Sunday, July 31, 2011

Greetings From Amsterdam

Think of this as a postcard from the Lowlands. We just arrived but so far it's been eventful.

In brief:
  • Anyone who can sleep in steerage class on a plane is either lying or freakish. Oy. Almost makes me wish I'd spent 4K on business class.
  • Mind you, we were from door to door in 10 hours - which is entirely amazing if you think about it.
  • Also, can anyone tell me how they manage to deboard a 350-person flight in less time than it takes to do an American Airlines commuter plane?
  • Jet lag is really something. I'm eating my way through it.
  • Y'all know how I don't care about bread? Well, the bread here is like nothing you've ever tasted. OMG - so perfect. And the butter is cultured. Scott says, just like me:-)
  • So many people told me the food here is mediocre. I haven't tasted anything yet that hasn't been delicious, in a full-fat, voluptuous way. Mind you, I'm going to great restaurants that cost a fortune. What can you do?
  • It's freakin' November here. People are wearing coats. I had to buy a jacket (stupidly) cuz I somehow couldn't accept that it would be 13 degrees and overcast. It's seriously cold.
  • The Amsterdamers remind me strangely of Torontonians. In fact, it's bizarre. When I arrived at the airport, it seemed I was back in Canada. In a very appealing way.
  • The fashion: Utterly chic. Totally down-tempo. These peeps are dressing for the weather which, sadly, is a bitch. But a moody, impressionist bitch.
Will continue to communicate but I don't know if I' going to be able to get photos from the camera to the computer. I'm using an in-room Mac and everything is weird. I'm hopeful though, when jet lag abates, I'll have the wherewithal to figure it out - here's hoping I brought the right cables.

Kisses, K

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Fave Drink

My husband thinks I'm high on drugs but I quite like Almond Breeze Vanilla Unsweetened almond milk. As it is lactose and soy free (lord, I hate soy milk), it's more analogous to coconut water than anything milky, but it does have an opaque (rather than merely watery, cloudy) and creamy quality.

Furthermore, it's completely sans sugar. It's actually kind of neutral/salty, which is totally palatable, if slightly strange. I added a pinch of granulated sugar (maybe a quarter of a teaspoon to a cup of Almond Breeze) and it went from fine to fab. The sugar undercut the saltiness but did not make it, in any way, sweet. If you like sweet drinks, a tsp. or 2 of maple syrup would be great, I suspect, and still less sugary-cloying than the majority of pre-sweetened rice, soy, dairy and almond beverages out there.

It's a very satisfying drink. You can feel it resetting electrolytes (that's how it feels to me) and it's actually got a bit of fat, protein and fibre. Furthermore, for those of us trying to keep carbs in check (oh, who are we kidding, I'm so carbing out this summer it's a scandal), it's got a mere 2, naturally occurring grams per cup.

Here's hoping some kind soul in the Blue Diamond marketing department reads this and sends me a case of the single serve containers. I could only find one remaining tetrapak of the large size at the Metro.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Y'all have heard of Craftsy, no doubt, as Gertie has recently debuted her first session. It's an interactive, online learning environment. You take courses. Kind of like correspondence school for the hipster crowd.

While I haven't signed up to make the Bombshell (the dress just isn't practical for me given my lifestyle and body type), I know that Gertie's course will be the bomb. I have already done her Lady Gray sew along and it changed the trajectory of my sewing experience. Point is, go sign up.

On a related note, today the talented Myrna kindly sent me a link, for another Craftsy course on customizing knits called Fit Your Knit. Um, hello, who doesn't want to learn how to dart her knit sweaters for extra waist definition (the subject of one of my comments yesterday by Anon)??

I didn't even watch the preview before signing up. (The course is on sale from $60.00 to $35.00.) I've since watched the preview and it looks great. You know, the way I learn is by watching and reading and thinking and then asking questions once I've thought on things for a while. This learning forum is SO made for immersive, interactive learners such as me.

Has anyone here taken either of these courses yet, or any other on Craftsy? What do you think of the site and the offerings? Let's chat...

Update: If you follow this link, you can get the course for 30 bucks...

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sweater Girl

Imagine my dismay that these photos, perfect on the camera and once downloaded, seem so grainy and weird on the blog. I have no idea what's going on...

Nonetheless, they're photos of me wearing - not one - but 2 of my handmade items! I think that's a record.

I should mention it's about 5000 degrees Celsius today, so wearing a wool sweater outside, albeit one with short sleeves and holes?!, was sheer torture. The things I do for my art...

The skirt is the one I sewed for my sister - the one that didn't work on her. My gain, in retrospect. It's a versatile wardrobe piece.

This shot captures the trademarked WendyB pose - legs crossed and hands on hips. I've been meaning to do it forever...

The glare was outrageous. Practically every shot without the sunglasses shows me squinting, or with my eyes closed!

The sweater is, of course, the Jan, a vintage splendor which will soon be available in A Stitch in Time: Volume 2.

My final thoughts on the garment are these:
  • Tits ahoy! It's a beautiful design, but not one that's perfectly suited to my shape. It really emphasizes my short waist and blouses at just the area I try to nip in, to highlight my hourglass silhouette. The boatneck is also a challenge given the width of my shoulders combined with a large chest. I knew this going in and I was inspired to knit the sweater nonetheless.
  • Um, it's a short sleeved sweater with holes. Not the most practical design. But you can't see a nude bra underneath, for what it's worth.
  • It fits large, especially in the shoulders. I actually had to take in the boatneck by 2.5 inches on each side. At first, it just fell off my shoulders. Admittedly, mine are narrow.
  • I have long arms and I usually avoid sleeves that end right at the bust height, or it simply emphasizes the width and depth of the chest zone. As such, I lengthened the sleeves by 1 inch on each side. In retrospect, adding another .5 - 1 inch would have been better, but this length is fine.
  • Talk about a painful learning experience. I came close to giving up, which is not something I do. But I'm so grateful for all the help I received from you, my wonderful knitting friends, and for everyone's ongoing support. It made all the difference.
  • I used 5 skeins of wool exactly - the amount the pattern instructed. Seriously, I didn't have more than one 6 inch string at the end. Very satisfying. Of course, I bought an extra skein and now I have no idea what to do with it.
  • It's well-knit, if I do say so myself. I am unreservedly proud of how it looks, inside and out. Which means, 2 for 2, I have been pleased with my knitting results. On balance, I am much happier with my knitting than my sewing. I wonder if that's because I'm delusional, knitting is easier or if I actually have more natural aptitude for it than sewing.
So, whatcha think?? PS: Unless you love it, lie. :-)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


...I need to stop believing that sewing up finished knitting pieces is any easier or faster than the rest of the sweater-making activity.

It's very finicky work. I've "invisibly" set in one sleeve (I'm starting on the sleeves, then sewing up the side seams) and it took 2 hours. And I don't think it's awesome work. Picking up bars on one side and stitches on the other is laborious. I don't care what the books say, unless you're an automaton - or the pattern works on row numbers (as opposed to length measurements) exclusively, you're not necessarily going to have the exact same number of rows on every piece.

Knitters: Can you corroborate that invisible seaming takes a lot of time and that you don't count stitch for stitch but just do your best to align everything? Of course, if you manage it with the aplomb set out in the books, be gentle when you advise me as much.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Block Party

In case you think I've been wasting my time on genealogy (peeps, it's my new obsession), I have finished the pieces of the Jan Sweater, which I immersion wet blocked this evening.


These are the washed pieces of wool, pinned out to dry in shape. Note: Wet wool smells hideous.

I know these photos aren't much to look at but I sense that the pieces are going to be very soft and lovely when they dry.

While blocking the wet pieces, I really did notice differences in tension between each side (front and back) and each sleeve but I think, once blocked, the differences will not be visible in the finished product.

And I'm really glad, at least on paper, that I didn't make the medium. These pieces are larger than the dimensions predicted on the schematic. I know that wet wool really stretches out (and then seems to dry just fine) but the difference between the finished dimensions and the measurements of my finished wet pieces is significant in all directions. The reason I didn't pin more was because I didn't want to increase surface area unnecessarily.

Tomorrow I begin the sew up. Last time I assumed that would be the easy part - and it was a real trial. Maybe I've learned a bit from that? It will be less sewing of this garment than of the kimono wrap, because there aren't facings to deal with, the sleeves are shorter, and there are fewer pieces. Still, can't get too cocky... I'm not exactly an expert.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

In Which I Debate What it Means to Live in Toronto (plus photos!)

Alas, I am officially convinced that the iPhone takes the lousiest photos ever. But I feel compelled to show you a little Toronto gem: Wychwood Park.

Its most famous inhabitant, Marshall McLuhan, the media theorist who defined our understanding of modern communications, lived at No. 3, a seriously happening hot bed of intellectualism. And fucking gorgeous. (That would be the neighbourhood, not Mr. McLuhan, whom I never met.)

I've written of Wychwood before but, finally, allow me to present some substandard pics.

Opulent little cottages (above) mingle with opulent mansions (below)! C'mon, how democratic.

Residents even have their own nature preserve swamp...

...complete with quicksand!

Toronto has never been known as "easy". By this, I don't mean loose - which it most definitely is not - but inclusive. Friendly people abound (well, they're out there), but many new Torontonians, which is to say residents of less than 15 years, often feel strangely looped out. Don't get me wrong, they know their ways around, they have equal access to all the cool things, but there's an element of club to TO. There are things you can't possibly understand until you've been assimilated. And you do not assimilate until you've earned it. Don't ask me why. It's just the way.

It's one of the things I love and loathe about this city. So utterly bland in so many ways, and yet so richly subtextual. You'll never see homogeneity convene more perfectly with diversity, each sect keeping its own secrets, giving a little, then a little more.

The first thing you ask when you want to get to know someone here is, "where do you live?". It says everything (unless the person in question is new to town).

There are more affluent spots than Wychwood, but none so discreet. Perhaps a mere 40 houses display themselves beneath a canopy of trees the likes of which you'll rarely see elsewhere. (Finally a group of frickin' trees this city can't cut down!)

When you say you live in Rosedale, it tells people you are wealthy, probably WASPy, likely indigenous, and on weekends you leave town. When you say you live in Wychwood Park - and btw, I've never known anyone, in 35 years, who's actually lived in the gated enclave, only in the surrounding area which is sometimes given the same name - it speaks to a kind of exclusivity the Rosedale inhabitant can only imagine.

For what it's worth, I'd settle for Rosedale.

So tell me: Do you live in Toronto? If yes, do you agree with my take or do you think I'm high on drugs? If you don't live here - do you feel the same way about your town? Or do you live in a bastion of newbie inclusiveness? Let's chat.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Shout Out to the Experts: Easing Full Hems and Facing Debacles

This weekend I've spent quite a bit of time on Vogue 8379. My goal: to be all zen and relaxed. I've been doing careful, neat work. I'm working with some nice, orange rayon jersey. I've stopped to eat (0ccasionally).

But I have to tell you this pattern is really pissing me off.

Let me start by saying I've never met a wrap dress that didn't suit me. I'm like the model body-type for the style. I own many. I wear them often. When wearing them, I receive compliments. I feel chic. It's win-win.

Let me say, also, that I have done my research. I know the issue, in this pattern, about the neck and front facings flipping out. I read about it a dozen times on Pattern Review. But I was slow and considered. I pressed, understitched, massaged the fabric. And still, the facings flipped. Then I topstitched. The facings? On wearing, they still pull and threaten to flip. (Of course, they flip much less than they did before I topstitched. But if one moves, the facings are unpredictable.) I can't very well topstitch at the outer edge of the facing (the part that's 2 inches away from the seam). That would just look weird. I did try to catch stitch the facing to the bodice, but you could see the little thread-pricks from the right side, despite my most careful efforts.

It does not fit small - I made the 12 and it was the right size. If I'd made it in a 14, it would be too big and those facings would still flip. Jersey facings are STUPID. Will never use them again. In the future, I'm all about the seam binding.

OK, here's Question 1- as I know many of you have made this dress and you love it, facing-challenges notwithstanding: How did you get them to lie flat?

Then there's the matter of hemming the very full skirt. Easing will be necessary, I imagine. But since I may not wear this thing (jury's out), I don't want to spend a zillion years hand sewing (per the instructions).

Question 2: How do you recommend easing the hem so that it will lie flat when I machine stitch? I did run a row of basted stitches and pulled up the bobbin thread but it did not work. I just ended up having to pick out a mile of basted stitches. Maybe my tension was too tight? Maybe I need to do it in sections i.e. not one long baste but multiple ones? Is there some kind of Stitch Witchery product that can do this for me :-)

Any feedback on hemming would also be appreciated.

Final thoughts on the Vogue Wrap Dress:
  • It's designed for a short-waisted, short person and still it doesn't fit right in the torso on me.
  • Furthermore, it seems to highlight one's waist shortness.
  • I lengthened the ties and now they're too long - not a disaster but I scarcely need more drag on this thing.
  • Those tucks that start at the waist and move up towards the shoulders over the bust are just weird. I know they're meant to shape but they tend to make one's bust look low.
  • I gave it 3/4 sleeves and I like them, but the easing of the sleeve into the cap is fussy and yields a gathered cap. I appreciate that look, but I don't like it when I'm pushed into it because of bad drafting.
Depending on your feedback, and a bit of chill time, I may get over my issues with this thing and wear it happily, or I may put it out on the lawn. (Note: It does get sadder and sadder to put things on the lawn as my technique improves...) I doubt I'll make it again, but if I do, I'm going to bind the edges, not face. And I'll make it sleeveless (arm holes bound too).

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Something I've Been Doing

What do you do when you don't have energy to blog, sew or knit? Well (duh), if you're me, you shop.

Can't say that's excellent for the cost saving, but I've bought so little in the last year, I'm indulging that druggy comfortable feeling that comes with the activity.

Thing is, I can't show you internet photos of my gorgeous new McCardell-esque, navy sleeveless shirt dress - fitted in the waist, button-down, circle-skirted in a kind of mystery fabric (cotton and elastane) that works like mega-crisp, sticky-outy lawn, cuz the people who run the substandard Club Monaco website post about 20 items a season (nothing on Google Images either...). And there's just no way I'm motivated to stage a photo till this weekend at the earliest.

Then there are my fantastic new shoes by Sweet de Pindiere, which I also can't show you because that site sucks too. Not to mention that it took me a full hour even to locate the site in the first place, never mind finding a shot of my new, conical-low-heeled taupe sandles with mother of pearl disks covering the centre strap. They are very rich, and perfect with the dress.

Furthermore, I purchased a belt at Cole Haan that looks more like this than any of the others I could find on that site:

...only mine's black. Kinda misleading and boring (esp. as you can't even see the real thing - thanks, website) but my other black leather skinny lady belt was literally falling apart after 12 years.

I realize I could take all the shots with my nice camera all by myself. But is it so wrong to feel ripped off that the web isn't supporting me in my marketing efforts?

The belt was on sale for $40.00 (from $79.00). Given that belts seem to last 12 years, this is a pretty good cost per wear scenario, not to mention that the Bloor Street (Canadian) flagship is a very elegant store - as much a lady-shopping experience as anything else.

The shoes, bought in the 'hood at Balisi after Friday night dinner, were 20% off and came in under $125.00.

Where I (vaguely) went off the rails - at least by my own "make it yourself or, for God's sake, buy it on mega-sale" standard - was on the dress purchase. I bought that puppy for full price - $200.00 - which is somewhat out of my high-street comfort zone (esp. since, were I to wait 6 weeks, it's very possible that the price will drop). However, in 6 weeks, it won't have much wear-time left before the fall - and it's such a great piece (truly well-tailored) that I'm pretty sure - and I rarely make such predictions - it isn't going to make it to the sale rack.

Does it really matter that I need another summer dress like a hole in the head?

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Photographic Evidence

If you live in Toronto, you might read BlogTO, an online magazine, predominantly for residents, to give us the scoop on things like where to get the best charcuterie and what's happening on any particular day.

I've been following this blog practically since it started and, I have to say, the pool of photographers is impressive - and becoming more so all the time. It's rare I see photos that compel me more than those I've found on the site, and you know I dwell on hundreds of pics a day as I scout my 150-plus blogs.

To wit:

Photo by Neil Ta

You should really check out the post itself - or the feed - cuz the photo seems to be sharper on those sites, for some reason...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Oooh Pretty!

One side of the Jan sweater is complete:

While I recognize the gratuitousness of 3 shots to show the same thing, cut me some slack, cuz man, this has been a labour of love. An insanely frustrating, almost-crushing-at-times, labour of love. Seriously, peeps, I'm amazed the yarn could manage as many rip backs and re-knits as I put it through.

I have learned so many things in this process so far:
  • How to rib (on mega tiny needles)
  • How to yarn over and then knit 2 together
  • Lacework repeats
  • Decreasing stitches "in pattern"
  • Binding off in rib
Perhaps the best lesson of all happened earlier this week when I worked with an expert at my LYS who explained to me exactly how I was going to have to intuit the lace work as I decreased "in pattern". As you can imagine, once one starts removing stitches, slavish devotion to the pattern and the math involved re: number of repeats no longer applies. You can only imagine how freaked I was when I figured out my math was useless - that I would have to understand what to do next by considering what had come before. (People, who says things unironically like, "I freaked out to learn the math was useless"?!?!?)

I don't mean to overstate the case, but this has been practically life changing. It means I won't need to check off every single stitch on every lace work row when I do the next side. I'll be able to observe if what I've done is correct because now I see how the individual stitches impact the look of the garment. It's not some great mystery anymore. Well, it's vaguely less of a mystery.