New Favorites: The hats of BT Men Vol 2

New Favorites: The hats of BT Men Vol 2

Yesterday Brooklyn Tweed released BT Men Volume 2, and my favorite patterns are the two beautifully cabled, perfectly unisex hats. Crag by Jared Flood, up top, features the most gorgeous staggered, interlocking horseshoe cables. Snare by Norah Gaughan, bottom, has more of a twisty-twining cable pattern that also looks like a lot of fun to knit. And thankfully both are written for worsted-weight Shelter so they’ll be just what I like a hat to be: quickly, deeply satisfying.


PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: the Purl Bee three

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?

If you can’t get enough of that stitch

If you can't get enough of that stitch

I’m trying to finish my grandma’s shawl before I cast on my L’Arbre Hat for the knitalong (am at the point of the loooong-slooooowww rows), and it’s sort of killing me to see all the hats forming on the #fringehatalong hashtag in the meantime! That stitch pattern is so addictive, I can’t wait to get back to it. But I was thinking the other day it’s sort of sad to have learned that nifty trick only to use it again rarely, if ever. Then over the weekend I was cruising around Pinterest and saw an image I’d seen before, had included in last year’s Pretty spring scarves roundup, and then forgotten about: the Purl Bee’s Trellis Scarf, seen above. This time my eyes popped right out of my head as I immediately recognized the same trick but used to very different effect. As with the stitch pattern used in L’Arbre, the stitch pattern for the Trellis Scarf is by Barbara Walker, from her beloved book A Treasury of Knitting Patterns. But in this case, the tucked strands are staggered to form a grid of X’s, or a lattice look. So if you’ve finished your hat and want more of that stitch, here you go!


Yarny links for your clicking pleasure

Friday! And not a moment too soon. Things are pretty intense at Fringe HQ right now, with tons of exciting stuff going on behind the scenes — most pressingly prepping for Stitches South next week. (My weekend will be spent sewing miles of muslin drape for the booth walls. Wish me luck.) Who’s coming?

Meanwhile, Elsewhere—

– Did you hear? Brooklyn Tweed is moving to Portland

– The simplest circular need storage

Kids who start charities boggle my mind (thx, Doug)

– I’ve picked out my fantasy Craft Sessions class lineup. Now if I could just win that lottery …

– I might have to sew up an Orton, a simple oversized tote bag from Merchant & Millsfree pattern here (I just heard myself and laughed — because yes, I have so much spare time and so few tote bags! But still)

– Jaime and Amber went to meet the sheep behind their Heirloom Romney yarn and posted loads of adorable photos here and here

– I’m loving this trend of knitting patterns as Instagram posts: see Freebie Worsted Ankle Socks from madelinetosh and @wisktenmade’s Lamb hat baby pattern in the form of a step-by-step knitalong happening on her feed now over multiple posts

– See also: How to mend a small moth hole by Andrea Rangel and How to use a lifeline by Lori Graham

– Speaking of knitalongs, I know you’ve all just cast on for the Fringe Hatalong No. 2, but I want to also let you know about the Harrisville Designs knitalong-competition-with-prizes being hosted by my friends at Squam, of which I’m to be one of the judges — details on the Squam blog!

– And don’t miss Cirilia’s blog post about the evolution of L’Arbre.

Happy weekend, everyone — can’t wait to see your L’Arbre hats!


PREVIOUSLY in Elsewhere

Fringe Hatalong No. 2: L’Arbre by Cirilia Rose

Fringe Hatalong No. 2: L'Arbre Hat by Cirilia Rose #fringehatalong

Magpies, Homebodies and Nomads by Cirilia RoseThank gawd today is here because the suspense has been killing me! Finally I can tell you that the hat pattern for Fringe Hatalong No. 2 is Cirilia Rose’s L’Arbre Hat — from her beautiful book Magpies, Homebodies, and Nomads — which I’ve been wanting to knit since I first laid eyes on it. (You can see the full range of patterns included in this book on Ravelry.) Major thanks to Cirilia and the fine folks at her publisher, STC Craft, for making the hat available to us for the knitalong.

Click here to download the free pattern. Be sure to post your progress here, there and everywhere with hashtag #fringehatalong. And for newer knitters, see my two-part How to Knit a Hat tutorial: Part 1. Anatomy Lessons and Part 2. Gauge and size.

“Arbre” is French for tree and the hat features a stitch pattern called Little Tree, which is just knits and purls and — now that I’ve swatched I can say this for certain — so much fun to knit! As I mentioned in the preview post last week (which contains yarn suggestions and a discount code for the recommended yarn, so if you missed that go look) you will definitely want to swatch for this hat — both to get the hang of the stitch pattern and to measure your gauge, because if you’re working this stitch tightly at all, that will affect the outcome. You’ll also want to block it because it does create a sort of corrugated fabric that relaxes when blocked, so measuring without blocking will give you a deceptive measurement. Below you can see the difference in my swatch before and after blocking. (For the record, this swatch is knitted with Purl Soho Worsted Twist from my stash — Purl sent me several colors awhile back and I’m debating! But I’m exactly on gauge.)

How to swatch for the L'Arbre Hat #fringehatalong


The pattern is written for a heavy-worsted/aran weight yarn, and the stated gauge is 18 sts over four inches. (Recommended needle size is 5mm/US8, but you should use whatever needle size gets you the correct gauge.) And gauge is given in the Little Tree pattern stitch, so that’s what you need to knit your swatch in. You will need to “swatch in the round” — here’s a good tutorial if you haven’t done that before. And be sure to knit your swatch with the same needles you’ll be knitting the hat with. Your gauge will be different if you switch from bamboo to metal, etc.

You need your swatch to be at least 4 inches wide in order to measure it correctly. This particular stitch pattern is a multiple of 8 stitches (k5, p3, repeat) and we know the pattern says 18 sts is meant to be 4 inches. So we need to cast on a multiple of 8 that is greater than 18 to be sure we’ve got four inches of knitting. In addition to edge stitches being messy and unmeasurable in an in-the-round swatch, you won’t be able to work this stitch pattern from the first stitch with this method. To be really safe, cast on 36 stitches: 32 for the stitch pattern (4 repeats) plus two extra stitches at each edge, which I’ve just worked as knit stitches. So knit the first two stitches, work Row 1 of the pattern stitch four times, then knit the last two stitches. Proceed to work through the four rows of the pattern stitch, and repeat those four rows until you have several inches of knitting. Ideally you would swatch at least four inches high as well to measure row gauge. I’m trying to conserve yarn so am taking my chances and will measure row gauge on the actual hat once I get to four inches.

Once you’ve got a big enough swatch, bind off and block it, then lay a ruler across the middle four inches and count the stitches. A stitch pattern like this makes it really easy to count, because each 5- and 3-stitch section is easy to see and add up. Even in my photo above where the ruler is not directly on the swatch, you can see there are 18 stitches between the 0″ and 4″ marks on the ruler — 5+3+5+3+2.

How to knit the L'Arbre Hat by Cirilia Rose #fringehatalong


Like I said, this pattern is just knits and purls but there is one nifty, simple little maneuver that creates the “tree” pattern. On Row 2 of the stitch pattern, you slip five knits with your yarn in front — so it’s sticking out the front of your work five stitches over — then lay the yarn across those five stitches, moving it between the needles and to the back of the work in order to knit the next stitch. If you pull that strand too tight, it will cause your stitches to cinch or bunch up in the final fabric. So the trick is keeping the width of that strand loose and even. My advice is to spread out the five stitches on your right-hand needle to their natural width, then lay the yarn across them so they accurately determine the width of your strand, as pictured above. If the stitches are bunched up on your right needle, chances are your strand will be too short, and vice versa.

Then on Row 4 of the stitch pattern, you’re told to “work the loose strand.” All you do, when you get to that stitch, is insert your right needle under the strand and then into the next stitch on your left needle, as pictured here. Wrap the yarn around the needle as usual, and pull it back through both the stitch and the strand, letting the stitch drop off your left needle. And voilà, the strand is now behind the stitch you just knitted. Magic!


Whether you’re working from the book or the PDF here, note that there is one small error: Under SHAPE CROWN / RND 1, where it says “k4″ it should say “k1, p3″ — that will preserve the garter stitch section correctly on that row.

Also, the PDF includes the coordinating mitts pattern (bonus!), but it’s missing the instructions for completing the thumbs after the stitches have been set aside. If you’ve knitted mitts before, you won’t have any trouble figuring out how to finish them!


There is one abbreviation in the crown decrease section that’s in the back of the book and didn’t make it into the PDF. Here’s how to work it: “Slip the next 2 stitches to the right-hand needle as if to knit 2 together, k1, pass the 2 slipped stitches over.”


As I’ve mentioned before, part of my goal for this Fringe Hatalong Series is to highlight worthy charities that take hat donations. You may be planning to knit this hat for yourself — totally cool! — or you may be one of those knitters who deliberately knit more hats than you can use, with the intent to donate them. For this installment, I’m featuring Halos of Hope, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide hats to cancer patients. With the density of the textured stitch in this pattern and the incredibly soft recommended yarn, I think L’Arbre seems like a great “chemo cap.” So if you are inclined to donate your hat, give Halos of Hope a look. You can find a donation location here, and I believe they’ll also be at Stitches South next weekend, as will we!

DOWNLOAD THE L’ARBRE HAT PATTERN and remember to share your progress with hashtag #fringehatalong wherever you post. I’ll be on the lookout for photos everywhere, and will be answering questions posted in the comments below. (Sorry, I’m not able to reliably answer questions across multiple platforms!)

Happy knitting!


PREVIOUSLY in the Fringe Hatalong Series: No. 1 Audrey by Jessie Roselyn

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!