A Heraldic Sweater/Clara Yarn/1980s Knitwear/More Sequence Knitting

I made a sweater. And for a humble sweater, it brings together a lot of ideas and people, hence my conundrum on the title of this blog post.

Heraldic Sweater Front View 2

A Heraldic Sweater made from Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0

When I got my lucky hands on some Shetland 1.0 by Clara Yarn – an occasional, exclusive, and always interesting yarn range from my dear friend and fellow Comrade in Wool, Clara Parkes – I wanted to play with colour, but I also wanted to eek out the yardage as much as I could. So the most obvious approach, stranded colour work, was out of the question: I wanted every inch of yarn to be knitted into a visible stitch. The second option was intarsia, and for a long time, I thought that this would be the solution.

Suddenly, a lot of things came together: I remembered my swatch of “tweed knitting”, a method of creating a tweedy fabric using a mistake rib, which I had found in a 1950s Dutch knitting book.

a better course in knitting - het breien in betere banen - de vries-hamburger

“Tweed knitting” from A Better Course in Knitting, a 1950s Dutch knitting book

My interest in knitting patterns from the 1980s:

A Jumper by Jane Wheeler

A cozy cardigan by Jane Wheeler, shown in Rowan’s Design Collection; Summer & Winter Knitting, edited by Stephen Sheard

Tapestry Sweater, designed by Susan Duckworth

Tapestry Sweater, designed by Susan Duckworth, from her book Floral Knitting

I implore anybody who shudders by the thought of 1980s knitwear to take a closer look. If you can see past the oversized boxy shapes, a rich world opens up. I don’t see a nadir in knitwear design, but an exciting and heady mix of texture, colour, and technique. Young knitwear designers and labels such as Artwork, Kaffe Fassett, Annabel Fox, Bodymap, and Patricia Roberts, to name just a few, explored exciting new things. Rowan yarns started to make a lot of new yarns in a variety of fibres, texture, and colour. No technique was considered too complicated. It’s full of inspiration for me. I particularly like the colourwork designs where the different areas of colours are accentuated by the use of a different stitch, or a yarn with a different texture, such as the Tapestry Sweater by Susan Duckworth. In my sweater, though, I wanted to stick to using the Shetland 1.0 only, so I started playing around with texture and colour.

Clara Yarn Swatch

An early swatch combining blocks of colour with contrast in texture – with apologies for the poor quality of my phone picture

As I now knew where I wanted to go, I made a start with knitting, even if I hadn’t worked out the detail yet, hoping that I would find a solution along the way. I had finished the back and one sleeve when I found out about Sequence Knitting, a knitting method explored and documented by Cecelia Campochiaro in her book. I had a flash of inspiration! Why not try out some sequence knitting by knitting swatches, which I could then incorporate into the front piece? To knit this unhampered by attempting to match stitch and row gauge, I would block the swatches and the back piece, and that way I could work out how to knit the front piece with matching holes, into which I could then sew the swatches. And that’s just what I did:

Heraldic Sweater Front Piece Puzzle

The front piece puzzle, using a wide range of knitting sequences

As you can see, the front piece blocked out a bit larger than planned, so sewing together was a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Huzzah for my endless stash of coil-less safety pins.

Sewing Up of the Heraldic Sweater

Sewing the swatches into the front

When I had completed the sewing up, the front looked less than presentable. Lots of puckers along seam lines, and fabric pulling into all sorts of directions. But such is the power of The Second Blocking (after sewing up and adding button bands or collars, I always block again) that all puckers and warping disappeared, as I knew would happen; I had, after all, used the largest gauge swatch I could make: the whole back piece.

When I showed my nearly finished jumper to Anna Maltz, she declared it looked “very heraldic.” It all made sense:

Shield Sweater and Cardigan by Sandy Black

Shield Sweater and Cardigan, from Sandy Black’s Original Knitting, knitted in stocking stitch and reverse stocking stitch. The shield is on the front of the sweater, and the back of the cardigan

A bold design, and a contrast in texture by using different stitches: I believe I have managed to take what I like in 1980s knitwear, and make it into something new.

Heraldic Sweater Shoulder

A well-shaped sleeve cap, and a mock-turtle neck

There’s also a lot of shaping hidden in this sweater. The sleeve cap has a “proper” bell shape, like for a sewn shirt, and of course making the holes on the front meant using lots of different rates of increasing and decreasing: I learnt a lot about that, too! The mock turtle neck was knitted by graduating the needle size: at the picked up edge I used 3.5mm needles, and every few rows I went one size smaller until I reached 2.75mm. The part that’s folded to the inside is knitted on one needle size smaller throughout, from 2.5mm through to 3.25mm.

Heraldic Sweater Front View

Me looking a bit smug in my Heraldic Sweater

I thoroughly enjoyed bringing all these disparate things together in one sweater, and the Clara Yarn Shetland 1.0 was a dream to knit with. I hope to wear this sweater with much pleasure for years to come!

22 Replies to “A Heraldic Sweater/Clara Yarn/1980s Knitwear/More Sequence Knitting”

  1. This is splendid – a real tour de force. You should be extremely proud of it. Of course, there are lots of potential weak points in it too, so it will be an excellent exercise for your techniques as you wear and wear it.

  2. Hello What a fantastic sweater .. you really are so talented ! I think you are based in Brighton .. do you run any knitting courses/ classes ?

    Thank you Dele Lias

  3. That seems like such a fun project, and I love that you made proper sleeve caps, and used progressive needle changes to make the neckline fit. I have used that technique on shawl collars with great success.

  4. Your sweater is stunning!! I still have a few of the 1980’s knitting books and keep them for their inspiration. Kaffe is such a color man You encourage me to take a closer look at them.
    Thanks so much for sharing!!

  5. As someone who will do just about anything to achieve a particular design once it’s in my head, this sweater is a delight. It’s also fun to see how the design developed, and to feel the echoes of your inspirations in the final piece, even though the design is itself unique. I think that the subdued Shetland colors also help to keep the focus on the design elements, and prevent it from being “too much,” even for this conservative knitter. Thanks for the tour!

  6. What an inspiring piece of work – and so informatively written up. You have made the most stunning sweater. As a new – and admiring – follower of your blog, I was inspired not to throw out a thick sweater I’d made in the 1980s which had caught moth, leaving holes too awkward to darn well. Instead I knitted patches in contrasting yarn and sewed them on. So pleased (smug?!) was I that, having just binned a pair of old commercially knitted woollen gloves with holes on a thumb and couple of fingers, I retrieved them, cut the surviving palms and fingers into small patches, whipped the edges and made further contrasting coloured patches for a commercially knitted jacket that had also succumbed to moth, attaching them with a sort of blanket stitch in black. Not as beautifully worked as I would like, but if I continue to suffer moth, I shall get plenty more pracitce…

  7. Nice finished sweater. I guess that is the benefit of having proficiency in skills such as knitting, etc – you can experiment and create exactly what you envision.

    Very interesting…did you knit the front with the openings first and knit the swatches to fit? or the swatches first and determine how to incorporate them? or design it all initially? or? I’m not sure I could manage that much planning…

    I have a bunch of pattern books from the 80s and they are always fun/inspiring to look at.


      1. Hello Tom,

        No, it’s clear…I just need to read a bit more carefully – I’m easily bewildered. I’m just happy when I can squeeze in a few rows of knitting on my simple projects, so your posts are definitely vicarious adventures for me.


  8. You always push it – I find that so inspiring. Your knitting skills are way beyond mine, yet I’m going to try something personal and resounding like this. Thanks!
    I do wonder how you manage to keep the edges of your holes so solid.

    And, I don’t know if this is alright to say, but you look very handsome in the jumper.

    1. Thanks! Depending on the slope of the edge, I used short rows and the cast off the edge separately, or I cast on and again used short rows. Or otherwise just simple decreasing or increasing if the required slope allowed for that. And thanks for the compliment 🙂

  9. Well, stone the crows……I never would have thought to do something like that, guess I do not like puzzles either so am doubly impressed! Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: