** Working with Pamela Wynne is one of the great joys of my job. I’m super excited to share her Inspiration and Progress post with you today. For more information on The Shepherd and The Shearer, start here. To purchase a kit to make Pam’s sweater (as well as one designed by Cecily Glowik MacDonald ) click here.**
I’ve always admired people whose creativity was inspired by stuff like nature, or architecture, or something inside themselves that calls out to be expressed. My own creative output usually takes the form of handmade clothing, and my greatest inspiration is … well, clothing. I romanticize the artistry of designers who incorporate everyday beauty into their garments because mine is such a practical, covetous, method: see. want. make.
Okay, I may be overstating this — it’s not as if I’m a knock-off artist. Usually, what happens is I see a general style that speaks to me somehow, and then I translate it into a knitted or sewn garment I’d want to wear.
This process dovetails with a second source of inspiration for me: materials. The color, texture, and qualities of a yarn usually tell me what it wants to be. Not in some mystical way where the fiber ‘speaks’ to me, but in ways like all these plies would make for super sproingy cables, or this laceweight silk would create the drape-iest dress ever to drape.
So as soon as I blocked my swatch with the Shepherd and Shearer wool, I knew it wanted to be knit into cables. The yarn isn’t very tightly spun, so I started sketching a simple cable and twisted-stitch pattern that would let it bloom and grow the way it clearly wanted to. (Btw, everything I know about yarn and fiber I learned from Deb Robson and Clara Parkes.)
Can you see the difference between the fabrics in these two swatches? The one on the left was knit on 4mm needles, and the yarn is locked into tight little stitches. It makes for a very fine, compact, cohesive fabric that I quite like. But when I blocked the swatch that I knit with slightly larger needles (shown on the right here), it became something — maybe it became its own best self. It definitely became all of my favorite things about fishermen’s sweaters, and Aran cable textures, and the crew-neck cardigans my mom made for me as a kid.
I work at a university, and one major inspiration for this sweater is a kind of queer prepster style that I’ve been seeing every day on my friends, colleagues, and students (and in the mirror). I knew I wanted to design a cardigan that could work with that preppy-with-a-wink chic.
[Who’s the sassy babe with Babe Ruth? Love him!]
The shawl-collar ‘grandpa’ cardigan I settled on is classic, and endlessly versatile. It’s got satisfying knitterly details, like a cable that runs up the sleeve and all the way across the saddle shoulder. And it has practical details, like on-seam pockets that can warm your hands or hold your keys without adding bulk.
If you wear it with a tailored fit (and optional waist shaping will make that possible for those of us with curves), it’s a sharp, buttoned-down style that suits everyone, especially 1950s Hollywood heartthrobs and sweater models.
[photo of Gene Tunney from FamousDude; bulky cardigan image from a vintage Beehive pattern]
If you wear it over-sized or unbuttoned, you get easy casual layers.
And if you wear it with a bowtie and a lamb, you obviously just get all kinds of awesome.
[image from Rambler’s Way]
One of the best parts about this project, for me, is that I get a sweater I love at the end. I’ll wear mine with a tie and oxfords for work, with a flowery dress and sneakers for cool summer evenings on the porch, with plaid flannel shirts during Michigan winters, and with jeans and a t-shirt all over the place.
How will you wear yours?