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Make Your Own Poncho, Please

It’s only been autumn for a couple of days now, but there’s one fall fashion trend that I’m already sick of: the poncho. I have nothing against the garment itself; I’m just tired of seeing the giant doily that seems to be its most popular iteration.

I’m aware that not everyone who wants a poncho can afford the gorgeously crafted version, spun from the finest cashmere. I know that, when one can’t have Prada, sometimes Zara will do—indeed, sometimes even H&M will do—and I suppose that if one has no plans to wear a trendy item beyond the season at hand, there’s little point in spending a lot on that item. It’s just that a crappy poncho looks so very, well, crappy.

In a perfect world, all clothes would be well-constructed, perfectly fitted, and made from beautiful fabric. Most of the time, we have to settle for one or two of these attributes. The poncho, though, is basically nothing but a piece of fabric, so, when it’s made from bad fabric—acrylic yarn, for example—it’s just bad. And because the poncho is so simple, it’s really, really easy to make one that doesn’t look like shit. If you have basic knitting skills, or can sew a straight seam, you can have a lovely poncho you’ll be delighted to wear this fall and beyond.

The poncho is pretty much the easiest knitting project there is. It’s really not much more complex than a scarf—just bigger—and if you knit in the round, it’s actually easier. There’s an absurdly simple poncho pattern in The Knit Stitch, a great book for beginners. I’m working on this poncho right now myself. Basically, it’s just a big tube. I’m using a wonderful hand-painted yarn, variegated shades of sage and turquoise and soft brown in a merino blend.

For the more advanced knitters, there are snazzy poncho patterns in Debbie Stoller’s awesome Stitch ’N Bitch and Big Just Got Bigger by Rowan—the latter is an especially good resource because it contains projects designed especially for big, fat yarns, so they knit up fast. The web is also a great source for poncho patterns. A Google search immediately turned up this saucy little number at Yarn Harlot. The redoubtable Knitty.com offers a couple of new poncho patterns, too.

The world is full of scrumptious yarn, yarn spun from luscious fibers dyed elegant and exciting colors. If you’re not blessed with a great local store, there are virtual shops aplenty. I’m fond of Yarn Market.

But you don’t have to knit to have a poncho. If you can cut out a couple of rectangles and stitch them together, you can have a poncho in minutes. As with the knitted poncho, the key is fine materials. Even the most rudimentary fabric store should have some nice drapey woollens and elegant knits, and, since a poncho should only require a couple of yards of fabric, you can splurge a little. If you really don’t find anything you like at your local Jo-Ann, look online at stores like Fashion Fabrics Club. If you feel like you could use a little guidance, there are poncho patterns for sewers, too. This McCall’s pattern has ponchos and capelets attainable by even the least experienced seamstress.

September 24, 2004 | Permalink

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