Usually I condense all of my knitting projects into one of 4 quarterly posts since this is primarily a sewing blog, but this sweater deserves its own post for a multitude of reasons. One of them is that I’d really like to talk more on the blog about the act of wearing your handmade wardrobes day to day whether they’re sewn or knit. I also hear from a lot of people that they have trouble incorporating their handmade garments into the existing ready-to-wear portion of their wardrobes and this also something I’d love discuss more since it doesn’t have to be hard or confusing at all!
I used to do a lot of wardrobe planning here on the site, sketching, making plans, laying things out, then I never got around to making them. I’ve realized over the years that that’s just not how my brain works. Sitting down and coming up with an entire seasons worth of things to make, or following books and plans for determining your personal style, it’s all too rigid and restrictive for me. I would lay out a list of things I needed, or was supposed to need, and it ended up that in reality none of it was what I actually needed or wanted. I’ve found that by relaxing, trying things out that may or may not work, and just really easing up on myself has actually been the way that I’ve best honed what I like and what I want to wear. After a few years of this method I think I’ve really gotten myself to a place where when I see something I almost immediately know whether it will become an integral part of my wardrobe or not.
That’s exactly how it was with the Martine sweater for me. I’d been semi-stalking Julie Hoover’s Instagram account while she was in development of this and Wintour, which launched at the same time, thinking that Wintour was the one I would knit first. When Julie published the patterns however I knew immediately that Martine would become an important part of my wardrobe and purchased the yarn and pattern the same day.
Let me briefly talk about how I knew this pattern was 100% made for me since this is something people often want to know. I spend a lot of time up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin during the summers and am constantly searching for the perfect lightweight sweater for the occasional chilly late afternoons that also looks good (and fits) under a long sleeve button up or cardigan for when we’re out on the lakes in the evenings. I’ve almost found it multiple times, first with a raglan sweater that was slim but too thickly knit, then with a thin knit cotton/linen blend sweater that had the right weight but wasn’t quite the right shape. Both of them were worn till they died nonetheless, but in noting that what was lacking in one was present in the other and vice versa I was able to realize what the perfect sweater would be. A slim, but not tight, raglan sweater, with a loosely knit stitch pattern in a cotton or linen lightweight, breathable yarn. So when I saw Martine I basically saw fireworks and knew this was for me.
Knitting this pattern was an absolute dream. I constantly tell knitters that I always learn something when I knit one of Julie’s patterns and Martine was no exception. I usually shy away from knitting raglan garments because I am very specific about how raglans are formed and should fit, being a flat pattern maker and all. Many of the knitting patterns I’ve seen have raglans shaped almost identically in the front and back which I have a hard time with knowing how they’ll fit me in the end when structured like that. This isn’t the case with Martine, and with some clever decreasing Julie managed shaping that looks so much like a flat drafted raglan that I wanted to squeal with delight.
Another thing about Martine, and all of Julie’s patterns I’ve knit so far, is that she really doesn’t skimp on the construction and finishing details. What that means for you is if you simply follow what she tells you to do you’re going to end up with a really professional looking garment. Everything – from the cast on to the raglan shaping, to the neckband and the blocking instructions – is so well thought out that by the end you won’t be able to believe you knit something so beautiful.
Now lets talk about the yarn. I used the recommended yarn, Shibui Rain, in Ash which is also the color the original sweater is knit in. I sometimes feel weird doing that but honestly the gorgeous silvery sheen was too much to say no to. I was a little nervous using cotton yarn since I have a lot of random hand pain and fatigue, but decided to give it a go anyway and I’m so happy with the result. According to the Shibui website Rain is “a mercerized cotton elevated by lustrous sheen. Its elongated chain construction retains shape and drapes with fluidity.” I’d agree with that description and found the yarn didn’t end up hurting my hands like I thought it would. I’m not sure if it’s something to do with the chain construction or the larger needles the pattern requires but I was just fine. When I first received my yarn I was a bit worried because it felt rougher than I expected, but after blocking my swatch I found it softened up quite nicely while still retaining the stitch definition and sheen it had before blocking. I’m really glad that I decided to try something new and use Rain, and it has me very excited to try other Shibui yarns now!
My last few sweaters (Hawser, Stone Lake, Bellows, and Stonecutter) have been much more stylized, though still very wearable, than the Martine is. While I always love sewing elevated basics that I can wear a million ways every day, I’ve been slower to reach that point in knitting, and I think a lot of that is because although I’ve been knitting for 16 years I’m really still learning with every project. I taught myself how to knit before YouTube, or Ravelry, or even Knitty or any of those amazing resources we now have existed and that combined with the fact that I didn’t know a single other knitter in real life until a few years ago made for a very slow learning curve. I’m really excited to have reached the point where I can knit in the same way that I sew, if that makes any sense.
So that’s it for my Martine novel! I spent a day last week styling the Martine and 5 other handmade pieces into a few outfits for a post that I’m excited to share soon with more thoughts about some of the things I touched on in this post. In the meantime I’d love to know how you decide what handmades to add to your closet!