Finished Garment: Martine Pullover

Martine Pullover
Ravelry Post
Pattern: Martine by Julie Hoover
Yarn: Rain by Shibui Knits in Ash

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!

22 replies on “Finished Garment: Martine Pullover

  • Brigid de Jong

    I, too, have hand pain and have taught myself to knit Portuguese style. It has helped tremendously, as the bulk of the work is done with the tension of the yarn. Your hands mainly hold the needles, and to flick the yarn for each stitch. You might want to check that out.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Interesting, thanks for the heads up on that. I think a lot of my hand pain comes from work sadly, but I’ll definitely be researching this. Anything that could help is welcome by me!

      Reply
  • Megan

    I REALLY want to start knitting garments that I can wear, but I have no idea how to wash them 🙁 Can you do a blog post about how you wash/care for your knitted garments?

    Reply
  • Kelly

    I loved this when I saw it on Instagram, and now that you’ve described the pattern it’s moving to the front of my queue! I love raglans, and the mirrored increases for shaping have yielded adequate fit, but I’d love to learn a better way. Your sweater is lovely, perfect color, perfect fit. May it live a looooong life up in Wisconsin!

    Reply
  • Melissa

    First, that is a good-looking sweater. Second, thank you for the interesting question “how [do] you decide what handmades to add to your closet”, because I think the short answer is: impulsively, and the longer answer is: I’m trying to make this decision in a more thoughtful way because making a garment takes so much time and resources (and, for me, is generally not cheaper than buying retail), but I don’t know whether a “capsule wardrobe”/an annual plan/just more self-awareness makes the most sense for me. Some days it feels as though there is as much trend pressure in the sewing world as there is in the commercial/retail one, and you can’t return a handmade item if it turns out it doesn’t work for you. I’m not sure what the best strategy is. Anyhow, let me just say again. that is a good-looking sweater!

    Reply
    • Jen

      For a long time I added impulsively as well and it resulted in a lot of donations after things hung unworn in my closet. I think a lot of that was me feeling like I had to respond to trends rather than just sewing what I knew I would want to wear. Personally I found trying to do capsule wardrobe planning really stressful and by the time it came time to make the second half of the things in the plan I couldn’t remember why I wanted them in the first place. There’s no one way that works for everyone for sure!

      I think one thing you can do if you’re worried about a silhouette or garment on you is try on a similar RTW garment if you can find one to see how it fits before you commit to buying the pattern and fabric.

      Reply
  • Sara Mayo

    I am drawn to more stylized sweaters because I want them to look handknit and not like it was bought in the shop. That’s why it is hard to commit to a really simple-looking sweater even though it may be the more wearable option.

    Reply
    • Jen

      That totally makes sense! I’ve learned that like having a good mix of the two in my closet, but I only got to that point after making a lot of stylized sweaters and not being happy with the simple ones I can buy.

      Reply
  • Zoe Tribur

    I don’t meant this in a bad way, but I was really happy to read the part where you talk about still learning after 16 years of knitting. I’m on my third year of knitting and I’ve been stuck on the finishing of my top-down improv sweater (Fringe Association KAL) because I just CAN’T get the hang of the tubular cast off. That and messing up weaving in the ends of this wonderful chunky yarn I’m using so that the stockinette stitching on the front side of the fabric is noticeably jumbled have me feeling pretty crappy about my skills. I really admire the polished look of your knits, so haring you talk about still learning things made me feel better.

    I really appreciate the detailed and thoughtful posts on this blog. Your keen insight into the challenges us being a novice, coupled with your own expertise make this an invaluable resource–plus I really find your patterns and style inspiring.

    Reply
    • Jen

      Hahah nothing bad taken at all! I’m still learning new things all the time when it comes to sewing as well. I think that anyone who says they’ve learned everything isn’t really being truthful. We wrote this blog post a bit back that you might be into called Sometimes the Best Tip is Practice.

      https://www.grainlinestudio.com/2016/05/27/sometimes-the-best-tip-is-practice/

      As for your FAFKAL sweater, basically you’re just dividing up the knits and purls onto separate needles, then doing Kitchener stitch to close up the edge. I had a hard time with that technique when I learned it but once I realized that’s what I was doing it made a lot more sense to me. I also always switch to a new ball of yarn at the edge so that I can weave the ends into the seam which is soooooo much easier!

      Reply
  • Kris

    I’m trying out a new policy of planned makes, and it has really helped me get back to a happy sewing place. For awhile, the impulsive sew approach was making me stress about sewing (which is the opposite of why I started sewing in the first place!) Every cool thing that I saw on Pinterest or blogs became a potential make, and when it inevitably wasn’t made because I have a very busy work schedule and a marriage and friendships and cooking and sometimes have to sleep, it felt like a disappointment or a failure.

    After New Year’s, my husband and I cleared out and organized our closets, made a list of immediate needs, and I started sewing from the list. It has been super relaxing, and I find that I am wearing the items much more since they are primarily basics in neutral colors that go with everything else in my wardrobe. I’m making a lot of buttondown and popover shirts, simple fitted skirts, and slim slacks and jeans. I was so afraid to try fitted pants, but my sewing plan forced my hand. With the help of an Ottobre Woman pattern and a pair of my husband’s loved-to-death jeans, I have made four pairs of jeans with two more on the way (Cone Mills!) Perhaps when my list is complete, I will indulge in an impulsive make, but the planned approach is working really well for me right now.

    Reply
    • Jen

      I can completely relate to that. I love wardrobe planning that way, from a list of things you know you need, without stress. I feel like when I do those capsule wardrobes it ends up being a group of clothing that goes well together but that I might never wear and that often doesn’t quite fit into my current wardrobe. I love making a note of things that might need while putting together an outfit in the morning, then slowly making those. I almost never make an impulsive garment, but I’ve found that capsule collections just really don’t work for me planning wise.

      Reply

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