Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Finished Object: L'Enveloppe

So, on balance, L'enveloppe worked out well for me:

The flat seam finish of the left arm piece (aka that sleeve cap that's too low on my dress form because I arranged it haphazardly) is a very elegant feature. There's a close up of it below:

In this shot, the left arm piece does sit on top of the shoulder, as it should. But I still neglected to fix the drape of the right sleeve.
A lot of the finished photos of this garment show it positioned as it's knit (on a grid) rather than as it hangs (on the bias). This photo shows how it might have been useful to position the garment in the flat schematic - the way it's worn:

I actually set this on the ground backwards - so you see the left sleeve piece on the left side of the photo...
Notice how the original, folded-over trapezoid is now rotated at 45 degrees? Notice also how the left sleeve piece attaches to that diagonal body approximately half way down the edge? That's why the point doesn't look like a floppy mess.

I will definitely wear this because I nailed the fit, which is the only thing that matters in a mostly shapeless garment. It's a fine line between chic and blob.

No doubt, this is a clever design but, if this garment looks good on me, it's largely because of what I've done to ensure optimal fit:
  • I made the smallest size. Pattern fits large so definitely go down a size.
  • I made a fabric that isn't too open / is fairly firm. It's on the edge of open, but on the right side of that edge. I could see myself using a smaller yarn (worsted weight) on the same needle size next time. I could also see myself sticking with aran weight - as long as it's on the slim side (like the Rowan I used).
  • I modified the width in the shoulders. As drafted, it's very loose and wide. So I further seamed up the neck on both sides. In total I narrowed the neck by 5.5 inches (3 inches on the right hand side of it - the side that isn't seamed because it's where the trapezoid folds in half). It also brought the neckline up and stopped the otherwise heavy collar from drooping. These small changes make a huge difference. Next time, when I create the cleft, I'll cast off 11 fewer stitches (to narrow the collar / neck width). 
  • I cast on loosely. I'm a loose knitter by nature so this isn't difficult for me. But I read a number of accounts of tight cast on's causing trouble picking up stitches for the left arm piece.
  • Although I'm not nuts about Rowan SuperFine Aran, it's a well-made yarn (if on the splitty side). It gives great drape (although I'd have preferred to use it with a tighter stitch pattern than garter). It's not overly heavy, it's springy and it's nice fiber.
  • I ensured the proportions of the garment work with mine. I knew that versions of this top with proportionately small left arm pieces tended to look off-balance. Admittedly, it's difficult to figure out how to moderate proportions if you can't figure out how the pattern comes together. So I read, and reread, many of accounts on the Ravelry L'enveloppe project page.
The reason I've given this pattern so much blog time, over the last couple of posts, is because I do believe that, when made in the right yarn in the right size, L'enveloppe can look terrific. It's an exceedingly practical finished garment. It's easy to make and it doesn't use up that much yarn (less than that required to make a sweater). It functions as outerwear at the right temperature and also as an inside garment. It's a blanket you don't have to fiddle with.

Props to Sally Melville for coming up with a intelligent and elegant design. I only wish the instructions could assist people more on the topic of how to make it so that it fits well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

CURIO for the Holidays: The Bundles

I'm thrilled to say that it's been busy on the CURIO* front. Between my Etsy and local orders, I feel a bit like Santa. Like chic Santa.

In the holiday spirit, I've assembled 3 bundles that may appeal to your loved ones (or to yourself)!

CURIO* Visage:

CURIO* Visage
This is your perfect daily face kit - which I, for one, swear by. It's luxe, organic, simple, exceedingly moisturizing - and each product smells more delicious than the next!

It includes:
  • Serum A OR Serum B (your choice) (1 oz in glass with pump closure)
  • Neroli Hydrosol (2 oz in glass with spray closure)
  • Eye Balm A: Rose (0.5 oz in glass jar)
I have written extensively about these on the Etsy shop and on the blog (see sidebar)- so please peruse the relevant listings to find out more about ingredients and usage.

CURIO* Corps:

CURIO* Corps
Body Oil A is a gorgeous combination of Apricot Kernel Oil and essential oils - either Ylang Ylang and Grapefruit OR Neroli and Rosewood - each in a 2 oz glass bottle with pump for easy dispensing. What I've discovered is that people who buy one always come back for the other, so why not sell them together as a lovely treat for the body after a morning shower or delicious bath.

Again, the Etsy shop listing and sidebar will give you all the deets you need to know...

CURIO* Three Wise Salves: 

CURIO* Three Wise Salves
What can I say, the naming got away with me!

Winter is a time for preserving moisture and rebuking the cold and damp. Between Arnica Salve (for muscle-aches), Immortelle Salve (for rheumatic aches) and Calendula Salve (for scrapes and cuts), you'll have it covered with this bundle.

All salves (2 oz each) are made with organic, extra virgin olive oil infused with flowers (and enhanced with essential oils). Of course, the Etsy shop listing and my blog sidebar will tell you more, so look over at those for more details.

Just a hint: Each of these salves works terrifically for giving (or getting) massages, just sayin', and the immortelle salve, in particular, has an off-script use as eye balm, so I've been told.

In the interests of full disclosure, the new year may well bring price increases, given the current value of the Canadian dollar and the fact that I import many of my components from other countries. So do stock up now if you're in the mood.

As always, do let me know if you have any questions - I'm pleased to chat. And happy holiday shopping! Here's to giving gifts from the comfort of your own couch. xo

Monday, November 23, 2015

Knitting in Progress: L'Enveloppe

You know I've been making L'enveloppe - this strange shawl-poncho-scarf hybrid. Well, it's just about done so I thought I share some of my feelings about the pattern and the process.

Here's a shot of where I was at last weekend (I'm almost finished now and my next post will show photos of the finished garment):

The garment is based on this main piece which, when finished will be left-right symmetrical.
About the Pattern: In short, I find this pattern to be wildly overwritten which is hilarious given that I - of all peeps - love too much detail. The problem with the instruction is that it isn't particularly clear. There's precious little rationale. In fact, the designer urges one (in all kinds of fora) simply to follow the instructions and it'll all work out as long as one doesn't over-think it?!

For all that, I made my first mistake at cast-on, where I mistook crochet cast on (something I have no experience of and which the author simply urges you to learn how to do) for provisional crochet cast on. Note to reader: They're not the same thing. Crochet cast on is NOT provisional crochet cast on. It produces fully cast on, not live (but held), stitches.

So, after making the main piece of the garment (a strangely shaped, symmetrical, clefted trapezoid). I had to go back, undo the crochet chain holding live stitches, pick up those live stitches and immediately cast off two cast on edges (I did the provisional cast on at the at the neck too, stupidly). Thankfully, it seems to have worked, though I cast off backwards on one of the edges - the neck - so now the front and back don't match exactly (the whole point of doing the provisional cast on in the first place).

Another confusing element of the pattern - which one can wrap one's head around with some experience of knitting - though for a newbie I suspect that circuits would be blown - is the degree of choice ascribed to yarn usage. This garment isn't simply sized by small, med, large, wherein one uses a yarn of a particular gauge and one ensures that ones gauge swatch, yarn-circumference notwithstanding, matches that prescribed. It's also "sized" to allow one to use any number of yarn circumferences producing horizontal gauge of 13, 14, 15 or 16 stitches per 4 inches. My point being: Too much info. Too much choice.

An experienced knitter will know how to make those changes and a newbie just wants to sit down and cast on.

I wish the designer had spent more time explaining how this pattern works - how one turns a clefted trapezoid into a 3-dimensional shawl - than explaining how to make said trapezoid using 4 thicknesses of yarn.

A propos of which, could she not include a schematic that clearly labels what the various edges of the garment are destined to become? Lettered segments go a long way so that you can say - fold the edges such that A touches D (for example). It took me 30 minutes to figure out how to block this thing because what becomes what is not well-described (and I'm not an idiot).

Why not explain, specifically, how this becomes a piece, worn on the bias, because you're going to rotate the pattern when you cast on for the left arm-piece? The designer spends a lot time telling you how complicated it is (till you've made it) and how you should just trust her - time could have been better spent just telling you about what the fuck is going on.

So let me just say this:
  • You're going to knit the wacky trapezoid.
  • You're going to fold it longways in half, along the clefted edge so that it looks like half a trapezoid. The clefted long edge will be horizontal and partly open at the neck (this is the fold-line edge), the other long edge is diagonal.
  • As mentioned, the horizontal fold-line edge is half open (the cleft part). That's the neck. The closed half of that edge, when rotated, will form the right shoulder and, when seamed, will produce a kind of kimono sleeve. You can ignore it till the final stage.
  • The short edge perpendicular to the neck edge (that open part on the horizontal fold) needs to be partly seamed up to create the collar fall. The side that meets the neck edge will be left opened i.e. unseamed. The part that meets the diagonal edge of the folded work will be seamed half way to the top edge. This seamed part forms the left shoulder which, at this point, will likely be entirely unclear to you. Once you've sewn up @ half of that short edge (a quick 4 inches or so), forget about the neck and collar.
  • At that now-seamed end of the short side - the part that touches the diagonal edge - you'll pick up the stitches that will form the left shoulder piece (a short-row shaped "cape" for the shoulder - it's not a sleeve). Those instructions are pretty clear just remember that, in this set up, you need only to pick up the stitches - don't pick up and knit. Picking up the stitches is as simple as putting one leg of the stitch on the needle.
  • Once you finish knitting the left arm piece, it becomes apparent that, in order for the left arm piece to cover the left arm (and the shoulder seam to sit on the shoulder) the garment will have to be rotated and will therefore hang on the bias. The part that hangs down (front and back) to produce that triangle point that veers to the right is made up of approximately half of the diagonal edge of the original trapezoid, the half that hasn't been used to produce the left arm piece. 
  • Finally, you'll produce the right kimono sleeve by seaming @ the middle third of the remaining edge - the long edge perpendicular to the horizontal fold line, opposite that short edge onto which you knitted the left arm piece.
If I could be bothered, I'd make this a thousand times easier by labeling each of the edges with letters and creating a schematic that showed those letters next to the relevant edges. But it ain't my pattern and this is the most I can be motivated to do. Hopefully it will help someone. I know it would have helped me.

About Yarn-Choice and Stitch-Choice: Enough bitching about the instructions. Now I'd like to bitch about the stitch pattern I chose (garter) and the yarn I used. You get to choose between seed and garter. If you're a newbie, choose garter because it's easier. Otherwise choose seed. It produces a more elegant and firmer fabric which is a key feature when you're going to wear something HEAVY (lots o' yarn in this thing, perhaps aran weight or thicker) and ON THE BIAS, which stretches on wear, (see para above).

Garter stitch uses way more yarn than stockinette stitch, btw, and somewhat more than seed stitch. So keep that in mind when buying. I will have ended up using 675 yards for size small - the pattern indicates that small in 16 gauge should take about 560 yards. I've also seen a post wherein the designer indicates that the arm piece doesn't take up much yarn. I disagree. Mine will have taken 175 yards - or 25 per cent of my pattern ration.

Garter also stretches like a bitch which, when you add super wash yarn to the mix, see below, is a challenge.

I chose a splitty, silky, super wash yarn (Rowan SuperFine Merino Aran) and I wouldn't use it again. Partly that's cuz it's splitty. Partly it's cuz superwash yarn always seems to stretch absurdly (even if I do get gauge after wet-blocking a swatch, and in this case I did). Look, the questionable yarn choice is on me. I was aiming for good drape and my choices for aran-weight (at my LYS) weren't robust.  I do want to say that this yarn isn't inherently bad, splitty-ness aside. It's of high quality and I suspect it will wear well.

In retrospect, were I to make this again - and since I haven't quite finished it, I don't know if it's headed for disaster or wearablility (it's one of those garments) - I'd make the seed stitch pattern using worsted-weight yarn that's got a lot of spring (maybe woolen spun - though that won't drape optimally) or something like Madeline Tosh or Quince (Lark or Owl). Ironically, that would put my gauge out of the spectrum of the 4 options provided (mine would probably become 17 stitches in 4 inches) so I'd be on my own in terms of altering the sizing.

A couple of important things to keep in mind when you're making L'envellope: 
  • Go down an needle size if you feel your fabric is "open" when you block your swatch. It's only going to get worse as the fabric grows and gets heavier. You don't want the drag to produce a flimsy looking garment. Lord knows, you've got enough gauge options to work from that this will be easy enough for most. A propos of this, this is an interesting video tutorial about determining that your fabric is optimal for your garment. It's geared towards sweaters but the info is widely applicable.
  • Use the size which best suits your shoulder-width, not your bust.
  • Pick up enough stitches to make the finished left arm piece at least half the length of the long diagonal edge. If you don't, that pointy bit that hangs down is going to droop (as many photos in Ravelry show) and it will look like a weird, floppy shark tail - not like a holistic part of the garment. FYI, I followed the pattern instructions and I did get a left arm piece of the appropriate dimensions, but it appears that lots of other people didn't - as photos show. The smaller your gauge, the larger the number of stitches you'll have to pick up. The pattern doesn't make this explicit but that's how it goes. And remember newbies - 16 stitches per inch is a smaller gauge than 13 inches per inch.
The problem with the majority of the more than 700 versions shown on the Ravelry projects page is that they're made using the wrong yarn in the wrong size. Ain't it always the way. Alas, with this pattern, that's a deal-breaker.

So, that's my 2 cents. Thoughts or feelings?

PS: Next post will show the finished garment...

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Scene

I had one of those hilarious urban evenings last night. In celebration of my friend Sandra's birthday, we started at Rush Lane (a terrific place for cocktails). I would totally recommend this, hipster-scale breaking point notwithstanding, because the drinks are FANTASTIC and the accompanying snacks are just as good.

The weather was shit, natch, but we had a bit of a break from rain as Sandra and I walked to Queen St. to meet Nicole. Gotta say, there's nothing like the Queen West strip in Xmas shopping season. We could barely steer ourselves to drink what with all of the fantastic hygge happening in those windows. Note: We have a shopping date Sat. after next to do Xmas "recon".

Turns out that Zack, the owner of Rush Lane, just happened to be one of the peeps who opened Colette (at the Thompson Hotel) and we just happened to be going to Colette for dinner. He urged us to put our names on the list for the rooftop bar, for after dinner, and to ask for Brad when we got up there. Gotta love the TO bar network.

OK, let's revisit that previous sentence: Who the fuck puts her name on a list to get into a bar, rooftop or otherwise. Am I 23?? Have I been 23 in the last 20 years??? But here's the thing - I've been asked about that rooftop bar about 1000 times in the last 3 years and, frankly, I've wanted to see the pool SO badly. (Note: Unless you're staying there, they won't let you in the elevators.)

Alas, in late November, the (much smaller than imagined) infinity pool is more of an infinity tarp (which you could easily - and dangerously - step on by accident, fyi). In the rain, I just wasn't feeling it - though I can see that it would be spectacular in the summer.

But about Colette: The food is very good - especially the seafood tower. The atmosphere is opulent and hyper busy in true bistro fashion. It's a transient sort of space (hotel restaurants always are) but this is mitigated by elegance. Sadly, our service was over-attentive in the most irritating way. Our waiter - who pretended to know everything but didn't know much of anything - was not up to it. When I'm at a fancy place I expect excellence. Simply throwing 15 servers into the mix, to refill one's wine glass every fucking 2 minutes, does not cut it. For all of its upscale, the restaurant is not refined.

Look, I am beyond spoiled for choice. I have some of the world's most fantastic food and service at my doorstep (literally). Moreover, I can experience any sort of meal in any kind of atmosphere. I've got fun pizza (with wine sold for a buck an ounce - in a chic setting). I've got awesome Asian food like, in 5 walkable neighbourhoods - and at every price point. I can eat Hungarian like the peeps in Hungary. Lord, there are 2 other venerable TO bistros within half a kilometre of this one. So, though I had an awesome time with my ladies - and a novel experience - I won't be going back to Colette anytime soon.

Now let's get back to the rooftop bar... OMG - they put stamps on our hands. The kind that only show up under black light! There was an attendant in the elevator. He checked our stamps! When we came out, after one drink - I mean, we'd been drinking since cinq à sept aftr all - there was a line-up.

Ordinarily, I would have been super snot-ball about this kind of scene. (My kind of scene is the kind that eludes one - on purpose, of course.) But it was impossible to remain unmoved in the midst of this view:

My iPhone can't do it justice but, it was a 360 degree sky-span with lake to the south, downtown to the east (that shot is south east) and relative darkness, dotted with tall buildings and leafy neighbourhoods to the north and west.

The bar was atmospheric, in that modern way:

And here are my friends looking gorgeous:

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night, don't you agree?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

When The World Is Crazy, Might As Well Knit

Despite the gorgeous weather today and the Santa Claus Parade (it starts up the block from me), gotta say I'm not feeling my best. Maybe it's the season, maybe the recent funeral, definitely it's the political unrest... Pick your poison. Point is, I'm a total sad sack. I could barely bring myself to eat lunch (or drink my glass of wine?!?!). Scott suggested that we go out for a walk before dinner, just to ensure I get some fresh air. Note to reader: He never does that.

So, given that Ewe Knit, my LYS, moved from Mirvish Village to, um, basically the top of my street, it seemed like a no-brainer to go shopping. In truth, I've started visiting often, now I can knit again (my pain situation is much improved). There's something so compelling about thousands of artisanal hanks of wool, artfully displayed. It really does make everything seem alright. And when you can experience it against the backdrop of thousands of families enjoying a parade, right outside on a warm, bright day - well, it's a good thing.

For starters, here's the (regrettably overexposed) haul:

While this gives you a sense of the true colour of the Rowan "soot" colourway, it really washes out the gorgeous blue jewel-toned and amazing variegated yarns.
The goodies are: Rowan Superfine Merino Aran in Soot (3 skeins), Sweet Georgia Tough Love Sock in Stillwater (1 skein) and Sweet Georgia Superwash Worsted in a jewel-toned blue called Rip Tide (2 skeins). FYI, Sweet Georgia is a Canadian brand that I LOVE. The yarn is all hand-dyed and the product is excellent. I liken it to Madeline Tosh but less expensive (in Canada at least). The sock yarn, particularly, wears amazingly because it's got a bit of nylon in it.

You may recall that the Rowan Superfine Merino Aran is what I'm using to knit the garter stitch version of L'enveloppe. FYI, you can also make it using seed stitch. I'm almost finished this unusual garment, btw (subject of my next post). I really don't appreciate the splitty nature of the Rowan yarn - as I've told practically everyone who will listen - but I want a pair of mitts that matches the shawl, so I guess I'm in it for 3 more skeins.

Here are the mitts:

Seed Stitch Mittens + Hand Warmers by Purl Soho
Stupidly, despite the name of the mitt pattern, when I started the garter stitch version of L'enveloppe, I forgot that these mitts are designed to be knit in seed stitch only (infinitely more elegant - if much more fussy - than garter stitch). My goal was to have a matching shawl / mitts set yet I went and made the shawl in garter. My reasoning was sound - garter stitch is WAY easier than seed and I have no idea of how it is going to fit in the end. Didn't want to invest lots of potentially painful wrist-action on an unknown. But now I've got to hope that dark grey yarn can provide a cohesiveness to this "set" that the pattern certainly cannot. Live and learn.

Mercifully, aran-weight yarn knits together fast - especially if you're used to making intricate sweaters in a gauge that rivals dental floss. I can see why Wool and the Gang (and their mega-bulky yarn knit with US15 needles) are so popular. By contrast, I'm used to using fine fingering-weight on size US1 needles.

After the mitts and shawl, I'm either going to use this variegated Sweet Georgia fingering to make socks (my KAL "recipe") - here's how it knits up:

OR the Sweet Georgia worsted to make the Winterlong scarf by Bristol Ivy:

Winterlong Scarf by Bristol Ivy
Y'all know how impressed I am by Bristol Ivy's patterns. She's the one who designed the infuriatingly genius Svalbard.

Would I be better positioned to have used some of the 8000 yards of yarn I already own (and that's probably an accurate count, fwiw)? Um yeah. But I'm a bit sick of matching projects to my stash leftovers right now - that's always a bit of a trick and it requires a certain degree of creativity I'm not feeling.

If only I could predict how much yarn to buy so that I'm not left with 100 yards less than that which is required to make whatever other item I'd be happy to use up my stash on...

Anyway, that's me today. What about you? Do you like these yarns / patterns?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

CURIO for the Holidays

So Lovelies, in case you're pretending otherwise, it's pretty well 6 weeks till Xmas. Time was, I would be getting a bit "excited" at this point. I had to devote precious time to the actual stores. There would be crowds. Post-shopping alcohol was vaguely necessary, like, to decompress.

But now, what with the internet and everyone being half robot (if merely in one's ability to navigate said internet), you can drink while you shop - online! I swear, if you're one of those people who still resists buying from the comfort of your couch, I urge you to get with the program. And I'm not talking about purchasing the occasional gift online. I mean buy it all online cuz, at this point, there is nothing you can't get delivered (even in Canada)!

I usually put together a gift planning post at this time of year as I always seem to have a hundred ideas. However, this year, I'm all about turning you onto the simple, luxe of CURIO, you know, my skin care line. (I'd be pretty high on drugs to do otherwise!)

Just want to advise that - in addition to my current offerings - I'm in the process of putting together a couple of holiday skin care kits. Those bundles will make their way to the shop soon and I'll certainly profile them here.

And, though I hate it when people alert me to irritating (if relevant) administrivia, according to Canada Post, in order to "ensure receipt" of a regular parcel before Christmas, one must put that parcel in the post by December 11 (within Canada), December 9 (USA) or December 1 (pretty well everywhere else). Following what I hope will be a busy next few weeks, the shop will close for hols on December 21 (for 2 weeks).

So, if you're thinking about giving a delicious, organic Serum to your mum or best friend, now's the time to get clicking. And just to entice, here's a pretty photo of Serum A sporting the new label:

No doubt, Serum A, Eye Balm A - Rose and the Body Oils are very popular, but don't forget about the Salves and CURIO Baby*:

Seriously, these scents are bound to CHILL (new parents and new babies)
Y'all know I love to chat so, if there's anything gift-related you'd like to discuss (or any ideas you'd like to bounce) feel free to contact me via Etsy conversations, email (see the side bar) or in comments.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Oh Summer, Where Art Thou?

Here's what it looked like last night (12 hours into the pouring rain):

Photos courtesy of my husband, Scott.
People, April is NOT the cruelest month.