A Sweater for the Lad

By Ann Shayne
October 30, 2018

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  • The natural light zips are a real find! I’d never seen a knitted hem before.
    Thank you for your good words for Pittsburgh

    • P.S. If you google “Sasha Phillips Mr Rogers Tree of Life” you’ll see a poignant picture she drew of Mr. Rogers in one of his sweaters, head in hands,heartbroken.

      • Just thinking that Fred Rogers’ Mom knit his sweaters.

  • This s going to be one fine sweater. The natural light stripes are a sign. Crop the photo and it’s suitable framing. Maybe even not cropped.

  • The sun does the best zips! It’s going to be a great sweater.

  • Although at first I thought the colors were too dim, not contrasty enough, but the sunlight bars have confirmed your choices. But your description of the blue-gray stripe in the painting indicates contrast in texture, too. So, a nubbly yarn?
    And yes, a black sweater seems appropriate for this whole last year.

    I am a volunteer election official, and yes! Everybody vote!

  • Have you thought about using intarsia to make the zips? The clean edged zip can be of a similar weight and fiber as your black yarn and the textured zip could be with a highly textured yarn like a thick and thin and/or something “fuzzy” to create the non-crisp edges of the zip made with the palette knife. Just thinking out loud.

    • Those were my thoughts! Intarsia, and something textured for the gray zip, to get the visual difference between the two. Or get Clif to knit the zips, and sew them on…

      • Or knit the sleek zip as intarsia and sew on the rough zip?

    • Re. The vertical stripes – what about steeking the sweater and making the extra steek stitches in the stripe colours? – then a thick black zipper? –

  • I enjoyed your article. Can you suggest a book for me? I am a rookie. All I know is knit and purl. I’d love to be able to make scarves and shawls and wraps with patterns. I guess this makes me a knit wit!

    • Not a book, but you might check out the Simple Collection by Tin Can Knits. They have 11 free patterns that are geared towards learning new techniques, with lots of in-depth resources.

    • When I was a new knitter I learned a lot from Debbie Stoller’s book Stitch ‘n’ Bitch. She respects knitting tradition, but at the same time is irreverent and funny. I learned the knit stitch at an afternoon craft store class, but learned how to purl and bind off from Debbie’s book.

  • Yay for set in sleeves! The husband is getting a Rhinebeck sweater (for Rhinebeck 2019) due to popular opinion. He wants fingering weight and I’m not finding much on Rav. Someone suggested the Ann Budd book to me and here I see it as well. I’ll have to check my LYS.

    • Every library where I live has Ann Budd’s book and it’s definitely worth looking into, because you can make just about any sweater with any weight yarn from those recipes and tips.

  • Beautiful. You are so thought-full. I love the knitted hem and how someone figured out to add a purl row for the fold edge.The sunlight stripes — only you would catch that and rejoice in it. I love handsome Clif’s request. Asking you to knit him a sweater is like my kids asking for a special homecooked meal. You had me at “Mom, …”

  • I agree: the strips need to be intarsia, perhaps with a twisted stitch on each side to make the edges crisp, and some sort of random pattern to fill in the space (sequence knitted perhaps?). Duplicate stitch over the length of the sweater will change the texture and stretch on one side of the sweater qnd not the other, and will affect its wearability. IMHO

  • That sweater is going to be a work of art in its own right.

  • Oh and maybe knit the front sideways… easier to insert stripes, a la Julia Farwell-Clay … and just add some neighboorhood fiber company laceweight mohair to the one stripe? You could do one row of tiny Fair isle (alternating colors 1×1) for the zip effect.

    • The stripe at the right does include a strand of Mohair silk held with a strand of merino! Not furry enough, alas!

      • Maybe something weird like a fine chenille with mohair?

  • Wonderful collaboration to have in these times.

  • Perhaps the grey stripe needs to textured? Like something from Sequence Knitting (The Cecelia Campochiaro book)? That would enable you to reference the impasto of the original.

  • This project is very exciting. Your lad looks like a painting himself. Specifically the painting of Robert Louis Stevenson by Sargent, a personal favorite.

  • I spent yesterday morning searching for a suitable pattern for my 17 year son’s requested sweater! The Whitney is also one of our favorite museums. I look forward to your following your progress. And love and light to all.

  • intarsia in the round (I have a video on youtube). But I think it might be interesting, keeping with Newman’s practice to knit the paler stripe as intarsia, and duplicate stitch the palette knifed one.

  • Simply wonderful! Now I want to hem my next creation.

  • Such a lovely post! Sending that light and love back out into the universe too.

  • Oh, I can’t wait to see your final design! I think his second sweater would be awesome in the design/pattern created by the light from the window. Love the difference in intensity, tone, height of the vertical bars on your window version. It would be an original art piece!

  • LOVE your hemming technique, who would of thought of that one???? Never me. Thank you

  • Your son asked you to make a sweater. Could there be any better feeling during an achingly sad time? Cloaking him in love and warmth, a mother’s favorite job.

    • Major like!!!!!

  • I had to do a double take at the birth announcement. I was like “Oh she has another friend Rachel who has a daughter named Shelby.” But no, that was me and mine! What a cool cameo. It had made my day. I love.love love this sweater! Can’t wait to see how it turns out.

    • Can you believe that was 12 years ago???? I’ve been looking at that darling photo all the time, remembering when Shelby showed up and how joyous it all was!

  • Is it totally bonkers that my fist thought for the white crisp zip is… a zipper? An off center zipper? Is that to gauche? Or last year’s fashion? Clif will know best. 🙂

    • I was thinking the same thing – zippers for the zips.

    • Could be on the shoulder of a mock turtle neckline …

  • The Domino Knitting book had a nice technique for stockinette stitch colored blocks/stripes. I used this some time ago to make a four color knitted potholder.

    Love this pattern and idea as it’s always tough to make great men’s knitwear.

  • What about that technique for non- stranded vertical stripes? You purl the stripe area and then go back with a crochet hook and work up the stripe. Would that work? It’s a pretty cool technique, but I’ve only seen it done one stitch wide…

    • Applied crochet chain was my first thought – you don’t actually need to purl the column where you’ll work it, but patterns usually write it that way because it makes it easier for the knitter to see where to crochet without going off track. Purling does help the crochet sit flush with the main fabric, though.

    • I agree – that was my first thought! I’ve used this technique to make plaid (https://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/18-plaid-fringed-wrap) and I’m itching to make a 1950’s sweater with beautiful stripes (https://www.etsy.com/listing/49231284/pattern-1950s-vintage-ladies-striped-ski?ref=shop_home_active_7). I’ve only seen this technique used for a one-column stripe; you could probably do two columns next to each other, but I’m wondering if this would distort the fabric. It’s easy enough to do a sample dishcloth to test out.

      Good luck, it’s wonderful that your son has requested a sweater.

  • Ok. Maybe a bonkers suggestion, but what about non-knit stripes? Like a smooth straight edged ribbon for the masking tape stripe and a piece of frayed silk for the palate knife stripe?

  • The sunlight zips are beautiful and inspiring. “Sending love and light” to Pittsburgh

  • I’m thinking intarsia for the zips. Zippers would be too much for your son, who has excellent taste. I don’t know what the current fashion word for “gimmicky” is but that’s what your one “f” Clif would say.
    Congratulations on your son’s request, and don’t we all need something to cheer us up. I never thought we would see something like Pittsburgh in this country. The shooter’s disgusting antisemitism aside, when are we gonna git us some gun control?

  • First impression–I think your sample zips are too wide. The painting is this broad expanse of blank then some narrow, in comparison, zips. The photo with the natural light zips is just lovely.
    This will be an fabulous, well-loved sweater!


    • Yes, the swatch was just to see if duplicate stitch would even work. The proportion is something I’ll figure out once the front and back are complete.


  • Maybe more Kay’s thing than yours, but using the stripes like fabric to be covered with hand stitching/surface design could create something like the visual tension of the hard-edged wildness of the “textured” painted strip on the painting. Kind of like A. Chanin meets visible mending meets adding embroidery to knitting. Or, oh, I like this one even better. Do each stripe as purl stitches, and after blocking, use painter’s tape to keep the edges clean, and use your cat brush to just slightly distress the surface of the one stripe.

  • Love this post! So nice that your son “commissioned” a sweater from you and so cool that you all are collaborating on the design! It made me wonder what my college age sons would design – a MarioKart themed sweater? A Google sweater? Something techy. :-). Good luck with the sweater – it’s going to be great.

  • What a wonderful request and collaboration. I hope my son requests a sweater at some point (he’s 6). 🙂

  • Nothing like a sweater to “communicate the most dramatic and elemental aspects of human existence.”


  • I am a recent fan of the MDK blogs and today’s post lifted me out of a lot of sadness. Repetitive stress injuries will prevent me from making a sweater so I am considering a scarf based on The Promise, a reminder of hope in a hard place.

  • Okay so this is a wildly risky idea…but will leave the fabric intact AND allow for some “painterly” effect. You would have to test this on swatches first…and it would be worse than steeking from an anxiety level: how about knitting the whole thing in black…and using either bleach or another “dye removal” chemical to literally zip out the color? I am thinking Q-tips here…stitch by stitch. I have no idea whether this would work…but you would have some control over the process and you could really work that painterly edge…just a thought!

  • Could you make the zips by applying hydrogen peroxide or some kind of dye to the completed fabric? It might distress the wool a bit, and could be hard to control… but maybe if you made a thick paste and painted it on?

  • What a treat–to be designing a sweater WITH someone you love!! I’m jealous. And I voted.

  • This post. THIS POST! So full of love and beauty. Thank you.

    I will enjoy watching your progress on this sweater. I still haven’t recovered from the Gryffindor sweater I knit for Kid2, so many years ago. Intarsia is not my favorite. But could work well for your sweater front. Straight intarsia lines are so much tidier than lions rampant!

  • Have you seen Horst Schultz’s books? (They are oldies but goodies.) I would have knit the stripes separately, picked up stitches along the edges in the darker yarn, and then worked the black portions, joining the knitted strips by working the last stitch of the row with the picked up stitches with an SSK or K2 together. I am not a fan of duplicate stitch—probably because it is always results in a hot mess when I try to do it.

  • The Lad has good taste! I just finished a hat in Woolfolk Flette which would add an interesting textural element. They call it Dk but it might work. I am looking forward to seeing the FO!!

  • What a great post. Thank you for introducing me to this artist, right up my alley. I can’t wait to see how the sweater comes out. The tip on the hem was pure genius. I thought the painting inspired a blanket. Sequence knitting separated by the two zips in stockinette. I am all about sequences knitting these days!

    Wanted to thank you for urging us to vote. I can’t say it loud enough or often enough.VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!

    Thanks again for the MDK daily blogs. They make my day!

  • What about knitting the stripes as a reverse stocking stitch band in the black yarn. You can then crochet up each stitch strip in the contrasting colour – as you might for knitting pin stripes. That way, you can keep the stripes quite thin and the reverse SS sits back, so the final result is flush. You could do the rough stripe in a silk mohair blend to get the fuzzy edge. Just a thought- I’ve always wanted to knit pin stripes!

  • Such a phenomenal idea for a sweater! Such an onpoint collaboration of two talented people! How wonderful it is for parent and child to be collaborating in this way. This is all very exciting and I feel so happy to hear all of the plans, see the pictures. Also, seeing how the rays of light made “zips” all over the black knitting feels to me like a sign that the Universe approves. There is goodness in this working together of mother and child, especially in such a unique and creative way.

    In the wake of the horrific shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, it is so important to remember the good and kind things that we can do for each other and with each other. The seemingly smallest act of good sends out positive ripples throughout our world. There, moment-to-moment, we can find our strength.

    Thank you for sharing this with us, Ann. Sending you love and light, as well.

  • I’m assuming this will be a pullover, so I’d suggest a turtleneck or mock turtleneck. You could run one of the zips up into it, depending on where you’ve placed them. Intarisa would be a must for this. And, you could add a touch of home — sprinkle catnip on the sweater pieces and let Kermit roll around on them for a week or so…;-)!

  • There is no greater proof of a mother’s love than said mother knitting her tall son a fingering weight black sweater in the waning light of autumn. Wishing you good luck and strong light!

  • Lovely sweater inspiration! Just mailed my ballot! 😀

  • That sunlight so defines what your son wants! Wow! Get it done!

  • Thank you for this post.

  • Voting is on my list for Thursday. (We do it by mail here in Washington — I miss the community at the polling place, a local elementary school, but the inclusivity and convenience can’t be beat). Isn’t it LOVELY when our grown-up kids request a sweater (or other knitted object). So affirming. Makes you feel that you’ve raised them right, and that your knitting really IS OK.

  • Love this whole idea, and love the photos of your son taking in the art. His whole look and silhouette jive with the paintings in such a perfect way.

  • That first photograph – side view – is a perfect portrait, IMO. Perfect.

  • I actually think intarsia is the way to go. The issue with duplicate stitch for me is the show-through of the main yarn. Very difficult to completely cover the main color without using a thicker yarn and causing some bulk. So, intarsia for both stripes for sure. BUT, i like the idea of a texture for the grey but I would only use it on the edge stitches. So, maybe a flat yarn for the main stripe but then use a matching thin mohair (in duplicate stitch) only on the edge stitches. Just enough change in the edge to fuzz up the edges.

  • So nice to knit for loved ones when they ask. I am knitting a hat in Di Gilpins Lalland that my boy picked out.. A thought re zips… knit them separately and sew them on. Even better, create a rev st st space or channel to lay them into…

    Ps: so nice to have met you at the MDK space at Indie Untangled.

  • I’d do intarsia stripes, using 2 strands of the contrast yarn so that they stand against the background texturally.

  • I think intarsia stripes with the black stranded behind. Could the stripes be in a slightly textured yarn, maybe even a bit thick thin. Some sort of textured stitch could be nice for the the stripes, seed stitch or a variation. Swatch for the row gauge though. Maybe a consultation with Franklin Habit would be useful, he has done all of that plaid with vertical stripes. Good luck.

  • This sweater is going to be epic! BTW, I like to do a crocheted provisional cast-on when doing a knitted hem. That way I can unzip the crocheted stitches and put them on a spare needle and knit the hem together and know for sure it will line up. I don’t know if it’s just me, but when I pick up regular cast on stitches and try to get them to line up with my live stitches, it always seems to be off-kilter, especially if the yarn is dark and the stitches are hard to see.

  • Rather than duplicate stitch, maybe satin sti
    tch with a tighter spun yarn? Stitched on like brush strokes or palette knife strokes? You could stack stitches to give depth and contrast in some spots. I’d use waste canvas or that lovely stuff that dissolves when you wet it to provide stability while you embroider it

  • Fantastic start to the sweater! Love the sun-zips! I was so grieved this week and it’s not the first week of this grief. So much hate. But now you’re providing excellent, artistic, maternal love and that is a GOOD thing! Cannot wait to see the sweater completed.

    • P.S. I did early voting on Halloween!

  • No sign of the KERMS for such an important project? I mean, he could bring some crisp color contrast to the discussions.

  • Have you seen the darling hedgehog mittens on Pinterest? The stitch used on their backs employs a crochet hook along with your knitting needles to make a thick, rough, impasto-y (or is that hedgehog-y?) texture. That, combined with intarsia would certainly give you the rough zip.

  • I love everything about this post and thank you for it.

    The pitch blackest fingering weight I know is from Blackberry Ridge. As a frequent knitter of black items, I’m excited to try the Canon Hand Dyes.

  • Is there a part two of this saga?

  • Thank you for the tip regarding the change in needle size at the beginning of the hem…will try that tonight…….Christmas sweater frenzied…..