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

21 thoughts on “Sweater inventory, part 1: Vests and other sleeveless

  1. I would be proud of all of those lovely vests. I would like to find a pattern for the Banana Republic vest. I like the neutral color scheme of all of them too.

    • Wow, never? I developed a huge vest obsession in the ’80s (every possible meaning of the word) and have never really gotten over it. But I’m also realizing vests and other abbreviated things are the best way for me to deploy all the wool in my stash, since I can’t really justify knitting m/any more full-scale wool sweaters, as long as I live where I live.

  2. Holy moly, for $1000, sell that thing and use the proceeds for ethically made fabric or another international trip or hey, in my case it would happily and drearily go to house repairs.

      • It’s not actually for sale for $1000, the person is actually looking for the item, the ISO stands for in search of. It’s a weird thing people do on poshmark and list random exorbitant amounts next to the item that they are looking for, I guess since they have to list a price.

  3. I’m looking forward to seeing your lighter weight/non-wool options. I’m always looking for patterns that I can use/adapt to life in SoCal.

    • I think it’s generally about shorter body/sleeves, sleeveless, open in front, things like that. And/or using something other than my beloved 100% wool.

  4. Karen I love SO MUCH that you have an entire section of your wardrobe devoted to sleeveless knits. I’m also glad you posted this because I’m now remembering the time I tried on your Cowichan-ish vest and damn it, now I remember that I need one!

  5. I believe ISO means “in search of”. So that post should mean that someone is looking for the kimono and put a high price so they would receive all offers from sellers. :)

  6. My first thought was, “Are you really hanging up your sweaters to store them?” Or, are you folding them and stashing them somehow in the closet? I have a similar space issue, with a small armoire instead of a closet, because my house is so old it predates built-in closets. Since moths are less of an issue when sweaters are stored where there is light and air, I’ve chosen to keep my sweaters folded on shelves in my bedroom. I enjoy waking up to the little display every morning.

  7. Pingback: Sweater inventory, part 2: The cardigans | Fringe Association

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