In the past, I’ve struggled with matching my knitting desires up with what I actually wear. I’ve made a lot of progress since then, and here’s how I plan a project using my current wardrobe to guide me.
If starting with a pattern (or design idea as is usually my case), I first consider the silhouette of the pattern before anything else. I try to imagine outfits I could make using the new knit and clothing I already own. Can I come up with at least two or three? Does it fit well with the kinds of outfits I usually wear? If I can’t come up with any outfits, then the sweater doesn’t fit easily in with my wardrobe, and it’s time to rethink the project. I’ll try to pick out the elements I really like about a design and figure out an alternative that’s more versatile than my first choice but contains what I like. (Sometimes I’ll say whatever and knit my first choice anyway, but that’s not the best thing to do if wardrobe building is the goal.)
Included in the silhouette question is if the fiber and weight are right for my lifestyle. Since I moved to gloomy Seattle, I can wear pretty much any weight and fiber, but when I lived in California, I had fewer opportunities to wear heavy pieces in warm animal fibers, so I had to be pickier about the fibers and weight. Bulky sweaters were right out!
If the silhouette works with how I like to dress, it’s then time to pick a color. For everyday pieces, I like to look at what colors I wear most often and choose something that will go with most of them. If the knit will only go with a handful of outfits, I pull those pieces from my closet and try to find common colors that will go with all of them. I try really hard to not get lured in by yarn colors I don’t wear, so I try to focus on colors in my wardrobe and ignore all of the other pretty skeins. That’s easy with swatch cards when I’m at home (I have a Quince & Co card that has been super helpful), and if I’m going to the LYS, I’ve gone as far as carrying around a single clean shoe to match the color to skeins.
Last but not least, I have to think hard about whether or not I’d really wear the piece. It sounds strange to say that I have knit projects that go well with my wardrobe that I never wear, but that’s the truth. For me it comes down to how easily I can layer a jacket over it and the degree of twee. As cute as I find capelets, I try to avoid knitting them these days.
By giving equal importance to if I would wear something as much as I want to knit something, I’ve had much for successful knitting projects. It’s hard to get the balance right, and you have to understand your style and be realistic with yourself, but learning how to knit according to your wardrobe is definitely a skill worth working on!