Sartorial: of or relating
to a tailor or tailored clothes; broadly: of or relating to
- Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition
She's a hard one to please, my youngest daughter Lelia. It's all
about fashion and fit and a refined sense of style. She does love
my handmade socks. But she's fussy about them, too. Color
selection is critical, of course, and so is pattern, and even,
stitch definition. Lelia can feel the purls on the sole
of a too loosely knit stocking. I haven't made her a sweater in
years. I try to consult with her before I begin a project. The
times I haven't, well, I try not to think about them.
Lelia adores the "two-way
dialogue about the world of fashion and its relationship
to daily life" that fashion photographer Scott
Schuman conducts on his blog, The
Sartorialist. Away at college, she
sends me links to her favorite posts-- a
young barefoot knitter, a
vintage photo of a gentlemanly grandfather. And a
few weeks before Hanukkah, when I was thinking about
presents I might knit, an email from her arrived with a
link to the Sartorialist
latest discovery --"Beautiful
Mittens" was the subject line.
Beautiful mittens, indeed. Smitten mittens,
commented a reader. Knit the usual way with a ribbed cuff
and a stockinette body, these mittens sported an artful
and unusual design. Reproducing them would require
fine-tuning and finessing the seven color irregular
stripes; yellow, orange, red, two blues plus black and
I did not rush to my needles. The mittens would make a
lovely gift, but if I consulted Lelia first, she might
reject the idea. Surprising her would have its own
consequence. And besides, I wasn't convinced I
wanted to take the project on. So I left her email with
the link in my inbox. Every few days, I visited the
mittens. Each time, admiring and examining them, noting
some new detail.
Photo: Scott Schuman, used
A week or so later, I printed the image. For further study. The
mittens reminded me of 1930's vintage knits. The yarn might have
been space-dyed, but I doubt it. I could be wrong, but they look
like a stash buster project made by a knitter with a great sense of
color and rhythm. Even if Lelia didn't like them, understanding
their aesthetic by knitting these mittens would be instructive for
other possible projects.
I probably could have, really maybe should have, done some
careful calculations to plan out the Sartorialist Mittens. But
instead, I gathered up the yarns from my stash, trying to match
what I had to what was in the picture. Only two yarns were
purchased, a dark blue and a black.
To decipher the mitten's
creative striping, I enlarged the image. That's when I detected
the orange row almost hidden in a yellow stripe and what looked
like an outside knot on the mitten top. A few times when a new
color join left me with an uneven transition, I thought about that
knot and left the jag in. My mittens aren't perfect replicas, but
that wasn't the point. They catch their spirit and style.
Happening upon an unusual name on a tombstone in a historic rural
Iowa cemetery sparked my friend Anne Ylvisaker to muse about Tugs
Button. The result of that encounter, is now a middle grade novel,
Luck of the Buttons. More humbly, venturing out into the
Sartorialist’s world, I knit a spiffy bit of vintage fashion. And
what’s more, Lelia likes them. A lot.
It is January. Our holiday gift making frenzy is over. Treat
yourself to a break. Drop by your local art museum or gallery and
breathe in the richness of color and design. Select a choice seat
on a park bench or by the window of a coffee shop and observe the
grander elements of nature and humanity. Journey over to Sartorialist and
join Scott Schuman’s exploration into the variegated world of
street fashion and style and life. Court serendipity and be
inspired! Happy 2012!
This is the color chart was made from my finished
Sartorialist Mittens. Use the entire chart or just selected
stripes to enrich any yarn project. Experiment and have fun.
Colors: red, orange, yellow, white, black, dark blue, medium
blue. Click on the chart to enlarge in a separate window.
Here are a few basic knit
& crochet mitten patterns you can use as a starting
For some tips on working with multiple colors in a row
(also called stranded knitting or Fair Isle knitting), click