Sunday, September 25, 2011

Poly Crafting

I've had a productive weekend so far:

1. Started the Tubey Sweater. I've changed up the instructions to do the following:
  • Alter the long bell sleeves into fitted 3/4 sleeves
  • Leave off the provisional cast on at one shoulder, choosing instead to knit the whole shrug in one pass, from sleeve hem to sleeve hem. The two sleeves will be knitted in the round using magic loop. The back, upper body piece between them will be knitted with the same circular needles, but flat. Man, this knitting-speak is gobbledygook.
  • I've got to shorten the upper back (underarm seam to under arm seam) because my dimensions are smaller than the Small size I'm knitting. In fact, I think they may be smaller than the XS. (I tell you - my frame is narrow.)
  • Why don't I just make the whole sweater proportionately smaller? Cuz the tube body (knit stretchily in rib stitch) is the part of the sweater that contains the bust, and I am definitely in need of the pattern's increased dimensions for that.
  • The challenge will be to pick up stitches for the small (the size I am notionally making) - where the shoulder and upper bust shrug piece (from which I'll be picking those stitches up) will not be a pattern-drafted "size small". Short story, is I'm going to have to do some fancy footwork there too - but I have a plan.
  • As I've mentioned in other social media venues, my goal here is to obtain a great fit.
  • This sweater, if knit without careful consideration for sizing - esp. given my body shape - would likely be a bust (ha!). I've got gauge but I'm not being cocky. I've been there before and had a bad outcome. However, with that sweater (the ill-fated Wispy), there were other issues going on.
2. I'm also knitting my third version of the Cable Keyhole Scarf. You know I'm making this scarf for everyone as Xmas gifts. Each one I've knit in different yarn on size 7 needles. Scarves don't really require strict adherence to gauge, thank the knitting goddess, but I'm intrigued to see how they all look and feel somewhat unique.

3. I spent a lot of the afternoon (oh, 2 hrs or so) altering, tracing and cutting out the paper pattern for the Clover pants. Why am I pattern adjusting, before making a muslin to see how the original pattern actually fits my body? Well, I've learned that certain of my alterations are somewhat standard, pattern notwithstanding. This doesn't mean my altered pattern will produce a perfectly fitting muslin. I suppose I could create a whole new set of fit challenges by this theory. But, since I'm willing to work the muslin till I get the fit I'm looking for, I feel there's no real harm in starting from my formerly successful vantage point.
  • My crotch length is short in relation to most patterns - much as my waist length is. I have removed an inch from below dart markings (and above the crotch seams). This pattern doesn't provide a shorten line so I had to wing it. I hope I did the right adjustment in the right spot.
  • Furthermore my crotch depth has it's own, interesting proportions, which seem to transfer from 1 pants style to another, quite accurately.
  • From (admittedly minimal) past experience of Colette Patterns, I am assuming that this pattern will fit on the roomy side. Given that I prefer 3/8 seams to 5/8 seams, my finished products tend to grow a bit that way also. Having said that, I have slightly less difference between my hips and waist measurements, than the pattern measurements. I graded the size 6 to an 8 at the waist. Interestingly, my crotch depth shape adjustments (see above) accord somewhat with the size 8 also. I'm working under the premise that I'm a 6 in the legs and hips but an 8 in the waist and crotch due to the very special shape of my lower abdomen.
  • I find it strange to make changes to something I've only ever seen in 2 dimensions. I guess this is the path of learning how to three-dimensionally "read" flat pieces of paper. At least, at this point, I have an awareness of how the pattern pieces produce the 3 tubes that create the pants (2 legs and torso) - and of how they stitch together. But it's all such a guessing game.
Given my 2 latest projects, I can see that I'm at a new juncture in my production of garments. I really want to understand fit - so much so that I'm not afraid to jump right in, practical knowledge or skill notwithstanding. You can only get from nothing to something by starting, right? That's the way I'm approaching this phase. And by embracing math. If you knew me in high school, you'll know how shocking that is.

Totally off topic update: If you're looking for some utterly awesome, very reasonably priced, vintage cashmere, run to this post. And if you buy the flower cardigan, I want to hear about it!

      Saturday, September 24, 2011

      Recalibrating the Recalibration

      So, let me get this started by advising that - while technically I'm almost a week into Phase 2 of the recalibration - I am not following the "half a unit of alcohol daily with bubbly water" thing. I really tried, if you count thinking about it excessively as trying, but I just couldn't get past the engrained perspective that a spritzer isn't worthy of my personality. How then, you might be wondering, is Phase 2 different from Phase 3? Well, more or less, simply inasmuch as phase 3 includes swapping up "good carbs" on occasion for "yummy carbs" i.e. couscous for cake. That latitude is not built into Phase 2.

      Furthermore, as I did my "trying", I was increasingly able to clearly articulate what not drinking did not do for me. (Only in my mind, obvs, cuz this sentence is an inarticulate disaster.)

      Not drinking alcohol for the better part of 2 weeks did NOT:
      • Improve my skin
      • Improve my mood
      • Improve my experience of food - or anything else, for that matter
      • Melt pounds of fat from my midsection (or even half-pounds)
      It did however:
      • Give me a good opportunity to consider the nature of deprivation - something I generally avoid at all costs, though there are lessons to learn along that path; and
      • Facilitate an experiment I've never before tried, designed to a) determine how I'd feel without alcohol for a (semi) extended period which isn't pregnancy - BTW, that's a torturous time to have to give up booze... and b) determine whether de-puffing and/or fat loss, in my body, would be motivated by a lack of alcohol (remember that's my mother's theory).
      If nothing else, the reduction of hard-to-metabolize, non-nutritious carb calories has arguably led to the beginnings of my return to desired proportions. But, frankly, I was surprised it didn't have more of a notable physical affect. Apparently, 2 - 3 glasses of wine, for an extended period, is likely no more responsible for my de-toning (at least at this age and stage) than all the pastry I combined with it.

      For me, the choice is to continue to abstain - which is the psychic equivalent, to me, of living with food allergies. If you know me well / my relationship to this topic, you will know that I am regrettably intolerant of food intolerance (and by this I mean no offense to the people who struggle with it legitimately) - or to drink real glasses of wine (and by that I mean ones not watered down by Perrier - a soft beverage I do respect in its unadulterated form).

      Since my return to Boozlandia, I have had 1 drink a day (5 oz, clearly measured) of red wine. What does it do for me? It complements my food, which I choose so carefully for its correlative and aesthetic qualities. (I am a staunch LOVER of food, peeps.) It makes me feel like I'm a "regular person" not a "dieter". It tastes good. It relaxes me after a long day at work. It's something I associate with friendship and good conversation and travel and freedom from daily responsibility. Does it actually produce those things? Of course not. It's a freakin' glass of wine, not a framework the likes of which I've worked my entire adult life to create.

      Nonetheless, that's where I'm at. Apparently, the second edition of my best-selling lifestyle recalibration will have an option in Phase 2.

      For what it's worth, I spend very little time thinking about exciting food I'm not eating. I ingest excellent, protein rich things, don't snack, and eschew all sugar but from occasional fruit and a small dose of chocolate. (I'm pretending I'm Jennifer Aniston.) And I do feel it's having an effect.

      What about you? What does alcohol mean to you? Or "dieting"? How do you relate to perceived deprivation? What foods / drink can you give up reasonably easily? Which ones leave you fixated on lack?

      Thursday, September 22, 2011

      Rolling in Clover

      Just a quick post to tell you about the loot that arrived by post for me today (Peeps, when it rains, it pours :-) Speaking of which, I bought a camel-coloured, short rain cape a few days ago, on sale, at Banana Republic - I tried to find a photo but (of course, it being big box) I couldn't... It may be part of that Mad Men line. It's definitely retro. And, though I rarely go into BR, I found it by accident about a month ago and waited patiently for it to go on sale for half price! It's got an internal belt, the only cape style that works on me - but man, it works well. Sidebar out.

      Getting back to the loot that arrived... have a look at two books that my knitting enabler suggested for me:

      Knitting it Old School by Stitchy McYarnpants (HILARIOUS author name)

      Fitted Knits by Stefanie Japel (the woman who does the excellent Craftsy course)

      Then there's the Clover Pants pattern:

      I know, this is sewing gold! And I've already read through the instructions, which are outrageously clear. I do think it's excellently presented in all ways. Of course, I haven't made them yet so I can't speak to the finished product, but I am so impressed by Colette Patterns and by Sewaholic Patterns. These women-crafter-owned companies design great garments and present them in a way that's so relevant.

      Finally, I'll end with a shot of a sweater that's got me excited! I was alerted to it by my other knitting enabler:

      This is the When Sampson Met Lila pattern and it's free!

      C'mon, is that not SO me?! Alas, I've already got another sweater and 6 scarves lined up first. But next time I buy yarn, it's for this baby.

      Wednesday, September 21, 2011

      Holy Cow!

      One of the best things about having internet-found friends is that you get to know dozens (hundreds?) of fantastic people who share your philosophies and interests. These are not friendships of environmental convenience. We choose our blog friends; they're relatively easy to abandon. So when said friendships last for years, and span numerous topics despite distance or age or circumstance, that's more than amazing. It's heart-warming.

      It's a stupid understatement to say that I am incredibly fortunate to have many such friends and one who's particularly stand out is Mardel. She's a fascinating woman (People, she went to Vassar!) who has been elegantly managing a significant life challenge, to put it mildly, for the last couple of years. You can read about her many hobbies and perspectives on her blog. Mardel brings a considered perspective to everything. She lives in a gorgeous house on the Hudson (though soon she will embark on a new life in the South). She loves gardening and sewing and reading and knitting with equal measures - as far as I can tell.

      As a newbie sewist, I relied on her heavily for advice. I seem to recall an email I sent in the early days with the subject heading "Desperate Sewing Emergency".

      A while back M mentioned to me - or was it on the blog? - that she had a few pairs of boots she no longer wears, but which happen to be in excellent condition. I joked that I would take them and, lo, recently she emailed to offer them up. I believe, at that point, I may have sent back an email with the subject heading "Um, Hell Yes!".

      Today, they finally arrived - so beautifully packaged with boot shaft shapers (I use magazines when I can be bothered) and tissue paper and some utterly gorgeous Versace fabric.

      Yes, there are pics below, but let me stretch the suspense by telling you that M sent 2 pairs of boots - a Walter Steiger pair in animal pattern pony skin - take a moment to digest that. I'll wait. - and another pair of quilted leather Hermes. I know. It's awesome.

      Now, the universe obviously didn't want me to get too excited, lest my heart act up, so regrettably the Hermes ones don't fit me. (Note: I may have more to say about this soon. Stay tuned.)

      However, these babies fit like a glove:

      Yes, those are sexy zippers on the back!

      And here is the Versace silk:

      I don't suppose it's necessary for me to point out the "Made in Italy" on the selvedge? Or that, it's not so often that I come into the possession of anything Made in Italy.

      What a parcel!! (Thank you, Mardel.)

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Wrap Up

      I've been threatening to post on this gloriously successful knitting project for a couple of weeks...

      Anne Hansons' Cable Keyhole Scarf, Knit in Berroco Ultra Alpaca - Brown Rice (6202, Dye Lot 910)

      I can't count the number of ways I love this thing but let me give you a few deets:
      • It takes about 60 g of yarn i.e. under 1 skein, and 6 hours (if you're me).
      • You don't have to worry about gauge. It is a scarf, after all.
      • You can even substitute yarns of different composition and weight, though I think a worsted is best, for warmth and heft.
      • It's not hard. I read up on how to cable (online) and this is what came of it.
      • All that's to say, cabling, if finicky, is not scary! I know it looks difficult. It looks fancy and special. But people who've been knitting for 3 months can figure out the technique simply from posts on the internet - and accomplish a successful end result.
      • It's totally flattering - I've had many compliments and I've only worn it once.
      • Last week, I bought enough yarn to make 5 or 6 of these for Xmas presents. Sorry, those of you who know me IRL, your getting a jump on the surprise.
      Shout Out to the Knitters: I'd love to make another of these scarves with the remainder of a skein of the Brown Rice coloured yarn (shown above), but I don't have quite enough left - and I've checked every store in the city and it's all gone. I've even put out a request on Ravelry though so far I've had no luck.

      If anyone has a skein of Berroco Ultra Alpaca, Brown Rice - 6202, dye lot 910, I would so appreciate the opportunity to buy it or trade with you. Please let me know!

      Sunday, September 18, 2011

      Less is Less*

      What do you want first - the good news or the bad news??

      Right. Good it is, then:

      V1166 pants are finished (unlined cuz I don't like lining / the wool has stretch, the use of which would be nullified by lining). Peeps, the construction is just freakin' gorgeous. For any of you who suggest that I'm a perfectionist who can never see the excellence in my own handiwork, let me disabuse you. I made these flawlessly and I rock.

      For starters, observe the inside (you know, the part with the visible seams):

      Here's the full garment (right side):

      And a shot of the hem (the equivalent of subjecting you to photos of a beloved baby doing something cute - it's meaningful, for the person who took the photo):

      OK, on with the bad:

      I followed my many notes and guidelines - this is something like the 7th time I've made these, not including the muslins. But I did one thing differently. Instead of leaving the outer leg seams unserged i.e. giving me the latitude to rip them out and alter the leg width, as necessary, I serged that seam too. Why did I do this? Cuz it's prettier construction, IMO. And I've done my time with this pattern (so I thought) to be able to take a nervy step. Note: I did baste the pants together first, to ensure they would fit. And, at that point, I did think that the 4 inches I removed from the outer leg (2 inches on each side), was slightly excessive - so my goal was to leave a little excess by serging to the outside the baste line. That line would then be removed to reveal a slightly roomier seam.

      Alas, I didn't eyeball the serge line well enough and I ended up serging the pants to more or less the same width as the baste line i.e. I didn't build in my margin. Y'all know, you can't put that fabric back on, right? (Insert diatribe about how knitting has this all over sewing.)

      As a result, the pants are too tight in the hips. Not hideously, not enough that I'm not going to try to wear them and enjoy their abstract beauty, but enough that you can see notable pull lines at the crotch - and my thong is too visible through the (admittedly drapey) fabric for my liking.

      This may be the moment to qualify my perspective on modern pants-wearing. Have you noticed that a majority of the younger generation - yes, I did just write that and I do mean those who are younger than 30 - wear their pants too tight? I'm not talking about jeggings and skinny jeans. I mean pants one wears to work, to the lawyer's office, to funerals. I don't want to see the peach-like outline of one's derriere, even if it is youthful and high. And note: The zipper shouldn't pull.

      Well, I'm about to flout my own dressing guideline for the potential pleasure of wearing great new fall pants (though it does remain to be seen how much the hip whiskering is going to torment me).

      You may be thinking: Kristin, how about the recalibration? Isn't that leading you to a land of relative slimness? Well, the answer is, probably. But not yet (I'm not dieting, just eating moderately). And furthermore, the issue with the pants is in the hips - an area I rarely lose any mass in, because I don't have much there to lose. I mean, I'd have to be very skinny to note a change in hip size. Though losing volume in my butt would likely ameliorate the situation somewhat.

      Thoughts and feelings? Do share...

      *Something tells me I've used this title before...

      Saturday, September 17, 2011


      1. Kid has lice (again). Don't tell my husband I'm telling you this or he'll flip. He feels that, every time I mention this, I defile our child's reputation.
      2. That's outrageous. (The nits, I mean.) Where did they come from (this time)??!?!? Well, it's a toss up but I'm pretty sure they're from the summer camp she went to for the last 2 weeks of August.
      3. This turn of events has driven me to drink, and I don't mean a spritzer.
      4. I went 12 days without alcohol. Last night - while out with friends - I had a Caesar (tomato juice, clam juice, lime, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, celery - yeah, and vodka.) Tonight I've had a glass of wine.
      5. Tomorrow I'll officially start phase 2 of the recalibration. That means spritzers for 3 weeks. I wonder if that's going to fly...
      6. I'm not judging my failure to go 14 days.
      7. I finished a pair of pants today (my sloper pattern). I made them in wool pinstripe that has a tiny bit of stretch. They're really well-constructed, dare I say it.
      8. Alas, I may have serged off slightly too much fabric on the outer legs.
      9. Don't panic. I need to remove my basting stitches in order to determine what exactly has occurred.
      10. Sergers are binary, people. Once you slice off that 2 inches on either side, it ain't growing back.
      11. I went out on Thursday and bought $2oo.oo of yarn?!?! I got some Rowan Pure Wool to make everyone fabulous Cable Keyhole Scarves for Xmas (more on that to come, promise).
      And then there's this Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran:

      I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to make with it, but it's going to be a sweater - which is why I had to buy 12 skeins.

      12. In closing, I really want to live here:

      Monday, September 12, 2011

      Cognitive Dissonance

      When I decided to forgo alcohol altogether for 2 weeks (and then practically forgo it for 3 more), I must have been high on drugs.

      Oh, I know it's all part of my recalibration, the worthy means by which I'm going to be attractively wearing the smaller sized clothing in my closet once again in the future. But honestly (as I said to materfamilias lately): If booze makes you fat, then we've got a problem. Cuz I do not intend to live without it for any extended period.

      Think what you will, at this point. If you're new to this blog, you may wonder if I have a problem. If you've known me for a long time, you may be amazed that I'm denying myself anything, for any reason.

      Here's where I'm at, after week 1 of my return to moderateness, after a few months of living large. (Note: Apologies to those who find people writing about their eating habits to be way past boring. I agree, it's a special kind of narcissism, but y'all showed some interest in the plan, so I thought I'd tell you how it's going...):

      Well, it's going. I'm doing all the things I said I would:
      • No alcohol of any kind
      • No refined sugar (save a small amount of chocolate in the evenings)
      • More with the healthy fat and protein. Less with the carbs (I stay under 100 grams per day, which is in no way "low carb", according to those who practice that lifestyle, but is much less carby than what you find in your average first world diet. Once you kill baked goods, it's hard to get to 100 grams of carbs a day.)
      • No junk food
      Am I forgetting something? It's hard for me to focus when 80% of the fun in life has been stripped away.

      Seriously, though, I'm not physically craving anything. I'm not hungry. I did have a day last week when I thought I was coming down with something. Looking back, I wonder if my body was a bit shocked by my abrupt resumption of the kind of moderate living that - I presume - helped me to go from being fatter than I wanted to be (years after having a kid), to the size and shape I would like to be - and which I have recently mildly deviated from in the name of happy extravagance.

      The truth is you can become habituated to any kind of lifestyle and, at some point, you probably will. It's a precious few who go into middle age, with its attendant hormonal shifts and sedentary responsibilities, without losing the shapes taken for granted in youth, at least initially. The longer the life, the more opportunity one has to become attracted to bacchanalian, gustatory delights - and to satisfy that attraction. Sometimes you're going to go for the taste / get lazy / decide to eat gleefully despite the potential outcome (you choose the terminology).

      Those stereotypical 1950s ladies never upsized their clothes, from youth to old age, because they were fucking careful. One might even say restrictive - though I prefer to say moderate. And yet, they managed to drink the booze. Hmmm.

      You know how single-minded I am. Now that I've decided not to drink for 2 weeks, even though I'm really questioning the merit of that element of the recalibration, I'm all "I said I was going to do this, and now I'm going to do it dammit."

      Never mind that it's wan and, frankly, immoderate.

      Sunday, September 11, 2011

      In Case You Were Wondering If I'd Ever Sew Anything Again... (With Photos!)

      Let me start by saying how much I appreciate all of you wonderful, knowledgeable sewists. In a fit of anxiety, I post (horrified) about puckered seams and before I know it I've got all kinds of expert solutions! Thank you so much.

      Amongst them - should you ever find yourself with puckered seams in silk charmeuse:
      • Try a walking foot. (I'm not sure if this helped in my case, but it didn't hurt. And I can imagine, depending on the silk and the machine, it could be very helpful.)
      • Check out Gorgeous Things' method for pressing in steps - it totally works, peeps!
      • Use a ham while pressing, if you're working some princess seams.
      Then there are these, which I also considered / tried:
      • Adjust stitch length - sometimes shorter is better, sometimes longer.
      • Adjust tension. Generally low tension is better for silk, but I didn't find that.
      • Use silk or cotton thread - not much help once you're half way through and/or using out-there whack colours.
      The hardcore winner was pressing - something I hadn't yet tried (but intended to try) when I wrote my plea for help. You cannot press enough with this fabric. Inside and outside (use a pressing cloth if you're worried that the heat will alter the sheen of your silk).

      At any rate, I put in a good 16 hours constructing this shirt - that's a long time given I had fit more or less sorted and I've made it before. Note: I did not find the Pendrell easy the last time I made it, though the instructions are excellent and clear. It takes some working knowledge of methods and some dexterity - at least when making version B. Having said that, I put this slog down to a) being out of practice and b) really fucking difficult fabric.

      But look how pretty it is:

      (Note: I don't know why blogger keeps compressing my photos and making their awesome quality look fuzzy and crap. You have to believe me when I say I took very nice pics...)

      As I seem to so often these days, I'm calling this a qualified success.

      The Good:
      • The hem is gorgeous, inside and out.
      • Ruffles worked very well.
      • Binding method (inside) worked quite well, though was finicky on the neck. Very clean.
      • The overall fit and colour of the garment.
      The Mediocre:
      • When my serger likes to slice and dice, it really does it with gusto. I had a couple of near misses (leaving hideous wrong side spots on the seams). I tried to improve them cosmetically by going over them again with the blade turned off, but the result was meh. I also had to do some reconstruction inside the serged seams (re-seaming with my machine).
      • Even though I pressed the crap out of those puckered seams - and it made things 200 per cent better, easily - they're not perfect. I don't know if I'd do princess seams in silk again. That's a lot of seams with a potentially puckery fabric. You should note that these photos are unforgiving. On me, the puckering is barely noticeable. That's the plus of having boobs!
      • The last time I made the Pendrell, I used a synthetic with utterly no stretch. And I still found the waist a bit large (I should have made the 8, instead I altered down the 10 so that was a residual challenge). I know this top needs to be roomy, given that there are no closures i.e. it has to fit over your head - plus, it's not meant to fit close - but, given my shape, it's a bit boxier than I'd prefer. This time, given that I had a lot of stretch, I brought the side seams in further. My execution was regrettably not perfect, but I think the shape is better on me. Word to those who are thinking of making the blouse: IMO, it's sized large.
      On balance, I'm glad I've used up the cerise silk. It's been taunting me since I bought it - and it was really not much fun to work with. I'm happy to be able to move on to other fabrics - and all's well that ends well.

      Next up: My pants sloper in stretch wool (another RTW fabric bought from my designer friend). I have every reason to believe this fabric will sew up without trauma. Not that I want to get over-confident!

      Saturday, September 10, 2011

      Shout Out to the Experts: Fixing Puckering Silk Princess Seams

      Egad, I'm back in the sewing saddle (sort of), making a second Pendrell Blouse using that cerise silk I've been to scared to use till now.

      All was going very well (figured out how to do the inside binding technique that Tasia instructs in the pattern, which I glossed right over, by accident, the last time). The fabric, while it does water stain (tested on a scrap), did not shrink when steamed. It doesn't fray much. And I've figured out there's likely a very small amount of lycra in it. It has notably more cross grain stretch than any other of my other silk charmeuse. Since it's a fancy fabric, purchased from a designer who bought it from a mill, I imagine this was designed with RTW in mind.

      And this, I sense, is the reason why my princess seams (and none of the others) are puckering.

      • I'm using a 60 sharp (recommended needle for this kind of fabric).
      • I've tested every tension on my machine (apparently lower tension is better for silk but it produced more puckering for me than higher tension - though the stitches are tight in that fabric...)
      • I am using poly thread (which may be encouraging the problem, I realize, as the poly stretches in the stitching and then bounces back when sewn, but I haven't had this issue with other silk I've sewn.)
      • Note: It's the slight stretch in the fabric itself which I suggest is causing the tension tug back after the sewing. And maybe the poly thread isn't helping. But I don't have ready access to cerise coloured silk thread.
      • I have pulled on the seams to lengthen them. Hasn't done much good, but hasn't done any harm.
      • I haven't yet pressed the crap out of seams from the wrong side - my next plan of attack, after rest- hanging the shell overnight on my dress form. I realize, short of ripping out the seams - a very risky venture with silk charmeuse - this is my best remedy attempt, unless someone has another suggestion.
      It's very frustrating to do everything by the book - and to produce increasingly thoughtful, sound workmanship - only to encounter the ever-looming "sewing challenge" 3/4 of the way through construction. Really, sewing is so much more stressful - so much harder (IMO) - than knitting. I mean, it's harder to find the perfect material to work with, then physically harder to cut it out and mark it up (just that takes hours). Then you've got to sew it up and hope for perfection though something is bound to go out of whack at any moment. Then you've got to figure out the solution to the problem. Then put it into action it, all the while, hoping that said solution will a) work and b) not cause another challenge. Natch, knitting has its hard moments and some of these same challenges but they seem to happen, relatively speaking, at the pace of a snail - and sitting in the garden. And you're never totally fucked with knitting; you can always rip out the stitches and remake that fabric. It's the process of addition, not subtraction, that creates the knitted garment.

      Ah, I'd forgotten that lovely sewing anxiety buzz, coupled with a headache from scrunching for 8 hours. It's not ameliorated by my inability to dull it with a nice glass of wine (see here).

      So experts, what say you? Please tell me the pressing's gonna work. Or suggest another solution that doesn't require ripping out the stitches or finding silk thread.

      Thank you.

      Friday, September 9, 2011

      Pool of the Week

      Photo courtesy of Desire to Inspire

      The fabulous thing about this particular pool is that it belongs to a bed and breakfast in Belgium. Now, I didn't stop in Belgium this summer (though I railed through it from Amsterdam to Paris), but I understand it combines all of the best features of both the Netherlands and France, while retaining its chic individuality.

      Think about it, any place that has the best fries, beer, chocolate and waffles has too be good. Add to it this little gem of a pool and you have yourself a vacation.

      I want to go to Belgium. Sigh.

      Thursday, September 8, 2011

      Not Every One's A Winner

      The Wispy, she is done, and has been given to my child because:
      • She really wanted it.
      • It didn't fit me (too big in sleeves but the sweater part - below the shrug - wasn't wide enough to accommodate my chest. Should have done longer short rows, I guess. Good lesson.)
      • I don't like it.
      • It looks chic on her lanky frame.
      To wit:

      See that gape at the back shoulder? It does the same thing on me and on other photos I've seen. Don't love sleeves that can't fit because the drafting doesn't allow for it. I realize it's probably "the look".

      She wants you to know that she really is too cool for school.

      Do you see the hideous bag in that sleeve? I knit it so tightly it was ridiculous and yet the ribbing looks like crap.

      Some things to note:
      • I don't like what silk does to the drape (at least with this yarn in this proportion of 20%).
      • If you decide to make this, though I don't recommend it, and you are busty, extend the short rows where the sweater body is knit down from the shrug ribbing.
      • Feel free to throw Chloe & Spud fine sock yarn in the washer and dryer. No felting. But also no shrinking. In fact, I think the weave opens up still further in the dryer. (Note: I was using a larger gauge of needle than one would for socks.)
      I'm happy to be finished with this, and to have learned new lessons. Stay tuned for info about my latest finished knit item - an AWESOME scarf. That story is much more fun than this one.

      Tuesday, September 6, 2011


      I had one of those lovely opportunities to reflect upon my lifestyle today as, this morning, a formerly loose skirt fit - um - snugly. Oh, and further to yesterday's throw away comment about the skinnies, I sense technically I now am in need of a size up. I guess you can say that "opportunity" is the economical code word for "I totally lost my shit and quietly conceded that the jig is up".

      Let me articulate this clearly: I have eaten everything I desired, chemical composition-be-damned, for the last three months. I have drunk half-bottles of wine at dinner routinely. I have had little exercise, other than walking, unless gardening counts. I have baked many an item and I am a very good baker. I have traveled to Europe and Montreal - lands of the yummy restaurants and boulangeries.

      It is not surprising that I have gained weight. But it's still a shock that my not-thin skirt is not loose.

      On the plus side, this turn of events has given me a chance to create my very own "diet plan" - which is actually quite a lot of fun to do (if not to follow). I'm in no way surprised that all kinds of celebrities and "nutritionists" are getting in on the game.

      I've decided to call mine the "Fuck?! My Clothes Barely Fit Recalibration Plan" a) because I don't believe in diets (obviously) and b) it adequately sums up the motivator and the angst in one simple name. I can see the book deal in my near future, yes?

      Let's start with the premise: Life is long. Metabolisms change. Lifestyles change. Appetites change. Metabolic homeostasis is delicate. (Doesn't it seem like I have a higher degree in nutritional science?) One's job is not to be ever static in one's size and shape but to be resilient in the face of change, when one decides it is necessary.

      And really, what's the truest motivator for getting a grip? Those of you who said healthful longevity - get to the back of the freakin' line. The truest motivator is horror at the thought of needing to buy new clothes (or make them, or borrow them, or knit them etc.)... Who has piles of money and time for that shit? Who feels good about going out and buying her skinnies in the next size up (unless, natch, she's been trying to gain a bit of weight)? Um, hello, I already have good clothes in a size I can get with.

      Another motivator: Actually feeling gross. How much can one indulge before it gets old, before it layers on all of the other indulgences and drags? I don't like this puffy feeling.

      So, let me outline the Phases. (Of course there are phases. This is after all, a future best-selling weight-adjustment plan.)

      Phase 1 aka the "Don't Go Gently" (Two Weeks): This is the phase that's supposed to be really effective because it hurts. I'm hoping that my plan somehow forestalls the pain while achieving the outcome but, if it doesn't, I'll have to make hurt for gain (I mean, loss) seem compelling.

      It includes:
      • Very few carbs (sob). Vegetables and the occasional small serving of beans, rice or slice of bread are encouraged, but this is about reverting to the low carb system.
      • No booze. I know, I gasped just writing that. According to many women of a certain age (and by that, I mean my mother), alcohol is inefficiently metabolized by the forty-something woman and it goes straight to the waist. Fuck. But remember, this isn't forever. Just for a couple of weeks to rebalance things.
      • Lots of protein. Read all the other books if you want to know why. Also, it's good.
      • Daily ration of chocolate. It's my gimmick. And it's got phyto nutrients and can satiate while inhibiting appetite when used appropriately. Yes, I did just refer to chocolate "usage".
      • Other than the chocolate, and the odd serving of berries or peaches (what, I'm only human?!), no sugar, refined or otherwise.
      • Happily, all kinds of dairy, having varying fat contents, are welcomed in small quantities in Phase 1. Also welcome: reasonable portions of nuts, seeds and unsweetened almond milk.
      Phase 2 aka "Does this mean Phase 1 is Over?" (Three Weeks):
      • For better or worse, this the same as Phase 1 except you get to drink a daily white wine spritzer (2.5 oz wine). Can you believe I just came up with that?! You may think the spritzer is a tasteless relic of the 80s but, chances are, you formulated that opinion having observed a lot of people (your parents' age?) going into their 40s and dealing with this apparent "alcohol makes you fat" syndrome. To qualify: Half a bottle of wine, drunk routinely in early middle age, arguably makes you fat. Spritzers simply increase your hydration and support the bottled water industry.
      Phase 3 aka "The Phase You Stick with Until You Don't and Eventually It's Time to Go Back to Phase 1" (Your call on duration):
      • Occasionally, i.e. every third day but no more frequently than that, you are welcome to fool around with rations of carbs i.e. turn that serving of rice (and every other carb you intend to eat that day) into a slice of homemade flan. Or you can turn it into a plate of porcini pasta with cream. Lord, I want to be in Phase 3.
      • You get 5 oz. booze per day. That's it. Drink it in 3 spritzers if you must and call it Pinot Noir Soda. Or, you can save up 2 night's ration and have 10 oz in one night. But no more carry over than that. For example: You can forgo your glasses on Wed. and Thurs. and have 2 glasses on Fri. and 2 on Sat., but that's the extent of it. You can't save up you week of wine and binge one day a week. (What is this, the Adolescent Diet?)
      I'm tempted to bemoan the unkindness of age but, really, I've been pushing the envelope for quite a while and, till pretty recently, the centre was holding. I've enjoyed my immoderateness tremendously and I hope to experience it again many times in the course of my life. However, I don't want to be 20 lbs heavier at 50 than I was at 40 - if the equation is at all within my control with lifestyle moderation. Eating indulgently is a fabulous joy one should never regret. But regaining balance is another kind of pleasure. Here's to the best of both worlds.

      Monday, September 5, 2011

      EuroLoot: Wedge-Heel Boots - Amsterdam

      These were the steal of the vacation. Like, the only steal. I got these on sale from (something like) 200 euros for 89 euros. They'd just been marked down for the second time when I walked into the store. They were the only pair left.

      They are going to kill with a pair of skinnies and a fall jacket.

      Note to self, and everyone else, if I don't stop eating every carb on the planet (just back from weekend in Mtl., doncha know), I'm going to have to buy myself a whole new size of skinnies. Hmmm.