Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ringing in the New Year

Alors, Twitter is down and I can't express my every mundane brilliant thought in that universe. Micro-blogging is SO not over.

In lieu of being able to share there, you will be treated (or should I say, tweeted) to a few of my deepest, end-of-year thoughts:
  • I haven't left the house since Dec. 23. Does that make me seem agoraphobic?
  • I'm seriously considering taking 3 weeks off every winter (this presumes I have a whack of vacation, but let's dream, shall we?) to get through the worst of the winter misery.
  • The more I sleep, the more I want to sleep. This is simply unproductive.
  • I have got to get a grip on food consumption. Fortunately, so does everyone else on the planet. Nothing like being in good company.
  • Y'all know I don't believe in resolutions. They're so resolute. (What's the fun in that?)
  • Having said that, I intend to take up a new "craft" today: figure sketching.
  • Note to self: See if you can convince FIT graduate and fashion designer extraordinaire Stacy Lomman to write a post on this.
  • I must have the ability to draw cute pics of myself wearing the adorable outfits I see on others or the things I come up with from my own imagination.
  • How bad can it be? You don't have to cut anything or rip anything out.
  • Famous first words.
At the risk of getting sentimental at the seasonally appropriate moment, I wish you all a better year in 2012 - regardless of how wonderful 2011 may (or may not) have been. Your readership is inexpressibly meaningful to me and forms a good part of my drive to document my crazy craft and life experiences.

To those of you who also blog - I learn practically everything I know of technique and knitting and sewing from you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The act of blogging is part vocation, part exhibitionism and part public service. If I have been able to give even the smallest part of what I have received, then I am doing good work.

Love, K

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Croquis, Anyone?

I'm either enlightened or fucking crazy to be sharing this sketch of myself with the world:

Welcome to the ultimate vanity project.

I'm in the process of creating a more complete version of this with all of my horizontal and vertical measurements, but I thought I'd save you from it. :-)

I can scarcely report the 8 zillion steps involved in creating this. How I wish I could make fab digital sketches of myself wearing different items, like this. As it is, I don't know what use this will be to me in terms of adding clothing electronically, though I can print it out and sketch clothing ideas on top of the croquis.

Let's review this for a few moments, shall we?

I think it's time for a rousing chorus of "Fuck Barbie". Seriously, this is an accurate outline of me, apparently and, while at first I was shocked, now that I've spent 12 hours staring at it intently, it seems just fine.

What stands out most? My arms are freakin' long. I've always known this, but it's really writ large, huh? Obvs, my breasts are large and my shoulders narrow, but I'm a bit surprised that my waist isn't narrower. In my view of myself, it's very waspy :-)

Let me also say that I don't think it matters what this picture shows. When I'm walking around in the world, my essential self shines through. And it is hot, thank you very much.

So, what do you say. If you could twitch your nose and have your own croquis, would you do it? Do you find it reductionist? Let's discuss.

Easy Does It

I'm about 3/4 through the latest iteration of the Clover pants and, of course, I have some feelings.
  • Why did I decide to turn the side zip into a back zip??
  • Oh yeah, the last insertion of the side zip was so horrifying, it seemed prudent when I started this.
  • Alas, there are all kinds of things one must consider when moving a zipper i.e. cutting 2 back facing and waistband pieces, not one and when, exactly, does one insert the invisible zipper?
  • I made a waist adjustment to this version - essentially I cut an inch off the previous version at the waist.
  • Then I discovered that the ease in the fabric I'm currently using is rather different than that of the previously-used denim.
  • Of course, having already finished the inner leg seams, my only recourse was to seriously diminish the seam allowances on the outer legs.
  • Which means there's practically no way I can faux fell the seams.
  • BTW, is there a secret to faux felling when one has already sewn up the tubes of the legs? Seam allowance issue aside, I don't know how I might be able to sew to the bottom of the leg with my machine, given bunching. Maybe I need a free-arm?
  • Next machine I get is going to have a) a free-arm and b) it will be mechanical.
  • This fabric has so much drape (I suspected this might be the case) that there will be pulling at the crotch.
  • It's not that the garment doesn't fit (though it sure as hell isn't loose in that area) but the fabric falls and extends so readily, that the confluence of the 3 tubes (waist, leg one and leg two) invites drag.
  • I'm so sick and tired of all the "OMG, there's pulling at the crotch" talk out there. We're human beings. When we move, the fabric reserves the right to drag.
  • Nonetheless, it makes me feel bad.
  • I'm not going to judge the process right now. This could all come back from the edge.
  • But if it doesn't, I don't know that I will give this pattern another go around.
  • Maybe that's the post-sewing haze talking.
  • Where's my wine?

Holiday Sewing: Ginger Skirt

Off to start another day of crafting soon (c'mon it's practically half over already), but I'll share with you a delightful finished project, the Ginger skirt, made yesterday:

Winter lighting and dark denim just don't mix... You have to trust me, it's adorable.

The inside is as lovely as the outside! I used mock flat-felled seams and they worked really well. Got to use my serger, to which I am very attached, but with a different finished effect. Isn't the contrast facing at the inner waistband lovely. It also helps to diminish bulk, which is an issue when sewing with denim.

I used some seam binding on top of the serged hem, just cuz. I wanted to do pretty-sewing techniques in support of the prettiest skirt in the land.

This is the most unapologetically, almost-teeth-hurtingly, pretty thing I have ever made. Hell, it's practically the prettiest design I've ever seen.

A few thoughts:
  • I love this skirt. I will, no doubt make all 3 versions. The drape of the A-line is lovely.
  • As always, Colette patterns are a joy to sew. Even if I hated the finished outcome, I would have enjoyed the process.
  • While a boob-reminiscent filigree waistband is probably not the best thing to put adjacent to my not-insubstantial chest, whatevs. I'll wear a slim top, tucked in. You can't go with boring-old "suits your figure" all the time.
  • The seam binding at the hem gives a bit of body to complement that of the denim's drape. Really like the heightened A-line effect.
  • This denim is not particularly soft. It's got a lot of innate structure.
  • The great thing about making a simple pattern is that it gives you mental space to do pretty finishing. I don't consider this often enough.
  • I made the size 8 with 1/2 inch seam allowances on side seams. It's not an overly long skirt. I wanted mine to be approx. knee-length and I didn't have to shorten it at all. Also, only turned up the hem by 1/2 inch. If you're tall, you'll want to add length.
  • The only bad thing I can say about this - and take note here! - is that one should NOT use invisible zips with denim. How many times do I have to do this before I finally learn?? I have concerns about the longevity of the zipper given the bulk of the fabric. Shhhh. Let's be really careful with it and hope for the best.
  • I must be a slow-sewist because it took me a good 5 hours to put this together - probably more. Who are all of these ladies who manage to make gorgeous "simple skirts" in 2 hours??
  • I stitched in the ditch around the waistband. Don't know why I haven't done that before. It gets rid of the riding up facing issue beautifully. Just make sure your facing is a smidge longer than the waistband itself.
What do you think?? If you've made this skirt, share your experience. If you haven't, is it in your pattern stash?

PS: The never-ending computer-generated croquis project continues apace. I'm making headway but, egad, what a labour-intensive activity. I've probably put 10 hrs into it so far... Stay tuned for more on this as I have more to say.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

FBA Continued...

Today has been an interesting day. I was derailed by all the things I meant to do by lots of things I imagined I might do someday - namely the construction of a croquis.

This sketch of oneself is becoming quite popular, all of a sudden, it would seem. In the last couple of weeks I've read no fewer than 5 accounts of how to, and why and what. In truth, my husband has been doing the heavy lifting on the project. He's already spent a few hours trying to create a vector diagram from a photo of me, using Inkscape. The reason our aim is to do this, rather than hand sketching a close-cropped picture, is that the end result will be scalable. (Also, it's kind of cool to create an image the likes of which one sees assembled on high-tech computers in action films; you know, like when they're trying to create a composite of the bad guy.)

Why spend the time and effort? Really, why not? At the end, I'll have a customized me-shaped sketch onto which I can draw fun designs that will suit my particular shape. Why should I consider my next outfit in relation to a figure that's 5'8", long-waisted and boob-free? I hope that this will be the next step on my journey of self-taught fashion design.

If the dress form fiasco hadn't already cured me of vanity, lord knows, this little project would achieve that objective in a flash. I have become so comfortable with body as an object, it's bizarre. More and more, I am pointedly aware of my every asymmetry, of convexity and concavity as it applies to me. Now I just find it all technically interesting. Sort of like doing an FBA...

Apropos of that, I've completed the Sherry-prescribed version of the Ruby Slip FBA and compared it to the one I attempted last week. Both versions add 1.5 inches to the original pattern bust dimensions. The one I "developed", for whatever reason, feels like the right one to cut first. (Fortunately I have enough fabric to try both versions, if required.)

Both FBA-altered paper pattern pieces are very similar in the side back piece. However, my version of the front piece is, intriguingly, wider all over, and specifically by 1 inch at the under bust vs. Sherry's. I didn't realize that till I compared the two of them today. So glad that Sherry reminds sew-alongers to increase the under bust dimensions an equivalent amount to any increase in bust width.

As such, I added 1 inch to either side of the front skirt and tapered to the waist notches. (I didn't defray the total 2-inch amount over the entire size of the skirt i.e. front and back, because I really do want the increase at the front.) The front bust piece is longer in Sherry's FBA version, and overall it is quite a bit slimmer. I have a full upper bust so I sense I need more width at the top of the piece. It just doesn't look like the Sherry-version, as it stands currently, is going to provide the volume I need, despite the addition of width at the side of the front piece where it meets the side back piece.

Man, if you don't sew - hell, if you don't adjust for a full bust - that paragraph must have been totally painful.

I really have no idea of how this is all going to play out. That's the fun and anxiety of sewing. This may be the best thing I've ever figured out on my own, or it might be a mere stepping stone to the next version. Potentially a frustrating one.

Nonetheless, I will keep on.

Today I've also cut the Ginger skirt, version 2 and pulled out the pattern and fabric to make another pair of Clovers. I'm so tempted to alter them into culottes, I just don't know if I'll be able to stop myself.

Any thoughts on croquis? Have you done one? Has anyone done an FBA on the Ruby Slip yet? Thoughts about Clovers or Gingers you haven't had a chance to chat about yet? Please let's talk!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Winter Haven

Hello Friends: Things are about to go all Xmas supernova here, so I should take this moment to remind you us that it doesn't matter if your quiche is too cooked in the crust and somewhat raw in the centre. Or if your parents are about to arrive in the midst of their (rather ill-timed, let's face it) mid-winter spiritual cleanse. No mind if you have 12 (or 50) unwrapped gifts. Don't even fuss if you need 12 gifts and you haven't a one.

I encourage a fire in the fireplace if possible. And some hot chocolate or egg nog (but homemade pls - that stuff from the grocery store is diabetes in carton!). You could always skip the nog in favour of the rum. How about some Xmas jazz on internet radio? Got dinner cooking? No? Then step out to your neighbourhood spot and let someone else do the cleaning up. Be sure to tip well!

Let's say you feel you've dropped the ball on home decorating. I bet you've got a local place that sells boughs and wreaths and greenery you can vase-up Noel-style in a jiffy.

No need to feel Xmas angst. Don't go all mid-winter miserable. Worst case scenario: all this insanity will be over in 3 days. And even if it's not your scene, don't they say a change is better than a rest?

I'll leave you with my final knitting project of 2011, a fantastic shawl, the Glen Haven (see Ravelry for more deets):

Have a wonderful next few days. I hope you have a chance to enjoy or reflect - or both! Here's to the days getting lighter. xoxo

Monday, December 19, 2011

Wherein I Brag and Why FBA Measurements Are Dubious Things

The Brag Part of the Post:

You know, when the inside of my garments look as if gerbils have assembled them, I confess. (No, I don't actually show you the evidence, cuz I do have a modicum of pride...) But when I make something and it's fantastically constructed, I'm not going to be all modest and coy. I mean, freakin' hell, that's the reason I spend half of my waking hours learning the craft.

To wit, meet Vogue 8323 the second:

I know it seems as if the arms don't fit, but I swear, on me they do.

Alas, whether it was the fabric or the lighting, this garment just would not take a good photo. There's no justice.

I would happily show you the inside seams, if I could bring myself to undertake the irritation that is undressing the dress form.

In this iteration, I did figure out some things:
  • Though I removed 2 inches of funnel neck, it wasn't enough. I'm starting to wonder if it's got something to do with the way the neck meets the front. Maybe this pattern is designed for a gazelle.
  • There's no option to roll down the neck and flip back the front v-pieces. The front does this very nicely but the seam going up the centre back piece prevents it from working at the back. I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out how to remediate this but, if it's doable, my brain couldn't crack the code. I even used some seam binding to try to pretty things up (you can see that in the photo with my rather unkempt thumb) but it was a no go.
  • The great thing about making half my wardrobe in navy is that I always have all manner of notions hanging around in the right colour!
  • In addition to altering the neck, this time I removed width from the arm by slimming the pattern piece at the centre. Unfortunately this made the shoulder totally pointy and I didn't think to smooth it on paper (really, I didn't know if that would wreck things). Now I know that shortening the shoulder by rounding the top of the piece is the right move. I was able to adjust this in the sewing, but it was a pain in the ass.
  • I shortened the sleeves.
  • I re-lengthened the waist (last time I made the "petite" modification) and I'm glad I did. After shortening the neck, I needed the extra in the waist. Does that even make sense?
  • This fabric likes my serger, and vice versa, much better than the coffee-coloured fancy fleece.
  • The fabric is beautiful - very slim. Totally elegant. I think it's a wool jersey.
  • Though I like this version, I think I'm done with the pattern. The neck thing bothers me. The whole shirt would look much better on me if I could roll open the v (and roll down the funnel).
The FBA Part of the Post:

At any rate, this is the other thing I did on the weekend: I rotated the dart on the FBAed bust piece of the Ruby Slip and I'm pretty sure I've got the same dimensions that I would have got if I'd simply followed Sherry's tutorial. Of course, I'm going to try her version to compare before cutting my fabric, but I find it endlessly fascinating that I might come up wit the same end result by using a completely different method.)

And apropos of the additional inches you'll need to add when doing your own FBA: The general rule is to add an inch for each cup size that your bust size deviates from the bust size that the pattern was designed for. Sherry designed for a B cup (as do many, if not most, commercial pattern companies). By this logic, if you have a D cup, you'll need to add 2 inches. This may work well for women who are not narrow in the back. But I can tell you from personal experience that the narrower your back, the less of an FBA you'll need to do, relatively speaking.

Think about it: The size 12 (which I'm making) has a full bust dimension of 36.5 inches. My full bust measurement is 37 - 37.5. My chest is, as we know, quite a bit larger than the B cup Sherry designed for. And still I only need to add 1.5 inches onto the pattern piece. My own version of the FBA (pinned to my dress form) bears this out. (Note - I've further adjusted the length since the version I posted photos of. Wait till my next post on this to see the side by side views.)

The point is that bust size in clothing is as much about the relationship between underbust and full bust as it is about actual dimensions. My underbust is 33 inches. My chest gets to pick up the fabric slack, as it were, that my back doesn't need.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this - basically all the time I spend making clothing - and I'd love to know if any of you have discovered this principle works for you too.

Let's chat about any of the 8000 things I seem to have written about in this post. Please!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday Morning Experiment

Oh, Friends, where are those Cinderella mice when you need them?

As I can't wait to read the upcoming tutorial on how to FBA the Ruby Slip - I've given it a few hours of, um, mega pattern alteration brain cells. In a strange twist, I've actually managed to use my dress form for its intended purpose, as opposed to its general function as "nice clothes hanger for photos". Disclaimer: I have no actual training, so today's hard-thinking might all be an interesting experiment.

Here's what you need to know. I'm not cutting anything until I see Sherry's methodology. My version retains a) the original size 12 pattern under bust circumference (though the side back and back pieces are now 1/2 an inch higher i.e. vertically longer) and b) v neck shape - but it does introduce a dart I cannot seem to get rid of by moving it out to the side. Maybe my imagination is simply failing me after hours of work. I suppose having attended fashion school has its benefits. :-)

At this moment, I am actually unable to articulate the scope of what I'm thinking and what I want to do. I wish I could plug you all into my brain for a few seconds like they do in scary scifi movies. It stresses me out, sometimes, to have so many things to say and do and to be incapable of making it all happen instantaneously.

But enough of my intriguing neuro-chemical landscape...

My sewing room is such a tip after 3 hours of doing practically nothing tangible that I find it hard to believe:

My altered pieces look rather different, and considerably larger, than the original size 12 pieces that I cut:

This is the side back. The one on the left is the altered version...

And here's the front piece, larger, altered version on the bottom. See how much smaller the unaltered piece is - admittedly, it doesn't have a dart, but still!

Side by side shot of the pieces..

Finally, here are a couple of shots of the fabric combos I intend to use to make 2 slips. I'm seriously counting on it that the FBA thing will work - mine or Sherry's! - or I'm sitting on some pretty expensive lace. That blue stuff cost 30 bucks a yard on sale. It's also quite heavy. I have no idea how I will dart or gather it. I intend to use lingerie straps with slides because I happen to have them and I like the look.

Note: I have underlining options for both the pink and blue lace, if extra structure is required.

Whatcha think?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Ms. Mojo Risin'

Quick post to tell you: I know what I'm sewing next. And next. And then after that.

My imagination, which seemed to vacate the sewing premises for a while, has returned in force.

If only I had time to indulge the impulse.

Will show fabrics anon but - with scarcely any time to blog, much less photo (I've been to 6 holiday gatherings since last Friday night), let me say that I had an hour on my hands in the garment district yesterday eve and I did some damage: silk charmeuse (navy), the most gorgeous square-patterned, modern-seeming lace (navy), some denim (navy), a very thin sweater knit with good drape (navy) (yes, I do see the theme)... Then I got some pink lace (not as special as the blue but well matched to the poly crepe I also purchased). I got some pink petersham at Mokuba - talk about selling the farm for dainties. Note: Mokuba has some stretch and woven faux fur in a number of great colours/widths/styles that are so lovely they're almost turning me to the fake side. But not quite. For 105.00 a metre, you too can own some of the wider stuff - and by wider I mean 12 inches (maybe). Finally, I bought a yard of really nice t shirt material in grey. Oh, and zippers and thread.

In brief:
  • Gonna use the lace / silky combos to make a pink and then navy slip with Sherry's great pattern. Good news, Ladies, she's going to do an FBA tutorial!
  • Gonna use the navy thin knit to make another version of this that drapes better and actually fits in the neck. It's a precursor to using Mardel's cashmere. I need to perfect things first.
  • Gonna use the denim to make another pair of Clovers that, hopefully, fit a bit snugger. I might even try to use the pink petersham to make the waist facing, if I can figure it out.
  • The grey will be for a T shirt for Scott, using the bespoke pattern I made him for his birthday.
I'm not in a rush. I have the whole holiday season to work on these. And to tell you / show you more about them. Please stay tuned.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Variations on a Theme

This is my third version of Stefanie Japel's One-Skein Shrug. Remember: You can actually participate in an awesome workshop (like a knit along) for FREE at (Note that the second version isn't up for viewing yet cuz it's a present for M. Alas, I think, by the time she opens it at Xmas, it will be on the outer edge of fitting. The child is practically my height now.)

I modified the pattern in one way - I made the sleeves longer. But, I learned something in the process which I will now share with you: The original cap sleeve (one which goes straight to ribbing for 8 rows) has a lovely proportion. However... if you add length without shaping the sleeves from the get-go, they are not snug. This would be fine if my upper arms were in need of some extra fabric but, as they are not, I feel the knit could be more fitted. I realized this 9 sleeve-lengthening rows into the process and, to ameliorate it, I started ribbing stat (and continued to do so for about 20 rows). Ribbing, people, it's not fun - esp. if you're a thrower...

Don't get me wrong - it's still a really nice shrug and I totally appreciate the cashmere content, not to mention the very practical black colour. See my Ravelry post on this for more deets...

The way it's constructed (all in one piece, top down, raglan-sleeved) means the alteration of the sleeve would be a bit challenging - not impossible, but might look odd if one were not careful. Mind you, I'm up to that challenge next time...

Sunday, December 11, 2011


The Xmas gift sweet-fest continues...




I think these caramels (really, they turn into toffee in the blink of an eye) are candy perfection. Just a little bit salty and very buttery. And they are so lovely to look at.


Man, they're an undertaking. The ingredients are simple and standard. The instructions are clear and concise. But for those who are unused to working with boiling sugar / candy thermometers and the great unknown of when soft ball starts morphing into hard ball, well, it can be a bit tense.

Then, assuming you make it through that hurdle (tip: pay attention to the thermometer readings, not your own sense that things look completely "wrong"), once it sets and it's cool, a gorgeous-looking slab in its baking dish, you have to cut it up into sweet little pieces. Lovelies, that is really hard on the hands! Takes about as long as making the caramel. Oh, and did I mention slicing up the wax paper into 4x4 inch pieces. It's more time-consuming and finicky than you would imagine. Finally, there's the actual wrapping, which would be fun if your fingers weren't already bruised from cutting the caramel pieces.

Guess this is why I don't make it every week. Cuz once you eat a piece you forget all the challenge and are transported to another time and place. It really is a labour of love.

Note: The recipe for these is online at Epicurious.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Do You Know About This?

The Ruby Slip Sew Along is the newest fun, community sewing project but, to start it on Monday will likely be a bit challenging. I mean, I am doing 8 zillion other things, like, constantly these days.

The great news is that you, and I, will be able to join whenever it suits us, so just have a look and get psyched.

From my perspective, I wonder if - and truly hope that - all of my (somewhat unsuccessful) bra patterning will assist me in getting the bust section to work for my unique shape. Sherry cut this for a B cup, which I am clearly not.

I also hope that I've got enough lingerie supplies stashed that I won't have to go out and source anything.

So, are you joining? I want to know!

Thursday, December 8, 2011


I just received the most awesome gift.

(I will post a photo, but in the interests of telling you about it right this minute, you'll have to imagine it...)

Mardel - she of impeccable taste fame - has sent me a yard (though it seems like more) of reversible cashmere knit fabric - slate grey on one side, fuchsia on the other. Imagine a sweater you might spend a zillion dollars on at Neiman Marcus. It could be made out of this knit. It's probably the nicest fabric I've had the pleasure to own.

Now I just need to find a) the perfect pattern and b) the courage to cut into it.

This post is a kind of preamble to a great giveaway I'm going to tell you about very soon. All I can say is that it has something to do with Mardel and something to do with an item you will want to own.

PS: Can anyone tell me where to find very high-end knit fabrics that can be purchased online? Preferably ones that won't cost 50 bucks in shipping alone...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Production Values

I had an absurdly productive weekend.

I really don't know how it happened. I mean, on Friday I was a puddle of goo after a fairly rigorous work day.

But there I was on Saturday, food shopping and putting up the tree (with M), wrapping all of my homemade gifts, making some homemade gifts and going to a party. Sunday came and I was experimenting with pasta recipes, sewing and (what a surprise) knitting again.

Note the revised strategy: I'm only knitting for me from here on in. At least for the foreseeable future. Oh, and I have no time frames associated with the completion of garments for me. After all, I'm going to be here when all is said and done.

At one point I got mad at Scott for eating a ripe pear on the basis that I was going to use it to make a crumble. That's when I realized I need to get a grip. I mean, I'm not exactly running a lifestyle empire.

At any rate, here's the quick win top I made (V8323):

Some thoughts:
  • I'm really glad I've used up the bulk of this fabric, cuz it's kind of nice but mainly icky. I don't know that it will stand the test of laundry. In which case it's a nice wearable muslin.
  • On that topic, oh man, my seam finishing is horrendous. Gotta work on that. (Let's blame it on the fabric.)
  • It's quite a clear and easy pattern (much as the name suggests). I made view A, though I added 3/4 sleeves, cut a straight 12 (used the "petite" shortening lines) and it fits pretty well.
  • Did I mention that serging princess seams is a crap shoot?
  • Nonetheless, I really like princess seams. I didn't like their line till I started sewing.
  • Not sure about the funnel neck. I may alter it the next time.
  • Also, I'll need to do some work on the sleeves. I used the ones meant for view B and they were too wide.
My final thought on the matter is SO liberating: Sewing doesn't have to be a total mathematical experience. (This premise helps when what you're sewing is a knit.) I cut an inch off the seam of the sleeves after basting them into the armscye. Yes, I know it would have been better to ease the sleeve cap in - I only just considered that this is probably what the pattern advised me to do - but things worked just the same. Is this my best work ever? Clearly not. Is it the best pattern ever? Not so much. But does this thing have some potential? I think it does.


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lifecycle of a Homemade Gift




This is the culmination of years of baking, a tried-and-true recipe, online ordering skills and a few labels.

I figured out that each batch makes enough cookies to put 14 (in the circle size I've chosen) into 3 bags. Good info.

The great thing about the dough is that it lasts for a week in the fridge so I made a second batch of it to use when I have some more time in the next few days (she says, hopefully). The cookie-baking part is pretty straight forward: roll, cut, refrigerate, bake and cool, then wrap. It's the dough-preparation that really adds an extra layer of complexity I'm not prepared to deal with on a weekday night.

The amount of planning and labour involved is not negligible but these cookies are insanely delish buttery/sandy/crumbly. (They are not pasty, wan shortbread.) Total cost for each gift: about 5 bucks. So, if you want to save some money but still show your love (and skillz), this is the project for you!

So, whatcha think?? Next up: caramel.

Update on posting recipe: Hey peeps, I'd LOVE to post the recipe but I cannot find it online anywhere and I don't want to infringe on copyright. Thing is, Michel Roux (the guy whose recipe I use) wrote this gorgeous book, in which you will find, not only this recipe, but so many others that will improve your life. I totally recommend it. You can find other sable recipes online but, I've noted, the ratios of butter to flour are not the same in those as in this one. What I can say is that it takes only 4 ingredients: butter (so much of this), flour, confectioner's sugar (not regular sugar!) and egg yolk.

Eclectic Perfection

Photo courtesy of Not Dressed as Lamb

This outfit blows my mind.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Challenge / Goal

Compelling personal projects notwithstanding, I'm officially on knitting hiatus. Not cuz I'm sick of it (strangely), but because my hands/wrists/arms/shoulders/neck need a rest. It's ok. I've largely finished the holiday gifts on my list. And baking awaits, donchaknow.

Having said this, the urge to sew gets a little stronger every day. How I miss the solitude of my sewga room, the hum of my machines.

Now's a good time to remind us all that I don't need anything. My desire to sew something is based entirely on my enjoyment of the craft and pretty new things. My intention is to make the next garment construction a stash-busting exercise, but I'm finding my fabrics on hand to be somewhat at odds with the patterns I'd like to sew (they being quick wins as we like to say in my industry). Hmmm...

The fabrics that call to me - either because of yardage or loveliness (or both) - are:
  • This amazing Versace that Mardel gave me. Everytime I look at it, I like it more.
  • The remainder of this orange 4-way stretch jersey.
  • A bizarre, on balance, crappy beige 4-way stretch fabric that has a strange, vaguely fleece-like quality (only the "good side" is the fluffy side and the nap is more rich-seeming than that of a sweatshirt). This is one of the first fabrics I ever bought, and I still haven't figured out what to make with it.
  • The top (slate) fabric, with beautiful drape, pictured here.
The patterns that appeal to me - either because they're "simple" or practical - are:
So, I put it out there for feedback. Do you have any suggestions?

For what it's worth, I have realized a few things over the past couple of days of sewing reconsideration:
  • I really like sewing and wearing Colette and Sewaholic patterns. Too bad I can't make another Sencha or Pendrell. Alas, I have a glut of them - though I do wear them all the time.
  • I'm so glad the Colette gift set is still available today. I bought the book (with 2 free patterns), recognizing that I need a) a new, staple skirt (the Ginger) and b) a good slip pattern (the Cinnamon). See, I really feel like making a slip this weekend, but I don't have a pattern on hand.
  • I'm much happier with my cache of knitting patterns than sewing patterns. I really have to find "the angle" when it comes to most of my sewing patterns. I wonder why that is...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


I really want to sew something. Something easy, that can be made in a weekend, that will look great.

Lord knows, I have enough patterns, enough fabric. I just need to find the time which, given the push to finish knitting, isn't there right now.

What would you sew (or are actually sewing??), if you could make anything, right now? Tell me! Maybe I'll want to sew it too. Maybe I'll try to find some way to fit in that project before Xmas.

I never thought I'd look forward to cutting fabric, but there you go.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Pick or Throw?

In my endless quest to knit better - which is to say more efficiently and more ergonomically and (ahem) more quickly - I've begun to look into different methodologies.

Those of you who don't knit might be bored out of your mind to learn that there are 2 predominant schools: picking (aka Continental or German or Left-Handed) and throwing (English aka British or Right-Handed).

Apparently, English knitting is the more popular North American style. Continental is the style most Europeans use (except some British, who learned from those who were quite political about using the English method, particularly during the War).

I learned the English method as a teenager, when I practiced the art for all of 3 weeks, and promptly forgot everything. When I began knitting again in April of this year, I automatically reverted to this method which, intriguingly, came back to me very quickly. I find my tension even and I am rather fast. Note: I'm a proficient typist and the kind of dextrous, obsessive compulsive sort who grooves easily with the handwork of knitting. I also get a shitload of practice.

As you know, this fall I've undertaken a stupid goal - the knitting or baking of all my Xmas items (or purchase of the odd few on Etsy). Mainly, I'm knitting, which means I spend every moment that's not earmarked for work or sleep doing some sort of project.

My back hurts. It's tight as a body-builder's and the tension is squeezing up into my neck and head. I am often in a lot of pain lately. I mean, I'm no stranger to headaches (which are the result of muscular tension), but this is out of control. I've actually done relatively little knitting this week because I just can't manage the pain I'm already in - never mind whether or not the knitting is actually contributing to the problem. I have to assume it is.

Note: I do yoga to assist me in staying limber and to undercut the pain, but it's barely scratching the surface at this point.

Long story short, I don't imagine I will be knitting in this volume again. But what to do about the 3 gift projects I've got left (and my own work, going forward)? It occurred to me I should learn Continental style.

Apparently Continental knitting is more ergonomic, more efficient (because it requires less broad movement), easier for lefties and the method that the fastest of all knitters use (except for wacky-ass Cottage knitting - scroll down to see the awesome video in Mardel's post).

I've spent the day learning and, so far, I have to say it's not so fabulous. No knitting is more left- than right-handed IMO, because knitting requires both hands and both sides of the brain. I'm an ambidextrous leftie - I do almost everything other than write, predominantly right-handedly - so maybe it's not surprising that "right-handed" knitting is easier for me. Of course, maybe it's just what I'm used to. Intriguingly, it's the left side of my back that's really struggling. And when one knits English-style, it's the right side that really gets the workout by "throwing" they yarn over the right needle in the action of creating the stitch. I should mention, there's a lot of fluidity to the action when you get into the groove. It's not all willy-nilly, as the term implies.

Today I also learned from Katy that one can knit English-style without actually throwing the yarn. I'm intrigued to learn more about this. Is it known as "lever-style" (something I found while digging around on the net for a few minutes earlier today)? Can anyone point me in the direction of a video that shows this style?

But enough about me. Whatch'all do when you knit? English? Continental? Some other fringe method I've never heard of? Any thoughts or feelings about pain when knitting? About the type of tension or speed you achieve when doing one method over another? Please share!

Friday, November 25, 2011

All Consuming

Check out this very thoughtful and articulate post on the nature and impact of first-world consumption, told from the very personal perspective of Zoe. I particularly appreciate her discussion of "new is a new concept".

This post really is worth reading.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Foot Hold

One year ago today, I broke my foot. Weary-brain-convinced that I was on the first rise, I turned around on my staircase and stepped down. In fact, I was on the fourth of 13 stairs, 19th-century steep. I landed in a seated position on my foyer floor. My left foot was twisted under the right side of my derriere. My body was entirely unprepared. I had no time to use my hands to break the fall (probably just as well, might have broken an arm.) It was sickeningly painful.

I freaked out. I was afraid to move or be touched. As I screamed at Scott to stay away (he was trying to help) while my kid chimed in to "leave Mummy alone. Don't touch her!", the common wall neighbours were obviously perplexed. (I learned this a couple of days later when I met them on the porch...)

The next day my (very kind) manager came to take me to the hospital. Stupidly, I'd waited out the whole night at home as Scott had convinced me I was over-reacting. By the time the doctors saw my foot, it - and my ankle - had swollen to 3 times its normal size. They took xrays and ultrasound and told me I had a particularly bad sprain. They gave me crutches and a prescription for a boot cast. When things were practically as ugly a week later, my family doctor had a look and freaked out. She was convinced it was broken and sent me to a clinic to be retested. Those tests revealed a minor break, in addition to the torn ligaments and tendons the hospital doctor had already diagnosed.

I spent 3 weeks at home thinking constantly about, and documenting, ways to ameliorate the healing process. I did 90 minutes of non-weight bearing yoga per day. I lay with my legs elevated (often right up the wall) for hours. I took supplements to diminish inflammation, used analgesic creams, had physiotherapy three times a week for 3 months. I had a lot of time to think.

Before I broke my foot, I imagined I'd go crazy if I couldn't walk, as per usual, an hour plus per day. I did not imagine how hard it would be to get up and down the stairs on my ass or the complexity involved in making food on one limb. I did not imagine the near impossibility of taking a shower. I couldn't imagine that I'd have ongoing foot pain for 8 months (though totally bearable, rather unpleasant) or that my brain would be really fuzzy for a good 6 weeks.

But I'm here to say that I did not go crazy (at least not over relative immobility). I did become a proficient online shopper. (If only I'd known how to knit!)

The great thing about Thanksgiving is that you don't have to cebrate the holiday in order to celebrate the concept.

So, here's a list of the things (in no particular order) I continue to be grateful for, when I remember this time last year:
  • That my workplace was incredibly accommodating and facilitated my ability to work at home.
  • That my manager took me to the emergency room.
  • That I didn't break something more serious.
  • That I managed to find zen, in my own small way, in being unable to walk normally for a few weeks.
  • That I had a great house in which to convalesce.
  • That I healed incredibly quickly, in the scheme of things (according to doctors and my physiotherapist)
  • That it didn't happen in January, which would have required me to negotiate everything in snow and ice.
  • That my husband and kid were supportive (and very helpful with the logistics).
  • That I had Xmas to look forward to.
  • That I live in a place with universal health care.
  • That I have good benefits.
  • That I could afford the deductibles and supplemental care without stress.
  • That I know how to use yoga therapeutically.
  • That I was also able to use it to maintain my sanity and to give me activity and pain relief.
  • That I have many friends, including those in my online community, who provided ongoing support.
  • That the injury gave me perspective in a fairly benign way.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Zig Zag

Here's the latest Xmas gift finished:

Rambler's Scarf by Elizabeth Sullivan

Actually, it just occurred to me that this is the third from latest gift. A shrug and tea cosy followed it. And now I'm back to making another one of these scarves in a different yarn and colour...

But isn't it pretty? Plus, it's easy, though I did alter the pattern by increasing the width by about an inch (4 stitches) and neglected to adjust one element of one row in every 8. Just slightly. Don't tell.

OK, crafters (and apologies to the non-crafters - I have to finish the 20 gifts I've committed to by next week(ish) before I'll have much energy to speak about other topics. Don't worry, though, I've got a few lined up...):
  • Do you think making rectangular scarves is ultra-boring? I mean, I know they're lovely and everyone needs a great rectangular scarf, but man, the repetition!
  • How far along are you on completing your knitting or sewing gifts?
  • Are you starting to resent everyone cuz they're about to get some seriously stylish and useful objets, while your 18 projects languish in the corner?
After the knitting, I start the baking. I've decided to make, as my core gifts, sable (see this ye olde post for a summer presentation of the shortbread) and fleur de sel caramels. I just ordered, and received, the most adorable packaging! I don't know that I'll order wrapping online again - the experience had its drawbacks, though client service wasn't one of them. I think there must be a great packaging place in downtown TO that can sell me the same calibre of item at a lower cost.

At any rate, I'm going to put the cookies in perfect gift-sized windowed cookie bags and the caramels in these little velcro-sealed boxes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

An Autumn Tableau

I was totally transported by this photograph:

Photo courtesy of Desire to Inspire

What is it about sunlight through a denuded forest? Or that table? Or the adorable cake tray and lid? Don't you want to have a snack and a glass of wine looking at that scenery?

Check out the rest of the post. I don't actually love the majority of the interior design (I find it cold), but what a gorgeous home.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

High on Drugs

Honestly, at this point, I have a habit. If I were to photograph the array of knitting goods receipts I've racked up in the last month, you would be horrified. I spend so much time at the freakin' yarn stores, it's a miracle I have time to knit. And, btw, I desperately need to knit. Like, every second of the day.

But never mind the 8 zillion gifts I'm going to make (4 zillion of them are done!), there are so many things I want to knit for me. I just found a shawl pattern that wasn't online for purchase anywhere (I saw a photo of it on Ravelry). I ended up sourcing it at an LYS in Michigan. They're mailing it.

And don't think I've forgotten about sewing. I totally want to sew - but there's just no time right now! Furthermore, I absolutely don't need anything new - nada on the shirts, pants, dresses and skirts. How can I justify making another garment. Where will I put it?

What can I say? These are the problems to have.

A couple of other things...

I've decided to buy all of my wrapping supplies online this year - from a small business in Niagara-on-the-Lake. I'm sick and tired of shopping for them (I do recycle a lot of wrapping, but not that for gifts I give to friends). I found a place and I'm about to put in an order. Can't wait to see how this works. It means I'm going to have some super wraps for my baked goods.

I really am trying to make as many items as I can this year. I'm sick of inconsiderate consumption. I would love to receive any of the things I intend to give. So that's this year's plan.

And, a propos of that, here's a couple of shots of my latest gifts:

See my Ravelry projects page for more info about the good, bad and the ugly...

So tell me: How are you going to give this season? Is it homemade all the way? Business as usual? Total austerity? Do tell.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Clip Trip

The inimitable Patty wrote a great post today that reminds me of this one I wrote back in 2009. You know, I just wore my Cashin sweater this week. It's not something that sees a ton of action, but it makes semi-regular occurrences. I love it tremendously with every wear. That's intelligent fashion.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Moss Stitch

Gaptastic Cowl by Jen Geigley

Check out the knitting deets about this on my Ravelry page...

This is just a quick break between knitting stints to show you the latest Xmas item I've created. I chose the pattern based on Tasia's recommendation. I did modify the size based on the recipient and the need to conserve yarn, but I don't think it has impinged on its loveliness.

This yarn was kindly gifted to me by a work colleague who bought it to knit up a sweater and then developed wrist unhappiness. I am blown away by her generosity (700 yards!) - and by the baby alpaca fabulousness. I likely would not have purchased chunky weight wool. As you know, it's not my preferred gauge. But now I've learned that great projects come in all needle sizes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

This is SO My Style...

Photo of Public Chicago, courtesy of Remodelista. Click on the link and check out all the pics. You will not regret it.

Y'all know I love me some good design - pared down (veering toward modern, but never cold) - and I love me some hotels.

I really want to try this place out... And, go figure, it's in the realm of affordable.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In Which I Remind You That You Can't Judge A Bra By Its Size

Fascinating occurrence here: I just got another parcel (that's 2 in one week, in case you're counting) from Figleaves UK. I've spoken about this online experience numerous times (just use the search and see). You know how up I am with the Figleaves experience.

This time I was shopping for basics - specifically beige bras to wear under all kinds of tops requiring, well, beige bras. I didn't want too lacy, too bumpy - observable.

The ones I purchased are the Triumph Doreen - see the links for my previous posts on this bra. I have strong feelings about it. And since I've owned the black version for about a year, I'll offer up my latest perspective: It's MEGA retro. I don't mean "modern nod to vintage". I mean, hands down, exactly like they designed it 60 plus years ago. From hardware to fit.

I will say it fits large. Go down a size at least. (Unfortunately no one seems to stock it in a back size smaller than a 34 - but it's not a stretch-er. A 34 on the second hook will serve you well if your back is a 32.) If your size is, say, a 32F, I'd suggest buying a 34D. Remember, for each back size you increase, you should decrease the cup size. In this case I'm advocating, depending on a few factors, going down one additional cup size.

I'll also say, it's much chicer, IMO, in "poudre" i.e. beige than in black. But, even given that I bought it one size down, next time I'll buy it an still another cup size smaller.

The fit is seriously high and pointy. Lord, I love that silhouette. I don't care if you tend towards "modern" or vintage - that's a great shape, IMO.

The second bra I purchased is the Panache Melody. It's a balconette that veers towards (but doesn't descend into) a demi. This one, I chose in my "regular size" and, while it fits, it is definitely smaller in the cup than the "smaller" Doreen bra. It gives a nice, smooth (despite a bit of lace), round shape. Very practical, but lovely. What I appreciate about this design is that it's high on the sides but delicate from the front. This improves the supportiveness without sacrificing the look. But ain't no way this thing compares to the Doreen in terms of support. The Doreen is a freakin' tank.

I bought both of these bras sight unseen. Yes, that's risky, but I did have some understanding of how the Doreen fits. Panache bras seem to be all over the map in terms of sizing so I went with the size that usually works on me, and it did. I was prepared to return them. I'm happy I won't have to. In truth, I've tried on so many bras that I have experience and intuition on my side. The only way you can gain those, is by trying again and again (though not nec. online, if complex returns don't appeal).

So, let's get to the interactive part of this post:
  • Thoughts about the pointy silhouette? I don't think it's universally flattering - I mean, it takes all kinds, but it is one I love. What do you think? (Note: Gertie wrote a good post on this recently...)
  • Have you worn either of these styles of bra? If yes, tell us more.
  • Do you buy your bras online? Do you return as many as you keep?
Let's chat!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pins and Needles

The title of this post is utterly apropos given that I've waited more than 3 weeks for Canada Post to deliver my tiny (but lovely) sweater clasp. It came from the eastern seaboard, people. As the seller wryly observed, I could have walked there to pick it up by now. You know, I loathe paying big time shipping costs to have things couriered, but the way our postal system is going, I can see the allure. My parcel got held up at Customs?!? It was entirely properly labeled. It is what it purported to be. I wonder what Customs was doing with it for 2 plus weeks as I waited with bated breath...

Let me say that my love of Etsy persists. Pink Rhino Vintage is a terrific shop. I can't say enough for good client service. Despite the lag in delivery time, I would happily purchase from this vendor again.

But onto the pics of the Split Neckline Cap Sleeve Tee, yes?

You may recall that I made substantive changes to the original pattern. Just have a look at my Ravelry page for deets. You may also recall that the yarn turned into mush when I blocked it - a truly unpleasant experience.

It did return to its original dimensions, largely, after 30 minutes in the dryer, but it's not quite as tight (let's not mince words) as I'd like it to be. Nonetheless, I think the sweater pin gives it some ballast. I'm going to try to get with this thing.

Whatcha think?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

It's That Time of Year

If it's the beginning of November, I must be getting ready to give you all kinds of advice on how to get with the Season. I have my more festive years, and my less festive years, but I can always relate to good gifts. (Spoiler Alert: If you are one of my peeps, and you like surprises, don't read on...)

As it happens, I somehow managed to commit myself to the construction of 15 knitted Xmas items. Some of them are done (6 things) but, by the math, I figure if I knit my fingers to the bone every minute between now and Dec. 20, everything should be perfect! Nothing like setting practically unreasonable goals and calling them learning opportunities.

In truth, as I work, I happily imagine all of the stunned impress-edness of my giftees as they stare at their new special thing. (Regrettably, I just read an old post on Yarn Harlot's blog in which she mentions that her sister - whom she knit for incessantly - doesn't actually like the quality of hand knit items. And I can sort of understand that. I don't like nubby, floppy, open weave, hairy yarn things. I just hope everyone loves the kind of handmade I do! And, while we're talking about this, can you imagine having the world's most famous knitter as your sister and not being blown away by her presents?? Just goes to show...)

I'm chronicling the fabulous journey on Ravelry but, in case you don't hang there, here are a few pics to set the scene:

Vancouver Fog - Long Version

Vancouver Fog - Short Version (There's a medium length but I haven't made it. Short version is great because it doesn't take up too much yarn... Seems that when I don't have enough to make the long version, I only have enough to make the short one.)

You'll note that the cable on each grey glove is exactly mirror-image. I forgot to do that on the shorter ones. I don't think it makes a tremendous difference, but the asymmetry bothers me.

And here's the beginnings of a scarf with an interesting repeat (K1, bring yarn to front, slip stitch purlwise, K3). Note, I mean the result is interesting - not the actual knitting:

Yes, I am using my overage of the questionable Debbie Bliss Rialto DK. Since I've learned that it can be washed and heat dried, and since scarves don't have to fit like sexy sweaters, I think it's a good bet. What I like about wash and dry yarn is that the recipient doesn't need to worry about going to extra measures when cleaning.

So, are any of you hand making gifts this year? What kind? Even if you don't give them, how do you feel about homemade gifts? Be honest!