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October 04, 2021 3 min read

In June I had lunch with Barbara, the new head of tourism for St. Mary’s County. She and I had chatted briefly over the course of several months when she attended the LBA meetings. She knew I owned the yarn store in town, and said that I should make an effort to wear the things I knit. “It would be great advertisement for you,” she offered.

I was like, “What do you mean?”

She thought for a minute and said, “Well, I guess I did move here in the spring, and you don't wear mittens and hats and scarves in the summer. So it makes sense that I’ve never seen you wear anything you’ve knit.” I said, “Barbara, every single time you’ve seen me I’ve been wearing something I knit. I knit this top that I’m wearing right now.”

She just looked at me. “Wait, what? You knit that? I guess I thought you’d bought it. I mean, I don’t know. It’s not what I was expecting. It just looks like clothes.”

“Right,” I said, “that’s what I’m about with my knitting. I knit clothes. I’m about creating a hand knit wardrobe that I can wear every day.”

It’s huge when someone compliments a sweater I’m wearing, especially if they are random strangers who have no idea I knit. I think at some level we all crave that kind of validation for our knitting. But there’s a certain amount of tension between the kinds of sweaters people notice and compliment and a handknit wardrobe you can wear every day.

Here’s why.

There are two kinds of garments: statement pieces and wardrobe items.

Statement pieces are bold and memorable, either in color or style or both. They take center stage. They are the sweaters we see and say, “Oooh, I want to knit that!” which is a very different emotion than, “Oooh, I want to wear that.” As the name implies, statement pieces make a statement. They say - I’m a knitter, and a darn good one too. People notice them, and they comment. We get an understandable rush of pride - of validation. They are perfect when you want to showcase yourself as a knitter, first and foremost. Like at Rhinebeck, or MS&W, or some other knitterly gathering, but for real life they are likely not the pieces you reach for becausethey are so memorable. 

Wardrobe pieces, on the other hand, are basic. They are not the garments that jump off the page when you’re looking at patterns. Compared to the flashy statement styles, they're might seem a little boring.  In truth, they are not boring, but rather beautiful, quality garments that don't take center stage, but step into a supporting role and put you on center stage. They are simply clothes that fit you perfectly and make you look great. Because wardrobe pieces don't shout, when you wear them, people might not even recognize them as hand-knit. That’s okay. You know they are, and that's all that matters. 

I guess what I'm trying to say, and to quote my mentor, Sally Melville, it's okay to knit the gray sweater.  If you need a gray sweater in our wardrobe, go ahead and knit a plain gray cardigan that you'll wear 24/7. And at the end of the day, it’s about the pleasure it brings you to create a handknit wardrobe you’re proud to wear. 

If you are interested in knitting garments you love that suit your personal style and the life you live, I would like to invite you to join us in Club Crazy for Ewe where you’ll get the guidance, resources, and community you need to create a beautiful handknit wardrobe of your own. We do classes and knitalongs on beautiful wardrobe pieces (and some statement pieces) you'll love for years to come.  Click here for more details.

I look forward to seeing you in the shop and around the table, or around the virtual table.  You are always welcome here.

Warmly,

Ellen