Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Limbo

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.

Thoughts?
* 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.