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Style Your Handknits with Paper Dolls

I love knitting sweaters because there’s so much to play with. Am I going to make outerwear or a shirt? What will this go with in my wardrobe? Will I actually wear this?

Knitting and styling clothing are two totally separate arts...

... and knitting a sweater can feel a little risk. It's expensive and it takes a lot of time. You want to be sure you’ll wear it.


For some knitters, casting on a garment that will go with everything in their closet comes naturally. But it never did for me. I spent a long time making things I didn’t wear. So if it feels like it’s not coming naturally for you - that’s okay! It’s a skill that you build with practice and experience. There’s a reason that stylists make good money shopping and curating for others.

Paper dolls can help you style your knits so that you wear them more

As I was prepping for the Classic Colorblock launch, I was getting super excited about all the ways this sweater could be styled. The set-in sleeves give it a formality that dresses up well, but like most knits, it's also totally ready to be a key player in a casual look:

  • Layer over linen dresses or high-waisted skirts. The cropped length hits at the natural waist, creating definition and dimension.

  • Style the full-length version with jeans and boots, pair with a gauze scarf with delicate block print

  • Work in creamy, delicate colors and slip beneath a blazer, style with heels & gold accents

  • Pair with a velvet skirt pencil skirt and French red lip for holiday parties

But we're visual folks, right? So I thought, “hey, what a great opportunity to show paper dolls as a wardrobe planning tool!”

Get or make a custom paper doll / croquis

(A croquis is a quick sketch, and in fashion, is often just an outline that you then draw your garment over)

I got my paper doll outline from My Body Model. For this tool, you enter your measurements and get a sketch back in return. My Body Model will be closing down in December, but you can still get one now - you'll download a file you own forever.

If you’d like a very low-budget option, use your cell phone to take a photo of yourself wearing leggings and a tank top or something similar - then load it up on a full-size monitor or tablet, and use it like a lightbox. Trace over your outlines. You can then take a photo of this or use a free scanning app to capture this for future use.

Create the paper dolls and their outfits

I print my dolls on cardstock using a very low opacity so that I can barely see them. No printer? Keep tracing off your monitor or tablet. Make one to be your basic doll and several to turn into clothes. Sketch the garments onto the outline, then cut them out and color them in.

Using paper dolls to plan your wardrobe

I suggest starting by making doll versions of your favorite things, like your handmade sweaters or clothes, or the pieces you wear with them. This will give you a great visual of which pieces go together, and which pieces might need more support in your wardrobe to get more wear.

Planning your Classic Colorblock

Because Classic Colorblock is so versatile, I wanted to use this project to demonstrate how handknit sweaters can play different roles in our wardrobes. I’m building around a sweater knit in neutrals, like Marly’s or Jen’s (these are Ravelry links). These sweaters feel softly romantic to me and have a very different feel from my bold blue version.

Marly stands by a tree, she wears a beautiful creamy hand-knit sweater with warm taupe trim.
Marly knit size size 3, cropped, full sleeves, no bust shaping. She used her own yarn - Marly is the dyer behind Little Wing Fibers. I love the soft speckle in her sweater, so I borrowed that element for my example!

First, I imagined a velvet or velveteen textured pink/peach skirt. With fishnets and pumps, we have a cocktails look. Lose the fishnets and add a blazer, you’re ready for a business casual setting. Take the same skirt and add boots and handknit socks, and you have a super wearable daytime look.

Then I wanted to do some canvas jeans with roomy legs. These are very much like a pair of

pants I have in my wardrobe already. My existing pants are a light rust though, and since the sweater I've colored is a warm peach neutral, I wanted to pair it with a contrasting olive green.

Rolled cuffs and a scarf and hat bring a very millennial-casual look to this outfit, but you can imagine that adding a jacket, rolling those cuffs down and adding some leopard print kicks would change the vibe for a more ‘polished-casual’ look bordering on business casual.

Finally, I added a prairie dress. This is a summer dress, but the waistline matches my sweater and as a layering piece, I can carry this into deep fall. I would do this with substantial tights or leggings for warmth, and I would add a scarf to keep this look balanced.

Try it out!

If you’re considering knitting a Classic Colorblock, you could use this tool to:

  • See if you’d prefer the cropped or full-length version with your existing wardrobe

  • Try out different color combinations for your garment

  • Plan a winter capsule wardrobe (using my dress, skirt, pants, sweater, hat and scarf, I can put together 12 different looks, for example)

If you'd like to knit a Classic Colorblock of your own, you can find the pattern here on Ravelry or here on Payhip. Curious to see tester projects and how they've styled it? You can also visit the pattern page and scroll down to the gallery. That's also where you can download a PDF of the schematic and get all your yardage information.

If you try making paper dolls for your knits, I'm *dying* to see them! Send me an email, or pop a link to a little Pinterest board in the comments!

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