Archives For making clothes

As all the excitement around the Summertide MKAL continues to grow, I’m stealing a moment to return to our ongoing Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge. I have another great interview for you, this time from one of my handmade wardrobe heroes, Karen Templer from the exceptional Fringe Supply Co (The shop’s tagline “Nice things for makers” is an understatement…her things are gorgeous.) She also writes an insanely inspirational blog, Fringe Association. Karen agreed to share her knowledge and journey towards a handmade wardrobe with us today, and I’m so happy that she did. Welcome Karen!


Photo credit: Kathy Cadigan

Photo credit: Kathy Cadigan

Tell us a little about why you’re interested in having a handmade wardrobe.

First and foremost, I’m a control freak. 🙂 I want what I want, when I want it. But there’s also enormous creativity and joy and peace of mind in making one’s own clothes.

Which came first: Knitting, crochet or sewing?

My mom taught me to sew when I was young enough that I don’t really remember it, so I feel like I’ve just always known. But I have sewn only very sporadically during my adult years. I definitely knew more about sewing when I was in junior high school than I know right now, but I’m relearning pretty quickly.

I also was shown how to knit when I was a kid but I didn’t take to it. I did love crochet as a kid. But a friend taught me to knit in October 2011 and I was instantly obsessed. Have been knitting like a maniac ever since.

How often do you wear something you’ve made?

In the winter, you’ll find me wearing a hand knit sweater most days. I have fewer warm-weather clothes that I’ve either sewn or knitted, so less often in the warm months.

Do you want to have more of your wardrobe be handmade?

Photo credit: Karen Templer

Photo credit: Karen Templer

I’m in awe of people who are able to wear handmade every day, and love the idea of an entirely handmade wardrobe, but it’s not realistic for me. I run a business (Fringe Supply Co.) and a daily blog (Fringe Association), have very little free time, and I’m very slow — especially when it comes to sewing. I always have a lot of big plans about all the clothes I’m going to make and then manage to produce only a fraction of them. But I’m pretty committed at this point to not buying clothes made in faraway factories under unknown conditions, if it can be avoided, which is a big shift after a lifetime of mall clothes. I’m wearing things longer, buying less, and spending more per item to get things that are produced by known humans in known conditions. That might be a piece by a local designer sewn in a studio I’m able to visit, or something by a brand that isn’t local to me but is transparent about how and where production is happening, and ideally also about where the fabric comes from. I love supporting makers and small businesses, and want to be able to feel good about every garment in my closet, whether I made it myself or not.

Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Do you relate to “fashion” or “style” /or “capsule wardrobe /Or uniform? Do you have a uniform?

I have fairly limited tastes, so that does lead me to some semblance of a wardrobe. I’m mostly denim and neutrals, classic shapes but maybe put together in slightly unconventional ways here and there?

My house was built in 1953 and has old-school closets — not walk-ins. My closet has a little door, behind which is a shelf above a hanging rod. It’s small, in other words, and I’m determined not to exceed (or even max out, actually) its capacity. When you have fewer clothes, you want them all to work together and to be of good, lasting quality. So I do lean toward the “capsule” concept.

How did you start on your journey to a HMW?  

In the 80s, my school years, I did a lot of alteration/customization of store-bought clothes. Fashion was a ton of fun then — pegging your mens 501s, tailoring hospital scrubs, embellishing everything. But I didn’t make a lot of my own clothes from scratch until I started knitting sweaters. (I cast on my first sweater in the third month that I knew how to knit and have been knitting mainly garments ever since.) Making sweaters made me long to make other clothes for myself as well, which led me back to sewing.

Who inspires you in this journey?  

Beautiful Japanese sashiko thread, available from Fringe Supply Company. Photo Credit: Karen Templer

Beautiful Japanese sashiko thread, available from Fringe Supply Company. Photo Credit: Karen Templer

The entire handmade community, truly. As soon as I learned to knit, I started scouring the web for good blogs, which led me to lots of inspiring knitters and sewers both. Instagram is so awash in talented people I wish I could spend whole days just combing through hashtags. It’s so inspiring, all of it, and there are a lot of clever, thoughtful individuals who either got me thinking or taught me skills or whatever the case may be. Way too many people to name. But at the moment, I’m spurred on a daily basis by some really good friends in the industry who are incredibly prolific makers: Jaime and Amber of Fancy Tiger Crafts; Kate Gagnon Osborn of Kelbourne Woolens, who also sews most of her non-knitted clothes; Jen Beeman of Grainline Studio, who is also a knitter; and Anna Maria Horner, who is also about to get me started on quilting! Because that’s what I have time for, right?

When you choose a pattern, do you think about how wearable it is? Do you think about how well it will go with your other clothes?  

Absolutely. Obsessively. Like I said, my closet is really small and I only want stuff in there that can pull its weight. And again, I’m slow, so everything I choose to spend precious time on really needs to be worth it. I’ve always had a shopping rule that I’m not allowed to buy anything unless I can instantly make at least three great outfits out of it with other pieces I already own. With handmade, I’m trying to follow the same general rule, but at the same time I can actually plan out a whole wardrobe — calculating how an array of pieces will work together once they all exist. Of course, the challenge is to get them all to exist! But I do spend a lot of time sketching and planning and choosing the right fabric or yarn. Planning might be my favorite part.

What’s the most wearable item you’ve made?

Probably my charcoal grey Bellows cardigan. I can literally put it on over just about anything I own! And would wear it every single day from October through March if that were socially acceptable.


What pattern(s) would you nominate as “highly wearable”?

I’m not often one to make patterns as written/drafted – I tend to find things that are in the neighborhood of what i’m wanting and then bend them to my will. I think the key is knowing what’s wearable for you and then finding ways to get there.

Do you have any suggestions of great resources for new sewists?

Jen’s blog, Grainline Studio, and the Colette site are both chock full of great info. I’m not as well-versed in sewing resources as I’d like, but those are two I feel like i’m always learning from. But I also say find people on Instagram whose taste you vibe with (check hashtags like #handmadewardrobe and #memade and #knittersofinstagram and such) and pay attention not only to what they have to say about the patterns they’re posting about, but also the comments from everyone else. There really is a lot of wisdom in that crowd.

So many thanks to Karen for joining us on the blog today! I really love hearing people’s stories: it spurs me on in my own quest for a more creative life. For even more inspiration and wisdom from Karen, you can find her online here:

Fringe Supply Co.

Fringe Association



So, are you onboard with the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge yet? There’s still lots of time, so take a peek at our very active thread on Ravelry. #CHWChallenge

CH 88 With Libby from Truly Myrtle

Helen —  August 20, 2015 — 1 Comment

Curioous Handmade Podcast With Libby From Truly Myrtle

We’ve got a second helping of Libby from Truly Myrtle this week. After her excellent guest post for the blog, she also sat down to chat with me in more detail about her own handmade wardrobe and the journey she’s been on for several years. She’s an absolute font of information. At one point in the interview Libby says that she feels as though she was “born to make things” and if you’ve visited her website, it’s very obvious that she was. I took so much away from this conversation, but the main inspiration for me has been moving towards thinking in terms of whole outfits. Libby really captures the glee of creativity and making, and I hope you have a lot of fun listening too.

Show Sponsors

Today’s show is sponsored by The Fibre Co, and their wonderfully soft and gorgeous Acadia yarn. If you want to see how wonderfully this knits up, take a look at the two tone sample of my pattern Whispering Island!

TheFibreCo_Logo CH

Acadia is named after the oldest American national park east of the Mississippi river, a place of natural beauty where the sea and mountains meet, slopes are densely forested and wild blueberries abound. Acadia National Park is in the state of Maine, The Fibre Co.’s birthplace.  The yarn inspired by this beautiful region has a rustic look and a soft hand. A subtle tweed effect is created by the silk noil that is combined with a heathered base made from fine merino wool and brown baby alpaca. The yarn is a classic DK weight and makes a beautiful textured fabric that is perfect for next to the skin accessories as well as garments.

You can get your hands on some Acadia of your own at our other sponsor’s shop, Meadow Yarn:

Meadow Yarn 

Meadow Yarn is an inviting online retailer selling yarn, needles and notions. It’s a small, family business based in rural Suffolk in the UK. Meadow Yarn was born out of a passion for beautiful yarn and knitting accessories and aims to bring you a range of great products. Yarns stocked include madelinetosh, Eden Cottage Yarn, the Fibre Co and many more.

What’s in the WIP

I’m still working on the really fun and relaxing Cavepoint Shawl by Paula from the Knitting Pipeline. The Cavepoint KAL is going until the end of the month so I might just make it under the wire.

I’m also working on a new shawl design for a Mystery Knit Along which will be coming out soon…there will be more details over the next couple of weeks.

The whole Curious Handmade Wardrobe challenge is a giant WIP for me. There’s so much great conversation happening in the group thread, and everyone’s getting super inspired, especially me! August is the planning month, and I’m still deep in the planning phase myself, though I have some thoughts coming together. Also, we have a hashtag now: #CHWChallenge so be sure that you use it on all your social media posts to that we can all follow along!

Show Links

We mentioned a few patterns:

Merchant and Mills Dress Shirt

Washi Dress

Simplicity Pattern 1080

Libby’s recommendation for keeping inspiration organized:



The pattern tutorial that Libby mentioned:

Box bag tutorial


There’s just over a week left to vote for Curious Handmade in the finals of the UK Podcasting Awards! It only takes a few seconds to vote, and every vote counts! and I’d be really grateful if you’d take a moment to vote for us here: all you need to do is scroll down to my photo and click!

September 5th is the Great London Yarn Crawl! There will be a special pop up marketplace, and there’s going to be an Indie Designer Spotlight stand. Several up and coming designers will be rotating through, and I’m lucky enough to be among them. Stop by! It’s a really fun event.

Thursday 29th of October through Sunday the 1st of November there’s an amazing retreat on: the Geeky Puffin Knitpalooza in Edinburgh. It’s being run by the girls from the Geeky Girls Knit video podcast and knitrundig. There will be lots of interesting sessions being run by a wide variety of teachers, including Kate from A Playful Day.

There’s also a Craftsy sale happing this weekend — up to 70% off their best selling supplies. It’s a great opportunity to stock up and treat yourself to some new creative supplies. If you’d like to support Curious Handmade at the same time, click through the Craftsy banner: it means I’ll get a small commission. Thank you so much.


Thanks again for listening! I’m sure you’ll be as impressed and inspired as I was, hearing about how Libby has focused so much talent and creativity on her own handmade wardrobe (while raising four gorgeous kids, too!) Happy knitting (and sewing!) to you all until next week.


Another lovely guest post as we ramp up in the early days of the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge! Today I’m really lucky to introduce you to the wonderful Libby from Truly Myrtle. Libby is a designer, podcaster and blogger who is already living the handmade wardrobe dream, and she’s graciously agreed to join us here on the Curious Handmade blog to share her expertise. There’s so much gold in this post, and I think it will really inspire anyone taking their first steps into the world of the handmade wardrobe. Libby talks about how to find great patterns and offers her best tips for a successful project. She designs knitwear but is an avid and acocmplished sewist as well, and this post focuses mostly on sewing, which is a growth area for a lot of us knitters who would like to branch out and make garments to wear with our beloved knits. 

* * * * * 

Libby from Truly MyrtleHi everyone! I’m Libby from Truly Myrtle and I’m really excited to be posting on the Curious Handmade blog today! Thank you for inviting me Helen! I am an enthusiastic champion of handmade wardrobes and I knit and sew many of

my own clothes. Much of what I know has been learnt through trial and error and I’m still learning every time I make something. These days I’m particularly keen to master the art of getting a perfect fit and a great finish as well as gaining skills in drafting my own knitting and sewing patterns. It’s proving to be another adventure!

As knitters, we are incredibly lucky to have Ravelry. It’s such a great resource for finding patterns, hearing what other have to say about them and seeing how they look on a variety of body shapes. But what about sewing? As yet there isn’t a similar resource and it’s daunting trying to figure out which sewing patterns to start with, how to find a pattern that you can master and what will suit you. I thought I’d share a few ideas about finding great sewing patterns and my favourite wardrobe staples.



– your local fabric store is probably a good place to start. They’re likely to stock fat catalogues of sewing patterns from all the major brands and the salespeople should be able to provide some good advice about what patterns will suit your level of experience. They might even offer classes!

– I’m always keen to support small creative businesses and there are many independent sewing  designers online these days. Indiesew stocks a number of patterns from indie designers and their blog is full of tips and tricks to support you.

– google it! Searching “independent sewing patterns” will bring up a heap of designer pages.

Some of my favourites are:

Colette patterns

Grainline Studios

Megan Nielsen

Tilly and the Buttons


I particularly like these ones because they all have great blogs full of helpful information. Some even do sew alongs and walk you through their patterns step by step. You’ll find there are many many more independent designers and it can be a bit of a rabbit hole once you get started! I like to click on “images” when I search to view pictures of sewing patterns to get a feel of what might be available.

– look in your local library. There are lots of fabulous learn to sew or beginner sewing books around and many include patterns. Maybe your library stocks some?

– are you on Instagram? Me Made May is a huge event each May and this year thousands of knitters and (especially) sewers posted pictures of their handmade clothes including names of the patterns they’d used, under the tags #mmmay15 and #memademay. I found it so helpful to see pictures of sewing patterns on real people. It’s also a great place to find my next idea …

– sewing bloggers. There are hundreds and hundreds of sewing bloggers online sewing and reviewing sewing patterns. Search “sewing bloggers” and prepare to be wowed.



Beginner sewing patterns are great for new sewers, experienced sewers and sewers coming back to their machines after a break. Many beginner patterns are great wardrobe staples and can be adapted and adjusted as your skills and confidence increase. Here are some of my favourites:

Tiny pocket tank from Grainline Studios. I’ve made several of these tops and they’re simple, require only a small amount of fabric and are a great summer wardrobe basic.

Washi Dress from Made By Rae. I love this pattern and I live in my Liberty print cotton Washi dress through the summer. The instructions are easy to understand and the pattern is endlessly adaptable. I’ve made a Washi tank top from the basic pattern too.

Clover Trouser Pattern. from Colette Patterns. Trousers can be scary to sew but this pattern is fairly simple and well supported on the Colette Patterns blog. You’ll learn how to put in a zip and how to get a good fit.

Sewing with Knits Class by Meg McElwee. This a series of classes showing you how to make five sewing patterns (also included) rather than a sewing pattern per se but I thoroughly recommend it if you’d like to try sewing knits on your regular sewing machine. The patterns are great (the t-shirt pattern is my staple t-shirt) and you’ll have lifetime access to the classes showing you how to make each of the patterns.

Alabama Studio Sewing & Design. This is a book rather than individual pattern but it is absolutely fabulous. The patterns in the book are very stylish basic shapes and are intended to be sewn by hand (the book is stuffed with wonderful information showing you how) but could also be sewn by machine. Personally, I love the hand-sewn look and I really encourage you to have a go with patterns like these if you’d like to try sewing but don’t have access to a sewing machine or want to sew out and about.



– Like it has for knitting, the internet has revolutionised sewing. Many of the sewing patterns from independent sewing designers are only available in pdf form so you’ll need to download them, print them out and then assemble them before you can use them. I’ve written a guide to help you work out how to quickly and easily get a pdf pattern ready for sewing.

– It’s a good idea to make a muslin. It’s a bit like a swatch; a test run of your pattern to make sure it fits you properly. I often make a “wearable muslin” from a fabric that’s a bit cheaper than my real fabric. Just make sure the two fabrics are similar in weight and feel.

– Ask for help. Don’t get discouraged by mistakes. We all make plenty of them! If you’re confused reach out. Maybe your neighbour sews? Maybe your mum or your friend? Look for classes in your area if you’re wanting to learn with others or join a sew along online. Sewing days with friends are a good way to learn new techniques and share tools and machines.

Good luck with your handmade challenge! What are you planning to make? Will you try your hand at sewing?

Most of all, have fun xxx

A big big thanks to Libby for her wonderful contribution. You can learn more about Libby here:

Truly Myrtle Website






CHWChallengeIf you heard last week’s podcast, you know that we’ve just launched a really exciting challenge which will be running over the next three months. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can be more intentional about creating (and wearing) a wardrobe of handmade garments and accessories that work together for real lifestyles. There are so many reasons why a handmade wardrobe is a worthy dream: the ability to truly express your individuality, clothes that truly fit your shape, the chance to break free from the destructive cycle of “fast fashion” and (of course) the sheer joy of making things and flourishing in your own creativity.

I was chatting about this to a friend of mine, Susan, (she’s Kizmet on Ravelry) and we decided together that the time was right to get serious about exploring this subject. That’s why we decided to launch this challenge. We want to start a conversation about where you start with a project like this, and what it takes to create, curate, style, maintain and wear a wardrobe of beautiful things that you’ve made with your own hands, and we want to do it with the input and support of the creative community. We’ve decided on a really generous timeline so that everyone can take part without needing to rush.

Would you like to join us? The rules are simple:

Guidelines for the Curious Handmade Wardrobe Challenge:

Dates: August 7-Oct 31, 2015


This month is for dreaming, getting inspired and planning your project. Really give yourself time to take a look at what you already have and any gaps that might be crying out to be filled. Whether you’re in need of staples like a workaday pullover or you want to shake things up with a really artistic piece, this is all about focusing on your own individual needs, wants, and dreams. Make moodboards, if that inspires you. Shop for materials and notions.

The parameters for the wearble object(s) are extremely open: the project simply has to be anything you can wear, clothing or accessories, and all types of crafting are acceptable: knitting, sewing, crochet, embroidery–all are welcome.


Time to start your handmade wearable object: a piece or more to add to your wardrobe!


Finish up your wearables and post photos in the FO thread. We’ll be most inspired if you can photo them with you wearing them.

Come chat!

We’re curious about lots of things related to a handmade wardrobe, and we know that community support is going to be a big part of seeing this project through. Everyone will be getting together in the Curious Handmade Ravelry Group to share, ask questions, offer advice, and cheerlead each other through the whole process.

Official chatter thread

FO thread

We’ll be asking questions, where we can dig deeper into every aspect of creating a handmade wardrobe. Whenever you decide to jump in, feel free to answer them with us! We’ll update this post as the questions are posted.

  1. First, why are you thinking about this and going to take on the challenge? (added 8/8/15)

That’s all the details for now! We’re really excited to see where this challenge takes us.