Upskilly & Stuff 7: The Measurements

Seventeen measurements, to be precise (dictated by Pattern Drafting for Dressmaking). The full panoply of which (good word, panoply) gives you enough information to create a pattern which fits you perfectly. The measurements include everything from your widest point or ‘seat’, to the distance from your neck to your waist at front and back, to the circumference of said neck at the base.

Image from page 14 of "The new dressmaker; with complete and fully illustrated instructions on every point connected with sewing, dressmaking and tailoring, from the actual stitches to the cutting, making, altering, mending, and cleaning of clothes for la

Obviously, these are very difficult measurements to take by yourself, particularly if you want any degree of accuracy (which you do). Unlike the woman in the pictures above, who has either the help of two people, or the help of one freak with two left hands, I had the help of the Caped Gooseberry (CG: where is the base of your neck? me: where those two little knobbles are).

So all I had to do was stand there and help figure out what the descriptions meant. (I think we still got at least one of them wrong.) Seems simple enough, you would think. But now for the hitch in Deborah’s character, to steal (and alter) a line from Jane Eyre.

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The Importance of Unwinding

You need it, I need it, we all need it. Something that will allow us to relax and let the string spool off the YoYo of Stress. If you don’t take the pressure off now and again, you go pop! like a weasel, and that isn’t good for anyone.

13The key is to find the things that relax you, and make sure you make time for them. It sounds a bit self-indulgent, perhaps, but consider these words from the philosopher and theologian Thomas Aquinas. “It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.” In other words, lighten up a bit.

Seneca the Stoic agrees. “We must indulge the mind and from time to time allow it the leisure which is its food and strength.” His suggestions include going for a walk to get plenty of fresh air, going on a trip for a change of scene, or having “social meals and a more generous allowance of wine.” There you are, then. Be stoic: take a walk with friends to the nearest pub. Or consider the Cowper Cups that “cheer but not inebriate” – nothing like a nice cuppa when you put your feet up.

August Borckmann Teestunde auf der Veranda 1889Jane Austen’s heroine Fanny, in Mansfield Park, says “to sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure, is the most perfect refreshment.” Many others before and since have shared this view, although Mary Crawford (she of the flexible conscience), proclaims “I must move… Resting fatigues me.”

Others favour a creative pastime, or reading, or listening to music, or taking long hot baths. The poet Dylan Thomas claimed that “Poetry is not the most important thing in life… I’d much rather lie in a hot bath reading Agatha Christie and sucking sweets.”

When the Caped Gooseberry and I were preparing to marry, we went through a thingy designed to bring to our awareness any issues that we might have in merging our lives. Forewarned, forearmed and all that sort of thing. The results suggested that we needed to work on finding ways to relax together, because we tend to find different things relaxing. (Other than that it was pretty much you’re weird, he’s weird, go for it.) I like to read and watch DVDs; he likes to think and play strategy games.

BrainStonz1So we had to diversify our relaxment portfolios, and this was a good thing, because there is nothing worse (figuratively speaking) than finding yourself in a stressful situation and being unable to relax. Trust me on this. The Caped Gooseberry and I have been looking for a house to buy for some time (in fact, since just before the prices took off) and our efforts in that direction – with corresponding stress – suddenly increased three or four weeks ago. Just as I developed a pain in my wrist. What it was that was wrong with my wrist, I do not know, but I couldn’t knit with it.

I. Couldn’t. Knit.

I had always assumed that my MO in relaxing was curling up with a classic mystery, and I had not noticed how important knitting had become in the general scheme of relaxation. Had not noticed, until it suddenly disappeared for two weeks. (Twitch, twitch.) I would no doubt have fallen back on my old standby without thinking about it, had it not been for the fact that I boxed them all up back in March because I thought they were getting a bit too much of a hold on me.


Once I noticed the rising stress levels, however, I decided it would be all right to fish a few out to be going on with. Now my wrist has stopped doing whatever it was it was doing, I can knit again, and I feel much better. The question remains: will the mysteries stay out of the box, or go back in?

Well, the stress of house-hunting has died away. (In!)
Because we bought a house today, and that brings its own stresses. (Out!)
And we’ll be moving house soon. (In!)
But unlike the last time we moved house, I have no intention of packing away the stress-relievers first. Not all of them, anyway. I have at last learned my lesson: find what relaxes you, and stick to it.


Am I An Addict? In Which I Try Some Amateur Psychological Self-Diagnosis

I asked you all the other day whether you are (or have been) an addict – but it can be hard to tell. I didn’t find out I was addicted to tea until I had to give it up temporarily for health reasons (the tannin in tea lowers the absorption of iron) and found that hot water was not an adequate replacement. I went cold turkey, and these days I can get along just fine without tea if life happens that way – providing I drink a sufficient quantity of other liquids.

Female drinking tea

So how do you tell? Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a.k.a. the Yarn Harlot did the sensible thing when accused of being a knitting addict and consulted the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (fourth edition) a.k.a. DSM-IV.

“I flip through the pages looking for addiction, substance abuse, dependency, all the keywords. I find out that “substance dependence” (which seems about right for someone who wigged when she couldn’t get her yarn) is defined as an individual showing any three or more specific criteria within a year.”

Knitting Perfection

While I have been known to knit obsessively under stress (I knit so I don’t stab people – it’s too hard to get blood out of the yarn), I don’t think I’m addicted to knitting. But I have a sneaking feeling that I may be addicted to reading. It’s how I relax, especially when times are rough. (Escapism?)

Feel free to substitute your own substance of preference and tally along.
Here are the criteria:

(1) Tolerance, as defined by either of the following: (a) A need for markedly increased amounts of the substance to achieve intoxication or desired effect. (b) Markedly diminished effect with continued use of the same amount of the substance.

Not guilty, m’lud. Reading is reading, and the effect is constant and unvariable, providing the material is of sufficient quality.

(2) Withdrawal, as defined by either of the following: (a) The characteristic withdrawal syndrome for the substance. (b) The same (or a closely related) substance is taken to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Pieter Huys - Woman Enraged

Well, I don’t know what “the characteristic withdrawal syndrome” is for reading, but the one time I abstained from reading the difference was *cough* noticeable. Strike One: I

(3) The substance is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.

Yes, yes, all right! Books do not come with clocks attached. Possibly this is part of their appeal. Strike Two: II

(4) There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use.

Ha! That’ll be the day.

(5) A great deal of time is spent in activities to obtain the substance (e.g. visiting multiple doctors or driving long distances), use the substance (e.g. chain smoking), or recover from its effects.

Carl Spitzweg 021

Reading doesn’t really have the sort of effects you need to recover from, but I will admit to a weekly library visit, and a fairish amount of time spent reading (obviously; otherwise the library visit would be wasted time).

(6) Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use.

Define “important”. I don’t get out much, it is true, but I don’t think I’d get out much more if there were no books. (Hideous thought.) As far as occupational activities go, reading is mandatory for writers. So there.

(7) The substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to been caused or exacerbated by the substance (e.g. current cocaine use despite recognition of cocaine-induced depression or continued drinking despite recognition that an ulcer was made worse by alcohol consumption).

Alfred Stevens La myope 1903

Reports vary as to whether bad eyes are caused (or exacerbated) by reading, but since my optometrist says my eyes have been stable for the last couple of years – and I definitely haven’t given up reading – I’m going to count that as a win. Reading is not bad for me.

Final score (by my count, anyway!): II: Not An Addict.

As to whether Stephanie Pearl-McPhee is indeed a knitting addict, you’ll just have to read the chapter entitled “Knit Junkie” in her book All Wound Up – a hilarious read for anyone, but especially for those of us who knit.

Just as I was congratulating myself on my official non-addict status, I came across this simpler (albeit less scientific) diagnostic test from Gail Carriger: “I suspect it may be like the difference between a drinker and an alcoholic; the one merely reads books, the other needs books to make it through the day.”

Woman reading a book (3588551767)

That one lands a little too close to home. A wise man once wrote: “Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?”
I mastered reading long ago; it shall not master me.