Saturday, June 28, 2014

Body Politic, Part 2

Last time I entertained today's topic, it was to set the scene. Today, it's to discuss lounge lingerie, a popular garment in bra-obsessed circles, but not one I've ever got into in the past.

Mind you, a couple of weeks ago that changed. You can read the link in the first para for deets on my resistence (and the catalyst for my change of heart). But now let's talk about the goods.

You will never believe this - I barely do - but, after doing tons of online research (and recognizing that I wasn't going to be able to assess anything about a cup-free, wire-free "comfort" bra by looking at a model), I realized I'd have to go to a department store. Take a moment to absorb that Kristin-certified insanity. I, a woman with a bra size that does not factor into the generic bra matrix, went to a mid-range department store to look for bras. And I bought one?!

Why didn't I go to a boutique? Well, I didn't want to spend any more than absolutely necessary on a garment that I knew would be, ahem, practical at any price. Also, I don't believe that this sort of bra is best available in boutiques which cater to women who expect wired bras that fit beautifully for out-of-home use.

Look, I was hoping for the cutest thing ever. I did not find it. The best I can say is that I found something plain, that works quite well (now that I've altered it). I cannot post a stock photo of it. It's too unattractive to feature. But here's a link to the style. (FYI, the site posits that the large corresponds with a 38 back size. That's entirely not true. I'd put it at a loose 34 which is just what I'm looking for in a bra that's meant to be totally comfortable for lounge purposes.) BTW, you can find it all over eBay for 20ish bucks. I spent 40 at The Bay, but that's cuz I had to do my research.

How did I alter this thing (which I bought in a large, btw, and which I wear on the 2nd of 3 hooks, and that's firm)? The straps have no shortening clasps and, as designed, they are too long to give me the lift I desire. I simply took an inch of length out, at the original seam (top of the shoulder area) buy zig zagging at my new desired length and then cutting off the excess loop of fabric. It took 10 minutes and, while it doesn't look perfect at that join (given that the straps get wider at the shoulder and quickly narrow), it's barely noticeable. For what it's worth, I like that the straps have no hardware. It makes them very comfortable, even as it shortens the bra's overall life span.

Did I mention, no one's going to see me in this practical garment?

So, when do I wear it? When I get home, until bed.

How does it fit?
  • Surprisingly well for a cup-free, seam-free, wire-free bra. 
  • The back has 2x3 hooks and eyes that produce a supportive band that is not tight. I suspect I could wear the medium (if I wanted a tighter back) without much difference in the way the bra fits elsewhere, because all of the sizes more or less look the same size in the "cup" area.
  • The material is deliciously soft and comfortable. It's made of some wicking sort of material that has a bit of sheen and that can glide under clothing. I wear this with a fitted T shirt and it is not observable.
  • It's strangely supportive. Seriously, I could wear it out of the house. It gives no separation, obviously, though the "gore" area between the breasts is designed to keep breasts slightly separated. If you have projected boobs and/or boobs of a certain size, that's never going to happen. But this doesn't leave you feeling like you're wearing a compression garment.
  • A propos of compression, no doubt this works on the basis of compression, to some extent, but the band is very supportive (deceptively so) and my breasts do not sag beneath it. The "cups" also provide a lot of side coverage and support. So the shape isn't flattening. I do have to emphasize that the straps need to be of the perfect length to facilitate this. And there are no in-built modification options (clasps). So you have to be willing to alter this, which you could do by hand, or you have to get lucky.
  • It's a well-made garment, constructed with quality fabric and good design.
I tried on every similar structure in the entire Hudson's Bay Company and this was the only one that worked. Why? Because it's designed for breasts having a projected shape.* All of the others were too short (couldn't fit over additional length that projected breasts require), too wide (flattening breasts hideously), too flimsy (like stupidly so), or some combination of the three.

Moreover, this has put me in mind of my next foray into bra-making. Sure, I haven't been able to produce a handmade bra that I find acceptable for daily use (though now I have got some new understanding of how I need to alter the next prototype to suit my shape, gained via making the Hepworth fitted bodice!). But I do believe that I can find a way to make a lounge bra to meet my needs - and a predominant one of those needs is attractiveness.

So, today's questions: Have you tried this bra? If yes, did it work for you? If yes (or no) is your shape projected? Do you wear lounge bras and, if yes, why? Do you feel that wearing lounge bras provide any long-term protection against breast sag, or do you feel they are a comfort garment (which contributes, when worn, to improved shape)? Let's talk!

Next up, how I found a new sports bra. I know, what's the freakin' world coming to?

* Note: In truth, this style of bra is suboptimal for projected breasts of any size, but since it's the bra style that works for comfort and lounging, they've managed to produce something that walks a good balance for a non-compatible shape.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Cut Off

So I'm running around like a chicken today. Posting may be light (or heavy) over the next couple of weeks, but I do want to show you some shorts I picked up for my vacay (at Winners?!) for 25 bucks:

Guess Brittney Cut Off Short (High Waist)
Some things to share (in case you're looking for some good denim cut offs - a look I cannot say I've worn since 1989):
  • These are not high-waisted. They're real-waisted. I'm short-waisted and they hit my navel. I mean, they don't even hit the navel of the model in the pic above?! I'm so sick of brands telling you that something is high-waisted when it's barely mid-height.
  • If you can find these at a discount vendor, or online, the price is excellent. I don't know if I'd pay list for them (70 bucks). But then, I have no real interest in denim cut offs as a concept. These are a means to an end: durable shorts that look cute and don't need to be babied while I'm traveling.
  • They are nicely vanity sized, which is to say that the denim has a good amount of stretch and great recovery. I bought a 28 and my waist is 30".
  • The ones I found are lighter wash than those above, but not distressed. I mean, I'm 44. I'm not wearing shorts with holes in them.
  • Yeah, they're short. They're cut offs, obvs. But they are very appropriately short. The way I found them was in trying to get my kid to buy them. Needless to say, she found them ridiculously long.
BTW, I do have a post in the works about lounge lingerie, but it's going to have to wait till I have time to take it from brain to type. Pls. stay tuned...

Today's questions: Do you own cut offs? Do you feel there's an age limit (or any other limitations) to wearing this style? Let's talk.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Summer Crafting: Finished Object (Something that Wasn't on the Agenda)

Behold the outcome of a little bit of pattern upsizing:

NL 6843 - TNT denim straight mini skirt. It's my go-to for work and play. Note that my version doesn't have a button waistband, I just use a hook and eye above the zipper. That's what comes of not reading the instructions. (And, I prefer it.)
What I should mention - and I'm really trying to figure out how this is possible - is that when I started to alter the original pattern pieces, I observed that it was a bit too small, on paper, in a variety of small (but meaningful) ways.

You may be thinking: Kristin, honey, that's the power of revisiting a pattern with a tape measure.

Trust me, I get that. I'm the fit-obsessed lady living in this body. One thing you can say about me: I don't wear blinders.

The thing is, I wear the skirt I made with the original pattern all the time - and it fits well (except for the now-altered lower abdomen area). Admittedly, fabric properties weigh into the equation. But the fabric I used was a stable denim with about 10 per cent stretch - same general stretch amount as the (rayon) denim I used to make the new version. I do recall serging the side seams on the last version because I had very little seam allowance left for those seams, once I'd inserted the zip. And the version I made yesterday now has healthy 0.5" side seams. So that does account for much of it, I suppose.

What did I do to alter the TNT?
  • Added a tapered 1 inch (0.25" over 4 seams) to accommodate the need for more space in the lower abdominal zone
  • Made the darts narrower (over 6 darts, this gave me about an inch of extra circumference in the waist)
  • Added 0.25" along back seam (to accommodate zipper width and to give a bit of extra room in the derriere)
I should say, it's also quite short. I'm fine with that (I like a nice mini) but for work purposes, and to suit my style, I had very little room to hem. I should add a buffer inch onto the bottom of the skirt for next time. This thing would look quite chic just above the knee made in denim or a more formal fabric.

About working with the rayon denim: You know I love this fabric. I've never gone back (online, no less) and bought 3 batches of the identical fabric before or since. But the rayon denim is more rayon than denim. That's what gives it the silky drape. It also makes it very tricky to sew in darts and - apparently - regular zippers (which this pattern calls for). Even after interfacing, I ended up having to use an invisible zip. The regular zip would not insert without producing wavy fabric between the zipper opening and the seam to hold the zip in place. Intriguingly, this fabric is not tricky to sew on the width (where you might imagine the stretch properties would make it so) but on the length.

About my new way of inserting a "bulk free" waistband: I like to think I made this up, need being the mother of invention and all. Of course, I'm pretty sure I just came up with it for myself (what with the world of sewists being very large and smart).

For starters, can we take a moment to admire how prettily finished this thing is:

Yeah, I know the zipper's not gorgeous (I didn't have one in the right colour), but the fabric was tricky, as mentioned, and there's no lining to fancy it up. (Note: From a wearability perspective, I hate lined garments, most of the time.)

OK, here's what I do:
  • I remind myself that I'm making a waistband and not a facing. Because the very first problem I ever encountered in sewing continues to dog me. I don't know why I cannot keep the construction of these two different waist finishing methods separate???!
  • I make the waistband 5 inches longer in circumference than required. I like to have extra room to maneuver.
  • Let's assume I want a waistband of 1 inch depth. I ensure that the waistband is @2.25" deep.
  • I like working with a 0.25" seam allowance at the waist. If you prefer more, make the waistband deeper, i.e., @2.5". 
  • I interface the waistband pieces and serge the LONG edge that will NOT be attached at the waist. Finishing this edge is key - you could overlock on a machine.
  • I pin the waistband onto the skirt, determine how much fabric I need to cut off so that, with a turned under edge, the fabric will meet the edge of the invisible zip. 
  • Then I unpin, cut off the waistband "extra", turn under the short raw edges (these will abut the zipper teeth), and press. Now I know the waistband will fit my skirt, made in the fabric of the day (with all of its properties), perfectly.
  • I chalk the 0.25" seam allowance. This is one of the only times I bother to do this, when sewing. But there's method...
  • I fold the serged edge of the waistband to meet the chalked line that denotes the seam allowance-to-be. I make sure that the serged edge is placed ever so slightly over the chalked line (vaguely eating into the seam allowance-to-be). Not even 1/8", just a smidge.
  • I press the waistband. Now my waistband is about 1" deep. I repin it to the skirt to prepare it for sewing.
  • I go to the machine and stitch the waistband to the skirt with 0.25" seam allowance. I just follow the chalked line.
  • I then press the seam up towards the waistband fold. I repress the waistband and, from the wrong side, I pin the serged edge of the waistband down onto the skirt ensuring that the serged edge just covers the stitching line that attached the skirt to the waistband. The original pressing job should ensure this, but you want to be sure.
  • Then I turn the fabric to the right side and I pin in the ditch of the seam where the waist meets the skirt top. I turn over the fabric to ensure that all of my pins have covered the serged edge of the waistband on the wrong side. That's how I know I will sew it down when I stitch in the ditch from the front of the skirt. I also know, since I've done careful math and pinning, that my ditch seam, on the wrong side, will run through the line of serged stitches and will practically disappear on that wrong side. It produces both a tidy exterior and interior!
  • But best of all, because you don't turn under the wrong side edge (you serge it and leave it flat), it produces a more sleek profile for the abdomen that doesn't need additional bulk.
Here's a photo to prove my point:

And finally, because I really am trying to post more photos of me (since I know worn garments show things "relevantly"):

I guess this is a selfie, albeit a headless one, since I took the photo through the mirror. I should have moved the yoga props first but, live and learn.

Today's questions: Whatcha think of the skirt? Do you know about my waistband technique? Have you used it with success in the past? What's your TNT dress up/dress down handmade skirt? Let's talk!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Body Politic

Oh, y'all are in for a weird post here today. I've been working on my angle and, truly, I'm not sure I've nailed it.

Let me set the stage: You may know me as that girl who talks a blue streak about everything well-fitting bras, particularly for women of my general shape - hourglass, proportionately large-busted, narrow and short - having breasts which are projected and narrow at the root (chest wall).

You'd have to be living under a rock a new reader not to know me as that woman who's spent the last 3 years going through lots of biochemical and physiological changes, changes which are representing themselves internally and externally.

On the day-to-day basis, I'm a person who plans her outfit around matching, well-fitted, gorgeous lingerie. And when I get home, the first thing I do is take off the lingerie and put on the lounge clothes.
  • Full disclosure: I do not wear a bra to walk around my house.
  • Potentially Scandalous disclosure: I often do not wear a bra when I'm doing yoga (at home) - if that yoga practice is of the totally non-impact, supported variety.
People, this isn't about judgement though lots of my friends have judged me for this behaviour for years. They say things like: OMG, How can you stand to be all "natural" like that and Aren't you worried about sagging etc.

The answer, till recently, has been: Not particularly.

Here's the thing. The projected boobs, conceptually, really do have the sexy edge. They're the ones most lauded in youth when they're large and high and full. They're the ones with the fetishized cache, objectified in the mainstream. They produce cleavage the way the other breast shapes do not. Their eminent shape denotes fertility like none other (even if it's a red herring). All the high street bra brands spend fortunes (and earn them) trying to simulate the full, projected look (albeit in limited sizing options).

Having this type of breast-shape, particularly in a voluptuous size, comes with some perks (ha) and with lots of considerations.

For much of my life I've been wearing bras, for @12 hours a day, to support my breasts optimally and, when I get home I do not want to feel those bras anymore.

For a long time that hasn't been so much of an issue. But, as I've complained endlessly about mentioned on occasion, over the last 3 years, I notice that my breasts are not as high or as full as they once were. (Happy side note: Don't freak out, young 'uns! This is not observable when I'm wearing any one of my excellent bras.)

Here's the other thing: Projected breasts of all proportions (but specifically those that are voluptuous) do not have the edge in age. Y'all know those wide-set, shallow breasts (on wide frames) that look 2 cup sizes smaller than they actually are? The ones that can never achieve cleavage (not that I'm an advocate of cleavage, fwiw)? The ones with the wide roots? Those are the boobs that tend to age gracefully, not that it's a given, because most of the breast tissue is attached to the integral framework of the body.

Think about it. The projected boob is cantilevered. The ratio of breast depth to root width (the part of the breast tissue attached to the body) determines the likelihood of sag over time. Of course, many other factors play a role: Has that breast fed a child? Has it been well supported over its lifetime? Is it inclined, by genetics, to sag? How are the breasts positioned on the torso, to begin with? (Some are naturally low set, some are high set.) Does the breast tend toward stretch marks? Has its owner gained and lost a lot of weight many times over the years? etc.

But I'm here to tell you young ladies with the sexiest projected breasts in your social set: Gather ye rosebuds. And wear freakin' good bras from the minute you understand what that means, no matter the cost. Because, even if you aren't predisposed to sagging, gravity is going to take over. It's simple physics.

I've gone all political - and vaguely scientific - it would seem.  So I think it's best to wait till next time to talk about mitigation strategies. Cuz you know I have them. So no one needs to panic.

In the meanwhile, here are a couple of questions: Do you actually understand the shape of your breasts? (Chances are, if you're wearing a bra that fits, it's because you do. Either that, or you got lucky.) Do you notice changes in the shape of your breasts over time? (This is directed towards the the young ladies as well as those of a certain age, btw.) Let's talk!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fairy Tale

Let me tell you a little story...

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful fairy princess named Kristin. Kristin was kind of a stylish princess, in the sense that she knew her own style and used that self-awareness to her advantage time and time again.

Although the princess was very rich and she lived in a beautiful castle, she still like to engage in peasant pastimes, just for fun, hence her hobbies, sewing and knitting and her extensive cache of handmade wares. She liked to display them in the Princessdom and always appreciated compliments.

Life was good.

As time went on, the princess (though she was very princess-y and always well-turned out) discovered that something odd was afoot with her appearance. She'd handcrafted a trio of magic body suits, designed to be worn with a denim, straight, slim fitting mini-skirt (also handmade). However, somehow the skirt seemed just a bit snug with the bulk of the tucked in bodice fabric to contend with. What she noticed, as she wore the outfit, was that she felt the need to tug the skirt down - something she had not been required to do in previous days. This was not a princess-certified action!

Off she went to stare into the fairy looking glass, waiting for its creepy inhabitant to enlighten her, but instead she got her answer via old-school looking. Egad! The princess was not quite as svelte - circa the navel area - as she had been in times of yore.

I mean, she was a princess still. She had pretty locks and rosy skin. She retained her bouncy demeanour and her princess-costumes were always a la mode. But something was up.

And since this princess kicked ass when it came to figuring stuff out and keeping it real, she took out her trusty tape-measure (which sang to her as she worked) and she re-took all of the relevant measurements, recognizing that vertical measurements would be the key to unlocking the secret mystery.

The sentient tape measure didn't understand why vertical measurements would be key in this instance - he was a question-asker - so she explained (also in song) that while her hip measurement hadn't changed, and her waist measurement was only notionally increased. The wild card spot was the space between her natural waist and full hip.

That, said she, was the zone of unknown terror.

In truth, it had always been the no-man's land, but for princesses of a certain age, apparently this was terrain with which to contend. (The princess remembered her mother, the wise queen, advising her of this little-appreciated fact, years before.)

It seemed that the reason that the skirt wasn't sitting in a princess-worthy fashion, was because the navel-zone had increased in circumference by an inch. In truth, this had been happening, incrementally, over the period of a year or two... It had only just become noticeable, particularly at a certain time of the month.

Happily, the princess realized that this was an easy matter to resolve. She took her trusted pattern and added a quarter of an inch to each side seam, at the relevant spot (3 inches below her natural waist), to ensure that her skirt would once again fit her beautifully.

Order was restored in the land (or at least she hoped it would be when she made a new version of the skirt - albeit with new fabric having different properties than that of the old). The princess went on with her life, doing yoga and walking to and/or from work. She recognized that body change is momentary and that she might well need to revert to her original pattern at some time in the future, much as she had adjusted to changes in her shape many times before.

The moral of this story: Wise princesses know that clothes that fit highlight natural beauty, symmetry and form - and clothes that are just slightly too small might as well be made for mice. Most subjects can only perceive poor fit, not the extent to which it is poor. So look into that magic mirror and see what it shows you. It is the key to winning your domain.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pattern Lust

What is it with me and the bags lately?

I found this one, quite accidentally, while scouring Ravelry in a mad fit. I am not looking for any new bag patterns. You may recall, I'm still on the hook for this one, the construction of which will commence upon my return from hols.

Behold the Simple Hemp Tote by Espace Tricot - and the pattern is free!

Alas, between the recommended yarn and handles, you're looking at about 150 bucks to make this sucker.

Which is why it's only in my queue and not on my needles.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Crafting: Finished Object (Nettie Bodysuit x3)

Oooh... Have a gander at my new rainbow pretties!

Three versions of the Nettie Bodysuit: Animal print and blue modal are 3/4 sleeve and coral is short-sleeved 
(On a side note, does that first sentence make me sound vaguely like a mid-century Cockney washerwoman or a Disney character?)

Honestly, could these things be any more fun? Like if I tried?

I have written quite a tome about it already, here. But, darlings, we've only just begun. Cuz I have so much more to say...

For the record, these Netties are, essentially, a hybrid: the top portion of the Lady Skater (or, should I say, the top portion of the Lady Skater as altered to match my T shirt sloper) merged with the Nettie pattern bodysuit bottom.

What I'll Do Next Time(s):
  • For sure, next time, I will alter the neckline, just for kicks. I think a lower scoop could be just the thing for summer evenings - though I wouldn't wear it in the sun (and really, a scoopy scoop neck runs the risk of being rather risque on me). I also think I'll make a sleeveless version, which I could easily do with a solid half metre of 60" wide fabric.
  • I will also experiment with changing the leg line. I believe that something higher (or at very least not banded) would work a lot better under clothes. The leg on these is vaguely visible under skinny jeans. That's not a win, in my books. I see some picot elastic and a little redesign in my future.
What I Can Say About Fabric Choice and Grain:
  • Well, I ran the gamut with this project. I used a thick modal with great recovery, a thin rayon jersey in a solid print and an in-between, animal-print rayon jersey. What's my take? I know it's not rocket science, but if you have anything to hide, go with the thicker fabrics. Note: prints also hide a multitude. In a best case scenario, go with a thick t shirt fabric that has a good amount of Lycra. It will recover optimally and will cling without highlighting bumps. A substantial rayon jersey is also fine, unless you're really aiming for camouflage. I can't emphasize this enough: Some (albeit very cute) painted-on pattern, mid-weight cotton with mediocre recovery is probably not going to do the trick. This is the time to spend if it's in your budget.
  • I felt no compunction about going crazy cutting along every possible grain line (given that I was working with ends of stash fabric). Sure, I took the greatest number of liberties with the fabric which should have been most carefully considered (the coral, thin jersey) - and I knew that wasn't wise - but it was a calculated risk. And you know what? On slender days, or with a cardigan, that coral one is going to work just fine. What I'll say for the coral is that the recovery is very good.
  • In terms of the crotch construction, I recommend that the stabilizing piece (that against which one applies the snaps) be made of very durable, not overly fussy or luxe fabric. I suggest it should be something with NO mechanical stretch. This piece needs to keep its shape in order for this garment to last because you're going to be tugging at the snaps every time you hit the washroom. And, on the topic of the snaps, I urge you to get the kind that hammer together. Sew in snaps will likely give, eventually, on a part of the garment taking this amount of stress.
A Bit About Each Version

Jewel Toned Modal: Well, this was made from the fabric of the century, which is no doubt why I discovered 2 tiny holes (one more of a pull) in the upper arm (thankfully back arm by armscye). Why is it that the likelihood of fabric booboos is inversely proportional to one's love of a particular fabric and one's inability to replace it? I darned the holes (the existence of which is a complete mystery, those holes weren't there when I cut the fabric, I'm sure). It was too late to recut a sleeve though I had enough fabric. Unstitching a serged seam from the bodice (which was cut to size by the serger during the first sleeve attachment) would have likely left me with more issues than simply fixing the holes. I don't think anyone will notice them but I do. And I'm irritated. Other than that, this fabric was a dream to work with and the relatively dark and saturated colour is figure-flattering.  

Coral Rayon Jersey:  I do like this short-sleeved version more than I thought I would. And, given how willy-nilly I cut this thing (some on bias, some on straight, some on cross grain), it's a miracle it's wearable. But I can feel the fit issue in the back bodice, which isn't as stretchy as the front bodice. Furthermore, the end result is just a bit too flimsy to call it excellent. Interestingly, this jersey wasn't too flimsy for the Issy Top, which I also made with this yardage. But it is for a garment that's exceedingly fitted and doesn't have any distracting features to call attention away from one's body in all of its gorgeousness. Oh, and word to the wise, light colours really do highlight imperfection.

The Animal-Print Jersey: This one was cut on cross and straight grains, but not haphazardly (I had more of the fabric in a better format than in the case of the coral version). It's also a stretchier rayon jersey than the coral, and it's got more heft. Add this to the fact that the pattern both highlights good features and somehow yet distracts and, I have to say, I think I like this version best. I wouldn't have thought that this garment would be better in a print than in a solid but I can really see how it ups the excitement factor (and tones down the form). If you've got a serious rack or if you're an old-school professional in a conservative field, making this garment using patterned fabric could be just the thing.

As I intend to wear these often, as soon as the weather permits (which, dubiously, could be much of the summer - I wore the jewel toned version today with a cardigan?!), no doubt there will be photos of me wearing them. This batch may be a bit harder to style than I imagined because the leg opening bands are observable under some of the bottoms I favour. So I would recommend, if not first go around, then second time you make this: Consider altering the cut of the leg openings and/or the method of binding them.

And that's this project. For now. Thoughts or feelings?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Summer Crafting: Finished Object (Aisance Cardigan)

So I finished the Aisance Cardigan, as I mentioned recently. While my goal was to show you a photo of this on my actual body, I'm so truly occupied right now that it just won't happen till it happens.

In the interest of documenting something, however, please see obligatory photos on sub-optimal-dress-form-that's-too-wide:

Honestly, my shoulders are a good 4 inches less wide than these - and my arms don't pop out in that bizarre way just below the shoulder. It's hard to tell how nicely this would fit a frame of the correct proportions, but please do try... 

While the front panels look wrinkled, it's an illusion - I swear.
What I can say, now that I've blocked and worn this garment is that, while it really does nothing for the dress form, it's rather attractive on a human being. Not that you should take my word for it.

Final thoughts on the garment:
  • It grew in length more than I would have liked, and I sense, given the drape and heaviness of the front panels of fabric, it may continue to do so. Sure, I can steam it to shrink, as necessary, but I wish I'd taken another 2 inches of length out of the front panels via more stringent short-rowing (I mean, over and above the short-row shenanigans I did engage in, see Ravelry notes). It would have been easy to do (and would have saved me yarn and time). The reason I didn't go harder is because I'd already removed so much length from the garment (as per pattern directions) that I was scared to overdo it. Sometimes, it's best to listen to your intuition.
  • I called the horizontal measurements and other proportions perfectly, however. Given that this sweater tends towards the large in all directions, I do feel happy about this outcome.
  • The yarn, for it's length-wise growi-ness, is just gorgeous. I'm not sure if you can detect it's silk sheen, but it looks like a million bucks. I will definitely use this yarn again - though I hope it doesn't tend towards pilling (which only time will tell).
  • The success of this garment, overall, will be in the wearing. Alas, this isn't going to happen until the fall (I suspect). Do I love it as much as I hoped I would? No. But I can't complain. It's a lovely, minimal, elegant, luxe cardigan and if I can manage to wear it often, I suspect I'll learn to appreciate it fully.
So that's one project down. Next up, more on the Nettie assembly line experience. Thoughts about the Aisance?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Net Fantastic

OK, I love the Nettie. I knew I would, which is why I bought it 30 seconds after it became available. My goal was to tackle some involved projects this summer, prior to the sorbet that (I hoped) the Nettie would be. But fuck hard work. I'm not into delayed gratification.

Or moderation.

Which is why I have an assembly line going:

But let's begin at the Beguine. Yesterday I invested the work in taping, cutting and altering the pattern before cutting out the remainder of my animal print rayon jersey (truly a wonderful fabric), which eventually produced this:

I know, I'm not wearing it even though, on me, it looks all kinds of HOT. But I am too hideous this weekend for the camera.
Ooooh, fun snaps! Read on for more about these...

My Pattern Alterations:

Note: I made the size 12 but as of the May 10 pattern redraft, the size 12 I made is equivalent to the size 10 in the current pattern. Point is, I'd have been better off cutting the size 14 but I still would have had to alter it, if not as extensively. 
  • I shortened the bodice equally on front and back by 1 inch.
  • I increased the bust room by sharply widening the upper front (just under the armscye) significantly (maybe 2 inches on each side).
  • I shortened the sleeve cap and raised the armsyce (standard issue Kristin) - even though this is cut high already.
  • I modified the neckline.
End result: Perfect fucking fit.

Some Thoughts on the Pattern:
  • What a coup to create a wardrobe staple that hasn't been on any designer's radar. Well played - esp. since I buy bodysuits as frequently as I can find them (which is rarely these days).
  • The instructions are excellent and the pattern goes together very easily though I do think it's much cleaner to insert binding bands while the garment is still flat. Mind you, that's a personal preference thing that's addressed in detail here. IMO, what comes easily generally goes more smoothly and produces a cleaner outcome.
  • It's apparently cut quite narrowly. I modified it so much that I can't really comment but, since my back is narrow already, I didn't find this problematic at all - even though I cut the wrong (too small size) to begin with. I do think, given that the only place I needed to add significant fabric was just under the armscye at the full bust height, that it is probably drafted for the narrow amongst us. If you think about it, it inclines one to be able to wear that scoopy craziness without the garment falling off quite so easily.
  • I did not go with scoopy craziness. I cut the high back (modified) and a mid-scoop at the front. As mentioned in the last post, I used neckline of the Lady Skater. It really is superb. In fact, between my t shirt sloper and the Lady Skater pattern pieces, the upper bodice I made is quite different from the Nettie pattern options. 
  • The arms are drafted really long, so consider that when cutting. Don't waste your fabric unnecessarily - measure your preferred length first.
  • The leg opening is very, um, modest. I think those with hip and upper leg thickness concerns will appreciate it. But it's quite retro and it may not be the optimal cut in terms of concealing panty-lines under tight clothing. The bands add bulk. I think a picot edge might work better but I sense one would also benefit from changing the cut of the legs to achieve less visibility under thin bottoms. It's extremely bathing suit-like, which given Heather Lou's previous pattern forays, is not surprising.
  • I didn't follow the snap insertion instructions exactly because I have a gizmo that does hammer-in snaps (with a pretty finish so I didn't want or need to cover the caps). That gizmo, while it can produce a very good end result (and I think it does here), is challenging to get the hang of. In fact, I frequently bamboozle my husband into inserting snaps, as necessary, because it hurts his brain less than mine to accomplish this outcome. Plus, you get to use a hammer and he likes that.
About the Next Versions: As per the photos at the top of the page, I've got 2 more ready to go. One is a coral rayon jersey with short sleeves and the other is my beloved jewel toned Modal with 3/4 sleeves. 

Coral Rayon Jersey version: Because I only had 0.5 yards of the coral rayon jersey - ?! what was I thinking - I had to do cutting surgery. Lord, I cut this fabric along every grain. I was all high on myself for managing to cut the pattern out of 0.5 yards until I realized that I cut the back crotch at half the width required (it was one of those "on the fold" issues...) Um, oh well. I'm going to try to make the Nettie-thong version and see if it works. Ain't no getting 3 snaps on this crotch :-) My other concern, with this fabric, is that it might be too thin. But whatevs. If it doesn't work, I will have tried.

Amethyst Modal version: Oh, this fabric is some of the most gorgeous I've ever found. The drape, the hand, the recovery, the colour! It is DELICIOUS. Made this with 3/4 sleeves because I didn't want to waste any of the yardage and there's not enough left to make anything else. Plus, with this fabric, more is more.

Today's questions: What do you think of my leopard-print Nettie? Have you made this pattern? If yes, what version did you make and does it work well in your day-to-day wardrobe? Let's talk!

Saturday, June 14, 2014


So it's slow here peeps - cuz it's fast everywhere else - but I thought I'd check in to say a few things...

1. I got new glasses. Everyone says they look terrific - that I seem younger and French - but I feel vaguely clownish. Moreover, I am middle-aged clownish, having been prescribed (and having purchased) progressives. If you don't know what these are, then count yourself lucky. Effectively they're trifocals, designed to allow me to see my knitting on one plane, my computer on another, and the world at large on the third. That's the idea, anyway. Alas, I don't seem to be able to see anything at any distance (not an uncommon thing when introduced to this style of lens that, among other things, diminishes peripheral vision notably) and my depth perception is on a drug trip. This would be less concerning if I hadn't spent so much money on them that you'd be utterly horrified. Seriously, I'm rarely horrified and I'm horrified. More to come, natch, but (happily), despite the prescription change on all fronts, they aren't causing headaches.

2. Unfortunately, just cuz new glasses are not causing headaches, it doesn't mean I'm not totally on the edge for hormonal reasons. I've got my whole body muscle spasm prodrome going on. It's been tough on this front for the last month or so, but that's how it goes. I refuse to suffer in the name of pain. Pain is my body's resistance to its temporary reality. So be it. I've decided to approach all of my experiences with gratitude because this is the only life I have, the only body I have and I will not wish away the time. It's humbling to find that I cannot even lie over a bolster or do a forward bend that isn't stabilized by 2 cedar blocks under my head but it's a lesson in acceptance. If only I could accept the look of my stomach these days... (I'm working on it.)

3. And, a propos of body acceptance, I'm making the Nettie bodysuit. I couldn't wait. It's quite slow going cuz a) I'm slow and b) what's the rush? I had to modify the pattern, per my shape, extensively. I cut the 12 (recognizing that I should have gone up a size re: info from Heather Lou about sizing on the pattern purchased before May 10). It's fine, though, cuz I used my sloper pieces and I simply changed all the relevant bits. In shoulders I was a modified size 12 (10 in some parts, 14 in others) In the bodice, I am veering towards a 14 (I think) that goes to a 12 - and even a 10 - as I near the derriere.

I sense this pattern is quite forgiving, given that it's designed for very stretchy knit. But it is not drafted for someone of my proportions, out of the envelope, which is why I'm so grateful to know how to alter knit patterns to fit me. This one's a wild card because it's a bodysuit that snaps at the crotch. I recognize that I'm making a muslin and that's cool. Despite constant fabric purchases of the early part of this year, I have so little rayon jersey lying around that I had to cut my fabric in every direction possible. I'm ok with that. It's 4-way stretch and I'm not going to waste "almost enough" good fabric. Especially since this is a test garment. Apparently, I can't stock jersey fast enough... I did manage to cut the garment with about a yard of fabric, vs. the 1.5 yards that the pattern calls for.

I'll write more on this when the garment is complete, but I've made modified 3/4 sleeves (I didn't have enough fabric for longer ones) and a neckline that straddles the high and scoop necks that the pattern provides. I copied the Lady Skater neckline which, frankly, is the most flattering home-sewing pattern neckline I've found thus far. I also shortened the bodice by 1 or 2 inches (can't remember), equally on both front and back.

More to follow on this when I have an outcome.

Every time I mention that posting will be slow to non-existent, it seems to presage a phase of mad writing, but I'm going to say it anyway since, for the next 2 weeks, I've got much to accomplish that has nothing to do with sewing or knitting.

Once the vacay starts, I imagine I'll be so amazed by my new environment that there will be much to say.

Till next time...

Monday, June 9, 2014

Not Coming Up Rosie

So the latest attempt at the Rosie Top was not a success. Mind you, I did have the meaningful opportunity to alter the pattern yet again! (Yeah, you can infer sarcasm.) It's going into the magic cupboard, where it will stay till after I get back from hols. There's only so much masochism one girl can take.

What went wrong? Well, though the last muslin (made of voile with very little mechanical stretch) fit well (once I altered it), the much more mechanically stretchy silk crepe version was somehow too small. As for next-wave alterations: I've increased the full bust volume at the side bodice, yet again, given myself another inch in the waist (it was prudent if not strictly necessary) and increased the peplum hem by 2 inches. I don't know what's up with that hem but I cannot seem to get it right.

I'm really convinced that next version will be the one that works, but I've said that 6 times now and, frankly, I don't have enough weekends in a row to keep at this thing.

I can't tell you how much I want to go out and spend a fortune on a silk crepe top right now, just to subvert the misery of yet another failure. But I'm on a tight budget and, something tells me, there will be a bit of Euro-retail therapy when I get to Barcelona.

In the meanwhile, my only recourse is to knit.

Here's the Karner Wrap pattern which I'm making with the Americo Abrazos (45% cotton and 55% bamboo):

This pattern comes with the Americo Abrazos yarn purchase. There's no way to buy it separately.
Let me say that this yarn is quite a trip. It's not quite kitchen string but it sure is moving in that direction. Having said this, the fabric it creates is appealing. It's like a burnout, lace effect. And the colour is superb. That photo doesn't do it justice.

Here's another of the yarn:

Even that photo isn't true-to-shade, it makes the yarn look much more grey (and less blue) than it actually is in real life.

Anyway, the Abrazos is, without a doubt, the thinnest yarn I've ever seen. It's like knitting with double-weight sewing thread. Occasionally the nubby part of the yarn comes to the fore and then it goes from thread-weight to sport-weight (I estimate). I'm really glad that my first foray with this yarn is making a stockinette rectangle with some rib at the edges. It's quite easy, despite careful attention, to drop stitches - particularly at the edges. If you're a loose knitter, like me, well - be that much more careful. I've had an issue already that I've opted to fix on the fly. Otherwise I'll be knitting this till the end of all time. As it is, I'm going to be knitting the 1028 yards for quite a while. I put in 2 hours last night and got a mere 20 rows deep. It doesn't make a dent in the skein. That's how skinny this yarn is.

Gotta say, it's perfect train knitting. No pattern required, no fitting necessary and, although the loops are loose (and that's after I went down a needle size!?) purling and knitting seem to be of similar complexity. It's not like the purl rows are slippery. The tension, which is lacy and weird, does seem consistent - even as it's unlike any I've knit before.

After the Aisance, still blocking BTW - Lord that thing absorbed a lot of water! - I need something binary.

I'm intrigued to know if I will learn to love knitting with this fiber or if I'll find it a necessary evil. I would never have bought the pattern if I hadn't seen how gorgeous and unusual the finished garment looks in real life. I do realize that this foray is a hop, skip and jump from linen (the yarn du jour, it would appear), but it in no way motivates me to move further in the direction of wiry, stringy yarn.

Today's questions: What do you think of linen? Or cotton? Or cotton-bamboo blends? Have you used the Abrazos or any other Americo yarns? What's your perspective? Oh, and while we're at it, what's the highest number of muslins you've ever made for one garment? Did you prevail in the end? Is that sucker still hiding out in your closet behind the tennis racket? Let's talk!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Summer Crafting: A Finished Object

Don't get too excited. I can't show you a photo of the Aisance (my latest finished project) till it's done blocking, which won't be for at least 36 hours, what with the humidity, yarn properties and dimensions of the garment.

Mind you, I can tell you about my experience in this post, and wow you with the photos in the next :-)

As a reminder, here's what the cardi looks like:

Oooh, pretty back shaping!
But first let's talk about the yarn...

Shibui Staccato
I like to think of myself as the ambassador for Shibui Staccato, cuz it is fine. I think it's fair to call it silk blend perfection, which is high praise coming from someone who doesn't like silk yarn.

(Side Note: I hate it when I have to concede that my long-held opinions aren't founded. Well, apparently I don't hate it that much, cuz somehow I do it on a regular basis.)

In fact, I was so psyched by the yarn (and the swatch really spoke for itself), that both Sara and Andrea opted to work with it on this project as well! A propos of this, the Aisance is another of those projects that Sara, Andrea and I will make together (but separately) as a knit along. Sara finished hers last week. Andrea is still waiting on her yarn (and is exceedingly occupied doing serious work on a new home in the County) and, well, now you know where I'm at.

The only thing I don't like about this yarn is that, in flat-worked stockinette, it's challenging to tension. I'm not one of those knitters who observes a difference in tension between knit and purl rows, but with the Staccato, it was very tricky to keep the purling as firm as the knitting. That's a feature of the slippery texture of silk (along with metal needles and cold weather) and my own skill as a knitter. I certainly wouldn't avoid it for that reason - unless you struggle with tension on a regular basis.

Staccato (like any silk yarn) does grow a bit (though not as extensively as other silks), particularly length-wise, when blocked. This is a consideration when making a cardigan with long front panels that are weighty.

Which takes us to a review of the sweater itself:
  • I went down a needle size to get horizontal gauge (after blocking). I didn't even try with vertical gauge, I adjusted that on the fly.
  • Nonetheless, the pattern is very large - it's drafted for 0-2 inches of positive ease - but I could easily have made the smallest size, on a smaller needle, and got a well-fitting garment (particularly after blocking). However, I made the second smallest size (32.5) for the body and the smallest size (30.5) for the sleeves, and it seems to be fine. To clarify: I went down 3 sizes in the body and 4 sizes in the sleeves and it fits, potentially slightly too large. Again, post-blocking will be the real test but I planned for some growth of the yarn as it sets and blooms during drying. Sara feels that the sleeves are oversized, as written, and suggests sizing down.
  • Furthermore, the pattern suggests WAY more yarn than one requires at size. I used 400 yards less than the pattern calls for. That's an expensive pattern glitch, dare I say it. I spent 40 bucks more in yarn than I needed to. I used 6 skeins, vs. the 9 I was advised I'd require.
  • Quince patterns aren't badly written, but they're not my fave. They're no Brooklyn Tweed. Perhaps the most annoying element of the entire construction process was using the errata correction, in the back shaping set up, only to discover - after the fact - that it's wrong?! The errata is in errata. Not cool, people. I have a booboo on the back body that I couldn't fix after the fact without seriously fucking up the tension. It's small, but it irritates me.
  • As I wrote in a previous post, this isn't a difficult pattern, but I would change things if I were to make it again: I hate provisional cast on and I'd prefer a true seam at the back neck (vs. the weirdness the pattern suggests). This sweater has an easy way about it, construction-wise, but it does turn into a stockinette slog (and then a stockinette meets rib slog) once you get to the point that you put the sleeves on waste yarn. Having said this, the end result is a substantial, if simple, sweater with architectural lines.
As mentioned, shortly I'll post photos of this when the blocking is done - maybe even photos of me wearing it (gasp)! I do hope that I like it as much as I did when first I saw the pattern photos.

So, today's questions: Have you made this sweater? If yes, how do you feel about the end result? Would you make this sweater? Thoughts about Shibui Staccato? Let's talk!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Watch Word: Birthday

So today's my birthday and I'm 44. (Brief sidebar: I truly don't understand all the people who won't tell you how old they are. It's like wearing a bra that's 3 sizes too small in the cup and two band sizes too large and refusing to accept that you aren't a 36D when you get fitted. I mean, your boobs aren't any differently sized because you refuse to hoist them properly. Avoiding the discussion does not make you any less busty.)

At any rate, my point is not to take shots at the peeps who get coy when the discussion of age comes up.

My point is to tell you about the birthday present I purchased for myself this year. Note: Every year I get myself a birthday gift (actually, every year I also get myself an Xmas gift). Apparently I really like new things, in the guise of "special-occasion presents" - particularly the ones I choose for myself.

This year my choice was decided, about a month ago, when I saw Lisa's post. Gist is, she was giving away a wooden watch by JORD. This is a Swedish outfit with an outpost in the midwest, if I'm not mistaken. They make all wooden watches, using different woods and finishes, which take a variety of shapes - all verging on massive, IMO. No, I didn't win the giveaway. Neither did I expect to so I found the site and bought one 5 minutes after I read Lisa's post. As you can see, I was intrigued.

Let me tell you a little something about me: What with my delightfully slender wrists, I am a Lady-watch wearer by nature. Actually, I'm a no-watch wearer by habit because I cannot wear one without it conking out almost immediately. I have no idea why this is - I have had my watches serviced and I take good care of them - but I suspect my heart arrhythmia may fuck with the batteries. Anyway, I have the most gorgeous Baume Mercier gold watch my mother gave me years ago, this thing is so Lady it sets the fucking standard. But every time I give it a go, it stops.

It's too bad, really, cuz that thing makes me look like 2 million bucks. Seriously, it's the instigator of good service everywhere - not that I don't inspire it naturally! Alas, I'm way to practical to wear a watch that doesn't tell time.

But time marches on, as they say, and I haven't been overly impressed with my Lady-options. (Alas, once you've worn a gold watch, it's hard to shift focus.)

So I decided to switch it up 180 degrees and buy the Lady-est watch of the bunch at JORD, the Ely:

This one is made from maple wood.
It's still ridiculously substantial, but it reminds me a bit of a wooden Rolex. And since it costs about 20 grand less than a Rolex, I thought it might be worth a try.

It arrived yesterday, just in time, and it was massive. I mean, it is massive. If you like massive watches, get the smallest one and you'll be fine.

I thought I'd give it to my husband, whom it fit perfectly, until he said: It just needs a link taken out and it will fit you in the right, slouchy way. Um, ok.

So I said: How would I do that, like, right now? 

And he said: Get me that paper clip and the little screwdriver for your serger.

In 5 minutes it was done. Seriously, how the fuck does that guy know how to modify watches? It's not like he owns one. I tried to get him to explain it to me but, frankly, it was boring so I can't share with you the mystery of link removal at this time. BTW, he was very impressed with the watch construction and called it "highly adaptable".

Some things:
  • The Ely is very light, but bulky.
  • It's an elegant watch, even as it's not petite.
  • The wood is lovely and in no way scratchy or inclined to snag. It's been finely sanded and is entirely smooth.
  • I think it's well-priced for what it is. Mind you, I'm irritated no end by the amplified shipping charge to Canada. Shipping is free within the US, which is why I shipped it to my mother, and she sent it to me with some other items.
  • It comes well-packaged but don't expect anything fancy.
  • The instructions for setting date and time are convoluted, but easily found on the website. I can't say the little wind-y gizmo is the most precision-made thing I've ever seen. But you don't have to deal with it that often.
So now I have a sexy, slouchy watch with which to approach my mid-forties. (Note, I'll update this post later to include a photo of it on my wrist. Haven't had a chance yet...) And JORD has some fairly good free promotion, if I do say so myself.

Today's questions: Have you heard of this brand? Do you like the idea of a wood watch? Have you seen other versions? (Here's one I've found in a TO boutique.) Are you a Lady-watch wearer? Let's talk!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

On Top of the Top?

OK, I'm getting somewhere with the Rosie Top. I almost qualified that. I'm the kind of girl who likes qualifiers. But I decided to go confidently. I mean, if nothing else, 6 muslins should buy one a little confidence, no?

I spent a couple of hours on the weekend (all the time in the universe I seem to have these days) making another muslin. A real muslin. Like the kind that only includes the bodice. The kind where you accidentally sew on seam inside out but it doesn't matter cuz you're just going for fit and you're going to rip out that seam anyway. I didn't want to take this route, but I knew in my gut it was the smart way to proceed. In the final analysis, I'm really glad I listened to my intuitive (if irritating) self, cuz the fit wasn't there.

Mind you, it was close.

The only thing I had to fix this go around was an excess length of fabric at the under bust. There was a section of about 3 vertical inches that was way too large. I think I shaved an inch of width off the under bust seam, in total, evenly from both sides of the "princess" seam. I know I just wrote about the need for me to remove fabric from the front piece only, but I've have altered this many times and added and removed fabric as many times as there are muslins. Furthermore, this seam is an inverse princess seam. My goal, in the end, was to keep the seam aligned with the bust. My fix does that.

The crazy thing about this pattern, as evidenced by photo (below), is that - given my short waist and proportionately projected bust - there are only about 2 inches of vertical ground between bust apex and the high-natural waist seam aka the base of the top (where the peplum begins):

The centre top piece is the side front bodice. The little bump out is the bust apex. Is that not the weirdest thing?
 Look, I'm fine with being short-waisted, but that's just crazy, even by my standards. It would appear that, because of the way the seams run on the front of the top, you can pretty well throw out all of the images you have in your mind about where things should, theoretically, stop and start.

Weird fact: This 5-piece, cut-on sleeve top is surprisingly tricky to alter.

But let's get back to confidence. The Hepworth Dress, which mysteriously taught me how to alter a standard-issue armscye princess seam to fit my body well, has (perhaps less mysteriously) also taught me lots about how I need to view bust fitting on all closely fitted woven garments.

OK, I'm not going for hubris here. I have much to learn about the fitted woven bodice as it pertains to my specific body, but I have made many strides of late.

Here's my point - and I'm talking to my future self here: Keep on. Even when you meet seemingly-endless disaster, keep on. Even when your fingers hurt from picking out stitches (and you still have to throw the thing in the bin), keep on. When you're motivated by the gorgeous end product of someone else, use the impulse and keep on. When you go through 6 yards of muslin fabric and you have to wait till more arrives (be grateful for the reprieve and) keep on.

Right this minute, there's likely some element of sewing that completely eludes you. I empathize. But I am absolutely certain that, in the absence of utter tenacity, non of us will prevail.

(And feel free to remind me of this if my next version doesn't work.*)

*Should that occur, this thing is totally pyre fodder.