Friday, February 26, 2010

My Handmade Wardrobe

I recently got to thinking, much of my wardrobe have I made over the years? It didn't seem like it would be very much. I mean, I maybe eek out one knitted sweater a year, a handful of hats. I'm constantly sewing ill-fitting dresses and tops for myself, but I really didn't expect the handmade portion of my wardrobe to make up a very big percentage. And then I started pulling things out of drawers and off of hangers. What I wound up with was a big steaming pile of handmade. Here's a little tour of a few of the items in this pile. (Mostly the knitting, by the way, because it's too cold to model any sewn sundresses! That will be a follow up post for spring.)

At the bottom of the stack you'll find the sweaters. There are 4 in total. The first (at the very bottom of the stack) is fuzzy and ugly and looks a little bit like the bedraggled one-eyed cat, PeeWee, my family had growing up, matted fur and all. Let's face it, it will never be worn. But it will also never be thrown out or unraveled and knitted into something else. It will sit in my drawer as a celebration of too short sweaters with sloppy seams from around the world. But these two...the gray one and the blue one above...these are my all-time favorites. These are what I like to call winners. The blue sweater is Ingenue from Wendy Bernard's Custom Knits, a book that I edited. The gray sweater is Klaralund from the Noro Corenlia Tuttle Hamilton Collection Book 2. I first saw Klaralund when I worked at Noe Knit in San Francisco (R.I.P., sweet store) in 2006 and thought, someday I will make that sweater, gosh darn it! And someday I did. Instead of a colorful Noro colorway, however, I opted for simple gray Alpaca, which, as Robb says, makes it look a bit like armor. (Thanks, Robb.)

The brown stripey cheery sweater above is another one of my favorites--made using the Classic Bottom-Up Round-Yoke Sweater Formula from Custom Knits. This is where you take your measurements and design your own sweater following 9 easy steps. When Wendy first sent me this "pattern," I thought it was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen. Melanie (of STC Crafts/Melanie Falick Books, of course) questioned it at first--it requires actual math, like division and maybe even algebra--and she wondered if knitters would find that aspect overwhelming. But I assured her nerdy knitters everywhere would eat it up. Soon after I made this declaration, however, I got to wondering if the formula would actually work and felt I better put my yarn where my mouth was. So I whipped up this sweater. The answer? Yup, it works. And because you get to design the sweater yourself, you wind up with things like stripes and wacky red crocheted edges.

In addition to sweaters and such, I have made no less than 2 million hats in my day. They're probably my favorite thing in the world to knit. They take approximately 5 minutes to make (ok, more like 5 hours), they can be kooky or sleek or cozy or whimsical or au francais, and it doesn't matter if you mess up a hat because it was just a tiny bit of time and yarn, so who cares? Here are two of my wintry favorites: they gray one I designed--originally made WAY too big, I felted it down to a proper human head size; the brown hat is the Sunflower Tam from Knitting Nature. Yum.

Now, I feel compelled to confess that there have also been some misses over the years...and yet they stay in the wardrobe. The knitted bikini shown above was, believe it or not, one of my first projects ever. And yes, I've worn water. (Note to all future knitted bikini wearers: chlorine WILL dull dark colored yarn, and knitted stretch-cotton, when submerged in water, feels an awful lot like wearing a full diaper. I'm just sayin.) Let's call the above footwear "experimental." The pink pair were my first ever knitted socks, and the lighter pink toe on one of the socks was not intentional. It's what happens to new knitters when you start a sock and don't consider how much yarn you actually have before you begin. The leg warmers next to them, well, those were the result of me wondering what leg warmers would look like with an 80s retro gym sock design. The answer? They look like 80s retro gym socks, and consequently, they don't get worn very much. Go figure!

Someday, I'll admit, it is my goal to create an entirely handmade wardrobe. I know that this is weird. And most likely improbable. But until then, I'm going to look into learning how to make pants as that is the one clothing style that I do not have in this stack. Anyone know where I can find a good pattern for short pants? Any chance culottes are coming back?


  1. You've come a long way from those knitted bikini days. Just sayin'!


  2. You could totally bring culottes back.

  3. My favorite thing about that very pretty stack of handmade things is that you've shown that handmade doesn't have to mean crunchy granola and DIY needn't wear birkenstocks.

  4. ...unless you were to knit your own birkenstocks!