Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Then and Now

The last vintage pattern I knit:

Forgive the over-exposed, washed-out photos...

The next vintage pattern I'll knit:

Late Day Abbreviated Coat - you can purchase the pattern here...
 By the look on her face, wearing that coat will be very satisfying.

Monday, February 25, 2013

In Sanskrit, Yoga Means "To Yoke"

Where to begin, as I sit here nursing a martini? I am all over the place. I should be knitting. I should be planning. I should be cooking.

Instead, I'm blogging. What can I say? I'm a writer first.

Let's start with an update on the Spring Suit. I can count the number of times I've done this on one hand, but I gotta level with y'all: I am leaving V8333 behind.

Don't fear! I'm still going to make a tailored jacket (if one that's slightly less "couture"). And I'm also going to work with S on her V8333 - cuz she's still into it. But I'm moving on because, quite honestly, I don't much like the look of this garment on me.

In truth, we had a better-fitting muslin of this garment before I made the drastic changes leading to where we're at now. It's now far too big everywhere, having added onto that side front piece like a nutcase. S and I recognize we took a bad turn somewhere. (Um, hello, this IS kind of rocket science.) The fix is to a) start again at the very beginning (given the insane shape of the current muslin) or b) say goodbye and make another jacket (starting with a totally new muslin, natch!) that might actually suit my shape better than V8333.

I'm conflicted. You know I don't like to give up on things. Mind you, I do realize that I could persist, spend another 40 hours on muslining (that's how much I've spent so far), use 200 bucks-worth of materials and not love the end result because, really, on me this thing is kind of dowdy.  It emphasizes my widest parts and de-emphasizes the small and nicely-proportioned ones.

The point is, with the benefit of a test garment (and a fuck of a lot of work), I'm opting to do something that will turn out better. I'm not giving up because I can't do it. I'm moving on because the process has served its purpose.

It's not my fault, neither is it the pattern's. In fact, I'm glad I get to go through the V8333 process with S, because this jacket looks much nicer on her frame.  Mind you, I still feel kind of crappy about this turn of events.

I've chosen a new pattern, by Burda, a brand I've never tried because I'm afraid of the overlapping patterns. S says the drafting is superior, in her opinion, to just about any other company. She also offered to trace it for me - which is outrageously nice of her and I didn't even try to resist out of politeness. I considered it briefly, then realized I was really grateful not to have to do it, and said thank you very much. BTW, more to come on the new pattern soon, natch.

OK, onto the next thing... I went to a lovely TO blogger and sewist meet-up organized by Gillian and Adrienne and I am so thrilled to have met some wonderful peeps. I had no idea there are so many representin' for this town! Of course, I bought new fabric and notions that I probably didn't "need", let's face it - which I'll no doubt discuss in coming posts. Crowd mentality is dangerous! :-)

And on the topic of stuff I don't need, the Fabric Mart Modal arrived. What a disappointment. It is entirely different from the original order (aka the batch I bought last year) - to the extent that I almost don't believe it's Modal (not like any I've seen before). Furthermore, it's peacock green! Like crazy, light-green meets blue (sort of). Aquamarine, my ass. I might even have returned it, what with my recent purchase of Tencel that has basically the same drape and fall, but that would be way too much effort. Who can say. I may find a great use for this stuff and recant my current bitch, but you're just gonna have to wait for it. The colour is out there, though.

OK, finally (presuming you are still reading), here are a few shots of the Indicum Pullover as it stands currently:

This is my first yoked sweater and I find it fascinating... It's all wrinkly cuz of the front (which is underneath it) but I assure you it's a lovely, old-school look.

Whatcha think of my first attempt at stranded-colourwork?
In a totally bizarre turn of events, I've managed to accomplish most of my 2013 "goals" in the first quarter of the year. Phew. Now I can get on with the under-functioning! :-)

I'm going to write about this project in more detail, of course, but I will point out that I should have made a smaller size - as always... And I made the second smallest size. And I'm not exactly a waif.

Also, there's not as much shaping as I prefer, nor is there any stretch to speak of in the ribbing at the neck or hem. Plus, they curl (as others have mentioned). I do hope this blocks out.

On the plus side, the fabric isn't nearly as ugly as I thought it would be. It's insanely soft (though, here's hoping there's good recovery in the stretch once one wears and blocks it). For once I made a sweater long enough. And, it's got lovely lines. Very lovely lines. Plus, it fits in the shoulders which is the arbiter of fit, IMO, as you know.

Lord, this is rambling...

Today's questions: Have you ever begun a project and stopped after the muslin stage cuz you didn't like what you saw? Do you feel bad or like you "failed"? Or, on a totally different topic, whatcha think of my Indicum Pullover? Have you made a yoked sweater in the past? Do you like the lines? Let's talk!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Rich Fantasy Life

I suspect, in my memoir, I'll entitle this chapter "The Year I Spent at the Doctor's". Just got back, this time for M, who seemed to be getting better from her 10-day sickness but then coughed, seriously, for 4 hours straight last night (and increasingly over the last 3 days). We kept her home from school again today and Scott and I did "working people scheduling gymnastics", handing off at the doc's which is not particularly conveniently located for any of us. Now she's on antibiotics and a puffer - and expected to feel better over the weekend. I'm trying, admirably, to finish a presentation for work but there's whining in the background...

Have I mentioned this ever-increasingly recurring fantasy I have wherein I live in southern Italy, in a small town - my ancient (but refurbished) flat on a quiet, winding street? The ceilings are 20 feet high. The windows go from top to floor. Cooling drapes float in the mid-afternoon breeze. They keep the high, bright sun from encroaching overly. The palette favours cool-green, a washed-out, minty hue. The rooms are temperate, the day hot. I sit in my mid-century-meets-functional (but sleek) salon, with a rustic glass of Chianti. Hejira plays on the fancy stereo. On the wood plank, there's a loaf of crusty bread with the most lofty, bubbly interior. It's there to sample cheese I've never heard of, from the local farm, an hour away. Conversation with my husband is awesome. I am keenly aware of my great-fortune. I feel rested and healthy. Dinner reservations are at 8. That's enough time to drink the rest of the bottle and have some great sex...

Really, this miserable winter has to end.

On the plus side - but SO far from that fantasy - my order arrived in what, 3 days?!?! The box weighed at least a pound and there was no customs charge and I only paid 15.95 in shipping. That's about as good as it gets.

What do I think of the fabric? I like it. Is it awesome? No. Is it Modal? Nah-uh, though I ordered that too, from Fabric Mart. (Note: Totally suboptimal customer service at Fabric Mart, IMO. More to come.). The yellow is pretty garish, and I might never use it. This fabric is thin - Tencel tends to be, though the high-end (RTW) stuff has a bit more body than this batch. The slate blue holds up best - obvs dye-depth impacts the body of this fabric a lot. The grey is better than the yellow - and entirely usable - but not as good as the slate blue. All in all I am happy with this experience and, in the future, I will be on the lookout at for good knits, the likes of which I find almost impossible to come by in my own garment district.

So, bowl of soup eaten and bitching accomplished, it's time for me to get back to work.

Today's questions: Have you created a rich fantasy life to get you through this winter? Does it include Europe? Or fabric? Let's talk.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

La Cage Aux Folles

I'm totally crazy. Not sort of. Not a little bit. Like 110 per cent, completely loopy crazy.

To wit: I managed to buy 7.5 yards of Tencel fabric online today:
Dark Grey

Sunny Yellow

Slate Blue - my go-to neutral
Yes, the girl who's only bought fabric online twice and both times vowed never again, has apparently done it again. 

But I have a rationale.

Y'all remember my last online fabric purchase moment. It convinced me to just say no. But my memory is short. And the fabric I purchased then - specifically the Modal I just used for yesterday's Coppelia wrap is of exceptional quality. Honestly, I'm wearing that wrap today - which everyone seems to love, btw, despite my showing off all the fit flaws - and I am nuts about the fabric.

So I went back to to get some more. It occurred that I might just buy 3 yards in any and every colour and be done with it. No luck. Instead, I found Tencel - a very nice knit when you get the good stuff. Flattering and drapey, but not quite as firm as the Modal. It's less close-fitting, "fitness wear" than the Modal - not that the Modal looks exercise-y. 
(Hilarious sidebar: The reason I couldn't find my modal at is cuz I originally bought it at Fabric Mart. There is some modal left there. Though only in one colour (acquamarine). BTW, this fabric is a bitch to find. If you find it, and you like the colour, buy in bulk.)

A propos of that (and you can trust me): When you want good jersey, it's nowhere to be found. And, for what it's worth, just about any time is when you want a good jersey. So it pays to think ahead.

Ahem, but then there's the issue of shipping "internationally"... Last time it took weeks and way too much time to shepherd 4 yards of fabric from point A to point B. And the shipping cost was high ($30.00).

I am seriously hopeful that supplies good Tencel, because I've just bought 7.5 yards of it in 3 colours. Um, shipping, you ask: $15.95. For 7.5 yards. Now, peeps, that's my kind of delivery charge.

On the topic of quantity: My new guideline (strangely - it's exactly what Tasia's talking about today) is 3 yards. Unless I've got a project in mind - and it'll take more than 3 yards - or it's super pricey, or kind of crazy (yellow tencel, for example) I'm going with 3. That way, I'll have enough for a muslin and a "real" garment in the same fabric. Or for a dress. Or if I make a mistake. Or enough to give away.
And, thought I, if I'm going to pay a crazy shipping fee, I might as well get the max fabric it will support. This philosophy kind of let me down, happily, since the shipping was way less expensive - despite volume - than I expected it would be. And it's USPS, my preferred shipping method. Sure, who knows if I'll be charged customs fees. But that's a risk I've got to take, now and again.
I just don't know what to do about the Modal now that I've bought Tencel to the tune of 7.5 yards.  Fabric Mart shipping costs are a) much higher and b) unknowable until you buy and they cut and package. I've been told they can get 3 yards into a mailer, which will be under 40 bucks. I have to assume it will be about $20.00. The colour's not my first choice, but it will flatter me and I FREAKIN' love the hand of this stuff. And the price of the fabric, if not the shipping, is very reasonable.
I sense I'm talking myself into it... 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sewing Review: The Coppelia

OK, I've got a review of sorts today, on the Papercut Patterns Coppelia. It's picture dense (on the dress form - I haven't washed my hair in 3 days...) and not entirely positive.

Let me lead with the good: The pattern is beautifully presented on paper that's easy to trace or store. The instructions are clear. The garment is very simple to sew and the designer employs some nice techniques (the neck band, hem ties and cuffs).  For a relative beginner, I think this pattern is quite doable. Furthermore, the garment could be considered an au courant spin on a timeless shape.

Now onto my issues...

For starters, have a look at the envelope photo:

I can't begin to get into the numerous things I dislike about the styling (they could have shot this woman in so many more flattering and "attractive-to-purchaser" ways), but that's not why I'm showing it.

Do you see the way the sweater pulls on the left front near the armpit and along the upper bodice? Do you see how the sleeve ripples as is moves towards the armpit?

Sure, this look is modern and slouchy (like the kids these days, ahem) but I don't think that's why those pull lines are there. I sense the pull lines are a sign of suboptimal drafting. And when you're only working with 3 main pattern pieces, that's perplexing, quite honestly.

A note on this pattern's questionable sizing:  On reading other reviews (there aren't many), I opted to make the XS with a modification. That mod was to use the size S for the front wrap - only the front. I deliberately didn't impact the armscye in any way.  I have rarely seen a pattern with sizing this askew. Moreover, as I'll discuss, the challenge originates at the sleeve piece, IMO.

Have a look at some shots of my version:

You can see similar pulls, a la pattern envelope shot, at the bust and at the arm.

Note that I made the arm in an XS and I still had to remove more than an inch from its circumference (tapering to the armsyce which I didn't want to mess with - though that's what really needs the work) and the arms are still WAY too baggy.

Do you see how low the raglan sleeve seam is on the front?

Do you see how high it is on the back?

Look, I'm no pattern drafter - that's why you don't see my cute marketing all over the internet - but I sense that the sleeve was designed to drop at the front to give some additional space for the bust curve. Alas, it limits mobility of the arm and it makes the side look weird and droopy:

What I think needs to happen here is that the front of the raglan sleeve needs to be made smaller (shorter, aka higher up the body) to provide a mobile fit in the armscye. Of course, that means that the front piece would need redrafting. As is, there's not enough length over the bust curve (sure, my bust requires a lot of length, but the model is practically boob-free and the same thing is happening on her). With an altered front armsyce, the need for more fabric over the bust would be increased still further.

I've been wracking my brains trying to figure out the fix in the front bodice (presuming that one altered the sleeve). I sense it would need a dart (one that you could move to the side if you wanted to) but it requires more fabric over the front which can then be shaped at the side bust.

Furthermore, do you see how my version is drooping at the front waist? That's probably cuz I tried to solve my "needs more room at the bust" issue by making the centre front line of the front bodice in the size S (vs the XS used for the back and arms). What I neglected to consider - at my peril - is that the negative ease that works to my advantage in the full bust, also applies at the waist. That means that this thing is way too big at the waist. When I pull the ties around snugly, a good 2 inches of the bodice follows the tie into the side-slit opening. It's a really bad look anyway you slice it and, while I can fuss with things to stop it from happening, then the front droops down because the waist is too big.

I should also mention that, as you know, my dress form is wider than me and has less-deep breasts. On me, all of the problems are more notable (though less unattractive, I like to think, what with me being sentient and having some pretty nice boobs to distract from the larger issues). I put a snap at the wrap point to keep things from gaping - not that there's much gape, but I would wear this without anything underneath and I don't want any slips. Alas, the fabric is so drapey, that one can see a slight pull where it attaches (when the snap is done up, which it isn't in the shots above).

Brief sidebar: I finally used my modal fabric and, Lord, that stuff is awesome. I'm sad that I spent it on this design - but it is the perfect drape and hand for a sweater of this sort.

I do recognize that the low front raglan seam and over-large sleeves might be a design feature, albeit one that I find universally unflattering. What I will say is that this design will work best on a tube shaped torso rather than an hourglass. If you have proportionately large arms, wide shoulders, small breasts and a waist measurement that is not so different from your bust measurement, then you're in the best place to get a "good fit" from this top. While the model, above, is very slender you can see that in broad strokes, that's her shape.

Will I wear this? I don't know. I've become insanely fussy on the fit front. Chances are I'll give it a go and, if in the real world, it stays put / is comfortable when I move, it might have a role in my wardrobe. What I'll say is that the fabric is beautiful and the colour looks terrific on me. Also, wrap tops are a flattering look on my body. I don't know that anyone else is going to be attuned to the fit challenge (as I see it).

I'm on the fence about ordering the Pavolva - basically the same look, though I suspect the drafting will be superior and done with boobs in mind. I think I'm going to wait to see how other versions turn out before I spend the not-insignificant amount of money it costs. I have more patterns than I know what to do with.

So, today's questions: Do you agree with me on the fit issues, or do you think I'm crazy, that this is merely a design element that I don't like? Do you like the top? Would you make this design? Do you think the cost is excessive (25 bucks before shipping - though shipping charges appear to be on hiatus at the moment)? I'm so intrigued to hear what you think about this!

Update to reflect my husband's opinion: OK, just tried the top on with jeans and my husband said: Man, that looks great! He then followed it up with: It's attractive, youthful, sexy and - if you wore it on a date - I'd totally want to do you. So, apparently, I might have been too hard on this pattern. Caffy's comment is duly noted...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Good Reads: Bra Fitting

Check out Undiegamer's post on bra-fitting (complete with very useful photos) and this new classic on clarifying breast shape by Bras I Hate and Love.

Very useful reading, both.

So, are your breasts full on top? On the bottom? Or, like mine, are they "evenly full"? What brand works best for you? What's your biggest fitting challenge?

Let's talk!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Long Weekend Logistics

It's a rare thing for me to go into a weekend without a plan, much less a long weekend. But I'm at bit at loose ends. For starters, poor S is really quite unwell. Two weeks after coming down with a wretched bug, she is still struggling. So I don't think we'll be back at the jacket fitting till next weekend. 

To add to the fun, M is also super sick. She's going on 3 days of fever, cough, chills, body aches. (It's just like me a week ago.) Truly, I have to hope and pray that she's got a version of what I had, because I cannot bear the thought of contracting something new. Poor thing is so miserable. She rarely gets sick and you can see that this is freaking her the fuck out.

Really, my goal is to sit here on tenterhooks (but healthily), doing a bit of knitting and perhaps a special sewing project.

What project?

Well, my friend Nicole - having had a couple of glasses of wine and on reading Lauren's post - decided to buy this:

The Coppelia Wrap, photo from Papercut Patterns
Alas, she's not going to have a chance to look at it for a week or two, so she's lent it to me for tracing. I do realize that it's good and proper to support small pattern companies, especially those that produce such lovely packaging, but I have no room for anything new on spec. Not to mention that the marketing - to slender, youthful hipsters with nary a curve - is really not my scene. I've decided to try making this. Assuming it works, I will purchase my own Papercut pattern posthaste.

On the topic of my new Empreinte Lola (which, I realize, we were not discussing): OMG that bra is perfection. More to come, but I have to say it's the hottest, most comfortable, supportive and perfectly-fitted thing I've ever worn. And I own some great bras.

But back to sewing... What do you think of the Coppelia? Have you made it? What are your thoughts on Papercut Patterns? The vibe / marketing? The fit? The packaging? Let's chat.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

In Which I Tell You That I Went For a Bra Fitting

Peeps, I've got an interesting story for you today. We can even call it Valentine's-themed though, in truth, that's just an accident.

For starters, I received the Miss Mandalay Amelie and, no question, it's GORGEOUS. It's beautifully-made, it's sexy, it's old-school. But it is not firm. I'd go so far as to say, if you've got dense breasts (at any size) and you're moving into middle-age (when breasts often increase in weight, if not size), then it may not be the style for you. 
Look, I've only got my own tits to go by, so by all means, buy it and tell me I'm wrong! The thing is that the material used has a lot of give. In some instances, even stretch. So if you're breasts need some big lift (by the combination of band support, firm cups and straps), it's potentially not optimal. By contrast, the Miss Mandalay Paris is super-firm and supportive - and also gorgeous (though by no means as luxe as the Amelie). You can find them both here.

The Amelie fits small in the cup - but generously in the bottoms. I considered whether to reorder a larger size, so appealing is the design, but I couldn't tell if I'd need to go up one size or two. To be honest, I don't have the stomach for anymore online bra purchase returns in the near future. So I sent the set back. (Let me say it again, LCL is an excellent vendor which I totally recommend.)

Given this experience - and many others of late - I won't lie. I was perplexed. I was confused. I was unhappy. WTF is going on with my boobs, people?? Or my sense of sizing? Am I no longer the queen of bra fit?

There was only one way to find out. I went out and got re-fitted at a bra boutique. 
I'm not going to get into details about which boutique because I have a number of issues with it on the basis of officious corporate policies. (Plus the prices are outrageous.) But I have never doubted this store's commitment to excellent fitting and the skill with which the fitters approach their role.

It was a fascinating - if outrageously expensive - experience.

Some things I learned:
  • I am decidedly in a 30 band at this point. 32s are too loose.
  • Cup sizing is very different from brand to brand. I mean, of course I know this, but I was very surprised to find myself in a smaller size (than my presumed standard) in every bra I tried on in store - despite my challenges with online shopping skewing to the "too small" end, at least as often as "too large".
  • None of the bras I tried in store was a Freya. Apparently, perhaps one reason why I've been experiencing numerous bra woes on the online front is because, so the fitter told me, Freya (the brand I order online most frequently) has gone pretty low with the materials and manufacturing over the last 3 seasons. I can corroborate that every bra I've bought in the brand - for the last year - has been narrow in the cup and the wires are short (compared with those in the same size from previous years). The fabric is also cheaper-seeming. Look back over my lingerie posts. You'll see a record of this.
  • I will not be buying Freya online again anytime soon. Not unless I've tried on the bra at a store first.
  • You know that lingerie blogger question du jour: Are my breasts full on the top or full on the bottom? I have vacillated in my opinion about the distribution of my own breast tissue many a time. According to today's fitter - and she does see more real-life, unclothed boobs in a day than I do in a year - my breasts are neither. The density falls squarely over the mid line, says she. Which is probably why I refer to my breast profile as "deep" far more often than I refer to it in any other way.
  • My breasts are also close together (in the scheme of close set vs wide set). Add mid-breast depth to close set and you have a shape that challenges wires to lie flat at the breastbone. This has only just occurred to me though I've had difficulty with gore placement forever. In the past, I've blamed it on shallow fit. But it's more specific than that. "Shallow fitting" bras are often shallow at the midline, but still too wide at the sides. Hmmm...
So, what did I try on? Mainly Empreinte. Why? Well, Loves, when you go to the bra store on Feb. 14 (just a fluke, I swear!), your choices are limited. The only remaining options are mega-expensive ones. Which when you're already dealing with an expensive boutique is, frankly, scary. Furthermore, while this is a brand I have wanted to try for many years, I wasn't willing to pay for it before now, so I knew well enough not to bother. (What good could have come of that??) I have tried to order it from Europe on a couple of occasions, at a discounted rate, but they're serious when they say that trade agreements prevent the online boutiques from shipping it to customers out of the EU. If you want this shit, you've gotta pay.

I bought 3 bras and a pair of undies* and it cost me $615.00.

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Yeah, I spent a plane ticket's worth of money on 3 bras and a pair of undies. Amongst them, these**:

Inadequate photos from here and the one below is from Figleaves UK
The two bras above are the same - the Empreinte Lola  

This one is the Empreinte Kaela (couldn't find an even vaguely decent shot of the undies). What is it with this brand and the bad photo options?? This material is awesome...

On the plus side, these offerings do make my tits look like something out of a French film or a pin up calendar from 1958. They fit SPECTACULARLY. OMG, I was really starting to wonder about whether my perfect-fit bra days were behind me. Of course, it would be lovely if Freya could go back to the old ways and make affordable bras that look this good on me. In the meanwhile, who really needs a college fund?

*You may wonder why I didn't get the undies to go with 2 of the bras. One is black (and the undies cost $175.00). The other is "basic beige". I have undies galore that can act as reasonable matches for each these. Though it's not my preferred way, I couldn't justify spending another 200 bucks, before tax, on 1/4 yard of fabric.
** I will discuss the fit of these - and the qualities of the textiles - in more detail in another post.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Pick Me Up

Here's my second version of the Tiramisu dress:

It's made from wool jersey - a hard find in these parts. Like the denim for yesterday's leggings, I bought it at King Textiles.

Here are the deets about my first foray into the Tiramisu dress.

I modified this version by reverting the front bodice to its pre-FBA width. My first version was too gape-y because it was too wide.

This time, instead of width I tailored to my deep bust by adding 1" length to the front bodice.  This is easily accomplished because the bodice can gain its length by sloping towards the centre from the unaltered side seams. The side seams stay the same, even though you gain length over the bust.

I overdid it a bit and I think the length could be scaled back to 5/8" on my next go round. Point is, this dress is highly scalable whether you have a wide bust or a deep bust.

This fabric is very stable i.e. relatively stretch-free (for a knit) so I didn't have to smallen it up by taking in the side seams in excessively the way I did on my first, ponte version.

Alas, I had a mishap when stabilizing the gathers and sewing the front waistband onto the front bodice. It's a boring story, but after the fact, I couldn't rip the stitches out (due to the nature of the fabric) so I had to do some fancy footwork. It wasn't optimal and, though the dress is wearable, this isn't my opus.

I did intend to make this version with a 3/4 sleeve, interestingly, but I had only 2 yards of fabric (less than 60" wide) and this pattern is a HOG. I actually ended up shortening the skirt by 2" and I even left the hem raw. I used every inch of fabric except a section that was damaged and spotted with rips.

I leave you with this photo:

It's no glamour shot but it truly captures my inner imp. Whatever you imagine I'm thinking, well really, I probably am. :-)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I Sewed Something. (And This Post Comes with Photos.)

If you are intrigued by pics of me wearing stuff I've made, then you're going to be all into the next couple of posts.

Recently, I alluded to the fact that, over the past couple of weeks - with the awareness that most of my sew-jo is going to be spent on the tailored Spring Suit - to spend a bit of time each evening prepping a couple of "simple" sewing projects. (Note: Is it just me or is nothing actually simple?)

I decided on a new version of the Tiramisu in navy wool jersey and another pair of the Kwik Sew denim leggings, as I'd already sorted out fitting for both of them. Alas, you know that every fabric is its own mysterious experience, so I might as well not have considered myself safe on fit.

Anyway, everything was going well: One night I'd prep fabric. Next night, review the pattern. Next few nights, cutting fabric. You know, really "sensible" style. And then I got sick and a crap-load of cut up fabric sat on the floor of my sewga room driving me nuts. Does your sewing ever taunt you?

Finally, today I felt better enough to sew, and sew I did.

First up, photos of denim leggings (long-winded story on ridiculous fit issues to follow, below):

FYI, I realize they are marginally too tight. That's part of the story... Also, they haven't had any chance to stretch - as they always do!
I find this photo inexplicably humorous. I'm like a kindergarten teacher in skin-tight denim.
Here I am, working my sex-ay. Note, however, my cool styling with the boots. It's double zippers!
Scott called this one "Canadian Gothic" and I had to include it - in all it's wan-ness - because it really does show you how I feel. This pic is saying: I'm fucking tired of this winter. No one does pallor like me.
OK, on with the story...

I bought the denim with S when we went fabric shopping recently. It's REALLY nice. Alas, it has (maybe) 10 per cent stretch. My other Kwik Sew (3807) denim leggings were made with very stretchy denim (like practically yoga material) and so, last year, I fitted the large-fitting pattern to that fabric. Well, when first I tried on one basted leg of these (which is to say "attempted to get them over my ankles") I suspected it wasn't going to be an easy sew.

I spent the first 2 hours absolutely certain I was wasting my time. The only reason I kept going is because I have a kid who's a bit smaller than me - and because I wanted to sew.

How I "fixed" things:
  • The SAs are serged to 1/4" - 1/8", depending on where you look. And then reinforced!
  • As a result, I had to cut the SAs on the zippers, and fray check them. Interesting side-note: The zips are 2 diff lengths (7" and 8") and I don't care! I kept it that way on purpose and I think it's weird and subversive. Plus, you really can't tell the difference unless I hold both legs up to you, exactly at the same height and tell you where to look.
  • I wouldn't have bothered with the zippers - which took a LONG time to figure out in light of my sizing plight - but I knew it was the only way I'd be able to get these things on and off. Note to reader: I NEVER have to worry about inserting zippers to give room for my calves. So it gives you some idea of what I was working with.
Not a fix - but before I cut this, I did lengthen the waistline by 1 inch as my previous pair was muffin-y low. Alas, it ain't enough! I have decided that I hate anything more than a cm below my navel and I don't need to pretend otherwise. From now on, I'm making everything high forever! First thing I did after finishing the pants was to go to the pattern and add another inch to the waist height.

Note: Even though denim with a stretch waistband is not art, it's a very good solution when you don't feel like buttoning. Especially if it goes up high enough.

While there's pulling in the crotch right now, I'm actually fairly convinced it's going to stretch out. I've never had a pair of pants that didn't get too big in that area after wearing a couple of times.

On the plus side, I've refined this pattern still further and I continue to be happy with my original crotch length and depth alterations, made a year ago. And I've determined that I much prefer it with a stiff denim, all things being equal. So maybe, next time, I cut a version with an extra 1 inch seam allowance. Note that these are made in the size small - and I mini-ed and changed them up still further to fit my shape.

So, whatcha think?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It Varies

So, I knit up (and blocked) some swatches of the Malabrigo Finito.


turns into this:

More mulberry, less slug!
This is a mini-circular swatch with the stranded rib. Reason it appears twice is because I was testing 2 different needle sizes...
What I will say is that it is definitely less ugly knitted than in the skein. And I think the cashmere contrast yarn works very well.

Everyone says that Malabrigo is the softest yarn ever. I didn't believe it because, well, the yarn is not outrageously soft as you knit. I mean, it's soft, but not noteworthily so. Mind you, when you block it, something bizarre and alchemical occurs and it goes insanely, unbelievably soft. With NO halo (hallelujah) and excellent stitch definition. The yarn is also very manageable. No splitting or acting up.

Keep in mind, I don't care what they say, it isn't cashmere. But it's a very good approximation for a fraction of the cost. Plus, it's less fragile than cashmere.

A couple of other things:
  • The Indicum sweater may use fingering-weight yarn, but on a US size 5 needle. That's going to knit up about 5 times faster (as far as the swatching goes) than fingering yarn on a US size 1 or 2 needle. That works for me.
  • I'm not saying I like this yarn, just that it's growing on me and I can appreciate certain of its many properties.
Seriously, I've never done so much opinion-backtracking since I started knitting.

Friday, February 8, 2013

This Is One of Those Posts That Goes Everywhere...

Just in time for "Snowstorm 2013!" (bish plz), I finally finished the next pair of socks:

Weird how the browns (caramel and khaki) are inverted between the two socks, yes? BTW, not one to pass by a gizmo, those are my new sock blockers. Truly, handmade socks dry in 30 minutes on those things. I'm not saying I intend to hand wash my socks, but if I must wear them between machine loads, it's good to have options.

Upon finishing these, it occurred to me that I was without a knitting project. (Note: Between muslin 3 of the suit jacket, and a couple of other sewing quick wins - to be discussed in my next post - that I started prepping for before I got my current bug, I have less than no business considering new knitting. But there you go. This post isn't about showing you my practical streak.)

The great thing about being sick in the modern era is that, as long as the Advil is working, you can absorb yourself in the internet. My evening was spent, under blankets, watching reruns of Law and Order (I've spent basically 6 weeks bedridden since Sept. and I've yet to re-watch a rerun in that time. What is up with that?) and doing "research".

Full disclosure: Brooklyn Tweed's latest look book just came out and I could not stop myself from purchasing some e-patterns and yarn. So, technically, when this arrives, I will have a new project.

Moreover, I totally love these:

Ooooh, pretty colours! This scarf is actually a flattened tube so the stranding is hidden.

I really have a thing for the flowy, oversized, convertible cardigan, people. I decided that, if I like working with the BT yarn on the shawl, I will invest in some to make this cardigan.

OK, back to the point of this all, my next project...

I have stash yarn, though not in large volumes, with the exception of this:

Malabrigo Finito (fingering weight)
It's the stuff I bought, in a fit of sickness-consumerism last fall, from Habu. In truth, I never would have purchased it if I had seen it up close. It's a bizarre mulberry-meets-pink-meets-dirt. And it's hella variegated, IMO.

It's actually been tormenting me a bit. I tell myself I will not buy more stash until I use it. Each time I look at my stash, it follows me with its gaze. Side note: I also keep telling myself I'm done with fingering weight for a while and then I decide to make fingering weight shawls and socks. So, apparently, I'm an indecisive wreck.

Anyway, I have no ability to leave this house right now. While I am very happy to report that the fever and chills have abated (knock on something pls.), my cough sounds CDC-worthy and I have the energy of a slug. (Other side note: It occurs that the yarn is vaguely slug-coloured. Hmmm...)

What's a girl to do but to choose her next project on the basis of the yarn she already has in her hands?

I used the Ravelry search feature, typed in the amount of yarn I had to knit, the weight of it, and then I waited (a millisecond) to see what thousands of options would be open to me. Intriguingly, of 2000-odd choices, the only one that seemed to work with my yarn (knowing what I do of it) is this one:

Indicum Pullover by Hilary Smith Callis
Intriguingly, the designer is she of the Kimono Wrap Cardigan, my very first project. (BTW, the link feature just fucked up again, so no more links in this post...)

Now, here's the punchline - if I haven't lost you in one of the preceding 63 storylines: This sweater has stranded colour work.

Hilarious, yes? It's like the universe is colluding with Gillian?! It's only in the corrugated ribbing bands at the sleeves, hem and neck (see the pretty contrast colour woven into the rib?) - and I didn't realize it until I'd purchased the e-pattern / got myself all set. Otherwise, I can assure you, I would have removed it from my cart.

The other punchline is that I appear to be making yet another fingering-weight sweater on the heels of a fingering-weight sweater that made me decide to swear off fingering-weight sweaters. But really, that's a bit "standard-issue Kristin".

Here's the fun bit. I used that colour work book I just bought and managed to figure out, fairly easily, how to do the stranding. I'm only using my right-hand for this because it's knit/purl stranding. Much stranding is done in the round so that it only requires knit stitch. I will be knitting this in the round and, yet, making the float on a purl stitch. I realize, this is super-boring if you've no interest in colour work, but the gist is, it hasn't tested my ability to knit Continental-style at the same time as British-style (one strand of yarn in each hand), an ability I strongly question. I guess, as with everything, only time will tell. BTW, the contrast colour I'm using is the slate-grey (with purple undertones) cashmere of the Princess Jumper.

Now I've worn up a day's worth of energy writing this and it's time to retire with some Law and Order. But please do comment on whatever element of this post might catch your fancy. Which pattern do you like the best? How do you find corrugated rib colour work? Have you ever knit a sweater in a shade of "slug"? Do you like the socks? Let's talk.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

This is Sick

In a turn that borders on the ridiculous, I am home with body aches, chills, a chest cough and a fever. On the plus side, I can breathe. And, the back room of my main floor is such an energy sieve that it's actually 5 degrees cooler here than it is anywhere else. I think this may be the first time I've ever been grateful for my "winter air-conditioning" scenario. I merely disclose this in the event that you don't hear much from me in the next couple of days. And to get sympathy. (Seriously, just a joke, I have used up a lifetime of sickness sympathy from y'all. I'm just grateful if you're still reading :-))

Anyway, let's focus on something fun and frivolous. And expensive (relatively):

Miss Mandalay Amelie set
That's my newest lingerie purchase from LCL. I can't tell you if it fits, cuz it hasn't arrived yet. But I can tell you about the most wonderful customer service experience. After reading reviews of the fit of this bra and the undies, I wanted to purchase sizes that weren't in stock on the website. I emailed Cha, my trusted contact, and she followed up with the manufacturer directly to get me the items in the (hopefully) right sizes. Then, she invoiced me through Paypal and sent me the set on the same day. Did I remind you about free shipping? Seriously, I LOVE LCL.

I would welcome fast delivery on this one, not because we near Valentine's Day - I am impervious to greeting card holidays and, in a great irony, my husband doesn't care about any of my lingerie - but because I'm so excited to see it in real life and to try it on.

I was on the fence when first I bought the Miss Mandalay Paris (I got mine in cerise), but it's worn beautifully, it fits amazingly, and it really is daily-wear sexy.

I realize that it's not a new seamless basic, which is what I really should be researching at this point, but my practical streak is a little bit worn out. I really just want to surround myself with pretty these days.

So, today's questions: What do you think of this set and, if you own it, how does it wear? Do you buy sexy lingerie at Valentine's, or do you think it's a stupid "holiday"? I want to know.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Mending Manifesto

I spent some of yesterday darning 3 holes in a machine-gauge cashmere sweater. You know what I mean by machine-gauge - that's "store bought" thickness, which is to say, very slim. Let me start by conceding that you're not going to see me on the cover of Vogue Mending anytime soon.

Part of me is horrified by my results. I don't mind telling you that the sweater cost a fortune. Well, I do mind telling you because, on the basis of my fixing skills, it is now worth fuck-all. Admittedly I "practiced" on the most expensive piece of cashmere I own - expensive because a) it's very good quality fiber and b) it's a long cardigan - like a jacket more than a sweater. How I allowed this poor garment to get hole-y is a travesty. 

(I've got an excuse for that, btw, I wore it constantly - till I tired of it - and then it languished in the closet for 3 years. During that time, we had a brief moth incident. Note: Said incident doesn't seem to have persisted and most of the affected sweaters were mended professionally quite a while ago. This one was overlooked, in addition to one other which is SO hideously affected, I think it's only good for pitching. What a terrible reflection of my (former) cavalier attitude.)

I've mentioned that I am taking a new attitude towards a) reviewing clothes regularly for signs of wear b) mending and c) caring for knits of all kinds. 

I no longer dry clean anything that can possibly be washed - or that will touch my skin - because those chemicals cannot be good for me and, in truth, they don't clean anything. Sweaters LOVE hand washing, peeps. They love your care. They love to be gently swished in a bowl of tepid water with high-quality liquid soap (that doesn't strip their oils). They love to get a drop or 2 of, nice-smelling and bug-repelling lavender or eucalyptus essential oil (the good stuff, not synthetic!). They love to be rinsed without agitation and then gently squeezed (not rung), to get rid of excess water. Then, simply roll them in a towel (shape briefly before doing this), dry them flat on another towel, blocked into the size and shape you prefer. A day or 2 later they're soft, lovely-scented, bug-repelling, chemical-free and clean. BTW, that process takes 10 times longer to write about than it does to actually accomplish. 

But back to darning...

I think it's important to observe the likelihood of developmental opportunity when you try something new. It's important to be happy that you're learning and trying. It's important that you achieve the desired outcome (if not perfectly). On those accounts, my darning has been successful.

However, if your idea of good darning is to create a fix that looks somewhat better than 100 times worse than the (admittedly weak-point) booboos then, in truth, I may have failed.

Why did I start with a fine sweater? Well, I only had 2 garments that needed mending. This one needed less mending than the other and I had better mending yarn to work with. Also, the sweater I started with has a much bigger gauge, relatively, than the other machine-knit sweater, tiny though its stitches may be. I know, from experience, I'm not going to practice on test fabric. (It's actually pretty hard to fake-mend if you don't have stuff on hand that's damaged. Everything really is its own beast.) I also know that this sweater was going to be hard to fix invisibly, for anyone. The holes were too well-developed. That's my rationale, anyway.

There are 2 ways to fix knits, so I've seen, and Sockupied (a ridiculously titled, online mag you can get here) describes them clearly both in words and with accompanying video. Seriously, the techniques provided apply to all knit garments and that mag is worth its price tag for this tutorial alone. 

In brief, Method 1 is "regular" darning - wherein you hand stitch a little frame around your hole (3 good stitches away from the hole on each side of it). Then weave into one leg of each undamaged stitch, laying the thread over the hole as you come to it and, once you've completed this in one direction (aka horizontal), do it in the opposite direction (aka vertical). As such, you weave over and under the threads previously laid atop the hole. This creates a little pot-holder-stitch. It's not invisible, it doesn't reconstruct the stitches, but it does produce a strong, stable mend that - in the same yarn - will look ok.

The second sort of mending is actually reconstructing the original fabric and, seriously, it's complicated. It's referred to in the magazine as "reknitting", Swiss darning and duplicate stitching and it looks something like this:
Swiss Darning pic via
I won't even try to explain it, though Sockupied does, very well, but after creating the stabilizing thread frame around the hole (mentioned above but not shown in the illustration), you actually use a double strand of regular thread to create a kind of loom over the hole. Then you weave into and out of one strand of the "loom" thread, stitch-by-stitch re-knitting with a darning needle. If worked in the same yarn, it is utterly indistinguishable from the original garment and it has the same properties of stretch.

I chose to work the simpler method on my sweater because a) after watching the reknitting video 12 times, I still couldn't wrap my brain around it and b) the gauge of my sweater's stitches were SO tiny - and the holes so small - that I didn't think I'd be able to finagle a loom. I still think that. (The videos show mending on chunky yarn that had been hand knit so, of course, it is relatively easy to make the fixes on that fabric.)

Alas, my technique is nascent and unsophisticated. In the day, I'd have learned this skill from childhood and, by now, I'd have darned hundreds of garments. As it is, I'm going to need to practice and some of the garments on which I need to practice will be sub-optimal for that activity because they are very dear. Oh well, that's how the cookie crumbles. I will choose to look at my darning as a work in progress. I will learn to love it for its pragmatism, despite its quirks. And, moreover, I will improve.