Tag Archives: cashmere

British boobs; Fitting in

For the last couple of years, I’ve been knitting from my stash almost exclusively. The lids of all the tubs* close easily now – no sitting on them to get the pleasant snap of shutness – and the general clutter of my workroom has one or two fewer auxiliary bags and small boxes of random balls and skeins. Stress, impatience, curiosity, and occasionally need has had me on an accessory-making binge for most of the time too. But to make a real dent in the stash, I need to finally commit to a few sweater/jacket projects.

But I’ve already got a couple sweaters on the needles that have been languishing for nearly (or over) two years… mostly because of fit issues – I’ve cleared the busts comfortably, but I’m left with bagging armpits, or the need to decrease too much and have to completely re-do the pattern’s math…

I’m late getting the memo that most (many?) women are wearing the wrong bra size. I’m  also several decades late in accepting that I’ve got protruding mounds of flesh in an inconvenient spot when I so dearly prayed (and kneaded bread) for them as a tween. I finally got some late sprouts that didn’t quite fill out the darts in a shirt, but didn’t entirely deflate them either, in my late teens and I was content with the shape of things into my early 20s. Then they grew and grew and grew and I didn’t gain other weight or have babies or nurse babies or do anything with intention that would increase their size so I grudgingly started to minimize with ugly wide strapped chest appliances and things stayed under control for a bit…

(As an aside: genetics are not in my favor on either side…

gran and sis

…and for too long I’ve teased my mother that she needed a belt rather than a bra, so what comes around, ‘yo…)

So now I’m knitting, and in theory if you make your own clothes, you can make them to fit every weird nook and cranny of your own body. But I’m math-challenged (and ashamed of it) and focus-challenged and I’d love to be able to just knit a pattern as written, only adding in a bit of extra length as the extent of my modifications. I really like a few patterns from British designers but all of the bust shaping seems impossibly high (and waists impossibly short). I’ve been watching several British mysteries and dramas and noticed that man of the women do in fact largely have high breasts. But that doesn’t make sense – an entire island of people can’t share the same tiny pool of high-breasted genetics (in most cases)…

*****

Recently, I tried to buy a suit. I’ve tried to buy a suit many times over my life, and always end up with separate jackets and trousers. I can find woolly tweedy jackets (mostly from the ’70s) at the thrifts that fit well, but I’ve only had two proper “business” jackets fit well in my lifetime. I got rid of one that had gone shiny along the seams during the last move, and when I went to put on the other, my favorite, the best jacket ever that’s gone on countless conference talks, interviews, and other business-dress bullshit activities, I found a couple of little holes. I tried to fix the holes, but N noticed and tried to brush them off, but they didn’t bulge. So my only jacket is unwearable for the times when appearances count most (perhaps it’s still okay for conferences in my field). I panicked and hit the nearest ladies-wear shops. The Spring lines were already on the racks, and I’m not going to wear pink, or red, or bright blue when I’m trying to look “professional.” I’m also not going to plunk $200 on a polyester suit made in China, but I felt like I had no other choice. I tried on pants and eventually found some long enough (I’m too short for talls, but too tall for regulars) and then I started trying on the matching jackets… And kept returning for more… Then a salesperson started helping me. Then she suggested I wear a different bra and go online to order the tall jacket that they didn’t stock in the store. (None of that was helpful at the moment, and I got away with a thrifted cashmere twinset and thrifted “business” trousers out of my closet for my clothing need at the time.)

But the “different bra” stuck a bit in my craw – the salesperson wasn’t the friendliest, so I took it as an insult, but she had a point – rather the jacket had points, and they were too high for me. I can’t afford to (or would generally rather not) go to one of the fancier shops or department stores to get properly fitted, so I pulled up a number of online fitting calculators and lassoed myself with tape measures. I came up with a magic number and letter that reads more like a bin number in a warehouse store than a bra size. I went online to the brand of minimizers I usually buy and didn’t see either number or letter and got the closest one instead. And for fucks sake, things are starting to get into places where they should have been. But the fit still isn’t perfect, so I’m on the hunt for the right size and I’m finding that the British brands have the wider variety of sizes that the common American brands do not. So what we have here is a cluster of tiny countries of women wearing appropriate-sized bras and a giant capitalist consumer-driven one that does not?

So now I’ve got an appropriately supported rack on the days I wear my one new bra and my sweaters fit well, my shirts stay buttoned, and on all other days I’m better off  wearing clothing with more ease and bagginess. To compound things though, middle-age is shifting things around a bit and I’m left dubious if something that fits well now will fit a week or two out of the month, or next year, so I’m hesitant to knit fitted garments, or garments that fit right, right now….

But this is all a bit ridiculous, so instead of making some fancy fitted sweaters out of my limited quantities of yarn that I’ve been hording for such purpose, I’m going to make some giant glorious neck things (that also do well to drape over other things on their unsupported days).

IMGP1282 - Copy

(I’ve been holding on to this small stash of cashmere in an awesome purpley-brown that I got on an unbelievable sale but was still more than I typically spend for a skein of wool, to make a very fitted, very elegant v-neck three-quarter length sleeved sweater, but fuck it, I’m about to crack it open for a Paris toujours shawl/scarf instead.)

And I’m only looking at patterns for the bigger bulkier sweaters and coats that embrace frumpiness, coziness, and shape shiftiness…

(And I’ll possibly make a giant blanket.)

(And I still need a suit).

*My goal isn’t too solid, but I’d like to get the commercial yarn stash down to 3 not-quite full tubs – one with a few sweater/blanket quantities, one with sock yarns and random bits of superwash for gifts, and one for whatever – mostly the nicer skein or two I pick up at festivals… (and of course handspun and unraveled sweaters have additional storage…)

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Continuing randomly…

Those premature daffodils finally fell to some conquering beauties.

spring-daffodils

I’ve been puttering about the yard, finally paying attention to what is what out there and making plans to move some things around and add more. My research on native deer-resistant plants is just beginning, but I’ve got a decent list so far – at least for this year. The big project is expanding the vegetable garden 4-5 times the size it is now and installing a beefy deer fence… More on that later, I’m sure (after my arms recover from post hole digging, even though N is doing most of it).

My studio/workspace is still a partially unpacked mess, but I’ve run out of storage room, and once I start working on things, it will probably always look like a partially unpacked mess. But I need to clear a table to cut out a few simple patterns for summer clothes I intend to make but likely the seasons will change again before I get around to that…

spring-frogged mohair

I wanted some mohair to add to an upcoming knitting project, so I found it in this boxy 1980s bright beauty at a thrift store last year.

Remind me to never, ever, harvest mohair (at least this particular mohair mix) again. I’ve only finished the sleeves, which I think will be enough – especially since I took it an asinine step further and separated the plys to make even more… But perhaps the leftover body parts can be sewn into an enormous baby chick.

Speaking of baby chicks, I keep seeing them in the farm stores and I’ve got some serious baby rabies of the poultry strain…

But not this year – too many things to continue to get in shape and major fortifications would need to be made for some hens – I’m looking at you, you beautiful but murderous fox (and the hawks and raccoon and cats).

spring-shug or shawl

I finished that old shale (or feather and fan, but that’s wrong, right?) thing. It was supposed to be a dramatic drapey wide shawl – something that could be whipped around and trailed behind – but I ran out of yarn. It was harvested from an old mohair blend sweater (this one was easy to rip) and an old Shetland one, so there was zero chance of obtaining more, and I wasn’t interested in adding another color, though as I write this, perhaps I will consider adding something more blended with the Shetland at either end…? But more likely, I will turn this into a shrug – somewhat still dramatic with wide scalloped sleeves and a back at a reasonable length – I hate cropped shrugs, at least on me. The problem is, I was planning on selling this, I don’t like the color on me and don’t have the appropriate flowing navy or brown or black outfit with which to pair it. But it fits my weird ape-armed curvy but lanky body, and for many, the sleeves would be too long…. So perhaps I’ll try blocking it wider rather than longer, but I wanted the scalloped ends to pop out more…

spring-scraps

And even though I ran out of yarn for the length I wanted, the fiber gods smiled down on me for allowing the finishing to happen with the appropriate number of repeats and bind-off with only 6 inches of yarn to spare… that’s satisfaction.

cashmere-skein

I finished spinning that beautiful New Mexico cashmere.

But this picture is a lying liar about its tumultuous youth.

Yes, it is beautiful now, finally, but…

spring-kinky cashmere

…things got a bit kinky for a bit…

I wanted a rustic, bumpy, somewhat thick and thin single. But I still, always, over spin singles. So I had to run it through again to take out twist. But short staple + too thin parts = break, break, breaks!

In the end, it is good – goodly soft – but thin, something from cobweb to light fingering. I haven’t decided on a good pattern for it yet – I want a neck thing, preferably something simple and relatively dense, meaning not much lace if any… Might end up with a simple garter something or other… It’s about 650 yards if anyone has any suggestions?

spring-grape hyacinth

In the meantime, I dig and dig and dig and now weed too, and get awfully distracted making wreaths out of pruned wisteria vine… I can’t wait for it to bloom to find out if we’ve got the native stuff or the evil import…

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Went for a spin…

Last Saturday morning I woke up to this.*

cashmere-winter

I still have loads of unpacking and organizing to do, but I heard the siren song scream of some no longer patiently waiting cashmere.

cashmere-fluff

It came from a lovely spot in New Mexico.

Rather, it came from a goat who lives there.

cashmere-guard hair

Some of it still had some guard hairs and bits of veg to be removed.

cashmere-spin

And I’m spinning it up rustic – who says cashmere needs to be fine and dainty?

cashmere-mess

But my view wasn’t so pleasant.

So it was only the briefest of spinning sessions, and then I got back to work on what I was supposed to be doing…

(I finally have a clear path through the room.)

*But we were mostly spared the brunt of the latest storm (and a word to the media – don’t call a storm “historic” that hasn’t even happened yet – shame on you)…

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Darn it pills and lint

I spent an evening this week closing up the holes in some of our sweaters.  I’ve been seeing beautiful and skillful examples of mending in the blogisphere lately and though lovely, they make me feel anxious.  Must I learn to do everything perfectly?  To have textile conservator-level mending skills to make repairs nearly invisible or mad creative ones to do a perfect herringbone in a cheeky accent color?  Don’t get me wrong, I love these things and love that someone is doing them and doing them well, but for me, I still embrace  absolute utilitarianism and efficiency when it comes to darning/mending/repairing.  I also usually wait until I have at least three garments that need to be fixed before I sit down to do them, even though it means I’ll probably need three different thread colors and it would have taken just as much time to do them one at a time.   All of the items that got a new lease on life were thrift store finds (some decades old) and I’m always what- amazed, impressed, happy?  I don’t quite know the feeling, but that these things have endurance and history, both unknown and our own, and can outlive us.

Darn-elbow

N’s favorite cashmere sweater is just a few years old and was probably fairly new when it was given up by its original owner.  (Unbeknownst to me my sister-in-law gave my brother the exact same as a [new] gift around the same time I found N’s in the thrift store.)  He wore it for work and not-work and everything in between several times a week and this year his elbow popped through.  It’s now been patched but retired from work-wear.

darn-pills

I’m also chief pill-picker.  I hate pills but I somewhat, and somewhat perversely, like picking them off.  I’ll periodically give an item a good pick and then a vigorous brushing and I’m always amazed about how much fuzzy detritus comes away… how much crap we carry around on us and how a sweater can continue to shed yet never feel as if it’s going bald overall.  But I do really hate pills on hand-knits (I’m looking at you Malabrigo!) especially when you’ve done a textured stitch and the pills hide in little valleys.

darn-lint

That little pile of pills and fuzz got me thinking about hoarders (and my fear of becoming one, though I do draw the line with things that rot and stink as being only for trash/compost).  And then N bought some new kitchen towels – some white, some red – that gave off this nice rose-pink lint in the dryer.  I know dryer lint has many uses, and once upon a time when I made paper I often used the stuff, but to keep it now seems a little excessive.  I can’t compost, don’t have a pet, haven’t spilled any oil, don’t need to start a fire, and I’m not making paper or papier mache at the moment…

…or will I be?

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Caaaaashmeeeeere…

I had a huge thrifting score a few weeks ago.

I hadn’t been shopping for months because I’m too broke now even for thrift stores, and I already have a decent stash of wearables, frogables, and feltables.  But I needed just a few more things to complete or begin a few more things.

Thriftscore-cashcardi-grey

While there I found my sweater Shangri-La.

I can’t understand why someone would get rid of this: 100% cashmere, a nice shade of grey, and no issues apart from a few easily removed pills on one side where someone probably carried her purse.

Yes, it’s baggy and shapeless, but holy hell, it is utter bliss to wear.  It’s perfect for sleepwear or just lounging about too, so why would someone get rid of it?  Even if you lost a ton of weight, it still feels nice to wear, so unless you gained a ton, like an actual ton, or died, I see no reason to be rid of this.

I’m not the sort of shameful woman who does happy dances and squeals and all those sorts of public behaviors that continue to set women back decades, but this was one of the few times I came close as I cracked a faint but noticeable half-smile when I found it and hurriedly shoved it securely down into my cart.

And for $5.99 on the half-off day – it was only $2.99!!!

Thriftscore-cashcardi-grey-det

This also solves my need for a new long thin sweater, though I’m still planning on knitting one eventually.

I picked up another one to wear too – merino & cashmere, in perfect condition, also quite cheap.  The tag said it was from Fall 2004, so perhaps someone thought 10 years of ownership was enough?   The tag also emphatically stated DRY CLEAN ONLY, but it survived and flourished in its sudsy watery bath.

Thriftscore-stripeyT

And even more cashmere!!!

Thriftscore-cashpile

Most of these have some sort of damage or kill-worthy preppyness, so they will be harvested for their yarn or turned into linings for hats and such.

And I found a few sweaters made with good sturdy wool or wool/nylon blends in colors I like which will be harvested for their yarn as well.  The one on top is another (misshapen and holey) Shetland – I think I have enough Shetland sweaters to harvest an interesting palette of yarn now.  I was intending to make a big Hap shawl out of them, but I love the vintage spencer dresses seen here and here and here and would love to make something similar at some point.

Thriftscore-woolypile

I’m looking forward to making something out of the stripey one on the left too, perhaps along the lines of the scarf I made last year from recycled stripey sweater yarn.

stripey 007 - Copy

And it has already been reduced to a pile of lovely squiggles.

stripey 023 - Copy

Then a tower (what were you thinking?) of yarn cakes.

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Fiber travels in New Mexico, part I

I was in a few states of the great American Southwest for the last couple of weeks.  I hiked, visited family, ate lots of green chile, visited Tierra Wools (more on that another time), and I had greatly desired to spend some time with a cashmere rancher friend of my mother’s, but sadly got sick and spent the last four days of my trip in bed, waiting for hours in feverish chills at a busy clinic full of babies with diarrhea, or lurking about the cold house feeling too crappy to knit (I took along that blasted sock) and without anything new to read (not to mention no internet or boob-tube).

I love New Mexico – it is a hard place to live, and I respect that – I would love to call it home, but will enjoy it in visits instead.  The land, or more precisely water, can’t really handle any more residents – especially those who plunk a large vacation or retirement home down on pristine but dry land and expect to live like they did in the East or South.

Luckily in the days leading up to my assault by poison mucus on ears and sinuses, the weather was gorgeous.  Mountain meadows are my favorite places on the planet…

New Mexico 2013 264 - Copy

…as well as dramatic rocks and moonscapes on earth.

Bisti

And luckily a couple of my sick days involved wind, sleet, snow and rain so I didn’t feel as bummed about not being able to hike otherwise.

New Mexico sleet

But I admit, I was most excited about meeting Nestor.

Nestor portrait

He’s a guard llama on the cashmere ranch (you can see one of his inquisitive charges in the background).   I did get to meet him briefly, as well as the resident Maremma sheepdog Homer…

Homer close

Homer far

He’s a fiber producer in his own right and a giant friendly (though not when protecting) beast.  I’ve been interested in the breed since seeing them in Abruzzo, Italy a few years ago (more on that later too) so it was nice to finally meet one and rub his thick coat.  Alas he is the only four-legged furry there I snapped since I thought I would be returning, but the pictures of Nestor as a younger man are courtesy of my mom from an earlier time.

She brought back a baggie of Nestor a few years ago – maybe it was an ounce or two.  That, along with some Navajo Churro was my first time dealing with unprocessed fiber.  I didn’t have any carders or combs at the time so I fluffed out the fibers by hand the best I could.

Nestor

This was also among my first spinnings on my new-to-me-then wheel.  I think it is about a sport to worsted weight and I didn’t get much – I think I was going to make it into wrist warmers, or very short mitts.  I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to knit it with some wool yarn for better memory and elasticity.

Nestor yarn

But then as with many things, I didn’t decide about it right away and time passed.  The following year my mother called up to ask if I wanted a big Nestor load?

Of course I said YES.

washing nestor-small

This was back in the days when I had a glorious basement and the harvest gold dryer that came with the house.  It was also winter, or maybe just cold and damp outside when I set out to wash him.  Luckily we replaced the windows in the house too so we had several old screens that were perfect for dealing with wet fiber.  I think he finally finished drying a week later.  Then it happened again – I sat on it.  My dilemma is either spinning it all at random like my initial batch for a marled color, or roughly separating out two or maybe three colorways – white/light grey, grey, grey-black and then have the option of doing color work or stripes with the knitting.  I need to re-weigh it too, so I’m not quite sure how much I have, and then I may waffle again about adding wool during the spinning or later with the knitting….

My ears nearly exploded on the flight home, and by the way the assholes at United aren’t “allowed” to give you the cups with warm paper towels in them anymore – if both of my hands weren’t clamped tightly over my ears at the time, they probably would have gone to the sneering flight attendant’s neck.  Needless to say I’m now even harder of hearing and slogging along with more and stronger meds and the thought of watching the spinning wheel go round and round isn’t going to happen for the next 10 days or so, so Nestor will have to wait some more.

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Even quicker and more practical…

I can’t even really call this a project (unlike my previous one) – take a slightly fulled* sweater (preferably cashmere) chop off the arms and pull them up over your knees and thighs under your pants – done.  For the thin-thighed, you might consider attaching them to a garter, sewing in some elastic at the top, or keep shopping at your favorite thrift store until you find the absolute perfect size.

kneewarmer

I love the outdoors and I love wool, but I don’t quite love winter yet, though I’m slowing warming to it, all puns aside. I could bring myself to near financial ruin over the fabulous items of clothing made from whisper-thin and oh-so soft-merino wool from brands that rhyme with dicebreaker, fartwool, and especially the one named after a lithe four-legged mammal.  Who knew wool underwear, yes, the underpants kind of underwear, are the awesomest things ever in cold or hot weather and dry fast too making them perfect for minimal travel?  But alas, I have only purchased a few items here and there and have yet to obtain the perfect woollen base-layer bottoms.  I have an older pair that is a little too small in the waist, just enough to cause discomfort and make me grumpy – in ye olden days of corsets and girdles, good god, I would have been grumpy… But I also don’t quite like the pants under pants feeling – part of it is the doubled up waist feeling, and part of is two pieces of fabric occasionally in opposition.  This solution is to treat the underparts in segments like an insect.  Previously I was just relying on knee-high ski socks and some floppy old woolen men’s trousers, but my knees would get chilled and achy, but these sleeves-turned knee-warmers were the perfect hack.

kneewarmer detail

I am not an exceptional one-legged snowshoer even  though it appears that way in these pictures…  The gaiters were a recent acquisition too – forget the big-bucks gearhead brands and look at Swiss army surplus – wool and cheap!

*The improper use of fulled vs. felted is driving me bats, but felted is a more often heard term so I’ve got it down here for the sake of keyword searching, but shrunken knitting is fulling dammit!

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