Redefining Love (and Sweaters) with Refined Knits

I fell in love on a cold December day in 2015. The object of my affections was short (kinda square, really), dark, and handsome. Best of all, it contained stunning knitwear with cables, lace, and combinations of cables and lace. Yes, people, it’s a book that spiked my pulse—humans rarely offer knitting patterns as part of their courting rituals. Dating sites might work better for me if they did. Refined Knits a marvelous design collection by Jennifer Wood, stole my heart on that day, and ever since, I’ve knitted steadily in devotion.

In the first year of my relationship with this book, 3 projects from Refined Knits flew onto and off of my needles. More refined than typical sweaters, the garments are lightweight and form-fitting. None of them have standard k1, p1 ribbing at neckline, hem, or cuffs—Jennifer always comes up with something unusual for the beginnings and endings. My finished knits look and feel more like fine blouses, partly because of their silhouette, and partly because they used skinny yarns, from fingering to sportweight. The fabric drapes softly and beautifully against my skin.

First I made Corinne, an exquisite top-down raglan with a single cable down the front and on each sleeve, then 3 staggered cables down the back. It was enjoyable to knit: Jennifer combined seamless top-down construction with a ribbing-free neckline, so I didn’t have to slog through inches of k1, p1 before the fun began. Although I loved the rich red hue Jennifer chose for her book, I went with my favorite color, a bold peacock blue. The results are glorious: this sweater always gets compliments.

refined knits

Corinne, in Madelinetosh Pashmina, a delicious sportweight yarn made of merino, silk, and cashmere. Jennifer used this yarn for her sample in a deep red.

Red made its appearance with my next project from the book, the sleeveless Vivian. How could I not love a colorway called Tango? Vivian features delicate Frost Flower lace at the hem, a drapey boatneck, and a flattering fit. I wear this delightful tank when life calls for some elegance.

refined knits

Vivian, in Shibui Knits Staccato, a high-twist fingering-weight combo of merino and silk. Jennifer’s sample used a light gray colorway of this yarn.

For my third top, I chose Victoria, another compound raglan knitted from the top down. This light pullover draws attention to the face because Jennifer placed lace motifs right at the neckline. Intricate cable and lace diamonds form wide Vs on the front and back and narrow Vs at the top of each sleeve. I should have chosen a more solid colorway, and I misplaced my raglan shaping lines (but in a cool way that looks like a design feature rather than an error). Even so, the sweater turned out well, and it always gets noticed.

This time, yarn in my stash called out to me, and I listened. Manos del Uruguay’s Fino yarn is a single-ply blend of merino and silk.

Right now, I’m working on Jennifer’s hobbit-inspired top, Idril. Even elves would be jealous of her lovely mithril! This time, Jennifer decorated an empire-waist silhouette with cables. They start at the front neck, and below the bust more cables join them to define a waist. Jennifer also chose construction elements that I just love: seamless, top-down, short-row shoulder shaping, with set-in sleeves. I detest seaming, especially on sleeve caps, so I usually adapt patterns. Either I knit set-in sleeves from the top down with short rows (see Interweave Knits Fall 2017 for instructions), or I work simultaneous set-in sleeves from the bottom. This last option hasn’t always worked for me in the past. Now that I’ve successfully created top-down set-in sleeves with Idril and another WIP (from Jennifer Dassau’s Knitting Short Rows, I’m in love with this method too!

Here again, something special from my stash comes out to play. It’s MJ Yarns’ Opulent Fingering, a sock yarn made of merino, nylon, and cashmere. The hand-dyed tonal variations give a rich look even to a swatch.

My favorites list contains more projects from Refined Knits, and some of them look more like typical sweaters. Hey, I’m not knocking typical sweaters! But it’s really neat to see Jennifer Wood pushing the boundaries of design—she invites us to reimagine knitwear with her elegant, figure-flattering, lightweight tops. If you’re in love with her book the way I am, think about this: It’s not made unless you love it, and it’s not loved until you make it.

—Deb Gerish

Posted September 22, 2017. Updated. June 22, 2018.

Redefine Your Knits and Explore Cool Construction Methods


One Comment

  1. Myriam G at 12:12 pm October 7, 2017

    The Victoria sweater is my favourite. It’s beautifully made, and you really rock it!

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