Friday, November 30, 2012

Feast or Famine

Wanna place bets on how long it's going to take me to get it? The path of this illness is not linear. Why I should think I'd be back to normal after 3 months, when it takes many others 6 months, is beyond me. I mean, optimistic.

Last week I was feeling pretty good, in the scheme of things. This week, not so much. I find it hard to believe that my relatively debaucherous last weekend, involving 4, 1.5 oz martinis over 3 days and a pint of ice cream (ok, and some cookies) could be the reason why my throat ulcers have returned, my energy is low, my cough is worse and my breathing/throat puffiness not optimal.

Allow me to clarify: I went to bed before 11 pm every night. I was home before 9. I did not go to a club. I drank lots of water and, otherwise, ate virtuously. The above binge is entirely in line with PMS, the darkest days of the year, going out for dinner and feeling (celebratorily) like a normal person (sort of) who hadn't freakin' eaten yummy food or drunk any meaningful amount in way too fucking long.

And it's not like I had a sip and then I couldn't breathe. Or eating that cookie threw me over the edge. In fact, I didn't start feeling bad until after the "binge" (and I use that term loosely). Which is why technically, I suppose, the return of crappy-feeling could be unrelated to the episode. 

Yeah, I know, unlikely. If having a pint of ice cream could have killed me a month ago, what the fuck was I doing eating it in bulk on Saturday night? I can't explain it. I felt ok; I indulged.

So now, whether the binge was the cause of my "relapse" (and I use this term loosely too) - which is preferable, I suppose, to just feeling terrible after having felt, briefly, better - or whether it is entirely unimplicated, I feel like an idiot and I kind of hate myself. Too bad I have no masochistic tendencies or the pain I'm feeling this week could act as a welcome source of punishment.

I suppose, right now I should just pretend I'm a movie star serious actor training for the role of a person who gets stuck in a cave without anything but berries to subsist on for 2 months before another serious actor (and a bunch of less serious actors playing the roles of uniformed paramedics) finds her, languishing, but somehow with rosy skin and good hair. In this movie, berries can grow in a cave.

Here's how I think I've got to play this, for the next 2 months (though I am pained to type it out) - not unlike how I played it for the first 2 months (though then I was too sick to notice):
  • No wine.
  • No alcohol of any type till I can't take it anymore (or I attend some function with crazy family members), then a small amount of booze without sugar, i.e. a martini. But only one and only very occasionally.
  • Only very small amounts of sugar, other than that which is to be found in frozen wild blueberries. And as infrequently as I can manage it. (Please note, I am absolutely addicted to sugar and this is 8000 times worse, from where I'm sitting, than not drinking wine, which is already pretty bad.)
  • On the plus side, coffee's all good. (Note: I start to shake if I drink more than 2 coffees a day, so I can't really use this to make up for all the other stuff that's gone.)
  • I should say no dairy and no flour-based foods but fuck it. I'm not overdosing on these, however one needs an english muffin with butter after all the joy has been lacerated from her diet. Of course, as necessary, I'll modify this. And I am aiming to be moderate. 
  • Fear not. I can eat all of the vegetables I can stomach! And meat, as long as it's not fatty.  And eggs and rice with soy sauce and soy-flavoured rice crackers from Koreatown (the portable version of rice with soy sauce).
  • Nuts and seeds are a wildcard. I've eaten them when my throat hasn't been constricted, which is to say, I haven't eaten them at all this week. But they are a healthy, sugar-free and fat-rich type of food, so I hope to be back on this bandwagon soon.
You know you're firmly from the first-world if this diet looks bereft to you.

If any of you has a story about recovering from illness wherein temporary food intolerances were developed (especially those causing or exacerbating throat-puffiness), I'd love to hear about it.

Or, simply feel free to berate me for my idiocy. I can take it.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Brief (But Not Final) Note on Bettie's Pullover

I didn't imagine that the finished product would be anything other than a disappointment. Minor or major, who knew, but the thing just went on painfully for so long.

There was that 90-minute short row above the twisted rib hem. And just for kicks, it was repeated at the base of the yoke above the feather and fan bodice. Attaching the sleeves to the yoke was an endurance test. I wrote notes on my notes. There was the obligatory short row section at the sleeve cap which, at that point, was just a friendly little technique. But the worst of it was having no freakin' idea of why I was doing anything. What did it all mean? Did I interpret the instructions correctly? (Answer, amazingly, I was pretty much dead on. Of course, I had hours of wakefulness to contemplate every possible iteration...) Note: To its credit, the pattern is without error. If you figure it out, what with your PhD in Knitting Pattern Interpretation, you can trust it will work. And it will impress the crap out of you.

I finished sewing in the neck tie yesterday. Strangely, that was a huge pain in the ass. Must have fussed with it for 2 hours. Though, in truth, I did a very good job. Then I heavily steam blocked the funny, bright orange sweater and let it set on a towel.

No, till then, I hadn't so much as put it on over my head to see if the opening was large enough. (I knew it was.) I did not have the fortitude to try it before every fucking thing was done. Cuz if it didn't work, I knew it would all be over. I'd burn that thing.

Imagine my shock and joy, upon finally sucking up and trying it (there was truly NOTHING left to stop me), to find that the fit was entirely perfect. I mean, I can find you a dozen little knitting errors on this garment and sheepishly point them out to you. But the fit is without flaw.

All of my proportion alterations - shortening the yoke by an inch because I'm short above the bust, lengthening at the bust to compensate for said bust's prodigious profile, adding rows below the waist to get to a final high-hip length, for me, of 22.5", using the smallest needle size at the waist for 2x the number of rows than were called for because my waist goes in and stays in right up to the bust height, shortening the sleeves to save on yarn - and cuz bracelet sleeves are attractive on my frame, continuing to use smaller needles than were called for when constructing the shoulders and neck, because that's where I am at my narrowest - all of them were miraculously apt.

I'll remind you that I made the smallest size - a 32 - giving me 5 inches of negative ease at the bust and this thing is in NO way too small. In the bodice, it could be smaller (what with the flexible properties of feather and fan stitch). This is 3 for 3.

I used 950 yards of fabric. Pattern called for more but that's all I had and, miraculously, that's just how much I needed. For me, I've come to realize, 950 yards is as much yarn as I can wear without looking swamped by the resulting garment. 800-850 yards is the sweet spot.

I have a lot of feelings brewing about hand-knitted sizes and sweaters. But for me, at this point, I'm fairly committed to making a 30 - 32 bust (in the absence of mitigating information) from here on in. I can always add a few stitches at the underarm or bust short rows (not that these have ever yet been truly necessary in the sweaters I've made for myself).

I promise, photos are forthcoming, but I've got a busy week and I've been feeling a bit throat crappy for the last couple of days, so I've got to focus on other priorities.

In the meanwhile, here are today's questions:
  • Tell me about a time when you made a sweater (or anything, for that matter) and you didn't have much hope but it all worked out fantastically in the end.
  • And, for those of you who knit sweaters, do you have a yardage sweet spot? Is there a certain amount of yarn that works perfectly on your frame to accentuate your shape, but not to overwhelm (or under-cover) you? Obvs, the finer the knit, the more yardage you can likely get away with, but consider this question in light of the weight of yarn that you generally use.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Unraveling, As it Were

I'm one of those people who uses Ravelry to good effect. When you click on my profile, you see just about everything I've ever knit with details, a fairly complete list of favourites, a well-stocked library and now, since yesterday, a catalog of yarns, with photos, indicating my stash and which things are queued up to be used with specific stash yarn. The lengths I'll go to to avoid finishing the Bettie Pullover...

If you love being organized like, to the nth degree, this site is for you.

At any rate, I've opted to take a brief break on the Gauge the Situation series (until Xmas, likely) as I will be occupied by knitting the following:

1. The Sisika, knit for me:

Photos from Designer Yarns

In the Amitola colourway 106 (far left):

Yeah, I know, I succumbed to the craziest (for me) choice ever - a totally variegated nubby wool/silk blend that looks fingering weight but actually knits up like a DK (or worsted, if you double it). I went for the most subdued of the shades - I think it's the one used in the promotion photo but there are a few others, on other swatches, that look kind of similar. It's soft, but with a vaguely hairy halo that undercuts the softness. We've got to hope it blocks nicely, which is to say much less natural-seeming than it appears to be right now.

You know, I make a lot of sweaters, but the things I wear most are the cowls, scarves and shawls (because they work on top of outerwear or with inside clothing). If this scarf works, I think it could become well-traveled in my wardrobe.

2. The Madeleine Cowl also for me - It's important to aim to make simple things that really work and are worn often (try to ignore the overkill of the beret):

I do find the yarn this pattern calls for to be fairly horrible. It's got "wool-blend chainette yarn" "accented by diamond-like silver medallions". Um, no.

So, I'll make the cowl (more like a shawl, really) in Zara Plus, colourway 448 (Taupe):

Photo from Royal Yarns Intl.
The taupe is actually much more green (like khaki) than this photo shows.

3. For M, for Xmas, another Rondeur Pullover, in the 1628 colourway of Zara DK, again, the photo makes it look more blue than the green, highly saturated shade that it actually is:

Photo from here

Please be advised that I intend to knit them one at a time, like a "sensible person". At least as of right now.

So, today's questions:
  • Whatcha think of these patterns and yarns?? Have you used any of them?
  • Now you can see all of my crazy yarn stash. Do you think this is excessive? Be honest.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

How You Know You Live in a Big City

I had the most bizarre experience today.

I went out to get some yarn (not the bizarre part, more on that coming up shortly) and to go to Herbs and Nutrition. While at the health food store, I observed that I was very hungry, too hungry to wait for food, so I tried to find something ready-made and healthful. It was harder than I would have thought. After some dithering, I happened upon a flat of (very locally made) vegan sprout chocolate mousse. It's produced by some hippie commune, I suspect; it delivers daily. So, just as I leaned in to pick up a container, another woman did the exact same thing. We almost smacked each other in the head.

Now, I think it's off the chain that anyone at all wants vegan sprout mousse, much less 2 women at the exact same moment (from a flat that had but 2 containers remaining). It was one of those hilariously stereotypical urban moments that you see in stupid movies about young professionals in the city. No need to come to blows, thought I, for mousse sweetened with coconut sugar. We can each have our hit.

When I looked at the ingredients, I was horrified to find that this stuff was made with broccoli. And other vegetables?!?! Wow. My comrade-in-grabbing walked away. Apparently, there was no question of her purchasing the mousse. She knew that shit. I asked after her: Um, this stuff can't possibly taste like broccoli, right?

She responded: Oh, no! It's delicious. It's the best thing I've ever eaten. The cashews give it lots of protein. The chocolate is dark and rich. The sprouts on the top (yes, there was a salad on top of the mousse) are so crunchy and green. I feel totally full and energetic when I eat it.

Did I mention that a tiny cup costs 5 dollars.

I was sold. In truth, I was too hungry to care. And very curious. I paid for the mousse and downed it on the spot. It did not taste like broccoli, mercifully. It was a beautifully neutral food, if chalky. Crunch was balanced with smoothness. Dark flavours mixed with a sweet-ish high note. I would totally buy it again. I mean, its stupid urban-price alone would keep me coming back.

I'm a stereotypical that way.

Friday, November 23, 2012


In the spirit of (American) Thanksgiving - and, really, who can't benefit from either the message of this holiday and/or online sales - I will regale you with just a few things for which I am grateful:
  • I take back all the mean things I've been thinking about the Bettie Pullover. The designer is the loveliest woman, who yesterday helped me through the rough part, and gently suggested that the pattern takes a certain sort of "endurance" - well, ain't that self-aware? I still don't know if it will fit. I've decided to be surprised, kind of like having a baby. It really is a genius pattern, if totally beyond my experience. But as my father likes to say, an expert is someone who's done it once before.
  • Figleaves immediately reimbursed me for the return shipping on the Fantasie bra return/resend order that it messed up, not that I'm surprised. And then today the Royce Charlotte lounge bra arrived in the right size and it's seriously comfortable, totally pointy (like I love). This thing is so supportive, it's crazy. I could do an aerobics class and nothing would budge. It's not gorgeous, by any stretch, but it's great for yoga or lounging, that's for sure. You can totally wear it outside. I just don't think it's sexy enough to be worn under clothes, in the real world.
  • My online community, as I've said many times - and I just don't know how to express this adequately - is an awesome world of friendship and tremendous support. This fall has been hard for me, as you know, but your expressions of concern and optimism have braced and sustained me.
  • I continue to feel better each week! I'm sleeping enough, on a regular basis, so that my health can actually improve via rest. I am now able to eat most things, even though sugar isn't optimal. And, though I seem to have developed some kind of temporary allergy to wine (?!?!), which makes my throat swell in a rather unpleasant way, I can drink a martini (or spirits having no sugar) with no ill effects. The ulcers are going away, if slowly. Coughing is less omnipresent and less violent, and I have much more energy than I have had since late August. No, I don't feel 100% and may not for a while, but I feel so much better than I did 2 weeks ago / a month ago / 2 months ago that I marvel at this whole bizarre turn of events.
A propos of this, I never realized how much energy "normal Kristin" actually expends. She veritably buzzes with enthusiasm, ideas, desires, feelings, intensity and pluck. How I have been taking this for granted. I am so grateful to be me and for my continuing return to normalcy which, let's face it, is anything but normal. It's wonderful. So thanksgiving is alive and well in my heart.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


I haven't had time to write, believe it or not, because I've been slogging away at the final 20% of the Bettie's Pullover. It's times like these when I realize top-down raglan sweaters were invented for a reason. I don't know if the pullover is complicated for its own sake or if there's actual method to the madness (well, there's method, but you know what I mean). But I have this nagging concern, founded or no, that it's not going to fit (really, there's no telling till the freakin' shoulders exist at the very, very, very end.) And it's a total pain in the ass. I don't care how cool it looks.

I have so much to tell you about so many things but I MUST finish the sweater. I want it to be done with. Oooh, that's a real selling point.

What I cannot wait to write about, for one more moment, is the utter, persistent stupidity of the Lingerie Shop Along (yeah, that's 3 separate links) order from Figleaves. Let me lead with the following provisos:
  • The problem has had less to do with Figleaves, which has been a conscientious and professional vendor, than some weird, temporary, universal insanity.
  • Having said this, just about everything has gone wrong from a) ordering the wrong sizes b) getting sick and being prevented from returning the items myself c) the kid sending the parcel back by dolphin express and so on.
  • If this were my first online shopping experience I might never attempt the process again.
Well, the latest is that the parcel did return to Figleaves, after 6 weeks, and they honoured my refund (as requested) for the item I didn't intend to keep. They also resent all of the bras - the Gem first of all (because I reordered it and paid again in the event that the original parcel never returned - I was determined to own it) - and then (rather counter-intuitively) the Fantasie basic and the Charlotte lounge bra - each in separate packages. One's gotta hope there's a good reason for that.

OK, the Gem arrived yesterday and here's the low-down: 2 sizes smaller than the original, it does fit, but I wish the side-wires went higher. They're quite low and there's a bit of side-boob pillowing on the left side. It's by no means a deal breaker, but really, once you've owned double digit's worth of bras that fit perfectly, why would you wear anything that deviates even slightly? Furthermore, it's a bit dull. And stiff. And, dare I say it, uncomfortable?! That's not a hallmark of the Freya product.

I urge you to wait until Freya resolves the rather large issues of size and fabric choice. FYI, if Freya never fits you, maybe you should try this bra. It sure as hell doesn't fit like its regular sloper.

The fabric is actually irritating, especially as the underlining (a lighter shade of blue than the fashion fabric, the effect of which I do not like) has no drape. I'm sure, were it April, I would love the robin's egg blue. But in deep November it just seems wan. And I don't think you should have to size down in back by 1 and in cup by 2 in order to get a product that fits. They've got to work on this bra if they intend to make it a brand staple.

The strongest feature of the set is the modified thong (half way between thong and something else). The fit is very flattering and it is comfy.

I'm not returning it. I don't have the will. And I will wear it, no doubt. But it's really not the bra I dreamed about for 6 months before it came out - and then for almost 2 months after I ordered it.

Today, the stupidity intensified as my Fantasie basic arrived in the same freakin' size I first ordered and then returned for a smaller size. Mmmhmmm. On the website, they even show the original order, with size, next to the return order, with the same size. When's the last time you returned a bra cuz it didn't fit (as you indicated on the return form, next to the new size you wanted), and then reordered it in the same size? I so wish someone had been paying attention.

So now, I have to return the same bra (on my own dime, at least until they reimburse me as I'm confident they will) for the second time and wait another 2-4 weeks for the correct size. Did I mention that this is the most boring bra on the planet. Sure, it works under everything, gives great shape and I've owned it time and again. But really, this is effort I am not psyched to go through YET AGAIN for a workhorse. Mind you, if they ever stopped making this bra I'd lose it, but that's not the point.

Lord knows what I'm in for when the Charlotte comes. Let's say I don't have any expectations.

There has been way too much care and feeding in this experience. I have upwards of 30 emails with Figleaves, I've online chatted, I talked on the phone... Lord, I wonder if I expended this much effort organizing daycare for my once-tiny child. (Note: Of course I did, but allow me the hyperbole.)

Between the sickness-association and all the hassle, I can't say I'm going to be ordering any bras online in the near future. Fortunately a) y'all had better experiences than me when you ordered, can you imagine how my rep would have been in the gutter?? and b) I have enough lingerie to last me till the end of days.

Point is, I commiserate. Now back to knitting

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Updated (Picture-Heavy): Round and Round

Since you may have been wondering if you'd ever see a photo of me again (and the jury was out, let me tell you), let's get on with that:

Oooh, pretty lace and cables!
Admit it, these darts are the cat's ass.
Don't look too closely at my face and it's all ok.
Obligatory close up of the Ferragamos
The back is a mirror image of the front so, you might want to sew in a label. Fortunately, I made a tiny error on one side so I'm using that (clever me) as the delineator.

OMG - I am IN LOVE with the Rondeur knitted t shirt. It took a week to knit and it fits perfectly. Yes, my friends, before you put it on it's like a tiny-child garment. But when warn, the grow-y yarn perfectly accomodates.

Y'all know my bust measurement is 37" and my waist is 30" (well, these days it's 28.5, but there's more than enough give in this sweater regardless). I got exact gauge when knitting the Rondeur on size US6 and US4 needles - seriously, exact. Flat measurements of my top indicate the top fits a 30 bust and 26 waist, with the presumption of zero negative ease. However, when worn, the top is curvy, skimming and slim. Just the way I like to wear things.

Now, I did make adjustments, which is why my top took every one of my 685 yards.
  • I added an inch of horizontal circumference at the underarm (to give more room in the bust) which I didn't decrease again after the bust shaping section. 
  • Also, I added an extra 3 inches of length at the bust before I started the rather observable waist shaping. It looked very weird and I was concerned I was making a mistake but my own measurements show the need for that much more length to accommodate the profile of my chest. I actually stopped half an inch sooner than my math advised, because I was so concerned, but I should have listened to my numbers. Nonetheless, the top fits better than any other top I've ever knit and this is easily remedied the next time.
  • I maintained that extra bust length, which is to say that I didn't shorten the bottom of the sweater to meet the stipulated length of 20.5 inches. Mine is about 21.5 inches. My preferred length to high hip is 22 inches but I ran out of yarn. Still, this length is fine because there's vertical ease in the sweater as well as horizontal ease.
  • I changed the distance (from the centre line of front and back sides) between the two darts. I increased the span by an inch to account for the positioning of my own breasts and the specifics of my own dimensions. I observed, on Ravelry, that the darts seem very close set on a lot of the knitters modeling their Rondeurs.
  • The instructions tell you to knit 4 rows of twisted rib at the bottom of the sweater. I extended that to 8 rows and would even recommend 12. It contributes to the shaping. Sometimes, too few rows of rib look like an afterthought rather than a design feature and I did read that some people had issues with the bottom of the sweater flipping up. That could be due to overall sweater sizing and fitting vis a vis one's own shape, but I thought it would be wise to give the bottom of the sweater a bit more ballast.
This garment showed me that I really have learned a lot when it comes to a) knitting and b) fitting in general. I had a strong sense of how to modify this pattern to suit my particular body and I was right on!

I can't recommend this thing enough. Well, wait, if you are really straight in shape or proportionately wide in the waist, it might not be your best option. But what do I know? I've only got my own body to work with. Point is, it's easily modified to suit a large bust on a narrow frame.

I am about to take a shower and then, I know you will not believe this, I intend to take a pic and post it. I swear. So come back later if you want to see what it looks like.

PS: It's a really good gift knit because it comes together very quickly, easily and the shaping is pretty knowable. If you can take your friend's/daugther's/mum's measurements, so much the better, but I sense - if you use the right yarn - you'll have a lot of give to play with. Not to mention that it's not too pricey, for a knitted garment, given that it's little (in the scheme of things).

PPS: Re: the Filatura di Crosa Zara yarn. I do think it's got awesome stitch definition and it feels beautiful. However, it will grow. And it's possibly the splittiest yarn I've ever worked with. So keep that in mind. I will definitely use it again, however. It may be my new Debbie Bliss.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


So, I've been online purchasing up a storm for the last 3-months. I call it sick-shopping. Yeah, it's ridiculous and it's certainly not need-based. But sometimes you want to feel cheerful and you can't accomplish that by many other means. Let's say it's shopping realpolitik.

Fortunately I have Xmas to back me up though, if I'm being honest, I'm shopping mainly for me.

To wit:

Le Creuset Fondue Pot from HotCool Vintage on Etsy (These photos are mine...)
Sadly, these pics don't do it justice. It is PERFECTION.

I've been looking for a vintage fondue pot for 5 years. I'm one of the 10 people in the world who's been making fondue since the seventies. C'mon, people, it's dairy, booze and flour. Three of the 4 food groups.

This thing is from the 70s, if I'm not mistaken, (the modern ones just don't compare) and it's enamel coated cast iron. Based on my knowledge of the brand and the appearance of the bottom of the pot, I'm pretty sure I can actually make the fondue in it and then serve the fondue in it. You don't know how rare a feature that is! It's a one-stop meal?!?! Plus, it's hipper than a Brooklyn artist!

The vendor, Francine, was incredibly helpful and actually worked with me by lowering the price of the item to compensate for the (let's face it) exorbitant shipping charge. This thing weighs 7 pounds.  All in, I paid $125.00, which was entirely reasonable given its vintage-beauty and usefulness.

My favourite dinner party meal is brie and wild mushroom fondue served with an assortment of veggies and baguette. Oh, with a cherry-bomb, Californian cabernet, it's just unbeatable. In the past I've used a well-loved, but suboptimal chocolate fondue pot with a tea light. It's worked more than adequately but, given that I actually make this food a few times a year, I think I'm ready for the fancy model.

I guess this is a sign to the universe that I am ready and willing to get with the holiday menu, as soon as it sees fit.

And, on that topic, last night I slept for 3.5 hours in a row, followed by a brief waking and then another 3.5 hours of sleep! Medically unassisted!! I felt better today than I have in almost 3 months. I'm not taking it for granted or getting invested, but since I spend so much time complaining, I figure I should tell you when the going's good. :-)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

My Cheating Ways

You know Taran's blog tag: Sewing is what I do when I'm cheating on all my other hobbies. When first I read that I snort-choked my coffee. Genius, IMO. And these days, for me, somewhat apropos. 
Generally, I'm firmly in the one-project-at a-time-kind camp. Partly that's because I'm intense about whatever I'm doing and I generally can't split my effort. Partly it's because I hate clutter and having unfinished crap all over the place. To me, that's chaos. Furthermore, it stands to reason that I can finish whatever I'm working on that much sooner if I'm not doing 8 other things at the same time. Which means I can brag/complain/talk about it that much more efficiently.

I do love serial crafters, though. They all seem creatively hyped on uppers in the most charming way. They're gonna knit that sweater while sewing those slip covers and make reindeer cookies for the bake sale. Oh, and a costume for the school play. While refurbishing a vintage machine. I need a drink just reading about it. I mean, seriously, I'm not Martha Stewart. I do not have a team of sous-crafters to realize my vision. (Would that I could be an artistic entrepreneur and make as much money as I do in my current career...)

Which is why I'm so surprised to be cheating on my knitting with other knitting. You know you've got to reconsider things when you need 3 pairs of needles in the same size at the same time. Don't fear: this isn't a trend. It all happened so organically - we were just out for coffee and then we got to talking and... What I mean is, I'm working two projects at the same time (and swatching a third, truth be told) not because I can't resist but because I'm avoiding things.

That is SO not my way. I would rather smack my head against a wall than have something hanging over me. And, if it's a problem that has to be solved, why wait? It's not going to fix itself. What's weirder still is that I've actually solved the problem (I think). I have 5 pages of typed notes to detail EVERY FUCKING STEP of the yoke of the Bettie (the top 6 inches of this knit-in-the-round project that affixes the sleeves to the body, shapes the shoulders and creates the neckline/neck tie. But, secretly, I'm worried I won't have enough yarn. I've got 2 skeins left (I started with 8) and that got me 2 shortened-to-3/4-length sleeves (up to the armscye) and the bulk of the body. Will 240 yards get me the rest of the way there?

Not only that, but the body looks exceptionally straight, never mind the fact that I used a slimmer needle on the waist section. It also seems like it might be too big, but in truth, it's kind of impossible to tell. The measurements I was going for are the measurements I've achieved according to the tape measure. I suspect it's much easier to tell if a sweater is going to fit once you've got shoulders because well-fitting shoulders really are the arbiter of a sweater in the right size.

Anyway, I know I've got notes and I've considered the final stage of this sweater up the freakin' yin yang but just those 2 sections of short rows (those that separate the rib from the feather and fan stitch at the base of the sweater and those that separate the yoke from the feather and fan stitch at the (current) top each took upwards of 3 hours and, due to some key disconnect I'm still wrangling re: picking up the wraps using the Japanese technique (I think on the purl side, but truthfully, who knows?), I am unhappy and nervous about the next uncharted frontier. 

As stupid luck generally has it, the next section of the sweater will probably be the easiest. Still, I need a rest till the weekend when my brain will have more space to deal with any unexpected potential challenges.

Alas, I must craft. The thing that's keeping me sane is the meditative action of needles clicking. Sure, I'd love to be sewing but that's not something I generally do mid-week. Also, it's something that takes a lot of energy. There's cutting and pressing and tracing - lots of moving around in addition to thinking. It's not a slow-art. It's very dynamic. Knitting, well it is also dynamic but, relatively-speaking, at the pace of salted caramel dripping from a spoon. Or international package-delivery via Canada Post. You can stop and put it down (and nothing will lose its critical mass). You can watch a movie. You can sit on your ass. In fact, you have to sit on your ass. 

I mustn't overdo it right now. Every time I do, I suffer. And I can knit to my heart's content and not do myself any damage.

Add scenario A (the fact that I'm not ready to finish the Bettie) to scenario B (the fact that I have to keep my hands occupied) and it leads to scenario C - the "other project": le Rondeur.

Intriguingly, this is perhaps the first project ever wherein I've had to size up in the needles. I think that's because I'm working with a DK yarn that's on the slim side. It could also be that this yarn just knits very compactly. I will say that, one needle up, I got exact gauge both vertically and horizontally. I don't think that's ever happened before either. I usually have to sacrifice on the vertical side of the equation (which generally doesn't cause any problems and actually saves me yarn).

The Rondeur is an interesting garment. How many cherry-pink wool t-shirts do you own? Admittedly, the yarn I'm using is washable and is also very sleek but still it's a strange idea. And while I undertook this to escape the mental focus required to finish the Bettie, the initial rounds of the Rondeur (the yoke) are those with the lace work and cables and the pattern is actually very fussy to establish. I'm probably going to have to do a bit of wrong-side-fixing in a couple of spots that seem to be sporting yarn over holes where perhaps they should not be. I'm fairly confident these will not be noticeable in the end (though I'm always going to know) but that's the kind of thing that really irritates me, especially since I am so careful as I go. Sure, it's only 26 rows of lace/cables at the shoulders, but they are painstaking. (I worked for 2.5 hrs last night and only got through 18 of them.) The Bettie would unlikely be harder for longer, but somehow it matters not. I want a new texture and colour. And fortunately that's what I've got.

So, today's questions are: Do you have hobby ADD? Or are you a one-garment (at a time) crafter? Whichever camp you fall into, why is it your preferred way? Do you flip-flop between those two styles (ooh, that would be schizo)? Let's talk.

Oh, and if you have already made Bettie's Pullover and you're reading this - can you confirm that the top 6 inches (where it all comes together) isn't too traumatizing? And that it doesn't take much yarn? Thanks!

Monday, November 12, 2012

An Ode To Food

You know that piece of grammatical roadkill that goes: Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels?

Well, never mind that being thin doesn't, by nature, taste like anything. Even if I were willing to get with the subtext of this ridiculous saying, let me assure you: EVERYTHING tastes better than being thin feels.

Take it from me. And other sane people.

Admittedly, I have a higher degree in the Bacchanalian love of food. I'm that girl who will come to your dinner party and love your roasted red pepper soup appetizer so much that I'll eat three-bowls of tomorrow left-overs after dessert. Which I will also have eaten. Two servings of. (And then, every couple of years, you'll make it for me at future dinner parties, just for the amusement of seeing me ingest as much as I can.)

Confession: I can't keep ice cream in my house without, almost immediately, eating every last spoonful like a person who's just been liberated from a desert island. Sometimes I have to avoid Little Italy because there are just too many gelato cafes.

All the things made of dairy and sugar and flour and alcohol taste awesome. Mix them together, throw in a token protein, add some good music and a few friends and you have a recipe for life happiness.

The thing is (or so goes current thinking) that "feeling good, being thin" has relatively little to do with the the good tasting things that you do or do not eat. Current nutritional texts posit that people are generally so for a variety of nuanced reasons (as are fat people): genetics (ding, ding, ding), metabolic rate, hormonal interactions, modern lifestyle. I suspect that the amount one eats has less to do with one's weight than practically any other factor, which is why lots of fat people eat very balanced diets and lots of thin people eat massive quantities of chips and the fat people still can't taste the goodness of being thin. And the thin people have zits.

This is why I am shocked (and frankly dismayed) to find that 2 months on a restricted diet has yielded some interesting results.

Disclaimer: All food restriction has been due to a fleeting illness. Lord knows I wouldn't choose it. However, ingestion challenges aside, I have likely never eaten more healthfully than in the last 3 months if for no other reason that I had to delete the following Kristin-certified food groups:
  • Booze (sob)
  • Sugar (except for honey in water and frozen wild blueberries)
  • Flour (who knew that gluten can make your throat close up?? Oh yeah, the peeps with Celiac disease...)
  • Dairy (nature's perfect food. Seriously, I never knew that dairy had the starring role in my diet till now.)
First I'll say that it's hard to find the meaning in life when you can't eat what you want. I know, I know, it's melodramatic. I don't care. I'm not backing down on this. A large part of the depression I've felt during this illness is correlated with my inability to eat. And then the inability to eat things that are actually enjoyable. I felt this same, hideous ennui throughout the 9-months of my pregnancy. Sure, I am a particular - one might say, excessive - breed of gourmand but I can't even bring myself to wish, on those going through short or long spates of food-limiting illness, a diminished desire to eat.

In my opinion, the loss of drive to eat, the loss of food-joy, is terrible. Why would I wish that on anyone, ever? I'd much prefer to spend my energy wishing those same people health.

For my own part, I have most certainly not wasted away but I have changed more than the modern nutritional science texts would have had me believe was likely. Again, I have no idea how my current shape correlates with weight cuz I don't weigh myself. I've already said that I've lost about an inch of circumference from all of my measurements. That's hardly extreme. It's not like I walk down the hallways and people gasp over my transformation. But, as my acupuncturist said the other day: You look smaller. Everything about you is less "there".

Egad. Why on earth would I want to be less physically, energetically (or otherwise) there? It is my express goal to be as there as possible until it is no longer possible! (Sure, I'd prefer to be there in as toned and symmetrical a way as possible while I'm at it, but you get my drift.)

People often think I am much taller than I am. Why? Well, partly it's being bien dans sa peau, partly it's confidence. I sure do work an enthusiastic mien. I am not a shrinking violet - not unless it involves wearing that shade from head to toe. So, I'm not quite down with being "less there" seeming.

Add to that my own personal perspective that getting thin as a result of the inability (or unwillingness) to eat is totally sad and it starts to seem that being thin isn't all it's cracked up to be, like, according to the ungrammatical sayings.

Please do not misunderstand. If you are naturally thin and you eat as you desire to live happily and healthfully in the world, it's a mitzvah. Likewise, if you are naturally fat, and you eat as you desire to live happily and healthfully in the world, you are blessed. This post isn't for the peeps who are thinking about how to shed some mass - and, surely, this is sometimes an appropriate course of action. There are many other posts on that topic...

But I will say this, as I have had much time to contemplate my current shape over the past 3 months: Although I am extremely mindful of potentially dissatisfying bodily changes on the horizon (vis a vis the perimenopausal decade I find myself in), I would MUCH rather have to shore up massive amounts of self-discipline (and maybe even regularly fail to achieve it) and eat and drink to my heart's content, than to ever lose even one iota of my gourmandise.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Today's Yarn

For someone who's doing a craft series that requires her to make a bunch of sweaters, I sure do give into the strangest impulse purchases.

Yesterday I made a brief excursion to Ewe Knit - to show my friend! It was a public service expedition! - and, in the process of facilitating her next project, discovered this very sample:

Rondeur by RoxanneZYG
BTW, I finally figured out that Ravelry doesn't seem to want to interface with Blogger, which is why I can't link to specific Ravelry projects in this post. I have, however, favourited this on my Ravelry page.

The top-down, knit-in-the-round pattern is available on, for free but now that my link feature is messed up in this post, I can't give you a quick button to get there.

This photo doesn't show the sweater off to its best advantage. It's actually got fantastic shaping. Just the kind that highlights one's hourglass proportions. Check out the waist decreases. As it happens, I was able to measure this baby AND try it on. This photo shows the size 30 (aka small) and it fit well. Maybe even a bit loosely (though the silk-blend purple yarn used had more drape than the brand I bought to make it):

This is DK-weight Zara by Filatura di Crosa yarn, a superwash pure merino (am I incapable of leaving the treated yarns alone???) that feels lusciously soft but that knits up without too much drape. (I know, I touched a sample project made from it.) It's in cherry (colourway 1940), a kind of soft fuchsia that a) cheers me up and b) will look very sassy in a knitted t-shirt.

The plus of this free pattern is that it really doesn't take much yarn. The small calls for about 500 yards which amounted to 50 bucks-worth at my LYS. Very affordable, y'all who knit sweaters will concur. It doesn't get much cheaper than that. The reviews are very positive.

Note: the instructions advise that the sweater is designed for 0-3 inches of negative ease. That's high on drugs. I tried on the 30 (7ish inches of negative ease) and I wouldn't go any larger. Depending on how this knits up, I may add a couple of extra bust stitches under the armhole, just to give a bit more space for my chest, but I would swim in the 34. I'm starting to realize that knitters don't really work from the same premise of negative ease that sewists do.

So, I'm curious to know what you think of this sweater. Have you made it? Would you make it?

PS: I'm not forgetting the fingering-weight garment (last project of the GTS series). I've actually got the most exciting yarn ever to work with on this one. Mind you, that slim, slim wool is probably going to knit up on US2 needles and, even if it's a little sweater, it's gonna take some time. The Rondeur will probably knit on a size 4 needle - this seems to be the needle size I use for everything, regardless of what instructions recommend (it's the size at which I get gauge), and the yarn is easily 2x as bulky as the fingering. Point is, any potential challenges aside, the Rondeur will come together much more quickly than the fingering-weight sweater (to be chosen soon with all of your feedback). Can't say which I'll make first, whether responsible crafting will win out over the impulse project.

PPS: The next sewing project I intend to make - along with S, my fitting friend - will be another tailored suit jacket (different pattern, needless to say). I haven't written about this because it takes a kind of energy to plan and begin that I do not have right now. Just want you to be aware that there is substantial winter sewing in the cards, and lots to talk about as soon as I'm up to it. I don't want to run any risks of abandoning a project I'm too frazzled to take on. Also, I'm notoriously bad at managing my energy. I have to find some way to DO LESS right now and be ok with it. However, that doesn't mean we can't start to think about it in the abstract coming soon.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Here's the current state of my Bettie's Pullover:

Whatcha think so far?

Lingerie Shop Along: When Things Go Awry

One of the most enjoyable things I've ever done, in the context of this (very enjoyable to me) blog, is October's Lingerie Shop Along. The combo of my love of lingerie and online shopping with my great affection for you all was a recipe for fabulousness.

I find it amusing that, in the context of this great experience, I have had my most wretched online lingerie shopping moment evah. Don't worry. I'm not traumatized. I'm actually a) so jaded by the last few months while b) so happy to be alive that I'm chalking it up to a bizarre, one-time event.

Here's what happened:
  • For starters, I bought the wrong size in just about everything. This is a really good time to remind you that you should not extrapolate that your bra size has increased by wearing one new bra that's too small. (And on that topic, the Freya Nina Plunge - and its sister-colourway, the Roxanne) - have very short and narrow wires. Definitely go up a cup size.) Add to the mix that I have shrunk in circumference slightly over the fall, and the newly purchased bras were absurd.
  • No prob. Usually, I'd just return the merchandise for replacement or refund and call it a day. Alas, this time I couldn't get myself to the post office due to sickness. So finally I sent my husband and kid. Hmmmm. The husband offloaded the task to the tween who managed to send everything back SURFACE shipping (?! do they even have this anymore?!) which can take 6 weeks and isn't traceable for 3 months. As luck would have it, 200 bucks of lingerie has not yet made its way back to Figleaves. Who knows when and if it will.
  • I have to make peace with the fact that I may be out some money. Add to this my grave concern that, by the time the package gets back to Figleaves or I opt to call it a loss, the Freya Gem may be sold out in my size (how hideous would that be??), I finally opted to repurchase this item yesterday.
  • What you should know is that Figleaves has been very accommodating under the circumstances. In numerous emails exchanges, they have agreed to honour my returns and replacements even though they've long past the required-by return date. 
  • Last night, I used the chat feature to sort out the new purchase. Note about Figleaves' chat feature: I love it. Not only am I the fastest typist in the land, but I'm too impatient to wait for email and (don't judge), despite having lived in England, I can't figure out how to call anyone there. The area code thing completely confuses me. The woman I texted with answered all of my questions and agreed to send me the new bra at the same discounted price as the one I bought originally. She even waived the shipping (as I would normally receive the replacement item with no extra shipping charge). Then she called me to get my info (couldn't do it online in light of the complex elements of the purchase). It was entirely pleasant given that I just spent another 26 pounds to get a bra I already own.
The good news is that I should have the Gem (please, let it fit!) in about a week. Remember, this bra fits very large in cup and back size. I suggest you size down one back size and perhaps even 2 cup sizes, but at least by 1.

So, there you go. Perhaps the online shopping goddess wanted me to know what it's like to have a seriously disappointing lingerie-buying experience so that I can relate to those of you who remind me that it's not all kittens and flowers. I suspect it was just dumb luck. The kind that insulates you from further dumb luck for a long while going forward. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Deep Thoughts

You know that non-linear path of healing. Well, I continue on it's winding journey. People, I'm so tired. I'm so anxious. I feel so crappy. I've opted to take a long weekend (today as a sick day, Monday is a holiday) to try and establish a new equilibrium, one that moves the overall health barometer a few degrees more firmly into the right direction.

Since I'm awake pretty well constantly, I actually have a near-compulsive amount to share with you all on a wide variety of topics: knitting, sewing, body image, lingerie shop along follow ups (trust me, you're gonna love that post), food, holiday gift purchasing... The list goes on.

No doubt, it's a good sign that I have lots to say. It's a good sign that I've been able to go to work (even if I am a washed-up version of my work-self lately). It's a good sign that I've been off the prednisone for almost a week and I'm breathing (though not in the regular way). It's a good sign that I have picked up the pace on my crafting. It's a good sign that I can eat a wider variety of foods.

And yet, if on a scale of 1-10, regular-self healthy is a 10, I hover between a 4 and a 6 at any given time. Sure, I do hit an 8 occasionally, just as infrequently as I descend to a 3. Since I was at a 2 for a good month - I mean a terrible month - I realize that this is statistically relevant improvement and a move in the right direction. But I can barely stand this. It makes me want to flee from myself and there's nowhere to go.

The most prominent of the remaining issues are these:
  • My throat hurts ALL the time. Especially where the ulcers line on the left-side. While this seemed to be getting better, yesterday it all came back hard and hurty. To feel like things are moving backwards - even though, in truth, I have no idea what's happening, the path of healing is not linear (she says, like a mantra) - is distressing.
  • My throat is swollen. I haven't had stridor in 2 weeks, so thankfully, but I have had a couple of coughing episodes in the past few days that have moved me unpleasantly into its domain. Since I'm not on the prednisone, I worry. While I was on the prednisone, I worried. (That shit is serious and likely the cause of the ulcers and associated throat swelling.) My throat seems to be swollen no matter what. It's a matter of degrees and under what circumstances. Of course, it's much better to be my own self, managing the swelling and moving away from ulcers. But it's scary. It's like I am in constant dialogue with my throat. I sometimes feel that it's a mentally-unstable Hollywood starlet from the 50s and I'm a director, desperately trying to make that studio film. I've got to get this throat into rehab people. And method classes! :-)
  • The laryngeal mucous issue continues. Sure, it's better overall. Occasionally, it even goes away for a couple of hours. But it seems always to return, after food, and then - since the mucous is all but immovable from its perch in my swollen throat - I have to worry about it inducing coughing (which increases swelling) or blockages (requiring scary coughing to dislodge it just enough to restore breathing).
  • OMG I need to SLEEP. People, I can't drink booze. I can't eat anything remotely enjoyable. It hurts to talk. Singing is off the table (something I love to do that calms me down). The only mood-alteration option left, never mind that its health-restoring, is fucking sleep. Is it wrong to want to forget about this for a few hours at a time?? I have fantasies (hallucinations?) about doctors telling me that they can put me into a totally safe, medical coma for a week (like a spa! in a beautiful room in a beautiful locale - not that I'd know the difference) and when I wake (in the beautiful room in the beautiful locale) I'll be totally healthy and ready to go sit under an umbrella at terrific restaurant and drink an entire bottle of wine with a steak frites followed by a vat of chocolate mousse. No vegetables in sight!
  • I'm almost disinclined to mention anxiety in its own bullet. You can certainly read the anxiety that's woven into every sentence. For some, this would be debilitating, I imagine, but I am no stranger to anxiety. I have coping skills and, when it all gets to be too much, ativan. (Note to reader: You must not abuse this stuff. It's very addictive. I won't take it 2 days in a row. I'm on the lowest dose available and its primary benefit is to induce sleep... I am all for mood alteration, I'm a hedonist!, but not with controlled pharmaceuticals.)
I won't bother to detail the other things: blood sugar is weird so I shake sometimes or feel light-headed, eating challenges (what will work today?), ears that have been plugged for 2 months, the terrible mood that hits me sometimes which I cannot blame on prednisone any more but I sure can blame on feeling like shit, energy spikes and valleys.

Man, I really do sound like a mess!

Really, though, you should have seen me 3 weeks ago. I'm like a normal person by comparison. :-)

I recently learned that a former colleague contracted pertussis four years ago after an operation. Her coughing was so extreme that she had to be reoperated on to correct damage caused by it. She said it was the worst illness she's ever experienced and that she was beyond sick for 7 months.

When I heard this horrid story, part of me was so glad to know someone else who could relate. Though her experience was very different than mine (and much more serious!), here she is, 4 years later, alive and healthy. The other part of me has to believe that I will feel better more quickly than she. By her own admission, my colleague began her illness in a less hardy state.

I find it ironic that Public Health has only just started delivering flyers, and booking segments on the news, to warn people between 20 and 65 about an emerging potential health crisis: pertussis after lapsed vaccination. Those people should put me on a fucking poster. Especially now that I'm so attractively thin :-)

Yeah, I'm dramatic, but I come by it honestly. I have been this way my entire life. I bring it to every experience, minor or extreme. It infiltrates my every mode of expression. No doubt, you know this about me by now. People, for as long as I can remember, have told me I should have a television show. Or a role on Broadway. I reiterate this because I want you to know that I recognize there are SO many people struggling valiantly with serious, chronic or life-threatening illness in the most courageous and reserved fashion.

I am neither courageous nor reserved. I'm a freaked out wuss who talks about everything extrovertedly. For what it's worth, I sincerely wish that people struggling with serious, chronic or life-threatening illness would talk or write about it to their heart's content. I pray for people who struggle as such, if they have little else to comfort them at times, please speak.

I say to anyone who may fall into that camp: Your voice matters. Your experience is valuable, not only to you, but to everyone with whom you communicate. Illness is part of the fabric of human existence. You are not isolated, you are a front-line participant. We, all of us, exist in a continuum from birth to death and beyond. Speak loudly because you are a bellwether. Speak loudly because you shouldn't go through any life experience alone. Speak loudly because squeaky wheels get the grease. And everybody's wheels squeak eventually.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Not My Usual Thing

I've come to terms with the fact that I am a constant knitter. I love having a project on the go. It gives me something to occupy my hands when I'm traveling, watching TV, sitting outside over lunch, having a coffee (or a glass of wine - which hopefully I'll be able to start drinking again soon...) I really dig the click of needles.

As I mentioned recently, a new yarn shop - Ewe Knit - opened in TO a couple of months ago in Mirvish Village. It's on Markham St., just south of Bloor - a very quick jaunt from my home or from work. I've visited there twice now and I'm SUPER impressed. Increasingly so.

Do yourself a favour and check it out. Have an espresso while you browse for yarn in a gorgeous Victorian row house. (I'm biased as I live in the less grand version of this style of century home.) And make sure you chat with the very knowledgeable and friendly staff.

Claudia, the owner, is the chicest woman in a "I used to live in Milan" kind of way. (Note: I have no idea if she ever lived in Milan.) She is so passionate about yarn and has such a beautifully curated supply of high quality yarns in many different weights and hands. I do believe she leans to the fine and medium length fibres spun sleekly in many colours (Filatura di Crosa merino, for example), but if you want your natural yarn fix, there's a more than adequate selection.

I stopped in briefly this aft, on my way to acupuncture, and I could barely tear myself away. I LOVE to pet yarn! It's all so beautiful and soft and colourful and warm. There's inspiration and possibility in every ball. I find it harder to resist than fabric - which I find very hard to resist - because it's compact.

Anyway, I wasn't even intending to blog today, much less about knitting which I seem to write about compulsively lately. (Note: my first love is sewing. I just seem to have a lot to say about knitting at the moment.) And then I went into the shop and wanted to pitch a tent there and now I'm typing away...

One thing I was able to purchase in 3 seconds flat - and which isn't my "thing", particularly - is the latest Louisa Harding pattern mini-book, "Amitola: Fourteen Projects for Hand Knitting".

Seriously, I can scarcely stand variegated yarn and loose, flowy garments, but I was transfixed:

I found these pics at Designer Yarn

Perhaps it has something with the consumptive chic that gorgeous model is working. Maybe I can relate :-)

Or maybe it's that the entire universe seems SO drab, I'm desperate to stare at colour as those needles click.

I can't say if I'll be investing in some of this yarn, but I did buy the book. And the yarn looks so cheerful in those little skeins. What do you think?

Have you used this yarn??

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Gauge the Situation: Interdependencies

One of the more complicated aspects of Bettie's Pullover pattern is establishing gauge. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that gauge - horizontal or vertical - is generally super clear, but vertical gauge (in multiple combos of stockinette, rib and feather and fan) is very hard to suss. Add to the equation that one's needle size is changing every couple of vertical inches and it's almost impossible to pre-determine how the length (never mind width) will turn out.

I'm used to getting quite fussed about horizontal gauge, what with the narrow shoulders and proportionately large boobs, but vertical gauge (and I do consider it before I begin any project) generally turns out to be a non-starter. Depending on the pattern, I can simply work more or fewer rows to hit my target dimensions.

Not so much with this sweater.

The reason why it's SO important, with this particular pattern, to make notes (which prove to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that you'll hit the right stitch numbers at key points and that you know what's coming next and how to make it happen) is because, based on the way this sweater is worked, your vertical gauge is as key as the horizontal. And, since you're going from the bottom up, you can't just add length at the end of it and hope no one notices that proportion is off.

Here's the basic sequence of construction as indicated in the pattern. (It's important to have some sense of this in order to understand the rest of this post):

Part 1:

Bottom of sweater (begins in the round) - ribbing with middle-size needle)

Part 1B:

  • Just above the hem ribbing, short row shaping to establish the stockinette backdrop for the undulating feather and fan pattern (this is kind of mind-blowing) (largest needle size)
  • Feather and Fan (largest needle size)
  • Feather and Fan (middle-needle size)
  • Feather and Fan (smallest needle size)
  • Feather and fan (middle needle size)
  • Feather and fan (largest needle size)
  • Short row shaping to re-establish the stockinette backdrop for the upper part of the sweater (Then you put the body aside.)

Part 2:

Create the sleeves, one at a time, in the round. (middle-needle size)

Part 3:

Then you use a crazy mechanism of knitting rows with all kinds of decreases to affix the sleeves to the body. You shape the sleeves and lower armscye at the same time. (middle needle size)

Part 3B:

Eventually, once you've knitted to about half way up the armscye length, you leave knitting in the round and start working back and forth because the neckline begins. You continue to work sleeve and armscye shaping throughout the rows as you also begin to shape the neck. Now the pattern begins referring to WS and RS instructions. (middle needle size)

Part 4:

After that, you do some more short rows to shape the sleeve cap and shoulders. You work each side separately. (middle needle size)

Part 5:
  • Finally, you kitchener stitch the underarms (to close them up)
  • Three-needle bind off the shoulders (to close them up); and 
  • Knit the neckband. (middle needle size)

Now, one of the ways in which this pattern rocks is that the schematic is VERY detailed. It shows you how every horizontal and vertical segment work together. That's key for me because my proportions are fairly, if subtly, different than those the sweater calls for. 

In brief:
  1. My armscye needs to be 6.25", 1 inch shorter than the pattern instructs.
  2. My upper chest is also shorter than the pattern assumes - fortunately by about the same amount as the armscye / what the pattern suggests, though not quite as much.
  3. I'm planning on adding a bit more length to the middle of the sweater through to the bust portion to get over my full bust. 
  4. I want a shorter sleeve than the pattern calls for because a just-below the elbow is elegant and also I need to conserve yarn (yeah, yeah, the story of my life). 
Sure, I'm only talking about adding a vertical inch here and subtracting it there, but we know how establishing proportional length makes the difference between a sweater that looks custom made (cuz it is) and one that would fit someone else better.

Here's the thing with this particular pattern: When you get to the section of the sleeve shaping (Part 3) - and going on up from there - the actions you work in one section (i.e. the knitting on of the sleeves with the complex associated decreases), to establish those proportions, are inextricable from the actions relating to other sections (armscye shaping and neck shaping happen at the same time in different spots on the same rows). Moreover, all of these relate intimately, from a vertical shaping perspective, to the sleeve cap shaping that happens thereafter.

The way the pattern is worked, arm depth is carefully aligned with neck shaping. You can't really detangle them because you're working the vertical length of one in conjunction (though slightly out of phase) with the other. How - in addition to this - I am expected to manage numerous HORIZONTAL considerations (side front, side back, sleeve front, sleeve back and neck decrease shaping on a row by row basis while ensuring that they occur in the right sequence and at the right time to accord with vertical gauge) is practically beyond me, though I'm sticking with it.

I've adjusted my schematic, I've rewritten the me-adjusted version of the pattern numerous times - not changing the overall actions, just changing up where they occur on my version of the sweater. Every time, I've reconsidered the impact of these adjustments, imagined a fatal flaw (potentially incorrectly), and started again. It's like there's a nutty loop going on in the back of brain right now...

At my current stage of construction (about 7 inches of the bottom of the sweater, including a couple of different gauge's worth of feather and fan pattern) I think my overall vertical gauge is going to work out to be about 7 rows to an inch (nowhere near what the pattern gauge suggests in any of the needle sizes?!). I estimate that, as I continue to work - even as I have decided to use the different needle sizes (for horizontal shaping purposes) at different sections in the garment to try and mitigate the potential challenge of a sweater that may still be too wide, I may discover that my vertical gauge is being substantively impacted by all of my horizontal experimentation. 

Neither gauge exists in a vacuum, of course, though sometimes you can pretend as much if the pattern isn't too complex. The only thing worse than having your proportional shaping carefully determined by vertical gauge (in addition to the regular impact of horizontal gauge) is to experience said scenario while you also cannot predict what your vertical gauge (some rows up) is going to be. It's what we call tap dancing.

All this talk aside, I don't know how else to approach this project. I've got to resolve the horizontal shaping challenges as they emerge or overall vertical proportion won't matter. It'll look all wrong for a totally different reason.

At any rate, that's the Bettie story du jour.

Now questions for you: If you've made this sweater, I'd love to hear about your experience. If you've made other bottom up sweaters that conform to this construction, have you been equally challenged? I'd love to know your thoughts. 

I realize I'm making it sound very complicated. Mind you, that's because, in my opinion, it IS very complicated. However, it's also some very enjoyable planning and super-fun knitting. Perhaps I'm past the point of being able to assure you that it's worth your effort to give this pattern a go (well, maybe we should see how mine turns out!), especially when I whine at such length.

Many of you seem quite intrigued by the specifics of this pattern so I've really gone into the weeds in the hopes that this post will be of benefit to that subset of readers.

I'll leave it on this note: The actual knitting (Japanese short rows aside) is quite easy. Rib and stockinette are simple, as is feather and fan stitch (F&F). F&F is just a 4 round pattern, 2 rows of which are K, 1 row of which is P and the fourth row is the one with the lace-work. As far as lace-work goes, this is repetitive but not boring. You need to be alert, but not in any way anxious. The pattern reveals itself quickly and is fancy.