Make Your Own Basics: Mittens and mitts

Make Your Own Basics: Mittens and mitts

The thing I love most about “basics” — i.e. a simple, hardworking pullover, or stockinette hat, or a mittens pattern like this one — is that they’re the perfect blank slate, begging to be personalized. Mine might be plain as day, while someone else’s might be purple or striped or covered in Fair Isle motifs or any textured stitch that matches pattern gauge. Pretty much every pattern I’ve featured in Make Your Own Basics is immensely adaptable, which to me is the whole point. The mittens pattern above, Knits for Everybody Mittens by Jenny Williams, is written for two weights (worsted and fingering) and 12 sizes, and would not only lend itself to whatever you want to do in terms of color and fiber, but would also be very simple to convert to fingerless mitts: Just stop short of the shaping for the fingertips — on both the hands and thumbs — and work a few rounds of ribbing before binding off. Same goes for Purl Soho’s free Arched Gusset Mittens, which also includes toddler, child and adult sizes.

(For even simpler handwarmers, see my Super Simple Mitts and Stadium Mitts — free patterns.)


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Make Your Own Basics: The hat

Make Your Own Basics: The hat

In the realm of hats, Purl Soho’s pattern collection (mainly free patterns, a few not) has most of the basics bases covered. Their Basic Hats for Everyone pattern alone (top) covers myriad expressions of the worsted-weight stocking cap: with or without ribbing, a pompom, earflaps; mix and match as you please. Knit 4″ of ribbing instead of 1″, fold it up, and you’ve got your classic Watch Cap. Purl also has a cabled gem in their Traveling Cable Hat (bottom),  the aran sweater of beanies. For a timeless bit of 2×2 ribbing, might I suggest my own Stadium Hat (middle left, free pattern), with or without the marl and/or stripe. And if you’re more of a beret person, try Churchmouse’s Cashmere Beret (middle right) or Felted Shetland Beret.


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Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

Make Your Own Basics: The shirt dress

In addition to the “little black dress,” I think every closet is well served by the inclusion of a good shirt dress (or shirtdress, if you prefer), whether it’s the ultra-classic knee- or calf-length button-front shirt or any of the million variations thereof in the world. Here are a few good sewing pattern options:

TOP: I’m sure you can find a super standard shirtdress pattern from one of the big companies, or you could lengthen your Archer (the very first MYOB). Grainline has posted a couple of tutorials for Archer+Alder mashups: a super simple one merging Archer on top with Alder on the bottom, or a more involved one fitting the Archer sleeve into Alder’s more tailored bodice (pictured)

MIDDLE LEFT: The Reeta Midi Shirt Dress from Named has a ’70s-safari vibe and drawstring waist

MIDDLE RIGHT: The Factory dress from Merchant and Mills is a popover with a hint of war-era flavor

BOTTOM: And Closet Case Files’ Kalle Shirtdress pattern is a bit trendier box top/shirtdress hybrid


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Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The ski sweater

This a funny installment to fall at the start of summer, but there’s still one more sort of archetypal sweater I think every closet could benefit from and thus want to include in Make Your Own Basics. For the sake of being able to give this entry a label — and taking a mainstream-consumer-historical point of view (as opposed to a knitting purist’s POV) — I’m going to classify it simply as “a ski sweater.” That’s a term that has for a long time been very loosely applied to a woolly, generally brightly colored sweater with some form of colorwork patterning either on the yoke or all over, which was common outerwear for the slopes before the high-tech outdoorwear craze — look at this vintage chic-ness with the matching hat — but which, more importantly, is a useful part of any wardrobe. Colorwork sweaters have roots in many different knitting cultures of the world, but are most closely associated with Fair Isle and the assorted Nordic traditions. As far as knitters go, I definitely think everyone should knit one of one sort or another!  And hey, if you want it in your fall/winter closet, summer is the time to cast on.

There are thousands of great patterns to choose from, but here are a few good options:

TOP: Dalis by Dianna Walla features Fair Isle-style bands of stranded motifs

MIDDLE LEFT: Dalur by Hulda Hákonardóttir is a fairly ornate Icelandic lopapeysa

MIDDLE RIGHT: Star Jumper by Oddvør Jacobsen is in the Faroese tradition

BOTTOM: Sigla by Mary Jane Mucklestone is sort of a pared-down lopapeysa with geometric punch


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Make Your Own Basics: Loungewear

Make Your Own Basics: Loungewear

I’ve been thinking about pants with regard to this Make Your Own Basics series and have decided that while “pants” are obviously a wardrobe building block, there’s really no single shape or length of them that is arguably always in style — it’s more a matter of what are you interested in right now. (I should acknowledge while saying this that there will definitely be some of you willing to argue the point — please do!) I’ve included jeans in our rundown of the basics, but with the broader category of pants, there are just too many variables. It’s like trying to say “tops” or “bottoms” are a wardrobe basic. Yes. But to get any more specific than that feels impossible to me.

With these noble and notable exceptions: the Sweatpant and the Pajama Pant. Which brings us to loungewear—

SWEATPANT: Hudson Pant by True Bias would be even more classic if you were to swap out the cuffs for elastic

PAJAMAS: Carolyn Pajamas by Closet Case Files are the ultra-classic, equally suitable for pajama-inspired daywear

SHORTY PAJAMAS: Lakeside Pajamas by Grainline Studio came up before as a camisole option, but deserve their rightful place here

With that, I think we’re headed into accessories, underwear and outerwear.

And don’t forget Summer of Basics starts in 2 days!


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The camisole

Make Your Own Basics: The camisole

Make Your Own Basics: The camisole

You may remember last Summer I cranked out a bunch of adorable little camisole tops by modifying the back panel of Grainline’s Lakeside Pajamas pattern (above, bottom), and had a ton of fun doing playing around with it. Around the same time, True Bias released their Odgen Cami pattern (top), and I absolutely love this one. The neckline is so elegant, and suitable for dressed-up or dressed-down fabrics. And look how pretty it looks on everyone. So those are both great options for filling your camisole top needs. For slip/dress ideas, see the Little Black Dress installment.

And have you heard about the Summer of Basics make-along? I hope you’re planning to join in! There are already some plans emerging on the #summerofbasics hashtag.


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Make Your Own Basics: The trench coat

Make Your Own Basics: The trench coat

For obvious reasons, I’ve had trench coats on the brain the last few weeks. I know they were invented for British soldiers and have heavy London fashion associations, but I think of them as the centerpiece of Parisian style. Either way, there is no arguing (don’t even try!) that every closet needs a good trench coat. It is the most magical of garments — throw it over a dress and heels or jeans and sneakers, and you’ll look instantly chic either way. A good one lasts, and they’re literally never out of style. (I’ve had mine since 2009, and the one it replaced was at least 12 years old!) Now I know, there are very very few of us who would ever attempt to sew our own, but it deserves noting that such a thing can in fact be done. For those intrepid souls, here are a few indie pattern options:

ABOVE TOP: Isla Trench Coat by Named has a retro-timeless length and neck shape

ABOVE BOTTOM: Robson Coat by Sewaholic is a shorter, sassier, more contemporary version

Both have all the styling details — double-breasted, rain flaps, belt, pockets, those cuff strap doohickeys. (What on earth do you call those?) And then there’s—

BELOW: Australian Drover’s Coat by Folkwear, which is more the outback version, with or without a lot of those details.

Make Your Own Basics: The trench coat


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