Wear Your Knits: the Rule of Thirds

In a couple of recent posts (here and here) I shared examples of how I create outfits with my handknit garments. In this post I want to share a tip I often use when putting together outfits with handknits: the rule of thirds. This rule of thumb is based in a concept called the golden ratio.

The golden ratio, is a concept that is used frequently in art, architecture, design, and photography. Here is an illustration, using what is known as a golden rectangle. The golden ratio occurs when the ratio of side a to side b equals the ratio of the total length a+b to side a. (In case you’re interested, the golden ratio is also closely related to the Fibonacci sequence of numbers, which converges toward the golden ratio.)

A rectangle with a square and smaller rectangle inside. The square has side length a and the smaller rectangle has short side length b.

Numerically, the ratio is equal to approximately 1.618. So proportions of 1/3 to 2/3 are close to this ideal ratio, but so are proportions of 2/5 to 3/5. This means you can also break an outfit into fifths (even though we call it the rule of thirds). Any proportion that is near the golden ratio will appear harmonious to the eye, and the asymmetry creates more movement for the eye than an outfit that is divided in halves.

Using the Rule of Thirds in Outfits

Here is an example of how I use the rule of thirds in my outfits, using the Suora tee. The top is about 1/3 the total length, and the pants about 2/3.

An outfit that illustrates the rule of thirds. The top is approximately 1/3 the lenght of the outfit and the wide leg pants 2/3.

The rule of thirds doesn’t have to apply to every garment in an outfit. If I were to add a cardigan or jacket to this outfit, which I frequently do on cooler mornings, it could be longer than the top and your eye would still register the underlying top-to-pants proportion. You can play with this proportion by tucking in your top, or wearing a cropped sweater over a longer layer underneath. If you’d like to see some other outfit examples, check out this post.

I also use the rule of thirds in designing garments. Below is a photo of my Campus Cardigan sample. As the arrows show, the length of the lower dark gray section of the body is approximately 2/3 the length of the upper medium gray section, or 2/5 of the overall length. The sleeves are the reverse – the dark gray section is approximately 2/3 the length of the sleeve. (The medium gray section is the same length as the medium gray section from the armhole to the top of the stripe on the body, so that the stripes line up when the sweater is worn. But I digress.)

Flatlay of a colorblock sweater illustrating the rule of thirds. The dark gray lower portion of the sweater body is approximataly 2/3 the length of the upper lighter gray portion.
The rule of thirds applied to sweater design. The lower dark gray section of the sweater body is approximately 2/3 the length of the upper medium gray section.

It goes without saying there are no hard and fast rules. Wear whatever looks good to you. But if your knits are stuck in your closet because you can’t figure out how to pair them up with your other garments, the rule of thirds can be a handy trick to help you create outfits you’ll be confident wearing.

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Wear Your Knits – the Suora Tee

This is the second post in my series on how I style my handknit garments. In the first post I wrote about styling my Composure Cardigan. Today, I’ll show you how I wear my Suora tee.

Suora is knit in 100% linen yarn, and makes a versatile T-shirt type wardrobe piece. It can also be worn with a variety of ease, depending on your preference. In the photos I am wearing the sample size (98 cm / 39 inches), which is about 4 inches of ease in my upper chest and 0 inches of ease in the full bust. One of these days I plan to knit myself a larger version to wear more oversized.

How I Wear the Suora Tee

My favorite way to wear Suora is with wide-leg linen or linen-blend pants.

Another favorite outfit is Suora with a midi-length skirt.

A middle-aged white woman stands in the foreground wearing a calf-length chambray skirt and a handknit striped peach and white linen tee with sandals.

Choosing Colors

If you’ve been following this series you may have noticed that I have a lot of denim and chambray in my wardrobe. They make a perfect neutral to wear with many different pieces. I tend to prefer wearing neutrals with a single piece in a bright or rich color or print. One trick I use is to keep a pretty consistent color palette, so that I can easily mix and match pieces. I have just a few pieces in other statement colors to make it interesting.

Stay tuned next week for some tips on how to put together an outfit using your handknits. I hope to continue adding to this series in the future. In the meantime, I’ve started a Pinterest board with handknit outfit ideas.

Purchase Suora Pattern

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A gray handknit sweater, showing a repair made to the hem, rests on a table in the foreground, with a black notebook in the background.

Mending a Sweater Hem

As spring arrives, some of my most-loved winter knits have seen some wear and tear. I’ve accumulated a small mending pile, including one of my favorite sweaters – the Poet sweater by Sari Nordlund (see it on Ravelry), knit in local Jacob wool yarn from Avillion Farm.

The hem of the sweater had unraveled a bit, so I thought I’d share how I mended it. Here is a before photo. As you can see, the bind off had come undone, and a bit of unraveling had occurred.

Before the repair

For the repair, I used locking stitch markers, a small-diameter crochet hook, and a circular needle approximately the size the sweater was knit with.

The first thing I did was to catch the live stitches – locking stitch markers are handy for that. I then used the crochet hook to ladder up the stitches that had run – you can do it from either the knit or purl side, but I often find it easier to work from the knit side.

I managed to get a bit of video of this process. You’ll notice that I use a second crochet hook to grab the stitches I’ve already fixed, and then I transfer them onto a second locking stitch marker. ((Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera set up quite right and all the work is going on in one corner, but you can still watch how I ladder up the stiches and place them on the stitch marker.)

Laddering up and catching the stitches

Once all the stitches were secure, I attached new yarn (fortunately I had a bit of the same yarn left over) and bound off the stitches once more. Now all that’s left is to weave in the ends! As you can see in the photo at the top, my sweater looks good as new.

The ribbed hem of a handknit sweater, repaired, with ends yet to be woven in.
Sweater hem after repair

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Photo shows a knitted swatch with a textured pattern in light gray yarn.

Wear Your Handknits: The Composure Cardigan

A friend recently suggested I do a post on how I style my knits. Since I talk a lot about designing and making projects that really fit into your wardrobe, I thought such a post was was long overdue!

We’ve had a lot of back and forth this spring between warm and cool weather, and open cardigans like the Composure Cardigan are a go-to layer for me when it turns chilly again. It’s perfect as a casual layer with jeans and a tee or buttondown:

I also like to wear it over a dress, for a bit more elegance. I throw on a cowl if it’s particularly chilly or windy in the morning, which I can easily remove as the day warms up.

A middle-aged woman stands outdoors wearing a handknit light gray textured cardigan with a chambray shirtdress, ankle boots, and a textured gray handknit cowl.

Buy the Pattern

I’m already planning another post on styling warmer-weather knits. What patterns would you like to see me wear?

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A pile of handknit items in shades of gray, red and blue rests on a table.

Washing Your Woolens

I’ve been washing some of my design samples to get them ready for Carolina Fiber Fest next weekend. I’m doing a designer showcase from 12-12:20 on Saturday March 12, so if you’re local to me please stop by and say hi! More information is available on the Carolina Fiber Fest website.

Anyway, I thought it would be a great time to talk about washing all those precious woolly handknits. One of the benefits of wool is that it’s naturally antimicrobial and doesn’t need to be washed all that often. However, it’s important to wash your woolens if you plan to put them away during the warmer months, as moths feed on the bits of skin, crumbs, or other debris on your clothes (they aren’t actually interested in the wool itself!).

So, how to was your handknits without shrinking or felting them? To start with, as you’ll know if you’ve been following my breed study posts, not all wools are equally feltable. Down and down-type breeds are often resistant to felting, and cashmere and alpaca also don’t felt as readily as some wools. And, of course, there are the wools that are treated to be machine-washable.

If you’re washing something more easily felted, use a gentle soak, avoiding agitation, and avoid shocking your wools with drastic temperature changes, especially going from hot to very cold water. You can, however, wash your woolens in pretty hot water without danger.

To wash by hand or machine? Many newer machines, especially front-loaders have a wool setting, and I’ve been testing mine out recently. I used to wash my superwash wool socks in a regular cycle with my other clothes, but lately I’ve been doing a wool-only cycle using my machine’s wool setting, and I’ve even been including some non-superwash items. And they’ve come out just fine.

Now, you may not want to try this with your special heirloom knits – I’m still wash many things by hand – but for everyday things like socks you might want to try the machine. Some knitters want to get away from superwash wool yarns for environmental reasons, and being able to care for these knits more easily can encourage that. If you’re considering trying the wool cycle on your machine, the best thing to do is to wash your swatch – yet another good reason to swatch your knits!

Do you wash your handknits in the washing machine? Let me know in the comments.

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