Knit Picking

Apple picking in Nashoba Valley, MA gives you this sort of view

Today I awoke to golden light filtering through the equally golden sweet gum trees along my street. I also awoke to the striking addition of my breath leading me along by its steamy leash.  That means it’s time for layering, a clothing tradition with which walking to work in San Francisco made me all-too-familiar. Layering for the chilly autumnal mornings in New England is a different ritual than it was in the Bay Area, though. Sweaters are 100% my favorite part of any layering strategy. I almost never wore sweaters in San Francisco because the dampness in the air would mean that by the time I got  to wherever I was going, I no doubt smelled like a damp dog. And then what if it was one of those days that began in the 40s and ended in the upper 70s? Those days always leap up to bite you in Oakland and SF. But NOW the bright crispness and crunch of beet red Maple leaves under my feet let me know that it is officially sweater weather!

I associate sweaters and therefore knitting  (the way by which sweaters were made for ages) with my ancestry in The Netherlands and Denmark, but according to the internet, knitting originated in Egypt with socks! True story. It didn’t even make it to Europe until Spanish Christian royal families began employing Muslim knitters. And then it was just more socks. My favorite kind of sweater–the Aran sweater of Ireland–didn’t even make it onto the scene until the early 1900s.

Anyhoo, I’m so excited about finally composing a sweater collection, I thought I’d do a round up of all the awesome possibilities out there. Sweaters are also seemingly all over every runway and on one million racks in every sort of store this season. So if you worry about those sorts of things, don’t.

S W E A T E R S!!!!!!!!!!!

If you're wearing an Aran sweater, you have to keep your gaze afixed to the horizon. You just have to.

Let’s start with my favorite sort of sweater (beyond the classic Aran). The high-necked sweater. Sometimes you’ll see really creative approaches to sweaters that incorporate elements like a plunging neck line, or bare shoulders. This is not ok. It looks nice, but why are you wearing a sweater? Because it’s bloody cold out. So why would you want a sweater that does a slacker job by leaving your shoulders and sternum unprepared for the intensity of the wind’s bared teeth? No no no. High neck line, all the way.

Technically a sweater dress, but still


That reminds me, soon I need to do a post all about the awesome potential of ear muffs–a look that Thomas McBee and I will both be bringing back this winter.

Etsy photos always look like this. Black Sun sweater by KupuKupuBarcelona

Guess what. It’s going to get dark at like 3pm in a couple of months. Get a bright sweater to fight the inevitable depression that accompanies life in the hibernation season!

Oh my god yes. Is that model SMILING?? The power of a good sweater.

Junya Watanabe's sweater coats!

I want one of those sweater coats SO BAD. I bet he doesn’t make XX[X]S, though.

Etsy photos always look like this. Hand knitted by irinasoriginals

Remember how pashminas happened however many years ago and all those Gap girls were running around draped regrettable decisions? Someone recently told me those were coming back. Help defeat that possibility by opting instead for a cape. A cape is not a sweater, but it’s a pleasant enough digression.

The Comfiest!

This cape means serious business.

Technically a "double-breasted poncho." OK!

It's a sweater cape! And EAR MUFFS

This amazingly warm looking sweater that incorporates toggles–another wonderful invention–is from Topman, which consistently has better items than its female counterpart: Topshop.

Ooooohhhh.... aaaahhhhhh...

Topshop for some reason thinks that I want to wear skirts and ugly things all through the winter. Topman, on the other hand, respects my desire to both wear fun clothes and while at the same time avoiding frostbite. Their XXS fit my small frame and I highly recommend plundering their beautiful coat selection.

This sweater should be for any gender that so desires it.

Despite the way in which this model looks mean or maybe high on something that makes her unhappy, the sweater itself is totally acceptable. It’s bright, it’s jaunty, it has ELBOW PATCHES. Elbow patches are the bees knees!

That exposed midriff belies a miserable soul.

And so here I sit, thinking about the chill awaiting me outside, wearing my favorite soft wool hooded sweater with large patches of red over a cream background (my boss said I look like the MoMA…in a good way), contemplating the variety of textures and patterns and materials I should look for for my growing collection. Sweaters: a girl’s best friend.


About Michael von Braithwaite

Does it look like I'd wear it on a boat, at an eccentric person's estate or accompanied by a peacock on a chain? Yeah, I'll probably buy that.


  1. This post is after my own heart, thank you!

  2. Michael von Braithwaite

    I wish I could do a whole post from sheep to sweater, but I don’t know enough about it. You should do a knitting instruction post!

  3. EAR MUFFS!!! We’re makin’ it happen in 2011.

  4. But what about moths, the enemy of all sweaters? Do you have an opinion on moth balls, the timeless poison with its own bouquet that reminds you of aunts? Or cedar – does it ever really work? For instance, are a few tiny moth holes acceptable? Should sweater mends be invisible or a proud scar?
    Loved this seasonal post- my favorite sweater is one I’ve owned for 27 years! Prince Charles has an identical one.

    • Michael von Braithwaite

      NO MOTH BALLS! So smelly. Get cedar hangers and if you’re really worried, rub your closet door frame down with cedar oil. I think tiny moth holes are charming, but it’s up to you. I also think the charmingness of tiny moth holes might depend on the sweater itself. Like it could be charming on a cable knit, but not on a more architectural sweater made of softer material. HOW DO YOU MEND A SWEATER? I’ve been trying to figure that out for ages!

      • Kat

        My favorite sweater mending option for when it’s a very fancy sweater with a few moth holes is to … make more tiny holes. Even better if you can get them to unravel a bit. Produces a sort of punk aesthetic, with elegance of the fancy sweater countered by the holey rebellion.

        But you can also mend sweaters via darning. I’m a knitter and I understand the knots that make up a sweater, so the process makes sense in my head. Might be harder for someone who hasn’t yet developed a sense of how to put the yarn back together.

  5. adamboehmer

    I am TOTALLY jumping on the earmuff bandwagon. What a great thing to bring back!

    • Michael von Braithwaite

      You might want to check Thom’s post wherein he reconsiders ear muffs due to a lack of good ones for guys. OR you could just also get the vintage rabbit fur ones I’m looking at. The 40s really knew their fur ear muffs.

  6. My favorite post of yours so far. Reading it from the comfort of my huge comfy hand-knit Aran sweater, while drinking tea. Of course.

    P.S. Totally agree that shoulder-less sweaters are complete bullshit. Sweaters are supposed to be huge cocoons. Stand-in’s for the caves we no longer have access to for winter hibernation purposes.

  7. anissegross

    “I also awoke to the striking addition of my breath leading me along by its steamy leash.” What are you a novelist? sheesh!

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