Wednesday, June 29, 2016


For a moment, I forgot that truism: Wherever you go, there you are. But this vacation really is bringing it home for me, as mediocre-to-horrid weather converges with omnipresent construction, phone conversations with convalescing parents and now, a sick kid.

Yeah, first time I've ever left her alone and, 3 days later, she's flat out. Probably mono. Note: This is a kid who rarely gets any bugs, not even a cold. I spent much of the day yesterday on the phone with the doctor's office. I have a fantastic group of friends, all of whom are on a roster of check in, and they've been amazing. Sandra opted to work from home yesterday aft and brought Miranda lots of soft, healthy food. Hilary, a pediatrician, has been chatting, check-in texting with her and looking at photos of her throat. Of course, M's best friend and boyfriend are omnipresent. But I'm really far away. As are my parents. And Scott's parents are in no shape to assist, not that they've ever been involved in that way. I've been in constant contact with Hilly to ensure that I needn't end this trip altogether. She's convinced, even if the outcome is mono (and she suspects it is), that M will be fine for 4 more days without constant mother-intervention, however, this is a sort of damned if you do or damned if you don't kind of scenario.

What I haven't mentioned sooner - because it's so par for the course - is that I've been in pretty significant pain since just before we left. New spot, though! I may have subluxated my tailbone, though I can't imagine how - or it's just a novel place for myofascial pain referral. I've got a bunch of chiro and osteopath appts when I get back, but sitting isn't working out so well. Mercifully, I can perch for meals, but not comfortably, which is likely undercutting enjoyment of my fave activity - eating.

And, not to harp on stupid inconvenience, but I come to this place because it's gorgeous - and gotta say, there's SO much significant construction going on right now (like right outside my window and everywhere else) that it's impossible to walk around, much less to enjoy the architecture. Furthermore, it's like QC blew its brains out on the 400th celebration and, frankly, it's looking tired. What I've always loved about this place is that the Disney Village component is well-tempered by great food and beautiful vistas. This time, the meal scene has been fairly pedestrian - I actually had to send a meal back at one of my long-time favourite restaurants. This shocks me because, honestly, the food in Quebec is impeccable. Not to mention, it's gone from whimsical here to tourist-centrale. Not my thing.

I do get that outdoor summer construction is how we sidestep decay. I'm really sensitive to it right now because Toronto is in a bizarre conflation of construction projects which basically makes any sort of transit near-impossible. (Even walking to work on the side-streets is a traffic jam and it's wall-to-wall chaos everywhere.) I didn't realize to what extent I was counting on a quiet and ease.

To mitigate my (let's just call it) disappointment, we opted to do something totally spur of the moment: We're going to the bucolic Baie St. Paul tomorrow - for an overnight stay at La Ferme. Lord, I hope the weather improves (as they've promised it will) because that's a long time in a car for rain. Also, I'm going to be driving for the first time in 5 years so I'd do well with the best of conditions. Scott and I have talked frequently about renting a place in the Charlevoix, in future, in lieu of this QC pilgrimage. This will give us a chance to explore some options because I don't think we'll be back to QC any time soon.

One very exciting potentiality, once we get to the Baie, is a take a tour of the food garden with the chef. The hotel is in a pristine river delta and the eluvial soil makes for awesome produce in spectacular environs. I would LOVE to tour a working farm with the guy making the food.

As today is destined to be gloomy, I sense we'll hang in the hotel (not that I'm looking for extra time to brood or feel anxious) and then go to the Musee (literally across the road). Tonight, we have plans at L'Initiale - perhaps the only QC food destination I've never been to because, utterly bizarrely, it has been closed for one reason or another, every single time I've ever been here.  As you can tell, my mood isn't stellar, and my food-to-date experiences haven't wowed me (though most have been more than adequate). I don't want to get my hopes up because that's the path of dissatisfaction, but I would love a crazy-awesome dinner-experience, replete with amazing food and wine, perfect service and beautiful ambiance.

On a final note, I find it interesting how blogs diverge from Instagram, that wonderful, just-in-time repository of fine moments. My Instagram feed has been as honest as this post - capturing the intensity of my feelings at any given time. And yet, Instagram evades the totality, the complexity. Maybe that's why it's so popular. One doesn't have to engage with the mood of the post-er. One has no thought of the turn round the corner or the next 12 shots that don't express instantaneous perfection.

I'm a complex person going through a complicated phase. My complications would seem petty to those who struggle infinitely more, but they are real to me and I must work actively to vanquish them. I wonder if there's any way to pull this vacay back from the edge - to find the solitude and  total detachment from what I've left behind. If I can't do it here, then where can I? Which takes me full circle: Wherever I go, there am I.

If only I could be everywhere at once.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Vacation Follow Along...

Yo, peeps. In addition to the blog, I've decided to see if I can finally get with Instagram (5 years after joining) so please follow me there (kristinm100) if you'd like to see my Quebec City vacation parsed out in self-serving photographs of sexy meals and views and maybe even the occasional pic of actual me.

The weather this weekend was sublime but we're moving into a couple of days of unsettledness - and potentially quite a bit of rain. I'm trying not to get suicidal. Food and wine should help.

I will be posting here - I have a few bra reviews percolating - but only when the mood strikes.

Here's a bit of what you might find on the other platform...

Now off to breakfast. Kxo

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Grown-Up Clothing

Yesterday I wandered into Black Goat* without the slightest intent of purchasing anything - I went with my friend (who bought a gorgeous knit casmere poncho that she is NUTS about). Not sure if you're familiar with this Canadian brand... The Toronto shop opened last year but, till recently, I wasn't aware that hails from out West (Vancouver) and that there are 3 other stores - 2 in Van and 1 in Victoria. Here's the thing: While the Western Canadians have it all going on with the textiles and design (especially the chic technical/athletic all-weather garments), before now,  I really didn't think to pair "insanely delicate Mongolian cashmere" and "Vancouver" in the same sentence. I mean, cashmere is one of those things you don't want getting misted by regular rain showers and drizzle, right?

No mind, some nice BC lady is obviously very knowledgeable and very well-funded and now we have Black Goat to add to the Canadian fine knitwear scene, spearheaded by the stalwart, ├ža va de soi. It's a worthy competitor and, while the prices are in no way discount, Black Goat's quality and cost are entirely well-aligned.

So I had no plans as I walked into that pretty, nice-smelling store, but - to pass the time - I tried on a gorgeous wrap and, before I knew it, I was transfixed. It was love at first touch. I have never felt cashmere like this before. Take a moment to consider that because I feel all the cashmere in all the places where it can be found. I knit with it, I own it in scarves, sweaters, shawls, and the slimmest Ts. Sometimes, I seriously consider raising a cashmere goat and harvesting its fiber. I search for it on bolts at textile stores, to no effect.

People, I have never felt a piece of fabric that rivals this. It almost melted in my hand. It made me want to cry. Its pattern was utter perfection - colours cool and saturated simultaneously. No photo can do it justice, alas, but here's a shot of the print from the website:

Black Goat Printed Shawl in Orchids
It was at that moment that I realized that, if you love gardens, you should probably wear them, preferably close to the face, where deep and muted hues will no doubt conspire to make you look dewy and fresh.

But I walked away because what do I need of a mind-blowingly delicate cashmere shawl that's 200" x 65" on a freakin' ecru background? What am I, a lady of luxury? A fashion mag editor-in-chief?

Alas, the heady desire to feel and admire that fabric persisted. All evening I scoured the website. I did the tax math in my head. I imagined scenarios in which I might wear it in different ways, with different outfits (Breton stripes, other florals, pale solids). Eventually, I pulled out my ever-trusty, endgame excuse to justify every potential inexcusable purchase: I don't own a car! So really, I'm saving zillions of dollars a year!

And then I went back to the store today and bought the fucking thing because I didn't want to live without it - because I knew that outcome would only yield regret:

FYI, I'm 46. I don't do regret anymore.

*I urge you to check out all of the shawl colourways, if just to see the array of options. Everyone of them is fantastic in its own way.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Clothes May Not Make the Man, But they Don't Hurt

My wardrobe refresh is coming along nicely!
  • Having discarded or recycled a bunch of Ts, I purchased 3 new styles of t shirt, in multiples of 2 (because, when you find a T that works, don't just get one - you know these things don't have the longest shelf life). One version is black, scoop neck and long-sleeved (and can be used for lounge purposes), one version is plum and short-sleeved (work worthy), one version is blue and white striped and 3/4 sleeved (also good for work or weekends). The solids are made of modal and the stripes are a rayon, cotton blend. They all feel delightful and fit well. Here's a pic of the stripey top:
This striped top is from COS - my current go-to...
  • I also bought a fancy top at COS that can be worn for drama or with jeans - I LOVE it! Doesn't look like much in this pic but it's pure glamour and very easy to wear.
It's got a mesh asymmetric cape over one shoulder. Sounds weird but I feel part bird, part vampire whenever I put it on.
  • I made a new T shirt (the Concord) which is more for the shoulder seasons but could work on a summer evening. On this topic, I'm in the process of making a modified Concord (sleeveless) in very light weight rayon, to manage in the heat. Alas, I'm experiencing some armscye coverstitch tunneling happening. Trying to fix this so any feedback would be so welcome.
  • I've made 2 new pairs of Hudsons - my other ones are starting to get a bit ratty as I wear these around the house constantly. I do yoga in them, I sleep in them. I figured I could use a new batch.
(Side note: It appears that I've sewn a lot lately, even though it doesn't feel like it.)
  • I've bought 4 new lingerie sets / 1 new bra - 2 Panache Floris', 1 Panache Olivia, 1 Freya Minx, 1 Curvy Couture lounge bra. I'll write more about these in other posts.
  • I bought a new pair of straight-leg jeans at Marshall's (a place I never go - I accidentally wandered in). They cost 35 dollars and the fit is awesome with no alterations (except hemming). The wash is a great medium blue - it's dark enough to give them some elegance, but light-enough to work for summer.
  • I got a gorgeous, grey merino, v-neck boyfriend sweater - softly oversized. This is more for the fall, than now. I had a credit at COS (which paid for this and the COS items above). The sweater was on sale for half price and it was lovely and, I figure, sometimes you have to think to the season ahead.
  • I used up part of my credit at Anthropologie (remember how I returned those 300 dollar jeans?). Amazingly, I purchased on an Anthro day so I got 15% these, which were 130 CDN, all in:
Level 99 Cropped Chambray Trousers
Of course, for every "in" there's an "out". Bye bye clutter! So I've divested myself of a number of tired tops and the bras that are currently snug. I recently discarded a couple of pairs of jeans that were shot or too small. Next up,  I'll tackle the dresses.

I can't tell you how pleasant it is to get dressed when my clothes fit and they've got that "new" appeal. I'm not bored and I'm not dismayed.

I'll be off on vacation as of Sat. but when I return (in the second week of my hols), I intend to make:
  • A tailored skirt (likely V8460).
  • Some wide-legged trousers (likely V1166)
  • The Appleton Dress (by Cashmerette). Hopefully my recent Concord alterations will stand me in good stead when fitting this dress.
At that point, I'll have what I need for the summer and, with a few future additions, what I'll need for fall/winter.
What's your favourite summer purchase so far?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Cashmerette Concord Tee - The Muslin

So I made a muslin of this T shirt today and, natch, as I sit here with a gorgeous Montepulciano (chilled to combat 35C sunny weather!!), I have a some thoughts to relay...

For starters, the pattern is very good - well-drafted (and drafted differently than other patterns I've made, to accommodate flesh). I haven't really engaged with the instructions but they seem clear to the extent that I've reviewed them. If you are in the size range for this pattern, you should own it! It's a great sloper-base.

For comparison, here are my sloper pattern pieces (right-hand side of pic) next to my pre-muslin 1, altered size 12 Concord pieces:

T Shirt Front Bodices
T Shirt Back Bodices
My sloper was constructed maybe 5 years ago, when I was a different size.

I'd like to point out how similar these patterns are. Yes, you are viewing the Concord in a pre-muslined, modified size 12 (smaller than the pattern), but the proportions haven't really changed.

Pre-muslin Concord alterations:
  • The back neck and upper back above the armscye were narrowed by @3 inches. Spoiler alert: It wasn't enough.
  • I removed about 3 inches over all from the hips.
  • I removed about 2 inches from the waist
  • I removed about an inch from the bust.
  • I removed @3 inches from the upper arm width. (Not shown.)
  • I changed the sleeve cap to suit the slightly altered armscye (more about ensuring lengths of each would match rather than shape changes). (Not shown.)
But you'll note:
  •  My sloper scoop neck is really similar to the Concord's. What makes the Concord neckline sit somewhat lower than mine is the longer shoulder span. Note: I like the lower neckline because, even though my skin is vaguely lined at the span of decollete, this is an attractive part of my body, IMO.
  • The general, vertical proportions of the waist and hips are also similar. The Concord is longer than my sloper but they have the same basic silhouette. Sure, it's a T shirt, so how much variation is there likely to be, but still... 
  • The waist is high. It's designed for someone with a short waist (or padding at the narrowest point of the torso).
  • The armscye isn't drastically different than mine, in shape.
In truth, I would have had an easier time altering my sloper, than redevising the Concord, but the altering of the Concord, and working with it, has taught me some things about how to shape pattern pieces for added waist girth and boobs. You'd think I'd know all about the boobs at this point but, since there are no patterns that really design for narrow frames and large breasts (or even average frames and large breasts), I'm going to work with what's available - even if I'll have to alter everything else.

Here's the thing: There's a fine line between making a new pattern and pre-altering one, such that it's just a version of one's original sloper. I don't know that I kept to the right side of that line...

In the end, my modified Concord muslin didn't work because:
  • The upper back and neck were still a good inch too wide (the back neck drooped and folded). 
    • My latest alterations produce a back bodice that is more or less exactly that of my sloper - if larger at the side seams. BTW, this isn't a complex alteration but it is fussy. I actually cut the armscye segment from its original spot and moved it over towards the centre back, correcting the width at the underarm, to ensure that I'd maintained volume for the bust. This is where having a sloper came in very handy. Without it, I'd have been guessing or doing math.
  • I overdid it slightly when down-sizing. I should have kept the side seams where the original pattern put them. Sure, it would have been a bit roomy, but I could have corrected that on the next go round. As it is, I had to go to the effort of adding back @ an inch of circumference at the waist and hips because, if I'm looking for skim I need an adequate amount of fabric! How can I say I want a better silhouette, for my current shape, while retaining my original pattern dimensions?
  • Hilariously, my most erroneous alteration was in the armscye/sleeve. I didn't make it high enough or wide enough, though my version is certainly wearable on this account. I've now corrected this on the pattern by adding back  @1.5" of width at the underarm tapering to @0.5 inches at the hem. I also raised the height by about 0.5". Gillian wondered why I didn't make the 12 E/F (rather than the C/D). (Reminder: these labels do not align with proper bra sizing!) I can't confirm this, without reprinting and reassembling the original pattern, but I suspect that my back narrowing / armscye alteration has resulted in the pattern's E/F bust volume, while respecting the narrowness of my frame.
What I can tell you is that this pattern is NOT devised for a small and narrow frame, not even one with padding. It presumes a wide upper back and full shoulders (structural) in addition to boobs and thick arms (sometimes a side effect of weight). I don't know if all of my work will be worth it - from the perspective of the final outcome - but that's offset by the learning, which has made it time well spent.

Furthermore, if this allows me to make easy, stock adjustments to Cashmerette's other patterns (and future patterns) it will have been worth it. Alas, that remains to be seen. The back width issue may be a deal breaker because that's not always an easy alteration.

I've now cut out and prepped muslin 2. Regrettably, I am all but out of my good fabric. I actually cut muslin 1 out of a dress I made, that never worked. I had to cut the front bodice of muslin 2 (not yet assembled) on the cross grain. Yeah, it's a high-quality, 4-way modal, but I still think that cutting one piece opposite to all of the others is dicey (and maybe irritating). But my next version is yet another muslin so I'm going along for the ride.

At any rate, I hope to put together muslin 2 tomorrow. Note: Coverstitching a neck band below the seam is really tricky without a see-through foot. Any tips?

Update: OMG, people, I do have a see-through foot?! (I had to read back through the blog to remind myself that I'd bought and installed one when first I got my machine.) That bodes badly for my current skill (and maybe my short-term memory). Sometimes I concern myself.  I've read everything that Debbie (Stitches and Seams) has written on this topic - twice at this point - but I guess that's no alternative for actually coverstitching to gain ability. Mind you, now I see that she often stitches on either side the neck seam. Didn't know that was an option! I've also decided that I like single line, machine stitching down the serged neckline more than coverstitching it. I'm not there yet with my coverstitching skills and when a neckline goes awry, it's nasty. FWIW, I've got better at pulling the front-side stitches out the back when I pull the work back / out of the machine at the end of a row. I'm also improving on my waist hems. Everything in time, I suppose...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Right-Sizing the Cashmerette Concord Tee

Last night I taped together the Concord Tee pdf pattern pages and then I compared it to my current sloper. As I'm not specifically within the size range (this top is designed specifically for curvy or plus-size ladies), I wanted to get a lay of the land.

For those of you who like the Cashmerette design aesthetic (and I do - I mean, I've bought all of the patterns and I love that Washington Dress) but who may be smaller than the size range, here are a few of my considerations to date:
  • The vertical dimensions are pretty much aligned with mine - at the short waist, high hip, neckline - except for the armscye. This is quite a bit longer than what I require so I'm going to have to do a bit of pattern surgery. It's obvs designed for someone who's got a long, high-bust span (in addition to a full bust). I can see the appeal of this drafting - the bust will fit a wider array of sizes and shapes (even within each bust size category) because it finds some ease above the full bust which can be utilized in addition to the width provided. But if I've interpreted this correctly, it's quite unsuited to a short, curvy (i.e. proportionately large-busted) person who's not plus-sized. Especially one with high-set breasts, having short roots, and a really short shoulder height. BTW, I personally hate the term plus-sized. What are other people? Minus-sized? Is anyone really any size when one takes all dimensions into account. I'm "plus-sized" in the full bust but super small in the shoulders. Where does this leave me?? And, just to make things even more complicated, I don't much like the term curvy because it's equally meaningless.
  • The horizontal dimensions are interesting. As you know I'm looking at making the medium length size 12 in a C/D (smallest provided) but my current sloper (self-drafted) fits well inside the 12 at all points. While I know my sloper is more fitted than I'd like, at the moment, I do feel that making the pattern, as is, will yield a finished item that's just too roomy. And, natch, how can I make any pattern - even a simple t shirt - without changing everything. That would be too easy. I'm still considering my options but I think I'm likely to split the difference between my pattern and the Concord dimensions. I may keep the Concord bust ease (just to see how that works out when paired with more waist and hip skim) but I'm going to have to remove an inch and a half or so of circumference in the waist and about 3-4 inches in the hips. I want skim but I don't want loose and this pattern is drafted for a woman with proportionately wide hips.
  • I'm going to have to narrow the arm circumference substantially (haven't measured but maybe by 3-4 inches overall). This isn't so surprising. I often have to narrow arm circumference even on patterns that are skimpy with ease. I have compact arms and small bones.
Admittedly, I haven't made this yet so I have no idea if it will be love or disaster but, already, I think that Jenny should consider tapping into the large-busted, hour-glass-meets-apple petite person. I think it would be a fairly easy jump from her current drafting-model and she'd really increase her market-share with one or two smaller sizes than she currently provides. Note: I'm not suggesting that she cater to everyone! Also, I sense my issue with the design may be that this pattern line drafts for robust skeletal frames, not simply additional padding, hence my potential arm width and upper bust height challenges with the original pattern.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Be Here Now

I really appreciate of the comments on my last post. Writing and communicating is how I go from static-state to transformation. So thank you for sharing - and keep sharing, please!

To present a bit of my flip side perspective (that which aligns with the times when I'm not freaking out), I'm delightfully practical and, as I love to tell people, I have fab taste! Here's how I'm managing the great unknown to maximize chicness in the current state.
  • I go shopping for new clothes. Sometimes it's hard to do this when one's shape is not what it was. I'm naturally nonplussed by RTW sizing labels but lately it's been sort of challenging. I'm surprised by my discomfort, having spent so many years telling other people not to care about such nonsense as tag numbers, and meaning it with every fibre of my being. So now I have the opportunity to treat myself with the same tough love (emphasis on love). I have found new places (COS, Kit and Ace) with very well-made clothing, having structural or relaxed silhouettes (made with beautiful fabrics) that are flattering for shapes that benefit from skim in the mid-section. I also spend money which, I recognize, is not within everyone's purview. Don't misunderstand, I have a budget, but I'm willing to buy fewer items (just what I need) at highter price points as long as the quality warrants. Needless to say, now is not the time to buy fast fashion and imagine that it isn't going to look cheap. I'm past that phase - not to mention that fast fashion rarely fits unless you're rather slim and entirely proportioned to its cookie-cutter dimensions. 
  • I go shopping for new bras. People - if there's one step you don't skip as you move through middle age, it's this one. Even if your breasts don't increase in size - and they probably will if only because your weight goes up while you're in the thick of it - they will eventually change in shape, in position, in density, in tone. The bras with lots of room in the upper cup may become empty. One's need for a firmer band or firmer wires may occur as breasts loose tone and gravity sets in. For sure, I have a real head start on this account: I know where to look. I know who to talk to. I understand the structural qualities of RTW bras (given that I've made my own). Here's what I can tell you about my boobs (do I ever shut up about them??): They could be doing a lot worse, particularly given that they have never been insubstantial. I've been wearing bras that truly fit, for most of the years I've been wearing bras, and, trust me, it makes a big difference in how breasts age.* I've got taut skin and an even, balanced breast shape. Gravity showed its stripes a bit, a couple of years ago, but things are holding steady. Current changes include slightly less upper cup fullness, slightly more fall, slightly more width - which means I need bras with wider wires and more height in the outer cup - and a bit more volume. FYI - I've just bought a bunch of new sets (Panache Floris in 2 colourways, Freya Minx - a great bra! - and Panache Olivia). Some I've received, others I'm waiting on but I've had a pretty good purchase moment and I'll get into that in other posts.
  • I lawn toss / give away the clothes that no longer fit. I resell my gently used bras (in my annual bra sale). I realize that I may well fit again into many of the things that don't fit now - particularly bras, in my own personal experience - but it's really bad for my psyche to be surrounded by things that don't have purpose. I am not nostalgic. I do not like clutter. Culling may be hard in the moment but it's far less painful than being reminded of something I love that I can get no use from. For sure, my finer things go to friends, not on the lawn. But out of sight, out of mind. Every time I look at that dress I love that I can't sit down in any longer, I'm reminding myself that I'm not as I was before. Fact is, I am as I am now. That's all I've got and it's enough. I want to appreciate how I look in clothes and lingerie that fit my current dimensions as beautifully as the other garments fit my former dimensions.
  • And (maybe best of all!), I sew. What better way to feel the impact of one's hobby than to have actual need for new things that one can self-construct? I legitimately require a new, fitted skirt that fits perfectly. I have the pattern (to be altered slightly) and I own some stretch woven that will fit the bill (note: perimen ladies - do not wear a woven without 15% stretch). I've purchased the Concord T pattern because it looks terrific on everyone and the waist skim is fantastic. I'm going to make the size 12 in a C/D cup size because that suits my bust dimensions best (sewing bust dimensions are diff than bra sizing) though I may have to modify the hips and waist because those dimensions are larger than mine. I've seen this pattern made gorgeously for people of all sizes, even those that are not quite in the range so I'm hopeful that it will look good on me too! I need a new T shirt pattern - my sloper is, frankly, a bit boring to me now and a bit more fitted in the silhouette than my current preference. I also want to make another pair of my Vogue wide-leg trousers. I get a ton of use from these and they're regularly complimented for being very flattering. I say, go with what works.
So, next up some sewing, I suppose (though where will I find the time?). Looks likely that we're not starting the reno in August (though when is anything ever confirmed when it comes to renos). I don't think I've got the fortitude to move out and that's what it would take at this point with a 6-month timeline and the need to remove the furnace for most of that time.

* If you do one thing - get over any boob size issues and price-point sticker shock and get yourself into a well-fitting bra. Your breasts will look great, not smushed and abused by decades of painful wires, insufficient cups and poor support. Ladies of a certain age - what are you waiting for?? You're not getting any perkier.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Wherein I Discuss the Fall Out of My Latest (Undesired) Closet Review...

I did another cull of my wardrobe earlier this week. Honestly, there's less and less to choose from and it's not because my taste has changed. Bras and skirts (and tops and pants) that fit me a year ago (or in some cases 6 months ago?!) are now too snug. In case you're wondering if I'm freaking out, I'm kind of past that. What that means is that some of the time I'm zen about it, the rest of the time I'm whatever is more extreme than freaking out.

I've been pretty silent on this topic for a while now, because I sense it makes me seem little other than shallow and whiny, but my feelings of physical self-loathing have not abated. Note: I'm working on it. I know I have a problem. Alas, I'm nothing if not a town crier and this is my space, after all...

To put it out there, I have no idea how much weight I've gained because I don't believe in scales. I believe in fit. I have gained @2 RTW dress sizes since my body started on this journey of change (let's say, over the past 5 years). My stomach is where most of the change has occurred but my upper thighs have also thickened and my breasts have increased by a band size and 1-2 cup sizes, depending on the bra and the time of month. I'm fit and toned (not that fat doesn't obscure tone) and my skin is firm, if not as firm as it was. I won the lottery on that account though - I still look younger than most people 10-15 years my junior. Wonder how long that'll hold out.

Currently, these are my considerations on the matter:
  • Life is about transition of all sorts. I have been experiencing this in extreme fashion lately, on all the fronts. This is just one of them.
  • Moreover, biological transition is the most non-negotiable sort of them all. Theoretically, from my vantage point of privilege, I can choose not to advance my career, have a child or do a renovation to save myself the stress. Hormone imbalance and physical age are no one's purview (not even Suzanne Sommers, poor thing), though I do what I can to curtail the worst of it.
  • I am an extremely critical being. Let's just say compassion cultivation really has got to be my next big thing. I am, and have always been, excessively critical of my appearance. Who knows why? My mother is also critical of her appearance (though she has no reason to be). The Puerto Ricans (maternal heritage) take their presentation very seriously. I have not left the house without lipstick since I was 14. The WASPs, my de facto family (the outcome of a Toronto private school upbringing) are all stupidly thin by nature, with no boobs to obscure that fact. Maybe it's a learned behaviour. Seriously, when I was youthfully svelte and utterly gorgeous (and I was), I still thought I had room for improvement. As my mother likes to say, if you think you look bad in that bathing suit now, imagine what it'll be like in 22 years. (That's our age difference, btw.)
  • I've had the opportunity to live with an adolescent whose hormones have quickly changed her body beyond all recognition and have also made her semi-regularly batshit crazy. If they wield this impact on a resilient youth, what hope is there for the middle-aged?
  • While I have occasional pain flare ups, things are very good on this front right now and have been for some time. Why on earth I am spending so much of my energy hating myself for my  shape when I feel alright is beyond me? And stupid.
  • As a follow up to my previous point, I've spent my youth getting to this age and stage (which I secretly always coveted) and I've worked my ass off. On the backbone of sacrifice and compromise, I have a good marriage, a healthy child a quirky house, worth a zillion dollars, in a great neighbourhood (if not a chichi one). Soon (theoretically) it's going to be even more gorgeous and worth 2 zillion dollars. I have a great job. I have an office with a perfect view. I have amazing friends and family. I have health. I know myself. I like myself! I have awesome taste. I can afford to eat at terrific restaurants. Not to mention that all of these things are fleeting and I know it. Why the fuck am I fixated on the fact that I can't fit into my former fat pants?
  • Well, I suppose the reason is that, before, I had many of those things going for me (in various stages of development), and I also had an enviable figure. But, more to the point, this experience is making me fearful. I feel entirely out of control. Despite a reasonable lifestyle choices  and lots of practical fitness, I'm changing in ways that I can't control and I don't know where this is going to lead. Um death and decay, anyone? Never mind that shit. I look at the all-too-prevalent, squat shape of the post-menopausal woman with disdain. No mind that the ones who avoid that outcome are likely genetically predisposed and/or self-deniers. And I have even more judgement of the self-deniers.
  • Furthermore, I think it's fair to say that I have a bit of body dysmorphia happening. Even though I'm of the (likely ignorant) opinion that this is a kind of ersatz condition, I can't deny that I'm obsessed with my body and my perception of its flaws.
  • Moreover - and this is in no way ersatz, alas - I do have obsessive compulsive disorder and some deeply ingrained sensory sensitivity. Feeling my clothes, as they currently hang on my body, fills me with legitimate physical revulsion over which I ruminate continuously. It's been happening more and more over the last year and the combo of these things has led to a destructive feedback loop. I haven't yet figured out how to resolve it but I'm working on it. If any of you has any useful feedback, honestly, bring it on.
  • Intellectually, I know that my value is not determined by my ability to retain all of the physical entitlements of youth and neither is my appeal. But my identity is going through the fucking wringer and I'd appreciate moving on from the, seemingly-endless, deconstruction to a new state of normal wherein I truly like the way I look.
At any rate, these are my deep, or shallow, thoughts du jour. Any feedback?

PS: Next post discusses how I'm managing sewing and my wardrobe to optimal effect. I mean, I'm not a complete wallower...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

In Praise of Smart Stashing (and Knitting Socks in Summer)

You may wonder how I've gone from yarn stash-busting to stash-building but, really, my methodology has changed completely.

I'm not a volume stasher - by nature. It goes against my minimalist grain, the part of me that loathes clutter. On the other hand, and many other crafters of all kinds have written on this topic: materials provide inspiration. What's more wonderful than planning out your next sweater, knowing that you have 1000 yards of sport-weight yarn in that gorgeous slate grey?

To digress briefly, socks are a different sort of stash subject. It's been so long since I dissed making and wearing handmade socks that I hope we can all forget I ever said anything. My revisionism is based on 3 years of making pair after pair and realizing that a) everyone loves them b) they're practical and c) they're cozy and comfortable, especially when made with good yarn. Furthermore, there are as many fancy sock patterns as there are pairs of socks - which isn't my thing (ok, yet), but you can't get bored with all of those options. The sock is a knitting microcosm.

I've hit the point with my own (simple) sock pattern that I work without paper. It's just me, some needles and yarn and, seriously, I feel like a magician! Yeah, you might call my simple sock boring (it is, sort of). I prefer to call it basic (and not by that modern definition). It's everything you need and nothing you don't.

Socks are also very little, portable and they don't heat you up in the middle of summer. Easy to pull out, easy to pack away. I, for one, intend to knit them on my train rides to and through Quebec.

Alas, you can't make them if you don't have yarn (most easily, stashed for the purpose) and I've managed to use up all of my previous sock stash remnants (with a few exceptions that don't add up to 75g - i.e. the amount needed for one pair of Kristin-made simple socks).

Throw in a birthday weekend and you can see how yesterday's purchase was born.

Also, 300g of sock yarn (in 3 distinct colourways) cost a total of $70 (from Ewe Knit). Admittedly, Regia yarn is not expensive or fancy (though it's insanely durable and long-lived). While Koigu is at the higher-end, the skeins come in 50g so you can purchase with more flexibility. All this is to say I'll be able to make 4 pairs of socks for 70 bucks! Fun, efficient and affordable!

But how does this help if I'm not buying to feather the stash?

How to Smart Stash

Buy Enough: One way in which I've changed is that, while I want to give myself a bit of room for maneuver (buy enough yarn for a sweater in my preferred weight and choose the pattern later), I won't buy a single skein (unless I know what I want to make with that complete skein). Buying in unconsidered bits and bobs results in having multiple skeins that don't really do anything - unless and until you get massively creative, and not in the most fun way. God help you if you never knit in DK yarn and you end up with an orphan skein or two of that description. Or lace-weight silk coated stainless steel. Ask me how I know.

Research to Buy Efficiently: I also make sure, to the best of my ability, to have no yarn remaining (or another project planned for the remaining yarn). To do this, I've spent a LOT of time on Ravelry finding the best of the 100 - 200 yard projects in just about every yarn weight. Fortunately I live in the north because the majority of those projects seem to be fingerless gloves and hats. (I really don't love knitting hats.) Honestly, once you figure out how to apply all of the features in Ravelry, there is a shockingly well-organized archive of information. Don't forget - the research phase is the one during which to do math, consider fiber properties, post photos on your mood board (if that's your thing, it isn't mine).

Buy What You Use Most Often (or have a specific project in mind to use it all up): There are some things I'm going to make again and again. I don't just mean specific patterns, but categories of patterns that use interchangeable amounts of yarn. Sport-weight Kristin sweaters take @1000 yards of yarn. Socks take @300 yards of fingering yarn. Sometimes I work with lace-weight, bulky or worsted yarns but not often enough that I'll buy them to stash. I need to know my project and how I can ensure that I don't end up with extra yarn in those weights. Because they don't move fast and they take up space.

Buy Complementary Yarns: Every yarn I buy has a project associated with it. Those projects live in my queue and there are very few skeins of yarn that don't have a project alloted (even if that project might change before I start to make it). Whatever amount of yarn remains gets assigned to a new project. It's my job to find one. If there's nothing available, I have to figure out how to mix it with another one in my stash. This is much easier when you have lots of yarns in the same weight and made of similar fibers). Your hairy alpaca isn't necessarily going to work with springy Quince wool or Icelandic yarn or woolen-spun Brooklyn Tweed.

Organize First. Buy Second: Every time I go into a yarn store it takes me at least an hour because I'm not just buying what I love, I'm buying what I love and what I can use effectively. It's considerably more challenging than buying on drunken creative impulse but much less scary because I know I'm going to use my yarn. It will not threaten to take over a box or a shelf or a closet or a room.  Before I go near actual yarn, I choose the item I want to make, I research it and parse it out, I consider what its sibling project will be and then I allow myself the drug-hit that is finding the fiber. This is the reverse action of most knitters I talk to - even those who don't love having lots of stash. Fiber is compelling and there are some people who cannot control themselves when they start to touch it. This sounds amusing, I realize, but I'm being serious. I know that faint nausea that happens when you touch perfect yarn. It's all potential and it feels like a pet. One's lower brain goes kind of scrambley.

Be Somewhat Dispassionate: Do not allow yourself to get sucked in. It's ok to buy 300g of sock yarn when you know exactly what you want to do with it. If you know enough about sock-knitting to understand that 300g will get you 4 pairs, you're going to use it up. It's less ok to buy 300g over 5 skeins of disparate yarn, with no plan in mind for any of them, simply because each one feels and looks awesome. What will they be when they knit up? If you don't know, you run the risk of consigning that gorgeousness to a box in perpetuity. Do you really want that?

So that's my current take on stashing sensibly. Thoughts or feelings?

PS: As it's my birthday, I was able to coerce my husband to garden with me this morning. With 2 people and after 70 minutes, we've got things under control. Note: My front garden is a patch that's @15 x 15. Imagine the weeds that were...

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Woodsmoke and Sock Yarn

It's fine times here this weekend. To start things off, I had my pre-birthday dinner at Enoteca last night. The weather was perfect, the food was terrific, the drinks delicious, the friends awesome. The only hitch was that, while we got there at 5:30 to confirm we'd find a seat on the patio* (they only take reservations inside, which we had as a fall-back), some idiot woman took the one spot in the shade that could work for 6. She had to have arrived before they opened so I guess she wins.

At any rate, the sun was behind a building within an hour and the night could not have been better. Little twinkly lights, superb service (as always). I do love a place that comps me (disclaimer - I eat there often) - our desserts were gifts as was a round of bitters when the meal was over. It was all toasts to Kristin, all the time. I can't say I'm one of those people who freaks out if you sing happy birthday to her on a patio :-)

The walk home was temperature-perfection and I was shocked to find it was 10:30 when I opened my front door. That evening flew by.

Today I went out to buy myself a few treats. First up, I've figured out how to make socks with no remnants to contend with. Since I use 75g per pair of socks, 300g of yarn (generally split into 3 100g skeins, as sock yarn is wont to be packaged) turns into 4 pairs of socks. Three of those 4 are made from the individual skeins of yarn. The 4th is a mash up of the remains of the first 3. The key is to make sure (or to hope) that the yarns for the 4 pair of socks will work together.

I went for these options because I couldn't stand knitting with another solid while everything around me is so colourful:

The grey yarn at the top is Koigu (a perennial fave that comes in 50g skeins - hence 2 balls). The other yarns are made by Regia, a German yarn which is indestructible. I'm sure I've mentioned that I'm still wearing one pair 3 years later...

These skeins are fun because they're self-striping. The blue/purple combo  does this crazy pattern, all on its own:

Regia Arne & Carloss - Tokke

I've wanted to try it for a while because, that's a lot of pattern for yarn you just hold an knit.

This is what the grey yarn looks like, once knit:

Regia Relax Color - Stone

I've been all over the greys and neutrals lately (not that the Tokke sock is particularly neutral) so I'm sticking with my preferred palette.

I also got myself a new body scrubber and a box of Paine's Cedar:

You know of my endless love of wood smoke. These little pellets burn in about 10 minutes and they make your house smell like a forest or an expensive fence! Not incense-y like something you find at the hippie store.

Just ordered my fave vegetarian delivery - Fresh. I've got a Big Salad (with avocado, hemp hearts and marinated tofu), my fave Cacao/maca smoothie and quinoa onion rings wending their way to me.

Sure, it would have been smarter to do yoga before I ordered the food - how can I pair the yummies with a chilled Rioja if yoga awaits? Something's gotta give and I really don't know which one it's going to be?!

Scott's off visiting his parents and M is working (mercifully). Today she advised me that she has disowned me and changed my name on her phone from Mum to Kristin. I did opt to dig a little by asking her whether she'd spelled it correctly...

Quick Update: The food just arrived and the onion rings are hot. I believe the Rioja wins.

Update on the Update: I ate the onion rings only, waited 45 min and then did yoga. Awesome forward bend practice. Now for the salad and Rioja.

* Note: On a gorgeous Friday evening in Toronto, you do not fuck around when it comes to getting a seat on a good patio , even if the food is meh. At a great restaurant, you do what you must to be there when the place opens. There was not a seat to be had outside from 6 until 10 pm.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Up and Down

I don't mind telling you, my life is totally chaotic right now. Obligatory disclaimer: I realize that chaos is person-specific and that there's always someone more objectively chaotic than oneself.

My husband's parents aren't doing so well at the moment, health-wise. Scott's older than me, and the younger child in his family, so his parents are older than mine (in their mid 80s). He's never been particularly close to them, though they are close-by, so it's causing some novel family dynamics and a certain amount of personal revelation. I mean, the situation is complex.

On the opposite, my kid is not exactly a ray of sunshine. If I never have to ground her again, it will be too soon. Lord, I'm so sick of the attitude, the thoughtlessness. This phase is not unexpected, in the scheme of child development, but I want to flee! I have no aptitude as a parent. I don't judge myself for it - it is what it is. I'm a natural at many things, but not this. I have no passion for the activity. And I'm beaten down by 16 years of standing my ground. Really, I'm tired.

Work has calmed down for the moment but it's a sputtering volcano. I'm less burned out than I was last month, yet I'm still so far from normal - it's like I'm in free-fall.

To add to the fun, I have no idea of what's going on with my fucking renovation. We have a new project manager who's got to do his own due diligence on the basis of newly-completed architectural plans. I won't know till mid June whether he can commit to being finished by December (not that I'll believe him even if he does). Of course, I haven't gone through Committee of Adjustments yet (thanks, new by-law) so I can't permit till I've gained that approval. If I start this reno this year, it won't be till August 1. If I don't, I'll have to live in this house as-is, ever more haggard - the place I mean - till April. FYI, I moved out of this house, mentally, about a year ago.

Every day I come home and see my front garden, the metaphor of my current psyche. It's weedy - so weedy, that my weed-prone next-door neighbours, who finally put in a garden last year, currently have a cleaner front garden than mine. They have no weeds at all anymore (except the hipster kind) and I'm the one who gets judge-y side-eye from the woman 5 houses down.

I'm not even going get started on the liminal backyard.

Then I have to deal with a very administrative task (alluded to previously) which involves assets and citizenship and I'm SO put off by it. I'm struggling with apathy (the result of anger and the utter stupidity of the task).

Everything is creaky and leaky and many of the things that need tending to will not be fixed in the near term.

What can I say? I'm a capable whiner.

On the flipside, I'm also a capable crafter. My creative mind, while not as sharp as usual, hasn't exactly jumped ship. I'm exceedingly grateful for this. Furthermore, physical pain is not a consideration of late. I'm also exceedingly grateful for this.

Yesterday I booked a pretty decadent trip to Montreal and Quebec City at the end of June. Scott and I are going alone. No, the kid doesn't know about it as yet. Don't tell her. She has a new (first) job and a boyfriend and she wouldn't want to join, what with us being there, but that's not the point.

I need to get away. I need to retreat with my husband and the trip we know best involves getting on a train in downtown TO and travelling VIA 1 to downtown Mtl. We'll check into the Gault. Walk to Mile End, then the Plateau. Have dinner at Quartier General with the floor-to-ceiling windows open, saturated in the humid night breeze.

Next day we'll get on the train again and spend 3 hours looking out the window. The view is bucolic defined. If you want to meet Quebec for the first time, ride that corridor. I've booked the seats with the best view. I'll knit - I do that on the train. Scott will listen to music. We'll drink silly little bottles of wine and eat food in squat ceramic plates with tall sides to inhibit spills.

Coming into QC Gare du Palais is truly strange. It''s all kinds of industrial-meets-French-Canadian residential. Graffiti. Grain silos. And then, as you debark into the station, everything changes and becomes chic and clean, much of it crazily old. We can walk to our hotel (the 71) from the station, along cobbled streets of the Old Town. I love that I can make this entire trip without ever setting foot in a car.

I can't tell you how grateful I am to know where to dine. To know that food will be gorgeous. Walking in Quebec is joy. Sitting on a patio, as the sun fades and the streets enliven, is a stunning pleasure. No one knows the summer like the northerners. I suspect my last thought will be of an elegant, cloistered terrace, the air at body temperature, the night-scent of flowers competing with the boozy smell of wine. I'll be eating something sweet and speaking slightly too emphatically about the meaning of the world, truly besotted with my husband, who gives great conversation at the worst of times.

After many days of this, we'll be back on our way to my favourite city. We'll hit the tail end of the day in Old Montreal. We'll try a new restaurant, probably in St. Henri.

In they way it takes thousands of sewing sessions to really understand the craft, it takes many visits to the same destination, to tell the story of a life well-lived. This is why we're getting our asses there as soon as possible. Please stay tuned.