Convertible Sweater - Thinking Outside the Box

My friend, Laurie, over at Camanomade, recently wrote: "I can blog or I can spin..." & it rang a bell with me. Like most of us artsy-crafty folks with blogs, we are constantly torn between the compulsion to "share" our latest bit of cleverness with the world & our reluctance to put our latest project aside for an hour at the keyboard. An hour?? Yes, unfortunately, knitting words into articles doesn't come as easily for me as knitting yarn into a beautiful sweater. Anyway, please forgive my woeful neglect of the blog. I tossed the coin & the blog lost.

I've been knitting & felting like a woman possessed in a valiant effort to get my Fall lineup of clothing, bags & accessories to market in time for the Christmas gift fairs that are starting to come down the pipe. Our local art/craft market is down to it's final three Saturdays & the gift fairs will step in to claim the remaining Saturdays through the end of November. This has been a great market season for me. Sales are up & I'm seeing more repeat business. Custom orders are up, too, & although I couldn't be happier, it does mean that it's becoming more difficult to keep up the pace.

It's a bit of a balancing act, too. On the one hand, I want to make & sell as much as I can, while I can, before the post-Christmas doldrums set in. On the other, I know that if I rush my work, I risk losing that creative edge that makes it special & in demand. For example, I whipped up this short-sleeve shell sweater from some gorgeous wool blend handspun that's been lingering in my stash for ages.

It's a basic pattern, rendered in simple stockinette stitch, on size 11 needles, that even a beginning knitter can bang out in a couple of evenings. While I was happy with the finished sweater & knew it would probably sell (fabulous texture & a nice neutral color), it lacked an element of uniqueness - that special designer's touch that can't be found in an off-the-rack sweater at Ross (& for a much lower price).

I toyed with the idea of embellishment with novelty fibers, embroidery,
buttons...everything I auditioned seemed to overshadow the exquisite texture of the handspun yarn & all were discarded. At a loss for an idea, I hung this sweater in the closet & turned my attention to other projects.

As often happens, when I stop trying to force my art, inspiration comes...& often comes from unlikely sources. We have a little charity thrift shop in my town & its specialty is clothing. I frequently shop there for garments that I can cannibalize for fancy buttons or sweaters to frog to recycle the yarn. On this particular day, however, there's was nothing worth the paltry $3.00 price tag - but I didn't go home empty-handed. I noticed an extraordinary amount of turtleneck sweaters on the rack that day & it reminded me that I hadn't designed a single one for the new Fall line. Bingo!

I rushed home & dug out the last remaining ball of that great handspun yarn & voila....

Okay, so putting a turtleneck on it isn't particularly unique, but the way I added it is. You see, I didn't pick up & knit that turtleneck onto the sweater. I knitted it separately, like a circular scarf, & left it unattached. Now, this little shell is convertible & offers the option of two separate looks that can easily go from Winter into Spring. With just this simple addition, I think I've added real value to this garment & it's now something that I'll be proud to put on sale on the web site or for the next market day.

Isn't it amazing how a simple addition like this can really make the garment? I love these little "Eureka!" moments.

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