High summer wardrobe doldrums (er, I mean, uniform)

High summer wardrobe doldrums (er, I mean, uniform)

I just went back and read what I wrote as we were crossing summer’s threshold, and it’s hard to imagine I ever felt that optimistic about getting dressed for the weather! Here we are now in the worst of the swamp air season, and I’ve settled into a coping uniform. For some reason, despite the suffocating heat and their presence in my closet, I cannot put on a dress. I feel like an absolute imposter, so mentally uncomfortable that on the day I kept a dress on long enough to leave the house and drive to work, I  had to go home and change. I was so distracted and bothered I couldn’t concentrate! So I’ve settled into a morning routine that amounts to a modified version of “a t-shirt and jeans,” wherein the “t-shirts” are mostly sleeveless tees and shells I’ve sewn, and the “jeans” are my wide-leg pants, nearly always with a pair of sandals.

I feel cute most days, and it makes getting dressed easy (and almost entirely me-made!), but it’s a little depressing in its monotony — brightened by my orange Everlane sandals, which always bring the cheer. I’m hoping the frock problem is really a shoe problem. I really only like dresses (on me) with boots or booties, with just the right low heel, and I no longer own such a thing. So that’s the only thing I’m in the market for: maybe a clog bootie that would work equally well with wide-legs and jeans when fall rolls around? Meanwhile, I’m contemplating the Summer 10×10 challenge, wondering whether it would be redundant or might inspire me out of my rut. I did learn things from the spring one. Are any of you planning to participate?

(Details on the garments above can be found here.)

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Portugal, what I wore

Hot Tip: Take a selfie

Hot Tip: Take a selfie

Dianna Walla recently shared a great tip on her Instagram feed: Especially if she’s thinking of knitting with a color outside her closet comfort zone, she poses with the skein. Snapping a pic of the yarn held up to her face lets her see how she’ll look in that color and consider whether it’s really a shade she’s comfortable with and wants to wear.

For best results, stand near a window for natural sidelight — taking the pic under artificial lighting will throw off the tones of both your skin and the yarn.

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PREVIOUSLY in Hot Tips: Check the back

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Popular patterns and “late” starts for the Summer of Basics

Popular patterns and "late" starts for the Summer of Basics

Somehow it’s already the dead center of Summer of Basics and I’ve only barely begun! I’m not even to the end of the yoke on my sweater (so slow going for some reason) and haven’t so much as traced off the patterns for my other two intended projects. My house has been in total chaos due to a bathroom renovation that went on way longer than expected, but I’ve now reclaimed my sewing room (and my sanity) and I’m not the least bit concerned! There’s still plenty of time. Which obviously also means I don’t think it’s too late for you to join in, if you haven’t yet and are feeling the urge. There are still new plans posted to the #summerofbasics feed on a regular basis — so come on in, the water is lovely and we’re having a wonderful time.

Last year I did a big roundup of popular patterns, and we’re seeing a lot of the same ones this year, with good reason — lots of Odgen Camis, Willow Tanks, Kalle Shirtdresses and Cline pullovers in particular. So I thought I’d take a minute to note a couple of patterns that have come out in the meantime that are also proving popular and/or that you might like to consider:

TOP: Wiksten Kimono by Jenny Gordy is probably the most frequently recurring pattern in the feed, although I haven’t made a scientific study of it. The newly released pattern includes a variety of proportions, and it lends itself to fabrics for all seasons, so the possibilities are endless.

MIDDLE: Persephone Pants by Anna Allen are the classic super-high-waisted flares that have made a raging comeback in the past few years, also with a shorts option. Jenny Trousers and Overall by Closet Case Patterns are a super-cute overalls riff on the same style, also with pants and shorts options. And the more retro-stylin’ Lander Pants are showing up in all sorts of fantastic variations.

BOTTOM: Uniform Cardigan by Carrie Bostick Hoge has been modified and updated from the original version, multiple varieties of which are showing up in the feed.

How’s your SoB going so far? Are you still mulling? Need more advice? Encouragement? We’re all here for you—

For more pattern suggestions, definitely check out this big roundup, as well as the #summerofbasics feed!

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PREVIOUSLY in Summer of Basics: June winners: the planners

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Q for You: Do you sew tags in your handmades?

Q for You: Do you sew tags in your handmades?

It seems counterintuitive, really. Tags in the neck or waistband of clothes can be such a nuisance, but then it feels a little odd when you knit or sew your own clothes and they’re just bare back there. Sometimes I think it would be helpful — like with the Big Rubble I inherited — to be able to see at a glance which is the back and which the front. And there’s also a little urge to give yourself credit, right? Or to leave some form of a love note, as it were, in the things we make for others. There are lots of readymade tags for sale, and it’s easy to have custom ones made as well — if you’re inclined. I joke about having some fancy-looking ones made that say “BESPOKE by Karen Templer” But I’ve seen people do such lovely things with hand-embroidered labels, too, like the sweet ones above by Megan of @saltairarts, who hand-stitches her initials and the year into each of her finished garments.

So that’s my Q for You today: Do you put tags (or markings of any kind) in your handmade clothes? I’m sure we all want details, photos, sources if you have them. And if there’s someone whose approach you’ve noted or admired, please share a link!

I look forward to your answers and wish you a happy and relaxing weekend. Thank you for reading, and for your support of all things Fringe! See you back here next week—

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PREVIOUSLY in Q for You: Can we talk about moths?

Portugal part 4: What I wore

Portugal part 4: What I wore

I know a lot of you are like “yeah yeah yarn store spinner blessing blah blah WHATEVER — how did the packing work out??” Well, let me just tell you right off the bat: I did not pack right for this trip. I would have nailed it, had we only been there a week sooner. I’d been watching the forecast for weeks, and you may remember I was packing for this trip and for Squam at the same time because they were so close together as to necessitate two separate piles of clothing. I’d also researched weather norms in Portugal for June. And all indications were that it would be in the 60s to low 70s. (Ok, like SF, was how I was thinking of it.) I’d planned to take a bunch of sleeveless stuff, and threw in my usual silk Eliz Suzann top (with its sort-of sleeves) and my Archer button-up, worried I wasn’t going to be warm enough. By the time I actually zipped up the suitcase the night before, the predicted temps had climbed up into the mid-70s with one day in the low 90s. But by the time we hit the ground, a bonafide heat wave had sent in. It was in the mid-90s every day (and stayed hot all night), and I was both mentally and sartorially unprepared for it.

The one saving grace was that I had thrown in my black linen pants at the last second, wanting them for lounging around and for just-in-case. They wound up being the only thing I could really stand to have on, but I was forced to wear my heavy canvas pants and jeans for at least part of the time. The shirts with sleeves stayed in my suitcase the whole time (the sweatshirt was worn only on the plane, but I was happy to have it for that), and all I wore were my few sleeveless tees over and over, with a rotation of pants. I was a giant sweat ball the whole time.

I did look cute that one evening in Porto, up top, when it was just barely cool enough to wear my beloved denim vest. And I also wore the vest with my pajamas — i.e., the linen pants and a tank top — the day we spent knitting in the breezy living room at the mountaintop hotel (and on my flights to and from). By that point — after the dusty vineyard tour and the running of the sheep and so on — all of my pants felt filthy except for my jeans, which were brutal to wear back in the cobblestone oven of Lisbon, but it was unfortunately unavoidable.

My companions were much smarter and had each brought a dress or two, which they wore on repeat. The star of the trip was definitely Jaime’s red Brome maxi-dress, which you can read all about here. And I was also super envious of Keli‘s two breezy tencel Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt dresses, the black one of which she’s wearing in the group shot above — exactly the sort of loose garb you want at a time like that, and she looked great in them. Amber’s linen Fen dress and my linen pants made me vow to only travel with linen base garments from now on — additional layers to be determined by the weather on a per-trip basis.

So not my best packing outcome — but hey, I lived through it and you can’t tell in the pics how sweaty I am! Or why I’m wearing my pajamas on that drive down from the mountaintop. Below is the full blow-by-blow of what got worn when and how. (Some of these outfits make me sad just looking at them!) For garment details, see the packing list:

Portugal travel guide: What I wore

And there ends my tale. If you missed any of it, you can scroll through the complete set of Portugal posts here, and see the trip in motion in my Instagram Portugal Story. And you can see lots more photos from everyone else’s perspectives on the #portewegal feed. Thank you for indulging me in this voluminous travelogue!

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PREVIOUSLY in Portugal: Part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

All photos © Anna Dianich

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Portugal part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

Portugal travel guide: Serra da Estrela wool factory, sheep blessing

With our too-brief Porto visit behind us, we loaded up the cars again the next morning and drove a few hours southeast — up, up, up into the Serra da Estrela, the highest peaks in Portugal, and down, down into the village of Manteigas, nestled into the center of the range. As you may have noticed by now, pretty much every inch of Portugal is astonishingly beautiful, which explains why — despite spending hours in the car each day — I got almost no knitting done; I didn’t want to take my eyes off the scenery. Climbing up the winding roads through these rocky vistas, I was reminded of California (again), and as soon as we headed down into the valley between the peaks, I suddenly felt like we were in the Alps! We did stop for a few photo ops along the way, but that morning we were on a schedule: We had an appointment for a tour of the Burel wool factory.

Portugal guide: Burel wool factory tour, blankets

We’d pressed our noses against the glass of the Burel stores in Lisbon and Porto, and had petted some of Burel’s goods at A Vida Portuguesa, but we were holding out for the factory/mill experience, which didn’t disappoint. Burel mills their own wool yarn and makes two categories of goods, basically: exceptionally beautiful woven blankets, scarves and shawls in intricate and colorful patterns; and “burel” (burr-EL) a wool cloth comparable to boiled wool, only even more dense and refined, so much so that it’s waterproof. They make finished goods from the burel — ranging from throw pillows to rain boots to my aforementioned vest. And they also cut and fold and pleat and stitch it in all sorts of wonderful ways for a wide variety of unexpected uses. The women in the photo below are smocking a large piece that’s to become a restaurant ceiling. The blue surface under the Field Bag below is a rug at the hotel (more on that in a second).

After the tour, we browsed the little factory store and then found out there’s a seconds area back in the sewing room (which we had seen without knowing that’s what it was — namely the mixed shelves of blankets above) so we got to go back in and paw through all of that. Honestly, it was overwhelming — too much beauty! — and I’m the only one who left empty-handed. (I acquired the vest at the Lisbon store when were back in the big city on our final afternoon.) Saying goodbye to our guide, we — and Rosa and family — drove back up up up to our moutain lodging: Casa das Penhas Douradas, which has the same owner as Burel. It’s a plywood wonderland — which, if you know anything about me, you can imagine my delight — full of Danish-modern funiture upholstered in burel, with burel throw pillows and rugs, and Burel’s gorgeous woven blankets stacked behind the reception desk and draped over every lounge chair. It was incredible.

Portugal guide: Burel wool factory tour

It was also the “fanciest” place we stayed. Being at the tippy-top of a mountain, the hotel restaurant is really your only food option, which is fine because it’s amazing: elaborate breakfast spreads, lunch made to order, cocktail hour before the three-course dinners. (And again, because we were sharing rooms and because Portugal is so affordable, it was a mere fraction of what a comparable experience in the US would have been.) The evening we arrived, after our Burel tour, we were  a bit done in from all the driving and made a pact to stay out of the cars the following day. So the next morning after breakfast, we split into two groups: the hikers and knitters. I was super torn (I love a good long hike) but also super tired (I think I had a sort of cumulative heat exhaustion at that point) and opted to stay behind.

Portugal travel guide: Casa das Penhas Douradas

Let me tell you, I felt most pleased with that decision as soon as Amber and Malia realized the giant window-walls of the common room were actually sliding glass doors. Five of us (including Rosa) spent the entire day sitting in this exquisite indoor-outdoor room, knitting in the brisk mountain breeze, just barely chilly enough that Allison actually used one of the Burel blankets at one point. It was the perfect kind of down day, followed by another lovely dinner in the hotel dining room.

AND THEN CAME THE MAIN EVENT—

That Sunday evening, we all piled back in the cars for the biggest draw of the entire trip. Now, let’s go back for a second to last September, when I was sitting in Amber’s backyard one night and she and Jaime and Allison started talking about how they were planning a trip to Portugal. All I heard were the words “Portugal” and “Rosa” and “sheep blessing in the mountains” and without having any idea what that even meant, I was like I’M IN. And now here we were, driving through those mountains to a tiny village, with Rosa as our guide, none of us really knowing what to expect, and about to witness something we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for.

Portugal part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

As I understand it, the blessing of the flocks is a longstanding Portuguese tradition, an annual ceremony that varies from village to village and has changed over time. In some villages, the local priest will still come out and bless the sheep, but in the village we went to it was not that literal. What happens is shepherds from miles around walk their flocks of sheep and/or goats into town on the appointed afternoon, and flock by flock they take their turn. There’s a sort of staging area, a few blocks away from the church, and the church essentially is the town square: it’s right in the middle of town with a cobblestone path all around it. When it’s their turn, each group proceeds through the crowded streets to the church, and they run circles around it, their bells clanging wildly — three times one direction, then three times the other. The goal is to form an unbroken circle — to get going fast enough, and have the flock stretched out enough, that the shepherd in front runs into the last sheep or goat. Three times around, then everyone stops, gets turned around the other direction, and starts again. Rosa said it’s very embarrassing if you aren’t able to close up the circle, or if your animals misbehave at any point. The streets are full — the whole village is there — and all along the front row are men with staffs, just like the shepherds’, which they use to help keep the animals in line — or to sabotage, in some cases! And of course, it’s harder for some shepherds than others. If your flock is small, you have to work a lot harder and run a lot faster to get everyone into a continuous loop, whereas some of the flocks were so large that they formed a closed loop before they even began to run.

Portugal guide: The sheep blessing

To try to describe it makes it sound a bit rote, but it was pure magic. What we didn’t realize, as it got started and we marveled and took a million pictures, is that they would keep coming! Flock after flock after flock. At one point, I was standing on a little curb pressed up against the church, with a sea of white sheep racing past me at top speed, inches from my toes. I knelt down often to get a different angle, once almost being gored in the face when a flock starting getting a little unruly, but it was all I could do not to reach out and pet them all as they ran by. We were the only outsiders there, and we were conspicuous as such, but everyone seemed perfectly content to have us, if a bit curious about how on earth we got there. And then came Rosa’s friends’ flock, the grand finale: The huge flock of dark brown goats, among which were a handful of large castrated males with their horns wrapped entirely in ribbon and laden with colorful pompoms as big as my fist. (Go watch it in action in my Instagram Portugal Story, please!)

We were there when they entered the staging area, followed them down the lane by which they got to the church (taking photos all the way), and watched as they came around and around its walls, feeling completely transported. Writing about it now, I feel bereft, honestly, but I am so eternally grateful to Rosa for trusting us with that experience, for taking us there with her. I’ll never forget that evening.

Portugal travel guide: Serra da Estrela

So that was the crescendo, after which, of course, the denouement. We packed up the following morning and wistfully headed back for Lisbon (with the aforementioned overnight in Nazaré) and one last twirl through the city.

. . .

I’ve been home for two weeks today, and I’m still not over it. I’m indebted to the amazing women who put this trip together, let me tag along, and made it such a blast. It was the most amazing experience of my life, and after having put off international travel for too many decades, I’m hungry for more. It was while we were in the mountains that the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide broke (I knew him only a tiny bit, having met him at the book trade show and hosted him for a week in Readerville back when he first started publishing) and on my first day back at work, I went to pick up lunch from a neighborhood place. On the scroll of kraft paper behind the bar, they had written this quote in tribute:

“If I’m an advocate for anything, it’s to move. As far as you can, as much as you can. Across the ocean, or simply across the river. The extent to which you can walk in someone else’s shoes or at least eat their food, it’s a plus for everybody.”
—Anthony Bourdain

On my honor, I will.

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S E R R A   D A   E S T R E L A   T R A V E L   D E T A I L S

Lodging / Dining

Casa das Penhas Douradas
Danish-modern furnishings in a sleek modern hotel with all the amenities. Their Instagram does it more justice than the website.

Sites / Shopping

Burel Mountain Originals
If you can’t make it to Manteigas to visit the factory, make sure you get to one of their stores, either in Lisbon or Porto. Barring that, there’s always the website.

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PREVIOUSLY in Portugal guide: Part 2, Douro, Porto and Teresa the spinner

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New Favorites: Textural neckwear

New Favorites: Textural neckwear

Summer seems to me like the perfect time for knitting neckwear — scarves and shawls that fall just in the sweet spot on the continuum between interesting and mindless, that are portable, that don’t require you to worry about fit or to have a growing sweater in your lap, and yet last long enough to carry you through road trips or baseball practices or whatever the case may be. Plus they’re the first thing you get to use when the weather begins to cool off (or when the sun sets at the beach). So why don’t I tend to knit such things? These three recent patterns have me wondering hard:

TOP: Madison Scarf by Norah Gaughan, who must have been smirking if she happened to see that whole conversation we had about adding a back flap to the Grete dickey when this one would have been deep in the pipeline and is that very thing! A scarf with a headhole and lovely overall knit-purl texture, which can be worn a variety of ways.

MIDDLE: Adrian by Dianna Walla is a traditional scarf (designed for cotton) that takes typical colorwork motifs and renders them in purl stitches instead.

BOTTOM: Orthogonal by Emily Greene is a stunner of a shawl with a mesmerizing geometric-lace maze of a stitch pattern. I saw this on her at Squam, artfully bunched around her neck, and it made me want to be a fingering-weight shawl knitter.

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PREVIOUSLY in New Favorites: Clever garter colorwork