Winter ’16 wardrobe planning, Part 1: Wants and needs

Winter '16 wardrobe planning, Part 1: Wants and needs

Remember that thing I said about how I’ve reached the point of having a mostly functional wardrobe again? Wellll, then the weather finally turned and I was quickly reminded that I still have a very serious sweater shortage — especially in the pullover department. I am cold, and having a serious conversation with myself about why I knit so many sleeveless things. The only “silhouette” I’m interested in right now is “jeans and a sweater.” And on top of the sweater shortage, two of my three pairs of jeans are ripped beyond wearability, awaiting repair. In short: I am having a terrible time getting dressed in the morning.

Between those frustrations and my being too busy to think about it, wardrobe planning of any kind has not happened this Fall. But since I actually am required to get dressed before leaving the house each day, it’s a problem that must be solved. So I finally managed to clear out some headspace, get out my trusty Fashionary panels and pencil, and set about sorting it out. The result is what I’m calling Wardrobe Planning Week! Starting today with wants and needs, then taking inventory of what I actually have, and seeing where that leaves me in terms of what to do about it. Ready?


I mentioned before that I had created a Fall ’16 Mood board at Pinterest, and that my striped sweater in progress grew directly out of that. I love mood boards but have never really made them for myself, and this one has proved incredibly useful. Really it’s my any-season-all-the-time mood board, as it’s the things I always love: neutrals married with stripes, plaids and texture; clean/classic shapes but with a bit of exaggeration or detail that makes them special; and a core palette of black, white, cream, camel, grey, cognac and denim/faded denim/baby blue. Things I will always find irresistible: faded denim with black-and-white; camel and khaki, camel and light blue; a perfect trench or camel coat; a simple grey or camel sweater with jeans. Looking at this mood board and at the projects in progress — namely the b/w striped sweater and camel shawl-collar (Channel) pictured up top — and the yarn and fabric on my shelves makes me feel really good about how well, lately, I’ve been sticking to how I actually love to dress. The challenge is still in identifying the remaining gaps in my closet and filling them smartly.


It might be more accurate to label this “things I think I need.” Once again, as I’m standing in front of my closet struggling to get dressed, I ask myself what it is I’m wanting that isn’t in there. My great challenge continues to be how cold it is in my studio, compounded by the fact that I also get quite dirty several days of the week, hauling assorted shipments of whatnot in and out of my car and to and from our factories, which is probably why the only thing I ever want to put on is jeans and a sweater. From asking myself what I’m looking for and not finding (in that department) I’ve come up with the following six things, which correspond to the set of six drawings above:

UPPER ROW LEFT: The most basic of pullovers — the sort of thing I wish I had two or three of, yet I have none. And I think it’s what I want to use my beloved grey Junegrass for. Role models include Julie Hoover’s new Addison (except drop-shoulder sleeves and I don’t get along) and this Everlane sweater, but mine won’t be quite that wide.

UPPER ROW CENTER: Nothing would make me happier than if every single day I could just put on an oversized, crotch-length turtleneck and know I would be comfy and warm all day. I have one such sweater in my closet — a 13-year-old grey cable turtleneck that I rely on — but I feel like a second one would be a very worthy addition. And since I’d like it to be aran or bulky weight, it would be relatively quick to accomplish. I love Carrowkeel. I also have this idea for a simple top-down, compound-raglan job with a big ol’ neck and ribbing just in the sleeve tops, but I also tried on Norah Gaughan’s Riptide last month and loved it. That would be more fun to knit, but the sketch is probably more me.

UPPER ROW RIGHT: St. Brendan, of course — in a duplicate of the black/neutral colorway of the sample — which I’m becoming a broken record about. This will add some needed pattern to my wardrobe; it’ll be fairly quick to knit at aran gauge; and it goes with every pair of jeans and pants I own. So it’s a no-brainer.

BOTTOM ROW LEFT: Vidje, which I’m thinking of as my major undertaking of 2017, and there’s no way it will exist until at least next winter. But no discussion of what I’m thinking of adding to my queue can exclude this one. It will be grey.

BOTTOM ROW CENTER: I just finished the black cropped one, but I still want another super basic cardigan like this in the mix. It might be a b/w marl (to replace a Madewell sweater I miss having) or might be pale blue, not sure. This one is high desirability but lower priority.

BOTTOM ROW RIGHT: I can’t get that Jenny Gordy outfit out of my head — it’s super close to how I dress (in fact, my Bellows plus plaid top and jeans is one of my go-to outfits), just with the cardigan greatly exaggerated. The version of it that has set up camp in my brain is reined in just a tiny bit, also top-down raglan (again, no drop-shoulders for me), bulky gauge, with a generous foldover ribbed shawl collar. Big enough to go over everything — including my turtleneck sweater(s)! — and as useful lounging around the house as in the studio.

I’m saying “things I think I need” because my next step is to look very systematically at what I do in fact own, and thus which of these “needs” are the most and least pressing. But there are non-sweater items I need as well:

• A white top of some kind for layering, despite what I said a minute ago about getting dirty.

• A presentable sweatshirt or three. That wool gauze pullover I made last January to help fill the pullover gap shrunk to the point I gave it to an 8-year-old, so I’d like to repeat the pattern with some charcoal melton I have. I want to make a basic grey Linden sweatshirt, too, plus I have some grey wool-knit remnant pieces that I’m hoping are enough to make a sort of dressed-up version. That would take some of the pressure off the knitting list.

• A replacement for my now-threadbare denim workshirt. You can literally see through it. Might be time for me to take a deep breath and try to tackle an Archer.

• A woolly headband or drawstring-top hat or something that can be worn on the trail with my hair in a wad on the top/back of my head.

• Some wool footie socks.

OK, so that’s it for the fantasizing and scheming — tomorrow I’m taking inventory of what I actually have!


PREVIOUSLY in Wardrobe Planning: The new normal

37 thoughts on “Winter ’16 wardrobe planning, Part 1: Wants and needs

  1. Speaking as a mom here: it might be time to actually buy yourself a pair of jeans…you could go to a thrift store if it made you feel better about it…so that you have something to actually wear while you find time to mend the threadbare ones. In my vast experience with threadbare jeans ( I am not being sarcastic: I am a child of the 60’s), there comes a point when they are not suitable as pants for hard work and heavy lifting, because they just keep falling apart as you subject them to a lot of movement. Then you would have more time for an amitious knitting plan, and to imaginatively and creatively mend your jeans.

  2. Planning is a great start!! You seem to be a good seamstress…. can you make yourself some new jeans/pants/trousers?

  3. Must be something in the name…Karen! Please look at kzstevens (another Karen!) on IG and look at her hand mending on her beloved jeans – it’s a true work of art! Slow stitch mending on jeans you already have and love is still faster than sewing a new pair. This is a conscious life-style decision for Karen…her work is incredible and she is beyond amazing! She makes/mends/repairs almost her entire wardrobe…and has a family and a job! I don’t think she ever sleeps! :) Both Karens inspire me each and every day!

  4. 1. I love these posts, I am looking forward to wardrobe planning week!!! I did something similar for SFO for my winter wardrobe, maybe it’s time to revisit it.

    2. I was knitting this morning before going to work and thinking about my top down improv sweater. it’s a green cardigan in andalusian stitch done in fiber co cumbria which is a lovely yarn although, I don’t think I like the all over texture. I’ll be honest, I was drawing inspiration from your anna vest but I think that stitch pattern is way more interesting in a vest. additionally, I think I have too much ease in my armpits which just makes the whole thing look baggy. I wanted it to be baggy to fit over a couple of layers but I think I need a pattern. since seeing jess’s ribbed top down and the turtleneck in your post, I’m thinking of frogging it for a turtleneck. it would be lovely to have a giant turtleneck to cuddle up in and do an anna vest in the spring!

    3. I frequently think about your sashiko mended jeans. you made an ig post about them during SFO (it was about being able to wear casual clothing to work bc you work for yourself!). I just think the running stitch in a contrasting blue, the softness of the denim and your feet looked cozy in the socks and shoes. it just looked so -comfortable-

    4. sorry that your wool gauze pullover shrunk :( was it just because you machined washed it or…? I have been looking for wool gauze to make a winter dress out of but so far, no luck.

    5. I put a fashionary sketchpad on my christmas list :)

  5. Trying to get more working well in my wardrobe, too, so especially good read. On the Jenny Gordy cardi, right now I’m finishing up Hannah Fettig’s Rosemont., a top- downer with nice shaping, easy to modify. Although I didn’t make it oversized,I did lengthen it. And the button bands have horizontal ribbing, with short row shaping at the neck, but my mod is vertical ribbing, extra deep to get the fold over and possibly adding ribbed patch pockets. It will be a more slender cousin to the JG one.

    What I’m craving and can’t find are good tunics, especially a below knee one with deep side slits . Any ideas, anyone?

  6. I love your planning posts so much–I’m new-ish to the handmade wardrobe idea, mostly because I’ve always liked the idea but just couldn’t see how it could possibly work for me. So you spilling the behind-the-scenes on how to make it work are very, very appreciated reads!

    And, oh, I literally gasped aloud when I saw your St. Brendan sketch. I missed that pattern somehow, but it’s now safely in my Rav queue, thanks!

    • I’ve never given nearly as much thought to my clothes as these posts force me to do, and I feel self-conscious about it, but then it’s SO EFFECTIVE for me. So I’m glad others find it useful too.

  7. Make the Carrowkeel, it knits up quickly (I made mine in a week!!!) and it fits just as advertised. It’s the right type of roomy without having armholes that end 4″ above my waistline! She has got the roomy sleeve figured without the gigantic sleeve length you usually find.

    I also agree with what Ellen said in her comments. Work jeans need to be sturdy so that you can just wear them without worry!

    • Thanks for the Carrowkeel rec! Glad to know you found it to be a good pattern. I love all the detail she put into what appears to be such a basic sweater.

  8. I covet your black cardi, Karen….talk about an indispensable piece.

    Not sure if you’ve made Jen’s Hemlock tee, but it is a great (easy and fast) addition to the closet. I made my first one in a medium weight charcoal knit and am just about to make a light gray one. It works well over things, like a sweatshirt, or as a tee under a cardi. I really love it!

  9. I have a suggestion for the last item on your list–“wool footie socks.” Churchmouse Yarns & Teas has a free pattern for Turkish Bed Socks that I’m madly in love with. I’ve made two pair so far with another pair in the pipeline. After the first sock, I found cleverknits’ modifications to short row the sides to the sole (eliminating some sewing) and to make customize the sock for different sizes. They’re simple, fast, and warm. What’s not to love?

  10. As well as linden, have you looked at the fielder pattern from merchant and mills? It’s a raglan sweatshirt shape but made with woven fabrics (with ribbed neck and cuffs), and can be cut either as a top or dress: I just made the dress and really love it. Perfect for the presentable sweatshirt niche you mention.

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  13. This is so great – I need to try it too! When I first started knitting, I had a bad habit of making what I thought was cute, and not really considering how it could incorporate into my wardrobe. After a years-long break, I’ve gotten back to it these past few years with this mindset, and it’s been fantastic. I am all set to teach myself to sew for the same reason, but I need to work up the confidence to start! As for your clothing, if you decide to purchase a new denim or plaid shirt, I’d suggest checking out Tradlands. Their shirts are pricey, but they are made in the USA and are super high quality. I have 2 Tradlands shirts, and I wear them both at least once a week. As for a hat, I’ve knitted a ton of them, but my favorite to just throw on and tuck my hair into when we go hiking or birding is actually Jul by Jenny Gordy. It’s slouchy enough to accommodate a wad of hair, but not too slouchy, if you know what I mean.

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