A Victory Lap and a Mini Rant

By Kay Gardiner
May 23, 2019

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  • Thank you. So many ‘curls’ not much change. I want the struggle over!

    • I think you look great in the “short sleeved” version of this sweater! I would never guess you were missing the sleeves

  • You are my hero.

    • Me too.

  • Your columns are priceless with their wit. I love to read them. That being said, I feel the same way about my upper arms (calling them biceps would be a definite misnomer). Keep writing (I don’t know how you have time) because it is GREAT!

  • I’m right there with you! I’ve always called those my mah-Jong wings, for when it’s my turn to play at The Clubhouse somewhere during the 2-3pm Grandchild Swim Hour… as my grandmas before me have.

    • Grandchild Swim Hour you say? My conversion decision just keeps getting better and better.

  • The sweater looks great on you! The rant; priceless!

  • Amen!

  • You go, girl!

  • Bravo !

  • You look lovely, comfortable in your own skin I would say. And a finished sweater yippee.

  • Hallelujah!

    • I am just at the very beginning of the process, at 46 years old, of learning to love my body exactly as it is. I desperately need posts like this. And I love my sleeveless tops on hot, humid Summer days in my non-air-conditioned home in New Jersey. And shorts, too!

      Arms and legs are beautiful because of what they do and who they belong to — my grandmother’s right arm had a deep scar on it from an infection she incurred at her polio vaccination. What a lovely sight it was to me!

      • I’m 53 and I’m here to tell you it gets easier to love your body. After a life wasted loathing my fluffy bits, I’m really getting there. It’s so liberating. And anyone who has a problem with my body….frankly, I don’t give a d**n anymore.

      • OMG, Jennifer! My grandma had the same scar but on her left arm from the 1918 flu vaccine. She never seemed embarrassed by it. I figure people can avert their eyes if my “bingo wings” and “fish-belly white” legs and my round figure offend them. Life’s too short to worry about such things when there are gardens to play in, trainers to crack the whip at the Y, and grandchildren to play outside with.

        Love your sweater, Kay!

        • Lol! I goofed — my grandmother must’ve also gotten her scar from the flu vaccine since she was born in 1919.. . Must’ve been my mom who got the polio vaccine. Not that that’s relevant to the discussion at large.

          So grateful for the people everywhere who love to knit and enjoy their lives to the fullest!

        • There was no flu vaccine in 1918. Only smallpox, and 100 years ago it wasnt very concentrated, so large scars were normal.

  • Kay! Your sweater is perfect (and I adore that skirt!) You’ll look amazing in that me-made outfit.
    I know it’s too late for this Sylph project, but if you divide the plies and use only the linen strand for seaming…

    • Oh, that’s a good one, Nell!

  • You tell ‘em Kay!

  • …and I have always called them Hadassah arms….

  • What a fabulous sweater–and it’s so perfect with the skirt. Please, pretty please share the pattern ?

    • the sweater is gorgeous, I love the dropped shoulders giving the hint of a sleeve, I would also like a copy of the pattern please, please, please.

    • I’m not sure I have the strength to write it up but it’s truly Relax by Ririko with a freehand log cabin torso. Skip the log cabin and it’s a beautiful stretch of stockinette that ends up as a great sweater.

  • I read this somewhere and copied it down. The author is Julia Baird.

    “ I have long savored the prospect of letting myself go. It’s just the most delicious concept.: a balloon wafting into the either, a raft flowing smoothly with the current. One day, I have imagined, I would find myself wandering along the street, hair askew, unkempt, but cheerful. I might bump into an old acquaintance who would regard me with concern. “Oh” I would exclaim with an easy laugh, and touching her arm say: “I thought you might have known, I’ve let myself go”. I would saunter off dangerously liberated, feeling envious eyes on my back—having reached, finally, the age when you can reject rejection.

    • Actually found the article. It is from the New York Times and the title is: Don’t Dress Your Age by Julia Baird.

      • That was a wonderful article !

    • Love the quote, so tongue in cheek. thank you.

      • Well done!! Thank you for the liberating rant that we all need to keep in mind. My mother would swelter in the summer New Jersey humidity rather than allow her upper arms to be seen. Let’s normalize the “wing”.

        • Love all of this. My 64 year old arms are wrinkly with loose skin and I cringe at the idea of a sleeveless top these days. Thanks for the inspiration. Having two working arms should be enough to appreciate. What is it about aging that makes a person feel like they failed to stay young?

    • Oh, thank you — that’s a quote that’s coming with me!

    • Such a much more freeing interpretation of “letting yourself go” – I love it!

    • My first laugh today! Thank you.

    • I love that Karen! Love your sweater and your rant too Kay!

  • Kay your sweater is gorgeous!
    Darn it it’s getting hot! Let us give our arms A treat, no long sleeves!!!!!
    You look fabulous!

  • Thank You Kay – I needed that.

  • I think your sweater is darling, with the shorter sleeves. Wait a couple of decades and you take NSAIDs every day for you aching knees, back, whatever, then you get little blood spots under your skin all over your arms. So much fun. I know Alabama Chanin is all the rage but I do needlepainting and “real” embroidery so I consider her stuff pretty elementary. But if you like the skirt that’s what matters.

    • I do like it, very much, and don’t consider it less real than traditional needlepoint or embroidery.

    • If you’ve ever read any of Natalie Chanin’s books, especially The Geometry of Hand-Sewing, which is amazing, you’ll see that she in fact has extensive knowledge of and skill in “real”–or rather traditional–embroidery techniques. However, as an artist-designer her work has involved plays on form, function and deconstruction, based in traditional techniques but taking them someplace altogether new. Some of her work is extraordinarily complex. Anyone who could sniff at her work as somehow beneath them perhaps is not fully aware of the breadth of what she does. And that’s not even speaking of the socioeconomic impact of her work in Alabama. Her style may not be for you, but to say she lacks skills or is just catching a passing fad is to betray an ignorance of what Natalie Chanin and her company really do.

  • Bless you, Kay! Am smiling—just what was needed this morning as the arm Q has been looming large 😉 in my life. Not now.

    Going sumner sleeveless!

    Thank you!

  • You touched a nerve!
    If I had a nickel for every time my younger self eschewed sleeveless for dissatisfaction with arms I’d love to have now, I could buy every ball I yarn that turns my head!
    (Well, I sort of do that already, but you get me drift.)
    I do have a special program going on to fight my “ladies’ auxiliary “ arms: hefting my marvelous 7week old mega-baby grandchild, who lives a short walk away. Heaven!

    • And your sweater looks marvelous! It’s been way too hot for more sleeve.

    • Congrats on the grandbaby! Lift frequently!

  • The sweater looks perfect and thank you for saying what we are all feeling!

  • Hearing your concerns with seaming in Sylph makes me feel so much better about my disaster seams using Sylph in my Shakerag top. In fact, although the body knit up delightfully, the shoulder seams went so wrong I had to sew them with my sewing machine to salvage a wearable garment. I still wear it and love it, but the bulky sewn seams mock me! I have never had that much trouble seaming.

    • Wish I had thought to machine stitch the Shakerag too. Dang!

    • Oh that’s terrible! So glad the sewing machine saved the day. My Shakerag Top seams went ok for some reason, but I am filing away Nell’s tip about separating the plies and sewing up with just the linen.

      • Yes, I am also filing away that comment for future use! I wish I’d thought of it at the time, but I was in panic mode and not thinking clearly. I darn near frogged the whole thing before I thought to sew it! On a more positive note, after a good soak the fabric it created in that top is heavenly. I am probably too traumatized to knit another Shakerag (I’m sure whatever went wrong was my fault, not the pattern’s, but the PTSD remains). However, I love the fabric so much I will definitely use Sylph again on another pattern.

  • I applause your attitude about your “ wings” , and yes my wings are flapping while I’m a clapping !!!

  • Sing it sister! If it weren’t still freaking 49 degrees here in Minnesota, I’d break out a sleeveless top in solidarity!

    • The womenfolk of Minnesota are an inspiration to us all, Mary Lou.

    • Same here…still to chilly for sleeveless!

      • Same here in Iowa, although it got up to the mid-70s today. We’ve been in the low 50s, but perhaps spring is upon us finally!

    • It was in the 40s this morning in Wisconsin but rocketed into the low 60s by the end of the day. Warm weather has to come soon. Doesn’t it? Please?

  • That sweater is gorgeous! And I applaud your rant. Well done!

  • I love this so much x

  • Brava!

  • For years—that would be after I saw a photo of myself at college graduation in a sun dress—I never wore anything sleeveless. How silly was that? I may aspire to Michelle Obama arms, but I’m not tall or thin or married to the former president of the United States. Thanks for the post. To arms, ladies! To arms.

  • I’m a young 66 suprised by the constant body changes but comfort over vanity. And in 2014, I acquired a scar on my left arm that goes from the top of my arm to just below my elbow. Since I don’t see it, I don’t care ! It’s like my greying hair, I earned every single one
    Knit on for yourself and enjoy wearing what you enjoy

    • Hear, hear! Surprise is exactly it. It’s like we thought we were immune.

  • will you publish the pattern for the sweater please?

    • I am pondering doing a final how-to post but I will not publish this sweater as a pattern. It really is just an adaption of Ririko’s wonderfully simple and elegant Relax pattern.

      Here’s a post where I explained my process when I was in the middle of figuring it out: https://www.moderndailyknitting.com/construct-log-cabin-pullover/

  • Absolutely love your rant! You go girl! I’m with ya


    I love the sweater… and that skirt!! <3

  • Perfect! Also sweater looks beautiful on you!

  • Yay!!!

  • Love your sweater. Meaty arms, underarm droop, etc. never gave me a worry. I let them be other peoples’ focus. Extreme crepiness, however, really has me stumped. (I look like a laundered piece of crumpled Tencel fabric just before machine-drying), so covering the top part of upper arms has my name on it! I will check into that very elegant short-sleeved sweater!

    • WHAT IS UP WITH THE CREPINESS. It sneaks up on you and then WHOA how did THAT get there?

  • Right there with you about the arms! That sweater is perfect in oh so many ways! Please tell me you are going to sell the pattern….I really need and more to the point want to make and wear this sweater…perfect for AZ evenings! When and where will you be selling it?

    • I may do a final how-to post but I will not publish this sweater as a pattern. It really is just an adaption of Ririko’s wonderfully simple and elegant Relax pattern, linked in the post above.

      Here’s a post where I explained my process when I was in the middle of figuring it out: https://www.moderndailyknitting.com/construct-log-cabin-pullover/

      This process could be adapted to any bottom-up sweater that is constructed in separate pieces for front and back. The Shakerag Top, for example!

      • Thank you Kay!

  • Yes! Lead the way! The right to bare arms shall not be infringed! (What if this terrible mess we’re in is the result of a typo? #homophoneproblems)

    • Indeed, the right to bare arms implies a whole lot of feminine autonomy that would have been actually revolutionary in the 18th century! LOL!

      • It’s all been a huge misunderstanding!

  • We’re about the same age and I, too, have a growing list of Things I Am Done Fussing About! Personally, I prefer the sweater your way, no sleeves, and am now hurrying over to add it to my queue.

  • thank you for the honesty….now we can be happy with ourselves too

  • Oh Kay, I love your rant so much! I’m the mom who doesn’t own a bathing suit anymore and only ever wears shorts if I’m literally melting and no one but immediate family is expected at our house. Certainly never in public! I’m trying to care less about what other people think of my appearance, but it’s a work in progress. You’ve encouraged me to keep working on it though! Maybe I’ll even buy a bathing suit this year and go swimming at the lake this summer! (Looking forward to the bathing suit rant!)

    • I’m with you about shorts. I have always hated my knees and ankles, but especially my knees (good German farm stock – very sturdy!). While living in South Texas, I discovered the joy of sundresses with swingy skirts. They cover my knees and you actually get a breeze underneath!

    • I’m not the bravest one in any crowd, and I am struggling to understand how to age both in terms of looks and also, hello, body crumbling out from under me—but. Here’s what I know. Where short sleeves in the heat. Buy the bathing suit. Go swimming. Leap into the experiences you can take joy in. Who honestly cares what we look like? Sadly one other true thing I know about getting older is no one (aside from maybe at your college reunion) is looking at us anyway!

  • Kay, your sweater is stunning and very elegant! Love it!

  • How great are your sweater and skirt!!! May we request another photo shoot when you have finished the skirt?
    I look in the mirror and now see my Mom’s arms. They are a comfort to me, as I lost her seven years ago. I know that these arms are those of my foremothers who pushed plows in Sweden over a century ago, and that makes me smile. That said, I’m struggling with wearing short and sleeveless tops this summer, so your rant was perfectly timed! Oh how I love you!!!!

  • Here, here!

  • Kay, I heartily agree. Short sleeve, or no sleeve weather, BRING IT!! If mine arms offend thee, pluck out thine own eyes! These arms have been around for 63 years, and they serve me well, saggy skin and all.

  • Gorgeous! All of you. Until I was fifty I was a slyph. (? not sure if that is the right use of the word but it ‘sounds’ right.) After menopause I gained and gained and now have soft billowing upper arms. At the very least.
    Why are we so hard on ourselves? I am constantly comparing myself to little syphlings and pondering which ‘lifestyle change” I need to make to get there. Is it giving up to accept my 62 year old self the way I am?
    You look great in your sleeveless Relax, and your arms look great. I can’t wait to see the skirt with it. A perfect pairing indeed. XO

    • I hate that “giving up” narrative and all the judgment it implies. I have never given up a day in my life. My goal has always been “foxy for age and weight.” Even that implies judgment/self-deprecation, but I don’t think our former 16 year old selves and their Glamour magazine diets will ever entirely leave our brains.

  • Beautiful sweater! As for bingo wings, yep, I have them, and my granddaughter says they’re the comfiest headrest in the world.

  • It looks lovely on you. It reminds me that I should knit Relax. I keep worrying that I will make the wrong size. I also need to finish my Shaker sweater in that wonderful yarn.

    • I forgot to mention what beautiful stitches you are making on that skirt. Two masterpieces worn at one time.

  • Dear Kay, I love you and I love your rant! This post made me laugh out loud this morning. You are a Wise Woman Goddess with a fantastic wardrobe and attitude to match. YAS to comfort above all!

  • The sweater AND you look great. Seriously, no one looks at our arms the way we do. I stopped worrying about a while ago. Dress for your comfort!

  • Rant away!!! The ‘I’m old and I have more insurance’ quote comes to mind. I totally understand why designers want to use pretty young women to model their designs. But why don’t they occasionally show a woman with some wisdom about her? One who has seen the ropes and knows them personally. Who no longer has the shape of a 20 something because she isn’t. Oops. I think I grabbed your rant and starting running with it. Wait. Who’s kidding whom? ..starting walking briskly with it. At my age running is not on my things to do list. The only thing I run for is a shoe sale at Dillard’s.

  • Love the sweater, looks great with short sleeves. I have been knitting for 40 years, still have not been able to knit a sweater that fits for myself, maybe that is the next one to try. The rant on arms is so appropriate for me as I turn 65 this year. I am getting better about accepting the changes, still working on the wrinkled hands- when did that happen?!

  • love it! “it’s an arm…get used to it” is my new summer mantra.

  • love your top and love your rant!

  • Thank you Kay. I needed that. 🙂

  • Thank you – this is just great. _____ (insert body part here), come at me! And love that sweater!

  • Really looking forward to the swimsuit column.

  • I am completely in favor of all of this. Hurrah!

  • Am I looking at the wrong photo? The first one above send like it has sleeves to me. Nearly elbow length sleeves. Sleeves that cover all the jiggly bits. How are those not sleeves?

  • I’m so disheartened when I hear women in my lys say they can’t make a sleeveless garment because of how they look in it. It’s 110 with 90 percent humidity and “cover up”?? Isn’t that sad how we place our worth in our arms? I have big arms. If you don’t like it, your problem. I’m guilty of throwing something to cover up too, but not if it’s hot!

  • Alright, Kay, I see what you’re doing here. Raising a fuss about sleeves on a sweater that already has them, built right into the pattern! Those pieces you didn’t attach are not sleeves — they are cuffs! I can just hear your bathing suit rant now…”It was an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot bikini…” ;-)!

  • Those arms are called angel wings according to a piano student of mine when I gave her a rousing round of applause for finally getting her Man on the Flying Trapeze correct! I don’t like to show mine either so try valiantly to not raise them heavenward, especially when wearing short sleeves.

  • I love you, Kay. I wear sleeveless tops to work mainly because sleeves on tops at the clothing stores often do not fit my “prairie girl” upper arms. So I just don’t bother. But I love what you said, “It’s an arm: get used to it.” That needs to be stitched on a sampler!

  • You GO!!!! Let’s wear our “bingo bags” (my mom’s term) with pride!!!

  • I like the way the sleeves came out. To think you did not even have to knit extra to get them! It’s a great top , Kay. It looks cool and comfortable, too. Have fun wearing it!

  • Can I get an amen!

  • Love the finished sweater. You look great in it.
    I have been a sun worshiper all my life. I live at the beach. I’m usually out in the sun by now, but it has been rainy and cold.
    So my arms ( and legs and whole body) are pretty “ crepi” at this point in my life ( 75 in the fall).
    I’ve had a lot of fun, I’m going to knit the Relax sweater soon, and if someone makes a nasty comment
    about my saggy baggy skin/ body – we have a saying in N.Y. which I won’t write here…..
    This is the only body I have. I live with it. “ You” don’t even know me, so get over yourself.
    Enjoy your new outfit, Kay, and please post a photo of you wearing sweater and skirt soon.

  • Love the sweater and the painting behind you. I too have alwys hated my arms, but to me that is definitely a sleeve! I willnow be looking at drop sleeve patterns more closely because to have sleeves without knitting them, dat’s magic!

    Psst… as you of course know you can seam with a different yarn….

  • It think it beautiful! Bravo

  • You look great. I have seen big arms in my time, and you do not have them. I have a friend who was hiding her arms under a sweater in the summertime, and both her husband and I were incredulous. I suppose we all have body image issues, but you don’t need to have thqt one.

    • Brilliant log cabin concept and execution. It’s perfect!

      And hooray for celebrating arms that work and knit.

  • Bah. I keep looking at the picture, but I can’t see anything wrong with your arms. In my house, we’d call you delusional for seeing problems that aren’t there, and pass you a glass of wine to help your vision. 😉

    Your sweater is amazing. It looks wonderful on you. You look fabulous in it.

  • Last night it was soup made with wedding punch instead of pork stock and bait instead of chicken, and tonight it’s the “right to bare arms” homophone. Ann and Kay, you always inspire us in a multitude of ways!
    For those interested in embroidery, I listen to a podcast which is about fashion history by way of biography, design, social, and technological history. There are two recent episodes on the history of embroidery, the first one at https://www.dressedpodcast.com/podcasts/the-art-of-embroidery-an-interview-with-nadia-albertini-part-i.htm
    (There is even a episode on bathing suits.)

  • Bucolic biceps. Best phrase ever!!

  • That is SUCH a great sweater design and your log-cabineering worked out beautifully! Looking forward to seeing the skirt and sweater ensemble in action soon.
    And not for nothin’ but…if you’re pushing a plow I think it’s time for a conversation with your mule 🙂

  • Love the sweater, the arms, the attitude..love it all! But as we are still getting snow here I really need all the sleeves I can get. Come summer and sleeves will have no need to grace my “bingo bags”. (love that name!) We are all the current accumulation of unique experiences–what’s not to love?

  • I’d just decided the same thing exact thing! Bravo to us!

  • Preach! I feel the same!

  • That sweater is gorgeous and you look fabulous in it! Arghhhh…. we women waste so much time and energy picking our bodies apart our whole lives, don’t we? And much as I instruct myself firmly and regularly not to do this, I am still not free from it. Well, I am planning to join you this summer in baring arms regularly and working on being at peace with it! Clapping (with arms flapping)!

  • I love it completely the way it is and the log cabin is super. Are you going to post your creative idea on how you did the log cabin body?

  • You and your arms look great in your new sweater!

  • Sing it, Sister! I’ve avoided sleeveless tops my entire life, but I’ve been noticing that there are a lot of women with fleshy upper arms who don’t cover them and -gasp!- look absolutely fine! Maybe I can do that too! I’m turning 60 this year and I am over trying to hide myself. It’s not going to get much better so I might as well celebrateall the things my body can do for me. You look fabulous!

  • I just remarked to my husband recently that I have developed “Jacobson arms” reminiscent of my grandmother and all 7 of her sisters. I remember Grandma complaining that she often could not find sleeveless tops and dresses with big enough armholes. My other grandma had massive upper arms too, as a consequence of having polio as a child and swimming for physical therapy. I sometimes struggle with body image issues but it’s nice to know I’m not alone.

  • Yes! Anything to prevent overheating!

  • I love this type of sleeve because it’s just the easiest–I’ll be looking up this pattern.

    I, too, have had it with not showing arms. My arms are fat–they just are, matching the rest of me. Perhaps one day they’ll be more muscular, perhaps not. I can’t wait for that day to be comfortable.

    Also, my sisters and I call “bingo wings” “Hodge Podge Lodge arms” because of the way the arms of the hostess of that children’s TV show would wave as she waved goodbye to the children! We swore never to have them–we have them. 🙂 Here’s the link at minute 28:43 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nCew_KeQI0o Not anywhere near as bad as I remember, and of course the woman isn’t close to as old as I thought! Ah, youth!

  • well, MDK, something tickled my memory, and I reviewed the lyrics of Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” and I do believe you have enough support to start a Movement. What say you offer a knit-in-public day challenge, to knit in public AND do it in a sleeveless top, with a double-dog-dare to also wear shorts. Are you in?

  • “bucolic biceps” is officiatly my favorite phrase!

    Also, I’d immolate if I wore sleeved shirts all the time, so folks are just going to have to deal with my arms.

  • Well golly thank you for saying! Where I live summers are short (July & August) and opportunities to wear one’s summer tops correspondingly limited. My upper arms aren’t what they used to be and I’m trying to get used to the sight of my dangly upper arm flesh. Maybe I need to get over the worry that anyone is actually looking and/or noticing but me!

  • When I had only just glanced at the photo, I thought, “Great! she went with short sleeves! Very attractive.” Even better that you didn’t have to sew any on! Beautiful top. Congratulations.
    (And very intriguing skirt; please model them together when your smile returns.)

  • I was seated at the “oldies” table at a wedding last summer; the photographer asked us all to wave and I though “someone’s going to get flapped in the face for sure!” Waved like a crazy person!

  • You go, girl! It’s self acceptance.

  • Thank you for your comments about arm coverage!

  • I’ve always hated my upper arms! But(!!), I’m finally to the point of realizing that they are good arms. I can knit with them, right? They function!

  • I really wanted to order from the MDK shop. But your app won’t let me order what I really want to order. So could you stop sending me your news letter because if you don’t want my order or my money so quit sending me your newsletter are anything. Because it’s your loss.

  • You must watch ‘I mom so hard, swimsuit edition’!!

  • Me too.

  • Fifty years ago when I was young and skinny, I noticed my underarms jiggling. I was living in Florida and I wore sleeveless dresses every day. Today there are even more more jiggles, and I still wear clothing for the weather. The granddaughters of my knitting friend in Denmark call her loving arms “Mormor Flabber.”