Monday, September 30, 2013

Well, That Explains Things...

As I mentioned briefly in my last post, my hormone panel came back and I met with my naturopath on Saturday to discuss the results. (You may recall that hormones are implicated in my rather heady (no pun intended) experience of migraines - which has intensified over the past year or so.)

It was illuminating, to say the least.

Let's cut to the chase: I am not sort of in the perimenopausal phase or moving into the perimenopausal phase (as is a minority of my age group). I'm really close to menopause, according to my hormone levels. Like, it could happen in the next year.

I have so many feelings about this:

  • Um, I told you so?!?!
  • Wow, that is young...
  • Well, if my mum has a BRCA gene mutation (still waiting on results peeps), there's 50 per cent chance that I'll have it too - in which case menopause is happening in the next year, one way or another. 
  • I am the original early-adopter.
But the feeling I feel the most is relief. And that's for so many reasons. For one, I probably won't have to deal with these debilitating headaches for too much longer!!!!! Furthermore, I've been feeling very out of sorts, physically, for about a year - starting with pertussis and then persisting. I've struggled with LOW energy, reduced ability to focus, bad sleeping, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines (ugh - all of the others I can manage) and, um, a mushball in the spot that was my toned (if not flat) lower abdomen. 

I first noticed the mushball last year, after I began to eat again following the worst of pertussis. I refer to it as such because, sure, this area has enlarged somewhat but, more to the point, it's noteworthy for its lack of tone. It's as if my lower ab area is the only place on my body to have aged - and aged it has. I spent a lot of time thinking it's because I'd overindulged after months of sickness that prevented eating (and, man, did I ever over indulge), but now I realize that it's likely caused, at least in part, by estrone imbalance (aka the fat you gain around your middle) prior to menopause.

Side bar: The naturopath believes it's quite possible that pertussis kick-started the deep days of perimenopause for me. I suppose there's a chance I could "rally" (and I use that term ironically), but I started feeling hormonally different in my late 30s and since I turned 40 I've been actively managing one or another perimenopause symptom, via one mechanism or another. 

But let's talk a bit more about how I look :-)
  • I do not appear older, physically. Well, one is slowly aging all the time, but this has not aged me precipitously.
  • My arms and legs and face and upper bust/under bust shoulder area seem unchanged. (I don't tend to gain weight in these areas and I do a reasonable amount of walking and yoga, even though by my own standards I am a freakin' sloth these days.)
  • My ass is probably a bit bigger. I don't know - I can't see it.
  • My upper abdominal area (associated with natural waist) is mushier. It's also gained about 1/2 inch in size over the last year.
  • My lower abdominal area (see above) is really not doing it for me right now. I never measured this before the mushball, so I can't say how much it's grown.
  • My hips are the same size, but they are not as distinguished from my abs as they once were, so the whole area seems less sleek.
  • My boobs have gone up a cup size over the past couple of years, gradually.
I don't weigh myself, but I have observed that I've increased a dress size in the last 3 years. I'm going to put my weight gain at somewhere around 5 pounds - but most of it is in a very specific spot at my front middle.

According to my test results, the one way in which I'm doing pretty well, hormonally-speaking, is in terms of the ratio between estrone (the "fattening" estrogen your abdomen produces as fertility wanes) and estradiol (estrogen produced by your ovaries). I mean, I may have fairly little estradiol in the scheme of things, but my adrenal glands are working adequately which, in this time frame in particular, is key in keeping (a whack of) weight from gathering on the perimenopausal torso.

Given that I've lived through a serious illness in the last 12 months, and I've begun a new and challenging job (on top of "regular life"), I think I'm doing pretty fucking well.

Actually, all I could think when I saw the test results was - OMG, I've managed numerous weekly briefings with senior management having a) not slept well, while b) practically bleeding out and c) feeling like shit. Now at least I can pin it on something!

This also gives me so much info in terms of managing my yoga practice in order to segue into my next stage with maximal energy and minimal physical changes.

Wow, I'm really preoccupied by the way I look.

One more anecdote and we can leave the treatment plan discussion for another post:

When I was in my late teens, I started practicing Iyengar yoga. My teacher, unbeknownst to me when first I met her, was venerable. She went to India to learn from Mr. Iyengar on a yearly basis. She wrote articles and taught workshops and travelled the land. She was the senior teacher at the centre where I practiced and my teacher when I trained to teach others. When first I met her, she was in her early 50s and in the kind of physical shape one rarely sees in anyone, much less a woman who was in her 50s in the 80s. She practiced upwards of 20 hrs a week - and I mean advanced practice, holding inversions for 10 minutes (for example). There was no pose she couldn't assume. Her body was sinewy - but she had a bit of a belly.

I always wondered what was up - how she could be so slim everywhere, but slightly puffy in the middle. I watched her eat (like a yoga vegetarian). I watched her practice (like a 20 year old). I couldn't figure it out.

One day, about 5 years after I started working with this teacher, I noted that she had completely changed shape. I saw her multiple times a week, which disinclines one to notice this sort of change, but it was perceptible. On the one hand it was subtle - the woman had very little fat to lose. On the other hand, it was dramatic. All of a sudden, a soft exterior middle (which I saw all the time covered only by unforgiving yoga clothing and which, btw, was in no way unattractive or large just slightly out of proportion with the rest of her figure) was as flat as a board. In retrospect (and I've had many years to reflect on this), I believe this physical change coincided with the completion of a huge hormonal shift and her body transformed - on the basis of the healthful way she had lived for many years.

My point is that, during perimenopause, even the fittest and most endocrine-balanced (from years of clean-living and hard-core yoga) woman is apt to store a bit of fat on her abdomen. It's not a life sentence. But it is a call to arms (and legs and core stability - ha!). I have a chance to manage the numerous challenges I'm currently experiencing with a targetted yoga regimen. It means I'm going to have to find a way to overthrow the lethargy I feel every evening by the time I get home from work - because I must. During the headache times, I end up doing lots of yoga anyway - albeit the kind one accomplishes in a dark room. I've got to shake up the yoga-as-medicine paradigm, since my body isn't currently motivated, to use it actively (not reactively) to support hormonal change. It might help my headaches (along with other things we're trying out - TBD in future post). It will almost certainly bolster my energy level and mediate the hormonal bickering I've got going on. And, when all is said and done, I'll be a post-menopausal woman in terrific physical shape - balanced and strong and flexible and toned. 

No, I will not be the same person I was before I embarked on this involuntary transition, but who cares?! I'm angling for better on the basis of experience, introspection and effort. That seems achievable.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection: Culottes

I made these yesterday and today, and I have to say it's surprising how successfully one can sew while giving very little emotional energy to a project:

Butterick 5681 - highly modified

I haven't got a lot of chutzpa right now but I find sewing oddly meditative in my meh state. This project was just the ticket.

In truth, it was just the ticked cuz I did all the hard work when I made similar culottes as part of the Spring Basics Palette last year. That's when I carefully reviewed 2 culottes patterns (one vintage and one modern) to discern the differences in construction and fit. In the end, I opted to make the modern version (with lots of modifications) and I just wasn't thrilled. (Note to new readers: I did NUMEROUS posts on this and you can find the whole shebang if you search under "culottes challenge" or "B5681".)

On reflection, I find an inner leg pleat to be very fussy, not easy to walk in - and essentially weaker than a pleat free version. Seriously, who likes to bulk up the inner thigh, hinging at the base of the crotch??? Interestingly, B5681 comes with instructions for a pleat and non-pleat option (unlike the vintage pattern I was also working from, which only came with a pleat).

This time I used this pattern for Version B (the pleat version) - which I carefully and significantly altered right after the last experimentation (as even then I knew I'd be making these again). I also changed up the waist band, to create my patented "Is it a Waistband or Is it a Facing?"

You can see here that I serged the bottom of the inner waistband and, instead of flipping it under (which would add bulk - which is not my scene, like, ever - but esp. with denim). Then, from the front, I stitched in the ditch to affix the "face-band".

While I really like the fit this yields, I've never been able to find instructions on inserting the zipper this way. It would be one thing if there were a seam at the fold line of the top of the waistband (the way it works when you properly do a facing). Then I could use Tasia's awesome method (see here and here). It's another thing when you actually make a waistband that folds right over the top of the pants unit.

My "method" folds the waistband in half but the fold over section is free from the top of the pants unit - hence the hybrid. So I had to make up a method for sewing in the zipper that would allow for all of the weirdness - but wouldn't look hideous. I succeeded because, frankly, I couldn't get worked up about it. I figured: There's a slot for a zipper. There's a zipper. Put it together. And it worked.

Potentially Useful Note: I decided to interface the waistband piece with silk organza - not my usual choice. Thing is, I find that fusible interfacing on denim pulls away after numerous washings and the waistband goes all weird and loses integrity. The organza gives great stand and doesn't bulk things up. It works with the denim but also functions independently. I recommend it esp since I merely serged the edges with the organza over the denim and everything happily affixed without any onerous additional steps.

I have to say the fit on these is spot on. They're slim in the waist and hip and they gracefully widen in the leg. The crotch is the perfect height (sometimes an issue with culottes). The stiffness of the denim gives them a great, retro feel but the colour and composition of the fabric are very modern.

I also really like the pockets:

Note: If you make these, the pattern gives whack instructions on the length of the pocket opening. Add a good 2 inches. I thought it would be too small. I even measured my hand and added 1/2 an inch, but it's still barely adequate for my man-hands.

Here's something I do, when I sew with denim that might shock you:

I use pen to delineate the markings. If you look centre-photo, where the pocket meets the seam, you'll see what I mean. I also draw on the darts with pen. I actually think it's cool - ridiculous, I know - to see these on denim. It's points to the industrial quality of the fabric, IMO.

All in all, these fit really well. They're very nicely constructed - but not finely so - if I do say so myself. And they helped me to muddle through some free time that I might otherwise spend worrying. Oh - and they're the penultimate project of the Fall Capsule Collection. Not bad, I suspect you'll agree...

So, what do you think of them? I know that culottes are divisive, but let's talk good, bad and ugly!

PS: Thank you SO much for your continuing comments and emails re: my mum. I cannot tell you how much we all appreciate your thoughtfulness and great information. It is inspiring to see how many of you have managed through similar situations, so gracefully. I will respond to everyone - just sometimes I need to walk away from the topic for a little while...

PPS: I saw my naturopath yesterday (my hormone panel came back) and the results are quite interesting - and useful! Next post is about this...

Friday, September 27, 2013

Just Walk Away

I have 500 yards of this cashmere:

Jade Sapphire Mongolian Cashmere (2 ply)
It was purchased, originally, to knit the Princess Jumper (which, sadly, has grown with wear and is not adequately fitted, IMO).

It is beautiful, soft, delicate yarn. It's also on the weak side (when knitting anyway) and it definitely doesn't love being unknit, um, too many times to count. Note: It cost me, on mega-sale, $150 USD for 1600 yards (4 hanks) of this yarn. Usually, before shipping, that amount of this brand of cashmere would cost $190 USD. Let's just say it's, by far, the most expensive yarn I've ever bought and, while I love it, I haven't thought to repurchase it. It's lovely yarn in many ways but it's not worth the money. Yeah, I did just say that about cashmere. (Note: This is not to tar all cashmere with the same brush. I willing to continue experimenting!)

All this is to say, especially if you're working with fussy, pricey yarn, I urge you all to stay the hell away from this pattern:

Starry Starry Night by Jeanne C Abel
Yeah - it's really pretty. It requires almost the exact amount of yarn I have to use. (Technically my cashmere is a light fingering - somewhere between lace-weight and fingering yarn. The pattern calls for fingering, but this isn't so much slimmer that I can't likely find the same drape by going down a needle size and using a bit more yarn than the pattern calls for.) But, Lord, this pattern is a freakin' misery from my point of view. I don't think I've ever had to work this hard on a knitting project before - and I haven't even got anywhere?!

The cast on method (technically there are 2 methods to choose from but I could barely understand either so I went with the one that seemed most comprehensible) is absurd. Sure, it's really cool and it allows you to knit from the middle of the shawl (lengthwise) to the outsides (and to do the slit in magic loop while simultaneously knitting the shawl flat). But I have had to redo this SO MANY TIMES I am actually ready to take a match to the whole fucking kit. For starters, I spent 4 hours getting the cast on right. See, you need to cast on 401 stitches (190 on either needle and then 21 for the magic loop) using a really complex method. It's de rigeur to fuck up on or before stitch 310. And to avoid fucking up until stitch 310, you have to un-cast on and re-cast on numerous stitches along the way. Which means you lose count of the stitches repeatedly. Keeping track of stitch numbers is utterly at odds with remembering the convoluted cast on sequence. To achieve one, I had to sacrifice the other. Resulting in more errors.

Truly, my brain has rarely found something so difficult. You could make the claim that I'm not at my most focused lately but my parents and sister were shocked by how long it took me to get absolutely NOWHERE.

Then, having cast on, I realized I'd nonetheless managed to make a couple of mistakes which were near impossible to fix because - and it's really not worth explaining this, it will still totally confuse you - they effectively erode the attachment of one half of the scarf to the other and leave big messy holes. Fixing the holes is observable no matter how you do it. And trust me I had numerous opportunities to figure out different possible methods. So, from the get-go there were errors. Four hours of casting on did fuck all to mitigate their occurrence.

I suppose I don't need to mention that I cannot stand errors at the best of times, much less those that emerge at row one.

But I was ready to be zen. I decided to take the long-view: In its completeness, thought I, the scarf will be a drapey dream, warm but light and beautifully rich. You won't notice a few wonky stockinette stitches when confronted by a completed garment!

Um, I'm only on row 10 and I've somehow lost 4 stitches over one row. 4 stitches people. And I can't figure out, from looking at the lacework, where the stitches were actually dropped. That's freakin' outrageous. Sidebar: It's cuz the entire previous row is k2tog followed by a yarn over, the net result (for you non-knitters) being a bunch of deliberate holes. Yarn over stitches are notoriously tricky to keep from sliding off of metal needles when the yarn is air light-fingering weight. Once those stitches are gone it's hard(ish) to recover them - esp. if you don't notice it immediately and you can't find a visual error.

Did I mention that it takes 30 fucking minutes to knit a row of K2tog/YO in the first place? When your yarn is apt to snap, you work slowly. And then, natch, you have to count 401 (and changing row-to-row) fingering stitches on US size 5 needles every time you turn around. Which is to say nothing of the problem when you forget that you're not knitting magic loop cuz some of the knitting IS actually done in magic loop.

I have a headache just thinking about this.

Actually, I experienced my recent nausea bout during the same general time-frame in which I first tried to knit this. So every time I think of returning to it, and solving outstanding problems, I feel sort of like I'm going to throw up. Zut alors, it's PTKD (post-traumatic knitting disorder).

Honestly, I cannot abide ending on a row with mistakes. I will always finish a knitting session cleanly, organized and ready to begin the next section, even if it takes me an extra bomb of time to do so. In this instance, however, there doesn't seem to be enough will in the world to correct things. It's like the knit is thwarting me!????!!!!

Look, I know this doesn't matter. I mean, if I just throw the whole lot into a bag and never touch it again (till I decide to use the yarn for something else), no harm done. The mature me recognizes - even though it is SO counter-intuitive to my way of thinking - that I may actually be able to return to this, after some distance, without issue. I know I can't keep banging my head against a wall. So I'm going to take a break. If only I could do so without feeling like I've failed. (Egad, perfectionist Krissie, get a fucking grip!)

But now for today's questions: Have you made this shawl? If yes, did it torment you? Do you like the look of it (horrible construction process notwithstanding)? Do you know the feeling of failure about which I speak, or do you think that knitting is an easy thing to walk away from. I mean, really, it's an easy thing to walk away from. Right?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

An Update

In my mother's health scenario, there is much very good news with a compact side of complexity.

The good news is that we've learned that there is no lymph involvement in her stage one breast cancer. Moreover, her surgery was very successful and they believe they removed the entire tumor cleanly - as they say "with good margins". Really, this is excellent and cause for celebration (!!!!!!)

The complex news is that the cancer she had is classified as triple negative. In simple terms, this means that it's doesn't express receptor genes for various hormones, which means that treatment options, when necessary, are less plentiful than those available to treat "regular" cancers (like there is such a thing?!). Of course, in her case the tumor has been successfully excised - and the entire cancer almost certainly removed with it. But triple negative cancers are more likely, if only on a statistical basis, than the others to move around. The (rather unpopular) gist is that chemo is indicated, in addition to radiation.

Further complex-ifying things is family history. I've mentioned that my - very alive and well - maternal aunt had the same kind of cancer many years ago (when she was in her early thirties) and happily recovered. (She even reads this blog, unlike most of my family members, so she gets a gold star! Hi, L!) My maternal grandfather died of malignant melanoma and other, more distant, family members have battled breast cancer. In light of this, my mum - if only statistically - is in the camp of those with increased likelihood for the BRCA gene mutations (see: Angelina Jolie). Yeah, she's been tested and we're waiting for results. Note: There is a good likelihood that gene mutation will play NO factor in this. Of course, these results are key for my sister and me (and the three daughters we have between us). I do intend to write more on this topic, needless to say, if only to close the loop.

PSA from my mother: Hispanic women have an increased predisposition towards the BRCA gene mutations - like (but not to the same extent as) Ashkenazi Jewish women. So keep this in mind Latin-ladies, as you pay attention to your health and care, but don't let it freak you out.

Let's take a moment here to be reminded of the very good news: tumor removed cleanly. No lymph involvement. This is also a good opp for me to interject that my mother is mega-fortunate to have found a FANTASTIC clinic (like a fancy spa meets space-aged hospital) where I'm sure she is going to get the best care in the freakin' world.

She starts chemo tomorrow - so if you could pull out your positive vibes again - they seem to work so well! - we would be exceedingly grateful. xoxo

PS: Any tips and tricks you may know of, when it comes to managing the temporary side-effects of chemotherapy, are very welcome. Pls. let's talk!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why I Love Knitting...

(...not to be confused with tomorrow's post, which will tell you why I hate it - on occasion.)

Aria Delicato pattern by Anne Hanson
I'm using up the 300 yard remainder of my Quince Finch Yarn, a beautiful, affordable wool that should occupy a place in every knitter's stash. Quince's shipping charge is incredibly reasonable - as much so as the yarn - so there's no reason to deny yourself. In contrast with Brooklyn Tweed fingering yarn, which I've written about before, the Finch is quotidien. It's got beautiful spring but it's in no way delicate. It's not expensive but the colours are rich and saturated. It's (practically) a budget yarn that doesn't present in that way. It's not scratchy (unlike the BT Loft) so you can wear it against your skin. It's not hipster yarn so you can use it for vintage projects without producing garments that look avant garde. What can I say, I really like it.

This pattern, while it looks intricate, is not difficult. When it blocks, I suspect the yarn will relax considerably and really show off the lace work to its best advantage. It's a very enjoyable knit.

You haven't seen the completed project for which I originally purchased this yarn, one which I've yet to seam up - though I certainly haven't forgotten about it. I've just got to wait for the right weekend to dive in (the finishing process is involved).

So, what do you think? Have you made this scarf? If yes, did you enjoy the knitting process, the finished outcome? Let's talk.

Monday, September 23, 2013


When I was pregnant, I was nauseated constantly. Low-grade (when I was lucky), extreme (whenever I tried to get on some form of transportation), pop-up (when food was put in front of me or some woman on the elevator wore perfume). While my pregnancy was planned, I found myself seriously considering abortion at one point. I couldn't bear the inevitable, hair-trigger vomiting. Or moreover, the seeping, ever-present sick. (While I didn't take medication - though my sister had hyperemesis gravidarum and was medicated in both of her pregnancies; she couldn't drink water without throwing it up?! - I just muddled through. And by muddled through, I mean complained incessantly so that no one could stand to have a conversation with me and then had crying jags culminating in my throwing up.) Not surprisingly, I have but one child.

Sure, with the onset of the migraines, that nausea recurs (though more tolerably). I feel the echoes of pregnancy sickness. I avoid transportation and certain food. My old, daily stand-by, bacon, is of late, unappealing. Who doesn't want bacon, like constantly??

But I have to say, since I've been in NC - having an extreme family experience - I can't shake the nausea. Of course I'm dealing with a migraine (please, isn't that par for the course?), and I'm in cars all the time. But, Lord, this is hardcore. I don't think of myself as one of those delicate ladies who feels sick from stress and worry.

Maybe I feel sick from stress and worry? (Cuz I sure as hell am not pregnant.)

Part of me doesn't want to burden you with this - the journey of cancer recovery. It's not a fun topic. It doesn't come with photos (and thank your lucky stars for that). But the other part recognizes that it's the way I want to go through this - an experience which is both mine and not mine. I find meaning when I'm writing, as my brain seeks and finds the words.

So, sometimes, over the next while, I will write posts about how I feel about cancer - about managing the emotional minefield that is the illness (albeit temporary) of one's mother (the very wellspring of nurture and stability). If these posts are unappealing, fear not. There will be others in the vein of creativity and crafts. (And you know how I love to stress-shop.) I mean, y'all stuck with me through the depression-zone of pertussis (have I said thank you for that recently??), so I'm confident this will not throw us all over the edge.

Now, off to the doctor's office.

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection: A Worthy T Shirt

I'm getting the hang of T shirts. Between my bespoke pattern - which I've continued to tweak at every opportunity - and my burgeoning awareness of the fabrics to which one must just say no, I'm making a lot of progress.

After my last go round, I realized that I'd need to find an appropriate fabric - harder to do than you might imagine. After some research, I opted to buy online.

I used a terrific jersey from Gorgeous Fabrics. It was well worth the money given that it's just what T shirt fabric should be: a little bit spongy, firm (but with great stretch), of excellent recovery, saturated colour, beautiful hand and terrific drape. It looks and feels beautiful AND expensive. I have to say that the client service Ann provides is excellent and the 3 fabrics I ordered are delicious. Alas, the shipping to Canada is at the very upper end of my comfort zone, and one can only order in full yards, so I'm viewing this as an occasional splurge. OK, a semi-regular splurge. :-)

This T shirt is almost up to RTW standards:

Even the seams line up nicely:

Between my serger (for seams), my regular machine (for pre-serging to ensure alignment and top-stitching) and my cover stitch machine (for hemming), I've got my own little factory.

The fit is perfect, if I do say so myself - well, I did take about 1/4 inch off the shoulder seam for next go around - but hopefully that will give me the narrowness in the shoulders I require.

Over time, I've had to make many adjustments to the flat pattern original:
  • It's now observably hourglass in shape.
  • The armholes are very high.
  • The sleeves are reasonably narrow - 11.5 inches in circumference - and they are shorter than those of the original.
  • The shoulders have been narrowed 4 times to get to the point that the seam sits properly.
  • I've also modified the crew neck. Mine is not high, nor is it scoopy. (Of course, one reserves the right to change neckline on a whim!)
Unfortunately, when working with stripes - WTF was I thinking?! I DO NOT believe in pattern-matching and, alas, there's no avoiding it here - sleeve bands are a total liability. I should have just turned under the raw edge and cover-stitched. That would have produced a clean line. Instead I badly serged the bands and it's utterly obvious due to a) stripe-wonk and b) BAD top-stitching.

If you want to go undetected, don't create a visual roadmap. And don't work with skinny stripes! They're that much harder than thick ones cuz they repeat that much more frequently...

What I will say is that I bit the bullet and just figured out how to pattern-match. I didn't read about it. I didn't over-think it. I didn't loathe it. I just did it. I guess that's the sign of experience and confidence and I am grateful because I LOVE stripes and I've never felt comfortable using them before.

No doubt, there is no plaid in my near future, but stripes are in the palette from here on in.

So, whatcha think??

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Practically Knitting

A while ago, I briefly alluded to my latest knitting project. You know how buzzed I am by the idea of "capsule collections" these days. So I came up with my newest - all the better cuz it's FREE.

Enter: Sensible Stash Busting. Yeah. I know it's not exciting on the surface. But it's not exciting to have dozens of half balls of yarn all over the place - that really cuts into ones stash space! Not to mention that I bought all that yarn - and I love it. Why not see what I can make with the remnants, right?

Moreover, this kind of Make, Do and Mend concept gives me an opportunity to hang out in the universe of Ravelry. I love using that advanced search feature, entering in the amount of yarn I have and the kind of stuff I'd like to make with it and seeing what turns up.

I can tell you that, if you have less than 150 yards, it's a crap shoot unless you like half-mitts (which I am so done with). And, given that I'm not really into mixing and matching yarns (to make stripey things, for example), it does further limit one's options.

I'm queuing my Sensible Stash Busting projects as I determine them - to ensure that I've got a system in place and that I don't accidentally double-assign any yarn.

Terrifically, these sorts of projects make excellent Xmas gifts - they're not too involved (how involved can one get with 300 yards of string?) and I know how the fibre will respond to needles/blocking etc. Gauge swatches aren't really indicated which, after making 12 sweaters in a year, is kind of the head space I'm in. And who doesn't love portable projects?

So, first up is a project I've made many times - and it never gets old:

Cabled Keyhole Scarf by Anne Hanson
This was the second or third pattern I ever made and I didn't realize the venerability of its designer till I went back into my archives. This time I lengthened it as, it's both short and on the narrow side. Next time, I think I'll add a couple of stitches to the width on either side of the cables.

Even lengthened substantially, it took less than 150 yards of yarn. And it looks so complicated! (It's not.) I've taught people to knit on this pattern.

So, stay tuned for the next project, another Anne Hanson scarf...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Thank You!

I'm in hermit-mode right now but I must write to tell you how exceedingly grateful we are to have received your wonderful comments on my last post.

My parents have read all of your encouraging words many times and are really floored by your generosity in taking time and effort to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. We are confident these prayers are like doses of magic, designed to promote healing and restoration of balance.

My mother's operation was yesterday and how we're waiting for pathology results, to determine next steps. That info will likely not be available until next week - perhaps by the time I arrive in North Carolina to spend some quality and fun time.

Yeah, it stands to reason that cancer will be semi-regular downer (to put it mildly), hovering at the margins of our pleasant visit, and over the next few months, but now we must find a way to functionally integrate concern into daily life (something to savor and bless under all circumstances).

I don't really know how I feel about all of this right now. In some moments I am utterly my regular self. In others manically positive. Occasionally, and I'd be dishonest to omit this, I am afraid and sad. It overcomes me, seeps in at the margins of my consciousness. It's like a flood that comes out of nowhere. Mercifully, I have lots of metaphoric mops. And a metaphoric contractor to shore up the foundation. And then normal re-emerges.

I'll leave you with this: I went for my own check up yesterday - an exceptionally friendly and efficient experience. Hilariously, the technician told me about the "modesty divide" - how some women will try to find ways to wear a blue gown even as they're having a mammogram while still others are entirely non-plussed. She said this as I whipped off my clothes like Houdini. I mean, I don't have time to wait for someone to leave the room and become otherwise occupied while I take off my shirt and bra! Note: Wear your most gorgeous bra (though not one that's delicate if you're having ultrasound, cuz you'll have so much of that lubricant shit to wipe off, you don't want to risk any staining). Why not undress to impress, I say.

At any rate, to say these technicians have seen it all is an understatement. I mean, they have to smush  boobs into an x-ray machine day-in and day-out. Which I why I was entirely chuffed when my tech said, while looking at my chart: You're 43?! You're boobs look 33, max.

Yeah, I have managed to work this into every conversation I've had in the last 24 hours. And will continue to do so. And, don't lie, you would too. :-)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

In Which I Ask For Your Support

The old axiom is true: You really never do know how you'll respond to shocking news. For example, when my father called me on Sunday to tell me that my mother has breast cancer, I was oddly calm. It helped that my father was stoic (he always is). In truth, I'm the kind of person who freaks about every meaningless thing and keeps it all together while the house is falling down.

This is in no way to imply the house is falling down. It's much easier to be calm when one has been assured that prospects for full recovery are very good. My mother is exceedingly fortunate that she found the tumor where and when she did, and that she has access to excellent medical care. She is young (65), healthy (other than this glitch, soon to be remedied) and highly knowledgeable about Western and alternative medicine. She is optimistic and exceedingly clean-living. Seriously - the woman is a juice-aholic vegan (the kind who gets adequate protein), doesn't drink, has never smoked and counts meditation amongst her vices. She's like the anti-Kristin.

As luck would have it, for her (not the cancer), she is the most willful person (other than my child) that I've ever come across. Cancer should quake in its boots. My mother is fucking scary.

I'm sharing this information (with my mother's blessing, of course) for a few reasons, not least of which is to remind you to check your breasts, like, every three minutes, for any suspicious behaviour. I, for one, have a mammogram and breast ultrasound booked on Friday morning. This is by no means my first mammogram (my maternal aunt also had breast cancer and is living a wonderful life more than 25 years later), but it is my first breast ultrasound. My mother's cancer is located in a spot (near the sternum) that was NOT traceable by mammogram. Ultrasound, however, caught the tumor immediately.

I'm also sharing the information to ask you all - my community through thick and thin - to keep my mother in your thoughts and prayers over the next couple of months of treatment - and particularly this Thursday when she's having surgery. Please, please, please sign our metaphoric petition to the universe to restore health and balance at the earliest opportunity.

I'm sure my mum would be thrilled to hear positive stories of recovery from cancer - yours or a loved one's - and any lessons learned (practical, metaphysical, psycho-emotional - I'll let you decide). I, and my sister, would be so grateful for any positive stories and practical tips for daughters.

We are resolved to approach this challenge with optimism, partly because it's indicated and partly because my mother is strongly of the perspective that optimism is a choice. Please join us in this action. xoxo

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Plain, Beige Bra Chronicles: Weird Denouement

OK, just to prolong the (uncalled for) mystery, I'm going to start this post with a sub-story and a proviso.

The proviso is that this tale ends with a Poe-worthy twist (though one that may disappoint you).

The sub-story is that I bought 3 bras on Figleaves, one of which being the Plain, Beige bra that works. Once again I was charged 60 dollars by customs - because Figleaves feels compelled to ship in boxes that catch the eye. I did not receive any meaningful discount on any of these three bras - which cost me, to begin with, $150 CDN. That's on the high-end for online lingerie, that isn't high-end lingerie. By the time all was said and done, I'd paid $210 CDN for 3 bras, 2 of which were horrible (more to come on this) and have since been returned (at the cost of an additional 12 bucks). While I will get $100 refunded for the returned bras, I've basically spent $120 bucks on the world's most basic, beige bra. And, as you'll read momentarily, one which is readily found for 50 bucks online.

The upshot, my friends, is that I am done with Figleaves.

Please do not misunderstand, the company is entirely professional and correct. The client service is excellent. The stock is huge. If I lived in the UK, I'm sure my love would continue. But there is no benefit to me, with my considerable knowledge of online bra-sourcing, to pay top-dollar, shipping and then ridiculous customs. Yeah, I know that Customs finds you on occasion. But my odds with Figleaves (either because they have a lot of profile, or because of the boxes they use to ship) puts me - and I'd hazard to suggest the average Canadian purchaser - at a real disadvantage.

But moving on...

Here's what happened. I looked online and determined that the Fantasie Elodie and Vivienne might be solid options. (In the end, I don't know which of these was less suited to me. Both had textured fabric the likes of which you'd find on a sofa. The seams were outrageous by any standards. The colours were meh. The fit was fine except one of them (can't remember but I think it was the Vivienne) was only nominally supportive. They were both ugly. Interestingly, neither was basic enough that you could pair it with non-matched undies, without it seeming totally unmatched. In no universe would I wear either.)

Anyway, at the same time - for some bizarre reason I cannot explain - I felt compelled to reorder (for the 8000th time since it stopped fitting me) the original perfect plain, beige bra:

Fantasie Smoothing Balconette (Style 4520)
Don't ask me why, you know, during the great, Online Shop Along I ordered it in 4 sizes (none of which fit as I seemed to be distinctly between cup and back sizes at that point). I also felt they'd changed the fabric slightly since the good-old-days, and it wasn't as supportive or slippery. You may recall, at this time, I found that my quite full-on-top boobs had become vaguely less so.

This bra is a challenge for many women because it requires a very specific sort of upper cup fullness (there being no seams though note that the fabric is not self-structured, it is floppy when unworn, like an unlined, seamed bra). Some women also feel that it doesn't provide enough side support.

Mind you, if it fits, it can be perfect because it really does disappear under all clothing and - despite the fact that I am totally unimpressed by the melon-round shape - it gives an awesome spherical look - and superior lift with support.

Well, I went back into my archives and realized that there was one potential size in which I hadn't yet ordered it - increased back size, increased cup size. (Note: While in the fall I was very much between cup sizes, at the moment I'm firmly into the larger of those two. And vis a vis band: While my back size seems to have gone down in many brands and styles, Fantasie definitely being one of them, this bra seems to fit quite firmly in the 32 band.)

People, this new size fit just about perfectly. Admittedly, when one has breasts of slightly different sizes, as most women do, this sort of bra is almost impossible. At least lined, molded bras (which I loathe and wouldn't wear for any reason) provide structure against the smaller breast (so you can't see wrinkling or shrinkage quite as readily under clothing). But it was back to the glory days for me!

If only it hadn't cost me $120 bucks (given that I've usually got it for under $50), it would have been perfect.

Of course, it is particularly anticlimactic to have spent hundreds of dollars sourcing a new, reliable standard only to return to the original but I am EXCEEDINGLY grateful that the original seems back to fitting me. I will admit that, on some level, this disturbs me no end, since I've seen this bra fit and then not fit, and there doesn't appear to be an alternative for me anywhere!?

So there you go. Thoughts or feelings??

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection (Plus The Summer Series): New Things, Made on an Aptly-Named Weekend

OMG, people. My currrent job is nothing if not hopping. I am not complaining. I spend all days working with people to solve problems. I talk on the phone constantly - just like in a movie montage but with less attractiveness and more accountability. Happily, we generally solve the problems. But at the end of the day I wither like a flower that needs water. And, by water, I mean a Cab Sauv. And TV. And the floor (for yoga). (In truth, sometimes, these days I get home and keep working.)

Currently, I'm about 10 posts behind in telling you the absurd number things that are exciting me lately:
  • How I've solved the plain beige bra conundrum. You have to read it to believe it.
  • How I don't like Fantasie Vivienne or Elodie
  • How I've come up with my next "knitting collection"
  • How I'm going to get around having made a bunch of T shirts with fabric having the wrong weight and drape (Loss leader: It involves buying fabric)
  • How there's this pattern I found (sewing) that I'm really tempted to buy! (Spoiler Alert: It's expensive)
  • How I returned my latest purchases on the basis that I can't justify the cost ($325.00) given that I have so many clothes, I can't even wear them all. Not to mention that I could so make both of those items in a weekend - though that sweater fabric is delicious and one of a kind. OK, really that's all there is to that story. No need to turn it into a drama.
  • How Gillian made me a fab colour palette that will, no doubt, turn into the backbone of my next sewing collection
  • How I'm really psyched about the new season of lingerie - There are pictures!
And then there's the fact that I still haven't updated you on the outcome of my crafting weekend. Let's properly cross this one off the list.

To clarify - I sewed 5 garments and finished a triangle shawl. In case you're wondering, that amounts to LONG WEEKEND INSANITY.

I showed the new shawl blocking in my last post, though it now looks exactly like this (the version I made for my mother in the spring):

The sewn garments are, frankly boring to photo. I made 2 pairs of black yoga pants that are indistinguishable (though one pair is more poorly constructed than the other) and 3 tops.

Here's the scoop on the tops (and let me assure you, the Tshirt sewing is NOT over):

I have no idea what made me think that I could use a) exceedingly firm ponte (without enough of it to cut even my regular size, much less a slightly bigger size to account for additional ease) and b) exceedingly flimsy Tencel (which I've officially decided was crap fabric - this shit has disintegrated everytime I've sewn with it?!)

I ended up with a really nice, orange shell to fit a child (or a very narrow, slender grown up). And a blue exercise shell that was almost too drapey to hold itself up under my arms, especially in light of the fact that I didn't make the armhole binding strips small enough to accommodate the world's stretchiest textile. And a blue Tshirt that fits like something your mother would wear.

Lessons Learned:
  • Using up scraps of fabric, just to use them up, yields dubious results.
  • Drapey, thin fabrics make crappy t shirts - whether you sew them or buy them.
  • If you don't have enough fabric, and you don't sew for children, just put that scrap in a bag and say goodbye.
BUT, to address my armhole raising experiment: It worked. It would have been perfect if that blue fabric had had any structure or if I'd made the armhole binding about an inch tighter. I will make another of these shells, but likely only when I have that amount of extra fabric - of the correct properties - lying around.

Mind you, I'm just getting started with the T shirts...

So, I've got all the yoga pants I'll need for 2 yrs, a couple of sleeping and yoga tops, a new shawl - and a plan. Not bad for a long weekend, don't you agree?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Summer Series: Guernsey Triangle Shawl (Check!)

This (admittedly lovely) project represents a fuck of a lot of work that I didn't much enjoy - rare for a knitting project:

Guernsey Triangle Shawl (Pattern: Jared Flood, Yarn: Brooklyn Tweed, End result: I'm taking all the credit)

I made it with a different shade of Brooklyn Tweed yarn (Barn Owl vs. the Woodsmoke of my first foray) this time around. Hilariously, it looks EXACTLY the same (though I did block this one larger and I prefer the feel of this yarn).

It's the second time 'round (first one went to my mum) and I don't imagine I'll be making it again anytime soon. I warn you, it gives knitting tedium a new metaphor. But let's take five minutes to be grateful for its cuddly, elegant warmth. Oh, and the fact that it's done.

Whatcha think?

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection: Factory-Style

Sometimes I'm oddly optimistic. For example, I somehow thought I'd have enough of all of my chosen fabric remnants to make garments willy-nilly. Um, here's a mathy little fact:
  •  I make knits to fit about 34 inches across (accounting for negative ease). The armsyce requires a few extra inches of witdth, let's call it 36 inches all in, aka a yard of width required.
  • Most knits are cut on the fold for a seam free front and back. In light of this, I need 18 inches of width (and 22 inches of length, FWIW) to get a shirt front or back. 
  • If I use a 60 inch-width of fabric, that means I've got quite a bit of excess remaining, but not enough to cut another front or back. That would take 12 more inches and fabrics come in standard lengths. 72 inches is one I've rarely seen.
The upshot is that I generally end up with almost enough to make 2 t-shirts with a yard of 60"-wide fabric. But not.

This means I'm kind of fucked for V8323 with most of the fabric ends I have. It needs 2 yards of 60"-wide fabric (I double checked). Hmmm. In fact, I've got barely enough of most of my knits to make a T shirt or exercise shell.

Enter (potentially misguided) resourcefulness:

This represents 2 pairs of yoga pants, 2 KS3115 shells and a T shirt, made from my sloper...
 What you should know is this:
  • Only the yoga pants and one of the T shirts is actually "cut according to the directions".
  • The orange exercise shell is an XS (approx) in the back because that's all the fabric I had. Given that it's a firm ponte, it's quite possible that it will be too small.
  • The light blue exercise shell has a deep slice (width wise, of course) at the waist along the side seam. I'm going to use fusible interfacing to adjoin it, and I also tried to cut it out to the best of my ability, but this is also fucking with size.
  • On the blue shell, I also cut the binding in half width pieces, which will need to be joined before I attach them to the armholes and neckline. This is cuz there wasn't a piece of that fabric vaguely wide enough by the time I cut the second bodice shell. I even had to shorten the armhole binding (shorter than the new shortened length I determined when I made the last shell). I hope it will be long enough in light of the fact that this fabric is VERY stretchy.
So, there you go. I've got an altered list of items here - you may note that I'm making more yoga pants than originally intended and I've added a whole extra garment (the exercise shell). So, things are on a slight detour but it's all for the greater good, I suspect.

Today's questions: How much fabric do you need to make a T shirt? Do you find the whole fabric thing terribly wasteful, no matter how hard you try? Whatcha think of all of this? Do tell!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Fall Capsule Collection: More About KS3115 V Neck Top

So, it appears that I do have a knit top sloper (though I suggested to Susan, in comments, that I do not). See, while I haven't really given much thought to my, hard won, T shirt sloper for like, over a year, technically, it does give me key info about the armsyce curve I require on a dart-free, knit top.

And really, what's KS3115, the V neck, if not a dartfree, knit top?

What I discovered is fascinating!

Y'all know - and pls. read this for more context - that I reverted from a weird small-med mash-up, back to a small for my next version of the KS, V-neck exercise top. When I was trying to figure out whether I'd have enough fabric to make shells and t shirts from my fabric remnants (post on this will follow), I ended up comparing the T shirt sloper to the size small, V neck top pattern and I realized a couple of key deets:
  • Both tops are effectively the same in width and in length - eerily so. They also have almost identical shoulder seams.
  • The only visible difference (aside from neckline, which is alterable depending on the version of a T shirt one chooses to make) is in the shape and depth of the armsyce. 
Man, those two armsyces are on different planets! No wonder KS3115 doesn't fit. Even with my reversion to the size small, the armholes are SO low and wide!

So, here's my fix (as yet untested in the exercise shell - though it does work for the, made-in-the-past, T shirt pattern):

Much as one must often alter a crotch curve (see here) one must also consider the best shape and depth of armhole. I've added about 2 inches of height to the side seam at the underarm and I've narrowed the side seams by about 1/2 inch. Having said this, and you can sort of see it in the first photo, when I reverted to the KS3115 size small, I actually left about 1/3 inch extra seam allowance on the front and back side seams as I wasn't convinced that it wouldn't be too small. (You can see it on the original pattern back piece but, the front piece is a tracing of the original so those seam lines aren't there.)

It seems that I'm slightly larger than a Kwik Sew small, but nowhere near as wide as the Kwik Sew medium - which is quite a bit wider than the small, truth be told. I love that my T shirt sloper corroborated this exactly in its dimensions. How fun is that?

So, I've cut out lots of patterns - T shirts and KS 3115 exercise tops (see tomorrow's post for more deets). It remains to be seen if they fit though, if my t shirt sloper is anything to go by - and I did spend lots of time on it a while ago - then this armhole should give me the look I want without mega-gaping at the front.

Thoughts or feelings??