamed so that the final garment falls on the bias.

In truth, it's looking less weird at this point than it has done since I began this endless swatch of stockinette. Now that I've achieved full width at the top (the "sleeve" area), I can almost envision how it will be seamed at the centre back and then under the arms/ at the side.

I still have concerns about the sizing. But really, maybe this is one of those projects you need to finish (at least one side) before you have any sense of what will come next?

Or y'all could enlighten me.

Note: If you have serious concerns that this is never going to be a sweater, feel free to voice them.

Oh, and one final pic to show the lovely colour:

Keep in mind that this is not blocked, so the stitch is not as even as it will look when all is done.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Looking Up

There's a point to be made, when one is a blogger who likes to post photos of new purchases, that one should ensure there's some photo of the purchase on the web, or simply take a freakin' picture.

Alas, I went yesterday to purchase new sunnies - I did this in 20 minutes, fyi - and neglected to take an in-shop photo. In truth, I can't really tell you what they look like. It sort of like when you buy a house and three days later it occurs to you that you cannot remember anything about it except that you really love the tree in the front yard and the kitchen is awesome.

No problem, thought I, I'll grab a shot from the net and impress you all.

The thing is that I somehow managed to buy vintage deadstock. And there's nary a photo of that on the web.

Let's start at the start: I cycled down to Spectacle on Queen West, having called the shop earlier to determine my options. I learned that I could hand over my current glasses and have the lenses exchanged (but that would take 5 days) OR buy a new pair of glasses, receive them, then give in my busted glasses for fixing. That option would allow for a) continuing to have sunglasses, crapped up as they are, as I am truly light-sensitive at the best of times and b) confirmation that I'll get exactly the same colour of (dipped) lens on the busted ones, when those lenses are replaced. Without the originals, they can't guarantee an exact match.

I opted to buy new glasses, waiting with the old ones till the new ones are ready, and then to get the old ones fixed. Most expensive option, check. Quel surprise.

Sidebar: Do you know that light-eyed people are more sensitive to light than dark-eyed people? They're also more prone to macular degeneration (yuck). And green eyes are the most rare colour? My eyes were blue as the sky until I turned 7, and one day they went green. It was incredibly weird, given my southern Italian and Puerto Rican roots, that I had blue eyes to begin with. But I'm surprised to learn that green eyes are less common still. Between that and my left-handedness, I feel rather recessive!

OK, back to my purchase, I tried on every pair of glasses in that store like a machine.

This left me with 4 maybes, 2 vintage deadstock (by Cutler and Gross) and 2 modern ones (by brands I can't remember).

Of the modern glasses, one pair seemed to be the most popular with people I polled (and I'm not shy peeps). The other was cool, but kind of delicate. Not my scene. The popular ones were an interesting striated acetate, but in order to get the lenses to be dark enough, I would have had to go with a polarized brown. Note to reader: When you look through polarized brown lenses, everything is yellow. It's kind of sickening. Always take the lenses outside into daylight and confirm that you're not going to be seeing the world though a nauseating filter, should you buy that pair. Other note to reader: I don't love polarized lenses, even though light-sensitive people tend to like them because they reduce horizontal glare.

Of the vintage ones, one pair was black and wide like my current ones. More glamorous, natch. They are very Audrey Hepburn / Breakfast at Tiffany's in vibe (though her glasses were actually much rounder). However, these seem rather similar to my Oliver Peoples, all things considered.

The final pair, the winner as we like to say, has a tortoise-shell acetate frame. It's not a small frame, though I have a small face, so these glasses will give lots of coverage. The frame is almost butterfly shaped, with a nose-bridge keyhole (I think?!). This pair does look vintage, but not weird. I made certain to confirm with reviewers that, in these, I am channeling a movie star, circa 1960, in Capri, rather than a 42-year old mother of a 'tween trying to look hip. I've gotta hope people are honest. Lord knows, I am.

The frames were on sale by 40 per cent. They were still pricey. If you considered that they have likely languished in a factory since 1962 when they would have sold for 10 bucks (and that would have been expensive), I paid an ungodly amount for these things. But I do love vintage. I love to imagine the former life these things might have lived. And deadstock, unlike worn-stock, is new even as it's old. The frames were refurbished beautifully by a company that's in the biz. So call me crazy.

Photos to follow in 5 to 10 business days. Yes, that's how (freakin' insanely) long it's gonna take to make the lenses. If you want fast, go with polarized. They're not dipped, the filter is embedded in the lens.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Life Lessons

I sense that I'm one of 10 people in the world who got into a canoe accident this weekend. Seriously. Have you ever seen how slowly those things go? Nonetheless my husband managed to steer me into a hanging branch, and not a small one. (In his defense, we were at a wind-y place and he hasn't been in a canoe for a couple of years. There was a little bit too much velocity happening as he executed the turn. Also, I suppose, I could have ducked. Or so they tell me.)

My extremely pricey (IMO) sunglasses, which I treat with such care, were flung from my head, along with my hat (but into the boat rather than the water, thankfully) after being scratched to shit by said branch. I'm of the opinion that the glasses saved my eye. Others think I may have merely saved myself a scratched cornea. Either way, that would not have been a good scene. The branch bounced of the glasses, while it tossed them, and grazed the side of my face instead.

Oh, and then the heavens opened and I spent an hour canoeing in the relentless, pouring, miserable, cold, disgusting rain from which I could not flee. I was fit to be tied.

At any rate, this is my second canoe experience this summer (after a hiatus of many years, and I'm no "girl with a canoe") and I can't figure out which one was worse. In NC, I went on the New River, apparently the second oldest river in the world, and a 4-hour trip ended up taking 6 hours as the water was 6 inches deep in most spots and littered with jutting rocks. Also, extreme natural beauty aside, we had to somehow get around the water-hogs in inner-tubes who were drinking beer and very rudely staying in the middle of everything, despite not really needing water just to sit there and get drunk. That was the trip where I learned about how exercise can truly be an act of desperation. I knew I was never going to get out of that fucking river if I didn't paddle.

This weekend's experience taught me something concrete about my nature: I am very attached to my things. Sure, not all things. (Lord knows, I give away sweaters like they're growing on trees.) And, sure, I cling to some things more than others. But I was so angry about the destruction of my glasses. The combo of my love of beautiful objets (that also manage to be entirely practical and useful) with my hatred of disorder and waste, well, it brought out my less-than-endearing side.  Of course, my friends worked to calm me, weirdly, by suggesting that I need a frame, slightly more a la mode. Smart. That's about the only thing that stopped me from complete anger-wallow. The option to self-improve.

So I'm off to Spectacle to buy a new pair. (Re: Light sensitivity these days, I cannot be without my wrecked up current glasses until new glasses are ready, whereupon I'll get the current ones fixed so as never to be in this situation again.) If only this weren't about to cost a boat load of money... (hahahaha, get it?)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pool of the Week

I'm off to Collingwood this long weekend to enjoy some fun with friends and to continue my summer of adventure. In fact, we may even go to this spa to swim in the hot and cold pools, take saunas and steam with eucalyptus. My friend Sandra is amazed that I suggested doing this, in light of my general horror over public bathing. I have a thing about germs. Strange, I realize, that I LOVE to post photos of pools. My instinct to be creeped out by swimming with strangers is at odds with my love of clear blue water set in beautiful landscapes. Mind you, no time like the present to change my attitude. As long as no one is renovating at the spa, I should be able to control whatever anxiety-provocation comes my way.

Let me leave you with today's gorgeous water-feature:
Photo from Desire to Inspire
Do yourself a favour and read the entire post for many more photos of a mid-century gem.

I wish you a weekend of spectacular weather, wonderful food, great conversation, fantastic music, fun activity, deep sleep, plentiful inebriants (used moderately, of course), perfect landscapes and wonderful memories. It's good to be you. xoxo

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Give Me Shelter

My shade card arrived and it's all that!

Let me start by saying that it was adorably packaged in a sturdy envelope and that it's ingeniously, compactly designed to give you info while remaining low-cost to ship. Very smart, Brooklyn Tweed.

Furthermore, the colours are spectacular. Muted, but intense. Who doesn't love shades named "soot" and "woodsmoke" and "homemade jam".

I can't really give you a description of how this wool will knit or wear. The swatches are too tiny. But I can tell you that the yarn is soft. It does not feel rustic. Everyone likes to say it's lofty, but I can't really say what that means. It does seem springy and light.

On the basis of this card, I will purchase the yarn. When I do, and when I get around to making something with it, I will most certainly update you. Till then, ambivalent yarn buffs: do yourself a favour and order the card. If nothing else, you'll love to look at it.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

TO State of Mind

In case you're wondering, there's been a dearth of crafting here. It's been, um, stressful in these parts. I refuse to immortalize my renovation anxiety; I'd prefer to tell you, sometime in the near future, how it all played out fine in the end, smug, like those reno snobs. For right now, I urge you simply to move house the next time you want to improve your living space :-)

At any rate, S, my fitting friend, is in the midst of a very busy time in her life. I've got futons and stuff in my sewga room. Between the two of us, we haven't seen much of each other in a couple of weeks and may not for a while. I have made up a second muslin of my fitted bodice "sloper" (you know every new fitted bodice for me is likely to be its own thing, given the intriguing shape of my torso) but that's as far as it's gone to date.

I'm not feeling the sewing urge. Much like last summer, I can't find the creative zing - compulsion, should we call it? - to sew. It's too fucking beautiful outside. Too stressful having my house reconstructed around me. Too crazy at work. Too busy at weekends.

I've been finding my creativity in small ways. Knitting the sweater that looks like, well, anything other than a sweater. I'm prepared to discover I've gone all wrong on this one, but I can't really determine that till I finish one side. The fact that this thing is knit in sock wool is making it a very meditative (read: endless) experience.

No cooking to speak of. No baking. But I have been riding my M's bike to and from work and all around the city on the weekends. I've rediscovered this city in a fairly spectacular way. To wit:  Y'all know how down on Toronto I tend to be. It's dirty, it's noisy, it's cold, it's wet. Weekend urbanites co-opt and crowd my "cool, bohemian" neighbourhood; it pisses me off. (Seriously, go get your own cool neighbourhood.) We live to work in this town. Everyone's all about the work.

But I was recently blown away by a day trip I took in my own town. Scott and I cycled, mostly scenically, down to Harbourfront (in truth, a place I loathe). Got on a water taxi (10 bucks a person, peeps, including your bike) and spent the afternoon cycling the Toronto Islands and swimming at Hanlan's Point beach. In 30 minutes I was out of the city and on a vacation (Muskoka-style), swimming in water that was crystal clear and sand-bottomed for half a mile out. When we'd had enough, we went back to the city and cycled home.

That's the first time I've ever set foot in this part of Lake Ontario. When I was growing up, the lake was a polluted mess. In fact, the whole way to the island, I maintained that I would most certainly not be swimming. It's probably the clearest lake I've ever been in.

Some key details:
  • Toronto Island (as we call it) is fucking gorgeous in a way that makes me proud and awed to live here. There are zillions of things to do (not that that's motivated me before, except sporadically). If you only go to the beach, this place is worth it.
  • You do not need to wait like the riff raff for the ferry. Seriously. I will never take that stupid ferry again. Water taxis are to island hopping like taxis are to urban transit. Why take public transit if you don't want to? It's not like you save a boat load of money. (Hahahaha - get it?)
  • Bring food and towels and sunscreen. A bike with a couple of baskets will provide all the storage you need. There are places to eat on the Island but they're either crappy, overpriced or hard to get into.
  • You will never see a better view of downtown Toronto than from the Island.
I've been to so many terrific cities with amazing secrets to discover. But I've never seen anything quite like this.

I'm calling this my summer of outdoor adventurism: biking down mountains and all across town, canoeing, swimming in the city, going to visit friends up north. What I've sacrificed in crafting productivity, I seem to be making up for in lively activity.

It's a tradeoff I'm willing to make right now.