Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

I’m about to go on a bit of a tangent with this post while trying to pull together a few different ideas that are floating through my head. I’ll try to wrap it up somewhere by the end of the post, but no promises will be made. Before I get started I want to let you know the garment details for the photos in this post in case I forget to add any of this info during my ramble.

Sweater Pattern Lucinda by Carrie Bostick Hoge
Sweater Yarn Acadia by The Fibre Company in Mountain Ash
Mods knit the sweater and ribbing on the same size needle, knit the sweater and sleeves flat instead of working in the round.
Sweater Ravelry Link

Sock Pattern BFF by Cookie A (skipped the cables
Sock Yarn Tosh Sock by Madelinetosh in Optic
Mods omitted the cables
Sock Ravelry Link

For the record I love both of these patterns and yarns and recommend the lot of them. I actually finished the sweater and socks a while back but due to the fact that I can’t stop wearing them long enough to take photos while they’re clean I’m only just getting photos now.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to try something new with my finished garment posts. Rather than simply presenting them as a singular garment that I’d made, I thought it might be more fun and interesting to also show how I pair them with each other as well as with the ready to wear garments in my wardrobe.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

Fast forward to this past weekend in Nashville, where I stayed with Karen of Fringe Supply Co. and the blog Fringe Association. We talked about many things, including Slow Fashion October, and I was surprised to hear that through SFO she’d been hearing from people that they didn’t know how to wear handmade without looking or feeling like they were wearing a costume or that what they were making wasn’t fit for work or daily life.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

This is exactly something that comes up to me from readers, customers, and friends over and over again, both on the internet and in person. Sometimes it’s in the form of asking how I go about choosing a pattern to knit, asking me where I got my fabrics or yarn, how I decide what fabrics to use with which patterns, or wishing I had a fabric store full of fabrics to pair with my patterns. Sometimes people straight out ask me how I manage to always make things that are everyday wearable. I feel as though all these questions are coming from the same place.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, especially with all the talk about handmade wardrobes. A lot of times people say they won’t make or buy something unless they can make two outfits with it using items already in their wardrobe. When I plan my wardrobe or the garments I’m going to make, I never think about things like this for some reason. I don’t know why not, but I never have, even as a kid.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

As a kid I always knew what I wanted to buy, and much to the frustration of my mom, we could never find that exact thing. This certainty in what type of garment I needed continues to this day, though were those feelings come from I have no idea. Generally speaking I know what I like to wear and for the most part I wear them whether or not they’re seen as weird by others. In high school I wore an oversized men’s work shirt and a green wool WW2 men’s army jacket I took from a closet in our house almost every day. Definitely not the coolest mid to late 90’s look, but I guess I’ve been wearing this general silhouette for a few decades now!

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

Anyway what I think I’m trying to figure out is how I decide what I want to make, and once I’ve figured that out, how can I help others figure that out as well. One of my main goals with Grainline since day 1 was to make patterns that you could wear every day and feel proud of, but also feel like a better version of your every day clothed self.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

When I was sewing before I started making my own patterns I usually ended up making a silhouette that felt very un-me, like I was a cartoon of myself walking around. That was back when most available patterns were either party dresses or vintage inspired, two looks that aren’t great on me. But I wanted to make my own clothes so I tried to make these patterns work and then felt too self conscious to wear them out.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

Anyway I’m not totally sure what the takeaway from this is except that I’d like to help those who are struggling to incorporate their handmade clothes into their every day wardrobes to do so. I don’t feel like you need to choose a color palette each season, or follow a long wardrobe workbook in order to find what works for you. I’m sure that can help someone who has the time to do that, but I’m interested in a more fluid approach to this process. One that allows you to make decisions on the fly without consulting a piece of paper you’ve pre-planned. Unless you love pre-planning and consulting paper, by all means go for it!

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

I’m going to be thinking on this a lot over the next few weeks as I work on my FW ’15 wardrobe. I’d like to add a few more prints to my closet so I’m interested to see how that shakes out with my mostly non-printed wardrobe. And I don’t mean stripes, I count those in with the solids! I’m not sure this post is coherent enough for this, I did just drive 475 miles earlier today and still feel like I’m in a car, but I’d love to hear any thoughts you have on this ramble of a topic.

Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments | Grainline Studo

And for those of you who actually made it to the end of this post, here’s a bonus photo of me looking like a complete idiot! My friend Michelle shot these photos and it was one of the best days I’ve had in a while both because she’s an amazing photographer, and also because we’ve been friends for close to 15 years and I love when we get to hang out together.

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33 Responses to Socks, Sweaters & Styling Handmade Garments

  1. carol mcclellan says:

    Great post! Socks are something I need and never knit! Crazy that I don’t just do it.

  2. Amy says:

    Great post Jen! I have to tell you that yours are the first patterns that I’ve sewn and actually worn on a daily basis. You have inspired me to try and wear at least one thing that I’ve made everyday, including knit and sewn items. I believe that your patterns are timeless, and are so easy to modify and change up that the options are endless. Thank you for caring so much about us makers! I take pride in what I make and am glad to have finally found a pattern maker that is helping me achieve my maker goals.

  3. Chrystene says:

    I love this post! Thank you for sharing it with us. The thing that helps me to wear the clothes I have, whether made or purchased, is knowing which silhouettes look good on my body type. (This not only helps me to choose patterns that I will actually wear, but also aids in shopping as well.) I have found that, at least for me, there is a disparity between what will I look at and go gah-gah over versus what I will actually be comfortable and flattered wearing. For example, I am very drawn to straight garments with no wasist shaping, but, due to my measurements, I MUST have a defined waist to not look 20 pounds heavier than I am. This was a tough realization for me as I had to learn to accept how my body is shaped. But my wardrobe was drastically improved when I finally started involving the analytical part of my brain in the selection process.

  4. Katie Emma says:

    Great post, don’t worry, this was all very coherent 😉

    I wear something handmade almost every day now, but I definitely have some pretty handmade dresses that make me feel like I’m in costume. There wasn’t any lightbulb moment that changed the way I pick patterns and fabric, but I think there’s been a gradual realization that my lifestyle is pretty casual and I prefer certain silhouettes. I’m never going to wear a twirly party dress to work, and even when I do dress up, I want a more fitted skirt. It makes it way easier to be selective about the patterns I sew.

    I have way more thoughts about this, but don’t want to get too rambly…if you keep doing posts like this I’ll try to find a way to be more articulate and keep commenting 🙂

  5. Kristi says:

    Great ramble! Sometimes I sew to fill a hole in my wardrobe, and sometimes just to see if I can. The challenge pieces are rarely worn, but I value them for the experience. I make what I like to sew (or knit), not just what I like to wear.

  6. Two great pieces. I notice now that it is okay to mix brown shoes and black pants/socks and vise versa. I like it! I feel like that was more of a foible in the olden days? …not that I have ever been fusion forward. The cogs are perfect for showing off hand knit socks. I just might have to invest in something similar….

  7. Francis says:

    This post is spot on. It does help to see how you put them together. I’m bad about picking out a fabric or pretty yarn that goes with nothing else i own. this year i finally realized i always grab solid neutral colors to wear. I love your patterns and do not feel homemade in any of them. Maybe you should tell us your brand of jeans and the maker of that beautiful rug.

  8. Elaine F. says:

    I really liked your post and the natural pictures that your friend took of you. The photo makes you seem really fun. You remind me of when I was in high school in the 70s. I wore whatever I wanted to school. Jeans, short hair and beads were for me while other girls were wearing pantsuits. Remember those? What I need is to find someone in my small town to show me how to make socks and sweaters knitted. I am a quilter and I love my craft. I have a clothing manufacturing background where I owned and ran a women’s clothing factory in South Florida for 20 years until most of the work started to be sewn off-shore. When I make something (quilt or clothes) then the item is “made in the USA” by me. I am proud of this. Thank you for your encouragement. Keep blogging. I don’t consider it rambling.

  9. napagal.clare says:

    Lovely, thoughtful post. (I have really enjoyed all the conversations that Karen’s SFO has prompted.)

    I have a fair amount of things I’ve made that I never ended up wearing. Truth is, I like very simple lines, colors and shapes, but sometimes, for a variety of reasons, I’m tempted to veer from this. And sometimes, even if I think I’m on course, I just don’t get it right.

    On another note, I now have two of your patterns and I am looking forward to making them. I agree with someone else here, that they are classic and so wearable. Since I have not yet decided what I want to do with Tamarack, I’m going to start with the shirt.

  10. Nina says:

    Ooh yes, please come up with a brilliant way of helping us decide what to make without doing crazy workbooks or elaborate plans! I feel like part of the problem is that making is exciting, and I can get excited to do the making part without thinking about the wearing part. So now when I’m looking at patterns (and fabrics) I try to think, “If I saw this garment in a shop/catalogue, would I *really, really* want it?” Quite often the answer is not yes!

  11. cinthia says:

    it’s a great post both for its content and its beautiful looking ! I think that styling handmade garments to take pictures is a good way to move to the next step and actually wear them. My 15 years old son loves to take pictures and for the first time i accepted to play the game with him and let him make pictures of me wearing a knitted item. Being photographed is an issue for me but for once i took out my heel shoes from the closet, took off my everyday jeans and put on a dress instead and you know what : i had fun, i had pleasure, i didn’t feel disguised and overall i realised that the shawl i wanted to model was very everyday wearable and versatile, which was not obvious for me when i first finished it. Here is the result of this photo session . I will surely do it again and also will follow your styling posts for inspiration !

  12. Rose says:

    Love the bonus photo! I’m a mood sewer (do what I feel like) and a mood wearer (wear what I feel like). I am trying to focus a bit more on everyday wearability (Is that a word?). I definitely wear the casual garments more frequently. I’m a poor knitter, but keep trying. I’m slowly improving so one day I may wear something I knit. Keep the wardrobe posts coming. I enjoy them.

  13. Emily says:

    I think there are 2 keys to wearable handmade clothing. 1) knowing yourself, what you wear, and favorite silhouettes 2) fabric choice. I think both of those can be difficult points to learn and many people don’t stick with sewing long enough to figure out. Fabric is everything. Once fabric nuances began clicking with me, my fabric choices greatly improved and wearability came along with it!

    Ps: love your grey sweater (and socks)

  14. Shannon says:

    I think that it comes down to having an explicitly defined personal style. If you’re one of those people with an idea about what you like, what works well on you, what colors generally work for you, what styles/stores you like, what sort of item you wish you had when you were getting dressed — then workbook-length planning isn’t going to benefit you much. You already have a set of criteria that work for you, and you’ve probably already tried and worn the sort of clothes you’d be making, and you can work from there.

    But if, like a whole lot of us, you aren’t currently in possession of that experiences and knowledge, I think spending a dozen hours over a couple months with the Into Mind workbook and Marie Kondo and so on can be extremely beneficial. I think making wearable clothing is tough, because you have to have experience and skill adding pattern + fabric + fit + taste together, because if one of those things are off, it’s not going to work well for you. We normally have a selection of stores that we shop at — that people like us shop at — that come pre-curated, so we can even dress reasonably well while lacking a strong sense of personal style. But when you’re sewing your own clothes, you have to make every single decision and really, really edit, and if you don’t have a solid grip on your personal style, it’s nigh impossible to roll that natural 20/to come out ahead on that dice roll. And then our own personal feelings about the thing we’ve made don’t match up with our feelings of accomplishment and the praise that the online sewing community gives, and it feels like a costume.

    • Jeanne says:

      Marie Kondo + Into Mind is exactly what I did (not intentionally) to get to a place where I understand what I really love to wear and how handmade things can be included in my everyday wardrobe. Also Colette’s Wardrobe Architect series has great “homework assignments” and it’s free!

  15. christine says:

    I think you’re designing the most ready-to-wear looking silhouettes out there. Never do I feel like I’m wearing some goofy retro costume in your patterns, and I’m sure I’m in the majority on that thought. Everyone has their line, and for me I can feel perfectly comfortable in a vintage party dress, given the right situation. But I cannot picture you in that! I’m slowly coming your way in my wardrobe… less flowers, more solids 🙂

  16. lisa g says:

    Great post! I was the same way as a kid… I remember so many times I would be shopping for something that seemed pretty basic, but could never find it when I needed it. Finding your patterns really pushed me from sewing frivolous dresses over to sewing true everyday clothes. And that doesn’t mean they’re boring things, just that they suit my lifestyle. It’s pretty rare nowadays that something I made doesn’t get worn, which makes me very happy!!

  17. Michelle says:

    It took me a while before I could figure out how to sew the things I wanted to wear. I’m not sure why, because I feel like I have always had a clear vision of how I want to look. But, my execution was WAY off. It took me a lot of practice and studying, which sounds strange, but I truly had to sit back and study what it was that I liked about the types of ‘looks’ I was drawn to. Once I learned how to look at styles in terms of shapes, textiles, and combinations things clicked. I’m still a work in progress, but I’m getting closer to creating the self I imagine with each project.

  18. Trudi Zandes says:

    And this post explains why so many of us love your patterns and make them over and over!

  19. Korien says:

    Someone has already mentioned Into Mind which – when I read your post earlier today – immediately came to mind (bad pun). While I have never used the workbook, the idea of picking silhouettes that you like has worked brilliantly for me. I realised that there are only two silhouettes per season that I wear and now when I see something (either RTW or patterns and fabric), I immediately eliminate it unless it fits those silhouettes.

  20. Olivia says:

    Great post. This is my first comment here, I’m a fan of your work and your cat!

    You touched on something that I’ve found to be true for me in the past – making things that don’t suit you. I’ve done various kinds of making since I was a kid, but I remember always feeling a bit dissatisfied with the end product. This year, I had some time on my hands and started knitting again. Contrary to my previous forays into knitting, this time I found that there were things out there that I really wanted to make, and I’ve approached it entirely from the perspective of what I want to wear. I also found, and this might be relevant to the habit of making things you don’t wear, that for some reason this year I had a confidence about my knitting and making that I’ve never had before. Suddenly I believed that really could make all of those things that I wanted to wear. Now that it’s fall, I’ve been pulling out my winter woollens and remembering looking at them and thinking “I could never make that” and now I know that I absolutely could, and more.

    Now to tackle sewing beyond alterations…!

    On a sock note, I noticed that you used to knit more short row heels and your latest socks have used the heel flap. Do you have a preference now that you’ve tried both? I just finished my first pair of socks, using the heel flap, and now I want to try short row heels. I recently came across a link from you to that Priscilla’s favourite socks pattern, I think I’ll try that. Thanks for that link, as I’ve been looking for a basic top down short row heel pattern!

  21. Great post & now I’m going to ramble… Sewing has made me more fussy about fit and has coincided with me being more aware of my style & my body…. all good things. The wearability test is a big one in my life… I regularly re-home garments in my wardrobe that don’t fit or aren’t being worn. Over a period of time I’ve gained a greater understanding of what’s working for me (hello sack dress!). This summer I’m entertaining the idea of ’embracing my waist’ so there has been lots of pattern research & some RTW try on sessions. This is a silhouette style experiment, it could go either way, but I’m going to keep an open mind. In short, finding out what works for you is a journey… embrace it, enjoy the process, be reflective, take risks (try new things) & accept that you won’t always get it right.

  22. Alyson says:

    Great post! You are so refreshing!! And I love those shoes!!

  23. Valerie says:

    My style is pretty basic: simple shapes and colors and patterns. I sew most of my own clothes. I love your patterns because to me they are classics. My biggest problem is that I buy cheaper fabrics and yarn so the finished garments rarely last longer than a year. I know I need to invest in better materials but when one mostly has to buy fabrics online it is difficult to know if the fabrics are quality. So links to where your fabrics were purchased would be great.

  24. mary says:

    I sew a lot of what I wear. I do have a limited color palette but it stays the same over time. I don’t make elaborate wardrobe plans each season either. I don’t need a new wardrobe each season. I know now what I will actually wear and it doesn’t seem to change. I think if something feels like a costume then it probably isn’t jiving with ones style. My style is very casual tomboyish and basic. I have finally dialed into the patterns and fabric types that feel like me. My modified archer and alder dress are 2 of such patterns.

  25. Amy says:

    I can so relate to those shopping trips with your mom! From the time I was a child I always had exact clothing ideas in my head down to color and texture. Like when I was 13 I wanted cream colored knee high socks with a maroon and gold argyle and imagined them with maroon cords. (I never saw this in a magazine or on someone.) I sent my mom to 3 malls looking for these. It’s sort of a blessing and a curse having such specific imaginations. (Ugh, buying 3 different wool gabardines recently because the red on the first two wasn’t “tomato” enough.)

    However, for a long time I had trouble connecting that exacting taste and my style with sewing. I’m not sure why–partly lack of inspiration and patterns and partly just trying things just for the sewing experience–but I didn’t think about their wearability. I was buying a lot of fabrics I would never have bought in ready-made clothes, especially prints. A couple years back I finally put a moratorium on buying those.

    Wardrobe planning can be a really good idea if you experience that disconnection. I loved the Wardrobe Architect because it helped me connect what I already know about design with my sewing projects. And helped me move away from imagining that I live a lifestyle than I actually do. What I love about your whole design point of view is that it’s about wearability first and foremost–and you are really modeling that you can sew a wearable personal style.

    Thanks Jen for your thoughts! I’m rambling too but I love these kind of discussions.

    p.s. I have those exact clogs! They are my default shoes.

  26. Becky says:

    “As a kid I always knew what I wanted to buy, and much to the frustration of my mom, we could never find that exact thing.” – Ugh. Yes. This. I was the same. I drove my mom mad dragging her all over the place trying to find the exact thing I wanted. I still have this problem which is one of the reasons I started sewing a couple of years ago. I’ve really struggled with matching pattern with fabric and feel like I’m only now getting the hang of this.

  27. Melissa says:

    Fantastic post with extra bonus points for the sock shots. Socks are SO HARD to photograph!

    I found that as I have made more clothes, I’ve really settled into my style and it’s been super easy to filter all of the pieces into my wardrobe. Not a coincidence, most of the pieces have been more basic or in neutral shades that all work back with one another! For not planning, it’s sure worked out well!

  28. Jessica says:

    I agree with the person who said that if you have a strong innate sense of style, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to sew things you’ll wear regularly. I’m personally one of those people with the “I must be able to compose 5 outfits with it before I’ll sew/knit it” criteria (recently relaxed to 3), but I also have a strong internal sense of color, silhouette, proportion, and texture, and I stopped letting my mom shop for me at the age of 5 (she was so disappointed, sorry Ma). So I rarely make things that I don’t wear. When that happens, it’s usually because: 1) poor fabric choice (especially fabric:pattern pairing, I’ve definitely had some duds there), or 2) I’m trying to shop my stash, so I make something just to use up a length of fabric, but it’s not actually a garment that excites me, fills a hole, etc.

    I think, for most people who struggle with this, it comes down to a combination of trusting your instincts and giving yourself rules (because creativity flourishes within established limits!) There are certain things you instinctively gravitate towards because some part of you really likes them – it might be specific hues, certain types of patterns, or a wardrobe filled with solids – and then there are some choices you make that are misguided and where rules will help you out (maybe stuff like matching your lifestyle to the garments you wear/need). I wish I could be more specific, but I don’t really know beyond that, and suspect it might also be highly personal – one person may be very clear on silhouette preferences but another person really knows their personal color temperature.

    Anyways, very thought provoking! And I also agree with the commenters who’ve said that you design highly wearable patterns … and ones that I count among my most-worn garments!

    • Jessica says:

      PS: the reason for my oddly anal “5 outfits” criteria isn’t that I can’t figure out what to wear/make, it’s that I value a modular wardrobe that mixes and matches well, and this has been the best way I’ve found to make that happen. For me, it results in thinking about clothes by season, and each season generally has 2 colorways with some crossover capacity between the two. I also have a small staple of classic neutrals that really help stretch my wardrobe, and I tend not to do prints that are 3+ colors (because that actually severely limits what else you can match it to – you kinda can only go with one of those 3 colors, otherwise you’re just looking like a walking rainbow. Which is its own glorious kind of look, but you gotta COMMIT if you know what I mean. The one exception I make is for Liberty prints. Those get paired with neutrals quite a bit, maybe one coordinating color)

      Wow, I sound weirdly unspontaneous. Really, though, my highly personal set of rules is what gives me so much creative freedom …

  29. Amelia says:

    oh gorgeous photo with you smiling!

  30. Judy says:

    I love your patterns. The styles are wearable, desirable, and the patterns are very well thought-out. I think my problem with actually wearing garments I sewed in the past was that they almost never fit me well. I didn’t realize until I began looking at sewing blogs that many, maybe most people have to tweak patterns to get them to fit so they are happy with them. I spent a bunch of time researching how to alter a pattern based on where it doesn’t fit, and then sewing “muslins” (usually using inexpensive fabric that I will wear if I can get it right) and tweaking the muslins till I am happy with how the garment looks. It’s hard but really satisfying to finally arrive at some basic patterns that can be used over and over. I imagine that some people are much easier to fit, but it was a revelation to me to realize that you CAN alter patterns until you are happy with the fit and that lots of people have to try a muslin or two or three before they have something they will wear.

    I think the other thing is fabric – it can be tricky to find fabric in stores that is similar to what is used in ready-to-wear. Quilting cotton just doesn’t work out well most of the time and many other fabrics are hard to find in stores or the quality isn’t the same. On the other hand, if you can get hold of some nice garment fabric it is probably better than the average ready-to-wear.

    With a pattern that works and some fabric you love, it’s a great feeling to wear something you’ve made – feels liberating!

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