Posts Tagged ‘clothes’

I had a whole different post rankling around in my head today but then I heard something that made me a bit angry. Ok more than a bit. How about a lot. A lot angry. Oh so very angry. Sooooo mad. Someone was talking about knitting for a living. They took on projects for people and designed custom sweaters/socks/scarves/hats/mittens. When I asked how much they charged for a custom sweater she said it depended on what the customer wanted to pay. Say what?!?!? No, no, no, no, no. Not what the customer wants to pay. Please say you didn’t say that.

And that reminds me of a conversation I overheard the other day while waiting in line to pay for my groceries. It seems the checkout girl needed a skirt for an event she was going to but wasn’t going to get paid in time for her to buy one. The guy(!) doing the bagging said that he knew how to sew and he would be glad to sew one for her. She was pleased to say the least. She was very impressed that he knew how to sew and would take the time to make her something to wear. Then he said that he knit as well and could make her a nice knit skirt if she wanted. That was when it got a bit risky for me to be standing there with my keys in my hands because she sneered and said, “Who would want a hand knit skirt.” Her lip actually curled and I could see her roll her eyes. Well, not really but the implication was there.

Both of these anecdotes are examples of how hand knitting is marginalized and de-valued in our society. In the first instance she is trivializing her own hard work and in the second instance the girl is openly disdainful of the guy’s ability to knit something but impressed that he can use a sewing machine. Some people might ask what is wrong with allowing the customer to set the price for a hand knit object. Well, lets see…firstly the customer will never, ever pay what that object is worth time-wise. And secondly why would you think so little of yourself and your talent to allow anyone to take advantage of you that way? What if the amount they want to pay doesn’t even cover the cost of materials? What if all it does is cover the cost of materials? Oh no, she said she always makes sure they pay enough to cover the materials but how much more she didn’t or wouldn’t say. But considering she was allowing the customer to dictate the price, I’m sure she couldn’t have been making much per item. So for all her hard work and creative inspiration she was selling herself rather cheaply from what I could see.

I know there are some people who value the amount of work put into a handknit and they are mostly people who are creative and either knit themselves or work in the arts in some capacity. Most non-creative/crafty people have no concept of how long it can take to design, test knit, and then knit a sweater. No concept whatsoever. It’s like the time I just about fell off my chair when someone asked a friend of mine how long it took her to write her book. They offered that it must have only taken her a month or two, after all anyone can write a book. Same for musicians I know. They always get asked why anyone should buy their music when anyone who knows how to play guitar can write a song. Intellectual or creative work is really undervalued in our marketplace unless it is technology based, then, for some reason (is it because more men do it?), a lot, not all but certainly enough, of the people who do that job are paid handsomely. Very handsomely. In some cases obscenely handsomely. I know, my husband is a systems architect, although not one who is paid handsomely. More like somewhat attractively. Ok, if his paycheck were a celebrity it would be Steve Buschemi (who I adore but that’s a different post). But it’s enough for us to get by. But some of his colleagues make way too much money for what they do.

It’s different in the arts and crafts world. Artists have a hard time trying to justify the price they put on a painting. It doesn’t help when paintings like this, this, this, and this are sold for obscene amounts of money and people are left wondering why. Now I’m not saying they aren’t worth it, I am not a painter and have no idea the amount of work or what was in the painters head when inspiration struck them but most people look at them and think they could have done better themselves. And so it is for writers, 50 Shades of Grey and the Twilight saga make it harder for really good writers to sell their books. It is true that the marketplace will always cater to the lowest common denominator and if that denominator keeps getting lower and lower then it’s harder for real talent to make money unless they debase themselves as well. Anyone remember the disco era and how the Rolling Stones and David Bowie were forced by their record companies to make disco sounding records? Yeah, lowest common denominator at work. So when I hear that someone who is talented and works hard to make a quality product devalue her own work it makes me see red.

I have knit on commission. I’ve done it once or twice but learned quickly that if I wanted to make an income that would make it worth while no one would use my services. So I stopped doing it. My fee was the cost of materials plus 25%. And the one person balked at it. She said that since I was doing it on my own free time she didn’t see why she should pay for it. She was happy to pay for the materials but that was all. Eventually she did pay up but it really wasn’t worth it in the end simply because of all the grief she gave me. She figured that since she was paying for my time then I had to be chained to my chair and knitting her sweater from the minute I got home from work to the minute I went to bed. The other person paid me more than I asked and waited patiently for the sweater even though it was a birthday present for his mother and it was a complicated pattern. But he was grateful for it, his mother loved it and I was paid handsomely for my time and trouble.

So why are crafts so undervalued? Is it because it’s “women’s work”? Is it because it’s viewed as a “hobby”? Is it because many of us sell short our accomplishments? When someone marvels at our work do we pooh-pooh it and say it’s nothing when what we should be saying is yes it took a lot of work but it was worth it? Is it because it is hand-made and therefore viewed as inferior to mass-produced? In this day and age when sweatshops are making headlines and workers rights are being eroded daily, you would think that hand crafts would be looked on more favourably. After all, for every sweater that is hand crafted and sold in your home country, be it the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, or even India that is one less that is being made in a sweatshop. That is one more dollar being paid to a countryman who will then use that money to support another small business. And economists keep harping on the fact that small business is the backbone of a healthy economy.

For us knitters, crocheters and weavers the importance of supporting a healthy yarn industry can’t be understated for each ball of yarn supports a small farmer, a spinner, or a hand dyer. Each ball of yarn also supports a home-grown mill, a small store, an on-line seller, an independent knitter, a designer, or a magazine industry. There is so much more to this knitting thing than it just being a hobby. With more and more yarn manufacturing being outsourced to Turkey, China, India, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Peru, Romania, Brazil – all becoming their own kind of sweatshop – it is important for us to support our own. And yet we continually cut off our nose to spite our faces while we look for cheaper and cheaper yarn.

I have mentioned before that I don’t think most designers make enough off their patterns to live off of. Most designers that I know, and that includes some of the better known ones, also have a job either with a magazine, with a yarn store, teaching somewhere, touring and giving lectures or workshops…the fact is the majority seem to have a second job, whether that’s by choice or necessity. Some manage to make a good living off their efforts and in spite of the large number of free patterns available on places like Ravelry and yarn websites. I honestly don’t know how they do it but they manage. And many, many people refuse to buy something they can find for free. And that’s fine, after all for some people paying $7 for a pattern just isn’t in their budget but it’s when I hear them say, “Why should I pay for something when I can get it for free.” or “Why should I pay seven bucks for something anyone can do.” That the hackles stand up on the back of my neck. What you are doing is saying that someones hard work, creativity and inspiration are not worthy of respect but a mass-produced shirt manufactured in a sweatshop is because it’s cheaper.

It’s the same when I go to craft sales and I hear people look at a handknit and say disgustedly that it was too expensive and who in their right mind would pay $10 for a pair of handknit mittens, meanwhile they leave in their Lexus or Range Rover or a similar expensive SUV. Or they are standing looking at a beautiful handknit lace shawl and think it’s too expensive at $75 while they are carrying a Coach bag or wearing an expensive leather coat. Just because they are handknit and any fool with two hands, two pointy sticks and a bit of string could knit that if they wanted to. We have to face the fact that mass-produced knitwear and clothing have been better at promoting themselves than us hand knitters and yarn producers. We really need some good PR.

So I think it’s about time we stamped our pretty little feet and stood tall and proud and said, “I am a hand knitter and I am proud of it.” I think we need to do more visible things like the yarn bombings and the knit in public events. How about some of us Torontonians and environs knitters getting together and doing an installation for the next Illuminato or Nuit Blanche show? What if we held a fashion show or a knitwear fashion week? What if we all became pro-active knitters and every time someone says something like why are you knitting when you can just buy it we tell them that this is our way of saying “no” to sweatshops or it’s our way of saying “no” to the fashion industry. That we are doing this in protest to the obscene profits being made in the fashion industry. What if we said that instead of “because I like knitting” or “because they are warmer”. What if we said we are tired of low quality clothing that falls apart after one wash. And what if we said that we knit because we are unique individuals who are tired of the cookie cutter fashion industry that tells us what we should wear, and how we should look. Damn it, what if we just said “I am a knitter and I’m not going to take it anymore”. What then?

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Hello. My name is Sheila and I have an addiction. To be precise I have several addictions. Ok, I have 22 addictions but that’s it. At least that’s all I’m admitting to anyway. My friends might have a different count but that is their problem. My problem is that if I like something I quickly become addicted to it. Hence the reason I’m not still 97lbs. soaking wet – I discovered I actually like food. Ok, that’s not the reason, I still ate, and ate a ton, when I was skinny, the fact is I was a lot younger and burned through calories like a flame thrower through paper. I couldn’t keep weight on. *sigh* Those were the days.

Well, that went a bit off from where I wanted to go. Let’s see…addictions. Oh, yes. I guess the reason I have so many addictions is because of my short-attention span. No, I’m not ADHD, it’s just that I only have a finite amount of years left and I’m trying to cram as much stuff in it as I can. So in order to do that, I have to multi-task. And that can be downright amusing even to myself.

One thing I have to confess, though, is I’m not addicted to housework. That kind of gets ignored until the dust bunnies start raiding the fridge and eating all the lettuce. The real bunny gets annoyed. Right now there is laundry piling up, the floor needs a good vacuum, I have to sort through boxes of stuff that we boxed up a couple of years ago when we thought we would have to sell the house (I won’t mention that the reason I have to go through those boxes is because we might have to sell the house before the new year if neither of us gets jobs), bookshelves need tidying and the whole place needs de-webbing. It’s bad when the spiders start having to fight for corner space. But, these things get done eventually and in two days it will be back the way it is now so no hurry.

But the things I’m really addicted to are:

1.) knitting. Love, love, love knitting. Love the feeling I get when I finish something and someone says how lovely it is and they are surprised I made it myself…hey! Are they implying I’m too dim to make myself a sweater? Or that they didn’t know people still did that? Or that they are surprised I’m capable of making anything let alone a sweater? Ok, I will give them that last point. But more on that for another time. I am also starting to realize I have startitis right now. I have THE sweater to finish (the one I was making for a party), a shrug (making for same party), a pair of socks, and a lace cardigan on the needles right now. I’m also looking at some very pretty yarn I have to make another very pretty shrug to go over the dress I wore to the party yesterday because, well, you know a person can’t have too many ufo’s after all. I will get them all done but these things take time you know.

2.) The Good Wife. A tv show about a lawyer. But, wait! It’s more than that. It’s about a married lawyer whose husband cheated on her and ran for governor and won largely due to her composure and her support-my-man attitude and because she hates to have her dirty laundry aired for everyone to see but before she forgives him she is hired by the law firm her former never-consumated-the-relationship-due-to-bad-timing wannabe lover is a partner at and she takes up where they left off and has a fling with him but realizes it wasn’t a smart idea and breaks up with him and goes back to her husband only to betray the witless ex-lover by leaving the firm and starting her own because she got pissed off at the way they treated people who worked for them but before she left she had been fantasizing about their fling so who knows why she really left and if they will get back together again. *Whew!* Anyway, I love this show! I love Julianna Margulies’ (Alicia Florrick) character, I love Chris Noth’s (Peter Florrick, Alicia’s husband) chemistry with Julianna Margulies’ character, I love Alan Cumming’s (Eli Gold) character, I love Archie Panjabi’s (Kalinda Sharma) character, and I love Christine Baranski’s (Diane Lockhart) character but I hate Josh Charles’ character (Will Gartner). Hate him with a passion. Icky-poo. But, again, this is best left to another day.

3.) Canning and jam-making. This year we made 18 jars of jam from different fruits, 4 jars of mixed pickles, 8 jars of morello cherries, and 8 jars of dill pickles. This is more than we did last year. Hopefully next year we will make more.

4.) Shoes. I love shoes. If the house ever burst into flames, I would save the animals first and then run back into the burning house for my shoes. I think I’ve mentioned before how much I love Irregular Choice shoes? Well, I do. And I love these the best and one of these days I shall own a pair and then my life will be complete. Ok, maybe not. But I will be happy until they come out with something even better which will be in a couple of months. Unless, of course, I change my mind and decide to go with these little babies. Or maybe these. I won’t mention my absolute devotion to Lamb shoes simply because I can’t afford them but I drool over them every time I see them. Then there is Bottega Veneta (these ones in particular) but unless that guy from Kenya really is my long-lost uncle, my toes will never see the inside of any of their shoes.

5.) Reading. I’m currently reading The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker and Bring Me The Head Of Prince Charming by Roger Zelazny. And I just finished The Accident by Linwood Barkley. I tried reading the Game of Thrones but just could not connect with the characters, mostly because of the disjointed storyline. But I love the TV series. I have discovered that I am really not allowed to be in a store, be it a thrift store or book store, unsupervised. I will come home with an arm load of those things. I love the smell of them, the feel of them and the words, mostly, that come off of them. I love cookbooks, history books, novels, old science or medical books. Just about anything except romance or chick-lit. Personally I find it pretty insulting to have a special section called “chick-lit” and then to see how they define that term…

6.) Bad TV sit-coms. That is worth a couple of posts some other time.

7.) Ravelry.com. Love this site. It is so useful for sussing out a pattern. If I see something I like in one of the magazines, I go over to Ravelry and look it up then look at what others have done with it. So nifty for people like me who are not quite perfect because you get to see the sweater or whatever on real people, unlike Vogue who routinely puts their sweaters on women you wouldn’t be able to see if they stood sideways. Never mind that half their patterns are unwearable anyway. I don’t remember it always being that way, in fact I have old magazines where just about all the sweaters would look good on a real live human being. The last years (2013) issues haven’t been too bad, a couple of horrendous “inspirations” that make you wonder who was bribed, but nothing too ridiculous. I stopped buying Vogue though, got tired of paying for half a magazine. Actually I stopped buying a lot of magazines thanks to Ravelry. I can find whatever I’m looking for there, view it on a lot of different people, read about the problems/modifications people had/made and decide if I want to go for it. Much better on the old budget as well.

8.) Music. I love music. I love music so much that I actually had been writing for another blog but took what was supposed to be a temporary leave-of-absence while I sorted out my part-time job but has ended up being a lot longer leave than I intended. I will be getting back into it though. There is too much good stuff out there being ignored for me to keep quiet for much longer. I like singer/songwriters/folk/folk-rock/indie/electronica the best. And anything from Manchester from the late ’80s to the early ’90s pretty much makes my heart go pitty-pat.

9.) My cats but I’m not a crazy cat lady. I don’t dress them, or the dog, up in costumes or clothes, well there was the time I put a sweater on Mac but he looked so darn cute, and there are the pictures of Pete with Christmas lights on. And there may be one with a ribbon tied around his neck. And a couple of others of him in various holiday paraphernalia. But other than that. I do love my cats because they were rescued from the barn my daughter worked at when they were only 5 days old. The mother had 9 babies and try as she might she just couldn’t feed them all and so we took the three smallest. We bottle-fed them and burped them and cleaned their little bums and coddled them and spoiled them until they grew up into giant pains-in-the-butt. But I love them anyway. I also love our found bunny, Ruby. Poor thing. We found her on the side of the road in August looking like she needed a good meal. Now she is into everything and we wonder sometimes if maybe that was how she ended up on the side of the road. And we have 3 degus (they are like miniature chinchillas) who keep me up at night fighting over their wheel.

10.) Make-up. I love make-up but make-up doesn’t love me. When I was younger I could wear whatever I wanted and I did. Now I can wear Almay, Quo and Tarte and that’s about it. Clinique, even though it says it’s hypoallergenic, makes me break out and my eyes itch. I would so wear the eye make-up you see in ads if only it wouldn’t make my eyes swell to the size of golf balls. You know the stuff I mean. Like this, which when I think of it is almost exactly how I did my eyes last night, or this or this. A bit dramatic you say? Certainly and I wouldn’t wear it during the day but for those occasions when I had to go out to a party or event? I would be right on that. Now due to my allergies I have to be careful about how much I put on and what products I use. Sad, sad days for a make-up junkie like me.

Well, that’s my top 10 addictions, not necessarily in any order just how they came off the top of my head. I haven’t touched on clothes, or thrift store finds, or kitchen gadgets, or grocery stores, or gourmet food stores, or British shops, or pet stores, or Homesense, or Winners,or Dollarama, or George Clooney…there are so many interesting things out there I don’t know how to be bored. Mind you I mostly window shop right now because both my husband and I are looking for work but looking is free and other than the lip marks I leave on certain items, it’s mostly harmless.

So I gave up knitting the sweater, as you know, for the party I had to go to today. I didn’t give up knitting something, anything to wear with the pretty dress I had bought, though. I remembered I had some yarn that was exactly the same colour (a dark teal) as my dress and so proceeded to go through all my books and magazines to see if I could find a pattern for a shrug or something to wrap around my shoulders and cover my ugly upper arms. And I found exactly what I was looking for in an old Vogue magazine.

The pattern is simple, a seed-stitch rib in a bulkyish yarn, bulkyish because it’s really just knitting worsted held double. It’s a really simple little cardigan just barely covering the bust and with long sleeves that I planned to make 3/4 for both time and yarns sake. I wasn’t sure I would have enough to do full length sleeves but figured if I knit both at the same time I could gage when to cast off. And because the yarn is on the bulkier side it I thought I could get through it pretty quickly.

I started the back at 11PM. Finished and blocked by 2:30AM. Cast on for the right front and by 3, which is my bedtime, I had a good bit done. Now, are any of you seeing a problem here? I still had to knit the rest of the right front, the whole left front, two sleeves and a collar. Yeah, even though I can knit pretty fast when pushed (I knit my father-in-law a scarf in an afternoon when I needed a quick Christmas present. Admittedly it wasn’t a full length scarf and it was a simple basket weave but I was still impressed with myself), I was never going to get that shrug done by 6:30, and have a shower (I hear hygiene is something people value), and do my hair (pin-curls take a while but they did end up looking great!), and do my make-up (a simple, yet dramatic look by sweeping my lids with a shimmering almost white eye colour and lining the upper lid with a dark teal, sweeping the edges up and out like this but without the liner under the eye. Well, I did put colour under the eye just not like that. I lined my lower lashes in a lighter teal shimmer). So now I have half a shrug done which is ok since I was going to make it anyway.

Now one thing I am known for is that I am ridiculously on-time. Usually I’m early. I hate being late for anything and I can feel physically ill if I think I’m going to be late. So at 5 I started getting ready, but I have to say in my defence that I actually thought the do was supposed to start at 6. Make-up and hair were done pretty quickly and so I opened a new package of pantyhose while humming a little tune. Now I never, ever wear dresses. The last time I bought pantyhose was something like 30 yrs. ago. They came in taupe, ecru and black or if you wanted tights you could get some funky colours but dress hose came in three colours. There were some control top things but I think they didn’t really offer much in the way of support, I mean, not like they do now. So yesterday when I was out I bought a pair of control top pantyhose in black. Took them out of the package today and tried to get them on past my knees. Looked at the package. Yep, according to the package I had bought the right size but there was no way on God’s green earth those things were ever going to fit me.

Apparently, I was wrong yesterday when I said that clothing manufacturers and designers were evil. They are merely demonic, pantyhose manufacturers are truly evil. I can see them in their offices looking at samples of their hose and at a dart board with various heights and weights on it. There is no other explanation for a pair of hose whose package said they would fit someone 4’11” and up to 135lbs being of a size that would fit, tightly, a six-year-old. I swear, well, I swore. I said the seven words you can never say on television. Then I pulled and yanked and swore and sweated and managed to get them just past my knees before I had to give in and admit defeat. Good job when you think of it because anything too tight to get over my knees was going to be torture to wear all night if I did manage to get them on. So at 5:45PM I’m standing in Target in full regalia with glow-in-the-dark white legs in full view trying to decipher the height and weight recommendations on twenty packages of hose. Not my finest hour. Or even fifteen minutes.

Finally, I just grabbed two packages of dress hose in two different sizes, and two packages of opaque hose in two sizes and ran to the checkout. And of course, and I’m sure this has happened to you, you get the line where everyone has one item but they all have to search through their purse or wallet for the dime necessary for the exact change to give the cashier. Gah! Get through the line after repeating, to myself, the seven words you can never say on television, run to the bathroom to try on said hose thinking I could just return the stuff that doesn’t fit before I left. The first one I tried on fit. I almost cried. Then I looked at my legs and saw a couple of rather unsightly snags on my one leg. No time to change. Prayed to the pantyhose Gods that they didn’t run and ran to the car.

It was very gratifying to get to the party after all the trials and tribulations and have everyone remark on how nice I looked. It almost made me wonder what I look like normally. I did enjoy myself although there were a lot of awkward and foot in mouth moments. But social occasions are not my forte and I’m always lost after I run out of small talk. I like the people I work with but they aren’t my friends. I don’t associate with them outside of work but I think I’m going to change that. I found that I really did enjoy myself, being out with different people, having people say how much they like working with me and how pretty or nice I am. Yes, I admit it, I like having my ego massaged, attention whore Leo that I am, which is in sharp contrast to how I’ve been acting and feeling the last few years. I had been content to hole up in my house and ignore the outside world but that means I ended up living in such a small world when there is a huge big world I know little about out there. So instead of living small I’m going to try to live a bit bigger every day and who knows where it will lead. I may even snag a job out of it.

Day 17 – Plan B, C, D or F

Posted: November 17, 2013 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

So plan A didn’t work out as I hoped but all is not lost. When I realized I was not going to finish my sweater in time for the party on Monday, I was pretty lost as to what to do. I knew in all likelihood I would have to go out and buy something but what? I thought I wanted a pencil skirt and top but what kind of top? I imagined white shirt that I could cinch with a wide black belt. So off I went to find this miraculous outfit that was going to magically transform me into Cindy Crawford. Did I mention that some people have said that I have a well-developed imagination?

Women’s clothing manufacturers and designers are evil, evil people. It’s bad enough that the runway models are all women who are tall, thin, and unimaginably gorgeous. And it’s even worse when they try to include “normal-sized” women in their shows because these women are tall, toned and unimaginably gorgeous. I mean, the “over-sized” women barely have tummy rolls or flabby thighs and their ankles are always well-turned, whatever that means. Anyway, they hardly represent the “normal-sized” women I meet everyday. Which makes it agonizing for women like me who are short and on the plus side of plus-sized clothing to find anything that fits well.

The most egregious errors are made by the designers who include a petite sizing into their collections. Petite doesn’t mean blind. Neither does Plus-size mean blind. Both these groups have a hard time finding anything that resembles trendy or fashionable. That is unless you want to go into a specialty store and who can afford those prices. Is it too much to ask for a simple stylish dress that isn’t going to cost me my mortgage payment?

The petite-sized clothing I looked at in several stores didn’t resemble anything like the pretty, colourful, glittery dresses I was looking at in the regular-sized women’s wear. The Material Girl collection has some really nice things that I would have loved to wear but by the time I had the pants or dress hemmed all the design elements are gone. No point in buying a lacy dress when it hangs almost to your ankles and to have it altered would cost as much as making it myself. *facepalm* I can sew well, why didn’t I think of that before. Gah!

Oh, well, back to Plan B. I go out looking for something suitable. I find a really lovely white shirt, find a black pencil skirt and a nice waist cincher, go into the dressing room and that’s when reality hit. I’m only 4’11” and this look would look really good if I were 5’11”. The skirt was actually a mini but it just skimmed the top of my knee, not really a good look when there is a little bit of extra knee exposed there. The other problem was that most of these skirts seem to be made for women with the hips of a teenage boy. Plan A.2 is enacted. Find a pair of black pants.

Now that you would think would be an easy thing except that most pants now are slim fit and tight around the ankles, meaning for someone as short as me I either wear them bunched up, look for something suitable in petites or have them hemmed. Having a slim-fit pant hemmed, and I mean 4-6″ cut off, is like cutting your hair yourself. No matter how good a job you do something never looks quite right. After about a half hours of searching racks I finally found a pair that wouldn’t have to have too much cut off the bottom, take them to the dressing room and try them on with the shirt and cincher. Much better but not quite what I was aiming for and besides I always wear white shirts and I would look like an usher or waiter. Sit in the dressing room for a think.

Ok, Plan A and Plan B aren’t going to work. Time for Plan C. Plan C is to find a dress that will be elegant enough for the party without being covered in sequins, beads or glitter. Not good looks for me. I’ve tried them before and depending on the style I look like a disco ball or a Christmas decoration. I suit classic styles best so most of the party fashions now are a little…lets say they just aren’t my style. But I manage to find three dresses I like. The first two are body skimming until the waist then one has a dropped waist with a full skirt and the other just has a full skirt. Not bad. Certainly better for the hip but the bodice on one makes me look like I just had breast implants and the colour of the other makes me look sick. The third dress, however, is a winner.

This dress has a slim silhouette with a straight skirt. There are two little pleats just at the waist that add shaping. It has a square neckline but…Gah!…no sleeves. Oh well, I reason with myself, I can find a sweater or jacket to cover my arms. Now last year there were loose-fitting sweaters everywhere. This year? Not so much. All I wanted was a bolero style jacket or top. Look and look and look and finally at H&M I find a lovely cream-coloured crop jacket with a lace insert along the sleeve and the fronts. I try it on and it fits perfectly and looks great! Yay! Get it home try it on with the jacket and…frantically start pulling out clothes looking for a sweater or jacket that might work with the dress. And finally, looking through a box I hadn’t looked in for a year, I find a cashmere bolero with beading the same colour as the dress. The style Gods have certainly smiled down on me. Try it on, looks gorgeous. But wait. Why are there two huge holes in it?

Let me tell you this story about a woman who had a terrible infestation of moths. Moths that happened to like wool. Moths that looked at a beautiful cashmere bolero and thought, “Buffet!”. I thought that I had gotten rid of the moths but because they are crafty and will hitchhike a ride in bird food or seeds in general they are difficult to get rid of. So now I have a beautiful cashmere sweater that is perfect for the evening with two holes staring me in the face. Can I rip out some of the ribbing in the sleeves and mend the holes? Not without a lot of trouble and not invisibly. So I look around again and find the Whisper Carigan I made for the Yarn Olympics a couple of years ago. It’s a good match but the moths have eaten a couple of holes in it as well. Fortunately I still have enough yarn that I can mend it. So now that Plan C has been completed. Except that I’m really not in love with that look.

So Plan D. Go out early in tomorrow morning and exchange the cream-coloured jacket for something else or try to find a pattern for a shrug that I can knit up in a couple of hours. Yeah, well hope springs eternal and I never said that I lacked hope. So I’m sitting here looking at a pattern for a little bolero that has a cute little ruffle trim along the sleeves and edges. I have two choices of yarn, a ruby-red or a dark blue. The dress is a dark teal almost the same colour as the yarn in the sweater that started all this. Funny that. I do have a light teal yarn but I’m not sure how that would look. It’s just a bit darker than the cashmere sweater I so love – I know this because I tried to use it to mend the hole but it was one shade too dark and very noticeable – but not sure that I like it. I have a pale green necklace to go with the dress, it’s rather clunky and sits right on the collarbone so the colour choice is crucial. I kind of like the ruby since my glasses are the same shade and I have the flaming red hair. In any case, if I have any hope of knitting this I had better start now otherwise it’s up and out as soon as the stores open to find something for this damn party that I didn’t want to go to but got excited about as I was knitting the original sweater and now am starting to dread again.

Gah! Part of me is saying put the stupid dress and jacket on, wear it like a boss and don’t care if it’s not perfect and the other part of me, the perfectionist, prideful Leo part is saying, “You can’t go looking like a hobo.” Whatever I chose to do I had better make up my mind fast because I have to be there in less than 22 hrs. Do I really need to sleep?

So it’s Christmas time again. Technically it was Christmas time once the kids returned to school but no one wants to actually admit that the ads for toys on TV seemed to increase the second week of September. And the flyers that come with the weekend newspaper all of a sudden seemed to take on a particular wintry feel that many associate with the Christmas season. And no one wants to talk about the increase in party dresses, sequined tops, teeney-tiny beaded purses or glittery shoes. But it’s all there. And as every day draws us closer and closer to this magical time that is supposed to bring us cheer and unite us in peace and love, some of us start to get more and more pissed off at the 240th playing of “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”. Although I have a confession: that is my favourite Christmas special. I love it. Especially the Bumbles. They bounce.

Now that my children are older I have come to dread Christmas as much as I dread trying on swimsuits. I really, really, really loathe the ads for toys. I loathe the “boy toys” and the “girl toys” and the inevitable debate about sexism in the toy world. I get that toys are targeted, and marketed, towards a gender bias. I don’t like it. I don’t like any kind of marketing that targets a particular gender, race, religion, or income bracket. It’s this kind of thing that creates a class system and I thought we had all outgrown the “I’m better than you.” mentality. But, alas, advertisers have not.

So this brings me to something I saw recently about Lego’s aimed at girls. It was this article from NPR about how Lego’s have increased their sales to girls by making “girl” themed Lego sets. This makes me see red.

Toys by their very nature are gender neutral. When a toy is made it is an inanimate object like a table or chair. We don’t genderize (is that even a word? If not, it is now) furniture because it’s just an inert thing that sits in the living room or dining room or where ever. It’s just a thing. We use a table the way we do because someone thought it was a good idea but we could use a chair or the floor or anything flat as a table if we wanted to. It is just an object for our use. And that’s exactly what toys are. They are tools by which we entertain, or educate, our children. That’s all.

What happens then that makes a toy become genderized? It is our perception of that toy that makes it a “girl” toy or a “boy” toy. We have been brainwashed all our lives that pink is for girls and blue is for boys but, again, they are just colours. How it got to be this way I will never know. Some clever marketing by the stork I imagine. In any case, we have also been brainwashed by studies that say that girls are better at relationships than boys, they are better at language skills than math or science, they can’t compete physically with boys etc., etc., etc. Well, ok, the last one may be true but I know women who are firefighters and throw around those hoses like nobody’s business. Me, I can pick up a bag of kitty litter or a bag of soil but that’s about it. I have never had a particularly strong upper body. And, besides, there are a lot of weak men out there so maybe I will retract my statement agreeing that men are stronger than women. *sheepish*

So, toys. Yeah. My girls had trucks, cars, tools, dolls, horses, legos, wooden building blocks, doll houses…all manner of toys. If they saw something they liked it didn’t matter if it was thought to be a “boy” toy or a “girl” toy, I figured they were creative and imaginative and would figure out the best way to play with it. Consequently, their Barbie’s built houses and skyscrapers and barns and fixed their own cars or trucks. Barbie’s went camping and chased away bears, cut wood, made fires and cooked dinners. They had one Ken doll that never really got played with, he languished in the toy box, an unwanted bachelor. Meanwhile, Barbie was out taming horses, mucking out stalls, driving dump trucks and excavators and building sand castles. And if an arm fell off or a leg was broken then she became a disabled Barbie who learned how to do things with one hand or one leg or the others built her a prosthesis.

Toys don’t care how they are played with. They don’t cry in the toy box at night saying things like, “I’m a truck. I’m not meant to be pink.” or “I’m Barbie. I hate getting my hair dirty.” It is up to the child’s imagination what that truck or doll or building block or airplane or GI Joe or whatever means to them. It is up to the child’s imagination to decide what they are going to do with that toy on any given day. My kids Barbie’s were doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, school teachers, electricians, horse trainers, engineers…you name it. What all this freedom to decide did was allowed them to imagine a world where they too could be all those things. That a hammer and nail wasn’t something mystifying that only a man could use.

I hate that companies think that segregating toys into “girl” and “boy” brackets is the only way to sell them. I hate that Lego has seen an increase in the sale of their building blocks to girls since introducing them two years ago. It means, not that girls demand toys in the shape of shopping malls or toys that are family related or toys that have pretty flowers or animals or children (and what is with that picture above the article anyway? Why is it the man at the bbq? Oh, right, because that is the typical “man” thing to do. Don’t get me started on that one.), but that roles are still being defined by gender. That parents are still buying into the “pink is for girls” and “blue is for boys” mentality. And that by playing into our insecurities about being different – we must treat our children this way or they will be shunned and labeled nerds or geeks or worse – gender marketing works. Just look how they market Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

We need to move beyond this gender-based society. It maintains a class system by making sure we view ourselves as different. Women have been traditionally viewed as a second class society. By maintaining these stereotypes in ourselves and our children we will continue to be marginalized. How can we be taken seriously if what we want for Christmas is a pair of Christian Loubouton shoes? Or a diamond bracelet? Or a new dishwasher? Ok, that last one isn’t a good example because I would love one for Christmas or any occasion actually. But you get what I’m saying. In order to stop sexism we have to stop looking at ourselves as “women” and “men” and stop buying toys that are aimed at a specific sex. I know this is happening and more people are thinking like this than when my girls were young but it really is going to have to take a giant leap of faith by some manufacturers that by allowing toys to be gender neutral is saying that kids are smart and imaginative and they don’t need us to tell them how to play.

In other news – tomorrow I’m hitting the mall to find something suitable to wear on Monday. I have had to admit to myself that even I, a pretty fast knitter, can’t knit a lace panel and two lace sleeves in one day. And I need the sleeves because my arms are hideous. Flabby doesn’t quite describe the lack of muscle tone. The cartoons that show the guy flexing his muscle only to have it slide under his arm and hang loosely is about as good a description as any. So I need sleeves of some sort.

I thought I could just knit some opera length gloves but then there is that problem of finding a pattern and the yarn and then the actual knitting that seems to catch me up every time. My brain keeps saying, “You can do it”, and then a hand seems to come from nowhere and smack me upside the head. Nevermind the fact that opera length gloves won’t really cover the problem area. Wearing a bolero or shrug or scarf or stole or something like that isn’t an option because then I’m covering the lace panel which is what I found so attractive about this sweater in the first place.

So off to the mall I go. To try on things that I know will probably not look quite right on me. To battle the crowds and wish cattle prods were legal and wouldn’t be considered a concealed weapon. To try to find something in my price range that doesn’t look like I made it from stuff I found at the Dollar store. I will probably head off to the Salvation Army or another thrift store to find a black pencil skirt. They never go out of style so I’m pretty sure I should be able to find one at a good price. My daughter found a really lovely black suede pencil skirt during our last outing there so I shouldn’t have a problem. The problem will be finding a suitable top.

I like this look but it’s a little too casual for the evening. Something like this if it had sleeves. Gah! I tried searching for what I wanted and saw all kinds of gowns with trains and tulle and sequins and slits up to there…who wears that stuff? What I wanted was a simple, yet elegant, white shirt with a nice simple black skirt. I thought that with the right accessories I could dress it up. I’m already starting to feel very, very frustrated.

So tomorrow if you are near Square One in Mississauga, Ont. Canada and you see someone with flaming red hair heading toward you, it might be wise to run the other way, especially if it’s near the end of the day and she is empty-handed. You never know if she may be carrying a concealed cattle-prod.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/seaglass-shell

See that link above? That is the link to the Ravelry page that shows what top I am knitting for my Christmas party. Isn’t it pretty? It’s so pretty in fact that I’m altering just about everything about it. And with four days to go I think that’s just about the smartest thing I’ve ever done.

I’m not a fan of the rounded neckline in front so I decided I would do a boat neck. Then I thought, well if I’m going for a boat neck what if I add a little modified cowl to the neckline? So I’m at the point where I will have to start increasing for a small cowl and I can’t decide if it’s going to be too much or not. After all I’m adding 3/4″ lace sleeves to it. And did I mention I have four days to finish it. That means in real terms three days. Three days to finish the knitting and block it. One day to sew it together and wear it. Totally doable. Lace isn’t difficult and not time-consuming. Not at all.

So I’m sure I can finish the front tonight, if I can decide whether or not to add a slight drape to the neckline. And then I can block it and get started on the back tomorrow. The lace shouldn’t take that long, after all I am a perfect knitter and never make mistakes. *cough* I will take advantage of the liberal use of lifelines, for sure. I really don’t want to have to pull out eight or nine rows if I don’t have to. Been there, done that already on the back. Did I mention about dropped stitches? Usually not a problem, a crochet hook and Bob’s your Uncle (unless your uncle is named James, then I guess it’s James’ your uncle). But this time, against all logic, I managed to drop an end stitch and because the sides curled I didn’t notice it until I was at the armhole shaping. Not really knowing how to pick up an end stitch and not really wanting to take the time to look it up, I just ripped it all back. But now that I think of it it really would have been quicker to look it up. Ah well, 20/20 hindsight. And I probably won’t think of it next time I drop an end stitch either. It always takes me two or three times before I learn my lesson. At least I’m consistent.

I was thinking I might take a look through my pattern stitch library and see if I could come up with an equally lovely lace pattern but one that is perhaps a little simpler. Something that wouldn’t require me to look at a chart every time I change rows. But then part of the reason I like this sweater is for the lace pattern. It’s open enough to be called lace but dense enough to cover a bra band. And since my braless days are far, far, far behind me this is an important design detail. I really don’t think anyone at my table would have much of an appetite after seeing me swinging in the breeze. So in an effort to avoid any awkward moments and in an effort in attempting to exhibit good taste, I will be wearing a bra.

I am using this yarn in “Sapphire” and so far am really happy with the results. It has a nice sheen and very nice drape and is soft and knits up quickly. All things I really like especially the knitting up quickly. I think that the silk (30%) will be warm enough without making me sweat and the bamboo will keep me comfortable without being clingy. Important when you want the fabric to skim over some of the bumps. And it also has nice stitch definition so even though there is a lot of drape the lace won’t get pulled out of shape and hang limply. So far so good. I like the colour as well, it’s a good colour for someone with red hair and blue eyes.

I want to pair this with a nice black pencil skirt, black tights and I have several pairs of really nice shoes that I could wear with it. The one pair I adore but I don’t think they would work are a pair of Max Azria silver platform shoes that have brown leather trim. Not sure the brown leather will go. The other pair is by Irregular Choice, my absolute favourite shoe manufacturer because their shoes are always funky, flirty and, well, odd-ball which pretty much describes me. These shoes are black, peep-toe with a little bow on the toe but they also have cream and brown detail on the platform. I think it might not be as obvious as on the Max Azrias but something to consider when trying them on with the whole outfit. The last pair I would consider are a pair of Guess satin shoes: they have a peep-toe, are sling-backs and have a rose on the toes of the shoes. Hmmm, wait a minute I also have another pair of Irregular Choice shoes that are black suede with a dark grey flower across the toe that I should seriously look at wearing. They aren’t the most comfortable but since there is generally no dancing I should be fine in them. Yes, indeedy they just may be the ticket.

I guess the last thing to consider is hair and make-up. I love, love, love make-up and wish I could wear the bright eyeshadows now in vogue but I also have mega allergies which means a lot of them would make my eyes puff out like marshmallows. I could take an antihistamine but then I couldn’t drink which, quite frankly, is part of the reason to go to these things. If you can’t take advantage of a free bar then you’re a pretty sad party goer if you ask me. Especially if you are as socially awkward as I am. Once I get through with the small talk I pretty much sit there like a bump on a log. Usually I excuse myself and go to the bathroom for an hour, hyperventilating. That’s where the booze comes in handy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get hammered, it is a company party and I can’t afford to embarrass myself in front of my boss but a couple or three shots of tequila and a gin/cranberry juice that I can nurse all night is usually all I need to loosen up a bit.

My hair is short so the choices are limited as to what to do with it. I thought of doing pin curls all over because I’m thinking I like this look. I really like drama and when my hair was long I used to do it in pin curls for special events. My hair is longish on top but short back and sides so this is kind of the look I want. Combine that with some kind of dramatic make-up and hopefully I should be able to look somewhat decent. I have to do something dramatic with my make-up since I wear glasses. Removing them is not an option unless I want to emerge from a cake the bad way. I really don’t think anyone would approve of me falling into the wine fountain and being a vegetarian means that I could make a very horrible mistake if I can’t see what is in the buffet. I would so do it like the one pictured top left if my lids didn’t droop and sag. When I was younger I would have worn my make-up like that in a heart beat, now there are things to consider.

It’s funny. When the invitations first went out I thought, “Crap, another uncomfortable evening spent doing what is expected of me. Good old company team player, that’s me.” But now I’m starting to look forward to it. I mean, I like the people I work with. I know they see me as less of a boss and more like an equal and, after all, this is really for the volunteers I supervise and not so much for me. It’s important for me to let them know that I support them and appreciate all the hard work they do for me. So, hopefully I will finish this damn sweater by the 19th, if not I’ll still have to finish it and then wear it grocery shopping because I’ll be damned if it will sit in the closet after all the math I’ve had to use calculating the adjustments that have to be made to get the fit I want. Let alone the sweat and sore wrists from speed knitting. Don’t know if I’m brave enough to post pictures once I get it all done but I’ll be sure to post about it unless, of course, it turns into an unmitigated disaster. Then I just might change my name and deny any knowledge of this whole incident.

I have said I don’t like to swatch because swatches lie. Reasonable knitters, knitters who knit really beautiful things, things that fit and don’t sag and aren’t too tight just gasped in horror. “Don’t swatch?” They all said as they retired to the fainting couch in their salons. That’s right. I said it. I’m proud of it. I do not swatch. (insert image of me sticking out my tongue)

But, but, but…I hear you say. How do you get anything that fits. Well that’s because I really prefer casting on for the back of a garment, knitting a large enough portion to get a good measurement and then compare it to the gauge recommended in the pattern. This way I’m pretty sure of getting something that will fit me the way I want it to and I’m half-way done. I do this because I have learned that sometimes those tiny gauge swatches lie. They are pretty and you could probably sew them together into some kind of a sampler afghan and have them handy at all times, just embroider the yarn, needle size and gauge on the back and you will never have to knit another swatch again. But I’ve been knitting for 52 years now and have always done it this way. I’m too old and crotchety to change now.

A prime example of why I do this is my current project. I needed a fancy top to wear to my company’s Christmas party which is now only five days away. I know, I know but I’m a hopeless optimist and I am quite sure I can get this done by then. Anyway, I knit swatches for a couple of different tops simply because I needed them in a hurry and didn’t have time to check gauge my usual way. So for the sweater I’m working on the pattern said 22 sts. and 30 rows on size 3.75mm needles. I swatched. I got 24 sts. so I recalibrated by switching to a size larger needle. I got 20 sts. and 30 rows on size 4mm. Damn! Swatch again and wash and block to see if I could block out the difference. On the larger needles after blocking I got 21 stitches so I thought I could live with it. It wouldn’t be that much tighter and if I knit the larger size it should come out all right.

So I’m knitting away making good progress. Last night I decide to remeasure since I was heading for the armhole shaping and I needed to make some adjustments. The gauge was spot on. 22 stitches and 30 rows. If I had decided to be really picky and go with the swatch I wouldn’t have knit this and I would still be trying to find a pattern that I could knit in five (!) days. So now I am almost finished the front. But I have a problem. A big one that really affects how I am going to adjust the lace panel in the back. I am really bad at math.

That’s right, I said it. There is a lace panel in the back of the sweater. I have adjusted the front waist shaping because they always make the torso too long for a short person like me. This pattern wants 24″ between waist and armhole shaping. I’m 17″. If I knit it 24″ long it would hang funny because it is supposed to be form-fitting. So I took out some of the plain rows of knitting between the bust increases to shorten it. Now I have to adjust the lace pattern accordingly to ensure that I get the best look. The pattern has the repeats calculated perfectly so that you finish the repeats right at the neckline. No unsightly sudden end half-way through the repeat. But for me, I know I’m going to have half a repeat somewhere. But where? Do I want to put it at the neckline where it will be kind of obvious because I have short hair or do I want to put it at the waist and hope no one looks at my butt.

I could if I was mathematical design my own lace pattern to insert in the back but this is where my lack of number sense lets me down. I blame high school. I dropped math in Grade 9 but somehow managed to still pass accounting. Now when I need to find a ratio I’m totally lost but I can balance a checkbook like nobody’s business. Not that I use a checkbook anymore, thank you on-line banking. But if I need anything more than basic math I look it up on-line, try to figure it out according to the instructions, get the wrong answer no matter how many times I do it, cry, then cheat and have one of the sites that calculates stuff for you do it. I do have to wonder how kids learn at school when you can just let the internet do it for you.

I also want to add sleeves to this thing which is a whole different set of calculations and decisions. Do I want them to be lacy? Do I want them 3/4 length? Full length? Do I want them to be slim fit or have a bit of ease? I’m kind of leaning toward a lacy sleeve about 3/4 length and slim fit. So now I have to calculate the repeats of the lace pattern to fit the sleeve and do I want to leave it the same size or make it smaller to fit the smaller width of the fabric? I hate winging things. I like to have it all figured out and written down but I don’t have time for that. I intend to wear it in 5 (!) days.

So now I’m going to have to take some precious time out and do a couple of swatches in the lace pattern to see how I can adjust it so it looks great on a sleeve. And I know that these swatches lie. Which, I suppose, is a bonus because forewarned is prepared or some such platitude. It’s times like this that I completely understand peoples point of view when they ask why I’m knitting something I can just go buy at the store. Quite frankly I’ve been wondering the same thing. I have no guarantees that once this thing is done that it will even look good on me. It’s a nice fabric, a great colour (sapphire) which always suits me, and a pretty sophisticated style so on paper it looks perfect. But there is always the simple fact that my body can be quite contrary at times and just decide that, even though the experts say that style is perfect for me, the sweater is going to look like a burlap sack no matter what I do. That’s when you will find me frantically tearing through the sale racks at H&M looking for something cheap and cheerful two hours before I have to be at the party. And people wonder why I hate going to these things.