Q for You: What’s your picky fit detail?

Q for You: What's your picky fit detail?

I’m pretty sure we all have a pet peeve or two, garment-wise — the little fit detail that can make the difference between most-worn and never-worn. Last weekend, I was posting on Instagram all the gory details of how I’m nailing down the exact length of the sleeves on this vanilla cardigan. Sleeves and neck shaping are the two potential deal-breakers for me. I can’t stand a garment that shifts around on me during the day, requiring me to tug at the neckline all the time, and same goes for sleeves. I want them out of my way, which means they’re either pushed up or rolled up most of the time. If a cuff is too wide to stay put when they’re pushed up — creating that perpetual push-and-slide scenario — I might actually lose my mind. And if they puddle on my hands when they’re pulled down, I definitely will. As I said the other day, I find this matter of sleeve length just that much more important on an oversized sweater like this. I want this cardigan to be nice and slouchy; I don’t want to look (or feel) like I’m swimming in it.

For me, that difference can be like a half an inch, and even though I have a blocked swatch and correct gauge and good math and preferred dimensions and all of that, no two sweaters sit or hang on the body precisely the same way. So since this one is top-down, what I’ve done is knitted one sleeve to just before the bind-off point and blocked it. Once I put it on, it was easy to see that it’s 6 or 7 rows too long — it already covers the top of my hand even without the bind-off row, whereas I want it to hit right at my wrist bone. So I’m ripping back the sleeve to 7 rows before the cuff, redoing the ribbing, and then it should be perfect. And I won’t have to worry about being institutionalized over a sleeve! It’s an easy enough thing to nail, and worth taking a minute to get it right.

So that’s my Q for You today: What’s the make-or-break fit detail for you — whether it’s a hat, socks, sweaters, whatever — and what do you do (or do you?) to get it just so?

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Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!

Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!

We went from days of sleevelessness to boots and sweater weather almost simultaneously with setting back the clocks. Sunday was the most perfect early-Fall day imaginable — trees in full color, the ground littered with leaves, and a breezy 78 degrees — and we literally woke up to cold and rainy early winter on Monday morning. The funny part is that on Sunday I was telling myself It’s cool, no need to be in a hurry, and was mapping out an outfit plan in my head that was all about faking sweater weather. (E.g. cowichan vest with tank dress and boots!) Then whoosh, and suddenly I’m standing in front of the closet dumbfounded and planless again.

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed while doing these wardrobe plans over the past year: They’ve slowed down my drive to make or acquire new things and have shown me how to get more mileage (i.e. more outfit combinations) out of the things I own. There’s still that old habit, though, of looking ahead to what’s new or in-progress or on my wish list rather than just concentrating on what I already own. And now there’s this whole new element of having laid out so many outfits over the past year that have never even been worn! So this next little plan is all about going backwards — digging up the unworn outfits, the favorite combos from the past few seasons, and the things that can become new again with just the addition of a cardigan or jacket, a switch from sandals to boots. And this time — for the first time since I began this — I’m not including anything in the plan that’s currently a WIP. Which means I’m also only thinking through the end of November, keeping it a little light still, and yes, looking forward to having my vanilla cardigan and natural wool pants to play with in December.

Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!
Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!
Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!
Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!
Wardrobe Planning: November sweater weather!

For details on all of the garments pictured, see my Fall Closet Inventory + camo/denim toddler pants post coming as soon as the natural ones are finished (soon!), but they’re all basically the same as the olive pair, with assorted variations. The black ankle boots are Everlane, and the tan flats are identical to my silver ones, handmade by Solid State Studios. An early holiday treat for myself!

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Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel

Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel

Every time I invite someone to answer these Our Tools, Ourselves questions, my hope is to learn (and share) something new about them. Some of the respondents are people I/we know very well; some I know just a little; and others I know almost nothing about. In all three cases, the answers often surprise me. Take the case of Niree Noel here, who you may know as @niree_knits on Instagram. She came to my attention because she routinely shares jaw-droppingly great photos on the #fringefieldbag feed (quite a few of which are included here). Niree is gorgeous, stylish, well-traveled, and she apparently takes a Field Bag with her everywhere she goes — whether it’s some fashionable party, the desert, the flower shop, or the roof deck of MoMA. So I wanted to know more about her and her knitting life, and she graciously obliged.

What I learned is that she’s only been knitting two years, and that she took it up as a way to manage adult-onset anxiety, which she just recently wrote a piece about for Allure magazine. As someone who battled a crippling anxiety disorder throughout my teen years, and often wish someone had putting knitting needles in my hands at that time, I was especially touched to learn this about her. I always says in interviews how much it meant to me, when I did take up knitting, to be making something tangible again — to watch something spring into existence right in front of me. So I was particularly struck by this line from her Allure article: “When something grows in front of you, something you’ve created with your hands, you grow with it.”

I hope you’ll enjoy reading the interview below and the Allure piece. Thanks so much for doing this, Niree!

. . .

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

I’m a knitter, mainly. While I can crochet and certainly do on occasion, I reach for my knitting needles most often. I’ve dabbled in weaving a few times but always come back to knitting for the elegance and intellectual challenge of it. I used to sew when I was younger and would still love to, but between moving across cities and coasts, and navigating an unpredictable career as a freelance writer and editor, I just haven’t prioritized making time or space for getting back to the sewing machine. Even still, I associate both knitting and sewing with a nostalgia of my childhood; my grandmothers, one from Armenia the other from Iran, taught me those skills when I was growing up (even though I abandoned both by my teen years). Then about three years ago, I started knitting seriously. My grandmothers’ garments, always sophisticated in taste and impeccably made, have definitely inspired my perspective and sensibilities.

Tell us about your tool preferences and peccadilloes.

When I first started knitting, I was a straight-and-bamboo type of lady. Then I tried circular-and-bamboo, and while it was awkward at first, quickly fell in love with the ease and efficiency of knitting off a cord. About a year in, I noticed my bamboo splintering and taking on the color of my yarn. I went to Purl Soho and picked up my first Addis, which were an absolute revelation. I have a set of the Lykke interchangeables that I like to use with certain projects, but my trusted go-tos are the Addi Turbo Rockets: fixed, 40-inch, perfect for knitting flat or in the round, and long enough for magic loop. In all these years, I have avoided DPNs, but despite joking about having a fear of them, I think I’m going to try them out to see what I may or may not be missing.

Does the Fringe Field Bag count as a tool? Because I have both the black and the natural and they are, by far, my most consistently used knitting-related item.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel

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

As far as organizing my tools, my Lykkes sit nicely in their beautiful case, on display on my shelf. The rest — my Fringe Supply Co. leather and brass stitch markers, Twig & Horn gauge ruler, Row House stitch markers (that come in jumbo sizes), measuring tape from Stephen & Penelope in Amsterdam, vintage bonsai shearers from a boutique in Petaluma, California, tapestry needles in a wood container from Pulp Soho, crochet hooks and neatly wound circular needles (if any are unused) — go in a canvas zip bag I picked up at a flea market in Park City, Utah. Oh and my Muji pens and Moleskine notebooks, too.

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

In my Fringe Field Bags! Neatly folded up. I keep all my project notes in one notebook (that goes inside the notions bag), so I just move that bag between Field Bags, and I’m good to go.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel

Are there any particularly prized possessions amongst your tools?

These aren’t my tools per se but my mom has this retro sewing basket, and she has a thimble and green measuring tape in there that I remember from my childhood. I’m going to transition those into my arsenal one day when she’s not looking.

Do you lend your tools?

I taught my best friend how to knit and was lending her my needles and tools until I gifted her a set of her own for her birthday. If I were to teach anyone else how to knit, I’d of course share my things, but everyone I know who already practices the craft has an extensive collection of odds and ends.

What is your favorite place to knit?

My favorite and most productive place would definitely be my bed, next to my window, with a cup of coffee. It would only be more perfect if my dog, who currently lives in LA with my parents, were on my lap. I love meeting up with the various knit groups I’ve joined in New York, but that sometimes ends up in undoing more than doing. (Especially if we’re meeting over drinks!) There are a few outdoor spots I love as well, if the weather allows: along the shore of the East River, or somewhere lost in Prospect or Central Park.

What effect do the seasons have on you?

I’m a seasonally inappropriate knitter and have consistently failed to make anything in time for anything. I’ve missed birthdays, and ended up with an alpaca sweater in the spring and half a cotton tank in the fall. I buy wool year round, and finished a 9×16 foot-long wool blanket last July. I wish I planned ahead, or planned better, but I really just go with whatever I find or whatever I’m feeling in the moment.

Our Tools, Ourselves: Niree Noel

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

Even if the fabric is just plain stockinette, I obsessively count my stitches. On each and every row. I think part of it stems from the fact that I picked up knitting to ease some pretty serious adult-onset anxiety (I wrote about this for Allure), so the repetition forces me to focus and gets me into a calm rhythm. It’s slightly annoying when I’m trying to knit and watch a show, or knit and listen to an audiobook, and it can definitely look funny when I’m caught muttering to myself. Despite all that obsessive counting, I still make frequent and embarrassing mathematical errors. C’est la vie.

What are you working on right now?

Right now, on my needles, I have:
– the Needed Me cardigan in a vibrant orange mohair, courtesy of Wool and the Gang
– an improvised top-down v-neck crop raglan sweater in Madeline Tosh’s A.S.A.P. (Gentle Monster colorway)
– another improvised top-down v-neck situation, but a gray cardigan with set-in sleeves, made on size 0 needles in Shibui’s Cima yarn
– an amber/brown triangle shawl with lacework and floral motifs, designed on Jordstad Creek’s Cornwall courtesy of Row House
– Purl Soho’s Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, in a cream alpaca and berry wool combination
– my first pair of socks in Oysters & Purls hand-dyed yarn (I’m stuck on the heels!)

Upcoming, I have:
– a bonnet for my cousin’s newborn daughter
– a sweater for a friend
– a sweater for myself, with Morris & Sons yarn my parents brought back from their travels in Australia
– a skinny tie for my brother
– a beanie for another friend

And the list goes on…

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20×30 outfits and after-thoughts

20x30 outfits and thoughts

My whole big 20×30 experiment for Slow Fashion October turned out to be more fun and informative than I might have imagined. And also a little bit addictive! (It was also the cause of my taking more selfies in one month than I have over several years. I managed it almost every weekday.) I began the month vowing that I wasn’t going to be a slave to the plan — as I said to the Crafty Planner, it was meant to be a game not a sentence — but once I got started, I found I didn’t want to waver from it. I really wanted to know if I could go a whole month wearing only 20 garments. The answer is … sort of!

For one thing, operating off of a limited number of clothes — especially if you wash them comparatively rarely, like I do — requires a certain level of organization if you’ve got things like a trip and a photo shoot on the calendar. So there were a couple of days where I had pretty much the whole set in the wash and had to wear something else. There were also a couple of weekend days at the start of the month where I basically didn’t get dressed. And while I originally thought I would treat the Rhinebeck trip as a time-out from all this (with the notion that it would be cold there), the mild weather made it possible to mostly stick to the plan after all. The exception being that I only wanted to take one sweater, and it needed to be one that would go with everything, every day, so I traded the camel cardigan in the original plan (which hadn’t been worn) for my little black cardigan.

I also didn’t actually wear 20 garments. The natural pants never got finished, nor the raglan seam fixed on my striped sweater, so neither of those made an appearance, which wiped out a lot of the possible outfits from the lineup. And the persistent warm weather meant the five sweater-sweatshirts in the mix were of essentially no use until late in the game. So in reality, I was working with more like 14 or 15 garments for the majority of the month.

That and the fact that the only real color in the group was in those sweater-shirtshirts meant the risk of boredom was even greater than I originally thought. (It was definitely an unintentional lot of black/white/army.) But it all worked out, and I either made or reinforced some useful observations along the way—

20x30 outfits and thoughts

1) Novelty is critical. My beloved State Smocks — with their unusual volume — are really fun to play with, and brought in an element of newness, which kept things from getting too dull. The two outfits in the middle got repeated on the Rhinebeck trip with just the addition of the black cardigan, and a shoe swap (snake instead of silver) for the second one. Also, I love this cardigan so much with the smocks that I’ve decided not to lengthen it, at least for the time being.

20x30 outfits and thoughts

2) A uniform doesn’t have to be uniform. An easy formula for me is to put on my white linen shell and one or the other of my toddler pants, then throw just about anything on top. These don’t look like five of the same outfit, even though they all have the same foundation.

20x30 outfits and thoughts

3) “Jeans and a t-shirt” can be reimagined. There are a lot of days in my world where all I want to do is put on jeans and a tee, hair in a ponytail, and get to work. But of course those are the days where I inevitably run into someone and feel bad about looking so blah. The fact that I didn’t include a t-shirt in the mix forced me to think differently on those days. The silk smock is as easy as a tee and so much nicer looking. Same goes for the sleeveless tee with my wide-leg denim toddlers instead of regular old jeans. The mix in the middle was my travel outfit en route to NY, perfect for the plane.

20x30 outfits and thoughts

4) Even a little bit of print can go a long way toward keeping things lively. I was soooo happy I had the camo pants and snake-print flats in mix, and had on one or the other just about every day. (Sometimes both.) Had this all been solids, I might not have gotten through it! The outfit upstream with the black vest and camo pants got repeated at Rhinebeck with the black cardigan and snake flats. You can also see here that I actually wore two different pairs of dark jeans in Oct — my handmades one day and the J.Crew made-in-LA pair on several others. So I guess technically that puts the worn tally back at 19 garments.

20x30 outfits and thoughts

5) And last but not least: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. This photo is the same outfit I wore home from Rhinebeck (including the black cardigan in my hand), albeit with different shoes, but this was actually taken on November 1st. I thought I was excited to wear something different once the calendar flipped over, but when it came time to get out the door yesterday morning, the fact is it was much simpler to stick to the list. After all, there are still quite a few unworn outfits on there … and I’ve never felt this reasonably put-together on this many successive days in my entire life. I’d say that makes it a rousing success!

One other thing I want to note: When I picked out the 20 garments for this little parlor game, I didn’t think about their origins. I just picked 20 items that I thought I could wear for a whole month. This post in the #slowfashionoctober feed led me to go back and tally it up. Of the 20 items, 11 were me-made, 1 was a refashion of a RTW piece, 3 were storeboughts from before all of this, 2 are upcycled thrifted goods (the State smocks), and the remaining 3 were bought more recently from known-origins brands. I think that’s a pretty amazing balance and a fair representation of where my closet currently stands.

For a rundown on all of the garments, see my Fall inventory. Photos mostly at Fringe Supply Co. HQ during our little expansion — pardon the dust!

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PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: October outfits! (The 20×30 plan)

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Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

Got back from Rhinebeck late Monday night — more properly known as New York State Sheep and Wool Festival — exhausted from the fun of seeing so many beloved people and meeting so many new ones. I know I say this a lot, but it’s always a pleasure to get to put faces to some of the many names I see on comments, orders and Instagram accounts, and to hear from you what it is you enjoy about this blog, so thank you to everyone who stopped to introduce themselves! And also to everyone who shopped the Fringe Supply Co. shelves in the Harrisville booth — it was such a mob scene I never even got to take a picture of it!

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

My housemates* and I arrived a day early this year, which gave us a chance to hike up Overlook Mountain (amazing) and wander the streets of Hudson (adorable). The festival, for me, was pretty much just like last time: totally overwhelming on Saturday, relaxing and lovely on Sunday. It was quite warm — I was sleeveless both days — but no complaints, after I nearly froze last time. I bought a spectacular sheepskin from Sawkill Farm after having been close to getting one from her newsletter awhile back, and a sweater quantity of Harrisville’s denim-y blue wool heather they made special for the show. And in Germantown Sunday eve, I bought a gigantic vintage colorwork cardigan that was hanging on a rack on the sidewalk at Luddite Antiques, which I plan to bundle up in for porch knitting now that the weather in Nashville seems to have finally turned a corner. (Knock wood.) All in all, a most excellent trip.

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

The same heartfelt thank-you goes to everyone who stopped by our booth at Fiber in the ’Boro on Saturday, which I’m so sad I had to miss! I love that sweet festival so much. As lovely as Rhinebeck is, I can’t say this often enough: There are wonderfully charming sheep and wool festivals all over this country and around the globe. Clara Parkes keeps a sizable list but I’m sure not even that is comprehensive! So please seek them out, have a blast, pet some sheep, and support your local/regional farmers and fiber folk.

p.s. Bravo to this gentlemen who was spotted carefully guarding his partner’s Field Bag at the festival while he napped and she shopped—

Scene and bought at Rhinebeck

*Pictured left to right in the group photo: @fancyamber, me, @knitknotes, @jen_beeman, @kategagnonosborn, @fancyjaime, @courtneykelley

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The cost (and payoff) of handmade

The cost (and payoff) of handmade

Once again, in light of Slow Fashion October, I’ve been tracking costs on my handmade clothes this year because I wanted to see how it held up over last year’s tally. And again, it’s a weird thing to talk about publicly (at least if you’re a born-and-raised Midwesterner like me), but I think it’s really illuminating in terms of the impact of acquiring less and making what you can, even when some of the handmades are an investment—

SEWN
$18.00 : White linen shell
6.00 : Grey wool pullover
20.00 : Striped muscle tee
54.25 : Blue button-up shirt
12.00 : Olive pants
73.00 : Blue jeans
17.50 : Denim pants
21.25 : Camo pants
——
$222.00 — average cost of $27.75 per garment

KNITTED
$175.00 : Black yoke sweater
213.50 : Camel Channel cardigan
110.00 : Linen Sloper
112.00 : Fisherman sweater
38.50 : Purple lopi pullover
——
$649.00 — average cost of $129.80 per sweater

So even with the top-shelf denim (for my jeans) and a couple of comparatively pricey sweaters in there, I’ve spent a combined average of $87.10 per month on my handmade clothes. If those were the only clothes I had added to my closet this year, and I had spent less than $100 per month, I’d be utterly floored and perfectly satisfied.

However, that’s not all I’ve spent or acquired. Since $87/month represents a savings for me, I’ve been able to invest in some coveted pieces from companies I feel good about supporting, such as my natural Willie jeans, my Elizabeth Suzann silk top, and my State smocks.

Far and away the most astonishing thing to me is I’ve added only about 2-2.5 garments per month to my closet. In my past life, 2 garments would have been a slow day at the mall, not a month’s total, yet in no way do I feel deprived or like I’m making do. Just the opposite: My wardrobe has never been better looking or higher functioning. So my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has inspired and encouraged me in this endeavor.

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PREVIOUSLY in Slow Fashion October: Slow Fashion Citizen Jen Hewett

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Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

First off, a little apology: I know I told you the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong announcement was coming this week. Unfortunately, there’s a been a little snafu and change of plans. So I’ll let you know when I’m re-ready to announce!

Q for You: What do you do with your unworn FOs?

One thing we talk about all the time, and that has come up a lot in the #slowfashionoctober discussion, is that we’ve all made things that, for whatever reason, didn’t work out and go unworn. It’s a hard thing to face: all that time and yarn, just sitting the closet. Coming to accept that this happens — learning how to learn from it — is a big part of becoming a maker, I think. As is coming up with a strategy for dealing with it. I have so much admiration for those of you who frog things and reclaim the yarn and give it new life. For me, if it’s a perfectly successful garment that just doesn’t fit or suit me, I’d rather it went to a new home where it will be appreciated. (I have frogged things that hadn’t reached completion, for sure.) The only thing I’ve ever made that I couldn’t imagine giving to anyone else was my very first sweater, so I took it to a thrift store where I hoped some knitter would find it and feel wonderfully righteous and scornful about it! (I sort of hoped it might turn up on IG someday or something.)

There have been several things I’ve given to family and close friends. The one garment I couldn’t accept defeat on, or let go of, for such a long time was my Amanda cardigan up there. No matter what I tried, it just didn’t sit right on me and wasn’t getting worn, but it has so much history! And I’m so proud of the knitting, which is why I didn’t want to frog it. When it finally occurred to me I could use it to raise money to help people, that’s what it took for me to finally let it go — and to feel great about it. And I’ve put some other handknits up for adoption as well.

In every instance above, I love how excited the new owners are to have these garments — the very opposite of knitting something for someone and having them yawn. That said, I would love to someday find out what it feels like to frog a whole sweater. I imagine it’s the same kind of fun as sitting down in the stylist’s chair and saying “Cut it all off!” (One of my favorite experiences.) But it’s all got me wondering about different attitudes and approaches to the problem, so that’s my Q for You today: What do you do with your unworn FOs? And what about your muslins? Which is a whole ’nother ball of wax …

ASSORTED DELIGHTFUL TIDBITS:

– The Slow Fashion October topic for this next week is: HOW. Let’s talk about your how-to skills and where they stand (from how to knit/sew, to thrifting strategies, to caring for your wardrobe, etc); how you acquired and improve on those skills; how you make time for making your wardrobe (however you go about it) …

– Tomorrow is I Love Yarn Day, so how might you pass those skills along?

– Ash Gremel has announced she’s hosting a clothes swap and has created a shared map so others can add theirs! Will you host one?

– And we’re here for you at Fringe Supply Co. with freshly restocked Bento Bag shelves (all colors and sizes) and so much more!

Have an amazing weekend, and thank you for reading—

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