Fixing Snags
Fall is the season for sweaters and … snagging sweaters. If you end up getting a snag, there’s a good and bad way to fix it. 
The bad way is cutting it, which you absolutely don’t want to do. You might think that you’re getting rid of the pull, but over time, this area can develop a hole. 
A better solution is to pull the snag to the backside of the garment, so that the thread is still intact, but the damage is invisible. There are several ways to do this:
You can use a tool called a Snag Nab-It, which is basically a long needle with a rough end. Push it through your snag and the rough end will take it to the other side. I’ve used this successfully on knits and wovens (wovens meaning the non-stretchy material you find on dress shirts and trousers), but if your material is particularly fine or delicate, you might want to try another method. 
A gentler solution is to use a large sewing needle with a big eye. Couple this with a needle threader or some kind of thread, and use both to “catch” the snag as you pull the needle through. You can also use some thick embroidery or button thread, which you can wrap your snag on, and do the same thing. Remember, for something really delicate, go slow. It’s better to work this area a few times, rather than worsen the damage. 
For the truly patient, you can use also a large blunt needle and try to tease the yarn back to its original place. Pull the thread through to the next stitch, and then the next, and then the next — dispersing the excess material evenly across the row. You want to work both sides of the snag, so that everything looks natural. This easier on large gauge knits, but it’s possible with fine ones as well. Once you’re done, steam the area and admire your work. 

Fixing Snags

Fall is the season for sweaters and … snagging sweaters. If you end up getting a snag, there’s a good and bad way to fix it. 

The bad way is cutting it, which you absolutely don’t want to do. You might think that you’re getting rid of the pull, but over time, this area can develop a hole. 

A better solution is to pull the snag to the backside of the garment, so that the thread is still intact, but the damage is invisible. There are several ways to do this:

  • You can use a tool called a Snag Nab-It, which is basically a long needle with a rough end. Push it through your snag and the rough end will take it to the other side. I’ve used this successfully on knits and wovens (wovens meaning the non-stretchy material you find on dress shirts and trousers), but if your material is particularly fine or delicate, you might want to try another method. 
  • A gentler solution is to use a large sewing needle with a big eye. Couple this with a needle threader or some kind of thread, and use both to “catch” the snag as you pull the needle through. You can also use some thick embroidery or button thread, which you can wrap your snag on, and do the same thing. Remember, for something really delicate, go slow. It’s better to work this area a few times, rather than worsen the damage. 

For the truly patient, you can use also a large blunt needle and try to tease the yarn back to its original place. Pull the thread through to the next stitch, and then the next, and then the next — dispersing the excess material evenly across the row. You want to work both sides of the snag, so that everything looks natural. This easier on large gauge knits, but it’s possible with fine ones as well. Once you’re done, steam the area and admire your work. 

beatonna:

I want cable knit sweaters to be something they are not 

If it’s wrong to love a bulky, scratchy sweater like this one, I don’t want to be right.
-Pete

beatonna:

I want cable knit sweaters to be something they are not 

If it’s wrong to love a bulky, scratchy sweater like this one, I don’t want to be right.

-Pete

Donegal Sweaters

We’re on the cusp of sweater weather, and this fall, I’m most looking forward to wearing this grey "Donegal" knit from Inis Meain. I put Donegal in quotes because the sweater wasn’t actually made in Donegal, but rather, it’s reminiscent of the hallmark tweeds that come of that region. Those tweeds have flecks of color, which are allowed to glob onto the yarns in irregular ways. You learn about it in this wonderful video Jesse put together on Molloy & Sons, one of the region’s best mills.  

The nice thing about speckled sweaters is that you can wear them on their own with an oxford cloth shirt or a brushed flannel. I like hardier shirtings in this case because they have a visual weight that feels a bit more at home with such rugged looking knits. By itself, the flecks make the sweater a little more interesting than the smooth, plain-colored merinos you see everywhere else. At the same time, the pattern is also easy to pair with any kind of outerwear. 

This season, it seems everyone is selling a Donegal knit. Here are some you may want to consider, from most to least expensive. 

Over $300

Over $200

  • East Harbour Surplus ($265): A Japanese brand with Italian-made, American-inspired designs. These vintage-y looking cardigans fit really slim, so be sure to size up. 
  • O’Connell’s ($225): My favorite source for Shetlands. Well made stuff that stands up to abuse. Plus, O’Connell’s has a great pedigree that’s hard to beat. 
  • Oliver Spencer ($225): A slightly more interesting look piece. Pair this with more modern looking coats and jackets, and perhaps a slim pair of charcoal trousers.  
  • Epaulet (~$220): A popular brand among menswear enthusiasts. They just released some cabled Donegal sweaters with shawl collars and mocknecks. 
  • Alex Mill ($207): A new label headed by the son of J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler. Designs tend to be basic, but easy to incorporate into any wardrobe. This black Donegal sweater has a sort of chic look to it. 

Over $100

Under $100

Shrinking Wool Sweaters

As much as I admire vintage clothing, I rarely shop in thrift stores, only because I assume nothing will fit my small frame. Jerrod at Oxford Cloth Button Down, however, has an inspiring post showing how you can shrink a sweater two or three sizes down. I emailed him to get details:

  • First, you have to be OK with losing the sweater. This is obviously not an exact science, and he’s ruined more sweaters than he’s saved. However, with the prices in thrift stores, this is usually not such a big deal. 
  • If you need a sweater to shrink a lot, then throw it in the washing machine under a hot, hot water cycle. When it’s done, take it out and shape it to the size you want. It should dry to the size you need.
  • If you only need the sweater to shrink a little, then spray it down with a water bottle and put it in the dryer. Check on it every three to five minutes. 

The downside is that all sweaters will felt, although some more than others (in the pink Shetland above, it was pretty minimal). To minimize felting, try putting the sweater in a pillowcase or mesh laundry wash bag. This should help prevent the sweater from beating against the side of your washing machine’s drum. 

You might also get away with just hot soaking your sweater, like denim enthusiasts sometimes do with unsanforized jeans. In this way, fill your bathtub or a bucket full of hot water, and submerge you sweater. Leave it in for thirty minutes or so, and keep putting in more hot water throughout the process to keep the temperature up. This should shrink the sweater without needing to agitate it (which is what causes the felting). If you only need certain parts to shrink, you can also try submerging only those areas. I’ve successfully done this with jeans. 

Relatedly, you can stretch and tailor a sweater, if need be. 

(Photos via Oxford Cloth Button Down)

Maybe overreacting to the controversy about the brand’s made-in-China 2012 Olympic uniforms, Ralph Lauren and co. went all YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY on this year’s models. This shawl collar sweater will be worn for the opening ceremonies (it’s made, indeed, in USA) and is available to non-athletes for $595. WAIT A MINUTE, I ONLY COUNT 45 STARS. I bet one of the stars left out was the one for my home state. 
-Pete

Maybe overreacting to the controversy about the brand’s made-in-China 2012 Olympic uniforms, Ralph Lauren and co. went all YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY YOU-ESS-AY on this year’s models. This shawl collar sweater will be worn for the opening ceremonies (it’s made, indeed, in USA) and is available to non-athletes for $595. WAIT A MINUTE, I ONLY COUNT 45 STARS. I bet one of the stars left out was the one for my home state.

-Pete

Abercrombie Adventures: Christmas, 1959

I recently obtained a stash of Abercrombie & Fitch store catalogs from the 1950s. If you don’t know, A&F wasn’t always a teenybopper retailer famous for hating ugly people. It used to be a high-end sporting goods shop, with outlets in the major cities of the U.S.  I recently obtained some store catalogs from A&F and its Chicago sister store Von Lengerke & Antoine, and I thought I’d share some of the menswear therein.

This week’s catalog is from Christmas of 1959. As you can see, Viyella was a big product for A&F. Viyella was one of the first proprietary “tech” fabrics, a cotton-wool blend created in the 1890s. It’s soft enough to wear against your skin, but nonetheless warm and comfortable in cool weather. The shirts here aren’t cheap - $18.95 is the equivalent of about $150 today.

The more things change, the more they stay the same - one of the featured items is the Shetland sweater, which runs about $125 in today’s dollars. The one pictured above is almost identical to one my wife got me Christmas this year.

The only-in-1959 award could go to the ski mask or tasseled winter cap, both of which are pretty amazing, but I’m going to give it to the “Swiss Alpine,” a sort of combination sportshirt and sweater with “a suede finish.” Just like in the Alps. I guess.

One practical take-home from the photos: the near-universal suitability of a pair of gray flannel trousers. They go with every top, even the strange one, and look sharp in so doing. Still perfect for any man’s wardrobe.

A one-minute short film about a man traveling the length and breadth of Wisconsin, shopping for sweaters at thrift stores. It’s “Sweater Bender.”

Via BoingBoing

Ebbets Field Flannels Sweater Jackets
Ebbets Field Flannels just announced these stunning sweater-jackets. They’re based on a vintage model from the 1930s found in a thrift shop, and they’re totally amazing. Ebbets only made six of each size, and my hometown team (the San Francisco Seals) is already completely sold out. Above is the New York Black Yankees. Find what’s left here.

Ebbets Field Flannels Sweater Jackets

Ebbets Field Flannels just announced these stunning sweater-jackets. They’re based on a vintage model from the 1930s found in a thrift shop, and they’re totally amazing. Ebbets only made six of each size, and my hometown team (the San Francisco Seals) is already completely sold out. Above is the New York Black Yankees. Find what’s left here.

Q & Answer: Can I Stretch A Sweater?
Jason asks: Have you ever heard of purposefully stretching sweaters to make the arms/ torso longer? I usually wear a “tall” size but Brooks Brothers only sells regular sizes. When I talked to a sales person there, he said they have a special machine to stretch sweaters. Have you ever hear of this? Are all knit fabrics stretchable?
I guess it’s possible that Brooks Brothers has a special machine to stretch sweaters, but I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing. That said, it is entirely possible to stretch most knits. To a point.
Here’s how it works: wet the sweater fully in cold water, press a bit of excess water out of it gently, then roll it in a towel like it was the ham in a wrap sandwich. You want it to be wet, but not so much so that it won’t dry after a day or so of sitting out.
Then arrange it on a dry towel in the size and shape you’re looking for. Above is a just-knit sweater which is going through this same process, called “blocking.” As you can see, the knitter has used graph markings on a work surface to make sure the piece is the exact right size. You don’t have to be quite that exact.
Do this, and you can get a couple inches of stretch from most knits. The only catch: wet them again and you’ll have to block them again.

Q & Answer: Can I Stretch A Sweater?

Jason asks: Have you ever heard of purposefully stretching sweaters to make the arms/ torso longer? I usually wear a “tall” size but Brooks Brothers only sells regular sizes. When I talked to a sales person there, he said they have a special machine to stretch sweaters. Have you ever hear of this? Are all knit fabrics stretchable?

I guess it’s possible that Brooks Brothers has a special machine to stretch sweaters, but I’ve certainly never heard of such a thing. That said, it is entirely possible to stretch most knits. To a point.

Here’s how it works: wet the sweater fully in cold water, press a bit of excess water out of it gently, then roll it in a towel like it was the ham in a wrap sandwich. You want it to be wet, but not so much so that it won’t dry after a day or so of sitting out.

Then arrange it on a dry towel in the size and shape you’re looking for. Above is a just-knit sweater which is going through this same process, called “blocking.” As you can see, the knitter has used graph markings on a work surface to make sure the piece is the exact right size. You don’t have to be quite that exact.

Do this, and you can get a couple inches of stretch from most knits. The only catch: wet them again and you’ll have to block them again.

Shetland Sweaters for Fall

There was some confusion after my post yesterday on Shaggy Dogs, where some readers were unsure what’s the difference between Shaggys and what’s commonly referred to as “Shetland sweaters.” Simply: Shaggy Dogs are just one of the many types of Shetlands that exist, and not all Shetlands are shaggy.

What’s a Shetland Sweater?

Shetlands get their name from the Shetland Islands, which are located halfway to Norway off the north coast of Scotland. Due to the region’s harsh conditions, the sheep there produce a sturdy, lightweight, long staple wool fiber, which is typically plucked instead of shorn. This wool is made into a very sturdy fabric, which is then turned into garments. Woven Shetlands are relatively rare, and when you see them, they’re usually in sport coats. Much more common are knitted fabrics, which are used for sweaters.

Shetland sweaters were originally made by peasant women on the islands, and came with a strong, smoked herring smell because of the way the wool would absorb domestic odors. It’s said that on damp days, the smell would become unbearable. These early sweaters were often knitted with distinctive patterns that were developed on the island over a period of centuries, but over time, they mainly came in one of four forms: plain, cabled, Fair Isle, or brushed (J. Press invented the hairy, brushed version, and they called it their “Shaggy Dog”). Thus, the term “Shetland sweater” – while formally referring to a very specific knit – now simply just means any sweater that’s made from that hardy, slightly itchy Shetland wool (brushed or not).

Where To Get A Good, Plain-Knit Shetland

Shaggys are certainly distinctive, but almost anyone with a classic sense of dress can wear a plain-knit Shetland. I particularly like mine with chinos or corduroys, and layer them over thick oxford-cloth button-down shirts. They’re more casual than your typical merino or cashmere sweater (the kind you find in almost any store), but dressy enough to wear underneath a sport coat. Plus, I think guys just look awesome in them. Evidence is above.

If you’re looking for a plain version, let me recommend who I think sells the best: O’Connell’s. They’re expensive at $165 (and never go on sale), but they’re the Goldilocks of Shetlands. Not as thick as Bill’s Khakis, and not as thin as Brooks Brothers’, they’re just right. The Andover Shop also has something similar, but I favor O’Connell’s saddle shoulder design. If you get one, I recommend sizing up from your sport coat size. They should also be restocking on sizes in a couple of weeks, and getting in a few new colors.

Other good, traditional Shetlands can be found at Cable Car Clothiers and Ben Silver, while slimmer interpretations can be had through Howlin’ of Morrison, Albam, and Norse Projects. There’s also Harley of Scotland (available through Bahles and Neighbour), Peter Blance, and Fisherman Out of Ireland, but I have no firsthand experience with those. Made-to-measure versions can be bought through Spirit of Shetland. If you go custom just remember: it’s better to err on the size of full than small, as you can slim a sweater down, but you can’t add material where there isn’t any.

(Photos via Heavy Tweed Jacket)