Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lunch at the AGO

M told me that she would "literally kill me" if I posted this selfie of us lunching at the Grange:

What can I say, I live dangerously.

I want you to know that I am 45 years old and I'm not wearing a lick of makeup. And I look just fine, thank you.

We walked home and managed to spend a bunch of my money at the OVO store. It was so warm that I had to take off my coat. This is one of those days that keeps us all from killing ourselves before spring because, for 4 hours, there's actually bright sun in the sky at an altitude that one could construe is overhead.

We saw this crazily chorophylled evergreen on the way and I liked its vibe:

Thank God for these glimmers of ease.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Bra Review: Enell Sport

I'm feel mega shitty today. Just as well that both of the people I thought I was going out with later on (and separately) are actually under the impression that I'm going out with them next Sat.  I've really got to work on the difference between "this weekend" and "next weekend".

At any rate, let's talk about a bra. This ain't a cute bra. I'd actually say it's ugly. But keep in mind that I've never seen a supportive sports bra I'd want anything to do with. I bought the Enell (there's only one style, people) at the Butterfly Collection closing sale. Sadly, Claire is moving on from this business (and from Canada). She's going back to England with her growing family and I hope that she does something new and bra-related soon because she's such a beacon. On this topic, it's just impossible to sell bras, in Canada, at the price that the British online companies can. I can buy from the UK for less than I could buy from Vancouver just about any day - even in my own currency and even in light of the fact that Butterfly offered free shipping.

Anyway, here's what it looks like:

Truly, I couldn't bring myself to pay full price for it and this is one of those cult classics that rarely goes on sale. When Butterfly listed it at 60 CDN plus tax but no shipping, I knew I wouldn't be able to find it less expensively. I've kept my eye on it so I know.

The sports bra I use - hilariously phrased because it implies that I actually wear it - is the Shock Absorber N109. I have to say, of these 2 bras, if I were going to run a mile, I'd wear the N109.

Look, they're both rather supportive and designed for women with projected, proportionately-large breasts. But the N109 is much firmer - in fabric and construction. It's also much less comfortable but that's another story. The N109 is an encapsulation / compression combo (read my post, linked to above, for more info). The Enell is all compression, all the time.

I don't prefer compression bras under any circumstances, though I don't suppose they're boob-damaging if you wear them in the "correct size" and just for exercise. I agree that stopping bounce is the primary goal of the sports bra. I just believe that this can generally be accomplished more adequately by bras that both encapsulate and compress. Mind you, to each her own. What I can say is that, when I do a bounce test, the N109 comes out ahead. 

What I will also say is that the Enell is easier to put on, what with those fun hooks that join at the front. And it's way more pleasant to wear. I did yoga in it yesterday and it was totally enjoyable, very suited to that undertaking. The N109, by contrast, is SO much overkill for yoga - and the band is SO firm that it can be tricky when you move into certain backbends or twists. It's unyielding - just what I'd want if I were bouncing up and down and not getting all twisty. It also doesn't smush your boobs all to hell. But the N109 presumes that your boobs are all below the apex i.e. exceedingly full on bottom - to the saggy end of the equation.*

The Enell has a very slippery fabric in two layers, the outer layer of which stretches quite extensively (and is ridiculously shiny), but the under layer of which is firm. It's got a much better under band than the N109, which is why I think it performs as well as it does. But it doesn't have adjustable straps. Hell, it doesn't actually have straps. It's like a sleeveless top that clasps at the front. So if it doesn't fit your vertical proportions, you're screwed.

It happens to fit mine pretty well - surprising since I'm very short from full-bust to shoulder shelf. But I think my projection picks up the slack (the happy story of my life). One of the reasons I've never bought Enell, before now, is that I assumed it would require a longer bust to shoulder measurement than mine. I actually find that the vertical proportions on this thing are pretty excellent, which is totally surprising.

Furthermore, ugliness notwithstanding, you could wear it as a top at the gym. It doesn't look as much like a bra as a "compression top" the likes of which the spinner-sorts wear.

I imagine that the Enell would work best with breasts that are either insanely projected (in a slightly smaller-than-usual size to completely batten down the hatches, as it were) or rather shallow for size (in which case the bounce factor wouldn't be as germane). But if you don't intend to jump around, hardcore style, it's more than supportive enough (presuming it suits your size and shape).

I don't like either bra but I can see that both have their place. My goal is to wear them both when I practice, to get a sense of which is superior, for me. Not that it matters much. Even in a high-impact yoga class, there's no call for the kind of support that either bra offers. And they both give a flattened, ugly shape under clothing.

So, have you tried either or both of these sports bras? How do they work for you?

*Let's just take a moment to explore the word "saggy".  A Bra that Fits (the most floridly PC forum I've ever encountered) prefers the word "pendulous" to describe this phenomenon. I think that word sucks balls and you will not find me using it, ever. Way to PC a scenario into the spectrum of stupidity... The appropriate term is ptotic, as I've mentioned previously. If you're not going to use that term, then pick your poison. Pendulous is a horrid word to my ears and saggy holds no such connotations. Furthermore, who the fuck cares if your boobs are saggy (other than, perhaps, you)? That's what well-fitting bras are for. Some breasts that sag are gorgeous when the bra comes off. Others, that don't sag, are less gorgeous. It's a matter of personal preference and - just as significantly - proportion. To say that saggy breasts are ugly is like saying that long-limbs or short waists are ugly. I think the word has a bad rap because people only associate it with the less attractive examples. Look, some people have unattractive breasts - just like some people have unattractive noses or derrieres etc. To imply that what diminishes a feature is something as simplistic as a single factor is reductive.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Objects - Cowl, Gloves and a Hat

The problem with this stash-busting exercise is that, almost every time I finish a project, I have to queue another with the same yarn (of which I generally have 30 yards remaining). Have I said this already? Here's the deal, there aren't a lot of patterns that take 30 yards of yarn. Not to mention that I'm kind of done with any given yarn once I've made 2 or 3 projects from it. At least for a while. So I was pleased to be able to use up the remainder of my Misti Alpaca, a yarn the origins of which I greatly appreciate (thanks Ruth!), I'm not going to miss the hairiness and halo - even if the finished items are appealing.

Here's what I made with the alpaca stash:

Bust the Stash Project 7 - Seed Stitch Cowl 2:

Note: This is the same photo that I took of the first finished object because the two versions look exactly the same and I really like the photo. (The only diff is that, this go round, I didn't accidentally twist the stitches.) This cowl is a terrific project for a new knitter who wants to make a practical garment that truly makes an impact. It seems that every knitter on the planet has made it so there's no shortage of reviews on blogs and Ravelry.

Can you believe that it's the same yarn as that photographed below:

Bust the Stash Project 8 - Simple Fingerless Gloves:

The colour in the cowl photo is more accurate than that in the gloves photos.

The light here is super crappy at 5:30 pm, when I get home to take pics. What I can say about these entirely uneventful gloves is that I modified them to continue the seed stitch theme in the thumb and top (in case I decide to gift these together with the cowl). I don't think it worked outrageously well, from a continuity perspective, because the gloves were made on much smaller needles.

You'll also note that the glove stitches show some tensile inconsistency. That's NOT because my tension was uneven. One of my knitting gifts is even stitch tension. The issue is with the yarn - a very extensible fiber that doesn't have great recovery (that's how alpaca goes) which was wound in balls for years. In case you're wondering why you shouldn't wind your yarn till you're ready to use it, that's the reason.

I recommend the gloves as a super easy first knit-in-the-round project. They can be made in under 2 hours given the simplicity of the stitch pattern and the gauge of the yarn. The pattern is really well written. (There's no seed stitch component. That was my addition.)

Can't say I'm likely to make them again because I rarely work with chunky yarn and I certainly wouldn't buy it to make gloves. Nonetheless, by casting these on when I was 3/4 of the way through the scarf, I was able to use up every single yard of the yarn. Repetitive scarves are great in that way.

Finally, I made the first of 5 of these hats:

Bust the Stash Project 9 - Ribbed Hat 1

The great thing about this pattern is that it's simple while being interesting to knit. You really do have to pay attention for the crown decreases though - so that's not a social knitting part of the project.

It also takes only about 130 yards of fingering-weight yarn to make an XS adult size (admittedly, it's for a very small adult head). That's generally how much I have left over after making a pair of socks from a 400 yard skein. This hat fits my tiny head well. But for most, you'll want to make the medium or large adult size. That would take about 150 yards, I suspect. I've actually modified the XS to be longer than instructed. It's my way of getting a slightly bigger version because the hat stretches an outrageous amount horizontally, given the stitch pattern. Here's the thing, I only have about 130 yards of all of the stash yarns I intend to use to make this stash buster, so I will be making a bunch of modified XSs, size be damned.  For what it's worth, I sense it will fit most women and teens I know.

It's a very quick knit - as 130 yards is bound to be. I can make one with a little bit of effort in a couple of days.

That's how we're getting on with the stash-busting here. I'm impressed by how this is working out but, natch, I crumbled on the purchase front and bought a couple of Knitter's Pride interchangeable sample kits on Amazon. (WEBS may be more affordable and they sell the kits.) I'll let you know how it goes but, for 68 bucks CDN (including shipping) I got 6 different styles of needles and 2 24" cables and 2 40" cables that are interchangeable with them all. The needles are in sizes US 2.5, 4, 6 (x2), 7 and 8. I don't really like needles thicker than a US 8 so this works well for my needs. And I haven't bought yarn so it's all good.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Finished Object (and Failure): Simplicity 1716 - Plus, A Sewing Recap

I just finished Simplicity 1716 and promptly threw it in the garbage. It's just not a nice pattern (as drafted) on me. It's very unlikely I'll ever make it again but, just to torture myself for an additional 30 minutes, I revised the pattern pieces to suit my shape. At least I think I did. One never knows until one tries.

My pre-sewing, standard alterations worked pretty well. The issue wasn't with the armscye or sleeves. There was enough room in the bust, but not too much. The length was pretty good. And yet, what a failure...

Here's what was wrong with it (on me):

It's simple: The proportion of the front band. The way the pattern works is that an upper front piece attaches to a band (folded in half) which then attaches to a lower front piece. These three pieces form the front of the top. The band forms a seamed segment in the middle of the front piece:
It's tough to see in the tech drawing but those wings that culminate at the the centre knot (views A, B, C) are actually seamed to the upper front and lower front pieces. In that pic, the wings seem like an overlay on top of a ruched front. It's not the case.

My issue is that, given projected boobs, the lower seam (the one attaching the lower piece to the lower band) falls half way over my bust apex. It's super unattractive. IMO, that lower seam needs to either fall above the bust apex altogether - or entirely below it. The issue (seam over bust), which I see on women all the time, just SCREAMS horrible fit. Ladies, listen to me: If you have any kind of empire seamed top that doesn't lie flat at the underbust, give it away. It just makes you seem like you don't know the size of your boobs. Frankly, it's disrespectful to the bust line.

I considered having the band fall entirely above the bust - I think that's how it's meant to be worn - but it was bulky with seams in an area where my body is proportionately short. Also, the upper front, as drafted, is too long from shoulder to upper bust on me, so I'd have to shorten the upper piece in order to get the entire band to lie above the bust.

The way I "fixed" the issue was to put the lower seam below the bust by adding 3 inches of length to the front band piece (may still not be enough because that piece is folded in half when you sew the front together). The piece is an odd, oblong shape that wasn't conducive to this alteration so I had to get spatial. We know how that goes. To compensate, since the rest of the front fit fine, I had to carve 3 inches of length out of the lower front piece. Lord, does it all look weird. But I walked the seams and it should fit together correctly. The only issue is whether or not I added enough length. I suspect I did not but it's dangerous to go crazy with huge alterations. Furthermore, I'm never going to make this again, so who cares? It was more an exercise in conceptual problem-solving than anything else.

To complicate matters (do I ever stop saying this??), the band is the piece that contains the segment that form the centre knot. Those pieces are already too bulky (see below). So my newly altered (and untested) front band looks completely different than the original. If my alteration were to work, I could actually easily modify the "knot" part of the piece to be quite a bit less bulky while maintaining the volume over the full bust. I could describe this in detail but I just don't care enough to.

Point is, I don't like the end result enough to spend a bunch of time on it. This construction mandates a very thin fabric to work at the centre knot and ruched upper bust. (Really there's a lot of fabric bulk drafted into this pattern.) But thin fabric is flimsy over one's less-than-willowy midsection.

Here's what's wrong with it (in general):

The upper front and band pieces, as mentioned above, create a bulky knot which is just not attractive, particularly if you've got an ample bust. Mind you, even if you don't, the bulkiness feels kind of "home sewist". It's not sleek enough.

Also, the knot doesn't come together nicely at all. This pattern is so Twister that it took me a long time to figure out how to get the specifics to come together in such a way that it looked right. I got the concept, but the wings that form the centre knot are too wide and it creates a messy join.

The pattern just isn't designed for a projected bust of any size given the aforementioned seamed front. Projection (not size, specifically) is what torques the lower seam. A wider frame with a wider bust would fit this top better.

The fact that one must use a seriously thin fabric to get the knot to work is at odds with the average woman's interest in wearing knits that slim and hold (i.e. those with more substance).

To Close the Loop on my Recent Sewing Venture:

I sewed 3 garments: The v neck version of the Jenna Cardigan, Simplicity 1716 (discussed here) and Vogue 8323.

Jenna Cardigan: The only wholly successful outcome was the cardigan. I wore it to work this week and got compliments. I don't love the hand of the fabric, frankly, but the fit is good and I can see that, in another fabric, my altered v neck version is going to come in very handy. One can never have too many of these and the pattern comes together easily with a yard of fabric.

V8323: I'm going to give myself half marks for V8323. It's not there yet but I know it has potential and I'm pretty close. Just wish I hadn't wasted the expensive fabric on what turned out to be an unwearable muslin. To mitigate this potential occurrence in the future, I went to FabricLand and got 3.5 yards of very adequate mixed-fibre T shirt knit in the remnants section. The lot cost me 20 bucks, including tax. I just don't get that place. Similar fabric (not in the remnant section) is listed at 24 bucks a yard. That's high on drugs, IMO, since I pay that amount on Queen Street for the good stuff. Well, at least I did a few months ago. Lord knows what the prices will be next time I go to restock. Fucking dollar.

The fabric I got isn't high-end but nor is it inferior. It would make a very nice T shirt, if not an upscale one. I think it's worth about 12 bucks a metre. So I got a very good deal and I can use it with abandon. At 5 bucks a metre it's muslin-priced. But who on earth would pay $24 bucks for it? BTW,  Gillian's the one who taught me to look in the remnants section. Since most of the offerings at FabricLand are shit (I mean really, really cheap) and the decent ones are over-priced, this is really the only way to go at that store.

Long story short, you'll be hearing more about this garment, likely in the near future.

Simplicity 1716: I enjoyed taking on a new pattern and I do think that this top looks lovely on some others who've made it. But it's a full-on failure as far as I'm concerned and I wouldn't recommend it unless you're on the small-bust end of the spectrum. Sure, you can alter it, but you can alter anything. I'd start with a pattern, the construction of which seems less homemade. There are many cute knit tops that'll work more easily for me. I'm going to spend my efforts on them.

So there you go. That's my weekend so far and my latest sewing expedition. Any thoughts on Simplicity 1716, if you've made it? Did it work for you? Let's talk!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The End of the Long Weekend

I've opted to give V8323 a bit more time to percolate. I also want to go to FabricLand and get some less expensive jersey than the fancy stuff I put aside to sew with. So that's on hold till next weekend. Today I worked on Simplicity 1716 and got about 3/4 through. Thing is, I'm not loving how it's going together at the centre knot. I sense I need a bit of time to do some thinking and research on how to debulk the knot. Net result: I've got nothing to show you.

I'm also working on 2 new Bust the Stash knits at the same time (using the same yarn): the Gaptastic Cowl and Surly Sheep's Fingerless Gloves. Let me tell you how I came to knit these projects simultaneously. See, every time I knit something I seem to end up with 50-100 yards of yarn left over. And since Bust the Stash is about the usage of every strand of yarn I currently own, my responsibility is either to find another project on which to use up the anticipated / actual overage OR to put the tiny remnants into the "can't possibly repurpose" baggie. I'm on the hook for so many Bluebirds of Happiness at this point that I really have to hope that pattern is enjoyable. Anyway, to cast on both the cowl and mitts together means that I'll get done with the full yardage of my lovely, but hairy, Misti Alpaca, no remnants. And I don't really love the needles I'm working with, for either project, so the sooner I'm finished with these big needles the better. I don't like

In one way, I feel very organizey-smug identifying new patterns for tiny yardages and organizing my every next move. I sense this is critical to avoid falling into that "I can't really remember what blue ball of yarn this is and I don't really know what to do with it" hole. But I can't say, having now assigned practically every yarn remnant to a project, that I'm insanely motivated to knit every last one.

No worries. I'm going to keep going with this stash bust until I can't stand it anymore. I mean, I still have some enticing, largish projects to get through - a Custom Fit sweater (I've yet to design), for example. But given that every project I knock off the queue inevitably results in a new (smaller) project being added onto it, it's a trick to stay motivated. I'll eventually be left with only the tiny stash-bust projects. At that point, given that every yard will have been organized and earmarked, if I feel compelled to buy some yarn to knit something new (like socks or a "special project"), that's cool.

Having said that, I won't do it before I get well under 1000 yards.

Now off to make some nut milk and a French yogurt cake...

Sunday, February 14, 2016

I Don't Have Good News

I don't know what made me think I could make a zillion changes to a pattern and have the end result fit perfectly. That is decidedly not how it went. But, boy, did it take a long time to get there. I know that you learn more from your failures than your successes but I'd rather succeed - at least more than occasionally.

I said I'd throw this pattern away if I didn't achieve greatness this go-round. I can't do it. I'm too captivated by the mere chance of future success. Today I made a zillion changes (if small) to the pattern as I went. I'll show you the pattern pieces tomorrow. Right now I'm fucking exhausted.

In brief, here's what went right:
  • The bust alteration was really sound. Moreover, I would win any contest at easing in bust fullness on a princess seam. If you can manage the spherical action I've got going on, you can sew any curve. 
  • The lowering of the waistline worked just as I hoped it would.
And here's what has to change:
  • The shoulders (minus the width of the side front and back - which I altered from shoulder princess to armscye princess) were an inch too narrow on each side - partially cuz they were just too narrow but also because I somehow didn't have enough height in the back collar. Somewhere along the line I started changing the construction at the back collar, necessitating less height, and I don't know if I finally sewed "as instructed" today or what went wrong, but now I need the height I removed at some point. The net result is that the shoulders are hiked up and the armscye is too high.
  • The surplice is now too closed (though this is no doubt exacerbated by a weird fix I did to get the front and back to align given that the back collar was too short and the shoulders were too narrow). As a new alteration, I removed a 1" wedge from the inner front shoulder (where the facing folds over), tapering to nothing about 4 inches down from the shoulder, so that it will be more open. Now I've got to remember to add an inch back to the outside shoulder or I'll have the same problem with the shoulder width that I had with this version . I so don't understand how you can take width from one place, only to add it back at another place (in the same plane?!) and it achieves the necessary change in fit. Or so I'm hoping.
  • My angles on the side panels (once shoulder princess panels, now armscye princess panels) weren't quite there. They weren't far off though! Of course, I might have done myself a favour by looking at some actual armscye princess seam side pieces on the web before winging my alteration. No mind. I will tonight (having already altered the pieces to fit as I think they should).
  • I had to alter the sleeve where it attaches at the underarm  (0.5 inches of additional width on each side, tapering to nothing half way down the sleeve) because it's now too snug under the arm, given all of the other changes I've made. This is something I NEVER have to do. I think I've been going a bit crazy with the high underarms and every time I make changes to some element of the pattern, it affects things in other places I can't predict (see bullet point 1). I should clarify, my altered armscye and sleeve are still higher  than the original pattern's because Vogue drafts for tall women with a smaller than average full bust. Of course, changing the height of the back collar may obviate the need for this alteration, but I figure I can more easily fix things, next time, if I have too much fabric rather than too little.
The irony of this is that I can't predict the outcome of these new changes but I'm compelled to give it one more try. Did I mention I wasted 35 bucks worth of gorgeous modal - again. It was the only fabric I had enough of in my stash (this pattern is a total fabric hog). I think I can eke out one more shirt from the @1.5 yards I've got left but, if not, I'm gonna have to buy some new fabric. Which is stupid.

Oh, I'm in that crazy post-sewing head-space where everything seems so huge and meaningful and intense. I need a bit of perspective. Or maybe a degree in fashion design.

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 6 - Kindling Mitts 2

I realize that these mitts look almost exactly the same as the last pair I made, like 2 ago:

Kindling Mitts 2 (made of Quince Chickadee)
Here they are, slightly overexposed, so that the cables show up clearly....
Yeah, they're both navy blue, if different shades, but that's where the similarities end. This pair is made in Quince Chickadee whereas the other pair was made of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (a blend of microfibre, merino and cashmere). The Cashmerino is a remnant from years ago. It's a very slim, super soft, sport-weight yarn and it stretches a lot on washing (I believe it's super wash). The Quince is its polar opposite in many ways. It's made of a robust sport-weight yarn (more like a DK). It shrinks like a bitch if you try to wash and dry it. It is definitely not super wash. It's a crisper, springier, thicker yarn than the Cashmerino.

I really enjoy both of these yarns and I intend to keep one pair of these, though which I can't yet say. I love the soft delicateness of the Cashmerinos but the Quince pair is likely going to be warmer given that it's thicker and given the way the yarn is spun.

Yeah, I agree. These are the problems to have.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Finished Object: Jenna Cardigan - V Neck

I'm really happy with how this version of my Jenna Cardigan has turned out. In truth, the "original" round neck version is impractical (unless you choose to wear it closed all the time). Otherwise the round neck falls open un-chicly at the collar, when unbuttoned. I much prefer an open V:

Jenna Cardigan - Modified V Neck Version
The buttons start underneath my full bust and the V lies very nicely (at the perfect length). I also really like how I placed the cable (horizontally) around the sleeve hem band.

I had to cut the button band out of 3 pieces (there are 2 short pieces seamed to the longer band at the height of the hem band seam - midway through the buttons, about 3 inches from the bottom of the hem band). Since there's already a seam attaching the hem band to the bodice, I didn't see it as too much of a deal breaker even though it isn't quite as elegant as a band unbroken by a seam would be. Nonetheless, I'm pleased that I found a totally acceptable fix for what might have been a serious problem.

Optimally, I would have considered that V neck collar and button band are attached in one piece (not a collar and a separate band, as with the round neck version) before I cut everything out, thus limiting the dimensions of my remaining fabric.

I'm surprised by how straight in the waist this garment looks when it's not being worn. It's actually super fitted and (as the pattern pieces prove), quite distinct between waist and hip. And while the band cable placement is off-centre (see below for explanation) the sleeve to back placement of the cable is spot on, on both sides.
The thing that just didn't align was the placement of the cables on the button band. They're off-centre with those on the bodice. I should have cut this band longer (wider around the high hip) so that I'd have had more options for placement. As it is, it was just the right length and, after the fact, there was no fixing the issue. The fabric is in a pretty muted colour though, so I don't think the misplacement is particularly noticeable.

I spent a lot of the sewing process convinced this was going to be too small yet again - because the fabric is SO firm and thick. It's effectively quilted jersey. There's a black piece of (smooth) fabric backing the knit. It's almost like a double knit but the 2 sides are made of different materials. Point is, the fabric sucked up just about every bit of extra ease I built into this latest version of the garment. I'd have done well to sew with smaller SAs (like 0.25" rather than 0.3"). But the fabric is also very strong, so it has the effect of seeming more like a fitted knit blazer rather than a cardigan.

Can you see how the fabric is really textured, almost spongy?
I really like how the placement of the cables sits on the front pieces. It's a perfect mirror image and the button band was cut with a recessed length of the fabric - not with one of the cables (which would have been too wide and too bulky).

I was really worried about the fabric: Would it's thickness be too much for my serger? (Thankfully no.) Would it be too firm to fit at the dimensions I cut? (It's good - if snug in the armscye- and that's before it's had any chance to stretch with wear. This is the kind of fabric that isn't going to stretch much but it also won't have much recovery. Usually I'm very in favour of recovery, but with a thick fabric and a fitted garment, sometimes that initial stretch can get the fit to cohere).

Though I made my alterations on the fly, afterwards I opted to buy the Muse pattern altered pieces in the Jenna Pattern "expansion pack" so that I could see how mine compare. I prefer mine (though the angle's fairly similar). My V neck is a couple of inches lower (more open) which is a more flattering length on my body. The expansion pack also has a collar version (so not my thing) and comes with the relevant bands and front piece for the V-version. It's a good expenditure of 3 bucks if you're new to sewing and you're nervous about how to turn a round neck into a v neck. Really, though, I didn't have to read the instructions or to trace the pattern pieces to construct my revised version of the garment. I just folded down the neckline on my existing round neck version to see how my proposed V would lie. Then I cut a longer button band (but, as we know, not quite long enough!). My error wasn't in the concept, it was in the execution.

At this point I've altered V8323 and Simplicity 1716 (I'm going to make View A but cut to the length of the top shown in View C) and I'm ready to pull out the fabric. I hope I can make these up between now and Tuesday when I go back to work. Better still if they fit! I've invested a lot of time into V8323. It would be a shame if it didn't work out cuz it's unlikely that I'll persist with it after this (unless it's really close). The Simplicity pattern is a longshot. I have made my standard alterations to the paper pieces, but the construction is not one I've done before, so I can't really modify it as effectively as I might otherwise.

That's me so far this weekend. What do you think?

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 5 - Kindling Mitts 1

I'm very pleased with these Kindling Mitts. They use up @110 yards (in size small, US 6 needle and sport-weight yarn):

Cables are never a mindless knit but there's enough consistency in this pattern (and it's well-written) so you can gain some traction quickly. Not to mention that they only take about 55 yards of fabric each. Very smart stash-buster, don't you agree?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Vogue 8323: Giving it Another Go

Vaguely mollified by this experience, I opted not to start the day with sewing but rather with pattern alterations. Yeah, I don't know if that's a good idea either, but my brain was 'fresh" after a night of sleep.

You may recall this garment, V8323, made in a gorgeous fabric, in September, and relegated to the lawn give-away pile after a series of compounded fit issues. What was the problem with that version? Well, you'll recall that I originally altered the pattern to fit when I was totally new to sewing. At that point, not really clear about what I should be doing (and given that this pattern is drafted for a giraffe having tons of length between the bust apex and shoulder shelf), I chopped off inches from the shoulder seam. I don't know that that's what I'd do at this point - but given the options, it wasn't the worst idea I've ever had.

The problem is that it messed up all of the other vertical proportions (bust apex height, waist height, length at the hem etc.) It also didn't fix the issue of insane shoulder width (a problem corroborated by just about every reviewer) or the position of the princess seams.

I was left with a pattern:
  • Still too wide in the shoulders by about an inch on either side
  • Way too high in the bust apex (even by small-busted young person standards) - like 2.5" too high (the amount I removed from the shoulder height given that I have a short span from my upper bust to my shoulder shelf). This is one of the perks of being a short, small person.
  • Too short in the waist (where the surplice crosses over). The over-high bust apex naturally contributes to the issue but it's like the whole garment rides up.
  • Weirdly proportioned in the princess seams. I've actually learned something during my sewing experiences over the last 2 years (which finally clicked over the past couple of months) that'll likely make my next foray into bra sewing the one that works, fit-wise (if potentially not support-wise). Yeah, Gillian, you read that right. It's not rocket science but I'll give the explanation a go:
    • I've always assumed that my significant bust projection, which really makes itself felt from the centre gore (i.e. chest wall over the breasts to the nipples) means that I need to add lots of length / width / fabric over the interior span of my breasts. In fact, I need to put the extra fabric over the outer breast (where I have very little fullness) from the edge of the breast root (at my side) to the nipple. Why, I really can't say. It's still melting my brain a little. But every princess seam adjustment that I've ever made has  has corroborated this fact. And, as I think about it, every foray into bra sewing has left me with fit issues (too much fabric) in the upper cup. I can see now, I'm going to need to increase the size of the outer cup substantively and decrease the width and length of the (already smaller) lower and upper cups.
    • All this is to say that my (as drafted) princess seams, on this garment, are positioned (over the bust only) a good 1.5 inches too far towards the side seams. 
And after 2 hours, I think I found the fix (or at least a move in the right direction - one doesn't want to get overly confident):

The two pieces that the photo focuses on are the side front and front. (The front has a cut on facing which is that flap piece to the right side.)

What I've done here - though it doesn't look like much - is:
  • Lowered the bust apex by 2.5 inches. This PDF shows you how to do that easily. 
  • Narrow the shoulders: I turned the shoulder princess seamed side front (and back, for that matter) into an armscye princess seam. This got rid of tons of width I couldn't manage, given how many pattern pieces converge at the shoulder. It also meant I had to re-widen the front piece (and back piece) by 0.5" in the shoulder width or things would have been too narrow (given how many times I've already hacked at the width of the pattern pieces).
  • If it works, this will also diminish the excess of fabric over my upper bust (where I'm short and proportionately flat).
  • The crazy new bump-out on the side front is my standard-issue princess seam adjustment to allow for extensive bust apex projection that doesn't extend to the side bust. It's even like a semi-sphere, cuz my breasts are evenly full.  This alteration is what's going to reposition the front/side front princess seam over the bust in the appropriate place (more towards my full bust, rather than the outside of my bust). I had to remove the equivalent fabric from the front piece to maintain the size. Effectively, I cut the bust curve (now on the side front piece) out of the side of the front piece. I then traced it onto new paper because things were getting messy. It's weird, I get it. But my full bust projection is more significant than most patterns ever draft for. Because you rarely see it, it seems that much stranger.
  • Finally (and I'm least sure of this alteration - having never done it on a pattern piece like this before), I lowered the waist (where the surplice and facing attach together to produce the cross over neckline) by extending the facing down by 1.5 inches (the desired amount). To maintain the basic shape of the piece, and the proportions, I added a bit of width, below the facing, at the front side seam, tapering to nothing at the hem.
  • I'm still trying to figure out how to manage the excess fabric (long, straight diagonal line) on the front facing. It doesn't match the concave curve I've created on the seam to which it will attach (the front/side front princess seam). Having just looked at the construction (on my finished top - the one that highlights all of these fit issues) I can see that I'm going to have to mimic the curve. (Off to fix the piece...)
So there you go. It's a Very Easy Vogue knit pattern (you know, the one hour kind) and I've spent 2 hours altering it (and that's just on this go-round). I wonder at what point one just starts to draft patterns for oneself. I guess it's when she's done enough successful altering of wacky patterns, that she feels confident starting from scratch. But then, why bother at that point?

I'd really love for this to work out. I have beautiful fabric with which to make it. I've considered as many fit elements as I have the experience and brain-power to manage and I'd so appreciate a new top that I've sewn (rather than another useful learning opportunity that ends up going to someone else or into the garbage). Wish me luck.

PS: Next up I need to actually sew that Jenna Cardi hack and cut the fabric / sew up V8323.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wherein I Describe My Latest Return to Sewing

By some sort of fluke, I did some sewing on the weekend. It was lame sewing. It was near disastrous sewing (in that way that only technical things that one has ignored for months can go). But it was a step in the right creative direction. I've been so busy with work and holidays and reno planning that knitting's really been my only jam. And, while I'm still deep in the yarn stash-busting weeds, if my house is going to stay in one piece till mid-summer, I'm onto to working the fabric stash angle.

Here's what I did:
  • Nearly wrecked a pair of $170 jeans that I needed to hem and narrow (legs were bells). Somehow I forgot that one should turn jeans inside out before doing things like determining how much side-seam to remove and then actually removing it. Then I took off too much fabric - allow me to reiterate that I cut the jeans from the right side?!?!? - and I had to fix things on the fly. I honestly don't know what planet my brain was on as I performed this task. On the other not-so-fun side, these jeans - which sat around for 6 months waiting for me to hem them - fit too snugly for my liking when I finally tried them on. I've almost come to terms with a sombre fact (though it's taken 3 years): I'm going to have to be hungry in order to stay thin - at least at this time of my life - because I am not going up another dress size without a drag-out massacre. Moreover, I intend to go down one. Can't dwell on this right now. My stomach is rumbling and I want wine I won't drink. Fucking middle age.
  • For my child, I altered a hideous, white sweatshirt with the phrase "Who Am I" written on it. No question mark. This is a sentiment I can get with, these days, on my kid's behalf. Apparently the shirt was too long to be wearable (at regular sweatshirt length) so I cropped it. After spending 15 minutes trying to rip out the serged hem between the hem band and the t-shirt body, I finally just cut one piece from the other and then cropped the bodice / re-serged on the band. It worked out alright, though it was risky. Can't say this was the most creative thing I've done all week.
  • Sewed my new labels into my new, finished stash-busted knits. Didn't do a very good job and I dislike every single one. Good news is that you have to know what doesn't work in order to determine what does.
  • At this point, I couldn't stop myself. I was on such a roll of mediocrity, it seemed the perfect time to pull out my Jenna Cardigan pattern and alter it (on the fly) to a V neck, while simultaneously lengthening it to account for my current dimensions. 
So I put down my challenging to lay-out fabric (it's got a raised cable pattern) and proceeded to cut each piece in one layer, neglecting to consider that the left front is a mirror-image of the right-front. Did I mention I only had one yard of the fabric and I bought it a year ago? Thank God the fabric was wide, cuz I just managed to fit the extra piece. Oh, and since I made up the V neck with, ahem, adventuresome abandon, I didn't have enough fabric for a one piece band. I came up with a seamed work around. We'll see if I called it right, because at that precise moment, sane Kristin knew it was time to step away from the sewga room.

All in all I had some fun between the moments of cursing. And there's nothing like sewing to make you aware of your body. I'm taking Friday off with an aim to sew all weekend. We'll see if I stick to that plan, but something tells me that I will.

Next up: Some new bra reviews! Spoiler alert: I nailed it on the fit.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 4 - Sixteen Cables Hat

I've been plodding away at my stash. Finished object 4 is blocked and I love its wrinkly weirdness:

16-Sixteen Cable Hat by Circé Belles Boucles
I did wet block this but the cables persist in their fall. I was all ready to keep it for myself (it fit perfectly pre-block) but it didn't dry as snug as it had been originally. I made the fitted version in a size small. I also went down a needle size for the ribbing section (the part where the pattern suggests a US6) - I used a size US5. In the end the yarn dried such that the garment got longer more than fatter. I've noted this tendency when I've used Quince Chickadee before.

It's a pretty cool hat, subdued but strangely avant garde.

I'm now about 75 per cent through my first pair of the Kindling Mitts. Hope to have pics of that soon (though I'm making 2 pairs in navy blue, which never photographs well). Knitting cables in small diameter is finicky enough without adding a dark colour to the mix. I practically have to feel for stitch-pattern correctness as it's still so dark here all the time.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 3 - Decalage Scarf

It's such a pain in the ass at this time of the year - there's really no light for picture-taking (though, admittedly, there's much more light now than there was even 2 weeks ago).

No mind, I'm on a trajectory and this post contains photos (see below). I just hope they can convey a little bit of the intrinsic beauty of the Decalage scarf. I suggest you check out this post for more info on how to determine the weights of yarn required.

I should also take a moment to concede that this is not a true stash-bust. This post says it all but buying 1800 yards of yarn to use 250 is a stash-bust fail. Mind you, my mistake has introduced me to a lovely pattern that will facilitate my usage of all the Habu steel/silk eventually. And the end result is fancy-ass. This is the kind of gift that makes an impact. If I were to find this at a shop it would easily cost 350 bucks. (Of course, it fucking should. The yarn alone was 70 bucks).

In brief, there are 6 sections in the scarf: the two outer sections are made up of one strand of Habu and one strand of lace weight yarn, held together. The 4 interior panels are made up of 3 strands of lace weight yarn, held together, in different colour combinations.

Where I'd do this differently - and I will make this again because I'm not done with that wretched Habu - is in making the outer panels longer i.e. the same length as the other panels. That will achieve the end result of divesting myself of the rest of the steel yarn and will also provide more appealing proportions (to my eye). Note to myself: I wrote up the proposed weights for next time in this scarf's Ravelry project page.

But I like this (admittedly tedious) knit so much that I would certainly consider making it in all lace-weight wool in the future. It's a great design. Very simple, but beautiful. It's true textile art. If I were to make an all-wool version I might rib the bottom and sides because I don't like stockinette curl.

And a word on curl: I knew what I was getting into so I'm not surprised or upset by the outcome. The curl blocks out considerably so you cannot skip this step. I urge wet-blocking for maximal effect. Curl sure does give it that "art vibe'.

This knit is all about the care and consideration given to the yarn choice and the blocking. Also, make sure the fabric is knitting up with the tension you prefer. I didn't do a gauge swatch but I confirmed that I liked the fabric my needles were producing and I determined what length my scarf would be with my own gauge (slightly smaller before blocking - longer after blocking - than the dimensions indicated in the pattern instructions). My anticipated gauge was WAY off with the steel/lace-weight combo but right on with the 3 strands of lace-weight. So you might need to use less or more of the outer panel yarn combo to achieve the length of panel you would like.

But onto some photos...

This is the section where 2 strands of the pink yarn / 1 strand of the beige yarn (panel 4) segue into 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5).
This is the section where 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5) move into 1 strand of pink yarn and 1 strand of Habu.
Here's where 1 strand of beige, 1 strand of Habu (panel 1) merge with 3 strands of beige (panel 2).
It's a really gorgeous feeling scarf. The muted colours roll together when you wear it and the Rowan lace-weight blocked beautifully. It's less hairy after blocking.
This really doesn't highlight the "cool" factor of the Habu / lace-weight wool combination. It's a bit crinkly, a bit open. Do I like it as much as the interior panels? No, but it's an interesting counterpoint.

On final reflection, here's what I'd say to a knitter thinking about making this:
  • The work is all in the planning. Anyone can do that planning (new or experienced knitter) but a new knitter's going to have that much more of a challenge - particularly if (s)he isn't math-minded.
  • It's a study in colour-blending and in that respect it is a very enjoyable knit. You get to see the fabric come alive - and, if you've chosen well, the colours will thrill. But otherwise it's boring, boring, boring. Mind you - it goes together pretty quickly if you plod on. 3 strands of lace-weight knit up as quickly as DK.
  • Make all 6 panels of equal length - if for no other reason than that you'll use up your yarn more evenly. Note that your gauge with the steel/silk yarn is likely to be very different than that with the 3-strand wool.
What do you think of the finished object?

Friday, February 5, 2016

From Pain to Equilibrium: Body Brushing (A Recap)

Hola Peeps. It's been one of those whirlwind weeks at my course (the last one!) so I've been ridiculously occupied. Having said this, there's a topic I've been meaning to return to, lo these past few weeks - body scrubbing. As you may know, it's  something I've been doing for a couple of months.

For those with myofascial pain, I believe that this activity is arguably practical. Of course, my proviso is that everyone is different. Chronic pain (even if it emerges from the same - or a similar - source) reflects itself differently in most people. What works for me is a confluence of numerous supports: my "head of nails" and "bed of nails", MELT and Yoga Tune Up, yoga (active and supportive), anti-inflammatory supplements and cold-pressed juice (namely turmeric), Advil, heat, distraction and meditation. I'm not covering all the bases. The lengths I've gone to, to mitigate pain, are far-reaching. Those of you who struggle will no doubt understand.

What I'd say to anyone who experiences regular pain is that is, at its core, a reaction. It's the terribly unique (and therefore solitary) way one's body responds to neurochemical stimulus. The beauty of this is that every cure is just as unique - and just as probable (though sometimes it can take a long, long time to find).

But back to the topic at hand: Body scrubbing, or brushing, is a fairly easy prong in the multi-faceted approach to pain-relief. If you can bend, you can do it. It takes about 5 extra minutes in the shower, 2-3 times a week (you should let your scrubber dry out completely between uses) and it has a fairly delicious, flexibility and energy-inducing outcome (at least for me).

What I do is work from toe to head, drawing little circles on my skin, moving towards the heart. You don't need to overdo it with pressure but definitely hit all of your large muscle groups. Spend extra time on those areas that are predisposed to pain

One thing I neglected to write about, the last time I referred to body brushing, is the after-brush experience. Frankly, that's weird because it's a perfect segue to body oil (which itself is a perfect segue to CURIO). You think I'd have explored that cross-marketing option on the first go-round...

When you get out of the shower, I encourage you to pat your body with a towel (so that it is semi-dry) and then to massage in a high-quality emollient. (Note: this isn't a sales tactic - you can easily make your own oil.) The thing is - you don't need a ton of ingredients to gain the benefit. A good base oil and one or two, targeted essential oils will be more than adequate. Make sure you love the scent. It matters. Sure: Immortelle and lavender are particularly lauded for pain management, but choose a fragrance you love. The key here is to massage (if briefly) in the same direction as your original scrub. The semi-dry massage will lock in moisture and encourage body awareness. My perspective is that those high-quality essential oils also work on pain but you can determine that outcome for yourself.

This end-to-end scrub accomplishes self-body work (a key element in managing chronic pain), myofascial release, lymphatic release and circulatory improvement - all in the context of heat therapy (that would be the warm shower component of the exercise).

I do many things to mitigate pain - and I've been pretty successful in some ways. This is definitely a tool in the arsenal, and one I don't intend to neglect. It's easy, inexpensive and independent.

But how about you? Have you tried scrubbing for pain management? Do you scrub just cuz it's fun (never mind the pain angle). If you do, I have to assume that you have a reason. Why bother if there isn't a benefit? Do tell and let's talk...