Lessons From 2015

For me, 2015 was the year of the sweater (at least the first half of it was!). I was on a sweater-making binge this past year, racing gleefully through five woolly numbers, and several linen tops during the summer. However, come 2016, I can’t actually say that I wear any of them. It is disappointing to look back at the work I have done over the past year, and realize that little of it will actually make it’s way into my wardrobe. What is the point of doing all that knitting if it’s only going to sit in a cupboard?

The good thing to come out of all of this, is that I learned a hell of a lot. Despite having been a knitter for ten years, and having worked in a yarn shop for the past two, last year was the first time I ever did a gauge swatch, adjusted a pattern to fit me better, and by making mistakes with my sweater ventures, I discovered what would work, and what wouldn’t work going forward.

The first sweater I completed last year was the Praline sweater by Gudrun Johnson. I started in in December 2014, and finished it January of last year. All in all, I would say it is probably my favorite sweater I made last year. I used Madelinetosh Pashmina in the colorway Tart, which had been haunting me for months. The color is gorgeous! It shimmers, and the red is so rich and bright. The fit of my Praline is absolutely perfect. No other sweater (handmade or store bought) has ever fit me so well. And yet, despite all these good things, I never wear it. I realized too late that, while I am head-over-heels for Tart’s rich red, I prefer looking at it to wearing it. For me, that was lesson number one. If I wanted to knit for my wardrobe, I would need to make sure I created garments in colors I would actually wear regularly.

The rest of the sweaters I made in 2015 were almost all in grey, a color that frequents my wardrobe. However, each of those had problems too. One cardigan I made in a stunning dark grey, in yarn that I loved, but the pattern and the yarn just didn’t agree. After blocking, the yarn grew, and the structure-less sweater design just wasn’t enough to reign it in. This one I plan on frogging and re-knitting into a different pattern sometime this year, because I really do love the yarn.

The other misbegotten cardigan I knit was done out of a soft, snowy grey alpaca, that, though beautiful, suffered from being made out of a material that pills and stretches. After a few wears, it would no longer stay on my shoulders, and the arms were pilling rather badly. From both of those sweaters, I learned a lot about choosing yarn appropriate for your pattern, and yarn appropriate for wear. Perhaps alpaca would work for a fancy, dress-up sweater, but not for hard-working daily wear.

With 2015’s mistakes fresh in my mind, I am proceeding more cautiously into 2016. I want to produce garments that will fit seamlessly into my wardrobe, and also fit me well enough, and wear in the way that I want them too. This year I am looking at sturdy wools, patterns with fit and structure, and picking neutral colors that will pair with my more basic aesthetic. The challenge for 2016 is to look critically at my wardrobe, assess the holes that are there, and knit to accurately fill them.

I’m still in need of a basic, sturdy, every-day grey cardigan that I can throw on over jeans or a dress. Pullovers are lacking in my closet as well, and I would love to have a couple that could easily be paired with pretty much anything. I have plans for knitting up Hannah Fettig’s Lesley in a light grey Imperial Stock Ranch yarn, and am visualizing pullovers in cream and black as well. I have a few coat-like cardigans in the works, that should come in handy when it’s too warm out for my heavy wool coat, but not yet warm enough for just a shirt. That is where I’m starting 2016, we’ll see where I end up.

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