Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Navy Cashmere Pull, Classic. . . but with a Twist. . .

 Six years ago, I wrote a post about a navy cashmere pullover I'd bought in Paris that spring. The lightweight sweater had quickly become a star piece in my wardrobe, and I'm sure I wore it at least twice a week for months. I tried not to wash it too often, and when I did I either hand-washed or used the delicate cycle in my machine, and never, EVER, did it go in the dryer. Of course.

Still, after three years of such steady wear and regular washing, the sweater had felted a bit, was pilling, and had even attracted some moth love.  Having established the need for a classic navy v-neck, I replaced it next trip to France during a Bompard 20% off sale, but I never got 'round to passing the old one along to a thrift shop.  In fact, I hung onto it because it was so gorgeously comfortable, so broken in (and a bit broken, for that matter!)  that I didn't have to fuss about it care-wise. To pull it on over a pair of pj bottoms on a chilly evening -- such a treat!

And I've been following Katrina Rodabaugh on Instagram, thinking about Slow Fashion, about making or buying garments we love enough that we want to extend their lives. . . 

Then some time ago, I saw that @londonoeil had sewn an embroidered date-of-birth patch on a thrifted sweater to, in her words, "challenge the marvellous 1970 Bella Freud pullover." I started thinking about doing something similar, and then came across this DIY video for embroidering a quotation or favourite phrase across the back or front of a sweater.
So I resolved that I might try something like that on the grey cashmere pullover I'd already performed some decorative stitchery on after it suffered some damage.

And months after making that resolution, I bought some lovely shades of Vineyard Strandable Merino needlepoint thread in a stitchery shop in Portland. Honestly, I'd have done just as well with the plain Merino thread, non-strandable, but I didn't know that at the time, and I'm not even sure the shop carried it. In fact, I probably could simply have raided my stash of leftover knitting yarn, but I wanted a range of colours in a consistent, strong thread, and that's what I got.
I'd intended to play more with the grey pullover, but last week, going through the summer storage boxes, I pulled out the older, worn navy one, and decided to rehabilitate it instead.

I cast about a bit for what I'd like to write on this well-worn sweater, and finally fixed on Tant Mieux, the French phrase meaning "So Much the Better" or "All the Better" -- my subtle backtext being that both sweater and I are all the better for our, um, experience.
I've just finished stitching it in these photos and have tried it on with a favourite linen skirt, J Crew from a few years ago and just pulled out of the storage box last week. Yesterday was an at-home day, and even the little bit of makeup (blush, mascara) I normally wear never happened. Pale bare legs -- tant mieux, right?

Above, a quick summary of my method -- I'd first tried drawing the words on the cashmere with a white tailor's chalk pencil, but between the nap and the stretch, that didn't work. So I wrote the words on tissue paper and pinned that to the sweater, stitched right through sweater and tissue guide, then ripped the tissue paper out afterward.
Thought you might like one photo with the words right way 'round, so I took a selfie

Not sure I'm done playing with this one. I've also embroidered a daisy-stitch over a cashmere patch in the oddest near-underarm spot where a hole appeared -- that one doesn't show unless I'm waving my arms around wildly or reaching for something up high. . . I had thought of blanket-stitching 'round the hem, but I think this might be enough for now. Although I'm rather tempted to add Tant Pis on the back (literally "so much (the) worse," but used the way we might shrug a "tough luck" or "too bad" in English).

As I noted when I posted about my sashiko mending, this isn't everyone's aesthetic -- and perhaps most of you would have been so careful with the cashmere that it would have withstood hundreds of wearings, never needed resurrection. But if you've found ways to extend the life of a beloved garment -- or of a thrifted one -- I'd love to know about it. And if you've got a favourite phrase you think is perfect, should you ever decide to needle-doodle on the back of your sweater, perhaps you'll tell us what that might be. 

I'll await your comments -- for now, let's pretend I've embroidered Happy Tuesday!! on the back of my sweater, just for you. . . Happy Tuesday! 

43 comments:

  1. I like the tant pis idea. I've got to do some organizing of clothing and the moths and cashmere just go together. I find Shetland wool gloves especially bad.

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    1. We haven't had much trouble recently, but I'm on the alert. . . Do you mend the Shetland gloves? You had to go a long way to get those!

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  2. I love this,clever you! The idea of using tissue is like using waste canvas - much easier all 'round. I have never, ever owned a cashmere sweater. I think I'll have to take you shopping with me, or go to Paris to get one. I have Cashmere Angst about buying the right weight and quality.
    Tant pis? Go for it!

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    1. Waste canvas would have been better, but I had none, so improvised. The tissue paper kept ripping.
      I'd never owned cashmere either, until I met so many of its afficionados here in the Blogworld. 'twas Duchesse (at Passage des Perles) who directed me to Bompard. But years ago, I bought a cashmere sweater or two at Winners and the quality's held up.

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  3. Lovely idea for clearly a much loved jumper. I’m growing Tansy at the moment. I gather it’s a wonderful moth repellent. I shall put some with my cashmere when it’s grown. Like you I’m a cashmere fanatic. Only started a few years ago, but totally addictive despite the cost. A phrase that comes to mind in this household. My youngest often tells people 'Poor Life Choices' when they are moaning about their day. I wonder how that would translate in French. Something to think about :). Happy sewing. B x

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    1. Good plan with the tansy. I use lavender for the same purpose.
      Poor Life Choices would make an interesting phrase -- not necessary to go French when we have English expressions we like -- it would be a conversation starter, I suspect ;-)

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  4. Tant pis - absolutely! Your sweater looks fantastic - so clever and artistic. I've never had a cashmere sweater either, but now I wish I had an old worn-out one!
    Frances in Sidney

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    1. A good consignment or thrift shop could yield an old worn-out cashmere sweater to play with, I suspect. . . . (after all, mine almost went there! ;-)

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  5. Your jumper looks fantastic and very 'on trend' - what a great idea. If I had the skills and patience to sew a phrase on my rather worn navy cashmere jumper, I would like the phrase 'All will be well' which appeals to my inner optimist. Unfortunately my inner realist tells me that I have neither the skills nor the patience! Wilma D

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    1. Ah yes, I love that. All manner of things. . .
      And the sewing did take a bit of patience and I was lucky enough to be taught a few skills when I was young enough and to practice them a bit through the years, but it's actually not very difficult to do.

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  6. Brava! It looks great,funny,interesting and special
    I've seen my seamstress doing some similar trick with the tissue paper. She and I,we do a lot of magic,changing some of my clothes,sometimes even new ones
    I like to drink coffee in bed so sometimes s*** happens. I've embroidered a lot of daisy-stiches on my pyjama tops :-)
    I adore cashmere-but Pondside and F.in Sidney,you can stich something on a lot of other materials,wool,sweaters,pyjamas :-)....as well
    I have to think about favourite phrase (love Tant Mieux)- Dolce Far Niente maybe :-)?
    Dottoressa

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    1. You are so lucky to have that seamstress -- worth her weight in diamonds!
      Clever you, using daisy stitches to hide coffee stains (the coffee in bed doesn't involve šslagom, I don't suppose). . .
      And yes! Dolce Far Niente would be a good message to wear.

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    2. Thank you
      Actually it does ;-)
      D.

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  7. I love this idea! Your selection of phrase is spot on. I plan on "borrowing" the idea asap!

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    1. Oh, do! And let us know how it turns out . . .

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  8. I think this is quite wonderful - and you look wonderful wearing your words! I am full of admiration for this nifty/thrifty notion.

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    1. It's a good idea, right? (I can say that because it's not mine -- Social Media is great for being inspired by what others are doing...

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  9. I can't tell you how much I love this, and how much, were I at all capable of working with fine motor skills, I would want to jump up and replicate your creation right this minute.

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  10. The embroidery really makes this sweater unique and if its a cozy favourite, of course you don't want to give it away...mother used to say "waste not want not!"
    I have a couple of cashmere sweaters and they are THE COZIEST sweaters ever...my newest ones are from The Black Goat shop on Government Street....I wear mine every week and often several times in the Fall and Winter, they are a fabulous workhorse in my wardrobe.

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    1. Those sweaters look sumptuous! Delicious! It's lovely to have the luxury in a workhorse where you can enjoy it regularly, rather than in a more exotic item that needs more delicate use, right?

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  11. I adore this! I'd copy you as well, might just someday. As for keeping cozy sweaters forever, I say wear it to death, love it to death, and then do something creative like this if possible. I have a 3 year old cashmere sweater that has been worn and worn and washed so many times. It is starting to felt a bit, and I wondered when I washed it and put it away for the season if will still be wearable next year, or if I will have to do something.... time will tell. No moth holes yet, though, and that IS surprising.

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    1. With your stitchery skills, you could do something quite wonderful -- I'll be watching your blog. . .

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  12. Beautiful handiwork Mater! Love the colors you picked for the floss and the impeccable spacing of the letters. You have not only given your favorite navy cashmere sweater a second life but also one of your readers meaning moi a case of sweater envy. And envy is not one of my downfall. My mother spoiled her family with her beautiful hand embroidery linens and etc. There lies my love of all things embroidery. Navy sweater, khaki skirt and blue frame glasses...my kind of effortless chic! Tant Pis sounds good. Amelia

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Amelia.
      I used to embroider (pillowcases, doilies) with my grandma when I was quite young (from about 6 to 10, I think, before I lost interest). I think for her it would have been an inexpensive way (she was embroidering on cotton, generally, not on linen) to bring beauty into a modest and mostly utilitarian lifestyle. Do you still have some of your mother's creations?

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    2. My mother did the same as your grandma. She used mainly cotton and less pricier materials. After all of us kids left home, she started using linen and other fancier fabrics. I have some linen sheets, pillowcases, a very large table cloth, napkins and tea towels... I have my christening gown that she made with cotton/lawn, lace embroidered with cream and white floss (it's fragile and yellowing). My daughter's christening dress, mother made with lightweight linen lawn, lace and embroidered with silk floss and silk ribbons. My two granddaughters also wore their mother's dress at their christenings. She would do fancy stitches and embroidery on blouses and Sunday dresses for me and my two sisters...but those were long in the past with childhood and the pre-teen years.

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  13. Put your cashmere in a bag or tissue and put it in the freezer. No moths! Love your creativity. It's nice to have a day at home.

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    1. I've done that occasionally to kill possible eggs and larvae, but we no longer have a separate freezer, so I'll stick to the under-bed boxes for storage. Good idea if you have the space.

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  14. Works well in Canada but here in the U.K. you might become weary of people asking what it means :) looks stylish though . I very rarely have moth damage , touch wood , but realise it is a big problem . I don’t take any special precautions but perhaps our house is too cold for them ! We prefer our bedrooms unheated & I store stuff in the loft which is really cold in winter . Maybe they go next door .
    Wendy in York

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    1. Perhaps you're right -- Although I think many might just see it for the graphic image itself and not mind much what it actually says.
      We never had a problem with moths in the house -- I think the distance from other homes helped -- in the city, in a condo, if one's neighbour down the hall brings in a minor infestation . . . .

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  15. Temperamentally incapable of sewing (wielding any sort of needle drives me into a rage) so I shall just admire from afar! Such a lovely regeneration of a much-loved garment. Like Wendy, no problems with moths here, perhaps because our bedrooms are also very cool.

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    1. Oh dear, I don't want to be around when you're in a rage and armed with some sort of needle ;-)
      Again, and having lived in a house in a not-so-dissimilar climate, I suspect the temperature helps, but also the space between homes. Living in closer quarters now, we're more exposed to a range of cashmere predators.

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    1. It's not mine, but I was very happy to borrow and adapt it.

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  17. What a brilliant idea! I just have to wait for the right sentence to come along - there are plenty of old sweaters around here which could do with a brush up. In the meantime, I am rejuvenating an old navy sweatshirt with some sashiko stitches and planning something similar for a (also navy) linen shirt.
    Another idea that came to mind these days: I have kept most of the swatches of my knitting projects of the last twenty years, thinking that one day I might put them all together in one big blanket. I do not think that will ever happen, but perhaps I could use some of them as patches or simply as colourful appliqué.

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    1. Isn't it great to have this time now -- in your retirement -- to get to these creative projects?
      I really like the idea of using your swatches as you describe. Another possibility might be a cushion cover -- not nearly as daunting a project as making a big blanket. . .

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  18. I love what you’ve achieved here! Unique to you, enhancing your sweater, yet also so practical!
    I feel encouraged to try and regret throwing away the cashmere cardigan I had that the moths feasted on before I’d even worn it!! When I could do easily have worn it at home on chilly evenings, embroidered with something unique to me and feeling so cosy!
    Rosie

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    1. So annoying, those moths! At least if there's a next time, you'll have some ideas for a possible creative repair ;-)

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  19. Aaaah...for VERY worn cashemere - I've pulled the seams, tossed the pieces in the washer on HOT and then into the dryer on HOT to get them nice and felted. I've then cut and stitched the resulting felt into decadent iPOD/iPAD sleeves, lined ear muffs, cowls, even sewn a teeny baby cardigan!

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    1. That's a grand idea! I've long thought that a felted-cashmere hot-water bottle would be delicious.
      And a teeny baby cardigan -- that would be so sweet. . .

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I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we?

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