going bra-free

A little over a year ago, I shared my experiment with adding a layer to a t-shirt so that I didn’t have to wear a bra. I decided that fusing an image onto the front makes the fabric too stiff.

Since then, I’ve been trying a some different ways to do it. It’s been a lot of trial and error, but I’m not a perfectionist, and I found an easy way that works for me. Someone has asked me about how I do it, so I’m sharing my process here.

Although I am pretty much a size 12/14, I buy t-shirts in an X-large or even a 1X. If you’re not going to wear a bra and you don’t want to look like you’re not wearing a bra, then you really need a roomy knit top to work with. And the knit needs to be substantial — not the sheer or flimsy jersey kind you find at places like Old Navy. You don’t want the fabric to cling to you.

I have found that the best and least expensive t-shirts to use are made by Croft and Barrow (Kohls), Cabin Creek (JCP), White Stag and Just My Size (Walmart). Make sure that they are not the “fitted” style but are more boxy. A longer tunic works well too.

T-shirts with stripes or graphics also work best because they makes it easier to figure out where to do the top-stitching on the front. You can just follow along one or more stripes or you can incorporate top stitching into the graphic.

You can use any kind of knit fabric for the liner. I recycle old t-shirts for that purpose because the fabric doesn’t run. I don’t even bother hemming the edges. You can also buy really cheap t-shirts to cut up at CVS or Walgreens. I buy the largest size they have so that I can make several liners out of one t-shirt.

Here, for example, is tie-dyed tunic onto which I sewed a lining so that I could wear it without a bra.

tiedye

I measured a rectangle shape that would be large enough to cover my breasts and cut out a double layer from an old grey t-shirt. I pinned and then hand-basted the rectangular double layer onto the inside of the front of the shirt, positioning it so that I could top-stitch along the front design. I used a decorative stitch, but a zig-zag would do just as well.

This is what it looks like on the inside.

tieinside

This is what the top stitching looks like.
tiedyeclose

You can make the liner go all the way down to your waist if you want to. Since it’s not attached at the sides, if it’s longer, you can tuck it into your pants or skirt, leaving the shirt itself loose. You can also use several layers of the knit for the liner if you feel more comfortable with more coverage.

It’s best not to use a ribbed knit t-shirt because top stitching is harder to do; the ribbing stretches out and pulls the shirt out of shape. It can be done, however.

Here’s a ribbed tank top that I lined.

outside front

outside front

inside front

inside front

Here’s what the front of a solid navy t-shirt looks like with decorative top-stitching that looks a little like trapunto quilting.

navyoutside

Here’s what it looks like on the inside.

navyinside

As I said, I’m not a perfectionist, so I don’t worry how the liner looks on the inside. Someone who is more meticulous, however, can adapt my method to work for them. If anyone reads this and tries it, I would love to see what you did and how you were able to improve on my idea.

I wish that some clothing designer would create ready-to-wear roomy t-shirts with nicely designed trapunto or quilted or appliqued fronts that camouflage the lining and adequately disguise a jiggling bare breast. (And I don’t mean appliques of cats or dogs or Christmas trees; art reproductions or original fabric art would be perfect, I think.)

Funk and Folly

Funk and folly. That’s sort of been the theme of my life over the past several months. Funk gets in the way of lively living, so I’m trying to add a “y” and move toward “funky” — a place where I’d much rather be.

Last month, I had to put my 17 year old cat down for the count; I’m never getting another pet, but the family has added an adorable kitten, Kasza, to the two other big male cats who already live here. The spunky little female now rules the kingdom. Spunky. Rhymes with Funky. So far so good.

I ran out of energy volunteering several times a week at the geriatric center. Part of it is that it’s winter, and I just want to hibernate; part of it is that I really took on too much responsibility there, and they need to be more organized. I’ll probably go back, but with a much lighter schedule.

I will be 73 next month, and I am reminded that my father passed away at age 73. Of course, my mother lasted until 94, so who knows which way I’ll go. In the meanwhile, however, I need to have some fun.

I always feel better when I’m engaged in a hands-on creative outlet, and I love playing with fabric and yarn. I had made some funky walker bags and gave them to a few of the women at the geriatric center; they really like them and I loved making my own designs and playing with the materials. I think I want to try to sell them. Thinking about an Etsy store. How about “Kalilily’s Funk and Folly” for a name? “Funk and Folly.” I think I’ll make that my official trade mark right now.

My living space is filling up with funky creations in wild colors and combinations of materials — hats, wristlets, leg warmers, boot socks. I might try a variation on a kind of overhead shawl I designed and made years ago. It might all be folly, but it’s fun folly. Fun, funky, folly.

By next winter, I should have enough stuff to do a holiday craft fair. Just for fun. I need something fun toward which to look forward.

Funk and Folly — fun stuff to wear and share.

inspired by Wonder Woman and Wonder Women

I discovered Wonder Woman when I was about 7 years old in 1947, and I have blogged about her several times, including this:

We females need Wonder Woman as the awesome myth she originally was intended to be — connected to other mythic females on Paradise Island more than she is to the mundane human world in which she has to find a place. Her struggle is to fulfill her destiny while still finding a way to make and enjoy her place in the everyday world.

Because isn’t that what so many of us still feel is our psychological destiny — to feel the power of our mythic history and to use that power to make the world a better place for others and for ourselves?

So, when I found out about plans to make this movie, I got inspired.

WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.

The movie is being shown around the world at various film festival, but as one of the early Kickstarter supporters, I was sent a free DVD copy.


Today I finished making what I decided to make when I first heard about the movie. I don’t make art; I make “stuff” — stuff to wear or use somehow (and I’ve blogged about that before as well).


And here it is: a tote/purse pieced with fabric and downloaded old Wonder Woman comic images that I printed out on special fabric. The two sides are different, as I played with the images and the fabric. The inside has a separate zippered middle compartment so that I can actually us it as a purse.

Well, OK. Walking around with a purse in honor of that 1940s superheroine is not going to make the world better for women, especially these days, when superheroines in comics are portrayed by their male creators so very differently than my idol was. Now they seem to be all boobs and butts and oddly proportioned and posed.

Happily, there are women in the comics industry who keep battling the misogyny that permeates today’s comic world — the fantasy world that informs so much of the attitudes of pubescent males toward females (and also the attitudes of those males who seem to be stuck in that phase of their lives). I can’t help wondering if that’s where all of those idiot GOPers got their ideas about what “rape” is.

It’s a syndrome, all right, and comic creator Gail Simone began to lay it all out more than a dozen years ago when she coined “Women in Refrigerators.”

If you’re at all interested in how strong women heroes are portrayed in our culture, check out “Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors.”

And in the meanwhile, I’m going to have fun explaining to people why I’m walking around with a Wonder Woman purse.

not Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

Actually, it’s a laid-back Pioneer Valley Sunday. All I did all day was some knitting while I listened to an audio version of the second book of the Hunger Game series, Catching Fire.

I love the fact that I can download audio books free from the library, but I don’t like the fact that I have to hurry and finish listening before the allotted time. I just don’t understand, since it’s downloaded, why an audio book can’t be available to any number of borrowers at the same time and for as long as they need to finish the book.

My grandson is out in the back yard reading an oversized Calvin and Hobbes book of cartoons; his mom is out there reading some book about home schooling on her Kindle; his dad is nearby reading an actual book borrowed from the library — a biography of Frank Zappa.

My grandson takes a break from reading every once in a while to resume his imaginary globe-trotting journey that is based in a “camp” he has set up next to his “fort” in the yard– complete with globe, desk, drafting tools, and assorted mute companions — where he devises maps and plans his adventures. He has amused himself all day out there with only occasional bouts of participation by the rest of us in his continuing saga.

At some point, I unplug myself from my audio book and listen as my grandson reads aloud to us something from Calvin and Hobbes that he thinks is funny. My daughter shares a passage from the book she is reading about how important it is for kids to have time for imaginative unstructured play. I think about our neighbor’s young son whose days are taken up with competitive sports, school, karate, Pokemon, and video games. A basically nice kid, an ordinary kid, he is almost devoid of any flights of fancy or curiosity about the world around him.

Ours is not a typical or ordinary family, and our quirkiness extends way out to the west coast, where my imaginative untypical son still struggles to find a job.

I think about what the world will be like when my grandson is ready to participate fully in this society, to find work that is meaningful and satisfying. Hopefully, the Hunger Games is not prophetic, although if the Republicans had their way, it might come awfully close.

For now, we are thankful for what we have. And we hope for a future where curiosity, imagination, playfulness, and mutual support and cooperation across age levels are valued a lot more than they are today.

my latest yarn improvisation

front


back


hexagon motif

I layered it over a long sleeved shirt for photo contrast, but it looks much better layered over a white camisole — which is how I’m going to wear it when I go to Saratoga this weekend. No, I’m not going to the racetrack, although this is the season for that. I’m going to see the production of an original script performed by a new company with whose founder I worked and whom I’ve known since college.

After Saratoga, I’ll be spending a few days in Lake Luzerne with my long-time group of women friends. And, if all goes well, I will motor one afternoon over to Northville to visit another former colleague and still friend with whom I play Zynga on FaceBook.

I’ll be taking along my latest plarn market bag project to work on as we sit around in the evening drinking Comsos and getting therapeutically giggly.

But back to my latest improvisation, for which I had no pattern and no plan. I found a pattern for the hexagon and I wanted to try it with a lighter yarn that I had purchased ages ago on sale. I’m not even sure they sell it any more, so I’m glad I bought as much as I did, because I used every ball I had.

I started with one hexagon and just kept adding others, figuring out the shape as I went along. I wound up with it being too wide at the bottom. Hmm. I had to figure out what to do to make it work.

My mother had a saying in Polish that translated into something like “a dumb person will not even notice, and a smart person will think that’s how you intended it to be.” She used that saying a lot with me, since I’ve always embarked on projects by the seat of my pants and then had to improvise to figure out how to make them work.

So, I made a pleat in the back of the sweater to take up the slack. It looks like it was actually designed that way. Works for me!

On a whim, I tried to search for the exact saying in Polish, and, while I didn’t find what I was looking for, I did come across this wonderfully outrageous Polish crocheter whose work is on exhibit now until February at the the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC. Be sure to watch her short video.

I could learn a lot from her, on lots of levels.

I know that there are women who continue to be outrageous right up until the end. The extent of my outrageousness these days is wearing my latest improvisation with matching orange sandals and white cropped pants.

Oh, and I I’ve had my hair cut sort of like Andy Warhol. Well, maybe more like Sharon Gless on “Burn Notice.” But a little longer.

I’ll get around to a photo eventually.

Hobbes makes him happy.

Today is his tenth birthday, and he’s a big Calvin and Hobbes fan. A few days ago, we found a pattern for making a Hobbes, and so I ran out to Joann’s, bought the fabric and stuffing, and launched myself into a marathon sewing project.

He would check on me periodically to see how it was coming — if it would be ready for his birthday.

Now, here is a kid obsessed with law enforcement officials, fire fighters, SWAT teams, and military and construction vehicles. (It’s a “boy thing,” he tells me.)

But he put that all aside, insisting that he help sew on Hobbes’ stripes. And so, for two hours, my grandson and I sat and sewed together. At first I threaded the needle and made the knot at the end of the thread for him. By the time he finished sewing the stripes onto the tail, he had figured out how to do those things himself.

Hobbes was finished in time and was a major guest at the birthday party’s “Sundae-Inator” station that he and his mom had built to reflect the “Phineas and Ferb” party theme.

I’m not sure what I thought that my life would be like at this point. I doubt if I ever saw myself having a great time sitting with my grandson while we collaborated on sewing a stuffed tiger.

my new invention: the bra-free t-shirt

When it’s this hot, you really don’t want to wear a bra, not matter how big or small you are, how perky or how droopy. But neither do you want your outline to pop through the front of your shirt. So, here’s my solution: a loose t-shirt with a lined front panel that totally and opaquely covers your boobs and allows air to circulate under the shirt.

Here’s my prototype, which has a strategically placed iron on image backed by a lining that has free-form quilting stitches on it to make the relevant fabric even less likely to reveal what’s underneath.

I put some machine embroidery around the transfer to make it less likely to peel off. This is a close-up of a corner of the transfer and the free-form quilting stitches.

Now that I’ve made this one, I’ve come up with ideas for better techniques for the front. The next one will have an Alphonse Mucha image for the transfer, and I’m going to try a softer transfer material that feels more like knit.

After I perfect the design, maybe I’ll make them for sale to special buyers. Stay tuned. And stay cool.

I’m joining the Snatchel Project

What’s a “snatchel”?

Before I get to that, let me just explain that I have in my life marched in protests carrying banners with symbols proclaiming my positions on critical issues. During the wartime 70s, I sewed a gigantic “Peace” banner and hung it from a tree limb that hung over our driveway. I believe in the power of symbols. I believe that sometimes you have to get in the faces of those who refuse to hear what you’re saying.

So, I’m joining the Snatchel Project.

First, go here to find out about the project, supported by a group that proclaims:

– We are women, we are strong, we are smart. And we have a sense of humor.
– We do not need government interference with our doctors or our healthcare.
– We do not need government probing our vaginas to help us make decisions about abortion.
– We do not need government to give us guidance about whether or not to take birth control.


So, here’s my original knitted interpretation, my contribution. I am thinking that I might just make a bunch of them and send them to the group to distribute appropriately. I will make a little card that says:

Get your pre-historic laws out of my personal private parts.

The Snatchel Project already has received considerable media coverage, as listed here.

I realize that there are lots of people who think sending uterine and yonic representations to legislators who are trying to drag us back into the Dark Ages is a waste of time.

Well, maybe it is. But for us pissed off feminist knitters, it’s a hoot.

And hey, you never know. At least it will get their uncomfortable attention. Works for me.

If you want it but it doesn’t exist,
create it.

I moved into this town two years ago after a decade of taking care of my mom. It took me about a year to get over the stress and tension of living with my (demented) mother and (set-in-his-ways) brother for several years. And then my mother passed away.

For a year after that, until now, I have been trying to find a place for myself in this larger community. I joined a gym but found it all very depressing (and expensive). I joined a quilting group, figuring that I like to sew and might enjoy it. But I didn’t for all kinds of reasons, including that I have neither the space where I live nor the design talent and experience to get into quilting. And I find it boring to quilt from a kit.

So, I did more knitting to keep me busy, but that didn’t fill my need for community connection. I tried a couple of book clubs, but they never talked about the books and I didn’t quite fit in with the memberships.

So, I joined the Jewish Community Center, mostly for the Zumba and aerobics and gym facilities, and that helped to get me out of the house. But it still wasn’t what I was hoping to find. The JCC offers some other programs that I might have taken, but they were all at night (and I don’t drive at night) and cost more than I can afford.

So, I joined up to be a Hospice volunteer, got trained, and just met my first assignment. That was a start, but not exactly to the point.

What I miss from my old life are the people with whom I worked and the groups to which I belonged in which I took some leadership. Some were peer discussion groups; some were expressive arts therapy groups. They were groups that dealt with substantive personal issues and opened doors to creative and spiritual exploration (even though I am an atheist). I always made friends with people in those groups because we had those interests in common.

So, I went on a search for a group — preferably a therapeutic group dealing with elder issues or major life transitions.

Uh uh. No such thing. Not even within a 25 mile drive.

So, I drafted a proposal to start such a group under the auspices of the Jewish Community Center, and, since I am a trained study circle facilitator, I volunteered to lead such a group.

I’ve done that before — started a group to which I wanted to belong. It has worked in the past for me, and I’m hoping it will work again.

If it doesn’t, with the SAD season starting, I’m going to find it tough to muddle on through.

Oh well, I’ll think of something……

on turning 71 today

It’s March 11, 2011.

There was a terrible earthquake in Pacific Ocean today, and Japan is being hit with 30 foot waves. Tsunamis of various sizes are headed toward both North and South America. Untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

Rebellion and unrest in the Middle East and Africa continues to escalate, as untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

The state of Wisconsin is leading the way toward an America I’m not going to want to live in, and untold lives are being destroyed even as I write this.

It is my 71st birthday today, and, as I watch and listen to the devastating events going on all around me, I am grateful for the life I have right now, uneventful ‘tho it often is.

And that’s why today, on my 71st birthday, I am filling out forms to be a hospice volunteer — because I am used to doing useful things and need to do something useful with the time I have left.

When I moved here to be with my daughter and family two years ago — after almost a decade of care-giving and 40 years of various other “useful” jobs — I thought that I would be happy hanging-out, relaxing, reading, doing my crafts, gabbing with my daughter, playing with my grandson.

Well, I’ve been doing that for two years, and now I’m ready to get on with some kind of more useful life.

There are about five nursing homes in my immediate area, all of which have hospice units. I’ve been on the receiving end of hospice services as a family member through both my dad’s and mom’s illnesses. I know, from experience, what kind of support people in that situation need. And, since I was an undertaker’s daughter, death has been a part of my life since I was born. It is as though I am coming full circle.

I’m not doing this for altruistic reasons. My reasons are rather selfish. I need to interact with and meet other people (and I discovered that the gym and senior citizen center are just not my style); I need to do something useful.

And that “usefulness” might even spill over to my creative crafting, since I would be interested in making the kind of “memory pillow” that I made for my mother for others who might find them comforting.

So, at 71 I’m shifting gears yet another time so that my time here has meaning for me. My mother lived until she was 94. I don’t know if I’ll last that long, but, while I’m here, I want to be engaged with the world in a more meaningful way.

For my birthday dinner, my daughter is making my favorites: shrimp scampi and key lime cheesecake.

It’s my 71st birthday, and, even as I write this, my life is good. But as I watch the news on CNN, I wonder — for how long?