You Don’t Need To Pay An Obscenely High Price For Quality Clothing

From In Style October 2017 – Brunello Cucinelli Design

I enjoy the hand of luxurious, expensive, and embellished fabrics. Just as an art lover enjoys the experience of an exhibit, I appreciate the beauty of an exquisitely made textile. Designer names like Etro, Dolce Gabbana, Prada, and Gucci use some of the most beautiful fabrics in the world for their couture and ready-to-wear collections, but these collections are sold at prices out of reach for most people.

Designer prices are often extremely expensive. Case in point this sweater by Brunello Cucinelli. I was lucky enough to be in Vancouver recently, perusing the beautiful Fall 2017 Collections in Holt Renfrew. I came acorss the Brunello Cucinelli boutique selling expensive sweaters like this one featured in In Style’s October 2017 issue. My first thought – “I could make it.” If you are an experienced knitter I’m sure you have said this many times.

Brunello Cucinelli is known as the “King of Cashmere” and the manufacturer of luxury sportswear and “high quality” knits. I agree with his business philosophy, that too much cheap product is sold in the world, so he focuses on expensive designs made by highly skilled workers. His plant is in Solomeo, Italy; his company is socially conscious, and Cucinelli’s collections are produced on site. It would be difficult to sustain this business model in most parts of world, as Italy has a long history of skill in manufacturing luxurious textiles and yarns, and only a small percentage of people can afford such luxury.

However, there is a point where an extremely high price doesn’t dictate the quality and skill. Don’t get me wrong, you often do get what you pay for, but an exorbitant price isn’t indicative of quality. Price does have the power to change your perception of a product, because the notion of “quality” is perceived, and has a different meaning for every consumer. My philosophy is to pay more for “quality”, because I’ll get my money’s worth over time. Because I am knowledgeable about fabrics and construction, I am able to discern if a garment is well made and worth the expense. There are many skilled people who can make quality garments at lower price points. The price factor plays a part in determining quality (generally the more details added in construction and the use of fine fabrics made of natural fibers, the higher the price); but price is not the only indicator of quality. 

I can’t afford such a price tag for a sweater, but even if I could I wouldn’t. If you are lucky enough to spend the money, go for it, but if you’re skilled in making garments, you realize that you can knit or sew pieces of high quality with sustainable materials, skill, and attention to detail without the extreme price. When purchasing woven fabrics or hand knit materials, I look at the fibers and yarns used, skill, and attention to detail. How are the seams sewn? Dangling threads? Nylon thread used for hems? How are the embellishments attached? Natural vs synthetic fibers (I would never pay a high price for a synthetic)? Care required to maintain its beauty? These are some of the questions I think about when determining quality.

Because of our over-consumption of mass produced goods, I think North America has lost an appreciation for the beauty and quality of textiles, and the skill required to turn raw materials into a luxurious product. But paying an excessively high price tag isn’t necessary to have quality clothing. There are many designers, and you, the skilled knitter or sewer that can create garments of quality, by paying attention to the source and type of materials, skill, longevity, and attention to detail. Why not make your own luxury at a cost that won’t break the bank.

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Weekly Fave!

Lykke Sweater – Knitscene Winter 2017

Summing up the latest Knitscene Winter 2017 are knits for cozy, comfortable living, as defined by the Scandinavian lifestyle “Hygge“. The cozy styling of the Lykke Sweater is my pick for the cold winter months. This issue is packed with projects geared towards all things comfortable to knit for home, family, and friends.

Weekly Fave!

Design #23 Vogue Knitting Holiday 1987 Classic Men’s Turtleneck

Classic pieces of clothing are the best investment of time and money. A classic is as timely and fashionable as when it was first introduced. Think the LBD, a string of pearls, jeans, trench coat, and a knit twin set – the list is long. It doesn’t mean pulling out something old and wearing it again – it must have a fresh look to modernize it.

Timeless is how I feel about this men’s turtleneck from Vogue Knitting Magazine Holiday 1987, which I made for my husband. And now he wants another one! It certainly is fashionable for Fall 2017, with its simple argyle pattern, turtleneck, and the color of the season, red. It defines a true classic.

Weekly Fave!

One of the Eight Churchmouse Classics – Slouchy Pullover

This beautiful easy, lightweight pullover, is knit in one of the best mohair blends in the marketplace, Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze, a combination of silk and mohair. The silk adds a brilliant sheen and a relaxed drape. This Slouchy Pullover is one of the eight classics designed by Churchmouse Yarns for Fall 2017. You could certainly have this knit up quickly to enjoy this fall.

Add Linings to Your Hand Knits For a Couturier’s Finishing Touch

With simple sewing skills, you can add an elegant touch to tailored hand knit garments like coats, jackets, and skirts by lining them. Although lining hand knit garments is a personal choice, linings provide stability, retention of shape, warmth, prevent sagging, provide longer wear, and make it easier to slip items on and off.

The good news is linings used in hand knits are less structured than the ones used for woven fabrics, so they only require simple sewing skills. I’m just going to describe the basic procedure, assuming you have the skills to cut pattern pieces and stitch them together.

The lining material you choose depends on the garment or project. Typically linings are made from a slippery fabric made from yarns such as rayon, acetate, or polyester. The lining fabric can be a matching color or a contrasting one. Contrasting colors or patterns add visual interest inside coats and jackets. Keep in mind that most linings don’t stretch, so it will restrict the stretchiness of the knit fabric. Some stretch can be created by cutting the lining on the bias (a line diagonal [ideally 45 degrees] to the grain of the fabric). Although uncommon, I have a knit skirt that uses a rayon knit fabric as the lining, so the stretch is maintained. It’s best that the lining and knit fabric require the same type of care, either laundered or drycleaned.

Cutting the lining pieces is pretty much making a duplicate of the knit piece. Use blocked knit pieces (before seaming) to make the lining pattern. Make the pattern by tracing the knit piece on brown paper or purchased pattern paper (lightweight tracing paper). Add approximately 5/8 inch seam allowance around the edges, with a larger seam allowance (about 2 inches) for lower hems. Cut out the lining pieces and seam them together before attaching the lining to the seamed knit garment. Attach the wrong side of lining with seam allowances to the seamed side of knit garment.

SOME TIPS:

  • Use only hand stitching to attach the lining to the knit fabric.
  • To check fit, baste the lining together and place inside garment. Adjust if necessary, then sew lining together and stitch in place.
  • Stitch the lining pieces with right sides together before attaching the lining. Attach the wrong side of lining with seam allowances to the seamed knit garment.
  • For coats and jackets, make a 2 inch pleat in the center back for ease in wearing. Tack the pleat in 1 or 2 places a few inches down from the neck edge.
  • For coats or jackets, you can stitch the lining to shoulder seams, and slip stitch around the neck and front edges. The sleeve armhole seams of the lining can be tacked in place around the seamed armhole of knit fabric. Stitch the cuff hem to lower edge of knit sleeve.
  • Lower edges (hems and cuffs) should be hemmed at least one inch shorter than the finished length of the garment, so the lining doesn’t show when worn.
  • Skirt linings should be large enough to allow you to put the skirt on, but fitted enough so there is no extra bulk.
  • Skirt lining can be attached to the top edge, so it becomes part of the casing, or you could hem the top edge and attach just below the casing.
  • For ease of movement side slits can be made in the skirt lining; measured up from lower edge; finishing the slits before hemming the lining.

These are just the basics for adding lining to your hand knits. Lining a coat, jacket or skirt adds an elegant touch, and a professional finish to a garment you spent many hours knitting. It only requires some basic sewing skills and a little time; well worth it!

Weekly Fave!

Wool and the Gang – Full Moon Jumper

Wool and the Gang is a design collective that sells knitting and crochet kits; paper bags stuffed with their private label yarns, needles and pattern instructions. Wool and the Gang’s mission is to produce fashion in a sustainable way. The Full Moon Jumper is one of their latest kits for Fall 2017. The stitchery of this design looks complex, but will take no time at all to knit with bulky yarn and 15mm needles. The majority of their kits are super simple and quick to knit; perfect for the beginner knitter’s first garment project.

Weekly Fave!

Charley – Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2017

Brooklyn Tweed is a US wool, knitting and design company. I enjoy checking out their collections, and their latest Lookbook is full of high quality, on-trend hand knit patterns for the fashion forward knitter. High on the trend list for Fall 2017 is “Folk Lore” – long dresses or skirts with boots, paired with a cardigan or sweater. My pick is “Charley”, a cardigan designed by Veronik Avery, if paired with a print dress and utility boots is the foundation of this Fall’s key look. The above photo doesn’t do this cardigan justice, so make sure you check out Brooklyn Tweed’s Lookbook.