Earlier this week, we were in the throes of a heatwave, and I used the opportunity to wash and air-dry my heavy winter knits before putting them away for the summer. This also gave me a chance to review what I had made for myself, and consider how successful it was.
While I had made sweaters before on occasion, I began knitting them in earnest in 2014. The first one I made for myself at this time was a fluffy lilac thing, which I knit in super-bulky yarn on size 10mm needles, in an improvised bottom-up design in the round. I then immediately proceeded to crank out maybe half a dozen similar sweaters, which I either sold or gave as gifts. This brought more orders, and by 2016 I was all sweatered-out yet had only one, now tattered, self-knit sweater to my name!
So... my goal for winter 2016-17 was to start a winter wardrobe for myself. Ideally I wanted to replace my remaining store-bought sweaters with handknits, and to no longer buy sweaters retail at all.
With this aim, I started to knit in September. I began with a bulky multi-coloured Rowan yarn, which I impulse-bought on sale at my friend Lisa's shop. Working on 10mm needles, it took me only a few days to turn it into a sweater ...and I regretted it immediately, as the resulting cheery rainbow-coloured thing wasn't really 'me.' However, I get so many compliments on this sweater, that over time I grew to like it!
After the bulky piece, I proceeded to 'get rid of' some dense heathery aran wool I had in my stockpile, the origins of which I no longer recall. Finally I dared to knit myself a cabled circular yoke sweater out of the Donegal tweed I had hitherto reserved for gifts and paid projects.
Then came the dresses... the first of which was really an unintended outcome of my switch to top-down knitting! Once I got to the hips, I had yarn left over and thought 'might as well.' I then liked wearing the dress so much, that I wanted more of them. Two of the dresses I made in Donegal tweed, and one in another unknown-origins dense and sheepish mystery yarn that needed depleting.
All in all, my handknits for Winter 2016-2017 consisted of 3 funnel-neck pullover sweaters and 3 funnel-neck sweater dresses, all intentionally quite heavy and warm, as I spent a lot of time outdoors in the cold, wind, and rain. These 6 garments basically saw me through the worst of the cold season. I rotated between them, pairing them with woolen leggings, jeans, tights and various underlayers. I did not wear any store-bought sweaters over this past winter - not out of principle, but simply because the ones I made for myself fit better and proved better suited to my lifestyle.
Looking at these garments all together, I can see how much my knitting has 'come into itself' over the past year. The process of making these enhanced my love and appreciation of Donegal tweed, cemented my preference for top-down, over bottom-up construction, and reminded me how much I love to wear - and make - dresses. In the course of making these, I also - for the first time - began to note down my stitch counts, etc., and to envision some of these as future patterns.
I have been making other things throughout 2016-2017 - including myriads of hats and socks, and a few sweaters and dresses for others. But prioritising my own wardrobe has proven incredibly useful. Not just in the obvious sense of supplying me with things to wear, but also in helping me hone my methods, improve my planning skills, and start thinking more consciously about design.
Goal for next winter: Ideally I would like to double my handmade winter garments. Wearing the same six again and again does run the risk of 'overdosing' on them, no matter how nice the knits!