Sweater inventory, part 3: The pullovers

Sweater inventory, part 3: The pullovers

And wow, we’re back to entirely black/grey/natural. I guess you could argue I know what I like, but this actually surprises me. When you look in my closet you see mostly a lot of blue clothes, definitely assorted blacks and neutrals, a little green and a little purple. I had no idea my only blue sweater at this point is the weirdly blue Bellows in progress, or that the only color in my sweater collection falls within the cardigans. That is certainly something I’ll be bearing in mind going forward.

The other surprising thing is simply that I have 10 pullovers, or nearly so — 5 I knitted (and 1 more in progress), 1 Meg knitted (which also means I have one Meg sweater in each of my three categories!) and 3 remaining storeboughts. It was just a couple years ago that I was lamenting the fact that I had essentially no pullovers, by which I meant I had the little cotton L.L. Bean fisherman and the two wintry turtlenecks (no handmades), and nothing for in-between weather, which is what we actually have here in Nashville. In those two years, I’ve amassed 6.5 handknit pullovers — and I still have almost nothing for the in-between!

Once again, click through on any sweater for complete pattern, yarn, modification and other details—

HANDMADE

Black lopi raglan (Feb 2016) — 100% Icelandic wool, worsted weight
I get away with a lopi pullover in Tennessee by virtue of its being cropped and elbow-sleeved — and I am really eager to wear it this year with wide-leg pants — but it definitely stays in the closet until the humidity is well and truly gone. Any dampness at all in the air, and this is a no-go. But it’s cute and cozy and quick and inexpensive and I love it.

Striped raglan (Dec 2016) — Silk/merino/cashmere blend, sport weight
This is the thinnest, lightest-weight sweater I’ve made, and with the fiber content this one is truly a 3-season sweater here. It’s also crazy cute and easy to throw on with just about anything. I think the only reason I don’t wear it even more than I do is that it feels a bit delicate to me! Just because I’m used to thicker, more rugged sweaters. But it’s a total gem.

Black yoke sweater (Feb 2017) — Merino/cashmere/silk blend, aran weight
If you told me I could only keep one sweater from my whole collection (for some horrible, unthinkable reason) I would choose this one. I love the yarn, the fit, the memories of bending it to my will, the way the scale of the yoke patterning cooperates with my big shoulders. Everything. Can’t wait to wear it again.

Fisherman sweater (Aug 2017) — Merino/cashmere/silk blend, aran weight
This is my holy grail, the thing I wanted to make when I learned to knit, and omigod it was so much fun charting the vintage pattern and knitting the whole of it. Even after taking steps to scale this down a little bit, though, I still think there’s a little too much of it, so I’m going to attempt to shrink it and/or might find it a new home with a taller friend. I would happily knit this again — in fact, I’m kind of dying to! — so there’s no down side.

Grey pullover (Dec 2017) — Rambouillet/Wensleydale blend, worsted weight
This one would be the ideal everything/everywhere, better-than-basic grey sweater … had I not opted to knit it in such an incredibly warm yarn. As it is, it’s a truly amazing winter sweater. But it leaves me wanting a non-wool counterpart in a heather grey shade that’s just as perfect as this one.

Charcoal swoncho (Meg-made, 2012) — 100% wool, aran weight
The other sweater Meg gave me earlier this year. It’s more sweater than poncho, but the shape of this one definitely changes the equation from if it were a pullover with long, cuffed arms, which would make it strictly for really cold weather. As it is, I can get away with it in borderline cool/cold weather, depending what I pair it with.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Ivory aran-gansey (begun in June 2018) — Cotton/wool blend, worsted weight
I can already tell you I am going to wear the crap out of this thing. The fabric is so incredible, and 3-season friendly. Plus it’s the perfect bridge between the shrunken cotton L.L. Bean number below (which is cute and useful but not warm or cozy at all) and the heavy wool fisherman above. An ivory sweater for every month of the year, I say!

READY-TO-WEAR

Grey cable turtleneck (H&M men’s, 2002) — Wool blend, worsted weight
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, I bought this sweater in the men’s department at the first U.S. H&M store when I was in NYC launching a magazine in fall of 2002, so it has all sorts of very specific memories attached to it. It is definitely looking worse for wear at this point, and only gets hauled out a couple of times per winter anyway, but I’m hanging onto it until I have a suitable substitute. Because on the days and nights where it makes sense, I am very happy to climb into it.

Grey cropped turtleneck (J.Crew c. 2009) — Cashmere, sport weight
This was an epic clearance score back when I was all about scoring everything I ever wanted an mega-clearance. It has been very loved and worn, has a few little holes and bare spots, but it’s still the softest, coziest thing I’ve ever owned. Having cashmere around my neck on a cold day is heaven. So I can’t seem to quit it.

Ivory fisherman (L.L. Bean c.2010 but still available) — 100% cotton, worsted weight
Like I said, this is cute and useful, not cozy as it’s a really ropy cotton, but I do love getting to put it on each year when my mood is fall but the weather is not quite there yet. It’s been in my closet almost ten years at this point, and is welcome for a long time to come.

V E R D I C T S

At this point, it’s hard to argue that I “need” any more pullovers, but it is a genuine issue that most of these are warm enough that it limits their wear and utility. It means they’ll last forever, of course! But to the extent I make any more pullovers for life in TN, they need to be non-100% wool. And a little color wouldn’t hurt!

Bottom line from all of this: I have 26 sweaters in my closet or in progress, and it’s a pretty epic collection! Not a throwaway in the bunch. What a nice place to be after these years of effort.

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Sweater inventory, part 2: The cardigans

Sweater inventory, part 2: The cardigans

Oh look, some color! I presently own 6 cardigans — 4 knitted by me, 1 knitted by Meg, 1 ancient storebought — and have 2 more in the making. Two shades of purple and one blue, two shades of camel, plus mushroom, black and natural. But no grey cardigan? Yep, still no grey cardigan.

If you had asked me, I would have said I had more than 6 cardigans in the closet. I think the cardigan sweater is one of mankind’s greatest inventions and a true wardrobe hero. They’re also useful where a woolly pullover is often out of the question but a wool layer that slips on and off is defensible.

Again, each of these is linked to the corresponding full-length FO post, so if you want further details on any of them, just give it a click—

HANDMADE

Purple Trillium cardigan (March 2014) — 100% wool, worsted weight
My sweater from the Tag Team Sweater Project, so it will always be near and dear to my heart. This is Michele Wang’s Trillium pattern, and I absolutely love this sweater in so many ways. I love how light yet warm it is (it’s Shelter); I have never had a cardigan that sat so well around my shoulders; the shape of it is just great. But I will always and forever wish it were grey and therefore more versatile.

Black cardigan (Sept 2016) — Wool/alpaca/linen blend, worsted weight
I’ve gone back and forth a thousand times about the length of this cardigan. There are days (or outfits) where the cropped length is perfect, and days where I wish it were longer. I think the only solution is to literally have it both ways! It’s a simple Improv sweater, fully documented here, and I love the fabric of it more than I can say (it’s Purl Soho’s Linen Quill, held double). It’ll be the first sweater I reach for when the humidity leaves us alone.

Camel Channel cardigan (March 2017) — 100% baby camel, worsted weight
This modified version of Jared Flood’s Channel Cardigan pattern was easily one of my most pleasant knitting experiences — from the baby camel yarn to the rhythmic stitch pattern, it was just truly delightful. And I love having this sweater on me, although I do wish I had gone with the lighter shade of camel. It’s a slightly difficult color to pair with things, not as truly neutral as you might imagine. I also blocked it at the end of last season and inadvertently lengthened it in the process, so I need to do it again before sweater weather gets here, when I’ll be very eager to put it on.

Vanilla cardigan (Dec 2017) — Merino/cashmere/silk blend, aran weight
I love this yarn (Arranmore) so much I made three sweaters out of it last year, and you can’t go wrong with a big cozy ivory cardigan. This one’s a definite closet workhorse. It’s another super-simple Improv, spelled out in full detail here.

Mushroom Amanda shawl-collar (Meg-made, 2014) — Wool/nylon blend, aran weight
Meg’s modified Amanda cardigan, which she gave me at the start of the year and I look forward to wearing this season. This mushroomy grey isn’t a color I would have chosen for myself but I like it and think it should be simple enough to incorporate into my wardrobe. And I’ll no doubt have it on nonstop at home on cold nights, too.

READY-TO-WEAR

Camel cable cardigan (J.Crew c.2007) — Wool/nylon blend, sport weight
This is one of my all-time favorite sweaters, from the shape and fit to the absolutely perfect shade of “camel.” The camel Channel above is literally camel-colored, as it’s spun from 100% undyed baby camel fiber, but it’s a little more pinkish-brownish and less neutral than this dyed color we call camel. I knitted the other one as an understudy, basically, so I would be able to let this one go once it gets too ratty, but I don’t think I can do that without actually making a perfect replica. Meanwhile, I need to replace the leather buttons that have been destroyed over the years by cleaners.

WORK IN PROGRESS

Blue Bellows shawl-collar (begun in early 2018) — 100% wool, bulky weight
I set this one aside this spring when it still needed a fair bit of finishing but wouldn’t get worn for months. I was right about everything I said at the time — really excited to finish it up and figure out how to wear it.

Purple lopi (2016/17) — 100% Icelandic wool, worsted weight
I know, not a cardigan! Not yet. My plan is to steek it into a V-neck cardigan, for fun and because that will at least triple its chances of being worn in TN.

V E R D I C T S

While the overall woolliness of these is undeniable, it’s not quite so much of a concern as it is with the pullovers (coming tomorrow), since they are inherently vented, and easy to slip on and off. Still, my impulse to knit a grey cardigan in non-100%-wool yarn was a good one, albeit abandoned. Formulating a Plan B on that is in order.

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PREVIOUSLY in Sweater Inventory: Part 1, vests and other sleeveless

Sweater inventory, part 1: Vests and other sleeveless

Sweater inventory, part 1: Vests and other sleeveless

The thing about making a wardrobe — especially trying to be conscientious at the same time as having a blast with the making part and feeding my unabashed love of clothes — is that it can be hard to see the forest. A little over four years after cleaning out my fast-fashion mess of a closet, moving to a new state and climate, and slowly rebuilding a smaller, more thoughtful wardrobe for myself, I’ve now reached a point where my closet is full. It’s a narrow little 1953 closet, but I still don’t want to exceed its capacity. I like my small closet — it’s like portion control, you know? But I’m at that troubling point where it’s hard to put away laundry, and I have a stack of castoffs happening, and I know there are probably a dozen hangers holding things I don’t actually wear … So I’m planning a systematic reassessment for Slow Fashion October (and will be inviting you to go through the steps of a conscientious clean-out along with me).

But it’s also about to be sweater season, and I have one on the needles that will be finished soon, and you all know that means I’m thinking about what I want to knit next. So as a precursor to my fall wardrobe planning and my Slotober clean-out, I’m going to take a minute here to assess my sweater collection. I’ve made a lot of sweaters in the past 6-ish years, and not even I have a clear picture of which ones remain in my closet (many having been given away or auctioned off) or what they add up to — other than I know on the whole they skew too warm.

So I’m going to take a look at these particular trees before making decisions about the forest come October. Staring today with …

The sleeveless sweaters

Well, just compiling that image grid is already informative. I had no idea my sleeveless sweater collection was 100% black/grey/natural. There used to be a camel-colored turtleneck, at least, but it got auctioned off last year.

Of these 8 sweaters, 5 were knitted by me, 1 was knitted by my friend Meg, and 2 are “storebought,” so to speak. Please note each one is linked to the original post where you can find any and all further details about the patterns, yarn, mods, etc.

HANDMADE

Grey vintage waistcoat (April 2015) — 100% wool, worsted weight
Vintage knit-for-the-troops pattern from the V&A website; super small-batch yarn from sheep I followed on Instagram, first time experiencing the magic of inset pockets, and a fantastic garment. I love this thing, but haven’t worn it in a year or two — the buttons need attention. So that’s on my Slotober to-do list.

Black sleeveless turtleneck (Sept 2015) — 100% wool, superbulky weight
This (and its camel predecessor) is the sweater that became my Sloper tutorial/pattern. I’m excited to wear this with all my wide-leg pants and loafers when the humidity lets up and the temp starts to fall — that is a match made in heaven. (Ali McGraw would approve.)

Cowichan-ish vest (Nov 2015) — 100% wool, superbulky weight
Made during the Cowichan-style Knitalong of 2015, this is still one of my favorite things I’ve ever knitted. It will get more wear this fall, as I’m eager to wear it with my natural and recycled denim pants, in particular.

Black Anna vest (April 2016) — Alpaca/merino/silk blend, worsted weight
I knitted this version of my Anna Vest pattern during the knitalong in spring 2016, and love it in the black. This yarn has proven drapier than I would have liked, but it’s still holding up well and I expect to keep on keeping on with this one. (For everyone about to ask: I am planning to release this for individual download as soon as I can find some time to make a few tweaks and get it laid out, etc. I don’t have an ETA at the moment! But I promise, it will happen.)

Sweatshirt vest (May 2018) — Wool/cotton blend, worsted weight
This one I finished in the spring just before the humidity kicked in, so I’m excited to get to start wearing it soon.

Ivory Meg sweater (2013) — Wool/silk blend, worsted weight but very open weave
Meg made this for me five years ago, and it’s always been a little snug in the armholes, but I do wear it a few times a year regardless — and obviously it has a lot of sentimental value as well.

READY-TO-WEAR

Grey cable vest (2009) — 100% wool, superbulky weight
Banana Republic celebrated some giant anniversary in 2009 with their “Heritage Collection” that included this killer cable vest that I ran out and bought and wore incessantly for the first two winters — the perfect winter-in-San-Francisco garment. (And by winter in SF, I mean November through August.) I wrote here about how this was one of a couple of things that inspired me to learn to knit. I haven’t worn it in a few years, but I know we’ll have another torrent love affair at some point, so it stays put regardless.

Black ES kimono sweater (2017) — 100% cotton, worsted weight
Er, is this a cardigan or a vest? However you categorize it, I bought this at Elizabeth Suzann‘s sample sale in early December of last year (looks like it’s no longer available) and have yet to wear it. It looks amazing on my friend Rebekka for whom it’s named, and on nearly every staff member who was manning the sale that night, but on me it just feels a little schlumpy. I actually like it best worn upside down. I keep thinking I’m going to put it up on one of the ES resale sites, but I can’t seem to bring myself to do it — the more I pull it on (during packing planning sessions or whatever) the more it grows on me, so maybe I’m keeping it after all. If nothing else, it’s excellent loungewear, although it’s a lot of closet space for that. (Good lord, are they really going for $1000??)

V E R D I C T S

Ok, I’m clearly still undecided on that last one, but the rest of them will keep their place in the closet, with the grey vest slated for new buttons in October (if I don’t get to it sooner). These definitely skew heavily wool, and even superbulky in several cases, but their sleevelessness is what makes them wearable in Nashville. Still, any future additions should be lighter weight and/or non-wool.

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