Our design spotlight today is on Bradbury, Julie Hoover’s classic striped raglan with a contemporary twist. We’ll yield the floor to Julie to tell you all about the genesis and special details of this design. (She just might sell you on seaming a sweater if you’ve never tried this construction method before!)
When it came time to begin concepts for our second men’s collection, I knew I wanted to design a striped pullover—an updated classic that would feel sexy and sophisticated but could still be versatile enough to dress up or down.
I almost always start with the fabric for a design, but for Bradbury the sketch came first. I already had a strong mental image of thin stripes with a solid block of color at the top of the yoke. As you can see from my sketch above, originally I drew single-row stripes. It wasn’t until later, when I was making a gauge swatch, that I played around with pairs of single-row stripes, and that combination ended up being the winner. I’ll confess, another thing you can see from my sketch is that I always gravitate toward the neutral tones in my concepts (Fossil + Sweatshirt in this case). The sample ended up being worked with a bold contrast (Fossil + Pumpernickel) in order to balance out the color choices for the entire collection. I love both versions equally well. The color options are really limitless according to individual tastes, and I’ve since worked up four different color options that I think would each make beautiful variations from the photographed sample:
4 color variations from our Loft palette (color names listed below corresponding swatch)
One thing to keep in mind as you’re playing with color is that light areas will appear to come forward, while dark areas recede. I worked a block of the pale color at the top of the yoke because the appearance of extra breadth across the shoulders is flattering to most male bodies. If you want to reverse lights and darks, make sure you like the effect on your intended recipient before you commit to the knitting.
Next came the fun part: construction details. I absorb a lot of inspiration from sewn garments. Although I rarely have time for it now, sewing was my first skill (way before I learned to knit). Any time I come across an interesting piece, I will turn it inside out to look at shaping, construction, and finishing details. I do this out of curiosity about the design as well as for a quality check before I consider purchasing any ready-to-wear item. It’s those little details that make all the difference in determining how long the garment will last. In hand knitting, so many things are possible with a little extra time and attention to technique, so applying lessons from sewn-garment construction is an obvious path for me. My design aesthetic leans toward simplicity in patterning of the fabric, so structural details become really important.
For Bradbury, sewn-garment influences are immediately apparent in the full-fashioned decreases, 2-stitch purl “ditches,” and exposed seams that really celebrate the raglan line. Why knit a raglan any way but seamless, you might be wondering? After all, it’s one of the easiest ways to make a sweater. The main reason Bradbury isn’t worked in the round is the stripes. The spiral architecture of circularly knitted fabric means you’re going to have a trouble spot at the beginning of the round where the stripes will “jog,” forming a small but visually prominent stairstep. There are many clever techniques for minimizing the effect, but minimizing is the best you can do. There’s no way to get perfectly even stripes without knitting flat pieces and seaming them. Bradbury’s seams are straight, so there’s no guesswork about how to ease together two curved pieces — if you haven’t ever tried sewn construction, this is a good first project. If details like this seem a chore to you, I would urge you to reconsider. It’s worth every minute in the end, and certainly takes less time the more familiar you are with doing it. Give it a try! Sewn seams add stability to the fabric, which is beneficial when you’ve got the weight of a whole sweater trying to stretch your yoke out of shape. But a bit of sewing also allows you to turn the seam itself into a design element that can’t be replicated with “fake seams.”
Exposed seams are a favorite detail of mine. If you incorporate a precise selvedge stitch as you work, it keeps the edge stitches neatly finished and worthy of exposure to the public side of the garment. I typically use an exposed seam along only one or two areas as a design detail, which keeps it from looking like you simply turned your sweater inside out. Of course, if exposed seams aren’t to your taste, you could omit the purl stitches (working them as knit stitches) and seam to the inside.
On Bradbury, something that might not be apparent in the photos is the subtle difference in shaping of the back and front raglan lines. The back of the yoke is worked wider than the front, hugging the natural forward curve of the shoulders and creating a better overall fit. I might not have chosen to write the pattern this way had it been worked seamlessly, since it’s not a dramatic fit difference and would have been a technical nightmare for our pattern editor. But since the pieces are worked separately above the underarms, it became a perfect opportunity to tailor the garment more precisely.
I hope you’ll love knitting and wearing Bradbury. I’m looking forward to seeing this one out in the wild!
View Bradbury Pattern Specs | View Loft Yarn & Color Palette