When I began designing this cardigan, I had buildings in mind.

I love the graceful set-backs that are a feature of New York’s Art Deco and Moderne skyscrapers, (such as the Paramount building, shown left) and thought that a similar architectural feature would look great, when turned upside-down, as the waist shaping on a sweater front. This metal grille from the lobby of Ely Kahn’s Squibb building suggests the sort of thing of which I was thinking. . .

. . . and the other thing that I couldn’t get out of my mind was this:

These are the architects of the early twentieth-century New York skyline, dressed as the buildings they designed, at the famously batty 1931 Beaux-Arts ball. I doubted my skyscraper-inspired sweater was going to come anywhere close to the insane, space-age confection that is William Van Alen’s Chrysler building costume, but I liked the general idea of being dressed as a building. (I have found a short video clip of the architects at the 1931 Beaux Arts ball and I suggest you go and have a look immediately. My favourite — just for the way he suggests mundanity and modernity — is Arthur J. Arwine dressed as a low-pressure heating boiler).

I reckoned I could achieve an architectural effect using a simple slip-stitch pattern, and that the skyscraper-inspired tapered waist-shaping should be flattering for women of all shapes and sizes (at least that’s the idea, anyway). For the shape of the cardigan, I went back to my 1940s pattern books and decided on a neat, tapered style with set-in sleeves. The slip-stitch pattern is very simple and fun to knit. You can see the upside-down skyscraper effect of the slip-stitches in this shot:

the same slip stitch pattern also features on the hem, cuffs, and back yoke . . .

. . . just as if one were working a heel, the slip stitches also provide a useful point of reference for shaping the sleeve caps, which are picked up and worked, using short rows, from the top-down. There is something very pleasing about the way that the sleeve cap emerges from the slipped stitch edge. I’m not sure quite why, but whatever it is, these sleeve caps are certainly the neatest I’ve ever made. . .

I heart short-row sleeve caps!

In this next shot, you can see the Nichols buttons and the clear snap fasteners on the opposite button band:

. . .and in this shot, how the cardigan looks when fastened . .

(get out from under me feet, Bruce!)

. . . while in this one, you get a slightly strained expression, and a hint of the taped interiors of the button bands:

The weather was bizarrely balmy yesterday, and we took Bruce for a walk at Crammond, where these photos were taken (much to the bemusement of Edinburgh’s lunchtime dog-walkers). Bruce is not a great photoshoot assistant, it has to be said. . .

. . . the weirdly studied pose I manage to assume here is, in fact, the effect of a wet and impatient labrador puppy worrying at me feet.

. . . reasonable shot of the cardigan, though, which is called Deco, after its architectural design influences.

For my 30″ bust size, I used just over 5 skeins / 800 yards of the wonderful Blacker designs Corriedale 4 ply, which I knitted quite densely on 3mm needles. It is ravelled here.

Well, I now have a backlog of pattern writing — to be honest, the stroke has rather got in the way over the past couple of months — but things are at last moving onward and upward with the Tortoise and Hare sweater and gloves, and I’m very much looking forward to writing the pattern for Deco, which I’m designing to fit any bust size from 30 to 50 inches.

That’s all, folks!

ETA the pattern is now available!

133 thoughts on “Deco

  1. It’s so nice to get the full inspiration story like this – always an added bonus with your designs! My friends are architects and I had to send them that hilarious link immediately… Perhaps I should also knit the cardi for them :)

  2. It is a design triumph.

    I love that in your photos you can see the light passing through your beautiful glass buttons; this enhances the art deco theme and the architectural tendency towards massive windows for extra skies and sunshine.

    How I love your inverted ziggurat and the proud columns of slipped stitches; they remind me of the facade of the Hoover building in London – one of my very favourite sights when driving in via the M40.

    And viz Bruce the assistant, I do not have any good suggestions other than inventing knitwear which look especially good in photos involving waggy/licky/wet doggies. Perhaps the next cardigan needs to be called CRUFTS?

    This is wonderful. Huzzah!

  3. Love, Love, Love it!!! Please publish soon! I need to make one too! I do so enjoy reading your blog. You are a brave woman and I very much admire you and your response to your life challenges. On the lighter side, Bruce is the best!!!!!! He sure can make you smile!!!! Oh, but wait!!! That’s his job!!!!

  4. I love the sweater. The fit is flattering and, I might add, the color is lovely and the buttons are perfect! The link is great. I love the facial expressions on the close-up. I’m looking forward to the new patterns.

  5. Absolutely beautiful Kate. As I run an architectural practice I think I’ll have to knit one! Looking forward to the pattern…

  6. Kate, this is absolutely stunning! The cardi, your dress and Bruce are all lovely. I have a much-loved cardi in this exact olive colour that is completely worn through so I may have to just copy yours stitch for stitch when you release the pattern. Gorgeous!


  7. Very lovely! I wanted to be an architect so anything having to do with said subject always intrigues me. Looking forward to the pattern as well.

    I enjoyed reading about your inspiration.
    Love the dress, too. Beautiful photos.

  8. I love it that you could look at a building, turn it upside down in your head and come up with waist shaping for a sweater! I adore this design, perhaps even MORE than your other ones. I do worry that my knitting is not good enough for 4-ply, though – would I be right in thinking uneven stitches are more obvious in finer gauge yarns?

  9. Yet another wonderful design; you are such a talented knitwear designer. And you look fantastic modelling it – that dress is heavenly!

  10. Thanks for including the costume ball clip–hilarious, but I’m glad you went for a more wearable look in your sweater! I love the shape, and as my last time setting in sleeves was pretty miserable, I am intrigued by the idea of being able to knit shaped sleeves right onto the body.

  11. This is absolutely fantastic, Kate! What stunning detail. If you need test-knitters when you write up the pattern, I’d be happy to do it! Congrats on another stunning design.

  12. Congratulations on a splendid design; the restrained pattern and the lovely Nicholls buttons perfectly in harmony with the pebbly beach work so well together. The blue/green combination in the photos is so evocative of the light on that east coast. I look forward to knitting this pattern. A gorgeous dress too!

  13. Lurvely! (both the cardigan and the cute soggy dog!)
    Can’t wait to see the pattern when it’s all sorted out.

    If you need test knitters, sign me up!

  14. Love everything about this sweater.
    I will use your pattern when you’re ready to publish it to do my first short row shoulder.

  15. Admirably well done garment, photoshoot, and post. All your readers are eager for the release of the pattern. I’d love just one more photo, or perhaps a set of photos, of how you have attached the buttons, snaps and placket facings, as I’m so dissatisfied with my own handling of buttoned cardigans (yes, the dreaded drooping placket).

  16. Wonderful Kate !
    Thanks for the bonkers clip, most amusing…
    I shall look forward to making this in the near future, by the way
    your dress is lovely and the colours perfectly off set your gorgeous cardi.
    Perfect choice with the buttons !

  17. It is truly gorgeous; I hope the pattern is ready soon, but not too soon, so I can finally get around to knitting Manu and MiniManu in the meantime… and I can’t wait to get home and watch the architects video.

  18. I would love to knit this, hope to see the pattern soon! My close friend, the architect, will receive a long overdue, hand made gift. Good luck plowing through the backlog of work, but I would vote for putting this at the top of the list.

  19. Kate, this is a beautiful sweater, and I can’t wait to knit it, whenever the pattern is ready! If you are looking for test-knitters in the 38-40″ size range, please keep me in mind!

  20. It’s so beautiful! I love it and I’m looking forward to knit this sweater. I like the picture with the architects in their “building-costumes”! It reminds me to Hugo Balls Dadaism performances.

  21. Wow! I just blogged that the time felt right to cast on for an ‘owls’ but I think this might just have hopped to the top of the queue (no pressure of course ;-) )
    I am off to peruse the Blacker web site right now…
    I think the dress might be an Orla Kiely number?? Am I right??

    It’s so nice to read your tales of recovery and to see the knitting creeping purposefully back in to more and more posts Kate. Long may it continue x

  22. Just to say I have been reading for a few months now and think you are unbelievably beautiful in all ways. Keep going, if I was ten per cent of what you are, I would be overjoyed. Most especially your attitude and your colour sense x

  23. i love it! instant classic! the diagonal line at the waist ought to be flattering on anyone, yes! i’m looking forward to the pattern. :)

  24. Both cardigan and dress are fabulous, yesterday’s link has cost me dear though…I’m having to do some extra supply teaching to make up for the buttons I ordered!

  25. That’s beautiful Kate, well done again! I love knits inspired by architecture – Jared Flood’s Koolhaas is a prime example – and yours is perfect. That photo of the costumed architects made my day, who knew distinguished architects could be so zany?

  26. Oh my heavens, that cardigan is SO DELICIOUS, and forgive me for being shallow, but you look simply GORGEOUS in the photos modelling it Kate ! I will buy the pattern as soon as I see it ready for purchase, and knit one for myself.

  27. Wow, Kate, you’ve received a lot of rave comments! Add me to the list — the cardi is very sophisticated-looking, and I love the dress. You look great!

  28. Kate you are a genius. I just love how you’ve incorporated architecture into knitting… I will have much more cred with my Dad! :) A beautiful beautiful post. Thank you so much. I just love the photos. The colour of the wool is gorgeous and you are a clever clever woman.

  29. This is lovely but I would like you to take a very long time to write up the pattern to allow me to finish my manu first! (I have had the pattern and yarn for an age but procrastinated over casting on for so long and of course now I have finally started I am loving knitting it).

  30. A truly beautiful design. I cannot wait to make my own.

    Your dress is fantastic too – the colour, the print, the belt – it’s just lovely.

  31. What an elegant garment! I shall be adding it to my list of “teacher appropriate things to knit”. (I justify casting buying yarn and casting on new projects by telling myself that they will make a great addition to my teacher wardrobe for when I am finished at teacher’s college this year.) Of course, I will probably copy your colour choice as that is my absolute favourite shade of green. :-)

  32. What a fabulous, original sweater and a pretty dress. You look beautiful! And Bruce looks like a happy wet Lab!. What more can Tom ask for?

  33. I LOVE the video of the architects in their cardboard buildings. You know they are all thinking: “I can’t believe they talked me into this….” Too funny!

  34. A very lovely design. Your dress is fabulous with the cardigan! And the buttons, well, thanks for giving us the link yesterday–he was quite a talented man. He possessed an amazing amount of creativity!!

  35. Wonderful! I think I would love to make this cardigan. I really like the ribbing design – very elegant. My daughter loves it too. Gosh, well done. Also, buttons debut fit in so well. I have Bruce’s twin around here now – Woody – he’s pretty quiet at the moment!

  36. I adore the cardigan very much! Looking forward to the pattern… It fits so well with this awesome dress – tell us where you got that from, please!

    I am relieved that you seem to feel better now. I (and I think all of my fellow followers of your blog) are with you! You do great.

  37. Congratulations, Kate ! I am the only one to say that the buttons are even better than the ones you were initially planning to use ? I can be a test-knitter for a 115 cm chest, should you need one. I’ll definitely be knitting that pattern soon, any way.

  38. Oh, I love me a bit of deco, what a gorgeous sweater!
    Thanks for the Beaux Arts Ball pictures, and the magnificent picture of Bruce.

  39. Dear Kate, I love this cardigan. I can’t wait to have a go at it myself. The dress is so lovely too, where did you find such a treasure?

  40. Wow Kate~! That is beautiful! I love the color, I love the design, it’s really great. I look forward to the pattern! Thanks for the Bruce shot too, always a day brightener here!

  41. Your knitting never fails to inspire me and make me wish I was half so smart and creative. Seriously. That color is marvelous and the finished cardigan is just gorgeous!

  42. This is absolutely stunning, and I love the cute, pesky dog outtake shot. Thanks for linking to those hilarious architectural costumes; I’d never seen them before :)

  43. I think I may have to start spinning now, in anticipation of your releasing the pattern! 1200 yards of worsted weight, eh? I love the inspiration and have used similar inspiration in quilting.

  44. This is beyond lovely! I work across the street from the Chrysler building – I’m looking at it right now, as a matter of fact – and if and when I ever design my own sweater, I know it will serve as inspiration for it. I look forward to your pattern!!

  45. Love the cardigans and your dress. You look and sound happy in your last two posts. Perhaps it really is a new beginning.

  46. What a wonderful cardigan. I will definitely knit it when the pattern is out.
    And it’s so nice to see that you are getting better. Keep going!!

    Greetings from Germany

  47. This is a wonderful design Kate! The Nichols buttons are beautiful, and I can’t get over the ‘juiciness’ of the colour. All-round Magnificent!

  48. I love this for its elegance and completely agree re. deco design. Can’t wait to knit this! and PS You look lovely in the photos!

  49. Love this cardigan. I recently found you a couple of months ago. May I just say, I greatly admire you and respect you. I am SURE the road to recovery has been littered with triumph and disappointments along the way but you have pressed on each day. Keep up the good work. I so enjoy your blog and your designs.

  50. What a fantastic cardigan! I love the art deco period and a sweater inspired by deco buildings if such a brilliant idea. I along with everyone else is soo looking forward to the pattern.

  51. The Deco cardigan is beautiful and looks great on you. I love that the waist shaping is an organic part of the design! I look forward to purchasing the pattern and making it for myself when it is available. Best wishes on your continuing recovery, and I’m sure my corgi Bob sends good wishes to your lab Bruce.

  52. Wow! That is just plain lovely! It’s so interesting to read the story behind the design, too – and I love both NYC history and vintage fashion, so this cardigan is right up my alley. Can’t wait for the pattern!

  53. I love the story that inspired you to design this Deco cardigan, which is really lovely and unusual with the buttons and stud fasteners.
    The video of Chrysler building architect in his design is wonderful, he really loks like he’s enjoying himself.
    We have 3D jig-saws of Empire State, Metlife building, Chicago Sear’s tower, and my son has had the Chrysler building in the box ready to do for a few years now, as they are quite difficult.
    I think Audrey Hepburn would have loved to wear this cardigan Kate.

  54. What a glorious pattern. I can’t wait to knit it. And thanks for remembering us girls bigger than a size 10 with your measurements. Very much appreciated.

    Congratulations, too, on your recovery. You are an inspiration.

  55. Your styling mojo is all back. As Billy Crystal said doing Ricardo Montalban “ju (you) look marvelous.” He also said as the same character, “it is more important to look good than to feel good.”


  56. I can hardly wait, for the publishing of the pattern. Everything is ready. I have the Yarn, buttons and a shirt to wear the jacket with. I must be patient. It is worth the wait.

  57. I love this cardy! It is simple and very stylish at the same time. Deco is one of my favorite styles, and I am familiar with the architects with their “building hats”. They were all very egotistical, and I hope you got to read something about each of them, characters all. I would love it if you would include a longer version in your pattern. I am quite tall, and like patterns that are longer than my sleeves, which are long to begin with. I usually make my own adjustments, but it would look great on this pattern because of the shaping.

    Where did you find that dress! What a perfect complement to the cardigan! Did you make it, or was it a vintage find, or a new to look like vintage find? Do give us some info on it. Great post as always, you are always busy which gives me a lot of encouragment for my own work.

  58. Absolutely love this sweater. Having just returned from a trip to Chicago, a city full of architectural wonders, you have me wanting to knit this ASAP! Please publish soon.

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About Kate Davies

writer, designer and creator of Buachaille (100% Scottish wool)