Let’s have a Slow Fashion October

Let's have a Slow Fashion October

Ever since my post the other day (well, since last Me Made May, actually) I’ve been thinking about the need for another sort of month. I believe this is perfectly clear but let me repeat myself just in case: I think Me Made May is awesome and important and completely wonderful — I support it fully and do not wish to detract from it in any way. It was created by and for sewers, though, and it just so happens that it’s not especially well-timed for knitters. (Unless you live in Denver, where it’s still snowing!) So I’ve long been pondering a month better suited for knitters, but the world doesn’t need another me-made month, per se. And besides which, I’d like the scope of this to be different and broader. I’d like us to be able to celebrate not only our own makes (although definitely that!) but clothes that have been made for us by others; worn over the course of years or decades; handed down or rescued from thrift shops or attics; mended; handcrafted in the small studios of slow fashion designers and/or from ethical fabrics; and so on. I want it to be about responsible and sustainable fashion in all its splendor, in other words. An opportunity to discuss and explore the wide range of topics that are at the core of slow fashion. Fall is undeniably peak fashion season, and by October there’s pretty sure to be a bit of a chill in the air in most of the US (a bit colder up north!), while hopefully still a bit of a chill lingering for our friends down under as well. So it seems perfect to me.

I’ll have a lot more to say between now and then about ways to participate and contribute (beyond IG selfies), but I wanted to publicly put the idea forth in the meantime. So who’s in?

Photos from my Amanda cardigan and my Make, Knit, Mend post, which I hope you’ll read if you haven’t before

Our Tools, Ourselves: Whitney Ott

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Whitney Ott

A couple of years ago, I became Instagram friends with a photographer named Whitney Ott — whose feed features exquisite photos of food and flora and her awesome dog, Scout, among other things — not knowing at first that she was a knitter. Eventually that became apparent, and I also found out that her mother even owns a yarn store (which soon thereafter became a FSCo stockist). We got into a big email exchange about all sorts of things, and I asked her at one point if she’d be interested in doing Our Tools, Ourselves, but it got lost in all the other chatter. Two years hence I renewed the invitation, and today — at long last — my wish for a peek into her knitting life has come true! (My motto for the week seems to be good things are worth waiting for.) Thanks, Whitney!

You can find Whitney at her website and on IG as @ohhellowlo.

. . .

Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

When I was around the age of 12 or 13, my mother taught me how to knit. She’s been a knitter for as long as I can remember and I am glad that she decided to pass on her knowledge to me. Knitting is such a therapeutic activity for me that I can’t imagine doing anything else. The rhythmic click of two needles, luscious yarn and a comfortable chair are so very rewarding.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I have been a fan of the Addi Turbo circular needles for a long time, and I think I own duplicates and triplicates of most sizes. I tend to mainly use circular needles regardless of the project. When I use DPNs, I like to use wood because it tends to bend a little with my knitting movements.

Our Tools, Ourselves interview: Whitney Ott

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

Every part of me wants to tell you that I have everything very neatly organized inside some kind of beautiful wooden chest. However, this is sadly not the case. To be fair, most of my yarn is in a designated area and either stored up in canvas bags or in a bin. My knitting patterns are the most neatly organized of the lot. I keep all of my knitting books together on a bookshelf and all of my loose leaf patterns are kept in a giant binder.

It’s the needles that seemed to be scattered everywhere. True story: After a day of running errands, I came home and saw something weird coming out of one of my rolled up sleeves. It was 24″ Addi Turbo connector. I have also walked out of the house wearing a set of needles around my neck by accident. Such is my life.

My husband and I are in the middle of moving from a loft to a house, and I am embarrassed by all of the stitch markers, loose DPNs and other accoutrements that I have found scattered everywhere. I am going to try to be better about my storage system in the new place.

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

I have many canvas bags that have permanent homes by the sofa. Some of those bags have smaller bags inside them that have the smaller projects in them. Do knitting chests exist? If so, I want one.

I used to be that person who had five to ten projects going on at the same time. I started to notice that projects weren’t getting finished, and some were being forgotten. So, the last couple of years, I have been making a concerted effort to have no more than three projects going at the same time. It’s really difficult to do because I am like every other fiber enthusiast and want to knit everything.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I’m going to count my ability to knit as my prized possession. Like I mentioned already, my mom taught me how to knit, and I am just so glad she did. Her mother and her mother’s mother were also knitters. You could say that knitting is part of my lineage. I never had the chance to know my grandmother, so for me knitting is like having a connection to her.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Whitney Ott

Do you lend your tools?

I’ve never had to lend my tools to anyone, but if I did, I would probably only lend things to my mom or someone that I really trust.

What is your favorite place to knit?

My preference is to either enjoy knitting by myself or with my mom and/or aunt. Like I mentioned earlier, knitting is more of a therapeutic activity, so being part of a knitting group wouldn’t be too relaxing for me. I like to focus more on the knitting and tending to light conversation. I also tend to zone out when I’m knitting, so I probably wouldn’t make for good conversation.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I would say that I’m an all-seasons knitter. Even though I live in the south, I will still knit with wool in the summer.

Our Tools, Ourselves interview: Whitney Ott

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

The first fair isle sweater I knit, I didn’t do a proper job of checking my gauge. What I really mean to say is I didn’t check my gauge at all. I was too stoked to be starting such a fun project! The finished size is perfect for a small child instead of an adult. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too upset by the outcome. The joy of knitting it far outweighed the final piece.

I’ve obviously learned from my mistake and force myself to do the gauge swatch, but if something doesn’t work out, I don’t go crazy. I don’t feel like all of my knitting has to be perfect, so I am very forgiving of minor mistakes or errors I make. It’s probably a cliché to say it, but I kind of like having a small “mistake” in my knitting. It makes it unique!

What are you working on right now?

Currently, I am working on Slope, from Shibui’s newest pattern line, and also my husband’s first hand-knitted sweater, which is the Rift pattern from Brooklyn Tweed’s BT Men Volume 2. We’ve been married for almost two years, so I figured it was time he got a sweater. However, I have a lot of projects I want to start! I’m trying to pick yarn for some pillows that I want to knit for our first house together. I’ve got some friends who are having babies, so I am having fun picking out sweet little hat, blanket and animal patterns. I also want to knit an afghan. The list never ends!

Our Tools, Ourselves interview: Whitney Ott

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

.

Photos © Whitney Ott

 

My first, sort-of Me Made May pledge

My first, sort-of Me Made May pledge

Me Made May kicked off last Friday and, while I’m excited to be seeing so many handmade outfits appearing in my IG feed, I’ve been feeling a little sad that my fledgling handmade wardrobe isn’t to a point where I can participate in any real way — especially since the vast majority of my me-mades are wool sweaters. When I wrote about my handmade wardrobe role models recently, I linked to Zoe’s overview from last year, and I just went and read this year’s version. I can’t pledge to wear a certain number or percentage of handmades this month, but I’ve decided to make a different kind of pledge. While I’m cheering everyone else on in their wears, I’m going to focus on making. So I hereby pledge to make one garment per week for the month of May, or four finished garments by the end of the month. But my bigger pledge to myself is to have assembled a meaningful handmade wardrobe (knitted and sewn) by next May!

If you’re not already doing so, keep an eye on the #memademay and #mmmay15 hashtags on Instagram this month.

.

Pictured are my Vintage Waistcoat, modified Wiksten Tanks No. 1 and No. 1a, and Togue Stripes tank

So nice to meet you!

So nice to meet you!

Stitches South is over and I’m gonna sleep for a few minutes and get caught up on the rest of everything, but I wanted to say to the crowd of you I got to meet this weekend how much I enjoyed it. You’re a bunch of lovely humans and it’s always a pleasure to put faces to names, but it’s also a unique sort of fun to be part of a community of people who have no qualms about asking to pet your sweater vest — or even try it on. So thank you for coming by and saying whatever you may have said.

Happily South will be in Nashville again next year, the last weekend of March, so put it on your calendars! And we’ll also be at the East Side Fiber Festival this June 27th. Meanwhile, I know a bunch of you followed suggestions from my things to do in Nashville post, and I’d love to hear how it worked out — especially if you went places I haven’t been to yet!

Q for You: What tests your love of knitting?

Q for You: What tests your love of knitting?

Last time in Q for You, I asked what aspect of knitting thrills you most — and I loved the variety of answers to that question. This time I’m pondering the opposite. I’m using my grandmother’s shawl up there to illustrate this Q, but let me perfectly clear up front: I am very happy to be knitting this shawl for my grandma and I can’t wait to give it to her (belatedly, at this point). But honestly? I also can’t wait to be done with it. I always think I like shawl knitting, and I do like it well enough at the beginning when the rows are short and you make fast progress from three little stitches to an ever-expanding wedge. But as time marches on, I’m reminded that the sort of project that tests my love of knitting is that which involves long rows of back and forth. The longer the rows get, the harder it is for me to remember that I like to knit.

I like to make things — three-dimensional things. I love to see a hat or mitt or sweater form on my needles as if out of thin air. For whatever reason, I don’t enjoy just knitting a flat piece of fabric. A flat piece of fabric meant to hang around your neck doesn’t make it any more interesting for me. I’ve been thinking of this as I’ve been knitting all these cardigans and pieced sweaters the past couple of years — how I used to say I hated to knit back and forth, and then here I am doing it routinely. But over time I’ve realized it’s the combination of flatness and long rows that wears me down. Flat is ok as long as a) the rows are short enough that progress is felt, and b) the flatness is a temporary state on the way to three dimensions.

So that’s my Q for You today: What variety or aspect of knitting bores you most? And bonus question: Do you do it anyway, and toward what end? (I wouldn’t let my reluctance to knit long and flat keep me from knitting my granny this beautiful shawl.)

.

PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: What thrills you?

Our Tools, Ourselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

In Our Tools, Ourselves, we get to know fiber artisans of all walks, ages, styles and skill levels, by way of their tools. For more on the series, read the introduction.

Our Tools, Ouselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

When I was first knitting and trying to make friends on Twitter — in the days before the knitting community migrated largely to Instagram — one of the first people to follow me (back?) was called @pinkbrutus, a rather memorable name. Her real name is Courtney Spainhower, and in the Instagram era, hers has become one of my very favorite feeds. Courtney is one funny lady, and I’m happy to have her in Our Tools today. By the way, I asked her where the name comes from and she said she and a friend were brainstorming her rockstar name for one of those web quizzes one day, putting random words together, and they settled on Pink Brutus — not knowing that was apparently the name of a professional wrestler once upon a time. That was enough to seal it.

You can find her on Instagram, Twitter and Ravelry, as well as at her website.

. . .

Do you knit, crochet, weave, spin, dye, sew … ?

I am a knitter straight to my marrow, but that wasn’t always the case.

I learned to crochet first, at age 13, taught by my aunt on a quiet afternoon. She was doing her duty and passing the craft to the next generation, just as my great-grandmother had handed the hook off to her. I dabbled a little with crochet until my oldest was born and I lost interest entirely. I have also tried my hand at the dye pot (my oldest still says she smells yarn every time the twang of vinegar is in the air), and at the drop spindle, and the spinning wheel. In fact, I purchased a very inexpensive drop spindle soon after I learned to knit and began practicing day and night. I ordered a spinning wheel soon after because with my degenerative autoimmune disease I just couldn’t hold my arm in the air any longer! It took me three hours to figure out how to assemble that spinning wheel. During those three hours, my children were wailing in agony from boredom and possibly because in all the excitement I had neglected to fix dinner. Needless to say, my husband was thrilled to come home from work to find two half-starved children on the floor and a “little house on the prairie looking thing” in the living room. I’ve even had a go at sewing, quilting, cross stitch, and embroidery. However, none of those endeavors ignited me in the same way knitting did. Though I really enjoyed dyeing and spinning, I knew I could easily buy expertly dyed yarns from a passionate yarnie and be far happier with the result. The same rang true for spinning — however, especially in the warmer months when knitting becomes more laborious, I still enjoy the meditative whirl of the wheel.

So, to the knitting. When I was expecting my youngest in 2006, my mother-in-law took a knitting class at a local craft store. I begged her to teach me but she only knew how to cast-on and work the knit stitch. I learned what I could from her and the rest on my own from books, online tutorials, and of course, many YouTube videos. There are a few reasons for my continuing love of the craft: Knitting is portable and takes up very little space (until you make career of it, but that’s another story) and I create via process and was a ceramics major in college with a printmaking minor. Process is where I feel most at home, and knitting is the ultimate process craft — from swatching to knitting, ripping, frogging and blocking (not to mention all of the extra when we throw design into the pot) that I’ve never become bored or felt I’d learned all there was learn. It’s an expansive craft, perfect for my restless little soul.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

I love my circular needles. I have two interchangeable sets — one plastic, one metal — and a random collection of wooden points. Because of the nature of the design cycles I have many duplicate sizes so that I can knit two or three samples using the same size needles without having to pull tips and cap cords.
I have whittled down my tool collection over the years, but I’m by no means a tool snob. I do prefer my wooden points to all others simply because I love the way the points feel against my fingertips as I work. I have little knitting ticks, like running the point lengthwise on my index finger at the start of every row, and so I am in fact searching for a third set to round out my collection in wood.

I use double points only as necessary but I have two sets of those also, and a set of tiny 4″ DPNs that are just the cutest.

How do you store or organize your tools? Or do you?

This is probably the single most difficult part of the craft. Storage. I have a small work area that houses the bulk of my yarn and tools including sewing machines, the spinning wheel and blocking tools. A picture of my storage area went viral a few years ago when I first decided to hang my hanks on two inexpensive, adjustable curtain rods. I still use this system — it’s practical and lovely. For my double points and hooks, I have two large glass jars for quick access, and a tall, slender floor basket holds my blocking wires. I think circular needle storage is the toughest for me to settle into. I’ve tried dozens of methods; bought the little needle holders, made my own, thrown them into a storage box, hung them from rungs … . There has to be a better way. Right now, all my circulars, spare cords and point sets are tossed in a storage box with a needle gauge. HA! It works for now.

Our Tools, Ouselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

How do you store or organize your works-in-progress?

This is a tale of two baskets. One is a lovely chicken-wire basket with two hinged handles gifted to me by my mother, which lives in my workroom. The other is a large rice basket that I purchased from Fringe that lives next to my couch or chair or anywhere else I have settled in for work. The rice basket houses the most pressing projects with the nearest deadlines. I will keep swatches and all the yarn needed to complete the projects in a large plastic zipper bag in the basket, along with the needles I’ll need, and a pouch of notions, needle gauges and snips. This gives me little reason to break concentration in the midst of a particularly productive session to grab those double points I need for the sleeves or the tape measure to check the body length. Any WIPs I take on the go are tossed straight into my Bento Bag. I was lucky enough to receive the bag as a surprise gift from the mother of one of my closest friends. She’s an amazing woman who has actually become the queen of surprise knitting gifts around here.

The chicken-wire basket houses the “next” or “recently wrapped” projects. If I have a self-published piece in full swing and receive yarn for a publication sample, the self-publish goes right to the chicken-wire basket. Any yarn left over from a sample I finish and don’t need to return will also get tossed into this basket until I’m ready to sort and store it.

This system was born from necessity after wrapping up the dozens of samples for my book. For that undertaking, with maybe fifteen samples with the same deadline, I invested in a large system of racks with sixteen wire drawers. Each drawer held the yarn and sketches for one sample with the swatch pinned to the front. When the sample was not in-progress, or after it was finished, it went straight back to the drawer. When I no longer needed those massive organization strategies, I honestly couldn’t break from it completely to return to my previously less organized non-system.

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

I don’t feel like any price tag on yarn or tools is a splurge at this point (it’s all for the sake of progress, right?) but there are a few things I hold dear. For any sketches that need to be submitted, I go to my Micron pens and Fashionary templates, and I use Stitchmastery software for all of my charting. I don’t use much else in the way of software, though I am diving into the depths of Illustrator so that I can produce my own schematics (for self-published work). We’ll see how that goes!

Other than that, my swift and ball winder are my most valued tools outside my needles, of course. I made the mistake of buying the ball winder first. I knew I wanted to be able to wind hanks into cakes quickly and jumped to the conclusion that the ball winder would do that for me. Don’t most people make that jump, or is it just me? Well, it does its job very well if you have a method for holding the hank. For anyone considering one or the other, since they can each be pretty pricey, please do yourself a favor and start with the swift. You can happily hand-wind a ball from a swift and may never even need to invest in a winder!
No one told me that, so I would often post pictures on Instagram of my hank holding methods during a ball winding session — draping the hank over a chair, around my knees, and my most trusted, on my husband’s outstretched arms — and cried out to the universe one day that I needed a swift. A few days later a mysterious package appeared at the front door. It was long and thin and very heavy for its size. My husband saw the shipping label from Amazon, sighed, and slapped his forehead in dread. (Remember the spinning wheel story?) I swore up and down that I was innocent! I hadn’t purchased anything and I couldn’t begin to guess what treasure was sealed inside. When I pulled the beautiful wooden swift from its bubble-wrap cocoon, I declared a knitting fairy was responsible. I posted a picture on Instagram asking if anyone knew how this lovely swift magically appeared and my dear friend called me soon after. She said her mother had seen the picture and called her to asked what a knitting “swiffer” was, then ordered one for each of us. See? Queen of surprise knitting gifts.

Do you lend your tools?

I don’t tend to lend my tools out and, now that I think about it, I don’t even lend my tools to my students when I teach classes. I have duplicates of everything for practical purposes, and I suppose I may be more attached to my systems and my tools than I previously thought!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

What is your favorite place to knit?

I’m surprised there isn’t a crater in my couch where I spend most of my mornings and afternoons! Because I’m normally writing or charting as I knit, I sit squarely on my couch with my laptop and notebook within arms reach at all times. I would love to be able to knit in groups, abandoning this reclusive life! It can be tricky though, since I’m rarely just knitting along or following a pattern and so conversation is the enemy. Many times I’m working on something for an upcoming publication and I tend to feel a bit strange about answering that big question in every knitting group: So, what are you working on?
I miss the early days when we had a large group that would get together weekly and all the kids were small — we would knit little hats for each other’s children and laugh to tears sharing our recent knitting fails. Even though those days weren’t destined to last, as kids started school and many of us had to return to the work force, I’ve come to know the distinct line that forms across the threshold from knitter to designer.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

Other than having to crank the air up in the summer so that my yarn isn’t sticking to me, the seasons make little difference. With most design work, schedules dictate that you’re knitting all summer for patterns featured over the holidays or whipping up summer frocks while snow drifts down in heavy flakes. This used to really mess with me, especially when you consider social media. It’s not always easy to be knitting off schedule from the rest of the western world, but like anything else, eventually it becomes the new normal.

Our Tools, Ouselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

Do you have a dark secret, guilty pleasure or odd quirk, where your fiber pursuits are concerned?

I do not condone “start-itis.” I fell under its spell early on, as many crafters of any kind do. The banishing of multiple projects sprouted from a new year’s mantra “multitasking is the enemy of progress.” I dumped out every basket, bag and corner of my life with a WIP stuffed inside it, and I began frogging everything. That included old sewing, spinning, crochet and cross-stitch projects also. Any yarn I didn’t love I tossed into a donation bin, and the rest I washed and re-hanked. It was one of the smartest decisions of my crafting life. The determination to purge, focus and cleanse with wild authority opened me up to moving forward rather than turning back and wondering why I had started those socks, remembering the frustrations I had with that cable panel, or cringing at the cheap, old yarn I bought on day one of my knitting journey. It freed me from the guilt of not finishing what I had started and instantly provided me with thousands of yards of beautiful yarn that had literally been tied up.

At this point you may be scratching your head because I talked previously about how I manage my various WIPs. This is something that was actually very challenging for me when I slipped into a designer role and had multiple, sometimes overlapping, deadlines that needed to be met. I had to take a step back and visualize the differences between multiple deadlines and “start-tis” which may be very clear to an outsider (professional vs personal), but I had re-wired my brain to only allow myself one project on the needles at a time. In fact, I had spent the previous five years working one project at a time because I was finishing projects more quickly, having an incentive to do so (especially if I found another project I was itching to start). I still prefer to work up a single project or design from start to finish before moving on to the next — I believe it is the root of why I tend to not only meet but exceed my deadlines.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, the biggest project I’m working on is my book. The knitting and writing is done, but that — I’ve come to learn — is the easy part. There is a thick mash-up of excitement and anxiety churning inside me as I sink into the process of approving edits and facing promotion schedules.
If you’re an independent designer, you have to hustle — always. So, I’m also working on various pieces for book contributions right now — two for an upcoming Interweave book along with another Knit Picks pattern. I’m also working with editors on final reviews for three additional patterns. I can’t share any details of those, of course! That’s why I’m always excited to see pieces I worked on ages ago reach publication dates — and it’s about that time for Pom Pom summer (eep!).

Self-published patterns are about as close as I get to personal making anymore. I can share at my discretion and I design to fulfill a knitting itch. If I feel like knitting a long cardigan with pockets, I’ll design one! So, right now in addition to the book and the publication work, I have one sweater queued up for self-publication and one that I just released last week. The Adrift Pullover just came out of testing and became available on Ravelry last Wednesday. It’s a really sweet little sweater knit using Malabrigo Rastita, from the bottom up, in the round, seamlessly, with set-in sleeves (also knit seamlessly), and some really different yoke shaping. It’s comfortable and casual but has a lot of detail packed in. The other is the Freya Cardigan. If you follow along on IG, it’s the dove grey piece with spicy orange mosaic work and pockets. I absolutely LOVE this sweater. In fact, I’ve hardly taken it off since pulling it from the blocking board. This one is worked up in Northbound Knitting MCN, from the top down with a gorgeous circular yoke. It’s also completely seamless, about hip length, and features mosaic front panels along with front pockets. I need to send it out for full testing yet, so this will be a fall release. Hopefully I won’t wear holes into the sample before then!

Our Tools, Ourselves: Courtney Spainhower (Pink Brutus Knits)

PREVIOUSLY in Our Tools, Ourselves: Christine Chitnis

.

Photos © Courtney Spainhower

Wardrobe Planning: My silhouettes for 2015

Wardrobe Planning: My silhouettes for 2015

Pardon the dramatic lighting — I got so absorbed in this activity yesterday afternoon that I forgot to finish and photograph it before the light was artfully low in the sky. When I posted about Into Mind the other week, I mentioned that it got me (for the first time, really) to stop and think in a very focused way about what kinds of silhouettes (or profiles or ensembles — whatever you want to call it) actually work for me.  This is a step beyond my old three-outfits rule — that I’m not allowed to buy anything unless I can make three outfits I love using pieces I already own — and into the realm of making sure the things I intend to make will fit into my smallish wardrobe in a truly useful way. I still have some thinking to do about color (although being a minimalist does make that part simpler) and fabrics, but for right now I’m just thinking about literally how I dress and how I want to dress, shape-wise, which aren’t precisely the same thing.

Anuschka has a newer post up called 24 outfit formulas for spring and I do like that method of stating combinations — mine would be “slouchy jeans/pants with a floaty top” or “flares with a fitted sweater.” But for this to be of maximum usefulness to me, I decided to think of it in terms of the “bottoms” I’m partial to right now, and to look at how those work across the four seasons of the year. And rather than scour my Style board for combos I like, I decided to sketch them all out using actual garments I own or mean to make, so it’s as specific to my closet as possible. (Which I had a ton of fun doing thanks to the brilliant Fashionary Panels.)

What you’re looking at are my four preferred bottoms (base layers, foundations, building blocks)—

ROW 1: I’ve been wanting to learn to wear skirts and dresses for years — I’m such a pants person — but the Nashville heat is going to force it on me. What I have in mind is a simple floaty — not too full — knee-length skirt that I can make in the same fabrics as some of my forthcoming tops, for mixing and matching, as well as a sack dress or two that can be layered over in other seasons.

ROW 2: Shorts are challenging but, again, necessary in my new climate. So I’m embracing the narrow bermuda short. I have a pale camo pair I bought last summer, and I plan to buy another pair in army green. I’m loving the idea of them with simple woven pullover tops, from long-sleeved to sleeveless, as well as my knitted linen tank, instead of t-shirts or ribbed tanks.

ROW 3: My wide-leg trouser jeans are my favorites but I think of them as difficult to wear. The past several years, I’ve kept it to fitted sweaters plus boots with either a chunky sole or heel. Limited, right? Right now, they’re looking really good to me with flat oxfords or sandals and the same floaty little tops I intend to get me through the summer. And in the fall/winter I can add a shorter sweater — fitted or boxy, cardigan or pullover.

ROW 4: The slim/slouchy variety of jeans and pants I live in, which I find incredibly easy to pair with everything all year long. Androgyny is my happy place when it comes to getting dressed.

And then from left to right across the four rows is an example of how I might wear that bottom piece in spring, summer, fall and winter (except no winter for the shorts). The spring column is about light layers and bare legs/ankles with closed shoes or boots. Summer is all sleevelessness and sandals. Fall is a lot like spring but with heavier top layers — e.g., the woven raglan top in the spring shorts outfit get replaced with a raglan sweater; the vest becomes a cardigan, etc. And winter is for longer, heavier sweaters layered over the same tops from the rest of the year.

What thrills me most about this combination of things is that they’re almost entirely interchangeable. The fitted cotton fisherman sweater in row 3 (an L.L. Bean favorite of mine) goes with every skirt and pant. You can take any of the tops in the spring column and put them with any of the four bottoms, and so on. So that’s my challenge to myself, now that I have it boiled down to this level of simplicity: For anything I’m thinking of sewing or knitting, I want it to fit into at least three rows and two columns of this matrix.

Clearly this is hugely helpful in determining and prioritize what it is I’ll be making. I realized the other day that I have only one short-sleeved top in my closet at this point, whereas I’m in a pretty good shape in the sleeveless category. I also have several button-down shirts but only one that’s a long-sleeved, collarless, lightweight woven top like the one in the first shorts outfit (and it’s a loud pattern that almost never gets worn.) Also, I’d been planning to make mostly longer sweaters but I see now that shorter and boxier is better and also what I’m lacking.

So my next step will be to narrow in on a few different pullover tops, a skirt pattern for making in two or three fabrics, a dress and a couple of sweaters. And then I can work out what the color and fabric for each of those should be!