Tuesday, July 30, 2013


The good news is that I had a follow up on my MRI and my brain appears to be normal! (Wait, my mirthless neurologist advised me, with no trace of cute, that my brain is "healthy". Normal is not something she can comment on.) The less good news is that I still have to deal with these headaches and to find some sustainable fix, all without the benefit of triptans, those serious meds that nonetheless beat migraines into submission.

The other good news is that I have a renewed sense of motivation and I booked an appointment with my naturopath, a practitioner who helped me tremendously a few years ago when I was falling apart from long undiagnosed postpartum depression and anxiety - not to mention a subclinical thyroid disorder and some serious adrenal fatigue. I wrote about this in 2008, btw, during a week long series on health and lifestyle.

I believe in, and have practiced, many alternative modalities, though I don't talk about them much here. Over the last year I've been seeing an acupuncturist to try to manage my headaches (and to deal with the fallout over pertussis). While I totally believe in the effectiveness of acupuncture - my parents are acupuncturists with a longstanding clinic - the acupuncturist I saw recently did not crack the code vis a vis my headaches.

The truth is, I've changed a lot since I re-established a healthy, sane lifestyle a bunch of years ago. I'm in the midst of serious hormonal change and I have to consider new ways of approaching diet and supplementation to manage it. The former regimen isn't going to work for my current self. But even as I'm very motivated to resolve this, as I must be, I'm also tired.

I won't be the first to posit this, but nature is an evil bitch to throw pubescent daughters together with perimenopausal mothers. Furthermore, I won't lie. It's rough times here and I'm not exactly remaining objective or equanimous. (Mind you, neither is my kid.)

So that's my mini update on this topic - which, I suspect, I speak about entirely too often and in polite company.

Today's question: Wise Ladies who have transcended this particular life stage: Can you offer those of us going through it (ok, namely me) how your life is beautiful and healthy on the other side.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Summer Series: Perfecting the Clone Pattern (Prototype B, Done)

The reason I'm showing you these pics isn't cuz I've made a gorgeous bra that fits, lifts, supports and strives towards world peace. (Shocking, I realize.)

The reason I'm showing them is to give you a sense of the degree of projection I have never before managed to produce in a hand-sewn bra:

If you know of a commercial pattern that approximates this shape, please let me know. But I suspect there isn't one.

Be assured this thing is held together by paperclips and a prayer. There's some really crap stitching happening, not to mention that I didn't know how to do a number of things so, while I learned on this go round, my boning was slightly too long, as were my wires. They are not technically enclosed. Oh well.

I refuse to get all down on my technique here because, seriously, I have never come so close to making a bra that I could wear. And you can't do it all, all at once when you're on this kind of learning curve. At least I can't.

Interestingly, the upper cups in this version are too large at the top, specifically where the upper cup meets the strap side of the lower cup (to which the strap attaches). I did use elastic stabilizer but I suspect I didn't pull it taut enough. Nonetheless, the last prototype was too big there also, in just the same way, and the lace was entirely different. I am pretty amazed that I know how to fix that (at least I think I do :-)). I didn't want to shorten the lower seam on the upper cup (the seam that attaches to both lower cups). My solution: a dart. I pinned the the dart into the fabric, compared it (with ruler) to the paper piece and then made a flat pattern version (wide side at the top of the cup and the dart point on the lower seam) that followed its slightly diagonal direction. I removed the dart by cutting one of the legs (almost to the point, but not quite) and then moving it on top of the other. Then I trued up the top of the cup.

Alterations for the next version:
  • Narrower gore still that makes a slight concave curve at the base
  • Shorter boning with different position
  • Add length to back band at closures, narrow the closure edge by 1/4 inch on either side (so that it isn't too wide for the closures
  • Wider straps
  • The top cup alteration, see above
Anyway, this is where I'm at. I may go crazy and make the next version with the beige supplies I bought. I really need a beige bra peeps. That interim Wacoal one I bought (more to come) is too big in the cup and too wide in the under wire. The wire digs in really weirdly and painfully, leaving red marks. This has never happened with a bra before.  Here's hoping necessity really is the mother of invention.

So, what do you think of this weird journey so far?

The Summer Series: Perfecting the Clone Pattern (Prototype B)

I'm still not going to allow optimism to influence this experience, but occasionally I have to relax my grip.

I mean, it's getting rather close - in a positive way. Can't comment yet on the bra's potential supportiveness - I'm still working on fit and one can only manage so many things in one muslin - but let me show you some pics of the pattern I cut going into this version:

That's the layout of one half of the bra, from the bridge aka front gore (on the left of the pic), to the band on the right.

I urge you, Ladies of the curves, to observe the relative size and shape of the outer cup lower cup (that thing that looks just like a human heart!). Note the proportional tininess of the inner lower cup and the thinness of the bridge.

Here's a shot of the underlined upper cup lace:

The rest of the bra is pink, with beige accents. I think it's going to look good but one never knows...

Finally, here's a shot of both sides of the band, which I've doubled up (beige on inside side, pink on the right side) with an aim to increasing its firmness:

I'm about 2/3 through the process of constructing prototype 2 at this point, which will not be wearable but is getting close.

What I realize I'll have to change in the next version is:
  • Add extra length to the back band if I intend to double the powernet (and I do). This is too firm at the current length to close without pulling. It's easy to add length to the back at the beginning and you can always cut it down. But you can't go in the other direction.
  • Change the angle of the boning - I aligned it with the centre back but I think I should have aligned it to the side cup.
  • Figure out how to attach the back band to the cup so that it aligns perfectly. I've got some wonk going on. Further to this, I want to use picot at the base of the lower inner cup (to carry the theme along of that on the band and the bridge.
There are many other little alterations - cutting the top of the bridge down by 1/3 inch and lengthening/shortening pieces by a smidge. So pls. stay tuned.

I do intend to show a finished version of this prototype B which, while not able to be worn, will still warrant a look - if only to show the cup projection.

Today's question: Whatcha think of the flat pattern pieces. Whack, huh?!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Summer Series: Perfecting the Clone Pattern (Prototype A)

So this is the weekend I'm holing up in the sewga room to finish prototype A of the Lola bra clone. The theory is that this will become the pattern I'll use to make the Cherry Bomb bra.

Wow, this has taken a long time. A little bit of work followed by a lot of thinking to lead me through the most truncated of processes.

At this point, prototype A should be done in a short time. I've got to add the upper elastic, straps and closures. In the process of making it, I've revised the pattern (one paper shaving at a time) to the extent that I have amassed a pretty collage which now sits on my cutting mat.

With all the emphasis on the technicalities of perfecting fit and the technique of merging all the pieces so that they sew up neatly, I forgot how intuitive the actual bra-sewing process is. You have to do it to know how to do it. It's all about cutting bits of elastic and managing negative ease. Mind you, that's the part I like (though not as I'm re-establishing a rhythm, natch!).

Here's what I want to say now, before the next round of chips fall:

I refuse to be optimistic about this. Optimism has got me nowhere in the past. Having said this, knowledge is most definitely power, my friends. With knowledge, I am 1000 times closer to creating a bra that fits. I can feel it and see it.

Because of what I know now about a) fitting and pattern alteration b) specifically bras and fit and c) sewing technique - not to mention confidence - these are some highlights of applied learning while making this prototype:
  • I've used fabric adhesive to attach layers of stabilizing mesh to the upper cup and to affix 2 layers of powernet together (for a stronger band)
  • I've been able to figure out exactly how and why seam allowances on partial band bras are very fluid (and depend entirely on the width of picot elastic being used).
  • I've determined how I'll insert boning into the bra (though that's something I'll tackle in the next prototype.
  • I've adjusted the flat pattern pieces in accordance with what I've learned while sewing up the bra.
I now know that there is NO way any commercial pattern I've ever come across would ever work for me because those bras are cut for breasts with a wide root. It appears that independent pattern designers are playing the odds just like everyone else and they assume that a woman who wears a large cup wears a wide cup.

I urge you, if you fall into the large cup / small band / narrow frame category - aka if you wear between a 28-32 F-H (just an approximation) - that you must clone a bra that you own - that you know actually fits. Otherwise, you're probably wasting your time. I would not have been able to alter any commercial pattern, by sight and with my current knowledge of fit and bras (which isn't negligible), to turn the pieces into the shape I require. They are in NO way the same size, shape or in the same proportion to one another as the pieces that comprise the bras I wear.

So that's today's bit of info. I do intend to show the next prototype and photos of the flat bra pieces - I'm not quite finished making changes and I don't want to be confusing by showing things at a zillion different stages.

Today's question (for the bra makers): Do you fall into the small back/large cup range and have you discovered the same challenge I've documented above? Or have the commercial patterns worked well for you? Please, let's talk shop!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I Spoke Too Soon...

At the risk of seeming like an idiot, I take it all back about Banana Republic failing on the T shirt front. I went there on a whim yesterday - even though on no-spend watch, they sent me a coupon for 40 per cent off and I'm weak - and found this T in a bunch of colours:

Banana Republic Piped Luxe Tee - The click-to photo shows the T in a diff colour and with better fit, IMO...
(Trust me, the fit is much better than it looks on this model who, while lovely, is really badly styled and wearing a shirt that doesn't fit her particularly well. And that thing around her neck is jewelry, btw, not some weird neck decoration attached to the shirt.)

The composition of the top is rayon, Tencel (why am I not surprised?) and a minority amount of cotton. Very good combo!

It's even available in petite size (which is what I bought, what with the narrow shoulders and the short waist). The small fits beautifully and the fabric is delicious. It skims where it should and clings where it should. A narrow band of satin trim at the crew neck is a very sweet element that gives the shirt extra scope. You can easily dress it up. And, on sale it cost 30 bucks (including tax). Which is why I bought 3 and why I would have bought a fourth if only they'd had it in black.

Alas, it's not avail in the more basic colours online anymore - and it's fairly picked over at the store too.

Gotta say, BR had a zillion totally adorable T shirt style tops, in lovely fabrics, in store - many of them with stripes (which is my fave, of course). 

So, if you happen to go check it out, do tell me what you think, ok?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Playing the Numbers

Though I'm not one for dwelling on the finished product (not that I don't enjoy it), I feel an urge to return, briefly, to this Summer Series' Five in Five.


Well, that capsule wardrobe is the best fucking thing I've ever put together - as a fulsome fashion endeavor, I mean.

You'll recall I searched my stash and made:
  • A denim skirt (New Look 6843) - very easy and so useful "basic", you should have one in every colour
  • A slate blue, ruched, sleeveless top (Vogue 8790) - so not easy, but still very wearable, it's a fancy, cool summer shirt
  • A slate grey, tailored, knit dress (Vogue 1287) - insanely tricky, but man, it's fine...
  • A floral sack dress (Vogue 1179), which still manages to be insanely chic for all of its sack-ness
  • A faux wrap dress (Vogue 1027) in peacock blue, with pockets!
At first I was quite dismayed because a) it was a fairly un-fun process making these garments and b) much of my stitching looked like the work of a person who's never sewn before.

However, as time has passed - and as experience has taught me - the stitching is almost irrelevant. The good drape and fit, I'm happy to say, are what has endured.

The Toronto summer began a mere month ago, and in that time I have worn every garment each week. Every time I wear one of these pieces, at least one person asks me about it complimentarily, in such a way that I know it's a solid hit.

Every time I put on one of these garments I feel terrific. Stitching notwithstanding, I would have been thrilled to buy any of them at the shops.

And what makes it utterly fabulous is that I spent less on the whole lot than I might have on a skirt or top. Including tax, shipping and notions/extra materials.
  • The denim was 10.00 a yard and I used a remnant of about .75 yards
  • The Tencel I used on the top and the sexy, tailored knit dress was 10.00 a yard and I used 3.5 yards over both garments
  • The floral, cotton jersey was 5.00 a yard and I used 1.5 yards
  • The blue Modal was 10.00 a yard and I used 2.25 yards
(I seem to be very comfortable spending 10.00 a yard...)

Even including the notions I spent only 80.00 for what I consider to be 7 garments - because the skirt and top are perfect worn together but they can also be worn with many other things. These are garments that fit my body in a made-to-measure sense.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I know that for every Five in Five there are 9 bras that don't fit. Hell, I'm the first to say I hated much of the process and the workmanship is crap.

But seriously, it doesn't matter. I wear it. I love it. It fits me. It suits me. I made it. Lord, I love this constellation of events.

What's the best (from the perspective of overall wearability) garment or capsule collection that you've ever made?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Where Have All The Good T Shirts Gone?

No, really. Time was, you could go to the Gap or Banana Republic and find a substantial cotton/lycra blend for a decent price. You know, the kind that smooths over everything without clinging. The kind that doesn't stretch out beyond all recognition within 10 washes. The kind that isn't sort of see-through (not that I begrudge the modern, translucent fabrics when they're what I want).

I don't want to make my own t shirts. Sure, I spent a month creating a sloper for just this purpose, a couple of years ago. But I can't really find the kind of fabric I'm searching for on the bolt either. Not to mention, it's not exciting sewing. I'd need to find a perfect fabric, which called to me for t shirts only, in order to be motivated to sew another t shirt. (When I go through my next t shirt sweat shop phase, you can remind me of this post...)

A few years ago, when in Quebec City, I went to this little store called Paris Cartier (I think) on Avenue Cartier (in the Montcalm area which, btw, is totally where I'd live if I lived in QC) and bought a blue and white striped, crew neck T. So awesome was the thick, soft, extremely resilient fabric (which has such good recovery I'm still wearing the thing weekly), that it's lasted hundreds of wearings (though it's on its last legs). The brand - which I've only ever seen at this boutique - is Danish, called Jackpot.

This trip, I found another of the T shirts - this one in pure white - and I happily purchased it though, sadly, I sense it's too sheer to wear on its own. The drape and fit, however, are awesome.

Believe it or not, there appears to be but one store in TO that sells Jackpot, and it's in the east end (on the Danforth, near Carrot Common). I don't really go east, as anyone will tell you. But I might have to make an exception. Or order from Denmark online :-)

So desperate am I, I've even got to the point that, for the right t shirt, I'll spend 70-100 bucks. (Of course, I'll wait till the sales and spend 35.00-50.00, but you know what I mean.) But honestly, if I don't want the T to look cheap, I might have to actually throw money at these, the most predisposed to disposable of garments.

Between the neutral bra I can't find, and the perfect t shirt to go atop it, I'm feeling serious fashion anxiety. Given our recent heat wave, the other day I wore a thin-ish white T with a sub-optimal bra (right colour scheme, too lacey) and the result was horrendous. Oy.

So, today's questions: What's your go-to t shirt brand? What do you look for in a t shirt? How much will you spend? And - I need to know - what's the biggest hole in your wardrobe currently? Maybe we can help each other...

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Summer Series: The Cherry Bomb (More Precursor)

Ah, I've been managing a special kind of apres-vacation ennui this week, made somewhat more complex by new things afoot at work (namely an exciting, upcoming transfer to a new branch) and a freakin' heat wave. You are correct in your assumption that I will complain about the weather, whatever it is. It's a thing we Canadians do. But honestly, I feel like I'm living in the rain forest.

At any rate, things have been busy and sweaty. The weekend will be full with socializing and reclaiming the child, but I've been working apace at my Empreinte rub-off (clone) and here are a few new things I can share:
  • I don't know how it is that I have an entire shelf of bra-making supplies and fabrics, and somehow I still had to spend 100 bucks on new lingerie supplies. Partly it's that I've made 9 bras and numerous prototypes and those things eat through bits and pieces (which one doesn't buy overly much of in any given colour). Sure, I have zillions of straps and lots of picot. I just don't have enough of one thing to match with another. Y'all know I've got a kit for the final version of this new bra, but I'm going to have to make a couple of muslins first - which I cannot stop myself from believing might be wearable - though not if I make the 3 cups in different fabrics with elastics that don't match. So yeah, I bought new stuff for that purpose. (Feel free to roll your eyes - I can't see you.) Moreover, I am SO desperate for a new beige bra (I have a whole story about how I found 2 options and they've both got lost in the mail) that I'm buying the materials to make one "once I perfect this pattern". We really better hope this works or I'm going to have to bonfire the lot.
  • A propos of this, don't buy more than 1/4 yard of any given fabric unless you really know that the bra you're going to make a) fits perfectly and b) will be made identically more than once. I wish I didn't have so many fabric ends. Mind you, if I had a pattern that worked, I could probably find a way to repurpose many of these bits. Another challenge is, alas, that many of the supplies I've bought (aka 8000 pairs of wires) have turned out to be flimsy and just don't work. I've tried 3 types of (inadquate) power net and so much useless lace. Sure, you may be able to make your own bras for 15 bucks each. It'll just cost you $1000 to get there.

  • As always, and for this I am SO grateful - when I move into the bra muslin phase, a community of wonderful sewists comes out of the woodwork to assist me. So far, this time, Amy (she of the recent, fab blog bra-sew along) and Norma (she of the recent, fab bra-making book) have been invaluable supports. Y'all know how I spoke (last post) about the potential requirement to stabilize the cup seams with some kind of channeling? Well, they've both advised me on a couple of different ways to go about this. Once choice is to get 15 or 40 denier tricot and cut it in bias strips (the method of attachment is currently open to discussion and, as I have a few ideas, I'm going to wait to tell you which one I think is best). Another option is to use flat wire channeling, but it might not be discreet enough. Again, so much depends on available supply.
  • It's finally occurred to me that, among other things, a reason I haven't ever been able to make a bra that fits is because (bra pattern instructions being mediocre as they often are and given that I've often modified patterns without a depth of experience) I've been using the instructions for full band bras while I've actually been trying to make partial band bras. That means I've been ignoring the extra width of seam allowance required to enclose the channeling into the cup. In a full band bra, you attach the channeling to the band frame. In a partial band bra, you attach the channeling to the interior cups. 
  • Finally, I should advise that - to make a rub off (aka clone of an pre-existing bra that you do not take apart first) of a bra that is in a larger cup volume - it's tough (understatement x10) to pin the original bra in such a way that you can a) maintain an understanding of grain line and b) so that you can pin incredibly curved, sewn seams in the flat plane. Grain line establishment - when cloning a working bra - is still a mystery to me. I know that pinning the full bra to a board with grid lines should help but, trust me - I did that and the shape of these pieces has required much reworking. Like a week's worth. This time, though, I'm not fucking around. I have walked every freakin seam line (not cut line, peeps, seam line) and I will not cut fabric until every paper line matches and the shape of the pieces yields the shape of the finished bra. Furthermore, you can decide whether you think I'm an idiot or a genius, but - having bent numerous pins beyond recognition - it occurred to me that I could put on the freakin' bra and hold the partially traced pieces (on a larger piece of tracing paper) up against my actual body in order to ensure I was getting an accurate measure. Sure, you can't pin this way, but with a helper you can easily find the seam lines of any given piece and trace them adequately. I didn't even have a helper and I managed it with a mirror and a lot of trial and error.
So, that's where we're at now. I can't say I expect to complete a bra this weekend. I don't think the time will present itself. But I do hope to make some headway with a toile, if possible. Please stay tuned.

Today's questions: Have you had challenges dealing with the curved seams when trying to clone a working bra into flat pattern pieces? How have you managed?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Yellow Suede

In May, I bought a pair of sandals on a whim. It was the first nice day in what seemed like 3 years. I was taking a vacation day. The sandals were blue and architectural. And sexy. But it was not meant to be.

Everytime I tried them on (with the objective to wear them that day), I noted signs of the discomfort I was sure to feel within 10 minutes of walking. The shoes looked great - but they were slightly pinch-y in the (peep-hole) toe-box. The inside sole was a mildly textured, which was annoying. The sandals zipped up the back and I sensed the back closure was going to give, or not, and I wasn't willing to take the chance.

The thing is, 99.99% of the time, I'm excellent at returning things as soon as I've decided an item is not for me. But, between jury duty and work being crazy and near constant rain and headaches... well, I didn't get around to it.

Five weeks went by. To its credit, the boutique gave me the opportunity to exchange the shoes for another pair of the same price or higher. (I'd missed the return and credit milestones by quite a bit.) I tried on every pair of sandals in the store. I knew my window of redemption had all but closed and I wasn't prepared to be saddled with a pair of uncomfortable sandals I'd rarely wear.

In an irony, the day I came in for the exchange, every shoe in the place was on sale for 25% off. Now the blue sandals hadn't been cheap. To find another pair of the same value at 25% off was impossible.

Balisi, the shop, did let me use the extra towards a surprisingly practical travel bag:

Co Lab Gillian Crossover
(Just to switch gears for 3 seconds, this bag is made of indestructible PVC but it looks entirely like leather. It is the perfect size and shape for wandering around on vacation. My other travel bag, by M0851, is great but too small for my huge sunglasses case (which I cannot be without in this era of light sensitivity).  This bag has numerous little compartments making it optimal for travel. The price is also right. I can't say I love fake leather, but sometimes it has its place - like when one has to store things on the floor in the train or trudge through an absurd, shorts-soaking rain deluge (ugh) while walking up the mountain in Mtl. Sometimes, it's really nice not to have to care about the state of one's bag.)

Anyway, back to the sandals. There were few pairs remaining for me to try in my size, what with everything having gone on sale for 25% off.

I finally decided on these (the only pair I could get with stylistically that was also comfortable - and, let me tell you, comfortable they are!):

Zinda 8544 Ante Mango
They're still on sale at Balisi (where I bought them and which also has an online shop).

The soles are leather (they're made in Spain using that insanely soft suede and leather that feels like clouds). Of course, suede sandals are the epitome of stupid - especially in Toronto, since the weather's gone all UK on our asses these past few years - but really, they were the only choice short of forfeiting 200 bucks.

I can't say that yellow and brown shoes are my go-to colour scheme, but these are a) SO comfortable, b) so neutral, when you get right down to it and c) of the perfect height to be sexy without being trashy (or uncomfortable). They fit my foot perfectly - which makes any shoe look that much more attractive.

This is one of those purchases I would never have made, had circumstances not dictated, but I'm actually really happy with the outcome. Admittedly, the shoe is not dainty. (It's not as clumsy as it looks in the photo, however.) It's only wearable in certain weather. But it's walkable for miles and it gives one very nice calves. It looks great with jeans (skinny or trouser) and equally good with a denim skirt or shorts. The yellow may stand out (if you wear white) or recede into the background. The shape is retro, which is to say it actually looks like a shoe from the 70s, not like some reproduction designed to appeal to women who completely missed that decade. And, did I mention that they're comfortable?

So, today's questions: Have you ever had a purchase moment like this, wherein a particular item would not have been your first choice but it grows on you despite that? Have you tried Zinda shoes and can you tell us anything about the brand? Would you ever wear yellow shoes? Let's talk.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A Little Craft Update (Culminating in Masses of Info about Making Bras)

It occurs to me that, as a crafter, this blog keeps me sane.

At this moment, almost holidayed out, I find myself at a weird impasse. To wit:

The Summer Series: Boucle Jacket: Well, I finished every freakin' last piece, blocked them all to perfect specifications, purchased all of the buttons and petersham and started seaming. Fucking hell. The shoulders are marginally too wide. (In case you sense a rant coming, you're right...) I didn't mention - as I might have had a nervous breakdown discussing it - that I had to reknit the sleeves above the inflection point (the place where they join to form the underarm) because somehow my 2 weeks of math yielded a sleeve cap that was too long and wide. Fuck math.

On the second pass I just eyeballed it and I got a much better result. Alas, the excess width, I sense, is more about the shoulder width than how it abuts to the sleeve cap when seamed. Now, I'm not going to panic. That's so last month. I'm no idiot and I'm fairly certain I can resolve this issue if I sit back and think. And wait. And process some options rather than reaching for the first one. For what it's worth, the first one is to re-seam with a greater seam allowance which will probably do the trick. But I don't want to rush this out of anxiety and irritation. It is what it is now. That's all I have to bring to the rest of the project. So I'm going to sit here until the answer finds me. And then I'll be all ready to go.

Of course, it doesn't give me any activity or a finished product to show. I'm not much of a watch-and-wait-er.

No prob, you might say, what about that second Summer Series: Guernsey Shawl? Well, I was good to my word and only knitted on the train. Of course, I was on the train for 18 hours overall. And still this thing is less than half finished. Why? See, it's more interesting to drink and look at scenery on the train that to work on a shawl, the pattern of which is frankly, fussy. Not to mention the veritable sisyphean quality of increasing stitches row after freakin row. I'm at the point where each row takes many minutes and it's boring. I'm not motivated enough by the finished project to wreck my shoulders and risk headache at the moment. (Interesting side-note overshare: I find knitting works much better in the first half of my menstrual cycle for a variety of really interesting reasons I'll find a way to discuss eventually.)

It doesn't help that I'm knitting the same garment in practically the same colour. This time it's "Barn Owl" as opposed to "Woodsmoke". Trust me, they're mildly different shades of neutral and knitting with neutrals is not so fun, it seems. Anyway, not that there will be much new to show when it is finished, but I can't really show you anything right now.

Interesting deet: This batch of yarn is MUCH stronger than the first one. Not sure if it's a fluke (either way) or if the woodsmoke dye might be harder on the wool, but I am much happier with the knitting process this time, if only for that reason.

Finally, I can tell you relatively little about the Summer Series: Cherry Bomb. Unless spending hours adjusting a pre-existing pattern ineffectually (complete with little shavings of tracing paper sticking to my eyelashes as I sat there in a greasy haze) counts.

Trust me, this is as neat as it got - and I'm starting from scratch... This is a pre-rub-off shot of the Empreinte Lola (confetti colourway) and the Cleo Melissa. Read on to find out some amazing things about them!
I have a lot to say about this and this is the post wherein I set the stage so that, next time, I can mega-rant on your asses like the banshee I am. I am compelled to give you a few high-level gems right now though.
  • While comparing a commercial pattern bra against my Empreinte Lola, a lot of half-baked, new pattern alterations ensued. I tell myself I must be getting closer to a successful outcome, because time brings that in the absence of everything else, right? I honestly had NO idea of what I was trying to accomplish or how I was trying to accomplish it, by the time I finished yesterday's "session". However, I have wrecked the last-version modified pattern pieces beyond repair.
  • Somehow, I sense that's ok cuz the one thing that really hit me is that the commercial pattern is IN NO WAY like my Empreinte (or any of my Cleos or any other bra that fits me). My last round of pattern alterations yielded a bra that has the right cup volume but not the right shape. The cups are too wide. They're not adequately deep. It has two lower pieces that are largely the same size and height. My bras (oh, trust me, you're gonna get a lot of info about this!) show lower outer cups at 4 times the size of the inner cup - and a completely different shape to each piece. And extra height. I am now able to confirm that every bra that fits me has essentially the same shape in the lower cups - and essentially the same proportion of inner-to-outer cup size differential. 
  • You should know that I also had to make smaller every other element of the commercial pattern - narrowing the gore, making the upper cup smaller, adjusting the band height and width. If sewing has taught me one thing, it's this: No one is proportionately big everywhere. I may have to deepen the cups on a pattern substantially to get them to fit. But I've also got to remove fabric from every other conceivable location.
  • It appears that my boobs are insanely projectile. I'd feel vaguely freakish if I didn't find it more interesting than anything else. That means I'm going to have to find very narrow channeling (it looks like channeling on all of my RTW bras) to line the cup seams as I top stitch those seams down on either side. I sense that's going to be pivotal in getting my bras to lift and support. I've never before considered that all of my bras contain this feature - in addition to cups with no stretch! I sense it's making much more of a difference to lift than I ever realized. 
  • Now to source it - and I'm looking for your help. Pls. if you know where I can find reasonably flat, 6-8mm channeling (or whatever it is that manufacturers of large cup bra sizes use to vastly increase the stabilization of the seams), do tell. I need a source! It looks like I can find something at Bra-Maker's Supply but I don't love that place, it only comes in white and black, and the shipping is absurd. Lord help me if I end up learning how to dye shit.
  • Something you MUST know if you have large breasts on a narrow frame and you don't have the budget for Empreinte: I've closely - like, mathematically - reviewed my Cleo bras against my Empreinte's and the differences are VERY subtle. 
    • Empreinte has a more refined product because it changes wire dimensions with every cup and back size. That means every bra size has a customized wire. In Cleo (and all other RTW lingerie brands) the wires used for, say, a 32F are of the same dimensions as those which are used for a 34E. It can make a substantial difference on a narrow frame. However, on most shapes, the width of the Cleo wires isn't too different and it begins at the upper cup, not in the lower cup. 
    • The gores are slightly narrower and lower on Empreinte bras producing a more delicate shape and one which, once again, suits the narrow frame. 
    • Empreinte also uses side-boning on the band, which is optimal for pushing things forward and minimizing the appearance of lumps. 
    • What amazes me is that the cup shapes are largely identical in both brands - as is construction - and the result is a very similar shape on the body.
    • Empreinte uses very luxe and sheer materials and, what's so impressive, is that its bras are as strong as the more substantial (but totally lovely and high-quality) ones produced by Cleo. 
    • Both have gores that are angled up (slightly concave) at the centre to provide extra lift.
    • Now this surprises me: Both use the exact same band construction to maximize stability and comfort. The lower band is angled up. 
    • Seriously, it almost seems like Cleo has copied Empreinte to produce this new wave of bras that is going through the stratosphere with popularity because they fit so well. And are affordable. I wonder if I'm the first person to think this.
  • Gotta say, I sure am glad to have an Empreinte bra to rub off. You should know I've employed this method before to copy an RTW bra, but not with any success. I still made a bra that didn't fit on the basis of copying one I already owned that did fit. Mind you, I think my materials and knowledge of bra construction were the obstacles in that instance, not the sizing of the pieces specifically.
The good news is that, if there's a way in this universe that a home-sewist can make a bra of the large-cup dimensions with appropriate support and lift, I'm going to do it. And then I'm going to tell you about it. Win-win.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Speak of the Devil

All this talk of layering cardigans, when added to the heady mid-summer sales, may just lead to your advantage...

Ewanika, a store I've loved and shopped at for years - but which I don't frequent as much as I used to because a) it moved a bit out of my circuit and b) I make most of my clothes these days - is having a terrific summer sale.  The website says up to 40 per cent off but I just got an email advising that today the price reductions are up to 50 per cent.

The accessories are particularly wonderful at this boutique and Trish, the owner and designer/manufacturer of many of the items stocked (though not knits), is a model of the modern fashion entrepreneur. The clothing is beautiful, well-made and the store is a delight.

This store does stock Ca Va de Soi. If you're in town, you can call to find out if any of the sweaters remain (and, if yes, make sure to confirm that they're included in the sale). Non-TO peeps: I'm not sure if Trish will ship sale garments but you might want to call and ask.

I, on the other hand, have to stay the hell away from every store in the universe. Seriously, it's austerity measures chez K. Mind you, at 50 per cent off, that slim cardi is gonna be affordable... :-)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Everything I Can (Think of to) Say About Layering Cardigans

OK, let's talk more about layering cardigans. Egad, I love this type of garment. When you live in Toronto, you have the unique opportunity to put on and take off a sweater a minimum 32 times a day: walk to work (sweater off), get to work (sweater on), super hot meeting room (sweater off), freezing restaurant (sweater on). You get the idea. The fact is that slim sweaters span the gap between seasons. They fancy up a sleeveless garment. Seriously, add a scarf and you're the chicest thing that ever happened, 30 seconds flat. They look good with a t shirt or a placket-blouse or a slim turtleneck or nothing.

But the thing is, they have to fit.

I know, I know, you're thinking: Lord, that woman went away for 2 weeks and now she's back - still spouting the same rhetoric - as fast as you can utter the words "proper measurements". What can I say? You don't read this blog for the novelty.

So, just to harp on things, when I say these garments have to fit, this is what I mean:
  • The shoulder seam must lie over your own shoulder tip.
  • The arms should be fitted, but not sausage-tight.
  • The V (if there's a V) should fall at a point that works to visual advantage.
  • The length - oh, this is a toughie - should fall at the slenderest point on your own lower torso. That's different for all of us but it means that, if you're short-waisted, you need a cardigan cut for a short-waist - not one cut for a long-waisted person that you buy in a smaller size than your usual.
  • By this account, the closure placket must lie directly over the midpoint of your torso - not sliding or pulling - regardless of whether the cardigan is open or closed. That means you can't really cheat by buying a sweater for a wide and long person when really what you need is room in the boobs.
  • The cardigan should skim your own torso closely but not tightly. Hint: If it's cut straight in the waist (aka, there's no indent where your own waist would be), move on.
Furthermore, because you're buying something that's already made - and that huge variable has been removed from the equation - there's really no excuse for poor fit. If it fails to meet the dictates above, just say no.

I must have tried on 8000 slim cardigans in the last 2 weeks. 90 per cent of them did not flatter my small-shouldered, short-waisted, voluptuously-busted shape. Can't say it did much for my ego.

But I ended up with these, and I'm very pleased:

 1. Ca Va De Soi black cardigan in viscose and Elite:

Photographing dark neutral colours (especially black) is a total bitch! I did the best I could to give you a sense of the colour saturation in this shot...

Here I wanted to show the cool - extremely resilient - waffle textile. Of course, the arms on this dress-form are quite a bit wider than mine so they, unfortunately, distort the fit in the arm and shoulder. You have to trust me when I say it fits on my body.
2. Theory Jilma Evian Cardigan in navy merino (with a bit of synthetic to promote fabric recovery):

See how this skims the waist? And the V is low enough to draw the eye to one's assets without giving away too much...

My fave feature of this is the cool stripe (part of the knit, not an overlay) on the sleeves. It's just a bit exciting.
Some other things I also want to mention:
  • By the time you've tried on 8000 sweaters that don't fit, you're kind of compelled to lose your sticker-shock. It's either spend or walk and these things, well-fitted, don't grow on trees. Remember, they're not closet-garments. You will wear and cart a sweater of this variety all over the world. I'm always amazed when people balk at spending on pricey basics. By parallel example, I wear my jeans 3-5 times per week. I want them to wear well and to last long so I will spend as much on them as on the pair of dress pants I wear twice a month. I'd actually be happy to spend less on the dress pants - if only I could! (That's what making pants is for...)
  • On this topic, Ca Va de Soi does not believe in discounting its (undoubtedly fine) product. A bit of info about the company: It was a wholesale operation till a few years ago. (Note to Anon from yesterday: I now remember that I used to buy the pieces from Ewanika on Bathurst just south of Dupont.) Occasionally, I'd find a mark down when a) a lone sweater remained (rare) or b) the style was discontinued but now that the family-run company markets and sells for itself (in addition to wholesaling product to other boutiques), it works with a very specific bias: The stuff is top of the line and it will sell. All items are continuity (with rare exceptions). Any chance of sale you have will be with a third-party seller.
  • The fit of this brand is narrow in the shoulders and generally small in the bust. Relatively few of the styles work on me because they end up being too boxy in the waist and too snug in the boobs. Fit in the shoulders often disqualifies me for fit in the chest, but when it works (which is often enough), it's a good scene. There are MANY options to choose from but this brand caters to a slender frame most of the time. The sweater above is actually quite different than most others because the viscose knit is extremely giving (it does snap back). The Large in this style could fit a generous RTW size 14 well, I suspect. I bought the small and I have been known to wear a large in this brand, just to give some perspective.
  • The fabrics are fucking awesome. Honestly, amongst the best I've ever felt. The company works with Italian and Egyptian mills. The designs are au courant, elegant and ageless. 
  • The price reflects the quality. You'll spend between $200 - $300, before tax, on one of these sweaters. Occasionally more. I choose to think of it like buying a suit jacket - but one that will get much more wear because it's bound to fit better (and be more comfortable and more resilient and more flexibly applied to numerous different styles of outfit).
  • You'd think there would be one freakin' photo of either of these sweaters available on the freakin' internet. Apparently not. I realize that warhorse garments don't tend to bristle with excitement, but I've seen so many equally boring versions of the layering cardigan all over the place. I mean, Ca Va de Soi I can understand (sort of). They're all about not needing your business. But Theory?!
  • The Theory sweater is currently available, on sale, at Holt Renfrew. Don't quote me but I think it was $200 including tax.
  • It's particularly malleable because of the 3/4 sleeve and the almost-cropped length. It comes in a cotton as well as in a merino. I don't recommend the cotton. It stretches and it doesn't snap back. The cotton-version colours are also less saturated. While it doesn't look it, the navy of this sweater is very rich.
  • I am only liking the Theory cardigan more, as I own and wear it. You know I'm all about the navy. Sure, sometimes black is right, but more often, a navy sweater does the trick. The merino is not thick - so it can be worn over most summer dresses - but it will nicely segue through all seasons.
So there you go. Two sweaters, 5000 words :-)

Which do you prefer?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Plus ça change...

It seems only yesterday I wondered where to begin. And here I am again - about 10 posts behind (from an info-sharing perspective anyway) - somehow in the same boat.

For starters, I just returned from a 10 day vacation to Mtl and Quebec City. It was truly delicious, in no small measure because it's about the only decent weather I've experienced in, um, what seems like forever. There's much to relate about this trip (posts to follow), but it was somewhat anticlimactic to return to a wet basement a propos of the flash floods in TO on Monday. I don't want to get overly long-suffering. Our basement didn't flood with sewage (we've experienced that before) or even as extensively as those of many around us (and to the south of us), but it's not exactly fun to come home to reality writ-large, especially after so much relaxation and enjoyment.

In addition to eating and drinking my face off (Lord, the debauchery), I've spent the last couple of weeks focused on the changes in my body as they relate to the migraines I spoke about in my last post. Of course, one doesn't quickly detangle the complexity of biochemistry, but I did have the chance to consider things outside of the perspective of my normal life. I'm not parenting at the moment (kid visiting my parents). I'm not working. I barely looked at a computer in 10 days - can't say that's happened to me in the last decade. Holidays bring new beds and lots of walking aka structural distinctions. Natch, I have new thoughts on the matter (constantly) and I'm sure you'll hear them in time, for better or worse. Of course, this isn't a blog about perimenopause (thank your lucky stars), so I'll aim to keep my discussions of those epiphanies in check. Mind you, I suspect that my experience is not uncommon and, if I can share some new ideas they will assist others.

I do want to say, thank you, once again for your awesome comments and information on that last post. I've listened to all you have to say and, among other things, I've bought books and magnesium oil (weirdly, it's not actually an oil but a solution of evaporated magnesium chloride). I'm a couple of months into the B2/magnesium cocktail and, while this month isn't the best benchmark, I haven't had a serious or long-standing headache in this post-ovulatory phase.

But enough about that - let's talk about holiday shopping (everybody's favourite type, yes?)

As you know, I'm in a make vs buy mode lately, but there are a few basics best left to RTW, in my opinion, and I was in the market to replenish. Which items fall into this category?
  • Shoes (though I really do wish I could make my own!)
  • T shirts (sure, you can make them, but RTW has access to the best fabrics for this purpose)
  • The slim, cropped-esque, fitted cardigan
A propos of the slim cardigan, alas, one cannot make this. Even if your tension is flawless, you can't knit on needles small enough to produce such a garment. Furthermore, the best of these cardis come in the most bizarre (and niche) fabrics - many of them milled in exotic European locales for high-end brands. It's that amazing textile which produces a perfect slender knit with beautiful recovery.

These are the workhorses of the sweater wardrobe and I have been managing, suboptimally, on the fumes of my last purchases, some years ago.

I decided, on this trip, I was not going to skimp. I don't spend a lot of money on clothing these days (not that I begrudge those who do - who doesn't appreciate peeps who have the means to stimulate the economy in such a way, and to look great while doing so?) so when I restock, I aim to buy the best I can afford.

The slim sweater is one of those items, I've observed, on which many try to get a deal: it's eternally necessary, one requires it in a number of neutral shades and sleeve/hem lengths, it sits at the bottom of one's bag when not in use, the rest of the time it's in heavy rotation, through all seasons.

We often have this idea that layering pieces are disposable, but they're keystones. Perfect stretch recovery, elegant lines (crew or v neck), the most flattering length, precise fit in the shoulder, snugness through the waist - these garments aren't meant to bag! - an ability (nonetheless) to do up buttons without gaping. I don't know how one can expect to find all of this in a cheap-and-cheerful cotton or synthetic blend. And the more one diverges from the Big Box slopers (generally large in the shoulders and quite narrow in the bust), the harder it gets.

Pilling, fading and over-stretching are not the fate of a well-made (though almost certainly pricey) layering cardigan.

At the risk of inciting suspense - and also because I need to find some photos of my new purchases (or to photo them myself) - I'll be back to show you what I bought.

What I can say is that Theory and ça va de soi are my go-to brands - and the ones I found success with on this trip.

Today's questions: Do you have a fave brand for layering basics? Do you agree that spending is the path to a good product (when it comes to this kind of garment) or do you have a go-to brand which works fabulously and which doesn't break the bank? Have you bought ça va de soi? It's a fantastic Canadian brand but I'm not sure how much exposure it has outside of TO and Montreal.

PS: One other quick thing - my aim is to reorg my blog slightly over the next little while (add an About Me section and set up a section of "highlight" posts for new readers). First off, I've opted to remove my blog links section. Of course, this isn't because I don't utterly love all of the blogs that are listed therein. But some of those blogs are not active any longer. Furthermore, I can barely stay on top of all the new blogs I love (which are not represented in the links section). You know, times change and I'm shaking it up.

This is a good time to mention, I suppose, that I don't "follow" any blogs but I do link to all of you via RSS feed. While following is a fun way to link to blogs, it's an additional layer of administration, the semiosis of which (IMO) is a kind of favouritism I don't really get with. My concern, having theoretically followed one blog (on a day when that seems like a fun idea) is that, when I neglect to follow another (and I will), it means something intentional (and it doesn't). I know how to find you all through my handy feed (more to the point, your posts find me), and that's how I make sure to stay on top of all you've got to say. Pls. don't read anything into my follow-free philosophy!