“Karen, where are your me-made jeans?”

"Karen, where are your me-made jeans?"

Today is the start of Fashion Revolution Week (yesterday having also been Earth Day) and I thought it seemed like a good time to answer a question I’ve been hearing a lot, not at all surprisingly, which is always some variation on “Karen, do you wear the jeans you made?” Of all the old fast-fashion habits that have posed assorted challenges as I’ve rewired my brain these past few years, jeans have been one of the biggest hurdles — and victories.

In January of 2016, I bought my first pair of jeans since the decision to try to create a more responsible wardrobe. They came from J.Crew’s made-in-LA line called Point Sur, and at something like $125 (I think I got them on sale), they were a big leap for me, as I’d always bought a lot of jeans, cheaply. When I gave in to stretch denim for a few years, I bought the $45 kind at the J.Crew outlet store, and for real denim I would buy $20 men’s jeans from Old Navy. Neither of which would last very long — so how much was I really spending to feed my jeans habit, right? I just checked that great closet clean-out post that set me on this path, and at that time I had 13 pair of jeans, which was probably fairly average, and I would guess most were less than 2-3 years old. They were donated or taken to the consigment shop at that time, and only two pair made the move from CA to TN — the two ultra-faded pairs you’ve seen me post about mending over the past few years. One of them (made of good denim) is now 15+ years old, and the other (the cheaper Old Navy variety) more like 5 or 6, but neither of them is reinforced enough to be wearable at the moment. So back to Jan 2015: I needed jeans, could not imagine making them or investing in even more expensive jeans with even more transparent origins, so I went with the Point Sur pair. And I made the commitment to wear them for weeks or months between washes and really make them fade in a very personal way, and more important, really make them last.

In January 2017, having not bought another pair of jeans in the year since, I made the bigger leap and bought a pair of men’s jeans from local brand Imogene+Willie, whose jeans are now sewn under their supervision in LA rather than still here in Nashville, using Cone Denim from North Carolina. (Cone NC has recently closed, sadly — so I’m not sure what happens next.) These were a whopping $235, but with them came a discount code for another pair at 40% off, so I reasoned that if I averaged the costs of two pairs, another year apart, I could do it. Same thing: Wear without washing as much as possible, making the fading and degrading process a slow one. (A year later when the discount code arrived, I decided it was counterproductive to buy another pair just to get the discount, when I didn’t need them. Such a grownup!)

Then in September of last year, I sewed my own jeans, again out of rigid dark denim. At that point, I realized — because I was taking such good care of the other two, they were both still quite dark and new looking — that I now had three pair of dark blue jeans, and no faded old friends to wear. I want each of these three to last me for years — remember I have a 15-y-o pair awaiting another round of mending, so that sets the bar — and I don’t want to be in the position again where my jeans are all at the end stage at the same time.

So I decided to phase them in. This winter, I basically only wore the first pair, the Point Sur, wearing them any time I was in the mood for jeans, and washing them next to never so they could start to take on my personal wear pattern. Which they are! They’re starting to get good, and are no longer that stark, dressy blue.

The I+W’s have been worn enough in the past 15 months that they’ve softened a bit and are starting to feel more like mine, but are so far showing no real break in the dye at all — they’re still a perfectly even dark blue, just not quite as dark as they started out. So as the Point Sur pair continues to lighten up, I’ll start to wear the I+W’s more. (I did choose them for my 10×10, you may recall.) And not until they start to show some wear and some fade, probably another year from now, will I really start to phase in my handmades. So that’s why you haven’t been seeing them in my wardrobe planning or outfit posts.

They’re in waiting.

The other day, Bob came into my little workroom holding a pair of rigid denim jeans he had bought from J.Crew a year or two ago. (As I recall, they were actually made in the US, of Japanese denim.) “Do you want these? They’re too small for me.” I exclaimed that I most certainly did not! My three pairs are feeling like an embarrassment of riches to me — more than plenty. But he knows me. “They seem like they’ll fit you, and they need a new owner … .” So I tried them on, and omigod, they fit EXACTLY like my beloved old 15-y-o mended pair do, my all-time favorites. Like replicas. So of course I agreed to give them a home in my closet. But they’ve been added to this slow-rotation plan of mine, so it may be a couple of years before they start to see the light of day …

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What I Know About: Gansey origins (with Deb Gillanders)

What I Know About: Gansey origins (with Deb Gillanders)

When I first posted that seemingly innocuous photo of Daniel Day-Lewis wearing his splendid gansey, I did not imagine anything like where it has led. I’ve spent loads of time since then in conversation with assorted people about their knowledge of these sweaters, fielding recommendations and following leads, reading the informed comments on that and the follow-up post, and most of all exchanging emails with Deb Gillanders, above, of Propagansey, who reached out after the initial post and has been filling me in on so much of what I was wanting to know! So of course, I asked if I could pick her brain a bit on behalf of all of you, and interview her for the blog. Ganseys are a rich well in the land of knitting history — tables full of books have been written on the subject — and we’re just scratching the surface here, but be sure to check out the resources at the end, and pattern suggestions here

. . .

So Deb, how did you first become interested in Ganseys?

My interest in Ganseys began some years ago when I met a retired trawlerman at a party; he was telling a scurrilous tale and wearing a beautiful old blue patinated Gansey that he’d knitted himself. I was hooked.

As Propagansey I sell Frangipani wool, attend wool shows and give talks and workshops on Ganseys and their yarns. I also curate an annual exhibition every September in Robin Hoods Bay. When I began, over 10 years ago, I thought I was doing well to show two dozen or so but it’s now probably the biggest display of its kind in the world, with well over 100 Ganseys old and new from around UK and Holland.

Ok, so first let’s talk about that: UK and Holland, or country of origin. I think most knitters have a general sense of what a gansey is (and you can set me straight on any fine distinctions here) — A type of fisherman’s sweater most closely associated with Great Britain, typically navy blue, that features a mix of stitch patterns (from simple to complex, sometimes cables but often just knits and purls) often contained to the upper part of the sweater, along with seamless construction and a distinctive underarm gusset. It’s often said that they’re called Ganseys (or Guernseys) because they originated in the Channel island of Guernsey, but that’s thought to be a myth, correct? They’re not just a UK thing — you mentioned Holland as well. And they’re distinct from that other famous fisherman’s sweater, the heavily cabled, typically ivory, Aran sweater. Where are the geographical boundaries between ganseys and jerseys and aran sweaters, fuzzy though they may be?

I hope purists will forgive me if, for the sake of brevity, I say that although the origins of the Channel Islands’ Guernsey and the more northern Gansey were possibly different, they evolved into almost identical garments, and the history is probably not worth unpicking. More recent developments have been more date-able; there was a revival of the Aran before WW2 and around the same time the Eriskay Gansey appeared; this seems to have been the brainchild of a local lady who designed a Gansey with the upper and lower body bearing different patterns. Also, in the 1930s tuna fishing became extremely popular off the Yorkshire coast with many well-heeled recreational fishermen coming to places like Scarborough for this sport — they saw the local Ganseys, wanted a special version for themselves, and thus was born the white Gansey for ‘Best.’ Around the same time, Channel Island Parishes were being altered, with some deciding to mark the occasion and promote their identity with a new motif for their Guernseys. So all these human activities had an impact on what we now think of as ‘traditional’ Arans, Guernseys, etc. As for geographical areas, Arans are still associated with the Aran Islands; the Channel Island cod fishermen took their word Jersey across the Atlantic with them and it now denotes a sweater that differs from Guernsey/Gansey in construction and use of more than one colour; and as fishermen from around the North Sea converged on the annually migrating shoals of herring it’s no surprise to find both Dutch and British fishermen wearing blue garments, patterned and knitted in the round. This seamless construction is not only unlikely to fall apart in heavy-duty working conditions, it’s also very easy to effect repairs. The Dutch word is Visserstruien.

Within the realm of Ganseys, there are varieties associated with different ports or regions — this is the part I’ve been digging into more since all that erupted in the wake of my initial Daniel Day-Lewis post. In particular, there are several patterns and references to “a Staithes” as the sub-type of gansey DDL is wearing. And I’ve also seen references to a historical figure named Henry Freeman, survivor of multiple disasters, who famously wore such a gansey in famous photos. This super-simple version almost looks to me like a starter gansey — like maybe you would have learned this and then gone on to knit more elaborate ones. But is that a logical assumption in any way, or is it in fact tied to a specific place, Staithes? Or even more specifically to Henry Freeman somehow? I noted before that Gladys Thompson and Penny Straker both have published “Staithes” patterns with their notes referencing one in the Victoria & Albert Museum collection, but I haven’t been able to turn up a photo of the one they’ve apparently modeled their patterns on. So what’s the story on Staithes?

Staithes is a small, scenic, isolated ex-fishing village 12 miles north of Whitby. (Look out for the scene in Phantom Thread with a chapel behind them further up the hill where they’re walking down a street together — yes, that’s Staithes!)

There are two Gansey patterns associated with, although not exclusive to, Staithes: one in the V&A is a vertical pattern involving cable and moss, very similar to Robin Hoods Bay, about 6 miles south of Whitby; the other, associated with the Verrill family, is DDL’s. I’ve attached a photo of James Verrill (see photo above) modelling his Gansey rather successfully outside Old St. Stephen’s Church, where Propagansey 2015 was held. A ‘Staithes Gansey’ isn’t a subset of the genre, it’s simply from that place patternwise, as is a Sheringham Gansey or a Whitby Gansey. They’re all built more or less the same. You’re right; the Seeds & Bars pattern is an easy one; not only to knit but also to adjust to fit the wearer. More complex patterns can break down into more manageable, bite-sized pieces that are simply repeated ad infinitum, but still require a practised eye to alter sizewise. Growing up with Gansey knitters, a child would start on small items, e.g. socks, then graduate on to the pattern most commonly knitted in their house, which might be in the local style, with variations added from the knitters’ travels. Then she herself might marry and move to her husband’s village. Thousands of herring lassies moved down the East coast of Britain every year gutting and packing the herring, knitting and nicking each others’ patterns, and they hadn’t heard of intellectual property rights — if they saw something they liked, it was copied and added to their repertoire! Compare Gansey patterns to the treatment tartan received when Queen Victoria became so fond of Scotland; every fashionista had a ball, and tartans became officialised beyond their previous form; this never happened with Ganseys, the tribal ID of many fishermen.

The history of ganseys — and origins of Daniel Day Lewis'sAs for Henry Freeman, that Seeds & Bars wasn’t his only Gansey! Incidentally, Henry Freeman was from Bridlington (these things are important) although he gained fame as Cox’n of the Whitby lifeboat, having been the sole survivor of a disaster where he was wearing the only brand-new cork life jacket.

This upper body Seeds & Bars is also frequently associated with Polperro in Cornwall. This was a place where many women did contract knitting, and as this is a very economical pattern to knit, having no cable, it turns up all over the place. I have heard that there was a connection between Staithes and Cornwall, but I haven’t looked into that. Certainly Cornish fishermen were amongst the fleet that followed the herring down the East coast every year.

I love having the term Seeds & Bars for describing the Staithes design, thank you. And that makes perfect sense about contract knitters sticking to this comparatively simple pattern. But even though knitters all over knitted it, it’s still commonly known as a Staithes gansey? Going back to the geography question, it’s also widely believed that each port (or even each family) had its own distinct design, and you could identify a drowned fisherman by his sweater. (This is also a persistent tale with Aran sweaters.) In reality, it’s not that clear-cut, correct? And yet there are types with names that are commonly known and used and understood. How many different sub-types are there, would you say?

It’s not really true to think of each village having its own pattern. Many early, working Ganseys were very plain; Ganseys were often contract knitted and bought in chandlers’ around the UK; even local patterns were fluid. Having said that, there are regional styles — I can recognise a Gansey from Fife, Sheringham or Eriskay, for example; but I can also spot individual knitters, not only in their favourite patterns/variations but also by the construction details, and it’s when you get to this level that you begin to see the cleverness in little changes.

Having been associated for some time with Old St. Stephen’s, an old church in Robin Hoods Bay where the gravestones date back over 200 years, I can say that most drowned men remained buried at sea; the number of purely commemorative inscriptions attest to this. It was very rare for a drowned man to be returned to his home; logistically, emotionally and financially it was unfeasible. However, I have heard of a body being recognised by its Gansey.

The out-takes illustrate not only how a thing ‘should’ be done, but how impossible it is to really pin a tradition down. Just when you think you’ve nailed it … . There is a type of Double Moss motif made up of 2 rows of knit then 2 rows of p2k2 to end, which is known as Betty Martin and was widely used in Filey and Flamborough, but none knows if Betty Martin actually existed. One Yorkshire woman married and moved to Cornwall, taking her Betty Martin upper sleeve motif with her — it was seen as very distinctive. One Filey pattern is named after a local man called Matt Cammish. His family came from NE Scotland. Ganseys in Whitby usually have a 3-button opening on the left side of the neck; this came down with the Scottish herring lassies, and when I met some Polperro knitters a few years ago they hadn’t seen this but thought it was a very good idea. Incidentally, the Cornish term for Gansey is Knitfrock. The typical Guernsey has a split welt, not normally found in other Ganseys.

However, I do believe that many Gansey knitters were operating when Ganseys were a part of life and you’d pick up the basics with your daily breath, just as kids today are at home with their various devices. Hence Propagansey — I love the yarns, and how by actually spending time with them, you can get what the knitter was doing, even if was over 100 years ago. There were definitely some clever tarts around!

For those wanting to know more about Gansey history and patterns, in addition to your Propgansey website, what books or other resources do you recommend? Any specific knitting patterns you’d encourage people toward?

• Gladys Thompson; Patterns for Jerseys, Guernseys & Arans
• Mary Wright; Cornish Guernseys & Knitfrocks
• Michael Pearson; Traditional Knitting of the British Isles, vol 1: Fisher Gansey Patterns of North East England, and vol 2: Fisher Gansey Patterns of Scotland and the Scottish Fleet (In-print option: Traditional Knitting: Aran, Fair Isle and Fisher Ganseys)
• Beth Brown-Reinsel; Knitting Ganseys: Techniques and Patterns for Traditional Sweaters
Propagansey 2018; 8-16th September at Fylingthorpe Methodist Chapel, Fylingthorpe, N Yorks, UK; 10-4 daily

. . .

Thanks so much, Deb! I hope to get to your exhibit someday.

And here’s a fun fact, dear readers: The gansey Deb is wearing in the top photo was later knitted for her by the trawlerman who first sparked her interest in ganseys. How awesome is that?

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10×10 Challenge: Lessons learned

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

The just-completed Spring 10×10 Challenge, my first time doing one of Lee Vosburgh’s 10x10s, was a little more challenging than I expected — in large part due to the fact that these are almost all the same garments from my personal 20×30 thingy last October, so my extra challenge was to try to find new ways to wear the same old pieces … and not feel bored. I.e., the perennial challenge of a smaller, longer-lasting wardrobe. I did manage to put these pieces together in ways I hadn’t before, and I did also get bored. But here are some things I learned and views I had vividly reinforced along the way—

1. A good pair of shoes is everything. These handmade flats were an investment I made late last year — my birthday gift/holiday bonus to myself — and they made everything here look more current and interesting than would otherwise have been the case. It’s a long-held view of mine that a change of footwear is the easiest way to breathe new life into old clothes, and I think that’s infinitely more important when you’re trying to take a Slow Fashion approach to your wardrobe, and intend to wear things for years, not one season. I also realized how blasé I’ve been at times about how hard I can be on shoes, as I used to buy new ones so very often anyway. Wearing these so many days in a row, I realized just how precious they are to me — I mean, I got to watch Julio make them for me through his Instagram Story — and I want to be thoughtful about wearing them.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

2. Comfort is key. I was right in October when I said prints/patterns matter (having included a stripe, a camo and a snake-print flat in that batch of items). I missed that with these 10 pieces. But even more important, comfort matters so so much to me — meaning easy-to-wear, non-restrictive clothes but also “comfort clothes” in the same sense as “comfort food.” In these 9 garments, I included only one knit, and my two pairs of pants were both jeans. I’m a big believer in knits (and not just sweaters), and even had a rule for ages that if a thing required ironing, it didn’t belong in my closet. This was a disproptionately woven mini-wardrobe for me, and that definitely got on my nerves. Especially since we had some seriously cold, damp and depressing weather along the way, which had me longing to feel comforted by my clothes. The stiff jeans almost felt punitive at one point along the way, so I was happy to have a break from them over the weekend.

3. Layers are always the right idea. During this period, we had a high of 37, a high of 82, and everything in between. Which is part of why the silk smock got 4 times as many wears as the sleeveless top — turns out the smock works nicely under a shirtjacket (awesome to have discovered!), and is warmer (and more comforting) than the sleeveless one. Going into this, I thought I might be overdoing it on top layers, but not at all.

4. Selfies are hard! I took a simple mirror selfie all ten days for my IG Story (they’re saved in my Highlights @karentempler if you’re on IG and want to see them all) and had intended to only do the occasional self-timer outfit-of-the-day situation. But I realized I wanted to try to have all 10 ootd’s in the end, plus I’ve had a general aim for myself to get more comfortable having a camera pointed at me, so I added that to the overall challenge. I managed to take one for all but Day 2 (seen above only as garments), and omg I was so over it by the end! But I’m glad I did it — it was good practice, and I even like a few of them. My husband took the best pic, though, when I cheated on Day 8, below.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

(On the 8th Day, above, I cheated. It was 35 degrees and I also couldn’t face my jeans for going out to dinner, so I wore my denim toddlers and boots with my Eliz Suzann silk smock and coat, and toffee Log Cabin Mitts. I’ll tell you about the cowl in this next pic tomorrow— )

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

5. Flexibility, as in life, is a necessity. I had said at the outset that I was only including one pair of shoes in the official count, but expected to have to sub in my rain boots on occasion. That did prove true, along with the emotionally and weatherly mandated Day 8 cheat.

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

6. I love not having to think about getting dressed! And yet still looking put together day after day. The more Closet Rummy™ I play, the more lost I am without my little outfit grids to consult in the morning. As a small business owner, I am pretty much always on decision overload, and not having to decide what to wear in the morning is a genuine help. (I eat the exact same breakfast every weekday for the same reason.) For the 10×10, I made myself a little set of suggestions and taped them into my mini bullet journal, which kind of cracked me up (so I enshrined it at the end). And even though I did change up a few things along the way, I felt a little bereft the following day when there was no handbook of what to put on!

7. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. This was the biggest surprise. Rather than fixating on (or even thinking about) what new stuff I might like to make or buy, this whole thing left me excited about so many of the beloved clothes in my closet, and the chance to wear them again! Of course, there is still that whole no-sleeves problem, but I’m starting to solve it!

All in all, worth doing. Did you participate, or have you before? What did you get out of it?

. . .

GARMENT COMBOS, IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE:

10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned
10x10 Challenge: Lessons learned

The garments represented, by number of wears—

7 WEARS: blue jeans (Imogene+Willie)
4 WEARS: black silk smock (Elizabeth Suzann 2017, no longer available)
3 WEARS: black linen-wool cardigan
3 WEARS: army shirtjacket 
3 WEARS: white smock (State the Label)
3 WEARS: natural jeans (Imogene+Willie 2016, no longer available)
2 WEARS: ancient denim shirtjacket (J.Crew, c.2003)
2 WEARS: blue button-up
1 WEAR: black silk gauze shell

And 7 WEARS for the tan flats (Solid State Studios, no longer available), since I wore my rain boots twice and my nice boots out to dinner on freezing day 8.

*Not included in the original 10 pieces

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Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal? (how to)

I am a notebook addict, as I might have mentioned. A pencil and paper kind of girl. Diaries, planners, sketchbooks, logbooks of all sorts (books, wines …) were always an integral part of my life. I love a written record, and how visceral it is to flip back through one. Of course, in the digital age, my habits have shifted. I’ve used a web-based to-do system instead of a paper planner since around 2009; converted my editorial calendar into a spreadsheet in 2014; and have a solid 11 years of ephemera of every kind clipped into Evernote. PDFs, images, order confirmations, screengrabs, flight itineraries, random notes to self, you name it — if I need to search for it someday, or access it anywhere from any device, into Evernote it goes. I’m extremely organized and systematized. Yet somehow, where knitting is concerned — from when I learned in 2011 until the start of this year — my record-keeping has been a giant mess.

As I’m knitting anything, I always have notes on paper. I highlight, annotate and scribble in the margins of printed-out pattern PDFs. I have two Knitters Graph Paper Journals full of charts and shaping diagrams and top-down formulas, which I cherish. Plus a small memo book or notepad in the pocket of whatever project bag I’m currently using. When I finish a thing, I try to be thorough abou translating my chicken scratch from wherever it is into a blog post, and strive to record yarn and needle sizes and sometimes yardage in a corresponding Ravelry project page. But I’m surprisingly non-thorough. Inevitably, I or one of you will have a question that neither the blog post nor the Rav page can answer, and I can’t always find which notebook or pad or printout I was scribbling in at the time. Plus I’ve been around the internet long enough that I could make a very long list of former blogs, forums and databases I’ve poured myself into that no longer exist. Poof. Only paper endures. So I’m doing what I really can’t believe I’ve never done until now: I’ve started a proper knitting journal. Which will also be able to incorporate sewing, once I get back to it!

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

What pushed me over the edge was finally having the beautiful Fringe Supply Co. notebooks I’ve always wanted. I’m using the larger one for my main journal and still keeping a spare for random chicken scratch and the smaller notepad in my project bag. All of the pages are perforated, so it’s nice and tidy to tear them out of elsewhere when I’m done and paste them into the journal. There are some Bullet Journal elements to how I’ve organized it: I’ve included an index in the front and a “future log” listing things that need to be made in specific months (some of which is secret, so I can’t show you that part). Entering things this way allows me to not be too control freaky about what order they get documented in the journal, since they simply get listed in the index as they’re added. And I’m striving to include everything relevant to each project: my original sketches (on Fashionary panels); the yarn label; any notes extracted from the smaller notepad; the pattern photo and chart or annotated pattern pages; needles used; and of course FO photos, just printed out and glued in. Things are variously taped, stapled or glued, or stuck in pockets I make either by taping three sides of a half-page, or gluing in an envelope. I’ve toyed with including a piece of yarn — taped in with washi tape so I can change my mind — but I think that gets to be a bit much for me personally. Haven’t decided.

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

It’s already getting thick since I’ve finished more things in the past three months than I normally knit in a whole year. (I loved making the gatefold for my Log Cabin Mitts log!) But as it gets fatter, I just tear out pages to make room. Again, since they’re perforated, I can remove those edges and that just becomes useful notepaper, some of which finds its way back in.

I love sitting and looking at this notebook. Love the tangibility of it, especially since four of the FOs in there have already been given away. Obviously I won’t stop blogging and Rav’ing the details like always, but I like knowing this notebook will outlast the ever-shifting tides of technology.

So that’s my Q for You today: Do you keep a knitting/sewing notebook or scrapbook of any kind? How else do you record what you make?

Q for You: Do you keep a knitting journal?

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Me and the Spring 10×10 Challenge

Me and the Spring 10x10 Challenge

So, as noted, I have some giant gaps in my closet when it comes to clothing suitable for our present weather — and yet I still have to get dressed every morning. I was thinking I’d triage an outfit plan to cover at least the next couple of weeks while I strive to fill in a few hangers (and/or hope for the weather to catch up with my clothing options). But then I remembered tomorrow is the start of the Spring 10×10 Challenge from Style Bee et al. I’ve never done it before, but since I’m already facing the reality of dressing myself from a limited selection of garments, why not go all the way, right?

Choosing my 10 items wasn’t even particularly difficult since I have so little to choose from! It’s also not a very dynamic selection, for that same reason. They are 1 cardigan, 2 shirtjackets, 1 sleeveless top, 3 shirts/smocks, 2 pair of jeans and 1 pair of shoes.

Or, more specifically:
black linen-wool cardigan
• ancient denim shirtjacket (J.Crew, c.2003)
army shirtjacket 
• black silk smock (Elizabeth Suzann, no longer available)
black silk gauze shell
• white smock (State the Label)
blue button-up
• natural jeans (Imogene+Willie, no longer available)
• blue jeans (Imogene+Willie)
• tan flats (Solid State Studios, no longer available)

Eight of the ten were already part of my 20×30 challenge in October, but the shoes were not one of them and I always say the easiest way to freshen up a wardrobe is a change of shoes! Still, it wouldn’t be much of a Challenge to just repeat outfits from that, so my actual challenge for the next 10 days is to see how many new ways I can think of to combine these garments. I was leaning heavily on pants in October, not wearing jeans so much, and the denim shirtjacket gives me 3-4 new options right off the bat, but how many of the remaining looks might be different? We’ll see!

There’s a slight chance I might trade out the white smock for my pink one, which would also change things up. And honestly, I gave only one slot to shoes because this is my first attempt at a 10×10 and I wanted to maximize garments. HOWEVER, it’s been really rainy here, so I’m allowed to cheat on the footwear if weather demands it. These flats were a big investment and I love them dearly, so I don’t leave the house in them on rainy days.

Who else is in? For all the details on the challenge and how to participate, see Style Bee. (I am in no way responsible for this event!)

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Spring ’18 wardrobe: Haves and have-nots

Spring ’18 wardrobe: Haves and have-nots

There’s a sufficient level of flux and lack in my closet right now that I don’t feel like I can do quite the same sort of tight, functional closet inventory I’ve done the past couple of seasons. Instead, I’m taking stock of the key haves and the critical have-nots (with underlined notes-to-self along the way), in the hope of translating this into a very focused plan for what I get to knit and sew for myself in the near future. So from all of this will come the make list—

TOPS WITH SLEEVES (that aren’t wool or flannel)

I mean, crickets; see above. And this is the number one thing a person needs at this time of year — actually at least half the year here — when it’s too warm for flannel shirts or wool sweaters (both of which I do have, of course) yet not warm enough to be leaving the house sleevelessly. I have the one cotton fisherman sweater (old L.L. Bean); my blue Archer button-up (and the somewhat redundant chambray workshirt I rescued from Bob’s discards a couple years ago); my little black gathered sleeve top (never blogged); plus my black silk Elizabeth Suzann Artist Smock (no longer available), and to put that last one in the “sleeves” category is to define it loosely. So as keen as I am to sew myself some more pants, I need to concentrate on this area first and foremost.

SLEEVELESS TOPS, VESTS and SMOCKS

Spring ’18 wardrobe: Haves and have-nots

If there’s one thing I have in spades, it’s sleeveless garments. I’m in decent shape for little sleeveless tops, with all my old chums hanging around: black silk gauze shell/black Adventure tee, striped Adventure tee, grey linen sleeveless tee (Everlane, no longer available), striped cotton shell, dotted chambray tunic (Endless Summer, made by a friend). Sadly, the one I lean on most — the white linen shell — was involved in a laundry mishap and is now a sad, dingy shade of not-quite-blue-ish. It can be solved by dyeing it a more deliberate shade of blue, but the little white top is a key piece of my wardrobe missing, so it needs to be replaced asap. A few of the others are looking a bit worse for wear at this point, plus a quick little sleeveless top is my favorite thing to make, so I’ll likely be adding a couple more (in color/pattern), in addition to replacing the white linen one.

In the not-quite-sleeves category, I have my little plaid top (never blogged), my blue stripe Fen and (not pictured) my two Harper Tunics: natural linen and olive cotton (no longer available), the former of which needs a dye job or some contrast stitching or something so it will look less deathly on me. But the olive one is a gem.

This is my favorite time of year for my black Sloper sleeveless turtleneck — either over a shirt or tee, or on its on. I’m also in good shape on vests — from my black Anna vest to my Cowichan-ish vest, which has its window of opportunity right now, to my very old J.Crew holdovers, the denim vest and trench vest. My beloved State Smocks are everything right now, through summer and fall. And my ES sleeveless navy canvas Clyde Jacket cum vest (top row, sample sale score of all time), which needs a bit of attention and then will be a big star of the season.

OUTER LAYERS

Spring ’18 wardrobe: Haves and have-nots

My army shirtjacket is my absolute favorite thing right now, thrown over everything from a sleeveless top to a smock to a dress with boots. The only one of my cardigans still in play is the black Linen Quill cardigan, which I recently blocked out a tad longer and have decided to leave alone once and for all, largely because I absolutely love how the length of it works with my State Smocks. And there’s the lovely tobacco-colored linen Nade tunic from last year (no longer available), which is easy to throw on over assorted sleeveless things. It would really be nice to have another season-spanning cardigan sweater.

PANTS and JEANS

Spring ’18 wardrobe: Haves and have-nots

This is a bit of a sad situation. Of the four pair of “toddler pants” I’ve made myself, two have gotten ruined in the wash. You already know about the original olive pair going all discolored. (I do still wear them around the house or on manual labor days.) Then after relying heavily on the cherished ivory pair all winter, I finally worked up the nerve to wash them — on delicate/cool, even though the fabric had been pre-washed in hot water. They came out about two sizes smaller and several inches shorter, so they’ve gone to a friend’s house for a try-on. (Sob!) That leaves the denim and the camo pairs, plus my clay-colored Wide Clydes, and it’s time to bring back out the black linen Florence pants. I’ve been itching to make some pants in a little bit different shape in a lighter faded-denim blue (among other things), but replacing the natural ones might now be top priority. And then there are my dark jeans (x3) and my natural jeans, but I’m just not wearing jeans as much lately and still feeling pretty happy about that.

SKIRTS and DRESSES

Pretty much same exact situation as last Summer — i.e., I have a couple of newer workhorses and a couple of slightly older things that have gone unworn, and those I’m giving them one more chance. There have actually been two additions, which will show up in outfits and/or Summer inventory — an Ace&Jig Eve Dress is Forte that I bought at their sample sale last fall, and an Elizabeth Suzann Harper Dress in grey linen gauze bought at her sample sale in early December. It’s a big muumuu — invaluable come summer — but I do like it now with my tall boots and army shirtjacket. Still no sign of me starting to wear skirts, and no real needs in this category.

Now to figure out exactly how to fill the holes, and in what order.

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PREVIOUSLY in Spring 2018 Wardrobe: Mood and strategy

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Spring ’18 wardrobe planning: Mood and strategy

Spring ’18 wardrobe planning: Mood and strategy

In really starting to think about dressing myself for Spring — or the most important part: what I get to make! — I of course started a spring 2018 mood board at Pinterest, and thought it’d be a good idea to go back through last year’s spring planning posts … but alas, there are none! We skipped over spring last year, and so did my planning. But it looks like I had all the right ideas and attitudes in my summer strategy, even though my plans were largely foiled. This year, I don’t have to worry about being frozen at work (we have control of the themostat now!) but I also don’t want to get ahead of myself. It seems like we may be in for a nice long spring, so I’m thinking in terms of winter-into-spring right now, more than spring-into-summer. Knock wood knock wood knock wood.

So what does this season’s pinboard tell me:

COLOR
As always, I’m in the mood for all the blues and greens, especially the lighter ones, piled onto a foundation of whites and off-whites, khaki/camel/caramel, heathery greys, denim, navy and black. But I’m also longing for a hit of yellow and maybe even a spot of pinkish-red. I used to have a killer pair of men’s chinos in vivid yellow, which works better for me than yellow near my face, so I’m pondering that at the moment. But mostly keeping with my usual palette and thus, happily, my existing fabric and yarn stash. If I buy any fabric at all, let it be for the sake of color.

SHAPE
And I’m still in the mood for loose, easy shapes — floaty tops or soft tees with loose pants, worn with a shirt, jacket or tunic-as-jacket. Not reflected here, though, is what a big vest mood I’m in — from my State Smocks to my sleeveless Clyde to my assorted sweater vests. It’s interesting to me how many of the same images make it back onto my mood boards season after season, which I think is fantastic and as it should be — each season is a slight evolution, not a tearing up and discarding of what I wanted the season or the year before.

Apart from that, I’ll be following much of the logic expressed in last summer’s plan as I start to think about what pieces I’ll be moving to the center of the closet, what I’ll be making to augment that, and how I put it all together into outfits. More to come!

Fashionary sketch panels from Fringe Supply Co.

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Plannning: So long winter wardrobe: Notes for next year

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