Prep Craze: The Fair Isle Sweater

It has been very warm in Massachusetts this week, but the cold will come. My winter uniform is a sweater over a button down….I wear all the combinations I own until the weather warms up. There is so much variety in sweaters….cable knit, crew neck, fisherman, v-neck, honeycomb, aran, argyle, intarsia, wool, cotton, merino, cashmere……I could go on and on. Today though, we talk about the fair isle sweater.

Fair isle is actually a knitting technique from the Fair Isle of Scotland. The designs that we know as being fair isle are supposed to be in rows that go around the sweater circularly, no more than two colors per row, and really no more than five colors per sweater. There are rules about how many stitches the patterned rows can be too. All that being said, we can probably assume that not all sweaters that we call fair isle are actually fair isle. Popularity of this knitting technique started back in the 1920s when the Prince of Wales, later to be Edward VIII, wore fair isle tank tops.

Here he is in a fair isle v-neck. I love it, this was actually a portrait of him with his dog that was used for this advertisement….the media…even then.

leach_s_6p__166_cvr_ezr2

Anyway, I have jumped on the bandwagon as affordably as I could. Here are my two sweaters from Old Navy, both older…..the navy one on the right is probably not a true fair isle because the stitching is more just around the neck, like a yoke design I guess.

Fair Isle Style Sweaters from Old Navy
Fair Isle Style Sweaters from Old Navy

Currently, I can’t recommend any fair isle sweaters from Old Navy. What they have right now under fair isle looks more like just geometric shapes…..not the classic fair isle. And then here are my two fair isle sweaters from J. Crew factory. The one of the left is old, the one on the right is current. Its on sale too, $34.50. Its very soft, we will see how it holds up.

IMG_1806

So where else can we find deals on fair isle? There are always a few from Vineyard Vines. I remember the photos of Sarah Vickers, Macy Medema, and Devon Mackenzie from the KJP crew all wearing c/o Vineyard Vines fair isle sweaters a few years ago. It was lovely, but those sweaters are hitting you at ~$140 and upwards? The sweaters are really nice looking, but a little pricey for me.

Here it is, I think its from a couple years ago…its kinda preppy perfection with the scenery, vest, Barbour, bean boots, and Hunters.  Fair isle has always been a winter trend, but I remember around this time it became a really hot trend for the preppy crowd.

Devon, Sarah, and Macy in their beautiful fair isle sweaters, C/O

Woolrich has some nice looking ones Mohair Fair Isle Sweaters at $99. I am concerned though because reviews for some of their other motif sweaters have been negative, and there are no reviews on these yet…

Woolovers has a nice crew neck sweater in lambswool, all different colors, and I can speak to the excellent quality of these sweaters: Fair Isle Sweater and these ring in at $48 plus shipping from England haha. The only thing that stinks is returning sweaters to England is expensive, so pay attention to reviews and sizing info. Here is my favorite.

IMG_1812

Talbots always has some nice fair isle options…although they too have some that they are labeling as fair isle even though its just some zig zags and diamonds….here’s my two faves together actually! The one on the left I know is actually a dress but its here for $119 and the sweater on the right is here for $89. Great thing about Talbots though is they have awesome end of the season sales, so get one their email list and wait if those prices are still too high.

IMG_1810

Here is one from Brooks Brothers. The color combination is not for me, but $88 is not a terrible price for a sweater from them. Its kinda a weird one though because the pattern is only on the front and the elbow patches? They have another one for $148….which puts it in the same category as the Vineyard Vines sweaters…..beautiful, but not realistic for me…and probably many of us right now.

And lastly, LLBean….this sweater from the LLBean Signature collection is on my Christmas/birthday list. I love the colors, and I am sure that the merino is very soft. Its $94…..which is out of my price range, but…its a wish list item, something I wouldn’t buy for myself. We can dream right?

IMG_1811

Another amazing place to check out would be Etsy. There are sooooo many vintage sweaters on there from LLBean, Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, and others. You have to be careful because some of the Etsy stores don’t accept refunds and sizing has changed over the years but there are some real gems if you have the time to look. Then when people ask where you got it….you can say, oh, its vintage.

My fiancé and I are doing an engagement photo shoot this weekend….which of those J Crew sweaters should I wear? Looking for opinions! Its an outdoor shoot….so there’s either the cream sweater with navy and orange stitching OR the gray with navy, mint, and white stitching….lemme know what you think!!

Signature 2

 

Fruitlands Morning Walk

This past weekend, my fiancé Jon, Mizpah my pup, and myself headed to the Fruitlands trails in Harvard MA. The Fruitlands was the site of a failed utopian society in 1843. Bronson Alcott, a transcendentalist, and father of Louisa May Alcott, moved his family to the site and sadly, the experiment failed in its first winter. They along with others were trying to live off the fruits of the land, hence the name Fruitlands. Clara Endicott Sears moved to the land in 1910 long after it had been abandoned to build herself a summer home. She restored the Fruitlands Farmhouse and started the museum. There is a museum store, a cafe, an art gallery, a visitor’s center, and a Native American heritage museum on the land. We just went to walk the trails. It was beautiful.

Fruitlands Farmhouse where the Alcott family lived in 1843
Fruitlands Farmhouse where the Alcott family lived in 1843

First stop was the farmhouse. I believe the house is a Georgian style home. The roof has very little overhang, the winnows are symmetrical with a front door in the middle, but it has two floors, and is two rooms deep. I know that old houses are a lot of work to own, but I would love to own a historic home.

IMG_1564

This is the Willard Farm site. The farm dates back to the early 1700s, and the Alcotts lived here in 1844. Everyone bailed on the community during the winter of 1843, and eventually sometime in 1844 the Alcotts moved back to Concord. From what I have read, Bronson was very depressed when the Fruitlands didn’t work out and his wife, Abby, actually took their 4 daughters to a cottage in a village nearby. They eventually convinced Bronson to leave the Fruitlands and go back to Concord. The house on this site burned down in 1852 and was never rebuilt.

Loved this red and yellow foliage!
Loved this red and yellow foliage!

The land where we walked also had a brick factory in the late nineteenth century. The railroad was right there going through Harvard which made transport easy. The clay & sand in the area from the glacial beach left after the last ice age gave them plenty of materials. There were bricks and foundations left behind in the area.

Remnants of brick structure
Remnants of brick structure
Foundation from the brick workers dorm
Foundation from the brick workers dorm
Foundation from the home of the brick factory owner, J.C. Richmond, 120 years ago
Foundation from the home of the brick factory owner, J.C. Richmond, 120 years ago

It was an absolutely beautiful place. I love finding these abandoned settlements and spots in New England. It feels like if you let your imagination go for a moment, you can almost hear the crackling of an outdoor fire and the clanging of pots and mugs as workers gathered to share a meal. Hitting the trails at Fruitlands costs $6 a person, and that money goes back into the site. The trails were very well marked and so were the sites along the way. Here are some more pics from the day!

It was not a cold morning, but it was overcast. I wore my Barbour over a sweater & flannel, and my Toggis were huge for keeping ticks off of me! This was my first site on my list that I created, can’t wait to check more off the list!

$6….and I got to spend the morning with my fiancé, my dog, and some history outside….priceless.

Signature 2

 

Prep Craze: Flannel Shirts

Ok folks….the way some of the fashion bloggers I follow have been talking up flannel this year you would think this new trend came straight out of NYFW….maybe it did….I doubt it. My father and grandfather wore flannel as a uniform from October to April every year. It was what my dad threw on to get wood for the stove, and what my mom wore over turtlenecks in the winter. My grandparents owned a farm in Maine so lots of outdoor work even in the cold. There were flannel shirts, shirts that were insulated with long underwear, flannel lined with quilting, flannel lined jeans, flannel hats with the ear flaps…and us kids all had flannel shirts, pajamas, nighties, shorts, and of course sheets. I had a set of mocha flannel sheets that came out in the fall and I would have my mother wash and dry them in the same day so I didn’t have to use other sheets 🙂

This year, flannel shirts seem to be on everyone’s fall essential lists, in everyone’s instagram posts. This was all well and good until I clicked on a particular blogger’s link to their flannel shirt and found out that it was $168…..it was under a sweater, under a Barbour…..only the collar and tails of this shirt were showing…..$168. Was it free? I don’t know, I didn’t see the tell tale c/o after it.

Guys, please don’t spend that much on a flannel. If you spend that much, you are doing it wrong. These shirts are soft on dry chapped skin in the winter, and I love them, but if you are paying that much for one, it should like….also massage your shoulders or something. These are casual, comfy shirts…save that money for a nice dress shirt for an upcoming occasion/interview, not on a flannel. Oh and just an FYI, not all plaid shirts are flannel, and not all flannel shirts are plaid 😉

Here is my small collection of flannels:FullSizeRender-7

Top two shirts are from Old Navy Classic Flannel. They are all less than $30. They are very lightweight, which some people will like, some people won’t. They fit me ok, but the button over my chest kinda pulls which is crappy, but going up a size would make it too big. That being said, for the price, they are awesome under sweaters and under vests. A lot of us are wearing these shirts like that anyway.

Third one down was a present from my sister, the Eddie Bauer Stine’s Favorite Flannel Shirt. These fit me perfectly, they are on sale right now for $45, some great colors (I love the Atlantic!), and they are a little more substantial than the Old Navy shirts.

Finally, the bottom one in one of my favorite plaids, blackwatch, is the LLBean Scotch Plaid Shirt, Slightly Fitted. They are $44.95, great price for the quality. They also have this shirt in a relaxed fit. Pay attention to the size chart for LLBean because I go down a size for their clothing. This is a heavier weight shirt, closer to a true old school flannel shirt. I will definitely get more of these in future years.

Oh! Here is the J Crew Flannel Shirt I mentioned earlier. Its from the Thomas Mason for J Crew collection, so I guess if you are into that, then maybe $168 isn’t bad. J Crew does have other flannel shirts in the $80s, Orvis clocks in at $79. J Crew Factory have the Factory classic button down in flannel for $41.50, but a bunch of colors are backordered already.

Flannel came from the British Isles, worn by people who worked outside and wore these to stay warm in the rough weather often found in that area. If all you want flannel shirts for is to wear under a sweater or a vest, go cheap and lightweight, better for your wallet and your body temp if you work inside.

Annnnd to end this prep craze post, here is a beautiful pic of the Nashua River today from my trail run with the pup. Such a nice afternoon run.

IMG_1179

Happy Wednesday everyone! We are almost through the work week to the Columbus Day weekend!!

Signature 2

 

Prep Craze: The Quilted Riding Vest

I am really just getting on board with the whole layering with vests for normal activities business. For as long as I can remember, down puffy vests were for xc skiing and quilted water repellent vests were for horseback riding. When I realized people wore these vests around just normally and even indoors I didn’t jump on this trend right away. I did have some fleece vests which are just so comfortable over a nice long sleeve in the cooler months, but anyways, back to the quilted vest…

I always thought that quilted vests were insulated, but not necessarily down, light and usually water repellent. Down vests are super warm but most lost their loft when they get wet. A lot of what you see at stores for people buying these vests just for everyday layering are vests that are just for fashion- they are not water repellent like a nice quilted vest and not super warm like a nice down vest.

So this is the quilted vest that I ride in, especially in the indoor in the winter for only $39.99- Riding Sport Quilted Vest. The tack stores that we buy our stuff from around here, Dover Saddlery & Smartpak have a bunch of different quilted & down vests for really great prices.

As far as what other stores are offering, LLBean has a bunch of vest options. Here is there basic quilted riding vest at $109- Quilted Vest

LLBean also has a waxed cotton down vest that I would really like to check out, a little more pricey at $149, but it looks nice- Upcountry Waxed Cotton Down Vest

Here is the very popular J. Crew take on the vest, it is quilted and insulated with down for $120 although there is a 25% off sale going on- Excursion quilted down vest This vest also comes in a gray flannel and buffalo check.

Eddie Bauer I feel is often overlooked for people shopping around for whatever the latest prep craze is. They have some nice looking quilted vests. This one is $99 and is a tweed sort of pattern Year-round Field Vest (might go on my Christmas list :)and then their other colors Year-round Field Vest in colors. These are actually really nice looking because they are insulated & water repellent.

Finally, this is the one I just recently purchased from J. Crew Factory in navy. It was on sale 35% off with free shipping which made it $63! Not too shabby! Its comfortable, warm but not too toasty and not water repellent- Quilted Puffer Vests There are other colors, some prints like the very popular herringbone, very nice for the price.

I tried the quilted vest from Old Navy  thinking I was really getting a steal, but honestly, the material felt very cheap and it was a very boxy fit on me, so I spent a little more for the J. Crew Factory vest. Here’s the Old Navy one- Quilted Vest. Its $28…its the right look but just didn’t work on me.

My advice would be to look for sales on the J. Crew vests, they are really nice but I wouldn’t pay full price. Dare to be different though! Check out the quilted vests at Dover Saddlery and Eddie Bauer! Be the one girl in your group with a cheaper vest that looks unique, don’t be afraid to stand out AND save some dollars!

Signature 2