The Heather Hoodie Vest: Designing a Keeper

In the Fall issue of Knitscene, Debbie O'Neill brings us the uber-cute Heather Hoodie Vest. This project has quickly gained popularity and I wanted to pick Debbie's brain about WHY. She walks us through her design process, and I think the overall gist of the story is that this design was kismetthe right design for a moment in time when people want affordable, wearable, and for us knitters, sweater-y! projects. This design has the same appeal as the Central Park Hoodie: casual styling; comfy; wooly; ageless; with just enough unique texture to keep the eye (and hands) interested. But I'll let Debbie talk now.


I love cables. Last winter it seemed I was seeing chunky vests and short-sleeved sweaters everywhere. Combining cables with these little sweaters seemed like a fun idea for a handknitting design. I really wanted to do something stylish, but simple. I think many newer knitters are intimidated by both the prospect of knitting sweaters and of working cables. Neither is difficult once you find a project you love because you are motivated to see it through to the end.


I started off with a couple of sketches. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but sketches are still useful for capturing the essence of what I have bouncing around in my head. I tend to do two kinds of sketches to convey my ideas—a schematic sketch that breaks down the elements of the project, and a fashion sketch showing the garment in action.


I liked the idea of little cap sleeves that were created simply by trimming the armhole of a drop-shouldered construction, and an oversized hood that sits almost like a cowl when down. I hit the pile of stitch dictionaries to try to find just the right cable—I wanted something fairly large to stand on its own, but not too complex  I knew that I wanted to use a bulky yarn for the project. I stopped by a few of the local yarn shops and rummaged around in my stash for something that matched what I was seeing in my head.  I settled on Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky.


The Lamb’s Pride Bulky is a bit of an unconventional choice for cables. Usually, to really make a cable pop, you would use a smooth, plied yarn. However, I love the way the slight fuzziness and the heathered colors of this singles mohair blend soften the appearance of the cables, but still show the pattern. And Lamb’s Pride is a yarn that most people can find easily, and it is affordable—important considerations for making a project accessible to everyone.


With a swatch and sketches in hand, it was time to approach Knitscene with the project idea. The editors accepted my design, and my yarn choice! The final sweater was exactly what I had envisioned. As happy as I was with the sample sweater, I never expected the project to be received so eagerly. I am thrilled! I think one of the best parts of desiging is seeing all of your finished projects and works-in-progress's out in the world.


I wish I could say exactly why the Heather Hoodie Vest is so popular—I’d be sure that every design I did hit on those elements! Maybe you all could tell me what you like best about it. I do think it has to do with the fact that it is a quick, but still interesting, knit and is a style that appeals to many ages and body types. It is a simple, wearable sweater. So, now I need to find the time to knit one for myself!


More of Debbie’s work can be found at



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