Kiwiyarns Knits

A blog about New Zealand yarns, knitting and life

Inspiration: A ‘boyfriend’ sweater


When I design, I take the yarn that I am drawn to using, and after I’ve swatched it to understand its qualities, I usually know what I can do with it.

Finding a yarn to match a pattern however, (as opposed to a pattern for a yarn), is quite a painful process. My recent exercises in finding patterns that I’d like to knit and then a yarn to go with it have been “interesting”.  How many times have I selected a yarn for a pattern, only to discard it in favour of another?!

It’s interesting to note from the time I briefly worked in a yarn store that many knitters choose pattern first, then yarn.  But I rather think it’s the most painful way to begin a project!

Now this process appears to have tainted my designing as well!!  I have decided that despite my initial desire to have a few more fitted pieces in my wardrobe, what I really want is a nice, relaxed weekend-type number.  Hmm.  Sometimes it’s hard to break old habits.

I want something guaranteed to be warm, but not too bulky or heavy.  Comfort is of ultimate importance here!  However, it also has to look elegant.  I spent hours on Ravelry and in other places looking, and looking, and looking… some patterns came close, but nothing was ‘it’.

In the end, I gave up and decided that to get exactly what I wanted, I needed to design one.

One day this week, as the setting sun brought the usual drop in temperature, I spied my son’s pullover draped over the back of the sofa and threw that on instead of going to find my own.

There was an ‘oh’ moment…

This is how it looked on him at the time I knitted it three years ago, one of my very first garment “designs”:

So what I really want is a ‘boyfriend’ sweater!  For the avoidance of doubt, Tim is my son, but you get the idea – it’s the kind of pullover you’d pinch off a boyfriend.

A deal was easily brokered.  The pullover is too short for Tim now, and it was lying around waiting for me to add some length to it so he could wear it.  It was quite easy to convince someone that what he really needed was new one knitted to his larger measurements (evil snigger).

It’s mine now.

As for the conceptualised pullover.  Drawing is not one of my talents, so don’t laugh! But this is the general concept sketch:

You’re probably wondering how I managed to come up with this, given Tim’s pullover looks completely different.  It’s more to do with how it feels when on.  It’s a hard one to describe, but I suspect other designers will identify with me when I say that Tim’s pullover inspired the eventual design I’ve come up with and firmed my mind on certain design elements that I had been toying with.

One of the most important parts of the success of a project is how it feels on you after you’ve knitted it.  If the yarn is scratchy, or too warm/too cool for function, or just not the right drape or weight, it kills the whole thing, even if you’ve just knitted a technical masterpiece.

What yarn to use is now the question! This pullover’s yarn has to be light to wear, but not ‘poufy’, give good ease of movement and be warm enough to keep me cosy in a cold house.

For some reason, I’m rejecting the idea of a pure merino.  I think I want something with a bit of visual ‘hugability’ to it.  An angora merino mix would be perfect.  Or perhaps that stunningly cushy, soft Willow from Zealana – a super soft, lofty mix of merino/cashmere. Or perhaps it’s possum merino?  Time to start swatching!!

Do any of your favourite yarns spring to mind for this design?


Author: kiwiyarns

Welcome to my blog where I talk about knitting in New Zealand and the beautiful yarns you can find here.

13 thoughts on “Inspiration: A ‘boyfriend’ sweater

  1. I’d be interested in your thoughts about using alpaca. Soft, non-itchy, nice drape, not too poufy??
    I used some possum/merino to knit some hand warmers and that is yummy yarn to knit with…

  2. Why not try baby alpaca? It’s wonderfully soft and warm, and has superb drape. Use some nice earthy colours to match your relaxed theme. Otherwise give yourself permission to use the Willow – I think you want to!

    • Baby alpaca (or even normal alpaca) is another option. I’ve got a couple of other garments queued to use the alpaca I have, but I am beginning to wonder…

  3. It is quite a nice feeling having a ‘boyfriend’ big enough to pinch a sweater from, so far I have a rather nice Fat Face one on the back of my sofa, but I am eyeing up a lambswool knitted sweater he sports, but early days for that one, but it is REALLY soft, thin but really warm. Tim’s (sorry your) jumper look really good on you.

  4. I love hearing that you too have issues with matching yarn to pattern and vice versa. It is so mysterious to me that my LYS owner can look at a pattern I say I want to make and just walk to the yarns with confidence as she says, well you could use this or this or this. I spend so much time on Ravelry’s yarn tab, looking at my yarn and the suggested projects! maybe some day it will become easier for me….??
    As I was reading this post it made me think of a sweater I saw om a Mason Dixon book that was like a sweatshirt sweater, in that it was the go to sweater for comfort, ease of wear and warmth. Going to look it up now…. I’ll post a link once I find it.

  5. I realized I loaned my book out, so this is a guess as to the sweatshirt sweater pattern.

  6. Oooh, this post gave me the warmest feeling because it reminds me of my mother and how she would take a knit that she made years before and adapt it to a new person or even herself. Adding length, color, trim … you name it, she had the great vision to take a pre-existing knit and turn it into something new or at least updated. You are a true artist and I love the way you think about your knitting. I agree wholeheartedly that a yarn should come first; that when we see and touch a yarn, we then imagine what it will become. For your boyfriend sweater, I’d like to such Malabrigo Worsted — the fabric that it becomes is so soft, so smooth, and truly pretty. And the colors, even in the solids, are variegated in the most subtle way. Have you knit with Malabrigo before? I’m a huge fan. xo

    • What a lovely compliment to be compared to your fantastic mother. Thank you! 🙂 As for Malabrigo. I have a skein of treasured worsted, given to me by a friend. It is beautiful isn’t it! I am not sure if I’ll use it for the sweater because I’ve read so much about how it’s prone to piling when used for high friction garments. (My skein is reserved for one of Kristen Hanley Cardozo’s Day’s Eye Hats). You have the idea of the softness and weight spot on though! Maybe you could knit one in Mal when I release the pattern and let me know…. hehe.

  7. Hi,
    It was so much fun to read this post. You took me through your mental thinking process, it was so exciting! From your son wearing the sweater, to you, to the design and description of what you are truly looking for. Love the sketch, it looks so comfortable and flattering. About the yarn to use, I personally don’t know, but I know you will pick out something great. We (USA) don’t have all the lovely yarns you have in NZ.
    Thanks for the inspiration, xoRobin❤

  8. It’s good to hear the thoughts of a true knitter and designer. Very insightful! I am quickly developing a love of knitting and now that my skills are coming along, I am excited to start thinking about the possibilities of garments! Your words have given me some new things to think about before I begin my adventures in garment knitting 🙂 Thanks!