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


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

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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Make Your Own Basics: The little black dress

Make Your Own Basics: The little black dress

It’s that time of year when we’re all supposed to be relieved we have an “LBD” in our closet — that simple little shift or tee dress or slip dress that you can pull out and dress up or down for any sort of gathering you may be invited to. I don’t get a lot of party invitations at any time of year (lol) but the value of a versatile little black dress is undeniable. Here are a wide range of fairly timeless options — but of course, these are also just wonderfully versatile dress patterns that would make great wardrobe building blocks in whatever colors or prints suit you best and any time of the year—

TOP: Catarina from Seamwork is a slip dress with gathered skirt that’s great as a party dress or a summer frock, and would go great with sweaters [UPDATE: I just saw that the current issue of Seamwork is the LBD issue! Here’s the intro]

MIDDLE LEFT: Farrow from Grainline Studio was Jen’s wedding dress in crepe de chine, so that one definitely dresses up or down

MIDDLE RIGHT: Inari from Named is a slightly cocoon-shaped tee dress you could do absolutely anything with

BOTTOM: Anna from By Hand London is a little bit va-va-voom at floor-length and cute and girly in the knee-length variation


Simple Slip by April Rhodes is a plain slip dress that comes along with the Date Night Dress pattern — bonus! (See also: Juno)

Fen from Fancy Tiger, which I’ve mentioned before, looks really great in dressier fabrics — here’s proof


For a knitted dress option, Olga Buraya-Kefelian’s simple tee dress, Ebb (below), would dress up beautifully in black.

Make Your Own Basics: The little black dress

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Make Your Own Basics: The turtleneck sweater

Make Your Own Basics: The turtleneck sweater

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who can’t stand anything up around their neck, and those of us who think it’s the coziest thing possible. For the latter half, a good turtleneck sweater is an absolute winter wardrobe must-have.

TOP: Carrowkeel by Kate Gagnon-Osborn is a cozy aran-weight stockinette classic with impeccable details like seamed compound raglans and a rib border at the split hem

MIDDLE: Cadence by Michele Wang has a textured body and stockinette sleeves (and includes crewneck and v-neck options)

BOTTOM: Hudson by Julie Hoover is fitted and ribbed — the non-slouch turtleneck

NOT PICTURED: Tessa by Berroco is DK-weight, set-in sleeves, and basic as can be

Addendum: For those who would like something turtleneck-ish but not right up against the neck, take a look at Element by Kirsten Johnstone and Lightweight Pullover by Hannah Fettig.


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Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

Make Your Own Basics: The shawl-collar cardigan

In all honesty, Make Your Own Basics is my favorite series I’ve done so far on the blog. (Scroll through the whole collection here.) I have a deep and abiding love of basics, but I also increasingly find basics to be the most rewarding things to make. As proud as I am of my trophy sweaters, it makes me really happy to wear clothes so classic and hardworking that nobody would ever think to ask me if I made them. (The new black cardigan is the epitome.) My number one goal in life is to someday be wearing jeans and a grey t-shirt and have made them both.

I just wanted to say all of that at the outset of this installment because we’re in the midst of Slow Fashion October and I think it’s an important point! So with that said …

I’m of the mind that every good wardrobe requires a good shawl-collar cardigan, the coziest of garments and useful even for warm-climate people who find themselves at a beach bonfire on occasion. It’s just a thing you have to have! My love for big slouchy cable cardigans is well documented — my beloved Bellows, which I wear multiple times a week in my studio; the incomparable Channel Cardigan, which I’m currently knitting after more than two years of yarn deliberations for what I expect to be a lifelong companion; in fact, a whole raft of shawl-collar standouts from BT. But this is Basics, and so while I think you could argue that any of those would actually qualify, let’s talk about these simple stockinette gems today:

TOP: Georgetown by Hannah Fettig is equally appropriate at work or with pj’s in front of the fire

BOTTOM: Fredericton by Kiyomi Burgin, with it’s two-strand marl and contrast edge, has that classic professorial flair; leather buttons recommended!

See also the previously noted Fable and Killybegs.


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

Make Your Own Basics: The sweater vest

I’m not sure why they’re so controversial, but in my view a sweater vest is an absolute closet staple. As a lifelong fan of androgyny and tomboy style, I love a vest over a shirt, but love it even more over a sleeveless top or dress. But best of all is its ability to go both under and over things at the same time — it’s a layer-lover’s best friend, in other words. Obviously when it comes to patterns, I feel pretty good about my own Anna Vest (top), which evolved from a vintage British military-man’s pattern. (See my latest favorite FO here. Love how she styled it.) I’m also a fan of my friend Kate Gagnon Osborn’s stockinette Cadillac Mountain (middle) with garter rib edgings. And for a pullover that has that classic borrowed-from-the-boys feeling, I’m into Blacker Designs’ free pattern called simply V-Neck Sleeveless Tunic. Can’t go wrong with any of ’em.

I would even go so far as to argue that a fair isle vest is a wardrobe basic! Even though I’ve never owned on, it’s one of those items that always looks fascinating and timeless, no matter where the trends might take us. I like Ysolda Teague’s Bruntsfield, Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Voe Vest and Yoko Hatta’s #05 Fair Isle Vest, to name just a few.


PREVIOUSLY in Make Your Own Basics: The t-shirt