Up one notch

A few months ago… or maybe a little longer than that, I had dinner with my mum, sister, mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. We took a few pictures, and they all looked great, and I looked… less great. I’ve never been good at that whole scene – outfits, hair, makeup. I do okay in the shoe department, thanks to a tiny little fetish for well made, totally comfortable shoes that look as good as they feel, but when it comes to the rest of it, I tend to be the lady wearing old jeans, a tee-shirt with a hole in it and mismatched (but very well made) knitted stuff.

I mentioned it to Joe, who usually looks similarly scruffy, and we decided somehow that we were going to take it up a notch. Joe bought three new shirts, and a jacket that doesn’t look like he got it at a thrift shop (but he did) and I started to think over how I could dress a little better. I’m a textile artist. That’s how I think of myself (and most of you) rather than simply a knitter. I’m interested in the fabrics I make, the shapes I construct with knitting… The more I thought it over, the more I thought that I should look like that – like a textile artist and writer, rather than like someone who rolled out of bed, grabbed enough clothing to stay warm and covered, and launched a day- Which is totally what I do, and I don’t see that changing, so the answer was to have better stuff to grab.  I’ve been working on it, little by little. Every time I need a new shirt, I spend a little more time choosing it, give a little more thought into how it all could eventually pull together into a wardrobe, instead of just a collection of stuff.

It turns out that the onset of winter is a really, really good time to start thinking about all of this, because mostly the “outfits” that I wear for the next six or seven months will all involve a coat. Pulling together a wardrobe that looks ok in public is a lot easier, if you only need to worry about coats. They delightfully cover the rest of what I’m wearing, so I have lots of time to think it over. I own three (almost four – I’m about to buy a new one) coats. This is a pretty low number for a Canadian, I think, considering that you’ll wear one every day for about 200 days a year. I have a light, waterproof coat, a warmish dress coat, and a warmer parka. (I’m saving up to buy a super-warm coat. I’ve been missing one for a year.) They are respectively lime green, autumn orange, and brown. (I’m thinking about black for the new one, but know that my mum disapproves of black on me, on account of my fair skin. She says it makes me look dead. I’m almost 50. I’m thinking about letting her opinion go a little. Sorry mum. I’ll wear a scarf- put a little colour by my face like you keep saying.) So last week when I realized that I had no mittens for this year and decided to do something about that, I did something radical. Instead of choosing yarn that I love and making mittens, I chose yarn that I loved that went with all my coats, and made mittens.

Behold! A pair of Cloisonee that match all my things. (Except possibly the hypothetical black coat. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.)

matchymittensup 2015-11-03

I love them on their own, but I love them with my coats even more.

matchymittens 2015-11-03

See that? One step closer to sort of well-dressed.  Then I needed a new cowl. (That is a total and absolute lie. I have about nine scarves and cowls. I am in no danger of freezing to death anytime soon, but only… um… all of them totally match my coats, so I needed a new one.) I wanted a specific colour, and while I was at Rhinebeck I went on a hunt, and came up with Watershed in Eastview. (God, I love those Harrisville Yarns.) Then I found a pattern I loved – Winterlong, and started knitting.

winterlongknit 2015-11-03

The thing took almost no time at all, and I love the result. I wanted something a great colour, sculptural… interesting to knit, but would reliably lie flat. A big cozy thing to wrap round my neck and keep out the wind and snow, and this project was perfect.

winterlongonleaves 2015-11-03

The thing knit up in a flash. It seems to me that it took longer to dry after it’s bath than it did to work it.

winterlongon 2015-11-03

I’m totally in love. It matches all of my coats perfectly, and about 3/4 of my wardrobe (if you can call tee-shirts and jeans a wardrobe, which I am)

winterlongofence 2015-11-03

and the best part? It matches the mittens.

matchymittenswinterlong 2015-11-03

I’m one step closer to being someone in an outfit – not just clothes. As long as I have a coat on, I’m good.


143 thoughts on “Up one notch

  1. I think as long as you stick with your tried-and-tested love of appliance colours, you should be absolutely fine. Love those Cloisonne, by the way, and they match perfectly with all of your coats (and probably most of the rest of your wardrobe, right?).

  2. Damn. Stop setting a good example for the rest of us – time spent getting well-dressed is time we could be spending knitting or spinning or weaving.

  3. While I’m not “someone in an outfit,” I would say that I’m pretty happy with how my style has evolved over the years. Like you, I enjoy a good pair of shoes. I rock a colorful scarf (sometimes handknit) almost every day. A while back I moved into a job that required me to take things up a notch and, honestly, it wasn’t too hard to do. The important thing is to follow Gilda Radner’s advice: “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.” Hmmm… I wonder if Gilda was able to wear wool?

  4. I think you’ve just perfectly illustrated one of the best things about being a knitter — when we need an accessory to match our wardrobe, we don’t have to waste time running around stores trying to find just the right thing. We just cast on and knit it!

  5. As long as you feel good in what you have on, it will look good. It’s an attitude thing. I was taught that by a friend who was 5 foot nothing and could carry off supermodel looks because she FELT good in them. That said, Winterlong is stunning and looks fabulous on you.
    I think that makes my point! (The mittens are just wicked cool. Must make some for my Montreal kiddies!)

  6. You are having a great hair day!

    I used to dress very fashionably, but then I had five kids. My clothing budget changed, my opportunities to go shopping changed, and my body changed. I recently made an attempt to take my clothing game up a notch. I’m still wearing jeans and a tee shirt a lot of the time, but I splurged on two pairs of nice jeans that fit and flatter my figure. It made a huge difference! That coupled with a few new tee shirts (that had a more interesting shape than your standard crew neck), and an interesting pair of flats, and I feel like I got a makeover. It wasn’t expensive either!

  7. How about a camels hair coat? It is warm (especially with a quilted lining), classic, classy, and not black. The warm beige color looks very nice with most fall colors, which I’ve noticed are a staple for your wardrobe.

    Plus it would match your new mittens.

    • Ivory or winter white would match as well and is a nice canvas for any hand knits that don’t match the others. Like blue. A nice blue-with-a-hint-of-green cowl would look amazing with your hair. 🙂

    • I second the camels hair coat idea – a rich tan/maize color would go with the other coat colors and the scarf and mittens. Best to stick with one color group so you don’t need multiple wardrobes. Mine used to be black, but as I’ve gotten older, it’s softened to gray…

  8. PS. My friend just told me about the free personal shopper service at Nordstrom stores. It is by appointment. All you do is tell the your assistant what you like and your budget. They pull a bunch clothes for you to try on and buy (or don’t buy). No pressure. No flipping through racks of clothes. No stress.

    • I utilized that service last year and it ROCKED. I was nervous the “stylist” might try to push me into things I didn’t like but she was great. I hated the 1st outfit I put on and when I showed her she immediately said: “Oh my god, take that off right now!” From then on we were sympatico. I might have to do it again soon!

  9. While my ‘style’ is jeans and a t-shirt, I do work that can get me dirty most days, so I’m good with that most days. I do however care a goodly amount about color on me and as a very fair skinned gal, your mum is right on the black. Hunt up a navy coat if at all possible. Navy has almost all the benefits of black except it is warmer near light skin. Chocolate brown is also very good, but harder to find.

      • Agreed! I, too, am a light skinned woman with dark red-blonde hair now shading into gray, and I (who am not at all clever about clothes) learned a while ago that navy works so much better than black anywhere near my face.

        • what about navy? Not quite as dark as black and looks superb with all other colors. Although the camel sounds great too.

          P.S. Thank you for the personal shopper advice!

  10. When I saw you in Hot Springs, Arkansas you looked very put together. I was very jealous of your cute bicycle shirt. And I seem to remember it being a button down, not a tee!

  11. That’s why I love being Canadian. “As long as I have a coat on, I’m good.” (The hot Okanagan summers kill me, though.)

  12. I’ve found that if I want to feel “put together”, I wear three pieces: top, jeans (mostly I wear jeans) and something else – a nice sweater, a vest, an indoor jacket of some sort (a jeans jacket, a plaid wool shirt or similar button-up shirt). Extra credit is a scarf or jewelry. It helps if one of your three pieces has a pattern. The simplest way is to wear jeans, a solid long-sleeve t-shirt and a patterned third item that coordinates with the t-shirt. T-shirts are cheap and come in lots of solid colors, then you can be more creative with that third piece. If the third piece is patterned, different colors of shirts change up the look and create more outfits. Good shoes bring the jeans up a notch, so you’re already ahead of the game there. Anyway, that’s my “uniform”. 🙂

    • I’m taking notes! My hubby ( a Canadian) is always telling me tha layers look best, but I grew up in the south, and we didn’t wear any more clothes than necessary, so I’m not educated in layers. These are great tips.

  13. It seems to me those mittens and that cowl should go well with a couple of sweaters, Gwendolyn and Miss Babs (I think) come to mind. Sweaters are great instead of jackets if it isn’t windy. I said earlier that the yarn for the cowl was a perfect mix of your colours, and now that I see it with the mittens, I’m convinced.

  14. I’m also a believer in good quality and comfortable shoes (although the bulk of mine are hose-off-able due to the nature of alpaca poop), and my version of dress up is normally digging for a pair of jeans that doesn’t have holes or bleach stains. I also seem to have a ridiculous amount of evening dresses, go figure, but very little (ok, nothing) that falls in between. Now that the whole mom situation is settling down, I’m about to renew my real estate license which a) will require me to be around people that may not be a fan of my signature scent Eau de Barn, and b) means I also have to up the wardrobe game on a shoestring budget. In a nutshell, I feel your pain. On the other hand, I’m feeling good about the coat situation but have a feeling I’ll have to take it off indoors for closings and meetings unless I decide to be ok with looking like I’m in a terminal hurry to leave.

  15. Looking good! More than good, actually. I’m inspired to do some of the same after reading Cintra Wilson’s “Fear and Clothing” (did you catch the review in the Globe?) According to her, “your true beauty is found by boldly striding down the most daringly personal catwalk that you allow yourself to explore”. Worth reading, whether you’re a knitter or not.

  16. Well, I love the mittens and cowl. Beautiful work! That being said, I held my breath reading through this post. I was so positive that you were going to knit a coat and I am not sure I could live through that. I am breathing normally now so don’t worry about me. And, oh yes, the coat outfit system works great, just don’t go into any warm houses that require you to take off your coat.

    • My grandmother knit a coat out of mohair, and when it was all finished didn’t like something about it– maybe the fit — and RIPPED IT ALL OUT (did I mention it was mohair???) and re-knit it. Fortunately, she was only about 5 feet tall.

      • I’ve got a story that almost tops that (except for the fuzzy nature of mohair). My grandmother crocheted a queen-size bedspread out of THREAD and then decided she didn’t like it, and started ripping it up. My mom managed to snag a couple of pieces – great table runners. Don’t know what Grandma Mary made instead.

  17. My Mom was Finnish, so blonde and very fair. She hated black. I don’t know what it says about me, or my relationship with my Mom, but at 65, I don’t even know how many black things are in my closet. A pair of black pants and shoes, and off ya go!
    However, my mostest favorite coat is below the calves Navy Blue. Jeans, and shoes stick out at the bottom, and ANY color of scarf works at the top.
    Steph, you are I are similar in tastes, though. Wish I could find more brown – tops at least.

  18. I am in the same “stuff” boat. My problem is money. If I want something, it has to be made. So, out come the loom once we close on the new house and..WEAVE what I want and need.

  19. I’m using my need for nicer, yet somewhat stylish, outfits as an excuse to knit myself some nice, lightweight tops (I’m in Georgia – I need wool sweaters about once a year). It’s going well so far.

  20. I spent a fair bit of time last year looking at what I knit and actually wear, and decided that brighter knits were the way to go. So now I have a winter uniform: dark jeans (or perhaps black pants), grey v-neck shirt (I own 12 of them), a brightly colored sweater over the whole thing, and brown boots. I have never had anyone notice that all I wear is grey v-necks, but a lot of people compliment me on my sweaters.

  21. A t-shirt and jeans totally count as a wardrobe. I prefer to think they focus the attention on the fantastic knitwear. Anyway that is my story and I’m sticking to it.

  22. agree with those saying NO to black. Deep chocolate brown is my dream, good luck in finding it though… Of course, I live in Florida and my wardrobe has consisted mostly of skirts made (by me) using up some of my quilting fabric and “Life is Good” tee shirts that come in some yummy, yummy colors (and happen to match my skirts – go figure!) I do try and get the v neck ones to be a tab more dressy than the crew necks but…. and Birkenstock shoes… Like I said, live in Florida…

  23. That cowl colour totally looks good on you. If it had a teeny black edge it would look like a wild animal and also look good with the future black coat. Maybe you should knit another?

  24. I agree with Jamie about a Camel’s hair coat,and maybe you could get black out of your system with a black scarf (too close to the face, true, but would look so stylish!) Try on a few black coats just to see what your mom (who knows and loves you better than anybody) is talking about. Or buy a black coat and wear lots of makeup. Or the black scarf with the camel coat with lots of makeup. Help!…I can’t stop.

  25. What about charcoal grey instead of black? Still chic, neutral, but much more flattering for those of us with vampire (aka “alabaster”) skin. Like you can see when I have a migraine because the veins appear on my forehead fair skin.

  26. Steph, listen to your Mother’s good advice about the black coat. Black isn’t for everyone and if it isn’t right for your coloring, you would never be really happy with it, no matter what color scarf you wear with it. A coat is a big expanse of fabric. The above commenters had some lovely alternative color choices: navy, dark brown, red, etc.
    My coloring takes well to black and dark, deep colors…but come summer I wish I could wear the pale blue and soft pinks and yellows. We cant have it all, can we ?!

  27. Well it seems we all tend to dress alike. I go for comfy and durable for work which translates to jeans and shirts or long sleeve shirts. Most of the time I work form home. If I want to get dressed up I wear a necklace or a shawl (handknitted of course) or a business style shirt. In cold weather, my favorite outfit is overalls with a cashmere sweater. Soft, warm, and hugable.

    Since you have coats in so many different colors, a really warm one in a neutral color sounds good. When I have met you for classes, I was happy you have chosen to wear what you like and to be comfy while presentable. Part of you being an artist is you don’t look like a cookie cutter version of everyone else.

    Thanks for making us realize how similar we all are no matter where we live.

  28. Lovely mittens and cowl! I’m totally with you on the “wardrobe” issues – I am a baker who works from home. Who am I supposed to impress? I’ve got a chef’s coat, end of story. 😉
    PS – love that photo of you in your lime green jacket!!

  29. I can’t wear much black. Something about the olive tone to my skin; it looks awful on me. I have found that gray, any shade of gray is awesome. I know that won’t really resolve the fact that your mittens won’t match (but perhaps provides a good excuse to make yourself another pair?), but it may be a compromise with your mother. Also, lint and the like doesn’t show up nearly as much.

    I can not wake up enough to spend much time worrying about my clothes. My solution is to make sure that everything in my drawer looks good on me. If I come home and think “is that what I looked like all day?” it goes straight in the donations pile. Or the trash if the problem is that I’ve worn it in to a shapeless, pilled mess. Something I do far too often.

  30. “The answer was to have better stuff to grab” are words to live by. But does that mean I need to knit more mittens, because my (super warm) orange ones: 1) don’t match my red coat; and 2) don’t actually match each other; and 3) really don’t match my hat. And I wear a lot of black. Go For It.

  31. I agree with the above about the black coat. It doesn’t go with the other things you wear, for one thing. And I suspect, not with your coloring, since you look great in the clothes you choose. When you go to buy a coat, put it on, then look in a mirror. If what you see at first glance is the coat, it’s not the right color for you. If you see your face, and then the coat, buy it, assuming everything else works (size, fit, price, comfort, etc). For many, many years, my wardrobe was updated at Christmas with clothes my mother bought me, generally in colors she liked that didn’t particularly look good on me. I make better choices now.

  32. So, love the cowl, love the mittens. And yes, one notch up! Congrats!
    But the original thing you mentioned was that you didn’t look good indoors with your mother and sisters. And the coat/mittens/cowl thing won’t help there.
    My advice is to work top down. Start with the tops (blouses you mentioned, good!), and accessories like earrings/necklaces and scarves for indoors. Then once you have those, you can tackle the bottom half (you’ll know what things need to match together.
    Black coat – just no. It doesn’t go with your wardrobe “home” colors.

  33. May I recommend you visit a local designer’s storefront Mandala Designs?
    St clair west between Oakwood and Dufferin.
    Her clothes used to be in Fresh Collective stores as well.
    Slightly vintage vibe, interesting patterns, and comfortable shapes which suit many body shapes.
    I also really needed to improve my wardrobe and now proudly sport clothes made in my neighbourhood.

  34. As a fair skinned, light eyes, dark haired Irish girl with family roots in Nova Scotia- I have to agree with your mum- we look deathly in black. A jewel tone will save us as long as it’s vibrant against the black- think more purple and raspberry than emerald and chocolate. As for ‘outfits’ – work your shoe fetish and rock older jeans, cuffed just so, with ankle booties, wear a size aller fitted tee and a great scarf. Instant style. I’ve met you in person and think you have a fantastic shape- I bet your mum agrees. My personal goal for the parka season is to have full ‘sets’ as well, so I look more handmade than homemade 🙂

  35. Tees, polos, jeans and Birks. You’re my kind of woman, Stephanie. My work-life wardrobe consisted of scrubs and sensible footwear. Guess I’ve traded one uniform for another, but I do own one LBD for when my back’s to the wall, and lots of scarves and earrings to dress it up or down. Love the cowl and mittens!

  36. If you get a black coat, get some more of the mitten-yarn and make a scarf with the Cloisonee pattern at the ends. Your accessories will match each other and the coat will become background.

    Maybe make a matching hat, too.

  37. I know I’m not the only one of your devoted fans who dearly wish you’d shift over just a bit from your favoured colours of orange and brown and other dead-weeds hues, but we also know, Steph, that it’s not going to happen.

    I had a dear friend (jazz saxophone player) years ago who just got TIRED of dealing with “outfits” and went to *black* only. Black pants, socks, shirts, hats, vests, jackets, coats — if it wasn’t black he got rid of it. Everything matched. Every day. Period. Even besides the fact your mum would lock you in a closet, I still don’t recommend you go THERE. (I’d settle for a little less brown, though …)

    The Cloisonné mittens just charm me silly, and I’m not even a fan of mittens. I may have to knit up a pair for myself just because I so love the pattern.

    BUT … regarding the “get it together” part of one’s appearance (and I’m a decade ahead of you here), my sis tipped me off to an invaluable tool/trick a few years back, and that is the February hair salon visit. She and I were both born in February, and it’s just about at that point in the winter when you are surrounded with all the choices on the BLAH menu, and thus it the perfect time to go fetch a pick-me-up in the form of good haircut and perhaps a little touch of color. Sis and I subscribe to the “never fear the grey” hair theory, but just a few tiny slivers of a little color (for me it’s chestnut, copper, and banana-blonde streaks) will brighten your hair, your appearance, and your attitude just immeasurably. A little perk-me-up at just the stage of winter when you desperately need one.

    Put a little sparkle in your hair, it puts a little sparkle in your step, and your smile, your attitude, and thence your so-called “wardrobe” (and my wardrobe’s so similar to yours we could be identical twins).

    Now, let’s see, where’d I put those mitten-size needles?
    Kelly in Oregon.

    (Can you hear the grumbling-and-muttering from 2700 miles away? The Dalles is just 4 hours from here, but work schedule does not allow. damndamndamndamn.)

    • “dead-weed hues” hahaha! couldn’t agree more. I know we all have different tastes, and that the colors I love may strike others as garish or just too much, but it baffles me to see ardent knitters churning out so many dull brown things. More color, please! Or not… never mind, I’ll just go knit all the pretty colors myself.

  38. I laughed all through this! I live in jeans and tee shirts or sweatshirts, and for work I have all black slacks and just enough basic tops to get me through. My job just announced those of us who don’t deal with the public can start wearing jeans everyday, not just Fridays. I am so happy!
    I have two light coats (black and turquoise) and a blue heavy coat. I’ve been picking through my stash this week looking for yarn that will go with them for scarfs.
    I just started reading your blog and I really enjoy it. Thanks!

  39. Story of my life! Trying to buy nicer shirts too, but so far I think I’ve only managed to think about what a good idea it would be knit matching accessories. your mittens and cowl do look fantastic! Way to shake things up.

  40. My mum said the same thing to me about black. My daughter, on the other hand, said (as I was packing my one suitcase for 3 months in Europe), “Take black, Mum – it goes with everything.” I gave her Nana’s line and she gave me The Look and said: “There is more than ONE black, Mum!” Who Knew??? I now have a wardrobe of stuff near my face based on what I call a “full” black – think black velvet – and feel fantastic in every piece of it. Daughter on the other hand, wears a greyer black and my s-i-l’s black has greenish undertones. More than one black – try ’em all and make sure you try ’em in daylight as well as artificial lights.

  41. Listen to your mom. Most people don’t look good in black and if you are trying to up your game as a textile artist, you should look good in your choice. Go for navy or charcoal or gunmetal grey. Take an honest friend and pick out a classic, non-black coat.
    Your cowl and mittens are lovely. My dress mittens are black leather -yours are much more fun.

  42. Black makes me look like death on a cracker. Sad, but true. Listen to your mother. I agree with some of the previous comments suggesting charcoal or camel as being easier to wear. You might also try a dark aubergine or midnight blue. Good luck staying fashionably warm as the temperatures grow colder!

    • Ooooooh, dark Aubergine sounds lovely. And btw, Lands End has lovely, reasonably priced coats usually in great color choices.

  43. Having a personal shopper has largely solved this problem for me. I would live in one pair of jeans and an old t-shirt, but we really can try to do better, can’t we. Having someone who knows my wardrobe and understands my shape and lifestyle has made all of the difference. And while I am still not into the whole thing, getting a professional involved was a major, major improvement!

  44. You look wonderful, and I am so envious of your hair. I need to follow your example. I used to be really good at all of the hair, makeup, and clothes. I need to up my effort on that. Too many years of not working outside the home can take their toll.

  45. It reminds me of a few years ago when one of your daughters asked you for a matching knitwear set like one you buy. I think you did black and white or blue and white for her. Pointy mittens is what I remember most. Love he cowl!

  46. I followed the link to your Cloisonee pattern, and it looks a little different from the photo here of your new mittens. I really like these that look like polka dots; maybe I can get the pattern and figure out how this is different…

  47. Such an experience to read this; it made me laugh first, then feel like crying but not quite, because I’ve met you a couple of times, and what I noticed about you is first your face, because you have an incredibly kind and attentive face (no matter how sheep-faced I might be), and second all I see is your hands because you are talking and KNITTING AT THE SAME TIME. Never noticed the clothes one way or the other.

  48. I was recently going through a wardrobe upgrade myself and found a couple of online resources that were just invaluable. You should know that a) I don’t want a ton of stuff, I want less stuff that’s quality and goes together and b) I hate shopping and corporate fashion. So these links are geared toward that view (minimalist quality wardrobes that you maintain and keep for a long time). Maybe you will find them helpful as well.



    The best part about knitting is that you can make accessories that pull almost any color combinations together. For example, I have a taupe coat and a grey suit. They didn’t go until I made a taupe and grey scarf. Now I look like I planned it (as opposed to having found the coat at Burlington really cheap and them not having other colors in my size).

    As for the black coat thing, I think your mother should have nothing to do with it. Either buy a black coat because you love it and want it or don’t buy a black coat because you don’t like the color on you. Make your very own decision like a grown woman has a right to.

  49. I think this picture of you is a keeper. The hair is good, the glasses don’t have a glare or distortion,
    the cowl makes a nice frame and green is good to you. Back drop of your favorite colors doesn’t hurt either. You do have photogenic stockinged feet. My mother’s family really looks great in action, not so great in photographs.

  50. Don’t go with the black! Your mother is right.

    Try before you buy, and look in a few different lights, I don’t think you will be able to carry the black.

    I’ll go with the “have nicer things to grab” idea, going back into a work environment has been a bit of a challenge for me.

  51. I agree with your Mum, “DO NOT BUY THE BLACK”!!
    If if makes you look dead than no amount of makeup will help. If you wear “Your” colours you won’t need to put on makeup. Ask me how I know.

  52. Just one thing. Just one little tiny flaw in an otherwise splendid plan. I thought about not mentioning it, and then I decided … mention it. You know all those pictures of you and your Mum and sisters-in-law and so on? Were they all taken outdoors? Because if they weren’t, you’re going to have to take your coat off. Just sayin’

  53. The older I get the more I think black in winter is a bad idea. Not due to your mother’s opinion on it suiting you, but more due to the fact that it is a good deal easier for drivers to see a person in a light colored (bright is even better) coat than in a dark one.

    • Agreed – even though I can wear black, dark winter coats are so hard to see in the dark – which is 16 hours out of every 24 where I live. I knit a hat out of reflective yarn which is Acrylic and nylon. It is scratchy and not very warm, but it does reflect light, so I hope that drivers can see me better when I am walking my dog. I am tempted to knit a reflective shawl to throw on over my back and shoulders to make me even more visible. 🙂

      As for my style, I am trying to get away from jeans all the time. At this age and stage of my life, I am so thankful that high waisted pants are finally available again. No more muffin tops for me! So I wear grey or black dress pants with long sleeved tees or plain blouses, which serve as the base under my hand knit sweater of the day.

  54. Colour me Beautiful style and colour consultancy was worth every penny when I got to your stage.
    Saved me a fortune in time and money. Makes shopping so easy. I just walk past the racks of stuff I know don’t suit me or are the wrong colour.

    Black can be tricky with your palette. Maybe try dark brown, navy or charcoal grey?

  55. I have two contrary things to say.

    1. Listen to Denny – no grey in winter. I reckon this includes black clothes, in your weather.

    2. Your new mittens would look AWESOME as a contrast to a black coat, especially if you wore your brown boots as well.


  56. You look fantastic in those colors. Before you invest in a black coat, try a black t shirt or something else that is less of an investment. If it’s wrong for you, you’ll know it. I will share a tip from my curly-haired d-I-l who has 2 curly daughters, too. Try washing your hair with conditioner only! Curly hair tends to be dry, so just try it. Run your fingers through it to de-tangle, and then just let it dry. No brushing, no hair dryer. If you want to go nuts with the upgrade, you could scrunch a little something into it after it dries. It works great for her and looks amazing!

  57. That’s really odd. Both my mother and I are really rather pale (well, by standards of where I grew up, anyway – I seem to fit in well in Scotland), but I’ve never heard anything about black being less than ideal for either of us (she has dark hair, mine is light).

    As for the general topic, I think I mostly just cheat by virtue of being drawn to all of about one and a half colours. Everything in my wardrobe that’s not black/jeans is extremely likely to be purple (with a couple of red exceptions). True, not all purples go together, but they all serve well as the only non-black/jeans piece in an outfit.

  58. Reading your post and reading thru the comments makes me think…I can’t wear black either, and have always wished I could, but here’s the thing – thinking about dark blue (navy, midnight, etc) – reminds me of painting. I was taught not to use black to paint shadow/darkness/night, but darker colors; makes the darkness richer, deeper….also enriches the colors around it….maybe wearing a black coat is just flat, where a dark blue would be richer, warmer, a better contrast for your scarves etc. A more ‘alive’ color. Black is good for pants, skirts, and shoes, but I would advise to go with the dark blue coat.

  59. I have found that navy blue is a flattering color for fair-skinned people, more so than black. I found this by accident, having once bought a navy blue bathing suit because it was the only one that fit right, and then deciding the color was very flattering. So you could try on a navy blue coat and see what you think.

  60. As a total jeans and t-shirt sort of girl I know exactly what you mean! I’m terrible at the whole outfit thing. Every once in a while I manage to pull it off but I always feel like a big faker. I’ve met you several times and had lunch with you at SOAR. Like some of the other commenters, all I noticed was your face and lightening fast hands. Your winter coat outfit is great! Good luck on your mission. I’m really looking forward to reading how you make out.

  61. It took me maybe 40 years or so to realize that when I am choosing yarn for a sweater that I should think not about what I love because the colors are so wonderfully saturated and cheerful or vibrate or whatever. When I do that I end up with a sometimes lovely garment but even if it fits I feel like a clown wearing it, because it’s just not my style.

    So for years I made hats and gloves etc then finally got it. Now, in the past two years I have made 2 sweaters (I’m really slow) – one a grayish blue, one dark brown (Harrisville Watershed makes dull colors exciting!) – that I actually wear and feel good about. Now I’m all GO NAVY – another Watershed cardigan in the works, in Nelson, that will go with everything I own. AND keep me warm.

    I have no connection with Harrisville except as an admirer.

  62. Get the black coat with no worries. Brown is a pseudo neutral and black is the epitome of neutral so your mittens and cowl will still go with the coat. I have fair skin, very dark hair and a black coat and I love how I look in it. You’ll look even better because your hair color warms it up 🙂 Keep looking fabu.

  63. Can I recommend Quartz parkas. They’re still made in Canada and some of their models come in Sunflower and Rusty, two colours that would look fabulous with your knitting. http://www.quartznature.com/en/vetement/kimberly-4/

    My sister bought Oliva in charcoal 2 winters ago and it is a fabulous coat. We live in Ottawa which gets every kind of weather and she takes the bus in the winter so much waiting around. I would absolutely buy one if I needed a new winter coat.

  64. I am siding with Mum here. Black is way overdone. You have been to NYC…it is like “BLACK NATION” there. I imagine that Toronto is probably the same (as are a lot of major metropolitan cities).

    And, as you age, your skin pales even more, so black near the face is NOT flattering. I am refusing to buy black tops.

    And the same with the little black dress! Go to any major event, and the women look like they all shopped at the same place.

    You should be closer, based on your prior comments about color, because I think you mostly buy the same colors over and over. Develop a wardrobe of cardigans and cowls to go with what you have…and gradually upgrade what you have. You can do it.

  65. I love the mittens and have bits of Cascade 220 to use up. Are the cuffs a bit loose? I was thinking of using a smaller needle for them.

  66. I just bought a brand new red wool coat from J Jill ($42 on a great sale) and my scarves and mittens/gloves do not match it at all (many are, in fact, PINK). But I love them. I intend to ignore my mother’s horrified voice in my head about coordinating and wear them anyway. I am sure I will eventually make some accessories to go with it. 🙂

    I hope you are feeling better!

  67. Yes that’s all lovely but where are the socks? You promised us sock photos a few days ago and I am having gift-time-sock-fever. Please help.

  68. Perhaps the fancy warm black coat deserves a fancy warm pair of black and ______ (insert favorite bright colour/s) stranded mittens?

  69. Two issues encouraged me comment. First, you sell yourself short — at the Strung Along Retreat, I thought your outfit was fab. That cowl you designed! I raced home and knit Oatmeal Stout. I wear it and receive compliments all the time. Thank you.

    Second, what is with all the people who hate black? I have lots of black coats and turtlenecks, and I’m a redhead. Almost all hand knits look great against black. I say go for the coat. There is nothing wrong with branching out.

    • Thank goodness. I was beginning to think I was the only fair skinned redhead who looks fabulous in black. (And, you know, bottle green but I don’t need to be a cliche every day).

  70. I’m actually with your mum. It seems like all of the colors that you naturally tend toward are more yellow-based and black tends to be blue-based. This suggest to me that a black coat will go with at best a small minority of your clothing, most likely the ones that tend to find themselves at the back of the drawer/closet.

    I recently had a similar revelation about my brown shoes: As I pared down my clothes that I didn’t really love, I figured out that the only reason I had four pairs of brown shoes and boots was because they went brilliantly with clothes that I don’t generally wear. My warmer-complected friends made out rather well.

    If you are interested in exploring the thoughts of someone who has given this way, way more thought than you or I, Doris Pooser wrote a book called Always in Style that is pretty excellent. Please excuse the hair; it was the 90s.

  71. Out here in BC it is important to have a raincoat for the winter too. Downtown it is a sea of black raincoats!! plus they show pet hair and are hard to see in the dark (when you are walking). I caved and got a navy one and a then green/brown patterned one. I prefer the green/brown one and your new cowl would match perfectly.. I love the pattern on you and have purchased it for some silky Illami in my stash.

  72. It is hard to work any colour of blue into a wardrobe of 70s appliance colours. I agree with camel or (daringly for a woman with a black cat) winter white,

  73. If you do get a black coat, black is a neutral so it will match your mitts! Most of the other colours of black-alternative coats that readers have been suggesting (camel, charcoal, navy) are also neutral. Bring your cowl and mitts with you when you go coat shopping. I think there’s nothing wrong with a black coat, the only downside is that most people have black coats so its a lot easier to get your coat from coat check/ the pile on someone’s bed/ etc. If your coat is the only (insert colour here) in the pile!

  74. Black is my favorite neutral – goes with everything and makes colors pop. Love your hair. Mine is so straight that I have helmet hair even when I’m not wearing a bike helmet! lol Wear what makes you feel happy and bugger everyone else!

  75. I’m a big fan of having a few key colors of plain 3/4 length sleeve tee shirts in the arsenal. They go over work slacks, jeans, patterned skirts, or solid colored boot skirts. You can throw a suit jacket, a cardigan, or a vest over them, and they’ll take a scarf or cowl really well. When you take your jacket off, you still look put together — it’s something about the length of the sleeves.

  76. I noticed your boots at Rhinebeck and have to say, I coveted them. They looked very comfy. I much prefer to be barefoot so I have a love hate relationship with shoes. At work, my office was in our bakery so I wore clogs every day for years. Just moved up to a new office in a different building and have been wearing “real” shoes and I’m crippled by the end of the day.

  77. As a person with autumnal colouring/preferences that likes to wear “outfits” rather than clothes, here are my thoughts and experiences:

    While I am not pale, my skintone likes autumn colours, which are – coincidentally – my favourites. Like your mother says about you, if I wear black next to the face, it makes me look dead. (At least to my eye.)

    That being said, this phenomenon hasn’t stopped me from wearing black. Because of the above mentioned reasons, I don’t like to wear nothing but black – but you only ever do that on funerals, don’t you? On most other occasions, there is some other colour between the black thing and my face. If not for warmth, that’s what shawls and scarves are for, if you ask me. Between my vintage, dressy orange coat (which I love) and my black coat (which is more of a workhorse), the black one gets worn the most. It just goes with everything.
    So if you want a black coat, go for it. You’ll always wear a neck thing anyway, won’t you?
    (I will advise against the navy coat. Blue just isn’t a colour that suits autumnal types better than black. It’ll make me look washed out just as black does, so I’ll only accept it as jeans. If you want a neutral colour, might as well go with the original.)

    My personal fashion advice: My outfits are mostly pulled together by colour. If you love autumnal colours, you’ll probably have lots of clothes in these colours anyway. Try to find the ones that go well together, combine, but don’t overdo it.
    A good combination is: 1 neutral (black, brown or even blue, if it’s in pants), 1 to 2 colours of the same family, and, if you like, 1 contrasting colour.
    You’re fine with jeans, black or brown pants. Those are great basics. Just pay attention to matching your t-shirt/top, sweater and accessory (and maybe your shoes) colour-wise, and you’re good to go.

    Hope that wasn’t way too long and a bit helpful…

    TLDR: black is ok if you wear a coloured neck thing, and colour is my personal key to a great outfit. 🙂

  78. I have a similiar problem, mostly I tell myself that it’s silly to spend money on clothes so I always buy them on sale. I am trying to tell myself that I don’t buy new clothes often and if something is well made and I like it then it doesn’t have to be in the sale section.

  79. I am also almost 50 and am slowly pulling my wardrobe together as well. While this in part involves investigating stores like Talbots and the Gap (and telling a friend that I thought midlife crises were supposed to be more interesting than that), it also involves knitting the fabulous Agata (http://www.knitty.com/ISSUEdf13/PATTagata.php) — now there’s a cosy, comfy, arty sweater that I can totally get into.

  80. Sorry I can’t read all the responses. Bravo for the new you!
    Thoughtful shopping pays off, and jeans and tees are the new ultra sophisticated/artsy choices. It might suit you to find a seamstress to sew custom for you–not as expensive as you might think, and you get a perfect fit. No, I’m not in the business but I am hard to fit. And, a fashion factoid I learned by accident from the “color season” people. They say that only three colors are flattering on almost everyone: navy blue, turquoise, and purple. A navy coat is slimming, dressy or not, and goes with black shoes or boots. I’m not sure how any of these colors would go with your accessories, but you can knit one more set, and get a second look benefit while your mainstays are in the wash?
    Have fun. I had a turquoise quilted coat that was toasty warm and made me unlosable in a snow drift, a cheerful winter thought.

  81. Check out MissusSmartyPants.com for tips on improving your personal style, using what you have, and filling in the gaps in your wardrobe to make everything work together. Once you’re set you don’t have to give it much thought, it all just works.

  82. I have found the Vivienne Files blog to be a great way to think about palette and functionality. She draws inspiration from photos, art, etc. She admits she illustrates with high end items because their images are eaiser to find, but encourages one to stick to ones budget.

  83. Not that you asked for advice, but my favorite thing to look dressed but not ‘done up’ is brown lipstick. Go have a cosmetics counter help, and splurge the $35!!! for a tube. Mine is essentially the same tone as my lips, but a little richer, and not glossy. Mahogany is the closest colour I can think of. Helps define your face when winter sucks all the colour from your lips, and isn’t so much you fell self-concious. It also isn’t so prone to make your teeth look yellow by comparison, the way a red would.

    I personally have a weakness for strappy little heels paired with a tailored (knee-length or just below) skirt, or even a swishy skirt. In fall I practically live in a green sweater dress, or this tweedy skirt that matches 3 or so of my tops. Throw in some of the shoes you love and outfits! For days!

    Also, I agree about the black coat for you. I vote for camel or Olive.

  84. Wait! What happened to the post apocalyptic wire shawl look? I loved it at the time, but I suppose it’s far from warm in the scheme of things.

    I say wear what makes you happy – my rule is never buy anything that you don’t love. Of course, it helps if it matches what you already have…

  85. I had to laugh about your mother’s opinion about you in black. Mine was the same, said I was ‘too pale’ to wear black. I think I was approaching 50 by the time I discovered that I look fabulous in black. You should give it a try.

  86. Dear Stephanie, I hope you will fogive my being rude. May I be frank? I honestly do not think your gorgeous cowl matches the lime green jacket, at least not in that photo.
    The cowl is a warn orangey-green and lime is a cool yellow-green.
    And since your whole post is about changing your wardrobe, may I suggest something? I think you might benefit from a color typing from a good consultant.
    Starting from the fact that you a textile artist, know what you are doing and consistantly use autumn colours for yourself, I strongly suspect you to be an autumn. The consultant would confirm that, explain why that is, which colours to avoid and why and give a handy littly colour card to take shopping with you.
    This makes you avoid those outliers, the garments that hang in your closet, bought on a whim, because you thought you ought to get out of your comfort zone, because they were on sale. You know, the ones you only wear when everything else is in the wash and that match nothing?
    And you learn to find the few possibilities, the few tones of blue that do not make an autumn look sick, for example.

  87. Just saw a pic from yesterday of Sophie Gregoire rocking a gorgeous winter white coat. IMHO that colour or a cream would look fabulous on you. Extra bonus, all of your existing Autumn-y stuff would go with it. Just watch for black cat fur (ask me how I know).

  88. You might want to check out The Vivienne Files. She has several post categories/labels that might interest: 4×4 wardrobes, starting from scratch, a common wardrobe, and whatever’s clean. She also regularly posts ideas, tips and examples about packing. It certainly helped me get a handle on my clothes.

  89. PLEASE PLEASE I need more details of those ‘well made, totally comfortable shoes that look as good as they feel’. I have hard-to-fit Size 11 feet, and am always on the lookout for the perfect, flat shoes. Thanks!

  90. Loving the colour coordination and the new cowl is wonderful.

    I imagine you in autumnal colours as they are the ones that zing with your colouring. Your mum has a point (don’t shoot me!) – those with autumn colouring (like you) look so much lovelier in browns /creams/ oranges/ greens than black. That’s not to say that you can’t. It’s just that you’ve always matched your knitting palette to your colouring so well…

    OK, sermon over. Enjoy your new coat, whatever you go for.

  91. I you don’t look good in black, DO NOT get a black coat. Brown is a much better “black” for us that need fall colors. When the weather is cold and grey, you need the last look in a mirror before you go out to lift your mood not lower it. (You might not take a last look in the mirror leaving home, but in is harder to miss a mirror doing a last look around leaving a hotel room.) Red is even a better mood picker-up.

  92. Black is elegant, no doubt, and goes with everything. But, please, oh please, don’t give in to the Black Coat Trend. It’s Canada, it’s dark in the winter, and you will be rendered invisible for much of the time, unless you only leave the house and return in daylight. Which in Toronto in the winter is not guaranteed to be sunny.
    You’re a self-described artist, go for colour! And no vehicle or year round bicycle commuter like myself, will miss you crossing the street like a moving black hole.
    Besides, look down the subway platform any winter day, and 96 people out of 100 will be wearing black. The other few will be in white, brown, gray or navy. With luck, you might see red once a day.
    Winter is dark and depressing enough. Don’t add to it. Please?

  93. You have got great legs, wrap them in warm tights, wool skirts and rock some boots. Three colors, mix and match colors for the tights, warm, long sleeve solids for the tops (no more than 3) and your 2 or 3 of your sweaters, you are good to go for pretty much all winter. Couple of pairs of warm pants or jeans and your wardrobe is complete. If you limit yourself to 3 colors, maybe 4, it makes life so much easier. Don’t forget silk long johns. They can double as jammies.

    You look lovely by the way. Have fun! So sorry I can’t see you at the Columbia Gorge Fiber Festival.

  94. I feel you. Here’s my approach as a 63 year old semi-retired provider of care to my grandchildren:
    1) Every fall and every spring I get my long straight hair trimmed. This keeps the split ends at bay and makes it look like at least I’m trying.
    2) Keep on hand in good repair about four pair of comfortable black pants with pockets. Not easy to come by but they are suitable for yoga, lunch with friends, dinner out with husband, and taking grandson to preschool. These are supplemented with a couple pair of jeans and some hiking pants.
    3) Always wear earrings. Usually gold hoops, sometimes more exotic.
    4) About twice a year, usually coinciding with the haircut, I go buy a couple of nice tops. Consignment shops or super discount department store sales. I hate the mall. I hate shopping. But twice a year I can love it.
    5) Of course, nice shoes that are comfortable and water resistant.
    And yet, sometimes I am there in my muddy sneakers and ripped hem jeans and stained tee shirt with a hoody. It’s just who I am.

  95. Love the Winterlong pattern you knit up. I so want to cast on but I am so close to finishing a couple WIPs. Maybe as a reward. 🙂

    Thanks for the inspiration.

  96. Steph, I just want to say that I’ve seen you in person at least twice and I love your genuine, natural, fit and healthy look. It is a great relief to have a role model whose ‘image’ or ‘appearance’ doesn’t have to be a #1 priority. When we all know it’s knitting! Or maybe knitting is #2 because we all know your family is tops!!

  97. I’m always certain that if my clothes don’t have paint on them, they are acceptable. It turns out that other people have different standards. This doesn’t bother me as much as it does them.

    Also – everything works with black. Everything. My neutrals include chartreuse, teal, really red, eggplant, and a very pale pink. Oh. And orange.

  98. I love stories of progress and transformation. If I may say, I hope you get a coat that is not black, because I think something in autumn colours will suit your hair and skin better and coordinate with the clothes you have.

    Texture is a detail to think about too, in regards to personal style. You often pick knitting projects with interesting texture or structure. Nubbly stuff, like garter stitch or the one row handspun scarf. A lot of the wool you choose is matte looking and medium-weight. And your hair has lovely curls. In contrast, nice clothing or formal clothing, the kind that makes a person look appropriate when going out for dinner, this is often smooth, fine or light-weight, even slick and shiny. I think it may take effort to translate your preferred textures into a wardrobe that makes you happy when out for dinner, because I can’t think of anywhere that sells textured but formal clothes.

  99. The other bad thing about black coats is that they are hard to see in the dark. And in winter, when you need a coat, there’s a lot of dark.

    So, it puts you at risk for being run over by a car.

    That’s what my Mom told me (and I’ve occasionally been surprised while driving by a black-coated person suddenly appearing where I wasn’t expecting), but I have to admit I have a black coat or two myself.

  100. Hi, You need to spend an evening with the Interweave DVD – Creative cloth designing and embellishing handwoven fabric. It’s not really about weaving : it is great on embellishing any fabric esp. for clothing and the author Anita Luvera Mayer teaches and travels a lot so there is an emphasis on a simple ‘uniform’ with your own touches for travelling. I made my embroidery guild (Regina Stitchery Guild) buy it.

  101. I just retired from teaching elementary school, and I suddenly had to learn how to dress casually, but stylishly. So, I marched myself into “Chris Reynolds” in Westport, Ontario, and told them my problem. They (lovely, lovely people) came up with the “Cut Loose Clothing Co.” and “Tribal”. Also CMC (Color Me Cotton) as a possible. Please remember and look for these names. You can pick out one piece, and it bloody well goes with about a dozen others. Thankfully, “Pam’s Flower Garden” stocks a lot of these names in their line of clothing, so I can find this stuff in Kingston.
    So, go get comfy-fashionable!!!!

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