Why I Sew

1920I used to say that I learned to sew in self-defense because I am fat and like to dress nicely.

While there’s some truth in that, now that I know how to sew well enough that I get compliments on my clothing on a pretty regular basis, there’s more to it. While I probably would buy more RTW (ready to wear) clothing than I do now, I think I would still sew a lot of my own wardrobe because… Well…

I so seldom find anything in a store that truly suits me and my tastes. The style might be right (it’s very hard to go wrong with a well-fitting shell and tailored jacket as a design), but this season’s colors and prints might not be what I like. Or the colors are awesome, but I dislike the design elements. Or, since I prefer coordinating wardrobes because I’d rather just be able to grab stuff from my closet and not think too much about it once I’ve already put my hard-earned money into it, I can’t seem to find pieces that coordinate well to create more than a couple of looks for less than $300.

Accessories help. I spent last winter on a project that left me no time for sewing. I bought five pair of pants (three black, two gray), four skirts (two black, two gray) and two jackets (one black and one gray) from a fat lady retailer that I retailored a little (gotta love princess seams!) and wore with some shells I’d already made and mixed it up with scarves. While a bit boring after a whole winter, I’m good enough at accessories, it worked okay.

I started looking for clothes that would be good for summer office wear and was getting frustrated with what was being offered (what designers are offering as appropriate office wear has me reaching for the smelling salts and clutching my pearls, it really does), and as a bit of a lark, tried look2288ing in the “normal” size departments.

That was also a big bowl of nope (barring suits. You can ruin a suit, but it takes a special effort). The stuff I really like… Well, apparently I have refined tastes, just sayin’. I don’t think of my fashion sense as anything but boringly practical, but apparently boringly practical has one heck of a high price tag.

I think my departure from the fashion industry at this stage in the game is that I can’t afford RTW that suits my tastes as well as stuff I can make.

Planning Knitting Projects

pinkandgreysocksI’m sitting here with slightly aching shoulders from a recent swim, but I’m not going to be talking about that as much here. I’m trying to keep from boring the bajesus out of people who are not interested, so I’ve started a swimming blog – Slow as Christmas.

Today we’re talking about knitting. I’ve bought way too much sock yarn and so I am knitting a lot of socks. I prefer hand-knit wool socks. They’re quite warm, very comfy and just plain have a better fit than commercial sock. I have a wide, short foot. Maybe that has something to do with it.

I have been working mostly on shorter knitting projects recently, and socks are closer to the instant gratification category than my usual sweaters. I also made a scarf for a friend for her birthday, but forgot to take a picture. I’d knitted her a scarf back when I was in high school (I had totally forgotten about doing it!) and she mentioned that she was sorry it had had its day. So when I was visiting over Christmas, I told her to pick out some yarn and I’d knit her another one. I will say that I think the more recent one is of a high quality than my clumsy attempts at a garter stitch scarf when I was in my mid-teens.

So, I’m not doing much in the way of longer-term knitting projects. I do have a sweater on the needles for my son, too, but I think that’s probably not going to be done before he’s not much in need of the really warm sweaters. He moved to Virginia, and while they’re having one heck of a winter there, spring is less than a month away for them! His sweater is going to be a simple one – a yellow raglan in stockingette stitch. He seems to like simple designs and plain blocks of flame colors.

The problem is, I really do need to do some knitting for myself. The newest sweater I have was knit three years ago, and while it’s very nice, it’s the only sweater I own that’s really appropriate to wear to work. I live in a cold climate and need sweaters appropriate to the office.

The classic Norwegian sweater-jacket would certainly be perfectly appropriate for office wear. I’ve fooled around long enough, and really do need to break down and learn steeking. The sweater on the right will be very much the type I am going to make, though it will be a bit more figure-hugging, and being me, I will probably add some weird twist on it when I make it. If you think I might be drawing some inspiration from We Call Them Pirates across the band at the upper chest, you’d be very right! I know, I know, I use that pattern a lot in my knitting. What can I say? I love it. Since I work in IT, professional with a soupçon of quirky is okay dress-wise.

Goodness knows I’ve had that sweater in mind for years. I need to knit it.

And after that, I am going to knit myself an Aran. I’ve also been wanting one for years. Not really great office wear, but I don’t care. I’ve got a great pattern dictionary and will be able to knit in the round as a nice raglan. I’m going to have to design that one for myself, though. Since I am deep-bodied, the usual bulky Aran cables would make me look like a sausage. I think most of the body and sleeves will have a lot of texture work, then an intricate cabled panel down the front with cables down the top of the sleeves.

I did something similar in the sweater I made for my father for Christmas last year. He’s got a round, deep body and too much cable work will create an illusion of more depth than would suit that particular body shape. I was even worried that raglan sleeves would be too much in the shoulders, because he is broad-shouldered, but it actually worked nicely. I don’t worry about the raglan for myself. For all that I am a swimmer, I have narrow shoulders. Anything that brings a slight illusion of greater shoulder breadth can only work to my advantage!


I lost about 20 lbs.

And I quit even though I am hardly at a weight that would make anyone flipping out over body size happy.

I quit.

No, I didn’t quit because I’d reached a goal. And I didn’t quit from lack of willpower or anything like that. I stuck to what I was doing for about four months. I was seeing plenty of results.

But I have found calorie counting intrusive and unsustainable. Also, obsessive-making. I didn’t realize how much so until yesterday morning coming home from the gym (yes, I work out every morning, yes, I do a pretty intense workout, no it’s not going to automagically make me skinny) and was musing on meal plans for the day when my husband commented, “If you have to diet, why can’t you go back to No-S?”

“Why do you say that, sweetie?” I asked.

“Well, is your goal swimming long distances, or calorie counting? I think the calorie counting is interfering with your real goal.”

He was right. Now, when I do the calorie-counting thing, I don’t, say, eyeball a portion and guestimate. I don’t even use measuring cups. I measure using a scale and measure to the gram. Then record it. Recipes? I measure all the ingredients, then portion it out.

This is unsustainable. And no, my goal is not to be skinny, but to trim down a little in the hopes of speeding up swimming. But, yeah, the swimming is the real goal.

It brought me up short. While I don’t want to overeat particularly, I certainly don’t want to make a hobby out of tracking every gram that goes into my mouth, either. And as an athlete, I do have some level of concern about how I am fueling my workouts. Which basically means a lot of lean protein, whole grains, fresh veggies and fruit. Nope, that’s not going to make you automagically skinny, either. But the point is that while permasnacking isn’t good for me, eating meals totally is.

The balance for that for me is using the No-S method. No sweets, no seconds, no snacks, except sometimes on days beginning with S. Cake on a close family member’s birthday? Bring it! Sure, the carrot sticks are great, but for goodness sake, have a sandwich with it. Eat a hearty breakfast after that long swim. Just, don’t spoil your dinner by snacking, but wait until it’s mealtime.

For me, it’s sustainable. I prefer larger meals to snacking, there’s a lot of clarity to it and it’s not something that gives me the creeping horrors when contemplating doing it the rest of my life.