How to Style Your Handknits

If I'm not wearing a handknit sweater, you can bet I'm wearing a hat or scarf! This is my very first pattern, Rilo.

How do you wear your handmade garments without making them look homemade? I regularly hear a variation of this question, asked by knitters who struggle to style their makes.

If you find yourself asking this question too, you might not be making clothing that is true to your personal style. You’re not alone in this: many makers struggle to connect their style to their craft.

For far too long, I knitted garments and accessories that were fun and challenging to make, but were difficult to wear, day-to-day.

The good news is that this problem can be resolved pretty quickly. After doing some serious reflecting on what I genuinely like to wear, I finally started to build a wearable handmade wardrobe. Now, I wear at least one handmade garment every single day! In this blog post, I will be sharing the lessons I have learnt along the way as well as a clever styling formula to help you get started.

5 Ways to Start Wearing What You Make

I’ve written about this concept quite a lot on the blog, but it really comes down to 5 key tips.

Know your style

Consider what outfits your reach for, day after day, and reflect on why they make you feel good when you wear them. Put a hold on making frivolous projects to challenge yourself and instead, focus on knitting wearable everyday pieces that suit your lifestyle (not the lifestyle you wish you had!)

If you’re yet to define your personal style, I have a guide for makers on this very subject.

Identify what you need

Take a look at your wardrobe and see where there are any gaps. Then, see if you can make something to fill that gap.

I find that the things I am most lacking in are basics and they just so happen to be the things that I think we should focus our efforts on. Want to know why? Here are seven reasons you should knit your own basics.

Use the right yarn

Your yarn choice has the power to make or break your knitting project. When the yarn is wrong, everything is wrong, so learn how to make good yarn substitutions.

It is very easy to gravitate towards fancy, hand-painted yarn (it looks so good in the skein!) but subtler solids are much easier to style. Always consider what you would wear with a yarn before using it.

Modify when necessary

Every body is wonderfully unique, so you’re bound to have to modify your knits at some point. Since you are already investing a considerable amount of time and money into making a piece of clothing for yourself, it’s worth learning how to resize a knitting pattern to your bespoke measurements. When something fits as it should, you are much more likely to wear it!

Set some ground rules

Whilst style is often instinctual, it can be helpful to create some ground rules to help you get started.

Think about where you usually go wrong when it comes to knitting wearable clothing. Do you accidentally choose colours you don’t like to wear? Do you choose silhouettes that make you feel uncomfortable? Do you make garments that don’t look good with anything in your wardrobe?

Based on those observations, create your own set of rules to live by for the next few months. That might mean working from a specific colour palette that you love to wear, making sweaters that emphasise your waist or only knitting something if you can make 5 outfits out of it. These parameters will help to keep you on track.

Here, I'm wearing one of my go-to outfits: my Shorthand sweater with a tie-dye dress and my navy coat. 

How to Style Your Handknits: An Outfit Formula for Beginners

On the subject of parameters, I love outfit formulas - a concept that was first introduced to me by Lee Vosburgh from Style Bee. When finding your feet with styling your handmade wardrobe, it can be extremely helpful to start off with a simple outfit formula. Why don’t you give this one a try?

1 Basic + 1 Statement Piece + 1 Finishing Touch

These categories include tops, trousers, skirts, dresses, jackets, accessories and so on. Your handknits might fall into any one of these three categories: basics, statement pieces or finishing touches, depending on how simple or ornate they are.

For example, I could consider my Split Stone and Shorthand sweaters to be basics, whilst my Fragment t-shirt is more of a statement piece. My Bowman hat is the finishing touch I have enjoyed wearing all Winter.

Using this formula, I can build outfits that are perfectly balanced; simple yet interesting. With this in mind, I wear my Split Stone sweater with my pleated camo skirt, because the simplicity of the sweater looks great with a fancier skirt. I would never wear my Fragment t-shirt with anything too fussy - instead, I choose simpler, block-coloured pieces that let my t-shirt speak for itself.

Homework

What is your favourite handmade garment? In the comments section below, tell me how you would style it using the outfit formula I shared. It will be fun to share styling inspiration with other makers in our community.

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