My Summer of Basics plan

My Summer of Basics plan

Ok, so I’ve thought and rethought (and rethought!) what my 3 garments will be for the Summer of Basics Make-along. This whole event grew out of my desire to push myself to sew an Archer button-down shirt, and wanting company in taking that leap, but it’s not the only thing my closet is lacking that I never get around to. (Hence, let’s all make 3 basics over the next 3 months!) So I really want to choose wisely. Let’s face it, I’ll almost certainly make more than 3 things in the next 3 months, but I want my publicly-declared SoB-3 to really challenge me and hold me accountable. Of course, I also want to make things that will be truly useful in my closet. So here’s where I’m at:

BUTTON-UP SHIRT: I’ve been saying for awhile that my beloved pale denim workshirt (which I wear for some part of almost every day — and look, I’m even wearing it in my avatar pic to the right!) was headed for a breakdown. That has now officially happened: both sleeve caps are in shreds. So that’s what I’m replacing with my first Archer, and that one was already a replacement for a nearly identical shirt before it. Between the two, I’ve had some version of that shirt for at least a dozen years. For the next generation, though, not only will it be handmade, but I’m planning on light blue chambray instead of the denim. (Gettin’ crazy over here!) But I still want it to have some of the character of the denim workshirts so, inspired by this J.Crew photo, I’m planning on slightly darker stitching (as happens to denim shirts as they fade and the thread doesn’t) and bone buttons (a nod to the pearl snaps on my old friends). I’m scared and excited.

SWEATER: I’ve been saying my SoB sweater would be the grey pullover I really truly need. But A) I’m a little leery of the idea of casting on a grey mostly-stockinette US6 sweater when I already have a grey mostly-stockinette US6 sweater on the needles. Plus why would I not use this opportunity to focus on the one sweater I want most in all the world — the whole reason I learned to knit in the first place — the fisherman sweater of my dreams. So I’m doing it. Since I plan to chart out the written directions from the vintage pattern, and likely do some tweaking, I’ll start with the swatching and charting right away and hope (hope hope hope) to be able to finish the whole thing by the end of August. I am elated over this decision.

PANTS???: I’ve got pants on the brain. As in, I’ve never made pants and I’m signed up for a jeans workshop in September, and it seems like maybe I should have made some semblance of a pants-like thing before that. Right? My very favorite old pajama pants have also passed the point of no return, and while I was taking them apart this weekend and trying to trace off a pattern to replace them, I was also thinking how much I love my simple elastic-waist Florence Pants (I seriously wear them at least 4 times a week) and about this Idea Log and that striped fabric on my shelf, a pair of striped Ace & Jig pants I almost bought last year … you get the picture. However, part of me also wants to reserve the third slot and not commit right this minute. So as much as I want and hope to do this, it’s currently ever-so-slightly tentative.

I’ve got a lot to do still in preparation for Squam next week, but am eager to get started on some part of this over the weekend! What will you be starting?

(Fashionary sketch templates from Fringe Supply Co.)

Big news from Fringe Supply Co!

SPEAKING OF SQUAM: There’s some really big Porter Bin news over on the @fringesupplyco IG feed. Hint: army green is coming! If you’ll be at the Squam Art Fair on the 10th, don’t miss your chance to snag one — check the Instagram post for details.

AND IN CURRENT SHOP NEWS: We’re temporarily out of the wildly popular Lykke interchangeable sets (more coming mid-month) BUT! we finally have spare tips and cords for sale! EDIT: And now the new Pom Pom is here!


PREVIOUSLY: Summer of Basic Make-along starts now!

Queue Check — May 2017

Queue Check — May 2017

With my linen Sloper finished, I’m back to this allegedly-for-summer grey cardigan, the lone WIP at the moment. (Actually, that’s not entirely true — I’m also finishing up the hat samples for my Squam class. More on that to come.) I had the idea that I would knit the Sloper during my 10 days in Florida and then finish this cardigan by the end of May, but forgot I was working from my sister’s house and not actually on vacation! So apart from the drive home, there wasn’t much more knitting than usual … and thus here we are, the cardigan still very much a WIP. In addition to really needing this sweater right now, we’ve got Summer of Basics starting Thursday and I haven’t finalized my plan for that yet, although it will include the grey half-texture pullover. Plus there’s the make and mend list I just put together a couple of weeks ago. Plus I’m dying to swatch for the vintage fisherman sweater. It’s like I’m on the brink of starting so many (great, useful) things! So for the moment, I’m just taking a deep breath, concentrating energy on this cardigan, and seeing what I can do with it before the deluge.

Queue Check — May 2017

PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: April 2017


Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

Here I am at a pivotal moment! My you-know-what cardigan is done, and the shape of my sweater collection changed drastically this month, leaving me with effectively nothing on the needles and a whole new knitting horizon to consider. The next thing I cast on actually has to be my hat pattern for my Squam class in June, so that’s likely going on the big trip with me. But then, as previously noted, I’ll be picking two sweaters to cast on — one from the mindless column of my list and one from the challenging column. As it happens, I have a nice long list to pick from! But the top two are above:

MINDLESS: The least exciting sweater in my sketch pile is the one I need the most. I’ve been saying for as long as I’ve had this blog that I need a good summer cardigan, and Bellows had stepped into that role the last two years. Now that it’s gone to live with my mom, I have to immediately fill the summer-cardigan gap. Rather than make another superbulky shawl-collar to improbably fill that role, I’m going with something more basic and adaptable — a simple V-neck Improv cardigan. But I do think the yarn should still be Balance, as Bellows was. Holding this yarn single (it was doubled for Bellows) means alternating skeins and I’m lazy, so I got to thinking about other ways to deal with the ball changes. I’ve always loved Joelle Hoverson’s idea, from her Diagonal Pinstripe Scarf, to knit a stripe wherever she happened to be when she put the project down, and thought I could follow similar logic here, except knitting a couple of garter ridges wherever the ball change happened to occur. I debated sticking with the Graphite colorway, since that had worked well for me, but think this particular cardigan might seem too somber in charcoal, so I’m going with the light grey, Talc.

CHALLENGING: As eager as I am to replace my shawl collar, I think it’s high time I knitted the fisherman sweater I’ve always dreamed of. 2017 is the year, dammit! And I plan to take my time with it, so I better get started. I believe I’ve settled on the vintage pattern, Bernat 536-145, that keeps turning up in my path, over and over, since that feels like the universe trying to make a point. I haven’t tried it yet, but for the yarn I’m hoping I can make Arranmore work, because I’m in love with this yarn and think the tweediness of it would be both attractive and useful here. We’ll see what a swatch says!

Beyond that, I’ve made three more pattern/yarn decisions — all standing in the Mindless line:

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

TOP: There’s a sweater floating around Pinterest the last few years that I find myself never not wanting (I think it might have been Steven Alan), but of course it was several seasons ago and no longer available, so I’ve decided that’s what I’ll be doing with my treasured Junegrass. (Improv) I also have ideas about the timing and context of this one, which I’ll have more to say about soon!

MIDDLE: I knitted this swatch with the two weights (bulky and DK) of the brassy TN Textile Mill merino held together, and I’m deeply in love with it. Want to make a big, simple funnel-neck pullover, and am so tempted to do it right away — it would be so quick! — but that’s silly when it can’t be worn for months and I have a pressing need to fill. So it will have to wait. (Also Improv.)

BOTTOM: For all the times I’ve said I wish my purple Trillium cardigan was grey, I’ve decided to make a grey one. I happen to have the two random sleeves I knitted long ago from my beloved Sawkill Farm stash, and am planning to see if I can make them work for Trillium. Not sure if I’ll do the chevrons-and-nups treatment around the yoke or modify that somehow.

And then there are the others on the horizon that I haven’t made any yarn decisions about yet:

Queue Check — March 2017: A whole new queue

TOP LEFT: I’m champing at the bit to try the Cocoknits Method of top-down, which leads to English-tailored shoulders and set-in sleeves. I want both a big bulky pullover and a chunky cardigan, and will likely follow some version of the Emma pattern for whichever I ultimately decide on.

TOP RIGHT: Yep, it’s that sleeveless turtleneck again. I’m going to knit another one and hope you will too! I’ll have lots more to say about that tomorrow.

BOTTOM LEFT: Not letting go of the cowichan-ish idea, likely a customized version of Jane Richmond’s West Coast Cardigan.

BOTTOM RIGHT: And pretty sure the shawl-collar replacement will be Norah Gaughan’s Sourcebook Chunky Cardigan. Not sure about yarn yet, but this will likely come next in the Challenging column, someday when the vintage Bernat is done.

Either of those last two would make an excellent Rhineback sweater-jacket, so that may have bearing on how the queue plays out over the next few months!

(Fashionary sketch templates and Lykke Driftwood needles from Fringe Supply Co.)


PREVIOUSLY in Queue Check: February 2017

Make Your Own Basics: The fisherman sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The fisherman sweater

If you know me at all, you know that A) I believe no closet is complete without a good ol’ ivory fisherman cable sweater, or “aran sweater,” and that B) I’ll take any opportunity to blog about my favorite fisherman sweater patterns, even if it means repeating myself somewhat. So obviously, sooner or later, the fisherman sweater installment of Make Your Own Basics was bound to happen. (As is my knitting one! One of these days.) I put together a roundup last year of a whole big bunch of favorites, and there are new ones all the time, but for the sake of Basics, I’m boiling it down to just the truly classic—

TOP: Honestly, all the best aran patterns I’ve seen are in vintage pattern booklets, and the crème de la crème is Bernat 536-145 (aka 4106-145), from the Bernat Book of Irish Knits, 1967. With this Basics series, I’ve tried to stick to easily accessible/downloadable patterns, but given the number of people who pipe up every time to say “I have that book!” it seems like it must not be terribly hard to come by — and regardless, well worth effort. This particular pattern is written for four sizes, but it’s unisex — meaning a deep yoke and wide upper sleeves to accommodate a manly-man physique. I have a huge yearning to create charts for this old pattern and rework it a bit in the process, but I would also very happily knit and wear it as is.

BOTTOM: For some random reason, I think of Steve McQueen’s aran sweater as the one by which all others must be judged, and the Honeycomb Aran by Patons comes pretty damn close. Regardless of how Steve it may be, it is utterly timeless and happens to also be a free pattern. For a very similar set-in-sleeve alternative, see Grit by Kim Hargreaves.

For me, for it to be truly classic and iconic as a wardrobe staple, it does need to be undyed/natural yarn. But obviously what feels most basic and building-block-ish to you may vary.

For more, see:
• Aran sweater legends
• Best fisherman sweater patterns
Cable sweater amazement of the 1960s-80s
Quest for the perfect aran sweater
• and the Amanda knitalong


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The v-neck sweater

Best fisherman sweater patterns

Best fisherman sweater patterns

Back in November 2012, I wrote a little about my quest for the perfect fisherman-cabled sweater, or Aran sweater, and how that desire was one of the key reasons I learned how to knit in the first place. Aran sweater patterns were the first thing I searched Ravelry for, fantasized about, all of that. Two years after that post, I knitted my Amanda cardigan (along with so many of you) and I’m very happy to have it. But has that fulfilled my dream of a fisherman pullover? For obvious reasons, not. In the few years since I’ve been looking, several great patterns have come along, and there’s also that amazing cache of vintage booklets I was given awhile back. (Which I just realized includes the vintage Bernat pattern shown at #5 in my original quest post! How did that escape my notice at the time?)

You know I have a billion cable sweaters favorited at Ravelry at this point, several of which fall into my narrowly defined fisherman-cable set, but so many more I run across are out of print or otherwise inaccessible, or simply not quite right. The only thing that’s really going to scratch this itch is a true classic. Harrogate and Samantha, for example, are both terrific sweaters — either of which, in fact, would look less linebacker-ish on me than the ones pictured above — but without the allover texture, they just don’t give me the feeling. Woolwich is dreamy, but lost in an older Rowan publication I don’t have the good fortune to own. This free Lion Brand pattern is also good, but the drop shoulders combined with all the cabling would look horrendous on me. And so on. So the hunt continues, but for now these are the best candidates I’ve found:

TOP: Marsellus by Whitney Hayward is brand new and perfectly classic, with columns of braids flanking a panel of honeycomb, and the critical folded neck band.

MIDDLE: Grit by Kim Hargreaves and Honeycomb Aran by Patons are closest to the iconic Steve McQueen sweater — the key difference between them being Grit is set-in sleeves and Honeycomb is raglan. I slightly prefer the raglan, which is also a free pattern, and downloadable, while Grit is trapped in a book. (Then again, either one is so similar to the Amanda cardigan and the LL Bean sweater already in my closet that knitting either one anytime soon seems a little silly.)

BOTTOM: Stonecutter by Michele Wang is less classic, more contemporary. Plus I have tried on the sample and it is guilty of having the linebacker effect on me. But I want so desperately to knit those cables I might be able to convince myself I don’t care.

In the end (and despite the lack of charts) that vintage Bernat one may win out.

Quest for the perfect aran sweater

knitting the perfect aran sweater

I’m diligently knitting my Walpole sleeve and have decided I’m not allowed to cast on another sweater* until I’ve finished this one. Which means, from now until it’s done, I’ll be daydreaming about that next one. And I do believe it will be an aran sweater. This is something of a holy grail for me, the perfect fisherman sweater, dating back to the ’80s when I was much too young to control my own fashion destiny. I’ve bought only a very few versions over the years, always holding out for something better and being indifferent to those I compromised on. And it’s one of two things that always made me want to know how to knit.** The problem, you see, is that I have a lot of different definitions of perfect.

1. Classic: Steve McQueen in the species sweater, doubly swoony. (via)

2. Simplified and slouchy: Nili Lotan for J.Crew last year.

3. Minimalist: There’s also something lovely about a single perfect cable, as in this Big Cable Pullover (free pattern)

4. Shrunken: I died the day the pics of this Mary Kate Steinmiller outfit [2019: link no longer available] first hit the web, largely because she told The Sartorialist it’s a Crewcuts boys’ sweater. Sold out five minutes before I got there, of course, but oh how I tried to track one down. (See also, same sweater.)

5. Mod: A ’60s Bernat pattern, as knitted by Whiskey and Women blogger Melinda Sue. Uhhhh, come to think of it …

6. Stylized: When I saw this slouchy, knitted-sideways Cos sweater on Svpply a couple of years ago, also already sold by the time I clicked, my immediate thought was “OK, for real: time to learn to knit.”

The list could truly go on and on — just look at how often aran variations show up on my Yarny Goodness board. So I guess I still have a lot to think about between now and when I cast on. [UPDATE: I decided a standalone board was in order: Aran sweaters forever.]


*Note that I didn’t say I’m not allowed to cast on anything. Just not another sweater.

** I’ll tell you about the other one some other time.