Packing a mixed bag for the Cities by the Bay

Packing a mixed bag for the Cities by the Bay

It looks like my brand fluffy new aran-gansey is going to get its first outing much sooner than I expected. Bob and I are headed to San Francisco and all the surrounding towns today. He’s doing the Alcatraz swim on Saturday! This has been in the works for a long time, and has been rescheduled more times than I can count, and I’ve honestly been feeling a little bothered that it finally landed in mid-September. The thing that made me craziest about living there (for almost 20 years; please note that I am very familiar with the place) was that it’s freezing all year and then September rolls around, and right when you’re actually in the mood for the sweaters you’ve been forced to wear all summer, it suddenly heats up! Sept and Oct are the only two months in which you’ll ever really get any warm weather when you’re by the Bay. So here I am in stinky hot Tennessee, about to take my first vacation to SF since we moved away, and fuming a little about the inevitability that it wouldn’t actually mean a break from the heat. But then by some miracle, the usual Indian Summer is nowhere in sight!

We are, in fact, going to visit some sweater weather today, and I could not be more delighted.

We’ll be all over the place — SF, Berkeley, Marin, Vallejo, Napa, possibly even Point Reyes — doing a hilarious variety of things (from the messiest to the most professional) in about a dozen different micro-climates, but all of the forecasts call for highs from the mid-60s to mid-70s. Those temps feel different there, with no humidity and that wind, than they do here. But I think I still have my Layering badge, and am taking the above (see the Summer closet inventory for details on the rest of the garments), which should cover all variables, along with a wool scarf, mitts, hat — and my trusty gore-tex jacket for over the sweater when I’m out on the water Saturday morning, watching Bob swim with the … nope, not making that joke.

Never fear: There will be no break in the blog action! There’s a full week of fun stuff queued up, and I’ll be checking comments as much as possible.

And of course Fringe Supply Co. is always open. Which, by the way, we have the new Mason-Dixon Field Guide No. 8 in the webshop today, featuring fun gifty accessory patterns by the always-delightful Thea Colman.


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Sweater inventory

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—


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.


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!


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.


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.


PREVIOUSLY in Sweater inventory: Part 2, The cardigans and Part 1, Vests and other sleeveless

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—


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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??)


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.


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: High-summer wardrobe doldrums

High summer wardrobe doldrums (er, I mean, uniform)

High summer wardrobe doldrums (er, I mean, uniform)

I just went back and read what I wrote as we were crossing summer’s threshold, and it’s hard to imagine I ever felt that optimistic about getting dressed for the weather! Here we are now in the worst of the swamp air season, and I’ve settled into a coping uniform. For some reason, despite the suffocating heat and their presence in my closet, I cannot put on a dress. I feel like an absolute imposter, so mentally uncomfortable that on the day I kept a dress on long enough to leave the house and drive to work, I  had to go home and change. I was so distracted and bothered I couldn’t concentrate! So I’ve settled into a morning routine that amounts to a modified version of “a t-shirt and jeans,” wherein the “t-shirts” are mostly sleeveless tees and shells I’ve sewn, and the “jeans” are my wide-leg pants, nearly always with a pair of sandals.

I feel cute most days, and it makes getting dressed easy (and almost entirely me-made!), but it’s a little depressing in its monotony — brightened by my orange Everlane sandals, which always bring the cheer. I’m hoping the frock problem is really a shoe problem. I really only like dresses (on me) with boots or booties, with just the right low heel, and I no longer own such a thing. So that’s the only thing I’m in the market for: maybe a clog bootie that would work equally well with wide-legs and jeans when fall rolls around? Meanwhile, I’m contemplating the Summer 10×10 challenge, wondering whether it would be redundant or might inspire me out of my rut. I did learn things from the spring one. Are any of you planning to participate?

(Details on the garments above can be found here.)


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Portugal, what I wore

Portugal part 4: What I wore

Portugal part 4: What I wore

I know a lot of you are like “yeah yeah yarn store spinner blessing blah blah WHATEVER — how did the packing work out??” Well, let me just tell you right off the bat: I did not pack right for this trip. I would have nailed it, had we only been there a week sooner. I’d been watching the forecast for weeks, and you may remember I was packing for this trip and for Squam at the same time because they were so close together as to necessitate two separate piles of clothing. I’d also researched weather norms in Portugal for June. And all indications were that it would be in the 60s to low 70s. (Ok, like SF, was how I was thinking of it.) I’d planned to take a bunch of sleeveless stuff, and threw in my usual silk Eliz Suzann top (with its sort-of sleeves) and my Archer button-up, worried I wasn’t going to be warm enough. By the time I actually zipped up the suitcase the night before, the predicted temps had climbed up into the mid-70s with one day in the low 90s. But by the time we hit the ground, a bonafide heat wave had sent in. It was in the mid-90s every day (and stayed hot all night), and I was both mentally and sartorially unprepared for it.

The one saving grace was that I had thrown in my black linen pants at the last second, wanting them for lounging around and for just-in-case. They wound up being the only thing I could really stand to have on, but I was forced to wear my heavy canvas pants and jeans for at least part of the time. The shirts with sleeves stayed in my suitcase the whole time (the sweatshirt was worn only on the plane, but I was happy to have it for that), and all I wore were my few sleeveless tees over and over, with a rotation of pants. I was a giant sweat ball the whole time.

I did look cute that one evening in Porto, up top, when it was just barely cool enough to wear my beloved denim vest. And I also wore the vest with my pajamas — i.e., the linen pants and a tank top — the day we spent knitting in the breezy living room at the mountaintop hotel (and on my flights to and from). By that point — after the dusty vineyard tour and the running of the sheep and so on — all of my pants felt filthy except for my jeans, which were brutal to wear back in the cobblestone oven of Lisbon, but it was unfortunately unavoidable.

My companions were much smarter and had each brought a dress or two, which they wore on repeat. The star of the trip was definitely Jaime’s red Brome maxi-dress, which you can read all about here. And I was also super envious of Keli‘s two breezy tencel Merchant & Mills Dress Shirt dresses, the black one of which she’s wearing in the group shot above — exactly the sort of loose garb you want at a time like that, and she looked great in them. Amber’s linen Fen dress and my linen pants made me vow to only travel with linen base garments from now on — additional layers to be determined by the weather on a per-trip basis.

So not my best packing outcome — but hey, I lived through it and you can’t tell in the pics how sweaty I am! Or why I’m wearing my pajamas on that drive down from the mountaintop. Below is the full blow-by-blow of what got worn when and how. (Some of these outfits make me sad just looking at them!) For garment details, see the packing list:

Portugal travel guide: What I wore

And there ends my tale. If you missed any of it, you can scroll through the complete set of Portugal posts here, and see the trip in motion in my Instagram Portugal Story. And you can see lots more photos from everyone else’s perspectives on the #portewegal feed. Thank you for indulging me in this voluminous travelogue!


PREVIOUSLY in Portugal: Part 3: Mountains, wool and the sheep blessing

All photos © Anna Dianich





Portugal packing list

Portugal packing list

By the time you’re reading this, I’ll be somewhere in Portugal, which is blowing my mind. I just finally made it out of the Americas last year, when Bob and I went to Paris. And now I’m off to Portugal with my globe-trotting friends, thinking maybe there’s still a chance for me to learn their ways! I’d tell you what we’ll be doing while we’re there, but I barely know; all of the most intense planning conversations happened while I was out for Bob’s surgery and then while I was away at Squam. But I have complete faith that the women I’m traveling with have made amazing plans for us, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when I get back.

Not really knowing what we’re doing does make packing a little mysterious! Along with a forecast that has changed pretty drastically in the past few days — shifting from low 70s to low 90s — and still includes a 20-degree swing while we’re there. So this is what I’m taking (pictured above) in the hope it will suit whatever happens. 12 garments for 12 wildly variable days:

– Denim vest (J.Crew, ancient)
– Silk smock  (Elizabeth Suzann 2017, no longer available)
Chambray button-up
Striped sleeveless tee
Black sleeveless tee
– Grey linen sleeveless tee (Everlane 2017, available again at the moment)
Green camisole
– Black elbow tee (Everlane, new)
Recycled demin wide-legs
Canvas wide-legs
– Jeans (J.Crew Point Sur, 2016, made in LA, no longer available)

Shoes: Veja sneaks (new), Everlane orange sandals (new, sold out); black Salt Water sandals (old) and trail shoes (very old). Plus a swimsuit and a pair of old hiking shorts. And as I’m typing this, I’m thinking rather than throwing in a pair of pj pants for when we’re just hanging around, I might grab my black linen Eliz Suzann pants instead, which are glorified pj pants that could also step into service if needed.

I do have blog posts queued up for while I’m away — some new, some resurfaced — and I hope to be able to respond to comments during this time, but please forgive me if I wind up having to catch up when I’m home! And of course, I’m sure to be oversharing on Instagram @karentempler if you want to follow along in real time.


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: Squam packing list and outfits