One of my style goals this year is to re-evaluate my tired capsule of knitwear and replace items as needed. This used to be a simpler process, but has become complicated because of inconsistent quality and sustainability concerns. 

I wear a lot of knitwear because I run cold and live in a four-season climate. It is by far my largest capsule of tops, and likely to stay that way. Fabrics range from wool and cashmere, to cotton and blends with synthetic fibres. As much as I try to buy great quality knitwear and look after it so that it does not pill, shrink or stretch out — there are few guarantees. Knitwear quality is a crapshoot these days.

Pilling

I loathe the look of pilled knitwear. Years ago, as soon as knitwear pilled — which could be after one season — I’d pass on the items if the cleaners couldn’t fix the problem. I don’t pass on knitwear as swiftly these days because it’s more sustainable to keep wardrobe items for longer.

These days I de-pill my own knitwear to the best of my ability, which keeps items going for more seasons. Knitwear thins the more I de-pill it, so it’s a trade-off. De-pilling does not make my knitwear look perfect, and I can damage sweaters by de-pilling too vigorously. But generally, there is enough of a visual improvement that it allows me to wear de-pilled knitwear for longer.

When pilling looks bad and I cannot improve it, items are passed on. This is by far the main reason I pass on knitwear.

Shrinking and Stretching

Knitwear that has shrunk a little at the cleaners or after I’ve laundered it, is usually blocked back into a perfect fit after pressing with a steam iron. If items have shrunk too much, I pass them on. I am very careful when I launder, and this seldom happens.

Knitwear that stretches out of shape and becomes too big is passed on immediately because there is nothing that I can do about it. I am a stickler for perfect fit and will not wear an item that fits poorly, so there is no sense in keeping it. Sometimes I try tumble-drying the item to shrink it, but this seldom works.

Holes

Knitwear with holes is passed on. I’ve tried mending the holes, and have had them professionally mended, both with unsatisfactory results. I’ve considered covering the holes with decorative patches, badges, and embroideries, but so far, the aesthetic does not tickle my fancy. That might change in future and I’m keeping an open mind.

Dysfunctional Fabric and Design

I am very sensitive to itchy fabric, and I make sure that new items pass the skin test before I commit to them. But every so often, knitwear items are more itchy than I remember them to be, and when that happens they are passed on right away.

Very occasionally, a knitwear silhouette does not work after I’ve put it through its paces. I can’t return it or alter it, but I can’t keep on wearing it either. I learn from the mistake and pass it on.

Fading and Discolouration

Sometimes, my bright or navy knitwear item loses its vibrancy. Or white knitwear goes grey and yellow. I don’t re-dye items, so I tend to pass them on. It takes a while for that to happen though. Knitwear is much more likely to be passed on because of out of control pilling than anything else.

Dated

I don’t pass on knitwear because it might look dated to someone else. First, my knitwear is on the classic and trendy classic side, so to my eye it has a high longevity factor. I don’t tire of the types of silhouettes, colours, and patterns I wear which is a big plus. If knitwear is in great condition, but I’m not feeling the colour for a season or two, I keep the item. This happened with my burgundy pullover, which I didn’t wear for two years. My affection for burgundy was rekindled and I happily wear the fab turtleneck again.

With all of this in mind, I’ll soon be thoroughly editing my knitwear capsule (see the collection below). Knitwear with holes, and itchy knitwear has been passed on already. I’ll make thoughtful additions and replacements, and refresh with some new solids too. I’ll also continue to wear some items until they are replaced — like my old white cotton pullovers and citron knitwear — because it’s hard to find a replacement for those workhorses.

Boden
Muriel Sweater
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24
Boden
Cashmere Crew Sweater
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16
Zara
Geometric Jacquard Top
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8
COS
Cashmere jumper
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13
COS
Roll-neck merino jumper
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22
Boden
Bella Cashmere Hoodie
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27
COS
Silk-cotton Polo Shirt
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12
Boden
Antonia Sweater
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18
Boden
Estella Sweater
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13
Boden
Westmoreland Sweater
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10
Boden
Westmoreland Sweater
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6
Everlane
The Cashmere Crew
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6