Elizabeth Street

Wardrobe Building: Choosing Patterns

Wardrobe BuildingLiz TubmanComment

Welcome to part two of my wardrobe building series!  Today's post is focused on creating a handmade wardrobe rather than a ready made one.  When I started sewing and knitting with the desire to create everyday wardrobe additions rather than just going with patterns that I thought were pretty, I didn't know where to start.  There were so many pattern options to choose from, and I would always get distracted in the newest release from a favorite designer even if it was a piece I would never wear on a regular basis.  

Based on my own trial and error, I've got a few tips for makers who want to knit or sew pieces they can wear every day that will complement pieces already in their closets:

Replace store bought favorites.

Use what you already have & love as a starting point for projects.  I have a shawl collar cardigan that I wore almost every other day last winter and it's starting to show some wear and tear.  Guess what's now on my knitting queue for the fall?  A hand knit version to replace my well-worn favorite.  Bonus tip: when you're making a handmade version of a wardrobe favorite, you'll be able to compare sizing information from the pattern to your ready made garment to make sure you get the best fit. 

Choose patterns that are tried & true. 

Use the internet to your advantage.  Anytime you're considering making a certain pattern, google it or search the pattern name on Pinterest.  You'll be able to see versions made by other sewers or knitters and read about their experiences.  When you're just starting out, using a pattern that other sewers have had success with is a great place to start.  Here's a few suggestions:

Sewing: Scout/Lark Tee from Grainline Studio; Renfrew Top from Sewaholic; Wiksten Tank by Wiksten

Knitting: My Favorite Sweater from Fancy Tiger Crafts; Ladies Classic Raglan by Jane Richmond

Use your wardrobe wish list.

If all of your regular favorites are in good shape, look at your wish list for ideas.  Instead of picking whatever pretty pattern you find, look for a specific piece that you know you want to add to your closet.  That way you're much more likely to build a wardrobe of pieces that complement each other.

Stick to a consistent, complementary color palette.

Another way to make sure you're building a complementary wardrobe is to choose your fabric and yarn colors carefully.  The possibilities are endless when it comes to color and texture.  Changing the type and/or color of your materials for handmade pieces can give the finished piece a drastically different look than the pattern itself.  Choose colors that you know you'll wear.  Take your pattern and supplies (or computer if you're shopping online) right into your closet and imagine how you would wear the piece with the rest of your wardrobe.  My own rule of thumb is to make up three different outfits I could wear to work with whatever pattern & supplies I'm considering using.   It's easy to get swept up in looking at beautiful hand dyed yarns or bright patterned fabrics, but at the end of the day those might not be right for an entire garment.

Practice and patience are key.

Patience and practice are huge when you're building a handmade wardrobe.  It's called slow fashion for a reason, after all.  Be willing to make at least one (probably several) wearable muslins, or test versions of your sewing projects.  A great example of this are my Scout Tees.  A beginner lever pattern from Grainline Studio, it gives you the chance to learn a bound neckline and set-in sleeves while building a great basic tee.  I made in total 6 tees - four of which are in regular rotation in my wardrobe.  The first two I don't wear since they were my test versions, but by the third tee I knew exactly what size & length adjustment to make, and I had lots of practice with the sleeves and neckline.  If you go into your wardrobe building with the expectation that you'll have a closet full of new pieces in a weekend, you'll be disappointed.  All that extra effort pays off in the end.