Finished Object: Yellow Polwarth!

During the course of my first Portland winter, I came to the realization that I needed more layering garments. Due to the drought in California, this had been my first winter in about 5 years. Over the course of those five years, I had gone through about six moves, and several wardrobe purges, which had somehow resulted in a closet that was short on layering pieces (but heavy on sundresses!). I realized that I needed a few lightweight pullovers in my closet, and I needed them badly. The sort of pullovers that could go over a shirt, and under a jacket. The sort of pullovers that could be thrown on over anything, and stretch through several seasons. Fortunately, I had just the thing queued up in my stash!

When I first saw the detail shots for Ysolda Teague’s Polwarth sweater, I knew I needed to make it. I bought the pattern as soon as it came out, and the yarn not too long after. Then it sat in my stash for about a year, waiting for the right time to be cast on. That time came a few weeks ago, when I decided that Polwarth was exactly the wardrobe staple I was missing. And boy was I right! Since finishing this sweater, I have worn it almost non-stop, with all types of outfits, in all sorts of weather. This has proven to be exactly the laying piece that I needed, and I am so happy to have it in my closet!

Polwarth was a simple knit, with just enough interest in the design details to keep me engaged. The brioche triangle detail on the collar was my favorite part of the design! I haven’t done a lot of brioche before, but the instructions were so clearly written, I found it very easy to follow along. Likewise, the subtle curve of the raglan seams – achieve through strategic increase row spacing – were fun, and engaging to create.

After splitting for the sleeves, I set aside the pattern and took some creative liberties. I omitted the waist-shaping, opting for a boxy shape that I find is perfect for layering. The most noticeable change I made is the split hem. I have been wanting to incorporate a few split hem pieces into my wardrobe for a while, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to make that happen. I also went ahead and lengthened the back ribbing about an 1″ more than the front ribbing, and I love how it turned out! It came out exactly as I wanted, and it looks perfect over all of my split-hem shirts.

Lastly, I knit the sleeves the flat, instead of in the round, and opted for 2×2 ribbing on the cuffs instead of brioche. I also lengthened the cuffs to 5″ so that I could fold them in half. Again, I love how the sleeves came out! Folded sleeve cuffs may be my new thing!

The last thing I want to say about this sweater is the color. I have always loved this rich, golden yellow, but it can be so difficult to find. Brooklyn Tweed’s Hayloft colorway knocks it out of the park! I am so glad I chose it for this piece, and am eager to use it for other projects. For a girl who primarily ears greys, blues, creams, and other neutrals, this rich yellow is just the pop of color I need to increase the richness of my wardrobe palate without wandering too far out of my comfort zone.

I would definitely call this sweater a great success. It’s exactly the layering piece I was looking to create. It’s lightweight, warm, goes perfectly over several of my shirts, and fits snugly under jackets and cardigans. The details make it interesting to look at, but the shape is simple enough to make it perfect for the every-day. The yarn is soft yet sturdy, which makes it comfortable while greatly reducing the chance of pills. And above all, it was fun to knit! I would absolutely recommend this pattern for your own lightweight pullover needs!

Have you made a Polwarth? What did you think about it? Do you have another favorite lightweight pullover pattern? Share in the comments bellow!

Pattern: Polwarth by Ysolda Teague
Yarn: 5 skeins of Brooklyn Tweed Loft in Hayloft
Size: 37 1/2″



Wardrobe Building: The Sock Drawer

This past week I did something I haven’t done in a long time – I cast on a pair of socks. When I first started knitting, socks were my ultimate goal. I wanted to be a competent enough knitter to manage their tricky construction. Though I no longer remember the first pair of socks I knit, I do remember feeling immensely proud of my accomplishment, and eager to move on to my next pair.

For a few years, knitting socks was my jam. I loved everything about them, from their interesting construction, to how amazed non-knitters were when I pulled out my double-points. I almost always had a pair of socks going, and was constantly endeavoring to try new things – lace, cables, heel construction, I wanted to try it all!

The past two years, I have moved away from socks, and concentrated all my efforts on sweater-making. Its been ages since I actually had a pair of socks on my needles, and perhaps even worse, its been ages since I’ve had any handmade socks in my sock drawer. Most of the socks I knit during my sock phase were either experimental (and therefore didn’t fit quite how I wanted or didn’t work with the yarn I had picked) or had been knit for someone else (usually my boyfriend). As a result, I have a dearth of handknit socks for my own feet. This is a situation I felt needed immediate rectifying, so after casting off my latest sweater, I dove into my carefully curated collection of sock yarn and cast on.

As I started knitting this sock, I began to think about my pledge for the year – that I would only make new clothing, not buy any. I had intended that pledge to extend to my entire wardrobe, but I hadn’t given any thought to whether underwear – as in socks, bras, and panties – would be included in that. “Wardrobe” is a broad term, and taken at its broadest, all types of underwear should be included.

This is something I feel doesn’t get a lot of air time in the conversations surrounding slow fashion. Certainly disposable socks and undergarments are just as much a product of fast fashion as cheap jeans and blouses. Making it a goal to knit all of my own socks is just as important as making it a goal to knit all of my own sweaters. So, in addition to one day wanting to be able to have all of my outer garments be handmade or otherwise sustainably produced, I want to be able to have all my under garments be created in the same way.

At the moment, I am nowhere near being able to sew my own bras or underwear (although the underwear thing is probably way more likely to happen since there aren’t any underwires involved), but I do have the ability to knit my own socks. So, in keeping with the promise to make all of my new clothing this year, I will be making all of my socks in 2017.

What about you? Are you a sock maker? Are you also working towards making your own undergarments? Or do you do so already? Share in the comments below!

PS. – Wanted to share this article on the environmental impacts of fast fashion. I thought it was a good overview of some of the ills associated with the fast fashion world.

Slow Fashion October: Long Worn

I have had this phrase, “long worn”, percolating in my head all week. Through lectures on torts and civil procedures, through contracts readings and memo writings, during lunch breaks, and coffee runs, while making dinner, and getting dressed, I have been turning over in the back of my mind what long worn means to me, and how it fits into my life. At this moment, there are two concrete ways I see this concept operating in my world: (1) the clothes that others have worn before me, and (2) the clothes I make to last.

I have been a life-long thrifter. My mother is a public school teacher, and with three kids, thrifting was an easy, and fun way to keep us on budget, and fashionable. As a child, and a teenager, I just thought of second hand clothes as a way to find interesting pieces that were different from what everyone else was wearing. I loved thrifted clothing for what it could do to set me apart. While I still value that particular aspect of buying second hand, I have lately come to realize the value of reuse of clothing. In a world where trash is produced at an alarming rate, and our society’s relationship with the wardrobe has changed so drastically, so quickly, thrifting can be a radical way to remove oneself from the cycle. To wear second hand clothes is to give a garment new life, spare it from the dumpsite, and release oneself from the hectic world of fast fashion.

At this point, I would say close to 80% of my wardrobe is thrifted, and nearly 100% of my hardest working garments come from my second hand selection. Pictured below are two of my most favorite, and longest kept thrifted finds.

The jeans are high-waisted Levi’s, found a few years ago, and they fit like a dream. I have a body that is often hard to fit, with short legs, and wide hips that make correctly fitted pants almost impossible. Those jeans are like the Holy Grail to me, and up until recently were the only pair of jeans I owned. The knees are starting to thin, but these babies are long from retirement. I’m looking forward to the future rips and mends that will continue to tell the story of this incredible pair of pants.

The sweater was a gift, purchased at a thrift store by a friend who saw it and instantly thought of me. It is 100% cashmere, soft, warm, and light as could be. It has served me well as a layering piece through several Northern California winters, and will doubtlessly continue to soldier on through many Portland winters. When this sweater came to me, it had a few small holes in the sleeves, which was doubtless the reason why it had found its way into Goodwill. It took me only 5 minutes to fix the holes up so that no one could ever tell they were there. After I had mended the holes, and was wearing the sweater, I couldn’t help but reflect on the previous owner. Did they know that the holes would have been so easy to fix? If they had known, would they still have donated this sweater? Were they sad to see it go, did they wish they could have kept it, but feared that the holes meant it had outworn its use? As a knitter, I obviously have a bit of an advantage when it comes to repairing knit fabrics, and yet I still feel (perhaps wrongly so?) that learning to mend is not so hard a thing to do. In an effort to truly value our clothing, knowing how to make our garments last, being able to fix them so that they continue to wear, is of the utmost importance. This is the first way that the concept of “long worn” fits into my life – preserving garments deemed useless by someone else, giving them new life, and new purpose.

The second way “long worn” factors into my life, and my wardrobe, is in my handmades. When I first started knitting garments, I, like so many others, was attracted to the soft, gushy yarns that feel incredible against your skin. I wanted super soft merino sweaters to cuddle with all winter long. The only problem with those snuggly, marshmallow yarns, is their lack of longevity. They pill, they shed, they lose their shape, and what began as an impeccable finished object quickly becomes a frustrating chore. I had made these sweaters in the hopes of placing them permanently in my wardrobe, and it was a defeating feeling to realize I wasn’t reaching for them for fear of wrecking them. That’s when I started turning away from merino wools, and looking for fabrics with a bit more tooth to them. Now, when I knit a handmade garment, I give careful thought to whether or not the fabric will stand up over time. Will the wool pill too quickly? Will it keep its shape? Will the color fade? I have come to discover that choosing a soft yarn in a pretty color isn’t enough. When knitting a garment that will remain in a wardrobe for years, thought has to be given to whether or not the material will last. This year, I focused on knitting sweaters out of sturdier yarns, like Brooklyn Tweed, Lettlopi, and Imperial Stock Ranch, and have been delighted with the result (the two pictures at the top of this post are a couple of this year’s successes). I have built sweaters that will last, sweaters that will tell stories, and I simply can’t think of anything better than that.

In all truth, considering this topic of “long worn” this past week, has got me thinking about so much more beyond this blog post. I am thinking about concepts that are hard to pin down (particularly when exam prep is vying for top billing in my brain space), like how the clothes I currently have will last, how the clothes I add to my wardrobe in the future will fit with what I already have, how to determine whether I actually need a particular piece, and so much more. But that’s the beauty of this slow fashion movement, it leaves you questioning what you thought you knew about clothing, fashion, and style, and pushes you to create something new.

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.