Thursday, January 30, 2014

Exceedingly Briefly

a) I am ridiculously tired and my arm still hurts like a bitch. I'm off to do some yoga, maybe weight-bearing, to keep the area stretched and to improve circulation. If the internet is anything to go on, it's the tetanus portion of the DPT shot that heightens the pain and causes it to linger. Not that this supports my informal vaccine campaign, but I've read it's the most hurty of the immunization shots. All of my recently vaccinated friends have corroborated this. Don't worry though - they're all fine and their arms work perfectly well! And they won't die from complications of pertussis.

b) I've decided to use my T shirt sloper armscye and sleeve dimensions to alter the size 10 Demi-Drape top before I cut or trace it. Interestingly, the curve of the armscye on the Demi-Drape is not so different from that of my sloper. But I'll have to narrow the shoulders by about an inch which is going to make things a bit tricky in terms of knowing how to alter the shoulders of the cowl front piece. The cowl sits atop the front shell but I think it might wrap to the back shell at the shoulder when sewing. I hate spatial reasoning. There are a couple of good posts on this top which I will definitely go back to and read.

c) The reason I don't have the Bengaline from StyleArc is that they didn't send it to me, although it does clearly appear on the order form. So they're express shipping it now. Wonder how long it'll take to get an express package from Australia. If regular mail is anything to go on, let's talk again mid-Feb.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Few More Thoughts About the Janet Jacket and Some Shots in the Arms

Today, the delightful Clothing Engineer sent me an email about some potential drafting challenges that she has encountered in making her own Janet Jacket muslin. I don't want to go into them - as I haven't yet had adequate time to reflect on Anne's terrific info - but it puts a slightly different slant on the experience.

Don't misunderstand - I still think I've spent a long time getting nowhere - but I hope that Anne will explore her findings in a post and that I have that much more to go on next time. And, likely, I'll explore the matter in more detail at some point in the near future.

On this topic, I can tell I'm going to have to repurchase the pattern, though when I do, I'm seriously considering getting the size 10 (not 12) for better initial fit in the shoulders. Sure, if I'd traced the pattern before hacking at it, I'd not be in this position. But then I'd have no compelling reason to get a different, and likely better overall, size.

Vis a vis cutting into patterns, btw, I vacillate wildly and go through phases. Right now, with all the work I do on fitting, I can't stand the thought of starting by spending an afternoon tracing the whole freakin' lot - even if that sounds totally counter intuitive. Tracing is the element that just makes it all seem like too much. So, if I've got to spend a whack of money to avoid it - and it is a whack of money shipping from Australia - so be it. Of course, I'll wait till next week when the free pattern of the month-with-purchase changes again. I already own January's.

Bizarrely, I'm thinking of joining the StyleArc club - something I've never been swayed to do with any other pattern vendor, because I do seem to be making my way through a bunch of patterns and they're pricey. Any thoughts on this?

Finally, my Style Arc patterns did arrive today - more on them and what I'm going to sew when in an upcoming post - but my Bengaline fabric must have been sent separately, because it did not arrive along with them. Frustrating. I want to see it and tell you all about it.

But gotta keep this post short because I'm typing like some hen, pecking at feed. I got two vaccines today, one in each arm and they are hurting.

Nothing like going out in the polar vortex (secretly, I just like using this ridiculous term) to get arm-hurty, fever-causing shots, one series of which (for Hepatitis A and B) I'm out of pocket on (as neither my insurance nor OHIP cover it).

And yet, my friends, I urge you to go and get vaccinated for - if nothing else - DPT (Diptheria/Pertussis/Tetanus). It's a combined shot and that pertussis sure is making a come-back. Just last week I learned about an internet friend who's dealing with it now.

Ontarians pls. note: DPT is covered by OHIP so it's free. But even if it weren't free, I'd urge you to pay the bucks and take the shot. Which is precisely the rationale that sees me spending 300 bucks ish on phased Hepatitis vaccinations on the strong recommendation of my doctor.

In truth, I lobbied firmly for MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) as those are the big-time, olde-fashioned, childhood illnesses for which, I assume, my immunity has waned. But apparently, these aren't making a comeback and I have no risk-factors. Over a certain age, it's highly unlikely that one will get these bugs, apparently.

In an ironic turn, my second vaccine today was for DPT. Why? Because big pharma doesn't detangle the three doses and I'm not waiting around for tetanus and diptheria. Furthermore, during the pertussis nightmare of 2011, the hospital lost my test swab so I have no hard evidence that pertussis is actually what I suffered with for months. (Of course, everyone's sure that's what I had, but no one can prove it.)

And on that note, it's off to put some ice on my arms...

Monday, January 27, 2014

What Was I Thinking?

Lord, I must have been high on something when I forgivingly suggested that I'd wear the latest version of the Janet Jacket out of the house. Seriously, it's amongst the crappiest things I've ever made. You could not get push me out the door in that thing of ill-fitting splendor. It's taking all of my willpower not to trash it this instant (recognizing I'm going to need it for the next attempt).

It's like I took a perfectly good pattern and hacked it to bits. (Maybe this is a slightly over-dramatic take, but I don't know just at this moment...)

I feel vaguely wallow-ish, nay despairing, like I really can't sew my way out of a paper bag. Never mind one made of fabric.

But, I suspect, no one ever got better at sewing by wallowing in despair over one's lack of talent. Or one's apparent inability to learn.

Whenever I feel this way I turn my mind Kenneth King's sage words (and I'm seriously paraphrasing here cuz I cannot remember where first I heard this): You haven't learned to sew till you've wrecked thousands of yards of fabric.

I feel eight or so yards closer to perfection.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Janet Jacket: Yeah, This Version Sucks Too

As next week is looking interminable, so posting may be a non-starter, and since I do want this post over and done with - like the Janet Jacket currently is, let's get to it. Here we have the third muslin, the second made in fashion fabric, the first completely finished version:

Read on for info about why there's torquing at the left centre front. No, it's not about badly aligned closures, alas...
There is no way to take a good photo of this thing. Trust me, I've tried. Indigo is a bitch to photo. Wool crepe is, well, crepey. And the combo - when you consider my challenges (read on to discover more), is just not good. But honesty is the best policy, so I'm here to tell you how it is.

Here are a couple more shots, on the ground, to show off the lines on something that isn't that wretched dress form. Why did I waste my money on that thing??

Look, I'm not done with the Janet Jacket. Well, I'm done with it for a while cuz I fucking hate everything jacket-related. But I'm going to crack this code eventually. Believe me. Because I can really see the potential. In fact, this jacket is vaguely wearable - if not up to standard - so I may even take it out for a couple of test drives, to further illuminate the issues.

Let's start with the good:
  • I made this thing with barely a look at instructions (mainly cuz there are barely instructions to consider, but you get my point). I know how to construct a tailored jacket and I'm pleased by that.
  • I do love stretch charmeuse and I'm going to persist with it in silk and synthetic versions.
  • I've made a lot of alterations, over 3 "muslins" and the majority of them have improved the fit.
  • I have encountered challenge after challenge and I have persisted calmly. That's the only reason we have anything at all to look at.
And now for the less good:

In a previous post, I discussed the sharpei neck issue and indicated that I had to remove .5 of an inch wedge from the centre back tapering at the shoulder. Um, that was not true. On reconsideration, I took out 1.5 inches of wedge. And I still ended up with this:

Do you see those bubbles of fabric? I'm starting to wonder if my problem is that I don't have enough fabric rather than too much - but I don't know how that can be because the sharpei issue is INCREDIBLY improved in this version for all of that fabric removal.

I'm also starting to wonder if my choice of drapey fabric and soft interfacing may be the cause of this. Maybe this jacket could do with a firmer material.

So while we're on the topic, let's talk about wool crepe:

The thing that makes wool crepe a dream to sew with makes it intolerable to tailor. I will not be using wool crepe on this jacket in the future. In fact, it's gonna be a cold day in hell before I use wool crepe on anything more tailored than a sheath dress from here on in.

Crepe is so malleable that it takes every suggestion of fabric manipulation and runs riot with it. It's so sensitive. It's got no backbone, no pun intended and it loves to wrinkle. I don't care if it has nice drape, writ large. It has crap drape on a tailored item where one needs structure to prevail.

On more mundane fitting topics:
  • Do not, imagining yourself a class-act pattern adjuster, forget to take an inch off the bottom of your jacket front and facing pieces. OK, it would have been game over if I'd actually made these pieces an inch too short to begin with. But this "fix" required surgery, far into the process of jacket construction, and the end result is one side that moves slightly off-grain and torques the entire finished product.
Well, that's a mistake I won't make again.
  • Also: As S. noted, when last she was over, after increasing the full bust depth by like a zillion per cent, I've got to take quite a bit of fabric out of the front princess seam above the full bust. That's what I like to call my small bust adjustment.
  • And I've got to take about an .5 inch, somehow, off the back armscye. It's gapey.
  • I've got to lengthen the arms by .75 inch.
There you go. I've got a nicely-finished, mediocre end result and, you know what? It doesn't matter. What matters is what I can learn and bring to my next foray which, hopefully, at least, will be better fitting, better draping and more wearable.

There are no awards for making mediocre products, only the potential for winning with persistence.

Today's questions: What's up with the sharpei neck - do I need to take out another wedge? Is it fabric related? Is it something else? Can you share a sad tale of sewing meh-ness? Let's talk.

All Inclusive

For those of you wondering, this is what it looks like to walk in a wind gale:

Photo taken by my husband on his mobile @ 11pm...
Yeah, those are downed trees, huddled together for warmth.

Gusts were up to 100 km/hr, in case you're interested. When I walked home, at about 7 pm, I almost got blown over on a street corner, waiting for the light to change. My face was actually scratched up from blowing snow mixed with salt.

Ah, winter.

Friday, January 24, 2014


I've had a punishing day, just got home, and a spider crossed my path - like CLOSELY - as I reached for my drink. To me it looked huge, but I am extremely afraid of spiders. Like phobic. It's a miracle I didn't spill red wine all over everything. Of course, Scott the bug-saver wasn't here. So I had to smack this spider about 50 times with a shoe. It's still sitting, shriveled, under the side table. I'm too afraid to go near it.

Despite that unflattering profile, I want to end this day (or move into the later evening, anyway) with a pleasant, if quick, story:

Andrea and Gail convinced me to order from Fabrications - which ships flat to Canada for 20 bucks. If I hadn't bubbleheadedly authorized the company to send by UPS (for same price), I wouldn't have had to pay 40 bucks in customs handling. Worst. Courier. Ever. And I know that. Mind you, I wouldn't have these fabrics three days after purchase:

2 yards Light-weight Coral Wool Jersey - it's much more orange than cerise...
The wool is machine washable (with delicate soap like Eucalan) and flat dry.

2 yards Silk Chiffon, pattern on navy blue. I copied Andrea with this fabric. She owns it too...
This one is coded "dry clean", which is something I don't have much appetite for. Do you think I could hand wash and dry it? Or will it go wonky? Note: It was 19 bucks a yard and I don't want to trash it.

I'm extremely fascinated by the chiffon. I may have to figure out how to make a top with a stretch-free woven. I guess the bias will be my friend...

BTW, I LOVE Fabrications. Excellent service, beautiful fabrics, reasonable prices (for well-curated, quality fabric). I mean, it's an independent boutique, not a chain store.

You should totally give them a go.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Feast or Famine

On the weekend, I visited with Andrea and Sara on a special stash expedition. Don't get excited; it was not a swap. Alas. 

We actually got together to review Andrea's patterns against her fabrics to support her in a couple of upcoming sewing projects. Sara and I played the role of Tim Gunn, setting the sewing scene by choosing 2 garments, from A's pattern stash, to be made using 2 fabrics, also from her stash. Now she has the opportunity to simply pick-up-and-go on 2 future projects. All the fussing is done! I'd go into more detail but there was a bit of wine happening and I can't quite remember which fabrics we paired with which patterns... I do hope A writes about this on her blog, in upcoming posts!

It was a terrific process in a variety of ways: fun with sewing friends, being creative in a team, learning about new materials. While I do think of myself as an upstanding sort of girl, there was a brief moment when I seriously considered, ahem, "doing away with" Andrea and running with as many pieces as I could carry. And some built-ins and patterns. Lord, that woman's stash is amazing - well-organized, colour-coded, delightfully colourful, varied in texture, luxe, interesting, exotic! I cannot believe she's on a fabric-cleanse because she's so good at accumulating it.

Kristin's Lesson-Learned Number 1: Fuck stash dieting. I need to go on a binge!

Really though, I did learn a few other things:
  • Unlike myself, some sewists use independent patterns extensively. I barely know what's out there, apparently, and, even when I'm aware, I'm not increasing my pattern inventory with the indie outliers. Now's a good time to mention that, whenever I'm with other sewists, they love to talk about the (insert latest cool) pattern. They go into all kinds of details about designers, the etymology of the company name, 5 other bloggers who've also made the garment, and the list goes on. As I can barely remember the names of my freakin' TNTs, I do occasionally feel outclassed. I sense I need to pay a bit more attention.
  • Moreover, if you never sew with a particular fabric, chances are you don't know anything about it. For example, having never touched a Liberty fabric till this weekend (Tana Lawn, for those of you wondering), I had no idea of its drape and hand. It's much softer than I imagined it would be. Chiffon? I confuse that with Tulle on a regular basis. I feel, if only to improve my skills, I need to branch out into sewing with new materials. Don't get me wrong, communing with fabric is one of my strengths. But, really, I'm not getting to know enough of it!
  • More can be more! Leave it to me to get cozy with two committed Stash Busters only to decide that I've gotta buy stuff.
Look, I completely understand the impulse to go on the Diet. Andrea makes the reasonable point that she simply wants to get going on using the beautiful things she owns. And I totally see where she's coming from. I, on the other hand, managed to use up 10 yards of stash fabric during the construction of my last capsule collection - and I wasn't even following a program. So I'm betting on myself not to let the stuff languish. We'll see how that goes. (Clarification: I'm only talking about fabric here, not yarn. Yarn I've got enough of.)

Of course, I'm not intending to go completely insane, though I did just purchase 2 new fabrics (one of which is a navy/pattern chiffon). All of the fabrics I've bought since Jan. 1 have been targeted: I want to know more about stretch charmeuse because I sense it's going to be my go-to shirt "woven" in the future. I bought the stretch Bengaline (from StyleArc) because the designer(s) make up most stretch woven garment samples in it. Since I intend to sew StyleArc patterns, I want to see the properties of a garment made in the "optimal" material. I got a bunch of new jersey (rayon, cotton, merino - washable!) because I love it and I use it and I'd like to work with a few different weights and drapes, over and above the "very drapey" summer-weight stuff I have much of right now. More on this to come.

Mind you, there's no free pass. I still have to find a way to keep everything neatly organized in one cupboard. Dammit. I sense a scrap cull coming. And a lot of sewing in the near future. So please stay tuned.

Today's question: Does all this talk of diet make you want to binge? Certainly I cannot be alone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Painfully Adorable

I'm not going to underplay it; these are the cutest socks ever:

I used the Baby Birthday Socks by Seasonal Fibres, though next time I have occasion, I will likely use Angela's (free) pattern which is equally adorable. I went down a needle on the 6-12 month size (recommended when the baby is younger than 6 months). I seriously can't tell you how much I love these things. They're the most adorable size and shape in a fun, unisex pattern.

Now I simply have to meet some more people with babies.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Public Service Announcement

The other day, I read this post. Have to say, I was so impressed by the beautiful drape of the garment, featured within, that I immediately a) bought 3 yards of the fabric used to make it and b) went over to StyleArc and got the pattern.

I can't tell you that I've ever done that before.

Fast forward a couple of weeks (long weeks, waiting for parcels) and my fabric arrived today.

In addition to this (for making the Demi Drape Top):

White Smoke Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics
Seagrass Rayon Jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics (Note: My Seagrass Rayon Jersey looks decidedly grey IRL but the White Smoke is exactly as shown...)
 I also bought these fabrics:

Textured T Shirt Weight Rayon Jersey
Butterfly Migration Stretch Charmeuse
Admittedly, they are all lovely. The butterfly charmeuse is not as stretchy as the canary yellow stuff I'm working with to make my latest version of the Janet Jacket (well in process, fyi). But I suspect it will be more useful as a result. This stuff might work very well to make an unaltered top designed for woven fabric, for a woman with proportionately large breasts. Not sure why there is such a difference in the properties of stretch between the two charmeuses, but I suspect it's because the yellow is pure silk and the Butterfly is a synthetic.

However, the fact is that the rayon jersey stuff is freakin' awesome. Seriously. It's the cat's ass. I don't know that I've ever seen such beautiful jersey. The hand is amazing. So is the drape. It feels like a million dollars. It's very well-priced. You can tell that it's going to sew nicely cuz it's not bitchy rayon.

Even though it's no longer on sale, (I got it at the ridiculous price of $10.50 a yard), go buy some. You will not be disappointed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

And While We're on the Topic of Health...

It occurs to me that it's been a while since I've provided an update about my mum, Abbie, and her breast cancer treatment. I am grateful to be able to tell you that she finished chemotherapy before Xmas, just in time to enjoy the holidays with family. I have to say, and I write this with the keen awareness that I may find myself having chemo at some point in the future: Chemotherapy is something one should take pains to avoid at all costs -unless, of course, the counter cost is a recurrence of cancer that will likely kill you.

As mentioned, my mum has had, and continues to have, awesome treatment at an excellent clinic in North Carolina. She has had access to the best medicine available, including the nausea meds that, here in Canada, you have to pay for independently (which is to say, they're too expensive to be covered by our socialized medical system). She has done yoga and had sessions of acupuncture daily. She has received excellent support and constant help from my father and health professionals of numerous descriptions.

And yet, not gonna lie, chemotherapy is a hideous undertaking. Admittedly, Abbie didn't have a moment of nausea - something I manage to feel weekly and I'm just a regular girl, going about her day. But chemo, while it may cure you, is generally an insidious beast. It fucks with your brain, among other things (if only while you're going through it, and perhaps for a short while afterwards). It causes burns, debilitating neuropathy, the kind of fatigue that prevents one from being able to stand up for hours at a time. Of course, it also causes insomnia. Drinking can be a terrible chore, as can the resulting dehydration. One can't be much around others, what with the risk to one's immune system. And the list goes on.

I mean, really, losing your hair is the fun part.

So to say that we are happy to be done with that phase of treatment is a wholesale understatement.

At the moment my mum is having radiation therapy 5 days a week for approximately 6 weeks. I mean, that's no walk in the park either. Mind you, I have quizzed her about which is worse (from her current vantage point) and, unquestionably, radiation is the less terrible ordeal. And that's despite the daily sessions and resulting burns.

I suspect that the reason I've put off writing this update is because I truly prefer not to think about it - though I know that so many have you have been (and continue to be) so kind with emails and thoughts and prayers, and perhaps you are wondering where we're at.

We're ok. We're ok in that way that people who are going through a finite tough time are ok. We're ok in the way that being ok is a choice, and really, what's the alternative? We're so much better off than so many people who have to manage cancer that I'm loath to complain. And yet, arguably, we're not as well off as those who don't have to worry about it.

I like to think of myself as a liberated being. I don't mean this in terms of my mores or my feminism, in this context, but in terms of my ability and belligerent willingness to do the things that bring me happiness. I have to say, however, there's nothing so compelling, after observing (nay experiencing) the serious disruption of the health of a loved one, as the notion of living well now. Your life is exactly what you are doing in this moment. If you have cancer, or are in recovery, if you are stressed, depressed, if you are sleep-deprived, chronically ill or unfulfilled, if you accomplish a goal today or rediscover something lost or drink and eat with loved ones and friends... This is the life you're living now and it's all you have and it's everything.

So, dare I suggest (not that you've asked for my advice), that you find every way to feel the immensity of your mortality - your existential freedom - as often as you can, in as many ways as possible. Do not waste time regretting what you haven't accomplished. Do not judge yourself over perceived failures. Read that book you've been meaning to pick up for a year and half. Buy that lovely bottle of wine that's a bit too expensive. Learn that skill you've been telling yourself you'll get to eventually. Take that course. Pick up the cheque at your next gathering and enjoy feeling like a big shot. Make those plans. Sit on your couch like a potato and be happy that you're not at some party you really didn't want to go to anyway.

Sure, there will be obligations. But they must be balanced by the urge to please yourself. It's trite, but true: When you look back on your life, it isn't the pleasure you eschewed that you'll remember.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Control is An Illusion

I've been managing a migraine for the better part of a week, hence the downturn in posting. I went an entire month between this bout and the last, definitely progress. There I was, getting all optimistic that I'd totally cracked the code, that I was done with these miserable brain-suckers. Reality is a bitch sometimes.

I do want to share an insight I've been hovering over, on the topic of mind over matter. In yoga, we place a lot of emphasis on the breath. There are many categories of yogic breathing practice, the catch-all of which is pranayama, about which I'm not speaking of specifically here. I'm referring here to "mindful breathing", wherein one doesn't so much try to methodically control the flow of breath but to bring it actively to certain places in the body. Theoretically, it's the kind of thing anyone can do, yoga-minded or no.

If that sounds totally esoteric or implausible, fair enough. I've spent years and years in a culture that espouses, nay deifies, breath control though I have always been at the margins. Don't misunderstand, I know it's powerful stuff: I've observed my own (tachycardic) heart rate slow dramatically in response to pranayama. But the idea of breath linked to visual imagery hasn't been tremendously, personally meaningful.

However, I've observed lately, when I have the headaches, and every muscle in my body (above my lumbar spine) contracts to the extent that my mobility is often compromised, that I erect all kinds of mechanisms, internally, to escape from the "original" pain. It's like, subconsciously, I am so afraid of confronting it that I construct pain blockers in the form of other kinds of (more manageable) pain, simply to avoid whatever unknowable, untenable core pain awaits. Don't misunderstand, my muscle cramping (and migraines) is primarily as a result of estrogen imbalance, not my will gone haywire.

But I have discovered, after many hideous hours, locked in a standoff with my body, that if I breathe deeply, methodically, when I'm in the grip of pain that frightens me existentially, that I can get from the fear, to the pain, in a way that I can handle.

People, the worst of pain, sometimes, is in your body's response to it. Having had a child without any medication, I can assure you that this is true, at least some percentage of the time.

On much, real-world reflection, the most searing seat of pain, in my brain, is not as crushing as the process of constantly running from it.

So, to those of you who are managing some sort of chronic pain of any of the myriad varieties - and trust me, I don't like to think of myself as someone managing chronic pain, though it appears, at the moment, that I am: Perhaps you'd like to think of breath imagery, or meditation, not simply as a crunchy esoteric practice, but as a sort of physio wherein you link your body's response to pain with your ability to confront it.

I'm in the weeds here, and I can say it's better than nothing. In fact, sometimes, it's profoundly comforting. That's what I've got today, anyhow.

But I'd love any of your own thoughts and feelings on pain management. Please, let's not be isolated in our experiences of pain - of any sort. Let's talk it through.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Why I'm Not on a (Stash) Diet

A few days ago, Roni left this comment on my post Enlisted:

I've been thinking a lot about stashing lately. Sometime in the past few months I've become "stash free". I did have some fabric left, mostly scraps and remnants, but no pieces that were big enough to be made into a garment (except for 2, that are still waiting for a pattern to be purchased). While it was liberating it was also demoralizing, because I could no longer take my mind off things by grabbing a piece of fabric and making something nice out of it at the end of a long day of... life. So I did some sewing for my boyfriend (3 pairs of pants and 2 cardigans, from Thread Theory) while taking the time to theoretically build my ideal wardrobe. Ever since, I've been going to the textile district every few weeks or so to buy the supplies I need to make 3 garments out of this idea wardrobe (garments that I need and want in my life) + 2 things that I don't really NEED but want to make. Making stuff I enjoy wearing mostly from patterns that had become my TNT patterns, also mean I can get rid of some of the clothes I don't like and don't fit me anymore (dropped some major kgs in the past few months).  This change has increased my sewing productivity, and also changed my wardrobe for the better.

Perhaps this is a bit of kismet because I have recently come to exactly the same conclusion.

There's nothing more miserable than being blessed by the urge to sew (or knit, though I sense that knitting stuff is a bit easier to purchase on the fly) only to discover that you haven't got object X, right there to support the process.

Doesn't matter what you're missing - though, certainly, fabric is the deal breaker. If you don't have the interfacing, the lining, the zippers, the stabilizing tape, the thread, the tracing paper, the buttons, the snaps (and the list goes on), then you're bound to be distracted by shopping. And we all know, shopping days derail crafting days.

This is one of the ways in which I think the organized stasher has the edge.

Here's the thing: I use a variety of fabrics routinely. Denim (light, heavy, stretch, woven), charmeuse (woven and now stretch), jersey (rayon, wool, cotton, doubleknit), other knits (modal, tencel, cashmere) and woven suitings. Extremely occasionally I make use of a shirt-weight woven.

Why on earth wouldn't I aim to have a few pieces of all of these fabric-types, at my access, in yardage sufficient to make the sort of project each suggests?

I can assure you, having gone through at least 25 yards of denim over the past 4 years, that having 6 yards on hand isn't going to go to waste - esp. as I stash denim with different properties and shades. Really, you can make anything on the planet with knits, so is it stupid to keep 2 yards of each of the major weights and types in a cupboard for when I get the urge?

Now, where things get dicey for me, is when we speak of the shirt-weight wovens. Um, if I go through 5 yards of this in a year, I'd be shocked. So I'm not stashing it methodically. And, in fact, most of what I currently have of it has been gifted to me.

On a parallel point, I stick to the colours I know I'm going to use: deep blue or indigo denim (but never black), stripes, the occasional floral or jewel toned pop of colour. Everything else is neutral (navy, black, grey).

6.5 yards of denim of diff weights and colours
@15 yards of all the knits in the land
@8 yards lining and tailoring materials
1 yard of silk charmeuse
@4.5 yards of shirt-weight wovens (for pockets, trim, bags, tops etc.)

Additionally I keep a reasonable stash of interfacing, muslin and relevant notions - enough that I don't need to run to the store for buttons or zippers, for example.

Is this a ridiculous amount of stuff? I don't think so.

It's adequate so that, any day, I can choose from one of my 85 or so patterns (ok, that's a whole other stash - we can discuss this another time), and make a dozen garments. Sure, I'm not stash-free, but I'm mobilized!

So those are my 2 cents on this topic. But I'd love to know what you think. Thoughts or feelings?

Monday, January 13, 2014

In Brief...

My body is doing that full-spectrum, hurty-spasm thing and it feels like an ironing board. Seriously, just did an hour of yoga and I could barely move myself into actions that I normally take for granted. It's bizarre. It used to demoralize me but now that I have some idea of what's causing this, I can tolerate it. And I know when and how to apply the Advil.

Anyway, not up to much typing but I do need to tell you this:

Many of my de-stash fabrics have been sent off to good homes today. All that I offered up on the Stash Diet Swap page were claimed in a flash, happily, with the exception of two. Those two were small yardages and grey. Perhaps that combo isn't exciting.

At any rate, when they were still available this morning, I was surprised. I mean, they're lovely fabrics or I never would have bought them! They're in a neutral colour. They're each big enough to make a top, albeit not an involved one. I imagined the tops I could make with each - how I could use the Tencel as a contrast fabric for another yardage of the same Tencel I have in a different colourway.

And then it occurred to me. It's my freakin' fabric. I mean, no one had yet claimed it so, this morning, I simply deleted the photos from the group and reabsorbed each yardage into my stash.

And now I feel oddly guilty. Not about keeping my fabrics. I mean, I'm on a whole new creative track, what with having cataloged everything! But about showing them off and then removing them.

At any rate, I apologize if you were about to message me to ask about them, even though I sense you probably weren't. In the meanwhile, I'll be planning out some kind of sleeveless peplum or a dress with contrast neckline...

Almost giving stuff away is so illuminating.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Organization: Fun or Stupid?

Let me start by putting it out there straight: if you don't do it utterly compulsively, organization is useless, IMO. You're only as good as your last effort.  For me, organization is an entirely binary thing. You either do it, and it helps you. Or you don't (and maybe your life is a miserable mess but at least you have time to experience it). Mind you, I'm considered to be crazy by some, so don't take my word for it.

This weekend has amounted to nothing but organizing for me.

Yesterday it was the stash catalog. Today it's back to the Janet Jacket, from which I've been on vacation for a week or so, cuz seriously, I did not want to do what needed to be done next.

First I retraced all of the pieces in accordance with previous alterations (the original pieces were a mess):

I decided to use the same pieces for shell as for lining, though the original Style Arc pattern comes with both, because (you may recall), I'm using a fabric with good ease (wool crepe) and a stretch silk charmeuse lining.

When I "followed the rules", during my last construction attempt, my lining had so much extra fabric ease (um, it stretches) that everything went sideways. So this is a tactical step. Note, in order to allow for the correct length of the lining pieces, I've marked the relevant ones with the lining cut line, as well as the main fabric seam allowance line:

Then I had to put away, in some retrievable format, all of the original, altered pieces:

While I'd love to be done with them, just like the previous construction attempts (muslin and then first finished jacket, aka muslin 2), I suspect I haven't seen the last of them.

The theory is that all of my documentation is going to make my next attempt much more knowable. And I certainly believe it's true or I'd have to kill myself from the futility of it all.

Today I also had a chance to set these pieces up on the remaining fabric and lining, to confirm whether I have enough of each. I'm good on the wool (I bought the last 3 yards of the bolt and now I'm really glad I took more than I "needed".) The $36.00 stretch charmeuse lining? Well that I'm going to need another yard of. Of course. Here's hoping it's still available. I mean, it is canary yellow stretch charmeuse that costs a fortune. I think the odds are good. And here's hoping I can get the shop in the garment district to deliver it, to save me some time...

You know about my endless quest for efficiency. Next week, when I begin to make the next version of the jacket (I daren't call it the final, that'll come back to bite me in the ass), I'll be 4 hours ahead of the game. Mind you, today, aren't I 4 hours lacking in time to kick back?

What's the answer peeps? Do you organize for the sake of efficiency? Better outcome? To satisfy your personality? Are you the least organized person ever - but you love it and it works for you? Do you think it's possible to be "half organized"? Please, let's talk!

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Sometimes I feel like all I ever do is make lists:
  • My daily food diary
  • My activity log
  • My to do list
  • My knitting notes
  • My sewing notes
  • My knitting stash catalog
  • My FitBit Flex sync
So today, in the spirit of loving to see everyone else's stash, with an urge to destash a bit of my own stuff, I catalogued all of my fabric (save lingerie supplies and remnants). This document is separated into stuff I'm keeping and stuff I'm happy to give away.

And for those of you who are visual (which, really, you should be with fabric), here's my current to-keep stash in pics and here's the stuff I'm happy to give away. If you'd like to become the owner of a new piece or two, you can email me directly, or contact me on the Stash Diet swap page.

Let me know which fabric interests you and, as long as no one else has claimed it, I'd be happy to get it to where you live and split the shipping charge.

But moving along, yesterday I smugly insisted that I am light on stash. (Please wait while my hoarse cackle of laughter abates.) Sure, I can fit my stuff into one small cupboard - well, until that new 7 yards of fabric arrives sometime in the next week, at any rate - but Lord, I am swimming in GORGEOUS pieces of fabric that I am stupid to ignore.

While this day has been hijacked by some really boring, tedious photography, list-making and trying to remember how the fuck to wrangle Flickr (this site is useless), I can't begrudge the process overly.

Just to incline you to check out my photo sets, here are a couple of beautiful fabrics I am very motivated to use:

Above, is the insanely plush, 100% cashmere sweater fabric that's hot pink on one side and slate grey on the other. Mardel generously, really generously, gifted this to me a while ago and I haven't yet used it because, people, it is precious. Note: I'm not one of those who cannot cut into precious things?! Honestly, this is probably the most high-quality and beautiful fabric I have ever owned. I do not want it to languish in my stash, but to live in my wardrobe. Mind you, nothing I've seen so far is worthy of it, IMO.  I've got an insanely generous 2.5 yards at 60" width. If you can think of what I should make with it - I'd be so grateful to hear about it.

And this fabric, above, is one I bought with my friends last weekend. It's the loveliest stretch twill - really, I feel it's denim with flowers. I think it would make great denim leggings or even a good sleeveless summer dress. I've got 1.5 metres at 60" width. Don't you think it's pretty? I actually got it for 11 bucks a metre (half off) which is a very good price. Much of the fabric at FabricLand is too expensive these days, IMO, for its quality. We no longer have one in TO, but I'm more inclined (if I can't find what I want in the garment district) to order online through a variety of sources. No doubt, I'll write about that soon.

So, today's questions: What do you think of your own stash? Do you really know what's in there? Really? Are there things you want to give away? (No problem - join the Stash Diet Flickr group.) Do you think my stash is insane? I can take it. Let's talk!

Friday, January 10, 2014

One of Those Friday Random Things Posts

Indulge me in a bit of Canadianism, for a moment, as I talk about the weather. See, in the same way that most of North America has been in a deep freeze for the last couple of weeks, so have we in TO. Not surprising really. I mean, we live in Canada - even if it is the wussy-weather part of Canada. But it's really brought to light some things I know, but that I'm not often given the opportunity to experience...

For starters, make no mistake, people acclimate to cold very quickly. On the first day of -35C with the windchill, I was freezing. I took the bus to work. I wore 3 layers and a fur. By the time the mercury rose to -10, yesterday, I was so freakin' overheated in one layer, that I had my coat open, my scarf gloves and hat removed and I could still barely stand it. (Sure, I'm willing to admit that perimenopause has something to do with this.) Today, at 0C, I wore a fall jacket.

Moreover, people acclimate to ice very quickly. At first I was taking the bus, as much to avoid killing myself on patches of black ice, as to avoid the cold. Now I have my ice-legs and I routinely cruise across blocks of the stuff (in reasonable footwear, natch) with little concern. It's really good exercise too, peeps. Note: As of this aft, I'm back to getting my slush legs, which are unpleasant under any circumstances. There's nothing redeeming there.

Finally, and I'm sorry to harp about this, but I'm living with this weather and it's omnipresent: The entire deep-freeze bought beautiful, bright, cloudless skies. The air was dry. It was SO cheerful. Now, with rising temps, we're back to the socked-in, damp and dullness that sucks the life out of one. No joke: I prefer freezing and sun, any day, to the drab and zero we're probably in for for the next few weeks. This does make me an optimal candidate for life in Montreal, for what it's worth.

But on to other randomness:

  • My goal for the weekend is to chill the fuck out. More to the point, I hope to drink some wine, eat some yummies, knit the rest of the sweater body for the Blanche Too, and revisit the pieces of the Janet Jacket (that's been in brief stasis). I won't sew this weekend. I'll retrace and reconsider fit, in light of stretch fabric lining, and maybe cut the pieces if I get to that step. You know, there's no prize for finishing the thing in 10 minutes.
  • I have alluded, in Twitter, to having acquired a FitBit Flex. It's a boring story, frankly, but the gist is that I've been wearing it since Monday and, while at first I hated it, now I'm intrigued. Brief description: It's a gizmo you wear on your wrist that tells you how much energy your body burns both at rest and during activity and your sleep patterns. Since I do keep a food log (longstanding thing), I'm impressed to see that my FitBit is compatible with my food diary. It's apparently about 93% accurate (more than accurate enough for my needs) and, if nothing else, it's assisting me to refine my understanding of my body's current metabolic rate. (You know, if one eats a mere 100 calories a day more than one needs (depending on a variety of factors, of course), it makes the difference of @ a pound a month. I'm in a phase where I need to pay attention to that sort of stupidity.) Please do not misunderstand - I do not enjoy feeling like a robot and I'm not becoming some sort of Nike-style fitness nut. I'm just using it as I do everything else - as a tool for calibration. Fun info: I have to remove it when I knit because it sees that movement as steps and it's been giving me lots credit for excess activity while I knit for an hour or two per night :-) Mind you, it gives me NOTHING for my yoga, a practice where I hold "static" poses for minutes at a time, so I do take some of the knitting creditin lieu!
  • Have you joined the Swap Flickr group for Andrea and Gail's Stash Diet? Look, I'm not in a stash diet mood, as evidenced by the 10 yards of fabric and 4 skeins of yarn I've bought in the last week. And that's cool. But I do love the idea that peeps who LOVE accumulating the building blocks of their crafts are able to give and get while avoiding any net accumulation of stuff. In fact, this fills me with such a warm, fuzzy feeling that I'm going to have to catalog my stash and give some of it away! Maybe I'll do that this weekend if there's time. How is there so much to do???
I'm not overly concerned about accumulation of things because I have a built in halt-mechanism. It's called compulsiveness. I cannot allow myself to overgrow my allotted space (a fabric banker's box for yarn stash and a cupboard of fabric - effectively 4 small shelves, one of which is occupied by interfacing and lingerie stuff). I'm hardwired to stop. But, in the same way that I am hardwired to limit myself (in this fashion, not in numerous other ways!), I am twistedly thrilled to see the overgrown stashes of others. I LOVE the excess of a beautiful, robust, overflowing stash of tactile treats. I am hanging out in that Flickr group just to see the gorgeous indulgences that reside within. And, of course, I love the idea that peeps will be making use of what they have, if only to allow themselves to buy some more :-)

At any rate, that's me for the day. Thoughts about any of this? Are you up to excitement this weekend, the first of the excitement-free mid-winter? Let's talk!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Staying the Course

You know what makes it really hard to shut up and just knit the project you're actually working on? Like, the one you swatched and blocked for, and are 6 inches through the body of, and for which you stashed that ridiculous quantity of online-purchased wool...

Shit like this (click on the image below to see the entire collection):


On the plus side, I'm 6 inches into this pattern:
Blanche Too by Susan Crawford
Using this yarn:
Quince and Co. Chickadee in Lichen
Of course, I have a lot to say about the whole process it but it's going to have to wait for another post...

In the meanwhile, thoughts or feelings about any of this?

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Little Bit More About Socks...

Thanks to everyone who's been sending photos of their finished socks (or posting them on their blogs). I'm thrilled by all of your beautiful efforts! I do intend to do a follow up post with pics, closer to the end of the month, when more folks have had a chance to finish the Two Socks, One Week KAL (see the sidebar if you'd like a pattern and road map for making a simple pair of socks). (Hey Barb - I couldn't reply to your email because your anti-spam software doesn't like my email program. But I did get your photo of the lovely socks!)

Anyway, today I must send you over to Clio's blog where she shows her own KAL efforts-to-date and provides a self-drafted, toe up, simple sock recipe.

I totally want to learn toe up socks, though I don't have any challenges with toe-grafting or Kitchener stitch lumps and bumps (which Clio says she struggles with sometimes). I just like the idea of knowing another method - one which is better to work if you have limited yarn. Thing is, I haven't really been motivated to learn a new method in the context of a complicated pattern.

I do love sock recipes (the likes of which A Simple Sock is). I just want to know the gist of things, and the steps (and some links to the techniques required to do the steps) so that I can feel comfortable giving it a go.

Let's say some of you are interested in the KAL, but not in my pattern's cuff down method, well, Clio's pattern is a great alternative.

Finally, check out the colours of her sock - knit in ToshSock - seriously the most delicious yarn on the planet. Those Tosh peeps really know how to dye.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Travels With Friends

Hey peeps, a bit under the weather here (and not entirely psyched to go back to the regular pace of life) but I thought I'd post a photo from a wonderful day yesterday:

Crazily, given that I don't tend to leave the central west urban core (unless I'm getting on a plane), I made my way to Kitchener on VIA with Sara and Andrea, to meet up with Gillian. (Unfortunately, our other partner in crime, Anne, was unwell and couldn't join.)

Regrettably, not that we let it wreck our good time, the return train was 90 minutes late so we didn't get home till the middle of the night. Oh, and the reason for the delay? The train waited 90 minutes, elsewhere, for connections. WTF?! Gotta say, VIA is going to be hearing from me about the stupidity of that decision. Apparently, they never do this and, in truth, I've never experienced a time delay on VIA of any sort. But that shit is not ok.

But back to the fun: It was a truly delightful day, the highlight of which was going to this superior knitting shop. Honestly, I've never seen such a place. I got a few skeins of novelty yarn (will discuss more in another post) but I could have bought the place. We all did pretty well there, even Gillian, who doesn't currently knit!

And, amazingly, this is one of 7 boutiques (and the only on in Canada) that supports Custom Fit onsite. I spent quite a while discussing the mechanism by which one creates a Custom Fit pattern for oneself, as that's the way the majority would do so, and I have to say, I'm not convinced that the system is adequately integrated at this time to make it functional for the wide variety of knitters who might otherwise be interested in it.

It's a complicated, convoluted process that yields a pattern and a recipe, via two different sites, for two separate charges, which one must view simultaneously in order to create the garment in question. Furthermore, there are practically no actual pre-designed patterns uploaded into the wizard at this time, so effectively, you must design your own sweater from a bunch of templates.

Seems to me that one has replaced the "math portion" of making the sweater of ones' choice with the "design portion" and I don't know that I'm interested in that trade-off.

Sure, if you've never been able to make a sweater that fits you, and you want a very simple sweater, then I think it's a good plan. The results do appear to fit the testers and early users very well. But if you want to make any of the zillions of cool sweaters that someone's designed, this isn't going to get you there easily - if at all.

Final word on this for now: I'm not slow on the uptake. It shouldn't require an email exchange with the Custom Fit people (very nice and helpful, fyi), a 20 minute conversation at a yarn store with an expert on the system, and rereading website/promo material in order to gain some firm understanding of the basic logistics of the process, never mind the hardcore specifics.

I think Custom Fit, at the moment, has a small core market (which doesn't bode particularly well for quick upgrades to a system with a ton of potential). I hope the people who can benefit from it are not put off by its relative unwieldiness and that they flock to the site so that the future incarnations will be supported.

I probably will design a simple sweater via Custom Fit, at some point this winter, because of my interest in fitting, and the potential of this format, which I'd like to support. But I sense, it's not going to be my new go-to platform anytime soon.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Winter Sewing: The Janet Jacket Intermission

OK, I'm going to aim to be adult about this, the fact that my "finished" Janet Jacket is most definitely a muslin, and not the wearable kind. (Note: No photos at this stage. When I photo it next, it's gonna be done.)

The good news is that I've learned many things, most germane of which is that, if you use stretch charmeuse when lining a (drapey) woven, do not make the lining larger than the jacket. Lining patterns are drafted slightly bigger than the shells they line because one needs a bit of extra give in under-layer when both fabrics are woven.

Alas, when the lining is stretchy and, trust me, this stretch charmeuse has a reasonable amount of width-wise stretch, whilst sewing it gets MUCH bigger than the shell - especially if it starts out bigger to begin with.

I should have stopped, taken out the centre back seam of the lining, and cut off 2 inches of width. It probably would have been a reasonable work around. Instead, I persisted - wasting time in an effort to save time - and the finished garment is a mess.

And, just as relevant, let's be reminded that the upper back thing was a deal breaker at the outset. I knew that 2 days ago; I just opted to ignore it. I mean, seriously, the back neck is veritably sharpei.

I need to let this be for a week or so. I need to consider things with fresh eyes before I start again. And when I do start again, my plan is to:
  •  Treat this "finished garment" as the muslin it is - I'm going to triple check my measurements and pin etc.
  • Trace all of the pattern pieces again - the ones I worked from are a dog's breakfast.
  • Redraft the lining pieces - or simply decide to use the shell pieces to produce a lining that's the same size as the shell. Note: when cutting, I'll shorten the lining pieces slightly so that it will bag to the correct length.
On the plus side, I think I've got enough of the lining and wool crepe to give this another go. I was intending to use it for a matching bottom, but I guess that's not to be.

Live and learn people - time to follow my own advice and make that garment again.

Two Socks, One Week: Block Those Socks

Baseline: Sock 1 and 2, Day 7
Timeline: 20 minutes / Step 9

The great thing about socks is that, if you work from one continuous ball of yarn, you'll have but two ends to weave in on each sock - the one at the cuff and the one at the heel. I'm sure you'll agree, it doesn't get much less fussy than that.

Here is a tutorial about weaving in the ends, though I'm sure you're old hat at it...

And here's a photo of sock blockers, the likes of which I use:

Clio got me into these... You know how I love a gizmo.
After weaving in the ends, I like to block my socks once, by hand washing in Soak. I use the scent-free kind and add some lavender essential oil for a bit of anti-bacterial fragrance. After washing and rinsing, I roll the socks gently in a towel, first shaping them, and then pressing firmly with my hands. After this, I unroll the towel and slip the socks onto the blockers and I place them, vertically, over a heat vent. They'll dry to perfect shape in under 3 hours this way.

Mind you, you can almost as easily lay them out, carefully shaping so that they're exactly the same size and shape, on a dry towel and leave them overnight. That does a good job too.

From here on in, I'll put these babies in the washer and dryer.

But let's cut to the chase. Here's a shot of my finished, blocked socks:

While it doesn't look it in real life, these socks seem quite distinct from one another in photos.
Pretty cute, huh?

(In truth, this yarn, while fantastic to knit with, didn't produce the tightest fabric for me - it's perhaps a bit soft for my loose gauge. My rib is not ribby enough for my liking, though I'm sure, when machine washed, the socks will shrink a bit in the cuff area. Furthermore, now that I'm moving from British style to flicking, my gauge is much firmer. I've just bought another skein of this yarn, in a new colourway. I'm looking forward to applying new knitting techniques to this wool.)

That's the beauty of every pair of hand knit socks - they all have their own mind and hand. From now on, per my results with this sock (actually knit after the one shown in the photo above), I'm definitely going down a needle size in the ribbing, and will continue to make the rib with K2P1. I'm in the mood for a tighter cuff.)

So that's that. I'd love it if you'd link me to photos of your finished socks, or flip me a pic. I would love to see - and profile - your fabulous handiwork!

And, next time you make socks, whether you're a convert to the magic loop method or no, I hope you will bring some of the tips and techniques we've discussed over the last week and month. As always, feel free to leave any outstanding questions in the comments.

Peace out Knit Alongers. Way to start the new year :-) xo