Sunday, December 30, 2012

Musings on Productivity

I'm not a particularly speedy sewist. I know this because all of the skirts that seem to take others 4 hours take me 8 to 10. I mean, don't feel bad for me. I'm not unproductive and I make sure my finishing is nicely done to the best of my ability (which generally takes extra time). I'm just not lightning fast.

No doubt, the last 6 months of 2012 were not about the sewing output. I made half of a fitted shell (part of a fitting project I undertook with S), 2 peplum shirts and 2 dresses.

Those of you who sew know that it takes a certain amount of space and physical stamina. You have to trace and or cut out your pattern pieces (and they're often unwieldy). Then you have to organize your large swath of fabric which needs to be ironed and carefully positioned. Then you have to cut your fabric. If you're me, that means you skitter around the floor, hoping not to hit walls in you 15-foot wide century home. Then you have to mark all of the pieces (hopefully they fit on the ironing board for this purpose). And only then can you start sewing - which may be muscle-clenching depending on the qualities of your fabric and pattern.

I know I've said it a zillion times, at this point, but between the 6-month reno (somewhat disruptive of my workspace) and the hideous illness (3 months of bad, 1 month of beyond horrible), sewing just wasn't in the cards.

On the other hand, between mid-September and mid-December, I knitted a reasonably involved scarf, a shawl-like cowl and six sweaters. They were not small sweaters (well, 4 of them weren't). One of them was very complicated. Keep in mind, I alter everything I knit to suit my own dimensions - and that takes additional time. Now, I realize that I did spend a month at home in convalescence, but I assure you that I barely knit during the majority of that time. Seriously, it took me all day just to function.

Never mind the technical terms, with a full-time job, a kid, a blog and a house, (in my opinion) that's productive! :-)

So what's the deal?  Am I a sort-of slow-moving sewist and a super-fast knitter?

Um, not particularly, as far as I can tell.

I've seen "real" knitters go at the yarn and it's shockingly impressive. I mean, one wonders what else they can accomplish with that kind of dexterity. :-) On tiny needles with lace-weight yarn (something I'm working with now, fyi, and more to come on that), they zip along - conversing all the while. It's sick.

Don't misunderstand. When I'm not chatting - aka what I do when I knit with others and which really slows me down - and once I get into a groove (10 rows into a session), I go at a fair clip. Given that I've been knitting for less than 2 years (though my father did teach me the skill when I was 12), I'm probably somewhat naturally adept. (I've mentioned before, I'm dextrous.) And Lord knows, if one's knitting style mimics one's nature, I'll be very fast one day.

But I don't think this is how I've managed to knit lots of things. I think I've managed to knit lots of things because I'm focused.

In brief, this is how I tackle knitting projects (see this post for more details about pre-knit planning):
  • I decide on the project I want to make. This takes some time but it's fun! I have to carefully consider the likelihood that the garment will suit me and that, with my current skill-level, I'll be able to make required alterations so that it will fit me as well as possible.
  • I buy the yarn and all the materials I'll require. 
  • I do a gauge swatch, which I block, and I carefully consider whether I'm going to aim to get gauge or to subvert it for my own sizing needs. Either way, I have to be as certain as I can be that I'm targeting a size my gauge will allow me to achieve. (Note: It's important to use the swatch to determine the amount of negative ease your fabric will comfortably allow. Affix markers 1 inch apart on the same row of the gauge swatch and then pull the fabric along that inch. How far will it stretch before you start to see through the knit stitches? Other note: This is simply my method - I haven't seen it promoted anywhere else and it's not a perfect science. Of course, 1 inch will stretch differently than an entire garment just by virtue of its proportions. But it does provide a very good starting off point that your ever-increasing knowledge of textiles will support and build-on.)
  • I carefully read the pattern specifics to determine where I'll need to make sizing alterations for my body. Then I figure out how best to do that in the context of the instructions. (Knitters have 40 different ways to do everything.)
  • On my detailed pattern-read: If I hit conceptual snags - either about how the pattern works or about the techniques required - I email a knitting friend or the pattern's designer, visit my LYS or go to a book/website/blog. It's rare that I start something without having a pretty good idea of what's coming at every stage of the project. I may not have "done it" before, but I always mentally work it out to the best of my ability. Note: That's not always enough, alas. See cables on the Chuck sweater. :-)
  • I rewrite the pattern, with my notes and edits, in my craft book and I use this to mark off rows so that, if I make the garment again - or if I need to repeat on one side to make the other - it's as simple as marking off the same-rows in the same way with a different colour pen.
  • I wind as many balls as I suspect I'll require (or one fewer) so that I'm not delayed, while knitting, by this administrative matter.
To the best of my ability, when I start knitting that's all I do. I knit. I don't think about how to accomplish the next section. I don't stop (not often, anyway) to come up with a work-around or to learn a new technique. I don't need to wind balls. I don't wonder about which needle to use or what kind of increases or decreases or cast on to work.

I keep my eye firmly on the finished object. If the garment must be seamed, at the end, I do it immediately. I weave in the yarn-ends as soon as a section is finished (but no sooner cuz, if you have to rip back, that makes things very tricky) so as to see a finished piece of fabric. I block the minute I weave in the final end.

Proviso: Now, one thing I do regularly, while knitting - and which does slow me down, is continue to review the garment against my own body, with fit in mind. If, as I go, I discover that my gauge has changed and I need more or less circumference, I make adjustments on the fly. If I need additional length in one place, or less in another, I make sure to reflect that in my notes and I amend the pattern accordingly. How do I know how to do this? I stop and hold the thing up to myself or I try it on (if I'm able to do this, mid-knitting) or I take its measurements and compare them to my own (taking negative ease into account, see above). It is NOT rocket-science. Don't get fussed about it. You have more than enough knowledge with a tape measure and your own eyes to fit your sweater as you go. Far better to do this than to make no alterations and to end up with a final product that doesn't work on you at all.

So, there you have it. Are you a prolific knitter or someone who really takes his/her time? Do you use any of the strategies above to assist you in accomplishing your knitting "quickly"? Do you think the whole idea of crafting anything with speed diminishes the creative objective? Let's talk about your process!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Top Five of 2012: Goals

Egad! I'm not into craft goal-setting. Seriously. I adhere to goals in just about every area of my life and they get tiresome, people.

OK, natch, I set goals in the moment. That's how we landed the Gauge The Situation series (that may never end, at this rate and not for lack of consistent movement towards completion). Intriguingly, on rereading the intro post, it appears I started this series at the exact time I came down with pertussis. Hmmmm... It's also how I managed to make a tailored suit (with collaboration from my fitting friend, S). It's how I made the Spring Palette wardrobe. Goals have their place, for sure.

Mind you, I don't want to set myself up for non-completion. Y'all haven't seen many new croquis of me, right? I seem to recall that improvement of my Illustrator and drawing skills was on the roster for 2012. Not that I can rightly remember :-)

I do not make New Year's Resolutions. That process seems insane to me. If I want to change something, Feb. 6 or May 18 or Sept. 12 (for example) are perfectly fine times, IMO. I'm not the most spontaneous person in my daily life so I like to reserve spontaneity for my creative endeavours. Yeah, I need a plan. I need resolution. But I don't like to enshrine my every activity in goal attainment.

Having said that, this post is about goals for 2013. Oh, the cognitive dissonance. What will I do???

I'll follow the rules, sort of. That's my way, after all. So let's make these goals kind of amorphous and stamp them with a watermark "Draft Only". OK?
  • I'd like to learn how to knnit with colour-work i.e. intarsia or Fair Isle (eeek). Then I'd like to make a sweater using the technique(s).
  • I'd like to make another suit - using a totally different suit jacket pattern than last year's. S, my fitting friend, and I have been serious about this since mid-way through last year but so many things have interfered (renos, parenting, moves, sickness) that it just hasn't happened yet.
  • I feel I should make a pair of socks. Everyone who knits makes socks and likes making socks (apparently). Even though I have no interest in them, a pair of cashmere socks sounds not bad right about now.
  • I want to continue my new trend of sewing adventurism: If I want to make a (simple) top that doesn't come with a pattern, my aim is to give it a go. If a pattern I use turns out to be a dud, I intend to hack at it till I make it something that works for me. In 2012, I tried my hand at some draping, some pattern drafting and some significant pattern alteration - and the outcomes were good! Why not keep on, I say.
  • My final "goal" is such a long shot (she says, from previous experience) that I'm simply including it as a distant plan. You know that I have sewn a number of bras from a variety of patterns and even made my own pattern from a deconstructed Freya bra. My issue with lingerie-making is not that I can't put together a really lovely bra. I can. But the materials and wires available to me, thus far, have been inferior to my architectural requirements. I will make my own bras as soon as I can find the appropriate fabrics and notions to work as effectively (to produce good lift and silhouette) as the high-end RTW bras I wear each day. I sew to make things that are of, at least, the same high-quality as good ready-to-wear. Till I can accomplish this with bras, I'm very grateful to have access to some fantastic commercial brands.
So, what do you think of goals-setting? Do you have something concrete you'd like to accomplish, craft-wise - or other - this year? Let's talk...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Some Things I've Bought For Myself

You know how this fall positioned itself as the optimal platform for my great online spendathon. Caught in the depths of illness, the only thing I could do, it seemed, was to cruise the internet for cool things. It was a useful exercise given that Xmas was on its way.

I practiced that time-worn method: One thing for you, two things for me and, gotta say, I don't regret any of my splurges.

Most of my self-shopping was accomplished via Etsy, where I found the following:

Adorable poster from Loose Petals
I bought a couple of these posters in a couple of different sizes for between 20 - 35 bucks each. They arrived promptly and well-packaged and they're printed on the loveliest, textured paper. Let me say that these are utterly cheerful and I can't wait to hang them.

Vintage Knitting Mag from Libromancer
Oh, how I love this Vogue Knitting mag from Fall/Winter 1968. You may be thinking: Hey, Kristin. Didn't you say that bulky knits don't suit you? Well, peeps, these are not thick in the modern sense. The styles are very structured, just beautiful!, and so sleekly modern. I cannot wait to make something from this pattern mag.

Vintage Garnet Cocktail Ring from Ivy Cottage
OK, not the best pic, but this piece is delightful. I don't wear much red (though this has a very claret kind of vibe) but it perches brightly on my finger with the kind of heft I require to suit my large hands and fingers. It's obviously seen some special occasions and it's very well-made.

Organic, culinary-grade lavender from Lizzy Lane Farm
I spent a lot of time inhaling bowls of steam water with essential oils and lavender flowers (see above). What I didn't have at my access was food-grade lavender. And you know how I love a lavender infused tea or sable biscuit. I also had the idea that I'd make some new eye pillows for yoga (to give away as gifts) but my sister - who made my original eye pillow, which has been well-loved for so many years - offered to make me another. And then, when I said: Yes, please, I was sure to ask her to make one for Hilary too. :-) My new eye pillow is fabulous, by the way! Thanks Allison!

These were purchased outside of the kingdom of Etsy:

Ubiquitous Poster from Super Rural
I'm reluctant to share this one because it's been so popular for so long that I a) don't want to give anyone else any bright ideas and b) don't want to be one of those peeps who undercuts the fab by making it that much more ubiquitous. But finally I said what the fuck. This poster is pure pink, which I love (again, really cheerful), and it totally matches the tone on my walls. I've never seen a happening interior, containing this poster, that doesn't suit my style. It just makes me smile.

Hunter Wellies from Zappos - bought on (very good) sale and shipped for free to my parents in America
Y'all know how I've been trying to make friends with the rain - what with its increasing omnipresence in TO. I didn't know if these wellies would be a failure purchase but it didn't much matter. They're entirely returnable (via my parents to whom they were originally shipped since Zappos doesn't mail to Canada. Don't get me started on that.) I read that they fit big so I sized down and I'm really glad I did. I'm usually a Euro 39 or 8.5 US but I ordered the women's 8 and the fit's spot on. Note: I went to the Hunter site to see the exact dimensions of the shoes cuz Zappos had less than useless info and the chat feature yielded little additional help. An internet person basically corroborated that he didn't have any useful sizing feedback. Note: I didn't order from this site for its fab client service. I ordered for the price. The shoes are actually really comfortable, if slightly on the heavy side, and they look terrific with jeans and pants. I understand that they're entirely waterproof but only time will tell. Can't say how much less miserable I'll be the next time I have to walk in the rain.

Starting to see a theme? Things that look good, sparkle, smell terrific, encourage freedom of movement or my creativity - all of these were on my list.

Let me say I am so pleased with each item - and each one cost under 100 bucks (or much less).

I'd be lying if I implied I haven't bought myself some more goodies, just to express joy at being alive me. I've got a new, cute little stash of vintage buttons I hope to use on some sewn or knitted garments sometime soon. And don't forget the recently-purchased fondue pot (vessel of that which tastes fantastic).

Alas, the fur coat (I swear a pic is forthcoming) and the new Browns boots kind of threw me over the edge, financially, so self-gifting is on hiatus until future notice. Thank goodness I have all of these new treats to keep me warm and dry and cheery while I build up my discretionary resources again.

Today's questions: Whatcha think of these gifts to myself? Which do you like best? Have you ever gone on a spree when recovering from illness? Did you enjoy the spoils? Was it sad when you had to stop spending (cuz you'd got yourself on a roll)? Do tell!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Top Five of 2012: Inspiration

Inspiration is one of the best words in the English language. Whether it refers to a creative well-spring or the ability to breathe (isn't that kind of the same thing?), it's all good. Having said this, I feel uneasy listing off my inspirational blogs and bloggers because I don't want to leave anyone out and, trust me, the inspiration is omnipresent! (I read 175 blogs a day, peeps.)

I link to great posts and bloggers all the time, and I've heard back from many of you over the years that those links are eye-opening. In this post, I thought I'd focus on blogs that provide great technical information (note: Gail, I had this lined up before you did your post, I swear. Not stealing your angle! :-))
  • Apropos of Gail, her blog, Today's Agenda, is a fantastic knitting resource. In 2012, she hosted a knit along for beginners and demystified the very popular Miette Sweater. It's an awesome blog series you can still access, wherein you'll learn as much about how to accomplish good fit as technique. Gail (who looks like she's 30), has apparently been knitting for 40 years so she knows her shit. It's also very approachable and the garments shown (knitted and sewn) are so lovely and beautifully rendered.
  • Sewaholic Patterns - a blog that turned into a store and then a repository for some fantastic technical information - is a place I visit often when I'm trying to get a grip on finishing my garments with professional aplomb. If you aren't already a regular visitor, you should be.
  • TECHknitting, a blog I'm reasonably new to, explains the most complicated knitting concepts - concepts I didn't even realize were concepts - so thoroughly and clearly it's creepy. It's VERY useful when you've got some tricky thing you've got to fix and you have no idea of where else to turn.
  • I've often said that, if I had to be stuck in a website forever, I'd choose Ravelry. Man, there's so much going on there that I'd never be bored. Buy yarn and patterns or read reviews of them, Join fora and chat groups on any number of knitting- or non-knitting-related topics. Contact a member (maybe even the designer of a pattern you just bought) and get valuable feedback about some element of knitting that's confusing you. Look at the tremendous creative efforts of others. Make friends with them. Email. Sell yarn from your stash or buy someone else's. OMG - I haven't even scratched the surface.
  • Finally (for the purposes of this list), I'm going to mention a blog I've been reading for a LONG while and which fills me with technical inspiration but which has nothing to do with sewing or knitting. Joe Pastry helps me to develop and connect on the basis of my first craft-love: baking. Furthermore, it does so from a very scientific perspective, one which enables me to cross-apply principles frequently, to achieve better outcomes than I ever would have otherwise. He even posted an amazing streusel coffee cake recipe with me in mind. Gotta love that! Trust me, it's awesome.
Something I do find interesting is that, were I to write this post last year, I would have included a number of blogs that aren't actually active anymore. I think this bears mention because, in truth, the world of writing for the benefit of others (in addition to the joy one attains from it and the ability to diarize one's craft and life experiences) is capricious.

I'd like to take a moment to say thank you to so many wonderful bloggers (past and present) who, in their attitudes and by their content and expressiveness have truly enriched (and sometimes even changed) my life. If you're wondering whether you fall into that category, I'm pretty sure you do. So I raise my (now wine-filled once more) glass to you all to say: May you all receive as much joy and inspiration in your daily lives as I have gained from you. Ladies and gents, you kick some serious ass.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Top Five of 2012: Lessons Learned

As you know, I LOVE to learn. Give me a lesson, any day. Preferably a fun and easy one, but I'll take what's on offer.

Sewing and knitting are, for me, the crafts that keep on giving. Not a session goes by that I don't come up with some new practice I'll keep up my sleeve till the next time it comes in handy. Having said this, I know this is about the concrete and sassy lessons of 2012, so here goes:
  • NEVER underestimate the power of a well-drafted pattern. Whether that means pieces that align beautifully, notches that are marked correctly, instructions that are given with context and in plain language or techniques that create a stunning finished product just depends on the nature of the garment you're constructing. A good pattern is worth re-making as many times as you continue to learn from and enjoy it. 
  • Trust your instincts about whether a pattern is good. Sure, when you're a newbie you may not have as much knowledge as would be useful to discern this. So read reviews and proceed with caution. On the flip side, when you're an expert you can generally work around suboptimal drafting elements or wan instructions to create a good finished product. The question then is: how much time and life energy do you care to spend on patterns that aren't as potentially as joyful to sew as their finished projects are to wear?
  • I am, you are, we are collectively the soul of a vital creative pool. The skills we learn in craft enrich the way our minds work in every area of our lives. I have only just begun to craft (sewing started in November 2009 and knitting started in April 2011) and yet I have been able to accomplish much because I have so many wonderful teachers! My goal is to honour them, and the craft, by continuing to develop my skills but also my intuitive abilities. One of the most enjoyable projects I undertook in 2012 is the weird mash-up dress where I significantly altered a vintage shirt and then drafted my own simple skirt to attach. The shirt wasn't working as-is. I can't tell you how much fun it was to just cut away at it until it became something I could wear. It was like sculpting! And then, when I made up the skirt (and I'm sure much of what I've learned from others who have written about simple skirt drafting must have finally stuck) and grafted one to the other, it was like magic. So. Much. Fun. Admittedly, at first I didn't much like the finished result - but I loved the process (and have since come to appreciate the finished garment).
  • The point of making things is to approach perfection - not to attain it. If you can't accept error, you'll never learn to fix it. And it's a rare person who works without ever making mistakes.
  • Know when it's time to use good fabric or yarn. New crafters rightly tend to choose less costly materials because a certain quantity of finished projects end up never worn - for any number of reasons. Here's the thing: I've heard enough from really experienced crafters to know that they encounter a reasonable number of similar snags. But one thing's for certain, when your garment works, you will love it all the more for having made it from the most beautiful substance you could find. Which leads me to my final point...
  • Treat every first project from a pattern as a trial run. In truth, you may need to make it 3 or 4 times before you perfect the fit or drape - or decide it just isn't going to work for you. But once you've got the pattern down, then you can pull out your fancy fabric and have a ball.
OK, I was only supposed to tell about 5 lessons learned but I just couldn't stop myself!

What's your top lesson learned in 2012? I want to know!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Top Five of 2012: The "Bottom Five"

That wins for weirdest post title, IMO. Anyway, this is the post wherein I tell you about my crafting failures. Thing is - and I am going to sound SO Pollyanna when I say this - I don't feel I've failed! I mean, yeah, I have some garments I'll never wear and some I just can't get with for me, but I learned in the construction of every one of them. Probably more than I learned from the garments I will wear, going forward.

Alas, this post isn't about my high self-esteem, it's about the things that didn't work according to some, self-determined, definition. And, as I've been able to regift each of my so-called non-successes because their primary flaw is not fitting me, I'm going to define failure as "garment I won't wear" or "garment I really didn't have a lot of fun making".

Remember to search by the keyword names of these projects if you want to read the whole, gory story...

OK, the one that wins, hands-down is the vintage-pattern McCardell Convertible sweater:

I'm very happy this will fit my friend beautifully because I put SO MUCH time and work into this thing. Not to mention yarn! I love it in concept. In practice, the waist was baggy on me and (given the lack of other projects out there and the complexity of the bias-cut design) I have no idea how I'd reknit this to keep the circumference in the bust while shaving inches off the waist. I had very high hopes so it was sad and frustrating when I finally had to let this one go.

The Inaugural Cardigan:

What I love about this garment is that it taught me I cannot wear worsted weight sweaters containing more than 900 yards of yarn. I also love that you all helped me to determine it would be a lovely sweater - which it is! - as part of the ongoing Gauge the Situation knitting series. This pattern is very well-drafted and the designer is available to give lots of feedback. It just doesn't look good on me.

The Madeleine Cowl:

I'm happy to tell you that my friend Hilary manages to wear this in the chicest fashion, which looks nothing like the hideous pose going on in the photo above. I had very little investment in this cowl which took less than a week to construct. It's a nice little pattern that I probably won't make again but not because it isn't a fine result. I think it would be best on a person with a small bust and wide shoulders - of which Hil has both.

The Siivet Pullover:

This photo is horrible, sorry. I took it in the depths of illness and I really wasn't on my game. I've overexposed it so that you can see the detail. It's actually a beautiful, rich navy.  I might make this sweater again - though it was the most boring and tedious thing I've ever knit (other than the McCardell Convertible). I just made it too big - too wide in the shoulders, too much fabric. I should have made the smallest size and got gauge rather than, purposefully (but erroneously as time would tell), making the second smallest size in a slightly larger gauge. I really like the lines of the sweater and I think it would be utterly wearable in the correct size. But I've proven, yet again, that a sweater that doesn't fit is the worst kind of bad-fit.

The Sort-Of Vintage Culottes (Butterick 5681):

Remember these?? I made them as part of my spring palette and I have to say they haven't seen much play. Intelligently, I modified the pattern in all the ways I knew it needed to be modified (right after finishing this version), so I do have a very useful TNT culottes pattern when next I get the urge to make them. I do wear these and people seem to like them but they're not my best work - though not for lack of trying.

Special mention goes to this dress - which, at first, I loathed but now I seem to wear regularly. (It looks much chicer on me than the dress form, I promise!) Go figure - I've really come to terms with the 80s. I did love making it because I threw caution to the wind, creatively-speaking and self-drafted the skirt, while heavily modifying the vintage-bodice. I "felt" its construction rather than planned it.

In truth, I did knit much more than I sewed in the second half of the year, for a variety of reasons from renovations to illness. And much of my sewing was limited to the huge project, the Tailored Suit, which took 2 months. But I'm intrigued to see that most of my failures of fit are knitted.

I have really improved for those projects - I now make every knitted garment MUCH smaller than I imagine I will need to - of course, doing all the math I've always done to establish gauge and to modify proportions to suit my own. Experience is also teaching me how to modify knitting-patterns as I go, even if those mods don't accord with the preparation notes I labour to produce.

How do I feel about these near-hits? Just fine. I mean, I'm not so blase that I can rip out the sweaters to reuse the yarn. It hurts just thinking about that. But I can see the value in the work and the things that need to be done differently next time.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Top Five of 2012: Favourite Creations

OK, in the spirit of cataloging, I've decided to try Gillian's Top Five of 2012 series. The idea is to talk about my:
  • Top 5 Favourite Creations (most worn, or most loved)
  • Top 5 Sewing Fails (UFOs, worn once, or complete disasters) 
  • Top 5 Lessons Learned (either practical tricks and techniques, or life lessons) 
  • Top 5 Blogs and Bloggers that Inspire
  • Top 5 Goals for the New Year
The truth is, I'm particularly bad at this sort of thing. Once I start thinking about it, everything seems unbelievably relevant (or irrelevant). But I really like the concept and I've enjoyed everyone else's similar musings.

I'll start off, in this post, with my Top Faves of 2012:

That Ubiquitous Jalie Blouse 2921
The Cablicious Chuck Sweater

Bettie's Pullover

The Tailored Suit aka That Which Tested Every Fibre of My Being
Vogue 8323 - The pic is cute but you can't see the full blouse...
FYI, I wrote in detail about everyone of these projects, so - if you'd like to know more - look them up by keywords from the captions here. (Generally, I write multiple posts on each project...)

Here's what I'll say with hindsight:
  • I made many fewer projects this year than in 2011 but I like most of them much more. In fact, I used these projects as my top 5, though I might have swapped them up with others, without difficulty.
  • The Jalie Blouse is great and it ALWAYS gets compliments, but I will make it with a less stretchy fabric next time. It is cleavage-plus and the drag of the tie leaves my decollete rather on display.
  • The Chuck Sweater is very easy to wear, especially on weekends. I feel so sassy to have made a cable knit sweater that fits so slimly.
  • The Bettie's Pullover, well that was quite an intense project... I manage to wear it at least once a week and, despite its errors, I am tremendously proud that I completed something of such complexity.
  • V8323 has been worn a lot and I feel fantastic in it. It's sexy but appropriate. The colour suits me well - even if it doesn't cry out for attention. It works with jeans and skirts. I love it. Mind you, it doesn't fit well. When first I made it, I thought it did. And, Lord knows, I still wear and love it. But the next time I pull out this pattern, I'm going to have to fix the fit in the shoulders. It's just too wide...
  • And finalement, my tailored suit. Ah, this holds a special place in my heart though it is the least worn of all these projects, by far. I think I've worn it 3 times since I finished it in May. What can I say, I don't wear suits unless I go to fancy meetings. And the weather has to be right for this outfit. I love this suit for so many reasons: it cemented my friendship with my fitting friend S, it taught me so much, it's beautiful and fits very well, I was able to use the most phenomenal Italian silk (gifted by Mardel) as the lining. The colour is fantastic. But man, what a nightmare project. I really learned the value of a well-drafted pattern during the construction of the jacket, about which I wrote at length.
So that's my Top 5, at least today.

Which do you like best?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almost Time

Ever since I learned the craft, I've been wanting to knit something like this:

Elinor's Jumper by Knitchet
Or this:

The Perfect Christmas Jumper by Susan Crawford
Or this:

The Victory Jumper by Knitsels

(Is that last one Intarsia?)

In truth, stranded colour-work freaks me out. It seems so fussy. And I really can't knit continentally at this point (I've tried - not tremendously hard, but I've tried) so working one colour with the right hand and the other with the left hand seems implausible.

Are any of you English-style knitters who also make fabulous Fair Isle sweaters? Is it difficult? Or does it just look that way?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Earth and Sky

Here's the finished Sisika Scarf:

I'm actually really pleased with it, though I can't say I'll be running out to find crazy-ass variegated yarn again any time soon.

In the end, my version was shorter than the pattern suggested it would be and, because I was working with a double strand of yarn - from 2 balls simultaneously - I was extra-concerned not to run out of yarn. I probably could have got one more six-row repeat out before the closing sequence, but I wasn't gonna chance it.

What do you think?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Updated: Having My Cake (aka I Sewed Something)

I realize that all of this will have no ballast without a photo, but I only have so many hours in the day and my many crafts are whispering from the dust-bunnied corners like scary little poltergeists. So I will either upload a photo of me wearing the dress (best case scenario, if I look good tomorrow am) or (less best case scenario) on the dress form. In the meanwhile, please read on. I promise to rivet you with sewing-talk.

OK, here are some pics - but they really don't do the dress any favours. Why is black such a bitch to photo?? And why are the days so freakin', depressingly dark? Needless to say I've lightened the crap out of these photos, largely to no avail. See the updated section at the bottom to see what I've learned from a day of wearing a wearable muslin.

You can see how I've widened the span of the gathers. Note: This is dress is slightlytoo big for the boobs on my form and it needs some tweaking still on me... The dress form underarms are catching the sleeves - I fucking hate those things. The dress doesn't fall like that from actual shoulders.

Yeah, peeps, it isn't 6 p.m. and it's pitch black.

For starters, OMG, I actually sewed something. Given that my output for the last 6 months has been approximately one garment a month, I think that deserves a round of applause and a glass of wine.

What I sewed was this: the Tiramisu dress from the newly-formed company, Cake Patterns. People, we live an in enlightened age, one in which increasing numbers of young, independent (female) designers have taken the risk in starting their own pattern lines. Sewaholic and Colette come to mind, but Cake Patterns is an early cohort. And the woman who's formed it is but a young fawn, to my mind. Goes to show how creativity really is the purview of youth.

The thing that impresses me most about this pattern is the lightning sharp drafting. I mean, we have Tasia designing flatteringly for the "pear-shaped" among us and Colette reinventing the concept of cache in home-sewing, but there's something so smart - and almost incomprehensibly complex - about the 20 unaltered bodice sizes one can mix with a variety of waist sizes - that Steph's pulled off with this pattern. (Read more about it here...)

Having followed her blog for a while, I'm not surprised. It was really a joy to assemble this dress. There wasn't one unintelligible element. Furthermore, Steph got all of the instructions onto one piece of paper (double-sided) and they are clearly, visually-presented. This isn't an introductory beginner pattern, IMO, but one that an enthusiastic newbie could reproduce.

OK, onto my particular experience:

I find it amusing that, despite 20 unaltered bust-size options, I fall into the category of those who need to modify the bodice aka do a full bust adjustment (of sorts). Don't panic! Given the genius construction of this pattern, it is actually fun!

Why did I, of all peeps and the only one who's written about this so far (as far as I know), find myself in this position? Well, cuz I'm at the smallest end of the upper bust measurement scale (what's known as the 30 category) and above the largest end of the (proportional) bust circumference measurements, which align with the upper bust, what's known, kind of confusingly as "D cup". The cup terminology is confusing because it doesn't actually accord with a bra size D cup in any real way. The "D cup" is simply proportionately aligned with the various upper bust categories, larger than the A cup, B cup and C cup that precede it. Personally, I would have referred to the full bust circumference measurements by terms other than well-known, and rather meaningless in the scheme of things, bra-sizing terminology. But it matters not.

On the diagrams below, I am at the top left of the upper chart and mid-way down the second chart all the way on the right side:

Photos courtesy of Steph's Blog...

Those of you who can go straight across, on the same row, should be able to make this without a bust adjustment. Given the numerous options, I sense you are in the majority. Those of you on the diagonal skew, well, welcome to my world.

Now the fab thing about this is that there's a diagonal line that more or less bisects the pattern (the one to the left of the grain mark with the arrow) that allows you to increase the bust size without undertaking much effort at all:
Simply slash it from the bottom to the top, leaving a little hinge at the top (those of you who do FBAs will be more than familiar with this concept) and open the two sides to the degree you require in order to increase the full-bust circumference. Of course, you'll need to tape a piece of paper behind the original pattern piece so that you have backing for the new width. You will also need to true the bottom of the pattern after you do this, by adding a bit more length on the right-hand side of the opening once you spread the two sides. The larger the FBA, the more true-ing you'll have to do. So make sure you have a wedge of paper for under the bottom of the right-hand side too.

I widened the pattern 0.5" (at the base) and there was barely any true-ing to be done.

Arguably, this pattern is very generously sized i.e. it fits really large and calls for much more fabric than you need, IMO.

As an FBA-doer, here's how I can advise the pattern will likely also need to be altered in terms of construction:
  • You'll need to increase the width of the gather zone on the front bodice. The pattern makes it 2" wide (at least in the 30D size). I ended up adjusting it to be 5" wide because I needed more gathers a) to span the width of my lower bust and b) because the FBA made the bodice larger than what I required, arguably, so I needed to diminish the width by gathering over a wider span.
Other thoughts:
  • I had to take an extra inch off of the side seams (.5" on each side) to get a fitted dress.  Chances are, if I had made an unaltered 30D and hadn't taken in the side seams in that extra amount, I would have been fine.
  • Steph is obviously designing for a short person with a short-waist because I didn't need to take any length out of the waist - or off the bottom of the bodice piece (that attaches to a waist piece that runs approximately the length of one's full waist).
  • Furthermore, in terms of the skirt length, I think it's kind of perfect. I hemmed it by 0.5" (which, in a stretch fabric, doesn't really need a lot of finessing, despite the fact that the skirt is very full). I used a firm, good-quality ponte knit that doesn't have a lot of stretch. In a flimsier, stretchier knit, I sense the hemming might be a bit trickier than I found it.
  • Let's talk about the pockets: I know that Lauren said she doesn't mind the fullness imparted by them (and which she attributes to a stretchy, thin fabric). I used a totally different weight of fabric and I also found the pockets gave a very full profile - not just at the supposed-to-be-curvy full hip, but from where they start right under the waist - at the high hip. I believe it's the nature of the positioning of the pockets. What I'll say is that I might try inserting them again but, next time, farther down. If I get the same result, I'll omit the pockets going forward. I don't find the fullness flattering - and I'm not particularly large-of-hip.
So there you go. Pls. stay tuned for pics. And in the meantime, tell me what you think of the Tiramisu - or the alterations if you've already made this...

Updated fitting info after wearing the dress:

OK, this bodice is nowhere near as ready-for-wear as I originally imagined. It's too big in some spots and too small in others, namely:
  • I sense I didn't need the FBA. There's just too much fabric over the breasts which then gapes when I sit down or move in certain directions. While standing and walking everything hangs properly, but particularly above the bust apex, it's too big.
  • On the flip side, the bodice is not long enough. I could make it another .5" - 1" longer. It's not very observable because a) the dress is black, b) the depth of my breasts is kind of deceptive and c) the gathers do hit under my bust - just not at my under bust rib cage.
  • I either need to dart out the gaping fabric or revert to the original 30D size - but either way, I need to make the bodice longer overall.
  • I really like those pockets so I think I'll have to find a way to keep them. They're surprisingly swishy-comfortable to put one's hands in.
For this version, I'm simply going to attach a snap at the join of the v-neck or sew it down, but I will be correcting the fit in the next go round.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Winter Warmth

I've been keeping the florist in business lately:

Tree isn't real, but it sure is pretty. This photo was taken by M.
I actually have more bouquets than reasonable places to put them. Guess those are the troubles to have...

I meant to wait for my big splurge till later in the week, shortly before my parents arrive, so that all the flowers would be as lush as possible. I hope I don't have to restock at the last minute.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Today I am baking and blogging and knitting (not to mention hair-saloning) - all in the name of the season...

And here's what I somehow intend to be able to fit into the equation (if only partially):

Tiramisu Dress by Cake Patterns

Lauren's version threw me over the edge and now I can't stop thinking about having one of my very own (not that I haven't been waiting on this pattern with great interest in my own right).

Gotta say, I am so happy my kid is old enough to look after herself. Cuz I have no idea how I'd add parenting into this mix.

PS: There's a new Cake pattern out today in the Etsy shop and it's on pre-sale discount.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Breaking the Mold

I sense the writing's on the wall. Based on reader feedback, preliminary research and what I can deduce (though Figleaves did advise this eve, that it has a new order on the Fantasie Smoothing Underwired Balconette due to arrive in 2013), it's time to find an alternative staple basic beige bra (aka "nude" in my skin tone).

Let me recap my many needs:
  • It's got to be supportive.
  • It's got to be vaguely attractive in cut and material. I don't expect it to be exciting, but if I end up at the hospital or (far better, if just as unlikely) having some kind of quickie in a fancy hotel hallway, I don't want to be embarrassed by it. 
  • It's got to be without seams or any embellishments having profile. No lace. No texture. Just smooth and seam-free.
  • It's got to have under wire.
  • It's got to be flexible (aka soft cup). Firm molded cups are not for me. We can debate what molded means, but for the purposes of my needs it means anything that has even a slight hint of built-in cup structure - foam in even the slightest amount, padding, chemical shaping etc. 
Apropos of that last bullet, practically all seam-free bras are molded. That means the fabric is chemically altered on a mold to produce a structured, seam-free shape having the appropriate cup volume or that the fabric is seared around a foam mold in the chosen shape. You know these bras - they stand up on their own. Sometimes they're padded (the ones with foam or inserts), sometimes the molding is less extreme but the bra remains somewhat breast-shaped at all times. 

I really don't know how this bra-type has become so popular because it fits most women rather poorly. Well, I'm pretty sure the reason is that it's cheap to make so it's been in the best interests of brands to market them well. No seaming means reduced labour and less intricate design. While retail stores have promoted molded bras as good options for women of different breast sizes, they nearly always gape on the smaller side. Furthermore the shape does not tailor to one's breasts. It forces the breast to conform to the mold. 

As a sewist, I can tell you that seams are magical, from a fit perspective. They mitigate gaps and puckers. They promote symbiosis between the breast (given all of the parameters of its shape and size) and the bra. Molded bras often gape at the side breast or pucker at the gore because they're a blunt instrument. They also tend to add volume with structure. Furthermore, the shape they provide seems artificial, to my eye though, in truth, I do prefer a pointed cup, which many others find just as artificial-seeming. I can spot a molded bra a mile away. (Note: for a "standard" shaped, symmetrical small chest, molded cups can work just fine. But on women of larger chests - and that's an increasing proportion of the bra-wearing population - they tend to fall flat.)

What to do? Most seamed bras, while they contribute to good fit, have seams. Most molded bras, while they often fit badly, are seam-free. Which is where the Fantasie Smoothing Underwired Balconette comes in.  It manages to give good fit in a soft cup (i.e. not molded) without seams. 

For what it's worth: Many women, while they purport to love the Smoothing Balconette, do acknowledge that the style falls down on fit in one way - it often puckers at the top of the cups if the wearer has bottom-dense breasts or one breast that's larger than the other (in that case, there's often puckering on the smaller side). As one of those women, let me tell you that it's not visible under clothing in any way and said pucker is largely correctable by repositioning of breasts in the cup and shortening the straps accordingly. This kind of proves my point, above. Without seams it's really hard to work around differences in breast sizing or asymmetry. 

OK, let's leave behind the molded bra rant. I've beat it to death, largely because it's so germane to my next step. 

We now know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I will not buy a bra with an inflexible molded cup. We also know that, in addition to the soft cup, I require under wires no seams - and all of this in a larger than a department store standard cup size and a smaller than department store standard back size. Gotta tell you, them pickins is slim.

Stay tuned for some options I've researched, which I'll present in my next post on this topic. And please feel free to weigh in with some options you might know and love.
But, today's question: What's your take on the molded cup? Love it? Hate it? What's your rationale?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

No, I'm Not Joking.

OK, just to give you the latest update on the cursed lingerie order from hell, I received the last outstanding bra - remember, the resend of the resend of the wrong size, today and it's the wrong fucking bra.

What I mean is (and I'm still trying to verify whether I ordered incorrectly or the warehouse shipped incorrectly), the reason the first shipment and the second one were so horrible, oversized (and hideous) is because they've been sending me the Smoothing Underwired Full Cup (this is all over the invoice and the tag), not the Smoothing Underwired Balconette.

Just to make matters more complicated, there's an online version of the Smoothing Underwired Bra that's neither billed as full cut nor balconette, which seems to be the one I ordered.

How many fucking versions of this bra do they sell??

I am quite confident that I've ordered the same bra time and again and I've heretofore received the balconette.

Now I'm trying to figure out, with the gracious assistance of Figleaves, whether the style has changed substantively (and what I'd get, were I once again to reorder - this time specifically the balconette - is not the same bra I've bought many times).

Let me say, I'd much rather be at the tail-end of the worst fucked-up order and shipping experience I've ever had (and hopefully will ever have again) than to discover the style is no longer the same. Cuz I rely on this bra, people.

For now, as we muddle through and sort things out, I'll simply say this: DO NOT order the Fantasie Smoothing Underwire Full Cup (if you somehow locate it on the website or anywhere else) - not unless you want to find yourself in possession of the ugliest piece of underwear that's ever been created. And you know I have a soft spot for the ugly, sometimes.

It's ugly in the most fulsome fashion - the edging is inelegant, the wires too long, the fit substantively oversized. Don't even try to wear this under a scooped t-shirt - it's too high cut in the cups. The straps are over an inch wide and additionally reinforced in a cheap-looking way - these are wider, perhaps than any others I've seen.

Now I know you may say that they wouldn't keep making it if there weren't a market and, Lord knows, I'm not the arbiter of what looks good on everybody's bust but seriously, it's horrid. I can think of 40 more lovely, equally supportive bras that are more accurately sized and that come in a huge variety of sizes. You don't need to do this to yourself.

I'll weigh in on the balconette as soon as I have more info. And, if I decide that this isn't gonna fly either, I'll have to advise you of a work around. It's my sworn duty as the online lingerie-fairy (this is how I self-identify, whatevs).

When I have promoted this bra, in the past, I am NOT referring to the full cup version I have thrice received as part of the order of doom.

As you were.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


This time of year is proving to be very, very busy on the "real life" front, so I haven't had much time to blog. Just want to check in quickly to remind you all me not to go all Xmas-insane. I have no idea how I instantly morph into a poor-gal's Martha Stewart as soon as December hits. By way of dodging all the at-home fanfare, our goal was to go to Quebec City (aka Santa's Village) over Christmas but for various reasons, including my illness, that just didn't work out. So instead (though, secretly, I swore I would never do this again) I'm having the entire world over. What I mean is: I'm so happy to have the chance to host everyone at this time when wine appears to be off limits.


Last weekend, on the seasonal front, I somehow managed to:
  • Put up a tree
  • Trim a tree
  • Wrap all the presents that have heretofore arrived
  • Make sable dough (for baking next weekend)
  • Make salted caramels (5 gifts worth)
  • Make a freakin' banana bread (the kid guilted me into something she could eat "now")
  • Knit 20 per cent of a sweater (gift)
  • Hang a portrait wall of paintings (posters really, that must be replaced by something realer) in my newly-painted bedroom
all while arguing with Scott and M at regular intervals! Only 8000 more things on the To Do list and I'll be ready to chill.

As you can imagine, those intermittent throat ulcers are back. And I really have no one to blame but myself. I mean, seriously, do I have to plan boeuf Bourguignon for pre-Xmas-Xmas dinner? What ever happened to ordering Indian??

My other secret, however, is that - in many ways - I am actually coasting. The packaging for my handmade baked-goods is the exact same as that of last year (I didn't even reprint labels). For that matter, so is the roster of baked goods. I have enough wrapping to last till Armageddon, so I didn't buy anything new. Fuck complementary colours under the tree. As you know, I purchased almost nothing in-store. So there you go, tons of gifts without even having to put on a coat or outwit a crowd. People, I shopped while watching TV (shhhhh).

Here's what I hope for us all (and, for me, this may involve a Christmas miracle): May we be love-bitten by the true spirit of the holidays, whichever ones we feel like. Take that in whatever way it works for you: Want egg nog? Drink it. Love lunching with friends? Make a reservation. Hate decorating? Then don't do it. Tired? Hang out and coast. 'Tis the season, after all.

On a related note: Go to an open house, even if you're unconvinced. Eat a bite of gingerbread cuz your colleague made it specially and it's from a family recipe, even if you don't much like it. Enjoy the pleasure of others as they expend effort to motivate yours.

And definitely smack anyone (wink) who whines about being overcome by perfectionism. Christmas is not an excuse to indulge in that compulsion. :-)

PS: On a TOTALLY unrelated note - unless we put this under the heading of Presents I Got for Myself: Today I wore my new boots and my new coat and I am utterly convinced (like I wasn't before?!) of the value of buying quality. I walked to and from work (more than 7km) in those boots with nary a twinge of ouchiness. They are so comfortable - and gorgeous! And my coat was as warm as could be (it recently got chilly here) outside but, so light that it didn't threaten overwhelm me while I waited for my coffee in the crowded shop. In fact, it was as comfortable inside as outside. Not to mention that I got numerous compliments. Of course, I'm not suggesting that we buy what we cannot afford but I do think  a stretch, now and again, especially if one eschews volume for quality, is a very good idea. The Rosedale ladies call it an investment.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sugar Coated

Despite my seemingly endless online purchases of late - as Xmas gifts (I work on the premise of 1 gift for you, one gift for me) etc., there are two things I needed to buy this season: boots (check) and a new winter coat.

My go-to winter coat has (so sadly, since I continue to love it) really seen its last wear. It's a first-edition Soia & Kyo, back when they did strange shapes and closures. Mine is made in a dense, waffle-weave wool in winter white (ha!) with beautiful drape and a funnel meets shawl neck. The colour goes so well with my pale, blond, green-eyed complexion. This coat is also fairly light, in the scheme of winter wear. The older I get (yeah, this is one of those sentences), the less inclined I am to reach for one of my stylin' heavy coats. Who has the interest to carry 20 extra pounds on a 45 minute walk?

Thing is, and bear with me here as I milk this story for as long as possible, I didn't think I was going to find both of my "need" items within the same 24 hours, especially as I'm not in-store-shopping this year and a coat is an investment I feel warrants buying only after trying.

My friend, Sandra, and I went to Terroni on Queen West for dinner last night. Usually I only eat at Terroni for lunch (I feel it's a better meal), but we gave it a go and we both think this ristorante institution has upped its game lately. Interesting side note: This is the restaurant where Scott and I dined on our second date in 1995?! Twenty years after opening, this place is always fantastically busy. After 7pm you'll wait in line for an hour. Last night was no exception, though we avoided this by arriving at 6:55. We sat next to a mum and her incredibly cute, 2-month old baby named Astrid. Other side note: I'm always amazed by how so many people bring their kids out for "late" dinner to incredibly noisy places. As we were leaving we saw a young boy (5ish) and his parents waiting at the back of the queue. I can't imagine that would have been a fun time for any of those peeps. Am I totally boring/old school and the only person who wouldn't even consider doing this? I mean, I won't even wait in line without a kid, much less with one. Anyway, hipster kids have mettle, apparently.

Sandra and I chose to walk to the restaurant, which gave us an opportunity to window shop along much of the length of Queen Street, going west. What with my current lack of fortitude for crowds, it was not my intention to stop in anywhere.

We stopped in everywhere.

On the plus side, everyone I know got an extra present. On the other plus side, I bought the most INCREDIBLE winter coat. (If only global warming weren't leaving us with plus zero rainy days most of the time, but that's another discussion.)

OK, here's the story: A gorgeous boutique, named V, opened 3 weeks ago and is the latest brainchild of Kaelan Sullivan (she of 69 Vintage). Kaelan is one of those people you really have to meet to believe. Seriously, for a brief moment I wanted to get all flexible with my sexual orientation and leave my regular life behind. (Note: I have no idea of her sexual orientation - I'm speaking only for myself!)

At any rate, we walked into this store, largely populated by elegant fur and old military wear, and I had to try on. I had no intention of buying a fur coat, I swear. But the first on I put on (winter white, hip-length mink and fox) looked so fucking awesome on me (really, like Candice Bergen in 1977) that I knew it was gonna be a hard walk. This fur most definitely would have cost thousands of dollars in its day. Alas, it was not inexpensive in its current incarnation.

A few facts:
  • Most, if not all of the fur at V, is vintage dead stock from the Hudson Bay Company furrier cold storage. That means its been unworn and living in perfect conditions for upwards of 50 years. You could find any of these coats at Holt Renfrew (but for their styles, reminiscent of their eras), that's the kind of perfect shape they're in.
  • The shop-collection is beautifully curated. Lady-like offerings from the 50s are interspersed with crazy ewok bombers from the 80s. And dresses and muffs and military boots.
  • My coat is of a transitional era - the late 70s (by my own estimation). It heralds the "bigness" of the coming decade and it's incredibly practical i.e. reversible! The alternate side is made of taupe fabric and the fox collar (that runs down the entire length of the coat) is beautifully visible from both sides. This was the style for a working woman, albeit a rich one.
  • It weighs approximately 4 oz. OK, I don't know how much it really weighs but I don't know that I've ever felt a coat this light, much less one that wears like a portable furnace.
  • Sandra and I had a debate about this, but I do not think this is a coat for a younger woman. Sandra said that age is not a factor in wearing beautiful clothing, one's personal style is the defining element. OK, her argument sounds better than mine, so I'll say that I could not have worn this when I was younger. It's VERY luxe.
Back to the bottom line... My aim was to bargain, respectfully - this is one of my special life skills - but it didn't quite go as planned. See, the coat was mismarked (having just come back from a photo shoot). It was wearing the tag of its neighbour (a totally different animal, literally), a fact that would most likely have gone unnoticed if no one had started asking questions. I should have realized it. My coat was of a much higher quality than the price tag would have led me to believe. But, given that I was in a vintage boutique, I thought I was getting lucky.

The coat I wanted was actually hundreds of dollars more than the (wrong) tag had led me to believe. And cost on that original tag was high enough to have me angling for a discount. Egad.

Kristin of an earlier era would have left that coat behind. She had less money, sure, but more to the point, she didn't understand the most valuable of life lessons: When the shopping goddess throws you a fucking gorgeous, totally practical, incredibly flattering, completely unique, REVERSIBLE freakin' vintage fur coat that weighs no more than a cloud, you buy it.

In the words of my mother: Pay a lot for quality, cry once. Buy cheap, cry forever.

Last time I applied this principle, I got the most gorgeous wood floor anybody's ever seen and I only ever consider the price in terms of how smart I was to say fuck it, we're buying this.

My negotiation skills got me the coat for the same amount as shown on the original tag, still at the very, very, very upper limit of my comfort level, but far better than the coat's actual price which would truly have put it out of the running. I do have to prioritize many purchases in my life (not that my current purchasing habits would lead you to believe this), especially at this time of the year.

I will only show a photo of this coat on me - it's nothing on the hanger, IMO. When worn by me, however, I'm some sassy, second-wave feminist executive with a Swedish husband who looks like a Ken doll and a ski chalet at Whistler. It's quite a life, let me tell you. :-)

Friday, December 7, 2012

Food for the Sole

It's amazing what you can blame on the lack of light, for example, my newest purchase:

Liuba Boot by Lamica (never heard of this brand but I think it's German, though the boots are made in Italy). There's not much about the company online. I got mine at Browns
In truth, I have been wanting to get a new pair of boots - not "winter-weight", but chic and leather - for as long as I can remember. For years I've rotated through pairs of the ubiquitous Franco Sarto Scala stretch boot. Those don't last more than 2 years but they're compatible with just about any outfit and, cuz they're not leather (though designed to look like it), they're durable in most weather (though not snow). Note: The Scalas are not as shiny as that link photo would have you believe, but definitely get them in brown rather than black (to minimize the fakeness).

Here's the thing. Fake leather is not my bag, but I have exceedingly narrow calves. Lots of peeps will tell you about the misery of not being able to buy boots because their calves are so prominent or thick but it's just as hard (in terms of shopping for knee-high boots that look good) for the skinny-calved among us. Look, I'm not saying that slender calves are harder in general, just in terms of finding well-fitted knee boots. And every pair I've ever found that's fit (and that's about 5 over the last 10 years, not that I bother much) has cost a living fortune.

Because the Sartos work so adequately (though I'm paying $200 bucks for fake leather aka practically plastic), I've been lulled into a state of inertia.  They really do fit my calf perfectly and they fall nicely. However, the Scala really doesn't jibe with my "buy quality" philosophy. Don't misunderstand, the boot is fine (till the surface eventually scratches off on the inner ankle and you can actually see fabric underneath???), fine enough that I've owned many pairs.

A knee boot with beautiful slouch is a non-negotiable staple, from my perspective. It reminds me of the terrific offerings of the late 60s and 70s. My mother had a pair and I thought they were so elegant. A slouchy knee-boot goes perfectly with short skirts, long skirts, jeans (wide or narrow), pants of all stripes. I mean, in a zillion years I wouldn't wear fake fur. So why I'm wearing plastic at the age of 42 is beyond me.

Today I went to Browns, which is having a fairly good sale (esp. for pre-Xmas), to rectify the situation. I knew I wouldn't get off cheap, but I hoped I'd at least find something that would fit for less than the usual $600. (Sidebar: Why there's a proportional relationship between narrow boot shafts and expense is beyond me. I mean, shouldn't the wider shafts, which require more leather, be the ones to cost more??)

The Liuma called to me. The colour is fantastic. It's the shade of brandy, seriously, and the photos above don't do it justice. Furthermore, while they could be narrower (the very widest part of my calf has a circumference of 13.5"), there's no visible gap between my leg and the boot. (Can't tell you what a hideous look that is, IMO.) And the leather is a supple, Italian calfskin that, I sense, will crease and wear beautifully. Sure, this purchase wasn't cheap (after tax they came to $340 on sale), but I wear the Sartos, on average, 4 days a week for 8 months of the year and every time I put them on I regret that I'm wearing plastic.

What you can't see in the photos, and the ones I found online don't really show this off to good effect, is that there's a cognac leather insert that runs up the back on either side of the seam (above the ankle), that both defines the shape of the ankle and provides a rich design element.

So, today's questions are these: Do you like my new boots?? (Leading question, I realize...) Do you struggle with this shape of boot either because your calves are thinner or thicker than average? Have you heard of this brand and can you enlighten me about its origins? Have you worn the Sartos and, if yes, what are your thoughts about them? Let's talk...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Part Blue Sky, Part Mushroom

I actually think this thing is coming around:

Not to jump the gun, but my sense is this the scarf will not turn out to be overly open-knit (hallelujah).

It seems that short rows play a role in just about every knitting project you can imagine. Here, there are 4 short rows between Rows 1 and 2 and a repeat pattern of 6 full rows. Those short rows are like little wedges on the upper scarf (the outside curve part that looks a bit ruffle-y - cuz it is!).

I sense this is about half way finished (given how much yarn I have left).

I actually think the progression of colours is quite lovely. It's somehow like a cozy scarf and a miserable winter day, all at the same time.

What do you think so far? Do the colours appeal to you? Is it a weird shape, as far as you're concerned? Do tell...