Saturday, February 13, 2016

Finished Object: Jenna Cardigan - V Neck

I'm really happy with how this version of my Jenna Cardigan has turned out. In truth, the "original" round neck version is impractical (unless you choose to wear it closed all the time). Otherwise the round neck falls open un-chicly at the collar, when unbuttoned. I much prefer an open V:

Jenna Cardigan - Modified V Neck Version
The buttons start underneath my full bust and the V lies very nicely (at the perfect length). I also really like how I placed the cable (horizontally) around the sleeve hem band.

I had to cut the button band out of 3 pieces (there are 2 short pieces seamed to the longer band at the height of the hem band seam - midway through the buttons, about 3 inches from the bottom of the hem band). Since there's already a seam attaching the hem band to the bodice, I didn't see it as too much of a deal breaker even though it isn't quite as elegant as a band unbroken by a seam would be. Nonetheless, I'm pleased that I found a totally acceptable fix for what might have been a serious problem.

Optimally, I would have considered that V neck collar and button band are attached in one piece (not a collar and a separate band, as with the round neck version) before I cut everything out, thus limiting the dimensions of my remaining fabric.

I'm surprised by how straight in the waist this garment looks when it's not being worn. It's actually super fitted and (as the pattern pieces prove), quite distinct between waist and hip. And while the band cable placement is off-centre (see below for explanation) the sleeve to back placement of the cable is spot on, on both sides.
The thing that just didn't align was the placement of the cables on the button band. They're off-centre with those on the bodice. I should have cut this band longer (wider around the high hip) so that I'd have had more options for placement. As it is, it was just the right length and, after the fact, there was no fixing the issue. The fabric is in a pretty muted colour though, so I don't think the misplacement is particularly noticeable.

I spent a lot of the sewing process convinced this was going to be too small yet again - because the fabric is SO firm and thick. It's effectively quilted jersey. There's a black piece of (smooth) fabric backing the knit. It's almost like a double knit but the 2 sides are made of different materials. Point is, the fabric sucked up just about every bit of extra ease I built into this latest version of the garment. I'd have done well to sew with smaller SAs (like 0.25" rather than 0.3"). But the fabric is also very strong, so it has the effect of seeming more like a fitted knit blazer rather than a cardigan.

Can you see how the fabric is really textured, almost spongy?
I really like how the placement of the cables sits on the front pieces. It's a perfect mirror image and the button band was cut with a recessed length of the fabric - not with one of the cables (which would have been too wide and too bulky).

I was really worried about the fabric: Would it's thickness be too much for my serger? (Thankfully no.) Would it be too firm to fit at the dimensions I cut? (It's good - if snug in the armscye- and that's before it's had any chance to stretch with wear. This is the kind of fabric that isn't going to stretch much but it also won't have much recovery. Usually I'm very in favour of recovery, but with a thick fabric and a fitted garment, sometimes that initial stretch can get the fit to cohere).

Though I made my alterations on the fly, afterwards I opted to buy the Muse pattern altered pieces in the Jenna Pattern "expansion pack" so that I could see how mine compare. I prefer mine (though the angle's fairly similar). My V neck is a couple of inches lower (more open) which is a more flattering length on my body. The expansion pack also has a collar version (so not my thing) and comes with the relevant bands and front piece for the V-version. It's a good expenditure of 3 bucks if you're new to sewing and you're nervous about how to turn a round neck into a v neck. Really, though, I didn't have to read the instructions or to trace the pattern pieces to construct my revised version of the garment. I just folded down the neckline on my existing round neck version to see how my proposed V would lie. Then I cut a longer button band (but, as we know, not quite long enough!). My error wasn't in the concept, it was in the execution.

At this point I've altered V8323 and Simplicity 1716 (I'm going to make View A but cut to the length of the top shown in View C) and I'm ready to pull out the fabric. I hope I can make these up between now and Tuesday when I go back to work. Better still if they fit! I've invested a lot of time into V8323. It would be a shame if it didn't work out cuz it's unlikely that I'll persist with it after this (unless it's really close). The Simplicity pattern is a longshot. I have made my standard alterations to the paper pieces, but the construction is not one I've done before, so I can't really modify it as effectively as I might otherwise.

That's me so far this weekend. What do you think?

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 5 - Kindling Mitts 1

I'm very pleased with these Kindling Mitts. They use up @110 yards (in size small, US 6 needle and sport-weight yarn):

Cables are never a mindless knit but there's enough consistency in this pattern (and it's well-written) so you can gain some traction quickly. Not to mention that they only take about 55 yards of fabric each. Very smart stash-buster, don't you agree?

Friday, February 12, 2016

Vogue 8323: Giving it Another Go

Vaguely mollified by this experience, I opted not to start the day with sewing but rather with pattern alterations. Yeah, I don't know if that's a good idea either, but my brain was 'fresh" after a night of sleep.

You may recall this garment, V8323, made in a gorgeous fabric, in September, and relegated to the lawn give-away pile after a series of compounded fit issues. What was the problem with that version? Well, you'll recall that I originally altered the pattern to fit when I was totally new to sewing. At that point, not really clear about what I should be doing (and given that this pattern is drafted for a giraffe having tons of length between the bust apex and shoulder shelf), I chopped off inches from the shoulder seam. I don't know that that's what I'd do at this point - but given the options, it wasn't the worst idea I've ever had.

The problem is that it messed up all of the other vertical proportions (bust apex height, waist height, length at the hem etc.) It also didn't fix the issue of insane shoulder width (a problem corroborated by just about every reviewer) or the position of the princess seams.

I was left with a pattern:
  • Still too wide in the shoulders by about an inch on either side
  • Way too high in the bust apex (even by small-busted young person standards) - like 2.5" too high (the amount I removed from the shoulder height given that I have a short span from my upper bust to my shoulder shelf). This is one of the perks of being a short, small person.
  • Too short in the waist (where the surplice crosses over). The over-high bust apex naturally contributes to the issue but it's like the whole garment rides up.
  • Weirdly proportioned in the princess seams. I've actually learned something during my sewing experiences over the last 2 years (which finally clicked over the past couple of months) that'll likely make my next foray into bra sewing the one that works, fit-wise (if potentially not support-wise). Yeah, Gillian, you read that right. It's not rocket science but I'll give the explanation a go:
    • I've always assumed that my significant bust projection, which really makes itself felt from the centre gore (i.e. chest wall over the breasts to the nipples) means that I need to add lots of length / width / fabric over the interior span of my breasts. In fact, I need to put the extra fabric over the outer breast (where I have very little fullness) from the edge of the breast root (at my side) to the nipple. Why, I really can't say. It's still melting my brain a little. But every princess seam adjustment that I've ever made has  has corroborated this fact. And, as I think about it, every foray into bra sewing has left me with fit issues (too much fabric) in the upper cup. I can see now, I'm going to need to increase the size of the outer cup substantively and decrease the width and length of the (already smaller) lower and upper cups.
    • All this is to say that my (as drafted) princess seams, on this garment, are positioned (over the bust only) a good 1.5 inches too far towards the side seams. 
And after 2 hours, I think I found the fix (or at least a move in the right direction - one doesn't want to get overly confident):

The two pieces that the photo focuses on are the side front and front. (The front has a cut on facing which is that flap piece to the right side.)

What I've done here - though it doesn't look like much - is:
  • Lowered the bust apex by 2.5 inches. This PDF shows you how to do that easily. 
  • Narrow the shoulders: I turned the shoulder princess seamed side front (and back, for that matter) into an armscye princess seam. This got rid of tons of width I couldn't manage, given how many pattern pieces converge at the shoulder. It also meant I had to re-widen the front piece (and back piece) by 0.5" in the shoulder width or things would have been too narrow (given how many times I've already hacked at the width of the pattern pieces).
  • If it works, this will also diminish the excess of fabric over my upper bust (where I'm short and proportionately flat).
  • The crazy new bump-out on the side front is my standard-issue princess seam adjustment to allow for extensive bust apex projection that doesn't extend to the side bust. It's even like a semi-sphere, cuz my breasts are evenly full.  This alteration is what's going to reposition the front/side front princess seam over the bust in the appropriate place (more towards my full bust, rather than the outside of my bust). I had to remove the equivalent fabric from the front piece to maintain the size. Effectively, I cut the bust curve (now on the side front piece) out of the side of the front piece. I then traced it onto new paper because things were getting messy. It's weird, I get it. But my full bust projection is more significant than most patterns ever draft for. Because you rarely see it, it seems that much stranger.
  • Finally (and I'm least sure of this alteration - having never done it on a pattern piece like this before), I lowered the waist (where the surplice and facing attach together to produce the cross over neckline) by extending the facing down by 1.5 inches (the desired amount). To maintain the basic shape of the piece, and the proportions, I added a bit of width, below the facing, at the front side seam, tapering to nothing at the hem.
  • I'm still trying to figure out how to manage the excess fabric (long, straight diagonal line) on the front facing. It doesn't match the concave curve I've created on the seam to which it will attach (the front/side front princess seam). Having just looked at the construction (on my finished top - the one that highlights all of these fit issues) I can see that I'm going to have to mimic the curve. (Off to fix the piece...)
So there you go. It's a Very Easy Vogue knit pattern (you know, the one hour kind) and I've spent 2 hours altering it (and that's just on this go-round). I wonder at what point one just starts to draft patterns for oneself. I guess it's when she's done enough successful altering of wacky patterns, that she feels confident starting from scratch. But then, why bother at that point?

I'd really love for this to work out. I have beautiful fabric with which to make it. I've considered as many fit elements as I have the experience and brain-power to manage and I'd so appreciate a new top that I've sewn (rather than another useful learning opportunity that ends up going to someone else or into the garbage). Wish me luck.

PS: Next up I need to actually sew that Jenna Cardi hack and cut the fabric / sew up V8323.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Wherein I Describe My Latest Return to Sewing

By some sort of fluke, I did some sewing on the weekend. It was lame sewing. It was near disastrous sewing (in that way that only technical things that one has ignored for months can go). But it was a step in the right creative direction. I've been so busy with work and holidays and reno planning that knitting's really been my only jam. And, while I'm still deep in the yarn stash-busting weeds, if my house is going to stay in one piece till mid-summer, I'm onto to working the fabric stash angle.

Here's what I did:
  • Nearly wrecked a pair of $170 jeans that I needed to hem and narrow (legs were bells). Somehow I forgot that one should turn jeans inside out before doing things like determining how much side-seam to remove and then actually removing it. Then I took off too much fabric - allow me to reiterate that I cut the jeans from the right side?!?!? - and I had to fix things on the fly. I honestly don't know what planet my brain was on as I performed this task. On the other not-so-fun side, these jeans - which sat around for 6 months waiting for me to hem them - fit too snugly for my liking when I finally tried them on. I've almost come to terms with a sombre fact (though it's taken 3 years): I'm going to have to be hungry in order to stay thin - at least at this time of my life - because I am not going up another dress size without a drag-out massacre. Moreover, I intend to go down one. Can't dwell on this right now. My stomach is rumbling and I want wine I won't drink. Fucking middle age.
  • For my child, I altered a hideous, white sweatshirt with the phrase "Who Am I" written on it. No question mark. This is a sentiment I can get with, these days, on my kid's behalf. Apparently the shirt was too long to be wearable (at regular sweatshirt length) so I cropped it. After spending 15 minutes trying to rip out the serged hem between the hem band and the t-shirt body, I finally just cut one piece from the other and then cropped the bodice / re-serged on the band. It worked out alright, though it was risky. Can't say this was the most creative thing I've done all week.
  • Sewed my new labels into my new, finished stash-busted knits. Didn't do a very good job and I dislike every single one. Good news is that you have to know what doesn't work in order to determine what does.
  • At this point, I couldn't stop myself. I was on such a roll of mediocrity, it seemed the perfect time to pull out my Jenna Cardigan pattern and alter it (on the fly) to a V neck, while simultaneously lengthening it to account for my current dimensions. 
So I put down my challenging to lay-out fabric (it's got a raised cable pattern) and proceeded to cut each piece in one layer, neglecting to consider that the left front is a mirror-image of the right-front. Did I mention I only had one yard of the fabric and I bought it a year ago? Thank God the fabric was wide, cuz I just managed to fit the extra piece. Oh, and since I made up the V neck with, ahem, adventuresome abandon, I didn't have enough fabric for a one piece band. I came up with a seamed work around. We'll see if I called it right, because at that precise moment, sane Kristin knew it was time to step away from the sewga room.

All in all I had some fun between the moments of cursing. And there's nothing like sewing to make you aware of your body. I'm taking Friday off with an aim to sew all weekend. We'll see if I stick to that plan, but something tells me that I will.

Next up: Some new bra reviews! Spoiler alert: I nailed it on the fit.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 4 - Sixteen Cables Hat

I've been plodding away at my stash. Finished object 4 is blocked and I love its wrinkly weirdness:

16-Sixteen Cable Hat by Circé Belles Boucles
I did wet block this but the cables persist in their fall. I was all ready to keep it for myself (it fit perfectly pre-block) but it didn't dry as snug as it had been originally. I made the fitted version in a size small. I also went down a needle size for the ribbing section (the part where the pattern suggests a US6) - I used a size US5. In the end the yarn dried such that the garment got longer more than fatter. I've noted this tendency when I've used Quince Chickadee before.

It's a pretty cool hat, subdued but strangely avant garde.

I'm now about 75 per cent through my first pair of the Kindling Mitts. Hope to have pics of that soon (though I'm making 2 pairs in navy blue, which never photographs well). Knitting cables in small diameter is finicky enough without adding a dark colour to the mix. I practically have to feel for stitch-pattern correctness as it's still so dark here all the time.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Bust the Stash: Finished Object 3 - Decalage Scarf

It's such a pain in the ass at this time of the year - there's really no light for picture-taking (though, admittedly, there's much more light now than there was even 2 weeks ago).

No mind, I'm on a trajectory and this post contains photos (see below). I just hope they can convey a little bit of the intrinsic beauty of the Decalage scarf. I suggest you check out this post for more info on how to determine the weights of yarn required.

I should also take a moment to concede that this is not a true stash-bust. This post says it all but buying 1800 yards of yarn to use 250 is a stash-bust fail. Mind you, my mistake has introduced me to a lovely pattern that will facilitate my usage of all the Habu steel/silk eventually. And the end result is fancy-ass. This is the kind of gift that makes an impact. If I were to find this at a shop it would easily cost 350 bucks. (Of course, it fucking should. The yarn alone was 70 bucks).

In brief, there are 6 sections in the scarf: the two outer sections are made up of one strand of Habu and one strand of lace weight yarn, held together. The 4 interior panels are made up of 3 strands of lace weight yarn, held together, in different colour combinations.

Where I'd do this differently - and I will make this again because I'm not done with that wretched Habu - is in making the outer panels longer i.e. the same length as the other panels. That will achieve the end result of divesting myself of the rest of the steel yarn and will also provide more appealing proportions (to my eye). Note to myself: I wrote up the proposed weights for next time in this scarf's Ravelry project page.

But I like this (admittedly tedious) knit so much that I would certainly consider making it in all lace-weight wool in the future. It's a great design. Very simple, but beautiful. It's true textile art. If I were to make an all-wool version I might rib the bottom and sides because I don't like stockinette curl.

And a word on curl: I knew what I was getting into so I'm not surprised or upset by the outcome. The curl blocks out considerably so you cannot skip this step. I urge wet-blocking for maximal effect. Curl sure does give it that "art vibe'.

This knit is all about the care and consideration given to the yarn choice and the blocking. Also, make sure the fabric is knitting up with the tension you prefer. I didn't do a gauge swatch but I confirmed that I liked the fabric my needles were producing and I determined what length my scarf would be with my own gauge (slightly smaller before blocking - longer after blocking - than the dimensions indicated in the pattern instructions). My anticipated gauge was WAY off with the steel/lace-weight combo but right on with the 3 strands of lace-weight. So you might need to use less or more of the outer panel yarn combo to achieve the length of panel you would like.

But onto some photos...

This is the section where 2 strands of the pink yarn / 1 strand of the beige yarn (panel 4) segue into 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5).
This is the section where 3 strands of the pink yarn (panel 5) move into 1 strand of pink yarn and 1 strand of Habu.
Here's where 1 strand of beige, 1 strand of Habu (panel 1) merge with 3 strands of beige (panel 2).
It's a really gorgeous feeling scarf. The muted colours roll together when you wear it and the Rowan lace-weight blocked beautifully. It's less hairy after blocking.
This really doesn't highlight the "cool" factor of the Habu / lace-weight wool combination. It's a bit crinkly, a bit open. Do I like it as much as the interior panels? No, but it's an interesting counterpoint.

On final reflection, here's what I'd say to a knitter thinking about making this:
  • The work is all in the planning. Anyone can do that planning (new or experienced knitter) but a new knitter's going to have that much more of a challenge - particularly if (s)he isn't math-minded.
  • It's a study in colour-blending and in that respect it is a very enjoyable knit. You get to see the fabric come alive - and, if you've chosen well, the colours will thrill. But otherwise it's boring, boring, boring. Mind you - it goes together pretty quickly if you plod on. 3 strands of lace-weight knit up as quickly as DK.
  • Make all 6 panels of equal length - if for no other reason than that you'll use up your yarn more evenly. Note that your gauge with the steel/silk yarn is likely to be very different than that with the 3-strand wool.
What do you think of the finished object?

Friday, February 5, 2016

From Pain to Equilibrium: Body Brushing (A Recap)

Hola Peeps. It's been one of those whirlwind weeks at my course (the last one!) so I've been ridiculously occupied. Having said this, there's a topic I've been meaning to return to, lo these past few weeks - body scrubbing. As you may know, it's  something I've been doing for a couple of months.

For those with myofascial pain, I believe that this activity is arguably practical. Of course, my proviso is that everyone is different. Chronic pain (even if it emerges from the same - or a similar - source) reflects itself differently in most people. What works for me is a confluence of numerous supports: my "head of nails" and "bed of nails", MELT and Yoga Tune Up, yoga (active and supportive), anti-inflammatory supplements and cold-pressed juice (namely turmeric), Advil, heat, distraction and meditation. I'm not covering all the bases. The lengths I've gone to, to mitigate pain, are far-reaching. Those of you who struggle will no doubt understand.

What I'd say to anyone who experiences regular pain is that is, at its core, a reaction. It's the terribly unique (and therefore solitary) way one's body responds to neurochemical stimulus. The beauty of this is that every cure is just as unique - and just as probable (though sometimes it can take a long, long time to find).

But back to the topic at hand: Body scrubbing, or brushing, is a fairly easy prong in the multi-faceted approach to pain-relief. If you can bend, you can do it. It takes about 5 extra minutes in the shower, 2-3 times a week (you should let your scrubber dry out completely between uses) and it has a fairly delicious, flexibility and energy-inducing outcome (at least for me).

What I do is work from toe to head, drawing little circles on my skin, moving towards the heart. You don't need to overdo it with pressure but definitely hit all of your large muscle groups. Spend extra time on those areas that are predisposed to pain

One thing I neglected to write about, the last time I referred to body brushing, is the after-brush experience. Frankly, that's weird because it's a perfect segue to body oil (which itself is a perfect segue to CURIO). You think I'd have explored that cross-marketing option on the first go-round...

When you get out of the shower, I encourage you to pat your body with a towel (so that it is semi-dry) and then to massage in a high-quality emollient. (Note: this isn't a sales tactic - you can easily make your own oil.) The thing is - you don't need a ton of ingredients to gain the benefit. A good base oil and one or two, targeted essential oils will be more than adequate. Make sure you love the scent. It matters. Sure: Immortelle and lavender are particularly lauded for pain management, but choose a fragrance you love. The key here is to massage (if briefly) in the same direction as your original scrub. The semi-dry massage will lock in moisture and encourage body awareness. My perspective is that those high-quality essential oils also work on pain but you can determine that outcome for yourself.

This end-to-end scrub accomplishes self-body work (a key element in managing chronic pain), myofascial release, lymphatic release and circulatory improvement - all in the context of heat therapy (that would be the warm shower component of the exercise).

I do many things to mitigate pain - and I've been pretty successful in some ways. This is definitely a tool in the arsenal, and one I don't intend to neglect. It's easy, inexpensive and independent.

But how about you? Have you tried scrubbing for pain management? Do you scrub just cuz it's fun (never mind the pain angle). If you do, I have to assume that you have a reason. Why bother if there isn't a benefit? Do tell and let's talk...