Eight Examples of Outstanding Knitwear Design

On Monday, Vicki Square shared her top 5 keys for a great sweater design. Today, I thought I would wander through the Interweave Pattern Store with these 5 keys in hand, and pick out one or two examples of each one. Because we're heading into summer, the garments I have chosen are all suitable for warm-weather wear (or cooler summer nights!). Here are my picks for garments that fit each of Vicki's top 5 keys:

Key #1:  Overall presentation must be aesthetically strong and balanced.

OK, I know I said that I was going to choose warm-weather garments, but there's one garment that is such a standout that I just couldn't pass it up: Norah Gaughan's Nantucket Jacket. This garment is an outstanding example of all the best that knitwear design has to offer: the stitch patterns, the shaping, the details, the yarn choice, the color. One look at it, and you know you are looking at something special, something timeless, something where all the features work together to form a harmonious whole. (And actually, you could wear it on a cool summer evening, because the yarn is breathable merino and the sleeves are three-quarter length.)

Key #2:  The marriage of yarn to garment has to be a desirable match.

My two choices here are the Printed Silk Cardigan by Connie Chang Chinchio, and the Waterlily Top, by Pam Allen. You know a designer has chosen the absolute perfect yarn for her design when knitters have trouble coming up with an adequate substitution! No other yarn will do for either of these garments, not if you want the drape, flow, color, and sheen of the originals.

Key #3:  Choose a stitch to showcase, and not overpower, the yarn.

Here, I immediately thought of two garments at opposite ends of the spectrum. First, Butterfly, by Katie Himmelberg, is done in all-over stockinette stitch to emphasize the shiny drape of the lovely bamboo yarn. Second, Shirley Paden's Oriel Lace Blouse uses an all-over, large-scale lace pattern to compliment the subtle color shifts in the hand-dyed silk. Look at either garment: Can you picture the Butterfly in a more elaborate stitch pattern? No, because it would take away from the simplicity and flow of the top. And few other stitch patterns would give the Oriel Lace Blouse that "wow!" factor.

Key #4:  The garment's design absolutely must be well grounded in knowledge of garment construction, proportion, and knitting techniques.

Again, I chose two garments which exemplify two completely different aspects of great garment construction: Pam Allen's Flutter Sleeve Cardi and Norah Gaughan's Origami Cardi. The Flutter Sleeve Cardi has everything: great shaping done cleverly and well; sleeve caps that fit; and overall proportions that look great on a variety of body shapes. We featured this in one of our Knitting Daily Galleries last year, and every single person who tried it on was amazed at how well it fit and how flattering it was, no matter what the body type.

Norah's Origami Cardigan is at the opposite end of the spectrum as far as garment construction goes: She appears to break a lot of the rules, but when you wear the finished garment, you realize that she has in fact, followed every single rule—she's just gotten there by the road less travelled, if you will! Melding aspects of traditional Japanese couture with modern yarns and stitchery, the Origami Cardi is a standout example of stellar knitting technique.

Key #5: There is one feature that acts as a primary focus, with all other design elements enhancing this feature, not detracting from it.

In Stefanie Japel's Cable-Down Raglan, the cables take center stage—and everything else, from yarn choice to the overall shaping—enhances the cables but never ever overwhelms them. I love how the raglan stitching at the shoulders leads your eye right down into a gorgeous cable on the sleeves; the smooth merino yarn makes those cables pop.


You mean I can only pick eight? Well, no one said "eight" exactly, but there was a limit to how many sweaters I could talk about in one post. So I had to leave out a lot more of my favorites.

What would your picks be? You might want to take a stroll of your own through Interweave's Online Store, where you will find patterns for all eight of my picks, plus many, many more great spring and summer designs! You never know what you might find…

— Sandi





Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? I'm swatching for baby gifts for my new nieces-to-be! Meanwhile, I'm working on a pair of socks (as usual), and I just finished spinning some lovely hand dyed wool on my handspindle. (I'm getting into all kinds of fiber trouble, apparently.)

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