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!

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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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Make Your Own Basics: The skirt(s)

Make Your Own Basics: The skirt(s)

In the pantheon of clothing basics, there are a few anointed skirt shapes. Sure, hem lengths inch up and down with eras and ages, and there are always tricksier/trendier variations on any of these shapes — a million ways to tweak them, and a million patterns that have done it for you — but these four iconic silhouettes are the basis of pretty much everything:

MINI: Moss Skirt by Grainline Studio is neatly tailored with a fly front, slant pockets and back yoke detail. My mini-skirt years are behind me, but I would have sewn a ton of these at other times in my life. Check View B for a longer option.

A-LINE: Everyday Skirt by Liesl Gibson has a flat front waistband and an elasticized back, plus slant pockets. This is not a shape I personally can wear, but I wish I had a dollar for every time someone has recommended this pattern to me. Clearly a crowd favorite!

PENCIL: Selene by Colette Patterns has a lapped back zipper, darts and vent, with two pocket options. You can never go wrong with a good pencil skirt.

CIRCLE: Full Circle Skirt by Anna Maria Horner has a side lapped zipper and is otherwise as simple as can be. Unless you want to get fancy, in which case AMH, the queen of patchwork, has provided paneled and pieced variations.

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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

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Make Your Own Basics: The v-neck sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The v-neck sweater

For some people, the must-have, everyday pullover is a crewneck; for others it’s a v-neck. To me, the v-neck will always feel a little bit collegiate, a little bit preppy — undeniably classic, in other words, no matter what you do with it. The two patterns pictured above happen to both by Michele Wang, and both offer opportunities for changing them up:

TOP: Cadence, from 2016, was already mentioned in Make Your Own Basics in the context of The turtleneck sweater. Given that it has options for crewneck, v and turtle, you can cover a lot of Basics ground with just this one pattern. It also has a textured stitch on the body which you could presumably replace with stockinette, if you prefer, without affecting the gauge — given that the sleeves are already stockinette. This one’s raglan sleeved.

BOTTOM: Emery, from 2012, has an allover cable pattern, which feels super classic to me. It’s written for worsted-weight Shelter, but the gauge (due to the cables pulling inward) is 24 sts / 34 rows per 4″, which is Loft gauge in stockinette. So you could likely use the same pattern to knit a stockinette fingering-weight sweater — you might just need to tweak the counts on the ribbing. This one’s set-in sleeved.

NOT PICTURED: Another option for a set-in sleeve v-neck, which you can knit at any gauge and size you like, is Amy Herzog’s Custom Fit v-neck Firth.

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