How to Knit Sweaters That You Will Actually Wear
Wearability is something that every knitter should consider when choosing what knitting pattern to cast on next. Unfortunately, many knitters overlook it.
If you are serious about curating a wardrobe of wearable handknits, it's time to stop choosing what to knit on a whim. Instead, be intentional about choosing something that you will get the most wear out of.
Anyone who has ever spoken to me about knitting will tell you that I am enormously passionate about knitters making garments that they will actually wear. I'm not talking about wearing something, just because you feel proud that you knitted it. I want you to wear your knits because they make you look and feel amazing.
It's not as simple as asking yourself, "Do I love this knitting pattern?" and choosing based on that. You must also consider the practicalities of the garment too.
Often, the reason why we knit things that we hardly ever wear is because we knit things for our "fantasy" selves; the ones who are thinner, braver and more colourful. This time, why don't you be kind to yourself? Knit something that makes you feel beautiful without having to change a single thing about yourself. These are the garments you will wear again and again.
How to (Almost) Guarantee Wearability in Your Handknits
To help you to consistently knit wearable garments for your own wardrobe, here are some things to consider before casting on.
Start With Your Own Wardrobe
It is almost impossible to curate a highly functional, beautiful wardrobe of clothing without a plan. The best way I've managed to do that myself is by working with a capsule wardrobe. I've written before about how capsule wardrobes can improve your handknit wardrobe. If you're not sure on where to start with a capsule, I recommend that you read that article first.
Once you clear your wardrobe of all the clothes that you never wear, it's time to start noting down any gaps. When you have spotted the most urgent gaps, you can plan your knitting projects around them.
To help you choose the best style and colour for your next handknit, you should take a look at the clothes you reach for on a regular basis. What makes you want to wear them so often? Is it because the colour mixes and matches well with the rest of your wardrobe? Or is it because the cropped silhouette looks amazing with your high-waisted jeans and skirts?
Once you have noticed the themes running through your wardrobe, it's easier to knit wearable garments. If you can't think of three outfits to wear a potential handknit with, you probably shouldn't knit it at all. More than likely, you won't wear it enough.
When researching this article, I came across a fabulous article on LifeHacker, where they shared a quote from Michael Kors. He said -
70 percent of the clothes you own should be meat and potatoes. 30 percent should be icing and fluff—that's color, pattern, shine, accessories. Too many women get the proportions the other way round, then can't figure out why they can't get dressed.
As much as I cringe a little to hear a man talking about how women should dress, I agree with his sentiment. When 70% of your wardrobe is made up of easy-to-wear basics and the rest of it is the fun stuff, it is much easier to get dressed in the morning. Even better, you only need to periodically update the "fancy" 30% of your wardrobe (if you want to!) whilst the vast majority of your wardrobe will stand the test of time.
Avoid the Impulse
We all know that knitting can take a very long time, so don't waste it on an impulse knit you are unlikely to wear. The next time you get the overwhelming urge to cast on a project immediately, ask yourself these questions:
Do I want to knit this because I'm a bit bored of what I'm knitting right now?
Do I want to knit this because everyone else in the knitting world seems to be knitting it?
Do I want to knit this because it's "trendy" right now?
If any of the answers is yes, think very carefully about whether you will actually wear this knit before casting on.
Knit for your Lifestyle
Your lifestyle influences your wardrobe, so make sure that your handknits fit seamlessly into your day to day life.
For example, if you live in a warm climate, there is no point in knitting heavy sweaters. As fun as they might be to knit, you might only get to wear them once a year! Instead, focus on lightweight layers such as t-shirts and cardigans. These are the garments that will get the most wear.
Additionally, if you spend most of your time in a conservative office, don't spend all your time knitting fancy garments that you can't wear to work. Invest in your working wardrobe by knitting subtle sweaters and cardigans that make you feel extra special at work.
If you have a very busy lifestyle, you probably don't have time to hand-wash delicate sweaters all the time. Instead, find a yarn that doesn't need you to be so precious with it. I'm working with Quince & Co's Sparrow yarn right now and it is so low-maintenance. You can throw it in the washing machine and even the tumble dryer! In fact, that makes it even softer.
Choose a Wearable Yarn
My biggest tip for ensuring that you knit a more wearable wardrobe? Don't buy yarn without a pattern in mind. You will only feel guilty for not having used it yet and end up compromising on a pattern you're not 100% keen on.
I often used to buy yarn when I visited yarn shops abroad. I still have that Jaggerspun Zephyr from New York in my stash, despite having bought it nearly ten years ago. Oops!
When you do buy yarn, hold the skein under your chin. This is one of the most sensitive areas of your body, so it is easy to assess if the yarn will be comfortable to wear. If you plan on wearing it next to the skin and it feels even slightly itchy, don't buy it. You won't be eager to wear it once knitted.
This might sound controversial, but I recommend that you avoid variegated yarn unless you have a very eclectic wardrobe. A novelty yarn looks gorgeous in the skein, but it can be very difficult to wear en masse with other items in your wardrobe. Either use it in small amounts or keep your yarn simple and focus on the stitch.
One final note on yarn: try to buy the best quality yarn that you can afford. If you've spent hours knitting something beautiful that you want to wear for a long time, you don't want the yarn to let you down. Believe me - I know (#RIPWintourSweater)
Consider the Fit & Silhouette
If you've found a pattern that you like the look of, don't just jump into knitting the size you'd usually knit. Analyse the fit of the pattern first. Check how much ease the designer has allowed in the pattern and see if it matches up with how you like to wear your garments. Then, choose the size that will fit you best.
Another helpful exercise is to browse the pattern's projects on Ravelry to see the garment on a variety of bodies. Try to find people who have a similar body shape to you, so that you can decide on whether it will be flattering.
What is your most wearable handknit to date?
I hope you've found this article helpful in deciding what your next knitting project will be. It's amazing how well a handknit wardrobe comes together with a bit of planning!
Now, it's time for you to share with me: which garment have you worn the most since you've knitted it? I'd love to hear from you in the comments section below!