Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gauge The Situation: Yarn 3 And What To Knit With It

Brief Prologue: Could Blogger have messed up the Reader view of this post any more crappily? What is up with this interface?

So, I guess this makes a second craft project that can exist, more in the realm of imagination than reality, until I have the requisite mojo. No problem. All the more time to press you for your assistance!

For starters, here's my already-purchased, DK-weight yarn:

Photo found on Etsy, but I couldn't link to it... (I'm happy to attribute it if I figure out a way.)
Yeah, yeah, I know - another freakin' Debbie Bliss offering. I'm happy to tell you that this little knitting experiment has almost cured me of my fascination with the stuff. I really love the stitch definition, and its inherent softness. I don't like the way the wool tends to come in numerous pieces, knotted together, or its tendency to grow on account of its micro-fibre goodness. I'm ready to branch out. Somewhere there's got to be great natural wool that keeps its shape and doesn't look like it made its debut at Woodstock.

But I'm happy I've gone a bit crazy with this yarn, in all its myriad weights and halos. I can truly speak of its merits and detractors now.

What I do love unquestionably is the colour. Y'all know I do not fear orange. And this doesn't scream pumpkin spice. It's brighter than the photo shows.

Before I ask for your feedback on proposed DK patterns, I would love to hear about your personal go-to sport or DK yarn brands. I'm looking for something that will keep its shape, give excellent stitch definition, doesn't knit with a halo (not nuts about alpaca for this reason), comes in great colours and feels exceptionally soft. I'm not, as you know, into incredibly rustic looking wool. Mind you, try to change my mind, why don't you :-)

OK, here are the DK patterns I am considering:

Somewhat Cowl by Wendy Bernard
Once again, blogger won't let me link!? This happens more and more these days... I'm sorry!
But you can find all of these patterns in my Ravelry Favourites which are public.

Flutter Sleeve Cardigan by Pam Allen

Bettie's Pullover by Maria Leigh
Somerset Cardigan by Melissa Wehrle
Cherry Cardigan by Anna Bell
In full disclosure, I am seriously leaning towards one of these in particular. I wonder if it will be the popular choice or the one that can't get a vote. I would so welcome your (always) excellent advice.

It's harder to choose a sweater than it looks! Much harder than choosing a sewing pattern. I've searched through hundreds, just to gain these 5 options.

So, whatcha think?

Monday, October 29, 2012

All Over The Map (But with Talk of Sewing)

Today was a good day. I got myself to work (in a cab - cab it is for this week). I loved seeing all of my comrades. I didn't feel too terrible, though my energy did start to flag at 2 pm. I dug through the chasm of emails and administrivia that was hanging over me. I did leave earlier than usual but I managed. When I arrived home, I spent an hour on these arcane ablutions I've undertaken in the name of healing: steam bath, vitamins, gargling with salt water (usually makes me gag and spit choke?!), eating a bowl of half-thawed frozen blueberries (those antioxidants don't just hang out in the ether), lying over bolster (very gentle yoga) and - this takes the cake - the neti pot. Zut alors, I cannot begin to tell you how desperate I am to relieve the mucus situation. But I don't have to. Nasal irrigation says it all.

I'm starting to understand what took up all of my convalescent time. But gross things aside, I know I feel more normal because, instead of lying here in front of the TV, I have chosen to write to you about my next sewing project.

Next sewing project? Um, does this smack of getting ahead of oneself? Happily, not at all. Since I discovered that I prefer planning to practically anything else, the world is my oyster. As long as my brain has some juice, I can simply think about things and call it sewing! Sure, it's unlikely I'm going to tackle production for the next couple of weeks, but a girl can sit around and mentally ready herself.

A little back story: In early October, when I was really starting to feel hideous, I couldn't do much other than surf the net. That's when all of my fave blogs came in even handier than usual.  Jody posted about jersey patterns from the 50s, and I was blown away by her gorgeous finds. I spent a few minutes and - strangely easily - found many of the patterns she profiled on Etsy. I purchased Simplicity 3302:

It was very reasonably priced at under 15 bucks, including shipping. And I love how it's basically 2 pieces - a back bodice (with attached sleeve) - cut with a centre seam - and a front bodice (with attached sleeve) cut on the fold:

See those interesting sleeve and bust darts?

I bought a 34 bust (that's the size I found), with the intention to grade it up, as necessary. However, having measured the pattern, there appears to be a lot of bust ease (like 10 inches?!) I realize that this is a blouson style top, but if I make it in a knit (which I intend to do) I'm pretty sure it will be more than big enough. In fact, I may need to take some fabric out of this thing, to suit my shape (and modern proportions). Of course, who knows what's going to happen? I'm just giving my imagination free-rein.

I'm not sure I will face the neck - as the pattern calls for - or if I'll finish it with bias tape instead. The beauty of this thing is that there are but 2 pieces to concern myself with, and a few darts and a hem.

So, today's questions are:
  • What do you think of this dolman-style pattern? I notice this shape is becoming popular amongst the sewists lately. Do you find it notably vintage, or kind of contemporary?
  • Have you made this pattern and, if so, what are your thoughts?
  • What do you think of those other pattern's Jody's profiled? They're awesome, IMO. I want them all!
In closing, and just to keep the "all over the map" concept alive and well, I hope that all East-coasters are able to stay safe, warm and dry. And if I figure out how to sleep for a few hours in a row tonight, the world will be looking ever finer, I'm sure.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Gauge The Situation: Thoughts On Sport Weight

It took me a month to plan and knit a quarter of the Siivet Pullover, and 2 days to finish the last 75% of it. (In truth, it's blocked, but not seamed. Read below for the seaming heresy I've got in mind.) The Siivet is mindless knitting. Actually, today was the first time it occurred to me that, without a doubt, the thing I like most about any knitting is planning the project. Choosing the yarn, modifying the size and shape, using my imagination. Making the fabric is simply a means to an end (sometimes more fun, sometimes less). What keeps me going is the idea of the finished project. Will it look like I've anticipated? Will it drape well? Did I figure out the optimal dimensions to suit my shape?

Can't tell you yet if this one's gonna look good. I guess that depends on how it hangs once I've got it put together. But it steam blocked up very nicely - very smoothly. I really hope I called the dimensions right, because the fabric of the sweater is very lovely.

Is the ribbing fantastic? Not if you look too closely in certain spots, but I'm kind of hoping for a bamboozle effect. It's small in the waist and shoulders. I'm hoping that's going to provide adequate distraction.

Let me speak briefly about the yarn - deep navy Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. Maybe you've heard, but there are suits pending which allege that Cashmerino yarn is actually devoid of cashmere. Wouldn't surprise me at all. I don't feel it's cashmere vibe so much as I feel it's plied microfibre vibe. I'm not traumatized by this, though it is a pretty pricey yarn given that it's likely simply wool and synthetic. This batch did not contain many breaks in the yarn - maybe 2 over 7 skeins. It also does not produce the fibre halo I discerned in the Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran. Some people complain that, as a very soft yarn, this stuff pills up pretty quickly. I have not had that experience. In short, I think it's a great yarn for a slim sweater - or anything for a baby or child. It doesn't felt easily and it's machine washable (though watch it in the dryer).

How did I finish it so quickly? Well, I'm not really doing much. I just sat on the couch all day (a few couches actually) and continued to knock off the rows. My goal is to return to work tomorrow. I have to say that this does make me slightly anxious. The part of me that desperately needs and wants to get back into the real world is at odds with the part of me that's afraid to leave the house. And the part of me that's worried about having enough stamina. The likelihood is that I'm not going to feel like my normal self for another month. I mean, I'll love it if I'm all perfect next week, but I don't know how realistic that is. My throat is full of painful ulcers. I do cough (but in no way contagiously). I'm tired. Sleep is still somewhat elusive. The mucous thing continues. Mind you, I can breathe. I do feel more energetic, proven by my sweater focus. I've been so isolated for so long. I think it's time to re-emerge.

But I've digressed.

I do want to chat about sport-weight sweaters. I don't think I've made one before - I've ping-ponged from worsted to fingering and never stopped half way between to take advantage of the slender properties (but relative hardiness) of sport weight. What you get, on balance, looks more like a slender fingering result than a sturdy end product. But it doesn't take anywhere near as long. It's too bad I haven't found many patterns in sport-weight that resonate because I think it might be the best all-around combination.

I chose to knit 4 sweaters for the Gauge the Situation Series. I will actually knit 5 in the end, because I couldn't choose between two worsted options: the Chuck and the Inaugural - so I made them both. The Chuck, made with (slightly thinner) worsted than the Inaugural's aran worked better on my frame. I've learned that a thinner gauge plays up my best features and doesn't overwhelm my narrow frame. It also doesn't obscure my breasts, or make them seem more like chub than curve.

I have 2 weights left to experiment with: the fingering (sock)-weight and the DK-weight. I suspect that DK will be workable, if not optimal, because it's like thin worsted. Not as slender as the sport, but better than the puffy aran. The fingering weight - well - both of my fingering sweater adventures to date have taken a long time and yielded unsuccessful finished products (the Wispy Cardigan and the McCardell). Mind you, I didn't know as well what I was trying to achieve with them as I hope I do now. I also wasn't using the most awesome yarn ever on either of those occasions. (Stay tuned to hear about the fingering yarn I purchased. I'll give you a hint. It's pure, fucking cashmere. First time I've given myself that kind of latitude. I must be thinking a lot of myself these days...)

In the next few days, my goal is to seam up this Siivet pullover - probably on my sewing machine!?. What? It's no less hand-made for taking an hour out of the finishing process, and one that's much more quickly modifiable if the sizing needs to be tweaked. I'll also present you with info about the yarn and proposed patterns for the DK and fingering sweaters. The DK options are not overwhelming, though fingering patterns jump out of everywhere.

Of course, my first goal is to reintegrate with my work environment and to stay on top of my energy. If I'm a bit slow to post, that's likely why.

On a side-note: Today M suggested to me that it's totally crazy we haven't been eating "healthy pre-prepared food" on a weekly basis for her entire life. She's made many suggestions about how I can make this happen from now on. Apparently, she intends to eat this way when she goes to art school or university because "it's just practical and easy". The reality of cost is entirely lost on her. And trust me, I'm all about spending stupidly on food as often as the mood takes me, which is much of the time. Mind you, I can really see the benefits of having some pre-made things on hand for the next couple of weeks. I just hope this hurricane doesn't bring such hideous weather that I'm unable to get to the Whole Foods in the next couple of days.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gauge The Situation: The Eyes Have It

It's Saturday, Peeps, and raining yet again. I call this "kill yourself weather". Cold, drab, chillingly damp. I'm trying to pretend I live in the Netherlands and this is chic. While the newly renoed room certainly says "Amsterdam", somehow my imagination just isn't buying it.

On the, very up, plus side, we have enough food in the fridge and I have enough energy to knit!

I'm moving along in a semi-focused fashion with the Siivet Pullover. (Am I the only one who always types that word as "pullowver"??)

It's been a while. Here's where last I left off... To recap, I intended to knit on the US3 needles, to get the kind of closed knit I was hoping for, but it was just going to be too small and I feared I'd run out of yarn. Instead, I went back to the US4 needles (more open in the rib, in this yarn, than I'd prefer, in truth) and made a bunch of extra-smallening (but lengthening)-modifications on the size small:
  • Knit 7 inches of rib, rather than 5 inches, at the base of the sweater. Everyone indicated that the sweater is way too short at the bottom (and I need length to get over the boobs).
  • Knit 8 rows of stockinette, after the base rib, rather than 6. Again, looking for extra length - not width.
  • Removed approx 2 inches of width during the side shaping (8 stitches) by stopping the increases when I got to 111 stitches (vs the 119 called for).
  • Nonetheless, added an additional 10 rows of stockinette at the end of the side shaping section, to buy myself more length still. (I was intermittently holding this up against my body to get a sense of how it would fall / checking its vertical measurements against my own.)
  • On the sleeve shaping section, not only did I start with a narrower base (111 st vs 119 - see above), I then removed 8 more stitches from the length of the sleeves (4 on each side). I think the sleeves are still going to be longer than necessary. Remember, my knowable, but inaccurate, gauge in the US4 needles makes my unmodified small larger than the instructed version.
  • One thing that sewing has taught me is that vertical dimensions must not be trifled with. I happen to be shorter in my upper chest than many pattern dimensions. I am generally longer from just above the full bust to the waist (because breasts take up length). Then I'm shorter from waist to high hip, than average. Sometimes, making a garment in the instructed size will work - if the garment is forgiving. But I'm much better off to actually tailor the length where I need it. Which is why I added so much length below the full bust, but why I also shortened this sweater above the armscye. I took out an inch of length in the sleeve and upper chest, just below the neckline rib.
  • The challenge with the design of this sweater, as I've mentioned, is that the sleeves and upper chest are knit as one. If you modify the length of of the upper chest, by default, you modify the circumference of the sleeves. My dolman / kimono sleeves are going to fit much more snugly into the armpit than the original design calls for because I've culled length here. On the other hand, I believe it will make the overall look of the sweater more fitted and attractive as the (loose by nature) rib at the neckline will not bunch due to extra fabric - and then, likely, drag. It's a crap shoot. We'll see if I've called it correctly.
I really didn't have to wrack my brains to make these modifications - trust me, my brains were not up to any heroics. I really just had to hold the sweater up against my body and say "Hmmm, I should take a few stitches out of here and add a few more rows to this section." It took vision more than experience.

This sweater is exceptionally simple. Lots of twisted rib does make it a bit tedious, but the middle-section stockinette part is very quick.

I can't say I've done my most beautiful work ever. Gotta hope that blocking does its job this time because I did lose focus in a few places and lost the twisted part of the twisted rib for a couple of stitches at a time. Having said this, it's been what I need to pull me out of dullness back into the realm of basic focus.

I am definitely feeling much better. I still cough. The mucous thing is a bitch. I'm still not sleeping for more than 2 hrs at a time. But there hasn't been any stridor in a number of days (thankfully, thankfully, thankfully) and I can eat more well-roundedly. I feel more integrated - like I remember myself. And I'm much less depressed and anxious, first paragraph above notwithstanding :-)

So let's talk about knitting. Have you made this sweater? Are you thinking about it? What do you think of the pattern?

Oh, and since we're getting close to the end of October - I'd like to put in one more plug for the awesome Lingerie Shop Along 20% off discount at LCL. Remember, type in KLINE in the discount code section and get an additional 20% off any item, regardless of whether it's on sale or full price. SO many of you have regaled me with stories of your successful purchases this month and I am thrilled to know I may have had a little something to do with your self-improvement plans this fall. If there's one thing the last couple of months has really re-emphasized, it's that you are wise to live big in every day - satisfying your best self and targeting your best goals. Obviously, we must all survive within our financial and energetic means, but if you can find a small way to look and feel more beautiful, seize upon it. You will never regret the effort you expend to be a better person (whatever that means to you).

Friday, October 26, 2012


Let's just say that someone we know has a kid who would jump through hula hoops for this thing:

Pink Unicorn Ring from Etsy

Etsy sends me all of these "helpful newsletters", promoting the craziest things. Let's face it, that metal horn is going to wreck every sweater it touches, but who doesn't love a pink unicorn! It's pink. It's a unicorn.

Let's detour briefly into the cosmic symbolism of this mythical creature. No one's got anything bad to say about the unicorn. He/She/It (?) strikes a meaning in the bible, European folklore, and Greek mythology.  Got an issue, prevail on your local 'corn.

In fact, get yourself a unicorn tusk (otherwise known as an alicorn) and you can ward away all illness, all evil.

I'm half inclined to buy this thing, just to play the odds. :-)

Update: Rest assured I haven't gone so crazy that I'm buying enamel talismans. Trust me, all my talismans are, by description, 18K gold. Everyone knows there's alchemy in that shit.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

I Could Convalesce Here...

Photo from Desire to Inspire
Something tells me that swing bed is very comfortable. And the air is the perfect temperature with just the right amount of humidity...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Quick Update

So sorry it's been radio-silence for a couple of days. Today, many of you have so kindly emailed to find out how I'm doing. Please know, I've been meaning to write but I'm bizarrely superstitious right now. It's a function of the OCD I struggle with sometimes.

In short, I'm feeling much better (thank you health goddess). Again, I've been so blown away by this bug, that I'm anxious to seem too invested or excited by any turn of events, but in the last couple of days I've noted marked reduction of laryngeal mucous, less violence in coughing and I've somehow come up with a way to wake myself every couple of hours - before any stridor can occur.

That's a huge advance, because it means I'm not as afraid to sleep. And, Lord, I need sleep. Last night, I got 12 hours, broken into two hour stints. Each time I woke, I drank a small amount of water and got my breathing back on track (before any fit could start). Then went back to sleep again.

Hilly came over today with so much awesome food. A whole week's worth of prepared meals and special homemade treats so that Scott and M will be nutritiously fed. I still find it challenging to eat. Most foods are either mucous-producing (dairy, sugar, gluten) or tough (meats, for example), so I'm subsisting on broth soups, white rice, frozen blueberries (these are a BOON), eggs, some small bits of soft meat, and the occasional piece of toast.

I would say that I feel better right now (again, no investment) than I have in a month. I'm still just sitting on the couch watching half of whatever movie comes on, putting my head over bowls of steam-water, surfing the net and wondering how on earth a day can go by so unproductively. Then I remember that my body is doing yeoman's work getting better and it all seems much more productive.

Some signs that I do have a bit of energy include that I have knit a few rows over each of the last 2 days and I've loaded and started the dishwasher. Point is, I was so horrified by the state of the kitchen, I actually motivated myself to improve it. That's the old me coming back!

I want you to know how much I appreciate your love and support right now. I KNOW it has been fundamental to my getting better - everyone's caring has bolstered my spirits immeasurably.

I can't say I'm feeling normal, or cheerful, but I'm not anywhere near as scared or depressed. I will keep you posted, though I'm trying not to bombard you all with these boring updates.  I know you come to read about fun things and creative activities. I would love to have something new and fun to share when next I post.

Actually, here's something for Canadian readers: gapcanada.ca (which always ships free for orders over $50.00) is having a 30% off sale until Oct. 25. There are many good deals to be had on all merchandise, such as Gap Body and 1969 denim. Usually, I shop for jeans and Ts for M and Scott by going into the Gap store, but since I've been in the house for the last month, I haven't been able to. I was just able to buy all of the things they've needed (M is too tall for all of her clothes again), at excellent prices, without leaving my couch. Gotta dig the 21st century.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Long and Winding

The path of this illness is assuredly not linear. At least not in any comforting way. After 36 hrs of feeling less acutely ill - more oxygenated on beginning the steroids - yesterday I actually felt horrendous once again.

To its credit, the prednisone prevents the inspirational stridor, more or less, during the day - that, plus hydration, plus inertia, plus the tiniest vitamins I can stand to take, plus (theoretical ingestion of) food. At night, however, all bets are off.

I won't go into the minutiae, and I will optimistically suggest that there seems to have been a notable change in the last 8 hours in terms of the quantity and viscosity of mucous surrounding my larynx -  (again, can't afford to read too much into anything) - but yesterday evening and last night were incredibly difficult.

Being woken from sleep in the grip of suffocation is, quite simply, a horror. When I think of babies and young children going through this, well, I have no words.

No question, this illness is presenting more extremely in me than it does in many (though not all) adults. But I'm truly amazed by how sick I feel.

When all of this is over, I do intend to write a post for any adult sufferer who finds him- or herself desperate from sickness and afraid in the middle of the night (or day).

Right now, all I can do is talk it through in the easier moments.

I am phenomenally tired. After a stridor fit, which compels me to jump up and disjointedly walk until it subsides, I'm almost too exhausted to find my way back to bed. In truth, the stridor seems to happen as I wake from sleep even in the day, but I have to sleep occasionally. I imagine that, the reason I shake after these attacks is a combo of fear, lack of oxygen and adrenaline, but I've only ever felt this way once before - immediately after an unmedicated delivery of my child (which was not without complications).  After the fit, it's all I can do to keep myself awake, because I'm fucking afraid. To mitigate things, I do manage to get a couple of hours of rest in the day (over a few naps).

Scott talks me through it in the moment. So does Hilary. The two of them have been rallying me through the acute phase, giving me confidence. In times like this, that confidence is gold. Family and friends send cards, email and call on a regular basis to offer additional support. I am SO grateful.

I won't lie, my spirits have been very low. By comparison, the broken foot incident of 2010 was a psychological piece of cake. Exhaustion is unkind. Inertia is dulling. I have little mental energy to do anything other than shore myself up for the next challenge.  Scott forced me to walk up the block yesterday to get a coffee. Happy note to reader: Black coffee is a bronchostimulator and its tarry acridness can help to dislodge mucous. I have spent quite a bit of time on the back porch lately, inhaling cold air, which weirdly seems to help. Walking was like sitting 2.0. It was stupidly tiring, but I did feel more human than I have in a while. Today, he tells me we're going out again - this time down the block. Since we live in hipsterville Toronto, there's espresso 5 minutes in every direction.

At any rate, these TMI sickie posts are partly to leave me with a chronicle of the experience (this is the way I chart my life), partly to keep you all posted (as you've been so wonderful with emails and comments), partly to continue in the vane of the PSA, and partly to occupy my time.

Right now, I do feel optimistic. I know I am getting better. I know that this will leave me with a new perspective on my world, and myself. The only way out is through. So onward.

Friday, October 19, 2012


People, I've got a bit of good news. A few bits of good news. And since that's been thin on the ground, let's enjoy the moment.

For starters, I think the prednisone is helping. I'd say, point blank, that the prednisone is helping but I'm particularly superstitious and anxiety-ridden right now, so let's just leave it at the first sentence. Originally prescribed a short dose, it's been extended by a tapering course over 18 days to mitigate any possibility of rebound swelling. This may come with some side-effects (or maybe not, this is not such a long course - though it isn't negligible and the drug is kind of serious). The point is, I'll take that risk for the joy of having a trachea that doesn't close intermittently when I cough. Cuz cough, I do. It's the first time in 2 weeks that I haven't been light-headed from oxygen deprivation. Prednisone gives a kind of false-energy (like caffeine), so I actually feel - not energetic, Lord, not that - but not dangerously inert. It's been a very dark time for the last couple of weeks so I am incredibly grateful even for intermittent clearing of the clouds.

But health updates are nowhere near as fun as lingerie updates.

I received 2 packages this morning! Interestingly, neither is from Figleaves - these are totally new items.

Item 1 is a bra I already bought a while ago, but I can now confirm, it is a very small fit (specifically on the sides, where the wires are short):

Freya Nina Plunge (not padded)
I should have returned the one I bought from Figleaves in the summer, as soon as I realized that it was not capturing all the tissue at the upper side breasts, but I delayed, and then wore the bra, so I lost that opportunity. A while ago I realized that it's really too small and put it in the stash drawer. But I LOVE the pattern. When I recently went back to LCL and Figleaves and everywhere else I could think of, it was gone in practically all sizes. So I sourced it on eBay, one size up, and the fit is spot on. I already have the undies, which fit well, so it's a new set, all ready to enjoy!

Note: I've lost quite a bit of mass at this point so the bra is actually a bit big in the back, but the cups on this bra are small - evidenced by the fact that they still fit (if loosely) when I'm at my current, artificial dimensions. When I finally return to being able to eat reliably, I'm sure it will fit very well. For what it's worth (and I don't weigh myself so I have no idea of whether I've lost pounds), I've dropped upwards of an inch in each of the full bust, waist and hips. Gotta say, one of the ways in which my body is very accommodating is in that, when I gain or lose size, I do it proportionately.

The bad news about this purchase is that, while the (UK) vendor was very good (and the price and shipping were reasonable), it got dinged at Customs (this NEVER happens from UK). The extra charge was 20 bucks - a sizable portion of the original purchase price. I'm happy to have this bra, but I loathe Customs charges even more than shipping charges, so don't know that I'll be ordering on eBay anytime again soon, if only on an associative basis.

Parcel 2, however, is a splendid delight. Cha, at LCL, has been offering to send me a lingerie set as a gift for months now, and I haven't known which one to choose. Finally, I decided that I really needed to give the Fantasie Samantha (strapless version) a go.

Why? Well, it's unpadded - the first unpadded strapless bra I've ever found in my size - and I loathe padding more and more with each passing day. Furthermore, it's extremely elegant, sexy really. And I don't have a decent strapless bra to wear. Mine is a) padded and b) doesn't stay up to save its life. Note: I can't remember the brand, though it is a good one, and I got it 10 yrs ago when the pickings were way more slim. Remember someone saying something about upgrading the goods if they've been in your closet since your tween was a baby?

Cha sent me, so generously, not just one pair of undies but both styles:

 The thong is incredibly practical but the shorts really steal the show.

Wanna know about the fit?

FANTASTIC. I am so glad I chose this set as my gift. I've been deliberating because a strapless bra just doesn't see a lot of play in my wardrobe. But this comes with 2 sets of detachable straps - clear and black. Clear straps that actually fit the clips that come on the bra are all but impossible to find, peeps. Ask me how I know. So having the clear strap option is worth the cost of the bra, IMO.

But never mind that, this thing is profoundly sexy. And comfortable (something Fantasie is known for). And uplifting. And it fits super well. I cannot recommend it enough. Just go and buy it and then email to thank me.

A note about Fantasie sizing, in my experience (recent and otherwise): Fantasie bras tend to fit generously in the cups, and back. The reason I don't gravitate towards the brand, in general, is that I find the styles too full in the cup, the bands a bit wider than my preference, the shaping a bit more mature than Freya and Panache (for example). I'm pleased to note that's changing in some of the offerings, like this one. FYI, I'm not nuts about the Samantha that comes with attached straps where you can see what I mean. However, that bra would likely be excellent for women with lots of outer breast tissue who need upper cup support.

I chose my regular size in this bra, after consulting with Cha. It is too big right now because, like I said, I'm not quite myself, but I can tell that it will work very well in a little while - if on the vaguely roomy side in the bottom of the cup (which has this excellent, rigid though comfortable fabric thing going on to give extra uplift). If you're on the cusp of 2 sizes, size down. In fact, sizing down in the band may not be a bad idea. I'm not going to wear this all that often, I suspect, so I don't need to worry about stretching the band too quickly. If it's the kind of thing you wear all the time, you have to make your strapless band VERY snug. That's where all the support is coming from.

The undies are true to size and very flattering. Also very comfortable.

So, a little good news on a few fronts.

What do you think of these bras? Do you own either? If you've ever been on prednisone, can you tell me a bit about your experience? (Man, could I be any more all over the map in this post??)

Now I truly have used up that false-energy and it's time for me to take a nap. But do share your feelings. I love having company.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Updated: Gauge the Situation: Getting Started on the Siivet

Hey all: I posted this a couple of days ago (before the PSA posts), and I wonder if was eclipsed by the drama I've been experiencing. I'm reposting it now in case you didn't notice it before... No new progress on the Siivet to date, but I will provide more info when I get back to knitting, one hopes very soon.

This is the sport-weight project I've landed on for the Gauge the Situation series, thanks to your feedback a while ago:

Siivet Pullover by Vladimira Cmorej
I've only just started by making a fulsome gauge swatch (both twisted rib and stockinette) which is blocking.

The suggested gauge for this project, using a US4 needle, is:

In Stockinette, 24 sts and 30 rows = 4"
In twisted Rib, 32 sts and 34 rows = 4"

Prior to blocking I got 22 stitches and 30 rows in stockinette. I got 30 stitches and 30 rows in twisted rib on the size 4 needle.

Now, once again, I'm reviewing all the stats to determine how best to proceed. These are:
  • I have 1100 yards of yarn. The small requires just under this amount. The medium requires more.
  • The tension of the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (a yarn I continue to love, happily, unlike the Aran version), is nice and dense on the US4. If I were to go down a needle size, to try to get gauge, I sense the fabric might be too tense.
  • The measurements on the small are 25" waist and 39.5" bust. It's meant to fit loosely over the bust. The twisted rib, at the gauge I've got, will stretch by 50% without looking pulled on the size 4 needle.
  • With my gauge (again, the pre-blocked version, I'll have to check if things have changed once the swatch dries), were I to use the stitch instructions to make the small, I'd get a waist circumference of 29.5" and a bust circumference of 43" (a little bigger than those of the medium).  I'm ok with the waist measurement - I think it will do, if slightly larger than it needs to be. I believe the bust, at this gauge, is going to be too large. I'm looking for 40", maybe 41" max.
  • Knitters say the sweater fits short. My unblocked gauge would give me some extra length without having to add rows.
  • The sweater is a simple, and elegant design of 2 pieces - a front and a back. It's a flat knit that seams from the wrist seam to side seam at the hip in one go. The dolman (really more kimono-style since the armscye sits pretty high) shoulder/arm seam is worked separately. This sweater is knit bottom-up (not my preferred method, since you can't try as you go): rib at the high hip melds into the stockinette waist, then increases provide room in the bust at which point the front or back arms are worked (depending on which piece you're knitting).
  • When you knit a sleeve that's part of the body of your sweater, you have to think of the portion above the bust (basically, from the armscye up) in terms of length, not circumference. So, the instruction dimensions speak to circumference until you get to armscye, at which point all of your flat knitting is affecting the two dimensional span from elbow, up to the neck, and back down to the other elbow. Understanding how this impacts stitch numbers that you may want to modify is the trickiest part of this project.
  • In fact, its relative simplicity is what may facilitate my knitting this sweater in a size small on the US 4 needle, with modifications of the bust volume and length of sleeves (which are attached to the neck and shoulders). Should I proceed at this gauge, in this size, I'll have to knock 5 inches off the arm/neck/arm length to get it to 38 inches. And another 2-3 inches off of the bust circumference.
  • Mind you, if my swatch shows softening after blocking, that is, if it opens or grows at all, I am going to have to make another swatch on a size 3 needle to see if I can find a way to more closely approximate the actual size small.
So there you go. Planning is a holistic part of the knitting process, which may be gentle when you decide to work with a very simple shape. I haven't started this yet, obviously, but I sense that it would be a very good beginner (first or second) knitting project. Its impact will be in achieving the right fabric tension (oh so even), hand, and fit. And, if it ends up looking like the pictures, it will be a timeless, beautiful garment.

More to come...

Update on swatches:

The size 4 needle swatch did open quite a bit, although my gauge didn't change dramatically. Nonetheless, it's too loose, IMO. So I swatched on size 3 needles.

The weird thing is that the horizontal tension on my stockinette, on the size 3, isn't notably different than the size 4, though the twisted rib is quite different. I do get about 1 stitch per 2 inches smaller in the stockinette, after blocking. Since I thought the original twisted rib was going to be too loose, I think I'm going to have to opt for knitting this on the size 3 needles. The good news is that, depending on how things shape up, I may not need to do any size altering (by removing stitches at various pivot points). The, potentially, less good news is that knitting sport weight on size 3 needles may take a while.

I guess it's not like I've got lots to do at this point, so maybe it's a blessing? 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updated: The PSA Continues

Although I have been vaccinated - even as an adult - and though my kid has all of her vaccines, I admit to feeling very creeped out by the concept. For example, every year I think of getting the flu shot and then I wuss out because the idea of taking a shot of flu - which I've experienced on a few occasions - is too horrible.

For some reason, taking a shot of DTaP (which is abstract and meaningless) seems less concerning. Though I still don't like the idea.

At any rate, if I've never been "pro-vaccine", I'm certainly a person who recognizes the need for vaccinations and has had them.

The reason I hadn't updated my pertussis shot with a booster is simply because I got distracted and busy and I hadn't been to the doc in a while. I read about the resurgence of this "disease" (people, they call it a disease) and thought, hmmm, I should make an appointment with the doc. I'm in that age-range.

And then I got side-tracked.

I desperately wish that I had taken the two hours to get the shot. So far I've missed almost 3 weeks of work never mind that I can barely leave the house (except for medical appts). I'm too tired to cook even the simplest things, though eating well is so important. Having little appetite compounds the challenge. My husband is managing everything right now - including the fucking renovation which still isn't fucking finished (plaster work is on hold till I'm well, fyi, I'm not crazy) - so he scarcely has any additional energy to throw at making healthy meals at the end of the day.  Let's put it this way, M has been making lots of scrambled eggs for dinner.

I never know when a coughing fit will besiege me. I've finally determined, after many fits, that following the trigger cough, though I have exhaled (as is the nature of coughing), if I hold my breath for as long as I can (and this takes massive, conscious effort since I'm weak and panicky anyway), I can minimize the worst of the inspiratory stridor experience. When one's larynx spasms, there is no way to get air into the body until it releases (which it does on its own terms). Trying to inhale is an exercise in futility. At least if I try not to breath, I'm suffocating on my own terms (and shortening the fit). My eyes are pink from breaking blood vessels during the coughing fits. Fortunately, I haven't passed out or broken any bones from the wracking violence.

While I have hours where I merely feel very tired and blah, undoubtedly this is the most acutely sick I have ever been. The doctors assure me that I will recover, that this will not kill me, and since there's much evidence of even young children recovering on a regular basis (and this does kill babies), I have no reason not to believe them. It's just cold comfort as I encounter the worst of this.

Who makes a fucking bug that lasts 2 months-ish and is at its worst just before it gets better? Do you know how tiring it is to be sick like this for so long and then to have to shore up a maximum amount of energy just as you have practically nothing left?

I have renewed respect for, well, just about everything: people who endure chronic illness, the complex joy that is breathing, energy, optimism - and the list goes on.

Please go and ensure that your booster is up to date. Even if you don't much like the idea of vaccines. I assure you that this is thousands of times worse than any creepy feeling you will have when getting the shot.

Update: My oldest/dearest friend, a doctor, came over to visit today and to bring me food/keep me company. Man, she cleared out Whole Foods for me - my fave "food boutique" in the universe - and brought me all kinds of soup, pre-made healthy meals, quick things to eat without effort, and enriched breads (like challa and cranberry loaf). While she was visiting , she did an evaluation, observed the stridor (which hospital docs hadn't seen in action because it comes and goes and they weren't in the room when it happened) and prescribed me a short course of prednisone.

Hil senses that the stridor I have may be compounded by a narrow windpipe (ridiculously, this is a thing that actually runs in my family and, while it's never caused me any problems, it has been a significant and medically managed problem for various family members). I was scheduled yesterday for a laryngoscopy, to check, among other things, the state of swelling in my throat but the doctor was called into emergency surgery and they couldn't tell me when he would next be available. As I was waiting in the hospital, having had no sleep in 36 hrs, shaking from sickness, I opted to leave rather than wait and see. She suspects this is what he would have prescribed.

And of course, I'll be following up with my GP again tomorrow.

Point is, I guess they do prescribe steroids for pertussis under certain extenuating circumstances. This is one of those times I'd be very happy to be in the centre of the normal zone.

PS: Don't scroll down too far on that laryngoscopy link. Holy fuck, that looks incredibly scary. Sometimes it's better not to know what's coming. And maybe I'll be able to avoid it after all.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Very Brief Health Update...

I'll be back later with more but I've been up for 36 hours straight - many of those hours spent in 2 hospitals. The good news is that they think they've figured out what I've got going on: pertussis. They won't know for sure till the nasal swab comes back, at which point it will probably be all but gone. I have a lot to say about this revelation but I leave you with this PSA as I try to get some desperately needed rest:

If you were born in the early 70s or before, chances are your pertussis vaccine has worn off. Do NOT wait another minute to call your doctor and schedule a re-vaccination. Seriously, if it costs 500 bucks, pay it and do it.

You do not want this illness.

PS: The theory is that I merely feel like I'm suffocating - though I might pass out. For what it's worth, to feel you're going to suffocate numerous times a day, even if the violent episodes are unlikely to kill you, is a horrible way to spend 1 minute, much less six to eight weeks.

They suspect I'm in the pre-recovery phase - which also happens to be the most horrible one.

And for those of you who might have come into contact with me, antibiotics I took weeks ago immediately stopped any contagion. Alas, they don't do anything to ameliorate the plight of the host.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Gauge the Situation: Worsted Project Complete

Without much fanfare I have finished the Inaugural Sweater. In truth, and certainly not because it isn't lovely, this sweater really isn't for me.

Let's start with a few pics (note: it looks better on me, but not much):

The collar is its nicest feature, IMO.
While it isn't incredibly noticeable in real life, see how the stitches in the middle of the photo are thicker? That's because I had to switch skeins half way through a row (I was really worried about running out of yarn - a foundless concern, as it happens, since I still have 80 per cent of the last skein). I learned this last time I used Debbie Bliss cashmerino yarn - weaving two skeins together is not seamless as it is with may other firmer wools.
Here's the full thing. It's supposed to open at the bottom, as it does, but I haven't hemmed it yet and may choose not to. Why? It's a really short sweater. I could go back and unknit the bottom 8 rows, add an inch on, and redo the hemming (that bit below the main moss stitch pattern) but it actually looks kind of interesting in real life unhemmed (if not in this photo). The bottom doesn't curl at all, though it seems to in this shot.  Also, hate to point this out, cuz it isn't so noticeable when worn, but the concealed snap over the left breast is showing through, slightly, because the moss stitch isn't firm enough to hide it. I've resewn it twice. I think the only thing that would mitigate this is a button band.
See how shapeless it is in the waist? I really should have started the decreases much higher up. And been more extreme with them. You can't see the side decreases well in this shot but you can see the left back decreases at the bottom 1/3 of the sweater.
The good news is that I think it's going to be just the kind of thing my mother will love for Xmas.

Other good news is that I'm sure I could fix this "wearable muslin" so that, in the next version, I'd correct the challenges by:
  • Using a yarn with less drape and more structure - like the Cascade 220. I sense this is key with this sweater.
  • Making sure that the below bust side decreases start as soon as possible.
  • Making sure the back decreases start 2 inches higher.
  • Making the sweater 2 inches longer.
  • Machine stitching the buttonholes on a hand-inserted button band - I'm convinced this is the only way to make a hand knit sweater sturdy.
  • Getting to 40 stitches in the arm by just below the bicep (that means I'd have to cut 20 stitches out of this thing in the top 3 inches of the sleeve). As it is, I had to keep ad hoc decreasing - including two decrease rows in the moss stitch on the sleeve. That really didn't improve how the pattern lies, though it's not observable at the seam (which is at the under-forearm).
Alas, I don't think I'm going to make it again. I just don't love it on me. Its issue, from my perspective is that it's just too much sweater. I don't wear anything this bulky. In fact, I wear cashmere deliberately to get the required warmth from the minimal amount of bulk. Moreover, it looks just a bit too hand knit for my liking, which I blame mainly on my choice of yarn, but also on the gauge.

Please do not misunderstand. I think this is a sweater with MUCH to recommend itself:
  • Clear instructions
  • Easy pattern
  • Chic shape
  • Useful in many kinds of cold weather
  • Lovely details
It just doesn't work for me.

Next, I'm moving on to the Siivet Pullover, the sweater y'all recommended for the sport weight Gauge the Situation project. Not fast, mind you, but next.

I'm curious to know your thoughts about this garment. Have you made it? Do you like it?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Brief Interlude

I interrupt this miserable time to tell you something fun.

(Optimistic Sidebar: I do feel a little less horrendous and freaked out today, as I might have figured out a way to avoid the worst of the suffocation when I cough by breathing out at the same time. I think this virus, originally in my lungs, has vacated those premises and is now taking a (futile) stab at my throat. Attention virus: My immune system is kicking your ass even as I write this. Just say good bye and go already.)

OK, the fun news is that Scott has moved his clothing out of our shared closet and chest of drawers and into his new, upstairs closet, which means I can finally, after a dozen years, move half of my wardrobe out of M's room. What? I really like clothes.

The utterly stupid news is that I had a moment of (oxygen-deprived) insanity and decided to try reorganizing. So, right now, I have an entire closet-worth of clothes on my bed and there is no way I'm tackling any of it. Seriously, I suspect I'll have to just throw it all on the floor and manage it slowly over time. Which, if you know me, is fucking outrageous.

I'd just like to reiterate how much I REALLY appreciate your continued good vibes. In some ways, I've never felt so sick or so terrified of the unknown. All I do is lie around - not my natural default mode - and conversing with you all makes things seem, well, normal.

So, here are today's questions:
  • Have you ever had a virus that made your throat close up when you cough? If yes, presumably you are over it and still alive, which is just what I want to hear about.
  • Have you ever taken oil of oregano to help with a respiratory virus? Was it effective?
  • How much space does your wardrobe occupy (not including coats, of course)? I'm pretty sure I'm going to be able to fill up (though sparsely), a 4-drawer chest, 8 additional small drawers/shelves in the closet and 2 hanging rods. Happily, now I have 3 drawers, vs 2, for my extensive lingerie collection. 
  • Is it crazy to be light-headed with excitement over having a whole drawer for beige and black lingerie sets?
  • Are you finally cottoning onto the Marie Antoinette element of my personality? BTW, did you see the Sofia Coppola version of that story? Beautiful cinematography. I've seen so many movies in the last 2 weeks it's high on drugs...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Lingerie Shop Along: Part and Parcel (B)

Stands to reason that the month I do a Lingerie Shop Along, I manage to buy just about everything in the wrong size.

It doesn't help that I've upsized my bra size (unfoundedly, apparently) in exactly the same time frame during which I've eaten next to nothing (due to sickness). Thing is, even if I hadn't been eating next to nothing over the last 5 weeks, the bras I've bought are easily 2 sizes to big in the cup and one back size. I'm prepared to accept that I've dropped a cup's worth of volume and a back size. No more than that.

How, then, can this be? Well, it's hard to say exactly, but I'm pretty sure the Gem fits large and loose and the same thing goes for the Fantasie staple bra, a fact I conveniently forgot in my efforts to buy the right size. Note to online bra shoppers: if you a) buy a couple of small-fitting bras on the heels of reading b) 10 lingerie blogger posts wherein those bloggers have recently increased in cup size to good effect, it's possible you will be thrown off track.

So now I've got to send 90% of my Figleaves order back for either full refund (that hideous Panache cami) or different sizes (the too-small soft cup I bought carelessly in the wrong size and 2 of the 3 other bras - the Gem (temporary sob) and the beige basic).

I'm writing this moments after sustaining the disappointment, to give you the real deal.

This is inconvenient. This is anticlimactic. This is irritating. Based on returns, this great deal is a less great deal, though still a far better one than if I had bought the same loot online without the discount codes, to say nothing of buying in a local boutique. (Note, the return may not cost as much as it might have otherwise because I've still got the first batch of returns sitting on my dining room table, as I haven't been well enough to get to the post office. I did email Figleaves customer support and request an extension in light of my situation. Point is, one consolidated return might cost less than 2 small returns. Or not.)

I want to focus on the good in today's parcel (which sure as hell isn't delivery time, which was two weeks from the date of order):
  • The gem undies are true to size to slightly large in fit. As they're a Brazilian-style thong, I'm choosing to stick with the tactically-purchased size L. In truth, the M would work as well. As many ladies talk about how Freya undies are too small for them to wear comfortably in their size, this may work out well for lots of peeps. The style is lovely. As is the colour and fabric. I can't comment on the bra because I believe the smaller size will have slightly different construction and will use fabric differently than the one I bought. Bra manufacturers often change the construction and elements of textiles at a cusp size (to increase support). Apparently, the size I bought falls into that category for this style. But I have to warn you that the bra fits largely in back and cup. I'm toying with the idea of sizing down a back size and 2 cup sizes though I'll likely go down a back and one cup to be safe.
  • The Arabella bra, that sexy standard, fits fine - though it's loose in the back and on the loose side in the cups. I believe this bra just has a loose band (given the sheerness of the fabric), so consider down-sizing the band and upsizing the cups, to get a firmer fit. As I'm at a particularly slender moment, that may not persist once my appetite returns, I don't want to send this one back. Sure, it may be that I just don't have the stomach to return every fucking thing I've bought this round, but I'm weighing my options (haha) and I don't want to downsize the heck out of everything in haste. Remember, I modulate through a variety of small changes in size and shape within a given year or two.
Let's take a brief moment to talk about appetite, shall we?

I'm one of those people who's been known to begrudge her intense love of food, especially as I move into that perimenopausal moment known for temporarily changing one's body composition. But, as I haven't had interest in pretty well anything edible in some weeks, I have to tell you that possession of appetite is undoubtedly one of the most wonderful elements of the human condition.

I remember, during my pregnancy, I was as sick as a dog. It depressed me so profoundly that I briefly considered abortion. Needless to say, with that thinking I was not in my right mind, given that my pregnancy was planned and I wanted a child. (To clarify: I completely support a woman's right to choose.)

Appetite is life's great, optimistic urge. Like sexual desire, it possesses us; it compels us to satiety. Appetite is a defining feature of existence. And when it vanishes, even temporarily, the world becomes grey.

I say this now, and I mean it (at least from where I'm sitting today): I would rather have appetite - and struggle to maintain the self-discipline I often resent as beautiful food calls to me - than effortless slimness as the result of no-desire. Don't get me wrong, I want slimness and appetite, but this illness has helped me to clarify the contradiction somewhat more fully.

Hmmm, I must be feeling like crap if I've deviated this far off base.

To close the loop on the online shopping, I'm not surprised by the results of the second Figleaves parcel given what I learned from the first one, and given what I've written above. And, although this experience has yielded perhaps my "worst results ever" (in terms of fit and returns etc.), this is how it goes. Not every shopping trip brings immediate success. If you take some chances, you may have to redouble your efforts - though with each purchase (and specifically within one purchase/(potential) return cycle), you learn and ameliorate the challenge.

BTW, this is as bad as I ever feel about this sort of online experience. It's clothing, after all, not world peace. I hope my re-sends will be perfect fits. And, of course, I'll keep you posted. Does this in anyway undermine my interest in continuing to buy lingerie online? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I've had far more successful experiences than unsuccessful ones, and even those lacking in immediate payoff yield a good final outcome, because I see the process through. Also, I've still saved a whack of money. And got excellent customer service. And purchased great brands that will look terrific when the sizing's managed. So really it's all good.

Thoughts or feelings?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Gauge The Situation: The Inaugural Sweater

You may recall that my original, worsted-gauge sweater choice, as part of the Gauge the Situation series, was this chic cardigan:

Inaugural Sweater by Mary Annarella
I deferred the project for this pullover (also worsted-weight), but now I'm back with the program.

I'm knitting The Inaugural in soot-grey Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran:

About the Yarn: For starters, let me tell you that I may actually be done with this stuff. I've dealt with so many knots in this batch of skeins, it's ridiculous. And the texture of the fibre is such that it's visible where you weave in the ends mid-row. Add to this the fact that I've got only just the right amount of yarn (just) and I've got numerous woven-in ends in the middles of rows.

Furthermore, I feel there's a slight halo on the face of the fabric - not something I can get with. I'm not giving up on Debbie Bliss, but I sense I'll be sticking to Rialto from now on. The Cashmerino is a pain in the ass.  OK, to its credit, it's very soft and it has beautiful drape. And the colour is rich. But I'm starting to wonder if its drape is optimal with the structured design of the Inaugural sweater. I guess time will tell.

About the Sizing - and Modified Gauge:  Mary, the pattern designer, has been so available and helpful in working with me  to determine my optimal size. I chose to make the 34" at the shoulders and waist/hips and a 36" at the bust. Having said this, note that I also deliberately chose to use a larger needle size (US7) that gives me an extra .25" every 4 inches, or a total of 2 inches of extra width in horizontal circumference.

What this means is that I a) maximized the size I believe I will require while b) minimizing the amount of yarn I'll need (by knitting slightly more loosely than the pattern instructs). FYI, I did get gauge horizontal gauge in a US6 needle. And on the US7, the size I eventually chose to use, I got vertical gauge (7 rows per inch).

Effectively, on the US 7, I'm making the size 36"* in the shoulders/waist/hips and a 38" in the bust - using a minimal amount of yarn to retain the basic shape. At 38" circumference, the bust works with 0" of ease (which is how Mary designed the pattern to fit). In the modified 36" size, on me, the shoulders are on the roomy size of fitted. Likely, were I to make this again, using the same (modified) gauge, I'd knit the 32" in the shoulders, 36" in the bust and 34" in the rest of the pattern. That would make the actual shoulder circumference 34" (very fitted for me), and the bust 38" (what I need to well-fit a double breasted cardigan having 0" to 1" of positive ease). The modified 34" fits well in the waist and opens, per the design of the sweater, at the hip.

There's a point to be made that I could have improvised short-row bust darts into the sides of this (largely) stockinette pattern. But I'm not feeling adventuresome at the moment so I opted to alter size based on modified gauge instead. Having now knitted much of the body of the sweater, I feel that I should have begun the side decreases sooner than I did. The bust fits and the waist fits, but the span between the two is a bit more shapeless than I would like. I did try it on as I went in an effort to avoid this. But sometimes it's hard to see what's going on when your stitches are mushed together on a circular needle.

One other thing I'll mention - and I may have misinterpreted the pattern instructions - the directions to slip last stitch at the end of the moss-stitch pattern need to happen on the SAME side as the buttonholes because that's the side of the double-breasted moss stitch that's going to sit on the top. As far as I can tell, that's the last stitch of the wrong side, not the last stitch of the right side (what's instructed), so my raggedy moss stitch edge is visible on the outside of the garment. I wonder how much this will torment me.

By the time I figured this out, I was already a significant number of rows down the moss stitch section and I didn't have the stomach to frog back numerous inches. I think the key, in this situation, is to go on as you've started. If you start slipping stitches 4 inches down, the unslipped section will that much more observable by contrast. Sure, the slipped stitch side looks much lovelier than the other one, but will you really notice that the other one looks bad if you have nothing with which to contrast it?

About the Moss Stitch Panel: Certain knitters have misinterpreted the moss stitch pattern, or so Ravelry reviews advise. The single moss stitch (what this pattern calls for) is well described in this post.

About Knitting Buttonholes: One other thing, I knit in horizontal buttonholes for the first time, over 2 rows. I can't imagine myself doing this again. I see that everything's going to stretch all to hell sooner rather than later. Had I gone with my preferred method (hand sewing in a petersham button band and then machine sewing in vertical buttonholes), this would not be an issue. But I wanted to see once and for all whether it's necessary to use the petersham to obviate stretching. (The button band, machine buttonholes thing is labour-intensive plus, after all.) Although the double breasted front has snaps on the inner panel, to mitigate sagging and pulling, that's not going to be enough in the long run, I suspect. Not with this soft yarn.

I'm giving this a slightly fussy preliminary review, I sense, which isn't fair because it's a terrific design, a clear pattern and a relatively simple project. I'd say you could confidently give it a go after having made 2 or 3 other sweaters. And I don't think I can extrapolate the end result from the experience I've had so far.

*Note that the sizes of this pattern correlate with bust size, not shoulder or waist/hip size. My modified size 34" (akin to the size 36") actually has a shoulder circumference of 29"- 30".

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


OK, having dragged myself to work today till early aft, and then having trekked home to sleep for 3 hours because I did not have the energy to be at work for half the day, I concede.

I'm staying at home until this virus doesn't leave me feeling half-dead. Till I can cough without losing the ability to inhale temporarily. Till I can breathe without feeling like there's a cat sitting on my chest. Till I'm not 15 different kinds of exhausted.

For those not following along, I've had asthmatic bronchitis for a couple of weeks. I've done everything one is supposed to do under the circumstances: antibiotics (didn't help but we tried it anyway - also good for keeping secondary infections away), a puffer, sleeping long hours, (miserably) staring into space, avoiding movement, acupuncture, massage, my regular daily regime of a zillion vitamins. Yet, somehow, I still ended up in the ER on Sunday (Happy Thanksgiving indeed), panicked by my continuing symptoms, wherein the doctors did an xray and noted a probable incidence of viral pneumonia.

The good news is that the xray showed a very minor case - just a shadow, really - and my body appears to be fighting it off (which is why I have no fever). The bad news is that I got this fucking thing in the first place. How?!?!?!? I barely take public transportation. I wash my hands constantly. I won't share food with my kid, specifically because I'm scared of child germs. (Note: Scott and M are fine. No one else at work has this bug.) I sleep many hours and eat healthy food.

The other bad news is that it's still in my system in any form. And the definitive bad news is that it's a fucking virus so it's not like they can wave a magic pill and make it go away.

People, I'm scared. I sense I went to work because I thought, if I pretended I was well, I would be well. I also went because I feel responsible to my coworkers and manager to actually turn up for work and perform the tasks I'm paid for. I don't think they want me around, though. In truth, they were very nice about it.

While today, I was explaining to a work friend that I wasn't a danger to her as she isn't an infant, an infirm elderly person or immuno-compromised, it finally occurred to me that I'm the immuno-compromised one, as evidenced by 5 weeks of sickness culminating in this shitty situation.

Experience has shown me that I can do everything in my power to promote and maintain health and still get sick. Why the fuck am I leaving the only place that's more or less a known commodity, where I can actually rest?

I had a number of posts in the queue last week, which is how I continued to seem so lively. This week I'm on post-as-I-go, so I don't know how often you'll hear from me. I really hope you hear from me a lot and that I'll have increasingly passionate opinions, underpinned by the return of healthful vigor.

I realize that, in the scheme of things, people get respiratory viruses all the time and recover - even if those viruses linger. I also realize that I am a particularly anxious sick person (anxious at the best of times, you know) and I have to share my feelings of anxiety or they'll simply be another instrument of suffocation. Even though the overwhelming likelihood is that I'm going to get better soon, I would welcome any continuing positive health vibes you've got to spare. (And I thank you for all of the ones you've been sending.)

As you can imagine, there's been little crafting happening here, as crafting takes a boat-load of energy. I have begun knitting the Inaugural Sweater but it's going very slowly. Fortunately, I did all of the sizing and mathy stuff a couple of weeks ago... So please stay tuned for info about it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sleeve Caps, Sleeves and Short Rows (Oh My!)

Let me talk briefly about inserting sleeves into the Chuck Sweater (which is done by picking up and knitting the existing armhole stitches). I knitted the arms in size small, though I modified the bodice in such a way that I have a few extra stitches at the underarms (3 extra at each armhole). It worked fine. I really encourage you to take your time picking up those stitches. I drew numerous diagrams (you know how I like to plan) but still ended up ripping out each first attempt a couple of times. I'm glad I did that because the final result was more evenly-spaced stitches for better sleeve insertion.

What Exactly Is the Sleeve Cap?

It's the area of flat descent from the top of the sleeve, right from the sleeve head at the shoulder, facilitated by short rows. Those short rows allow you to create a sleeve that will run perpendicular to the shoulders. Just think: if you were to knit a tube off of the side of each armhole (i.e. no short row, sleeve cap shaping), you'd have a very weird and bulky underarm and a sleeve that would just pop out from the side of the bodice at the arm hole, at a 90 degree angle. The sleeve would not be able fall towards the waist without wrinkling at the underarm.

Enacting the short row shaping to produce the sleeve cap, which is done simply by applying a wrap and turn technique (lots of info out there), is not so tough to understand. Let's deconstruct it using the dimensions of the small as an example.

The Chuck pattern advises picking up 54 stitches from the entire round of arm hole (that's about 1 stitch every 2 or 3). As the arm hole is symmetrical, that means, at the top of the sleeve at the shoulder seam, one must have 27 stitches (54 divided by 2). At the bottom, one must have 54 stitches (Stitch 54 is right next to stitch 1 at the bottom of the arm hole).  Let's pretend that "one" is actually "you". At this point, you'll need to knit your next row, starting at stitch 1, just till you get to stitch 31 (4 stitches past the shoulder seam). Then, wrap the next stitch, turn around, and purl 8 stitches in the opposite direction (i.e. 4 stitches before the shoulder seam or stitch 23).  After this, wrap and turn on the next stitch, the one to the left (the ninth back if you're thinking about the numbers in terms of the going backwards from stitch 31 AKA 5 stitches before the shoulder seam AKA stitch 22 if you want to view this from the bottom of the work i.e. stitch 1). And, as the instructions direct, just keep wrapping one stitch further out than the last, and then turning, till your short-rowed crescent of a sleeve cap grows to encompass almost the entire sleeve opening.

It's important to know that you are knitting a symmetrical, originally 8-stitch wide, but ever growing crescent by moving out one stitch on either side of the top of the shoulder till you get to the instructed, designated end point: 1 stitch before your cap markers. (Note: I didn't mention these markers before now, so as not to confuse things.) For your info, you're instructed at the outset to place the markers 5 stitches on either side of the base of the armhole i.e. after stitch 5 and before stitch 49. You'll understand this once you're actually working the sleeves.

The idea is that you use short rows to knit the sleeve cap (really, the sleeve till it almost gets to the bottom of the armhole) in a little half moon shape, where the outer crescent attaches first to the shoulder (and then extends to the side seams as you increase its size). Yeah, it's weird that you knit a good third of the entire sleeve as one modified row (which is what a short row is, really). But, hey, if it works...

I really struggled with this at first because I didn't understand the purpose. (See above). Then I struggled cuz I didn't understand the specific impact what I was instructed to do. I couldn't visualize it so it was a scary undertaking.

Admittedly, short rows take many different forms, this is just one of them. But now you can see how they work to make a nice symmetrical crescent to facilitate the perfect, vertical fall of the sleeve from the shoulder.

Does this make any sense? Or should I make sure not to quit my day job in favour of a technical writing career??

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Why Not Go For Both?

You know how people say they're either shoe people or bag people? Well, I'm really in neither camp. Both serve a purpose, and I like what I wear to be beautifully-made, stylish and in good condition. But it's not like I can't pass a bag store without adding to my collection.

However, recently I've noticed that I need to replace some things. My shoe collection is looking pretty wan. My boot collection is awesome, but sometimes a girl needs shoes. Furthermore, the last bag I bought was this one, exactly 3 years ago. (BTW, the pics in that link don't show that bag off to good advantage. It's not shiny.) That bag, furthermore, turned into the biggest it thing on the planet. I can't walk down the street without seeing someone carrying the Olivia sac. It's getting old. Well, actually the bag is so well-made that it's still perfect after 3 years of near constant wear. But that doesn't mean I don't need to update and refresh.

Gotta say, despite visiting a variety of stores, and considering what I was looking for next on the bag and shoe fronts, the place I ended up was Etsy. And the experience was very good.

To wit, the "new" shoes:

Salvatore Ferragamos from Ramenzombie (based in San Francisco)
Sure, these are vintage. I can't place the era, maybe 70s or 80s? Any experts, please advise. I have wanted a pair since I turned 40, an age when a woman should have a pair of Ferragamos, IMO. Of course, I don't have 500 bucks to spend on new shoes.

So I took a chance on these. They cost $40.00 and I negotiated the shipping down from $16.00 to $7.00.

These shoes are GORGEOUS and they fit perfectly. (I measured my foot, natch, to ensure the chances would be good. I figured I could always consign them if they didn't.)

However, two things less-than-impressed me (though not enough to make me avoid this vendor in the future): Said vendor shipped them in a soft envelope?! (Others have left feedback that her shipping methods leave something to be desired. But just as many say the items were packaged perfectly. Maybe she has a co-worker that's crappy at packaging?). More annoying - and I didn't ask to see a photo of the bottom of the shoes, so I'm to blame - the practically unworn, leather soles are crapped up with red sharpie writing (indicating price, I'm sure the vendor purchased them this way). Note: I always ask to see the soles of shoes if they're not shown. I mean, that's key. But I lost my train of thought. I was looking at too many shoes. And I think I mistook these for another pair.

If I'd seen the soles, would I have bought the shoes? Maybe not. But, other than the sharpie, they are in almost-new condition, the uppers are perfection, and I might be able to manage removing the marker. Live and learn. Great news is that there is a good supply of Ferragamo on Etsy. So I'll have another crack at this.

The second recent Etsy purchase was this baby:

Baby Ballet from Opelle Creative (based in Toronto)
Let me tell you, it's all that and a bag of chips. I got nothin' bad to say about this experience. I first ordered a swatch card. It took a long time to arrive, but it gave me an excellent sense of the quality and colour of the leather. I chose the colour "lilac" a grey with a mauve undertone. Goes so well with everything. The vendor was top-of-the-line. And I find it hilarious that, after all the hunting I did online (I was initially looking for a high-end vintage bag or a bag made by a small niche vendor - and I searched far and wide), I ordered from a bag-maker who lives and works 8 minutes from house, by bike. (I shopped global and local at the same time!)

Certainly, a thrilling part of this experience was not having to pay for shipping. Amy delivers within the general Toronto area for free.

This bag is beautifully constructed. It looks small but it fits lots. The leather is soft and supple (like buttah) but also strong and thick. That weird tassel thing detaches, happily. And it's got another strap that's adjustable and removable so that you can easily wear it over your shoulder or cross-wise. The strap is very soft on your shoulder, comfortable, and it doesn't slip.

And I really don't think I'm going to see it coming and going.

It wasn't cheap - but it wasn't expensive based on its quality. For starters, when I ordered the swatch card (that cost 5 bucks all in), Amy sent me a 10% coupon for my next purchase. As this bag costs $268.00, fyi there's a larger version for $324.00, I saved $27.00 that way (basically a bit less than the tax I was charged, given that my item was Canadian-sold and bought). It was well-packaged. The shipping ain't cheap outside of Canada (up to 30 bucks), but you're getting a handmade and useable piece of art. And I got another 10% off coupon with this order. Way to entice me. I love to save as much as I love to spend.

So whatcha think? Good purchasing? Have you tried these vendors? Let's talk

Friday, October 5, 2012

Lingerie Shop Along: Part and Parcel (A)

I was going to wait till every parcel had arrived to write this. I was going to entice you with my parcel-joy, my anticipation (the before) and then the outcome of the trying on (the after). But, having received 2 parcels (a bit less than half of my full batch of goodies) today, and having tried them on before writing about the anticipation part (what? I have impulse-control issues), I'm going to give the account in phases.

So far I've received (see photos in this post):
  • The extra undies to complement sets I already own (Freya Lacey thong and Miss Mandalay Paris thong)
  • The wild card purchases: Royce soft cup lounge bra and the Panache Cami
On Receiving the Parcels:
  • First off, know that most of the lingerie vendors (all that I've tried) send their wares discreetly-packaged.
  • Of course, lying here feeling miserable, getting these parcels was the most exciting thing that had ever happened to me. In truth, my fave thing about online shopping is getting presents by mail. Weird how what I love and loathe about online shopping both concern shipping.
  • I ripped open the box (Figleaves) and plastic envelope (LCL) with abandon, but being careful not to harm anything.
  • First thought on the undies: Yeehaw! These are perfect. 
  • First thought on Royce bra: Um, it comes in a box. That can't be good. And the size on the box is not the size I ordered (30 back size vs 32). Remember, a smaller back size also means a smaller cup size.
  • First thought on Panache cami: This thing is freakin' huge.
The Try On:
  • Freya Lacey: Awesome fit. Cute as can be. The end.
  • Miss Mandalay Paris: Now, there wasn't such an element of surprise with the Freya undies, but I could only source the Miss Mandalay thong in XL. Usually I order thongs in UK brands in a size L because I don't like it when they dig in. I prefer slightly large over fitted. In other styles of underwear, I tend order a medium unless I read that the sizes fit very large or very small. Anyway you slice it, XL ain't my size. But Miss Mandalay undies do fit small so I took a chance. The outcome: Excellent fit. All round success.
  • Royce Bra: I thought I was ordering the 32. Alas, I clicked on the 30. May I suggest you triple check your check-out queue before pressing buy? OK, when I put on a snug 30" band size, I understand how people say they feel constricted by their bras. Keep in mind my under bust size is 29.5". Technically, by "new standards", I should be wearing a 30 back. But this one, particularly, is EXTRA tight. Though I have some 30s (looser band models), in general I prefer a snug 32. I want to be able to fit 2 fingers under the back band and still feel like I can breathe in. (Katy: There you go. I'm not as hardcore as everyone says I am :-)) Furthermore, the cup size, in a 30 band, is equivalent to one size smaller than the 32. Between these 2 things, the bra is definitely too small. But there's a real silver lining. In the right size, I can tell it will be a) very comfortable and b) quite uplifting. It may not even squash boobs together the way other unwired bras tend to (to be seen).  At the bottom of this post you'll see my next steps.
  • Panache Cami: Ha! OMG, what a disaster. Laughable disaster. Irritating, to be sure, but not unhappy-making. First off, all of the cups of this cami are mega-padded. Like, good luck finding your boobs in there. Secondly, the band and cups are INSANELY big. Like, I'd need to go down a back size (to a 30) and down 2 cup sizes to approximate fit. And then this thing would still be padded to hell. How do I know? Cuz after trying it on, I used the online chat feature on Figleaves (something I've done before with success) to ask all kinds of questions about both items (Royce bra and Panache cami), to determine how best to proceed.
The Outcome

Overall, with items received so far, this hasn't worked out too terribly. The undies are a win. The wild card purchases will require me to return those items at my own cost (and the cami is bulky, so it may cost more than usual). The Royce bra, I'll exchange for one in the 32, the cami for a refund.

I learned that the padded bra cami is NOT for me. I don't like padding, especially puff-ball padding. I think the sizing is really off. The cami itself was a dull black thing I could get anywhere.

I'm optimistic about the Royce. I can tell it will be comfortable in the right size. Furthermore, I asked the online chat SA about differences in sizes between one cup and the next and determined that I really can't size up a cup in this (on top of the size up that the 32 back will provide). It's so supportive I can easily wear it out (though it's cotton-ness would make it a bit sticky under some clothes). It gives a nice shape on the pointy end of the spectrum (the one I prefer). It's not ugly - nor is it fabulous. It's just what it proclaims to be.

Am I utterly thrilled with these outcomes to date? No. It's pretty unusual for me to buy 2 items and have to send them both back. But I acknowledged, before I purchased, that each was a long shot, so I was mentally prepared. They might both have been dead losses. As it is, when the new Royce is delivered (no charge for re-shipping new size), I will have a new sort of bra to entertain myself with (and to help others when they ask me for reviews).

Now this leads me to a slight concern about certain items in my next order. I ordered the Gem bra and my staple one cup size larger than I usually do (re: rationale from this post). It appears I may not be in the cup-size up-size category, despite my original thoughts. I may just have ordered a couple of small-fitting bras recently, in my regular size. The Fantasie beige bra is, apparently, a very large fit in the cups. I may well have bought my previous versions with this knowledge. This time I was so concerned not to order too small, that I may have overdone it. On the other hand, the Gem bra is a new Freya offering, and the bras that recently fit me, IMO, too snugly at the underarms, were both new Freyas. So maybe that'll work out alright. Worst case scenario, I send them back for new sizes. Not that it's fun, or terribly efficient, but it's all part of the adventure. Let's see how it plays out...

So, has anyone received her orders yet? Thoughts or feelings about my experience? Let's talk