Get planning! Summer of Basics 2018 is coming!

Get planning! Summer of Basics is coming!

Last summer, we did one of my all-time favorite make-alongs in the history of the blog, and I’m thrilled that so many of you have been imploring me to host it again. Of course, I’m talking about Summer of Basics! Wherein we each made 3 high-closet-value garments in the space of 3 months, either knitted, sewn, or any combination of the two. It was a season of so much camaraderie, so many people stretching their skills, so many fantastic garments! So yes, by all means, let’s do it again. Same time period as last year: June 1 through August 31.

I’ll have more to say at kickoff — will there be co-conspirators? prizes? tune in to find out! — but for the moment, I just want to make it official that it’s happening, and to re-clarify two things about the event:

It’s called Summer of Basics simply because that’s when it happens. It isn’t about making summer clothes specifically. You may make whatever you want/need the most, for whichever season! (Last year, I made pants, a button-up shirt and a wool fisherman’s sweater.) And there’s no getting around the fact that it’s winter for our friends in AUS/NZ, sorry!, but please don’t let that deter you from participating!

This is shorthand for “clothes your overall wardrobe will greatly benefit from” — workhorses, building blocks, go-to’s, whatever you want to call them. Things that make it easier to get dressed in the morning. Fundamental pieces your closet is lacking and that you will get a lot of wear out of. Don’t let anyone — least of all me — define what is a “basic” for you! We are all very different people, and that is the beauty of life on this planet. If you will get tremendous mileage out of a rainbow cardigan, please make that! If what you need is a pair of simple black pants, knock yourself out. If you want suggestions for straightforward but highly adaptable patterns — jumping-off points, if you will — see my Make Your Own Basics series. (It might be easiest to browse it on Pinterest.)

So that’s it: The only parameter for this is 3 hardworking garments, made between June 1 and August 31.

Use hashtag #summerofbasics to start sharing your plans on Instagram. And I highly recommend using this an opportunity to push yourself out of your comfort zone, while you’re surrounded by cheerleaders. My clothes-making life was completely changed by last year’s makes, and I know I’m far from alone in that.

SHOP NEWS: We’ve been adding small batches of the rereleased Toffee Field Bag back to the shop as they are completed. (Thank you so much for your enthusiasm!) So if you’ve run into a sold-out situation at any point, please check again! We’ve also got a few copies of the new Helga Isager book K (Knit) back in stock, as well as all of the colors of sashiko thread — among all the other lovelies (including the Porter Bin pictured up top)!

Happy weekend, everyone! See you next week—


And the winners are …

Summer of Basics winners

I’m not the least bit sad that summer is over and September is here, but I am sad that Summer of Basics is coming to a close! I’ve been so blown away and inspired by what everyone was making, and just by how many people jumped in and really challenged themselves, that I fully expect to suffer withdrawal as it begins to die down. (And I definitely have post-project depression now that my fisherman sweater is done.) Most of all, I’m hugely thankful to everyone who took me up on the challenge. I wanted to push myself this summer, and I might very well not have completed either my first button-up or my first pants if not for having such good company in which to tackle them.

But now it’s time for prizes! You know how I feel about this: The real prize is the garments you made and the experience you gained and the fun you had on the #summerofbasics feed. (Even real-life friendship. Geez, tearjerker right here!) But we do have some great giveaways to announce, just to gild the lily. For my part, I was smart enough to make Fringe’s contribution a random drawing — I am so glad I don’t have to actually judge, because you guys have made it way too hard! The three remaining prizes will be announced on the respective prize donors’ blogs this week as follows:

Wednesday: Best Modification/Alteration to be announced on the Kelbourne Woolens blog
Thursday: Best Combination of Garments to be announced on the Grainline Studio blog
Friday: Best First Garment (knitted or sewn) to be announced on the Fancy Tiger Crafts blog

So make sure you check in at each location to see who won, as well as what the fine ladies of Kelbourne-Grainline-Fancy made!

And for today, the winner of the random drawing for the $100 Fringe Supply Co. gift certificate is <drumroll> @stephaniebastek! This skirt Stephanie made with her mom’s guidance and her grandmother’s thread was one of my favorite stories along the way, so I smiled wide when I opened my eyes and saw what my finger had landed on. Go read it. Stephanie followed this (her first sewn garment) with two lovely dresses. (This skirt is Colette’s Zinnia pattern.)

. . .

Despite everything I just said, I’ve decided to add some fun bonus prizes just because there’s so much amazing stuff in the feed, I wanted to be able to call attention to a few more people. So the following participants are each getting a Fringe Field Bag in the color of their choice:

• The “Someone Distract Her While I Steal Her Stuff” Award goes to: Actually, nope, I can’t pick. There are too many contenders!

• The “That is TOO MUCH” Medal goes to: @callmedwj for her matching pup-and-me sweaters

• The “I Love Her Attitude” Prize goes to: @whitneyknits, go read that caption

• The “Upcycling Genius” Grant goes to: @radiolazyy for this absolutely stunning jacket made from three old pairs of black jeans, wider shot of all three drop-dead gorgeous garments here. (Honorable mention to @tanneicasey for her hand-stitched, handmade espadrilles fashioned from her kid’s old jeans)

• The “Why Didn’t I Think of That” Certificate goes to: @beththais — I would never have thought to get that chic little sleeveless top out of the Reeta Shirtdress. So good!

• The “Workplace Chic” Commendation goes to: @mariecarter, and I can’t believe those are her firsts!

• and the coveted “Damn, She Makes Pregnancy Look Good!” Badge goes to: @claireallenplatt

If I’ve just mentioned your name, please email me at <> to collect your prize!

. . .

A lot of people have asked if I’ll be hosting this challenge again next year, and I think that’s a pretty safe bet. Seriously, thank you so much for making it such a blast! Thanks so much to Grainline Studio, Fancy Tiger Crafts and Kelbourne Woolens for the amazing prizes! And if you missed the full three months of wonder, at least check out the #sob17finisher feed. I promise you’ll feel inspired.


PREVIOUSLY in Summer of Basics:

Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux
Before and After: Fisherman sweater redux

Happy Labor Day, for those in the US! I’ll have Summer of Basics highlights, thoughts and prize news tomorrow, but I couldn’t wait to show you the “after” pics of my fisherman sweater fix. (See my previous post for the original/full rundown.) I’m not sure how dramatic the difference is in the photos, but trust me: It’s no longer rippling around me; gone is the cape effect in the back, the rolls of fabric with nowhere to go; and it is a sweater instead of a tunic. Whereas before I was thrilled with it as a piece of knitting, now I’m thrilled with it as a garment. Even my husband, the only other person to have seen it in person both before and after, took one look, nodded, and said, “It looks good now. You saved it.”

As I had postulated, I’d simply gone much too wide and a bit too long with it when I initially blocked the pieces. In the “before” (left) photos, it was about 43″ at the chest (8.5″ ease), 46″ at the hips (7.5″ ease), and roughly 26.5″ long. Which could be totally fine for a lighter, thinner sweater with less surface density, but was not working with this fabric. By giving the finished garment a nice long soak and then being more gentle in laying it out, it’s now more like 41″ in the chest (6.5″ ease), 44″ at the hem (5.5″ ease), and about 25″ long.

Before, it was not too terrible looking from the sides, definitely a little long in the front — just a bit too much of a good thing — but looked awful from behind. More to the point, I did not feel cute or comfortable (or even proud) in it. I felt swallowed. Thankfully it was easily fixed, without having to rip out a single stitch.

What is this sorcery, some of you will wonder? A piece of wet knitting is a like a lump of play-doh — you have a lot of power to mold it. In a case like this one, the broken-rib portions and and the raspberry stitch are fairly fixed in their widths, but the cables (just like lace) have quite a lot of give. When I first blocked the pieces, I had pulled them way open, making the fabric wider. Whereas in the reblock, I did not. It’s as simple as that. Likewise, rather than pulling at the length at all, or pinning it in place to dry, I gently coaxed it shorter as I laid it out, and left it free to pull up even more as it dried.

So it took only a few minutes of effort — and a couple days’ wait — and now I finally feel like I have the sweater I wanted all these years. That photo up top is of a dream come true.

See also: How do you block your finished knits?


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: The fisherman sweater

2017 FO-11 : The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

The hardest part about making clothes, if you’re like me, is that when you’re done with them you have to put them on and have someone point a camera at you. Many are the times I feel I’ve done a disservice to a lovely garment due to my ineptitude as a “model,” but never more so than with this GLORIOUS fisherman sweater. My love, my holy grail. The reason I wanted to learn to knit. The garment I searched years for in shops and catalogs, then pored over patterns for another five+ years — between when I learned to knit and when I finally cast on. The sweater that’s been my constant companion for the past two-and-half months. Dearest Sweater: You deserve better than me.

So I’m being a little bit coy with the photos here because, basically, I blew it. Although, in fairness, we’re sort of both to blame — the sweater and me. In addition to my awkward self, the photos tell an unfortunate truth about the sweater, which is that there’s just a little too much of it. As a piece of knitting, it couldn’t be more stunning. But as a garment, it’s wide and droopy in the back, too long in the front, just a bit too big throughout the whole body. Schlumpy. (You’ll have to take my word for it.) But it’s fixable.

You may recall how obsessive I was being about the gauge and the proportions — blocking the first many inches of the back and the sleeve, doing my math, calculating for my perfect shape. I’m very particular about proportion, and the actual gauge and dimensions were a bit vague with this vintage pattern. A slight difference in how the gauge was measured could mean my version would be anywhere from fitted to enormous, and which of those it would be would determine how long I made it. (If it was going to be big, it could be on the long side, but if it was going to be fitted, I would make it shorter. I don’t like a long narrow tube of a sweater.) When the first half of the back blocked out to slightly wider than the XL dimensions given, I decided to go with it being oversized, while carefully controlling the upper sleeve dimensions so I wouldn’t appear to be drowning in it. And while the sleeves are fine, I am drowning in the body. Well, not quite drowning, but treading water a bit? And because the fabric is so dense, it matters. The good news is, I think it’s just that I blocked it too aggressively and may be able to fix it simply be reblocking it. It’s not very far from perfect, and if I can coax it a bit shorter, and resist laying it out quite as wide, that may be all that’s needed. It’s literally soaking as I type, and I’ll let you know how it turns out.

If that doesn’t solve it — if it requires surgery — I’m fully prepared to do it. I intend for this to be my forever sweater, and I love it way more than enough to get it absolutely right.

[UPDATE: Here’s how it turned out!]

Finished: The fisherman sweater (SoB-3)

I do believe it was fate that kept throwing this pattern into my path over the past few years, and am eternally grateful to the sweet reader, Catherine K, who sent me the stack of vintage booklets that included the Bernat Book of Irish Knits, seemingly the most popular knitting booklet (and aran sweater pattern) in the history of knitting. I’m so happy I decided to take Summer of Basics as the excuse to finally knit my long-longed-for fisherman, very pleased with my choice of Arranmore for the yarn, so insanely glad that when I finally settled on a pattern it was this one, and I love that I wound up knitting it in its 50th anniversary year. There’s also some poetry to the fact that I charted out the stitches on the flight to Squam at the beginning of June, knitted my swatch on the dock there on a cool early-summer morning, cast on in the car on a trip to see my family, bound off in the car on a trip back from seeing Bob’s family, and did the seaming on my screened porch at home on our first pleasant waning-of-summer day. Now I just have to wait for the weather to wear it!

Pattern mods and details are below, but remember today’s the last day to submit for SoB prizes. If you haven’t already, take a look at the notes on how to enter to win! Judges will deliberate and winners will be announced next week.

FO : The fisherman sweater

Regardless of any of the above, this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever made and it was really very simple, which I’ll write more about another day. I know it looks complicated, but it’s just a few very straightforward, easily memorized stitch patterns knitted ad nauseum, with a decrease at each end of the RS rows for the raglan shaping, and a standard bit of neck shaping. There’s really not much to it!

The only tweaks I made were as follows:

– It’s essentially the XL at the bottom and scales down a bit in the upper regions, so I started the front and back pieces (on US5 for the ribbing, then US7) with 122 sts but I decreased three times between the ribbing and the underarms, leaving me with 116 each (in between the L and XL) when I reached the underarms. (Note that one of the ways the XL gets its width is there are 2 extra sts between the side cables and the raspberry stitch, which I didn’t like, so that’s where I did 2 of my 3 decreases on the back, with the third at the selvages. For the front, I moved those two stitches to the broken rib. You can see this in the photo below if you look closely.)

– For the cuffs, I cast on 46 sts on US5, increased to 60 on the plain knit row before starting the stitch patterns, and only increased 10 times as I worked the sleeves, so I had 80 sts at the underarms (in between the M and L).

– That meant I had fewer broken rib stitches in my sleeves (10 at each edge) than my sides (14 each). In order for the stitch patterns to stay aligned correctly at the raglans, I just decreased the sleeves more slowly at first than the body, so I arrived at the last of the broken rib stitches on the same row, then decreased evenly (every RS row) on all pieces from there up.

– Because I had fewer stitches throughout at the beginning of the shaping, I only needed to work 64 rows of yoke instead of 68, which made my yoke slightly shorter and spared me the overly deep underarms seen in the pattern photo.

– I did fudge the decreases a bit on the last few rows, since decreasing within the raspberry stitch portions is not normal and not equal from one side to the other — was careful to make sure I worked the same number of rows between underarm and bind-off on all edges, and that I had the same number of sts in each sleeve top at the end. (I kept a few more than the pattern called for — 10 or 12, I think, instead of 8.)

– And then I made up my own neck shaping, since I didn’t like the original and had different stitch counts anyway, but I did keep it high and small like the original — wanted to keep that vintage look.

– I also bound off all stitches and picked up for the neckband — I don’t believe in knitting a neckband from live stitches. I picked up 84 on US6, worked in the half-twisted rib for more like 2.5″ (pattern calls for 3″), bound off on US8 needles and sewed it to the pick-up ridge.

Pattern: Bernat 536-145 from Bernat Book of Irish Knits (1967)
Yarn: Arranmore in St. Claire, 8 skeins
Cost: Free pattern (gift from a friend) + $112 yarn (paid wholesale price)  = $112

You can scroll through all of my posts on this sweater hereInstagram posts here, and put a like on it at Ravelry if you do!

FO : The fisherman sweater

PREVIOUSLY in FOs: My first pants (SoB-2)


2017 FO-10 : My first pants (SoB-2)

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

These are pictures of me wearing a perfectly ordinary blue work shirt and olive green pants — ordinary except for the fact that I made them! I believe that’s referred to as leveling up. Thank you, Summer of Basics.

The shirt, of course, is my Archer (my first button-up, and first SoB finish), and the pants (my first pants) are my second SoB finish. They’re nearly as simple as a pair of pants can be — just elastic-waist pull-up pants — but they make me so proud. Mostly because of how much detail I put into them, and how nicely sewn they are, owing to my new serger. (Er, my year-old serger that I finally learned how to use, which has completely changed my life.) I started with the Tessuti Robbie Pant that some of you recommended on my side-pocket pants post. I looked at a bunch of similar patterns, and assumed I’d wind up basically drafting my own, but started with this one because I thought the leg shape looked the most like what I was after. So the four pieces of the pant legs are essentially Robbie, with just some tweaks — a little lower front crotch, a little width out of the thigh, lengthened a few inches and sewn with a wider hem. Then I made up my own pockets, changed the waistband (both the width and how it’s sewn), and top-stitched the hell out of them.

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

My biggest concern was how the fabric would work for this, since it’s a fairly heavy canvas. With a thinner fabric, in an elastic-waist scenario, volume isn’t quite so much of a concern, but here I was trying to balance a nice, loose, wide-leg silhouette with not having too much heavy fabric gathered around my waist. These are the size small (I’m about an 8-10 on bottom in store-bought clothes, for reference) and they’re still a tiny bit big, even with my tweaks. I have a long waist, essentially no hips and a flat rear-end, so I tend to wind up with too much fabric pooling around my butt and the sides of my hips, no matter what kind of pants they are. I did pretty good on these for a first go, but on the next pair I’ll redraw the outer leg line, and also change the rise in the back — the line where the upper edge of the pant meets the waistband is too high for my liking. But regardless, I love these and can’t wait to draft the next pair.

Finished: Olive pants (Summer of Basics)

The fabric came from Elizabeth Suzann’s recent garage sale. It’s slightly more olive than army, so I have to be a little careful what I put with it, but it’s really nice stuff. I got a bolt of unknown yardage for $100 — a lifetime supply, basically. If I underestimate it at 30 yards (knowing it’s probably more like 50), that makes it about $3/yard at the most. Unless I never make anything else out of it, in which case the fabric for these pants cost me $100!

There’s also a secret happy detail to them: I reused the 2″ elastic that came out of my ancient, beloved, threadbare pink pajama pants I recently had to say goodbye to. So they’re still with me! ;)

Pattern: Robbie Pant by Tessuti (modified)
Fabric: Unknown canvas remnant
Cost: $8.00 pattern + ~$4.00 fabric + reuse elastic = $12.00

p.s. These photos were taken by my husband in his painting studio. For those of you who’ve asked about his work before, note that we recently updated his website


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Best-ever baby gift

2017 FO-8: My first button-up shirt (SoB-1)

2017 FO-8: My first button-up shirt (SoB-1)

Once again, I haven’t had a chance to take modeled pictures of this, but I’m so desperate for my first Summer of Basics finish, and so eager to show you this, I’m going ahead and posting it! I’ll add pictures of it on me when I can, so for now you’ll have to take my word for the fact that it’s a perfect fit! I am so proud of it.

As you know, this is Grainline’s Archer Button-Up, and I get why the entire internet raves about this pattern all the time. It comes together so beautifully (all I did was follow the pattern instructions and Jen’s sewalong posts) and apart from the one confessed tantrum, I had fun sewing it. It made me realize the reason I don’t find sewing as thrilling as knitting is that I’ve never sewn anything as rewarding as this.

The fabric is also amazing, and I’m glad I snagged it before it sold out. It’s a Japanese cotton chambray that falls somewhere between dress shirt and work shirt. One of the reasons I was much more of a nervous nelly about this project than I usually am is that not only was the fabric sold out, but I had accidentally purchased half of what I thought I had. Like yarn, I try to always buy more fabric than I’m supposed to need, just in case. Well this time, I had too little. I had to find the closest possible match to cut the yoke facing out of, and couldn’t afford a single mistake since there was literally no more fabric to be had. So that was a little stressful! But thankfully it all turned out fine in the end.

. . .

I made only a few minor modications:

– It’s a straight size 14, except that the sleeve was shortened 2.5 inches and tapers to a size 6 in the lower arm and cuff. (The muslin sleeve went down to a size 10, but a cutting snafu led to the better decision to go even smaller at the cuff.) Next time I might add an inch or two to the body length.

– I made up my own pockets, and placed them a bit higher, too. The horizontal stitching line matches up to what would be the top edge of the original pocket placement. The top-stitching on my pockets is a bit dodgy, but y’know, presence of hand.

– Regarding my whole personal drama with the cuffs, I wound up assembling and then attaching them, a la the method described here. I basted the stitch line along the sleeve edge, and just had better luck easing the curve of the sleeve into the assembled cuff while keeping the placket and cuff edges in line.

– And I left off the collar, as I’m always lamenting the dearth of collarless shirts in the world, or cutting the collars off of things. I guess I was enamored with the idea of being able to say “look at this picture-perfect chambray shirt I made,” but when I stopped and asked myself what I actually wanted to wear and didn’t already have, it was collarless. That decision also led to my adding a second pocket, whereas I was originally going to do only one.

. . .

It was a great call to give myself the whole summer to do this, and to tackle it at a very leisurely pace — just sewing a little bit of it each weekend. But now that I’ve done one and know how it works, I expect to sew the next one in a week! And there definitely will be more. I’ve entered a whole new world where a shirt can fit my shoulders without being too huge everywhere else.

Pattern: Archer Button-Up by Grainline Studio
Fabric: Yarn-dyed chambray from Miss Matatabi
Cost: $18 pattern + $25 fabric + $11.25 buttons = $54.25


PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Grey pullover + striped muscle tee








It’s almost Summer of Basics prize time!

It's almost Summer of Basics prize time!

Somehow it’s already the middle of August — two-and-half weeks (or two weekends, as I think of it!) till the official end of the Summer of Basics Make-along. There are already more than 2000 posts on the #summerofbasics feed — y’all have been busy! — so I want to take a minute to zero in on how to submit for the chance to win a prize. (Last-minute pattern suggestions if you haven’t started yet.) The prizes themselves are recapped below, along with what hashtags to use, but since everyone’s been making multiple garments, posting multiple photos, over the course of multiple months, we’d really appreciate it if, whenever you’re finished, you made one final post summarizing what you did and using the appropriate hashtags.

You can do this any way you like, but here are some suggestions and examples taken from the feed:

1.) Take one photo that includes all three finished garments — they could be on hangers or a clothesline or in a “flat lay” on the bed or floor, whatever works. See @valendra25‘s post above as an example (she’s not finished yet but you get the idea) — and she’s used the multi-image function to include one pic of the fronts and one of the backs! Which is awesome.

2.) If they are able to be worn together in a visible way, take a pic of yourself wearing them all! I like the way @liwarlin did side-by-side images of herself with and without the sweater. You could also do that with the multi-image function, as well as actually pairing them up like she did.

3.) Take multiple photos and use the multi-image function to include them all in a single post like @toastedthread did here — go swipe through her images to see. I love that she included a flat lay (so we can see the bra from under that tank!) and also her original plan. We’ll be looking for your progress shots in your feed, but the notion of using multi-image to recap and tell the tale is really fun, so consider something like that!

Make sure you tag your finale post #sob17finisher, along with #summerofbasics and any other applicable prize tag below.

As an alternative to Instagram, you may do a blog post (or Ravelry, etc) about your three finishes and leave a link in the comments below, and just include the appropriate hashtags so our judges know which ones to consider for which prizes.

MOST IMPORTANT: If you’re submitting for the Best Mods prize or the Best First prize, please make sure to tell us the details of that! Especially the mods, since your cleverness and success in what you did will be the deciding factor and we won’t necessarily be able to discern that from the photos, so tell us about it in the caption!

Let me know if you have any questions — and thank you all for being such awesome companions in this little adventure!

. . .


To be eligible for any prize, you need to have completed 3 garments within the June 1-August 31 time frame. (Please do not enter garments you’ve previously finished.) To enter any of the categories below, use the appropriate pair of hashtags when posting your finished garments. Please only use the prize tags that your garments qualify for:

Best Modification/Alteration
PRIZE: 4 skeins of Fibre Co’s new yarn for Fall from Kelbourne Woolens
The winning garment might be either knitted or sewn, but the prize is yarn so only enter if you’re into that! Be sure to tell us what changes you made from the pattern(s) you started with.
HASHTAGS: #summerofbasics + #sob17bestmod

Best First-Timer
PRIZE: 4 sewing patterns + $50 gift certificate from Fancy Tiger Crafts
It’s cool if you’re a knitter entering your first sewn garment or sewer entering your first knitted garment, or it can be the first garment of any kind you’ve ever made!
HASHTAGS: #summerofbasics + #sob17bestfirst

Best Combination of Garments
PRIZE: $100 gift card from Grainline Studio
We’ll be looking for 2-3 pieces that work exceptionally well together. They might be sewn, knitted or a combination, but the prize is sewing patterns, so only enter if you’re into that!
HASHTAGS: #summerofbasics + #sob17bestcombo

Random drawing
PRIZE: $100 gift certificate from Fringe Supply Co.
I’ll draw a name at random from all qualifying posts!
HASHTAGS: #summerofbasics + #sob17finisher

Winners will be announced in early September.


PREVIOUSLY in Summer of Basics: Hot patterns and last-month ideas