Well, I did it — I made me some SWANTS – or should I say – SWEEKS (ie, sweater-breeks).

I started with a large second-hand jumper (wool, of course), which I found for a few pounds on eBay. (Watch and wait is my motto)


The jumper had been worn, but was in reasonable condition, and would have easily fit someone with a 48 in chest – there was an awful lot of fabric for me to deal with.

(I apologise for the quality of these photographs, which Tom took with my phone last night. But I thought you’d like to see the whole process)

The sleeves worked really well as legs, so that was a good start. I began swantsing by cutting out the neck and shoulders, following the instructions in Stephen’s tutorial. And then, using mattress stitch I seamed the crotch front and back.

And then . . .


. . . I still had a whole lot of jumper. Seriously, I could have almost fashioned myself a SWONSIE!

I decided at that point to do things a little differently from the way that Stephen recommends.

(I know, Bruce, it IS an odd sight, even in this house)

I pulled the swants up so that the legs sat at calf, rather than ankle-length, cut off the ribbed waist band of the jumper to use later, and then cut away the remaining fabric that was sitting around my waist and torso (as shown above). I then made and seamed two darts at either side to deal with the excess.

Then it was time for Borgen. Although, having watched many such programmes, I harbour the weird delusion that Danish is a language I speak fluently, I still find that Borgen requires a concentration incompatible with swantsing, so I took a wee break.

This morning I pinned the old waistband, to the new waist of my sweeks. The waist fabric sat rather on the bias, so I stretched the waistband out a bit, and stitched the seam using a really strong back stitch so that the sweeks would hopefully stay put.




Not bad, I reckon, for a first attempt.


I’m well aware that this is a ridiculous photograph, but I have to say it is the best picture I’ve seen of myself in ages, and it makes me really happy — because I am actually jumping! (As my left foot is still slightly ‘dropped’ following my stroke, it is very difficult for me to jump – and indeed it has taken over three years for me to be able to do so).

Now, I know swants (or sweeks) seem to arouse strong negative feelings among some knitters. I’m really not sure whether this is about the general look of the garment or about the fact that they repurpose old jumpers. If the former, I honestly don’t care if you think I look like an arse. I may well think that what you wear makes you look like an arse as well, but I would definitely applaud your individual style, and totally defend your right to wear whatever you fancied. And if the latter, I have to say that to me, salvaging a worn jumper, and giving it a new life, is a laudable crafty enterprise no different from repurposing old shirts in a quilt, or indeed what innovative Shetlander Wendy Inkster does with her world-famous Burra Bears. I have been wanting to make a pair of swants because I very much admire Stephen’s vim and brio . . . but also because I find myself mildly obsessed with these, but refuse to shell out £90.

See you later, I’m off down Milngavie in my sweeks . . .

155 thoughts on “sweeks!

  1. I too am fluent in TV Danish!! Fantastic….”takk takk”, see fluent.

    LOVE YOUR SWEEKS, or swants. I think I like them more than Stephen’s as I feel less colour blinded. Not sure my thighs of ample proportions would be able to cope with them though, Wear them for me, Kate.

    Thanks also for amusing lounge room antics and Bruce’s bemused face. You made me smile. xxx

  2. Oh my goodness, that picture of you in the SWONSIE is the best thing I’ve seen on the internet ever! Your swants/sweeks are fabulous and no one can deny it! (Also love love love your Puff footstools! I tried to make those once … )

  3. Very well done Kate. They look amazing on you. Hooray for jumping, keep up the good work. Its a slog I can imagine, but look how far you’ve come.

  4. They’re freakin awesome… I knitted my other half a jumper years ago which ended up being the big enough for barry white (this was a while back, before I understood the importance of the GUAGE!) haven’t had the heart to frog it… perhaps swanks are what this jumper is calling out for!!!

  5. Thy remind me of the woollen underwear (adapted from worn-out jumpers) that Annemor Sundbo shows in her books. Perhaps the black and white makes them look Norwegian?

  6. Hilarious pictoral! To see your funny side has been a treat and the last two pics make us all, I’m sure, want to cheer, knowing what we do about your road to recovery. You really are an inspiration in many ways.

  7. So funny! The making of them I mean. They look great on you (wouldn’t suit my shape though) and I think they are a wee bit Sanquharesque as well. Would match my gloves! Love Bruce’s bewildered look. Thanks for sharing. :-))

  8. I think they look smashing! As they say on this side of the pond, you go, girl!
    PS: what was the eventual fate of the Wazz Wagon?

  9. Brilliant. Wonderful way to repurpose an old jumper and they look great. Was the jumper 100% wool and feltable? Cos the leftovers could probably be re-used as well. Absolutely stonking idea. If I had the figure for them, I’d be on eBay immediately with that idea in mind. I don’t think you look silly either, I think you look very happy and it is wonderful to see. Keep it up girl.

  10. love your swants and they really suit you well (thogh the happy jumping pic might help a bit *s*) I’m thinking about knitting one for myself. Thrift shops are not very good in my parts and I’m sure I wouldn’t find anything useful in wool and not acrylic there, so I guess I’ll stick to knitting. Been reading EZs nethergarment chapter lately trying to figure out which wool might be best.
    Again, wonderful swants and beautiful pics *s*

  11. Love em!! More like sweaches (breaches/sweater) Would have a go but wool as trousers would itch me to death. Enjoy them, and gloat at your low heating bills, more money for yarn. Fiona

  12. I have had no strong feelings about swans/sweeks (apart from the colourblind feeling that was mentioned above), but you look great in yours and I am a big fan of recycling, so yeah for Sweeks!
    ( I also refuse to shell out the 90 quid for the ones in a certain store).

  13. As a co-fan of Stephen’s remarkable vim, I strongly applaud you. These are boatloads of fun and the photo of your swonesie will live in my heart of hearts for eternity.

  14. They look great and so cosy. My reservations in terms of making my own lie in the fear of replicating the memory of childhood tights which wouldn’t stay up, especially when I’d nearly grown out of them. Even the thought of walking around with the crotch half way to my knees makes me feel proper fierce!

  15. They look absolutely gorgeous on you! The sheer glee radiates through the screen. HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!
    And congrats on another mile stone! :)

  16. Despite his bewildered look, I’m sure Bruce is very supportive of your creative endeavours. Perhaps you could use the leftovers for a pair for him. Ponies in Shetland sweaters, Bruce in swants.

  17. I love your sweeks. They have an inimitable style. I used to teach a workshop on handmade clothing design called “The Peacock and The Mouse,” about the different approaches to clothing we have at different times in our lives–and even in different moods.

    Hi to Bruce.

    And congratulations on JUMPING! That’s HUGE!

    –sorting fleeces today (and yesterday, and tomorrow) on another continent

  18. Kate, forgive me for saying this, but you are absolutely adorable! Love the pictures, I too love Borgen and I too own a Lab! She is one year old now, named Daisy and pure white. Would be a nice pair with Bruce. Thanks for all your creations.

  19. Kate! What a happy group of photos! I am still smiling! You look deliciously joyous! Bruce adds a dignified note with his calm demeanor. I know he is thinking, I have no idea what she is doing but I shall Keep Calm and Carry On……
    Thanks for clearing up my question, What in the world is a Swant? Now I know!

  20. Jumping (okay, cheering) for joy that you can jump for joy. Seriously happy for you.

    Thanks for the pictorial slice of a swant’s life, but must say I especially love Bruce’s look after contemplating your swonsie edition. Best laugh of the week.

  21. Congratulations! They are “döfräcka” (as we say in Sweden). Fun that your are are looking at Borgen.The Danes make very good series. Danish and English series are the best.

  22. Kate, I absolutely KNOW that your sweeks are a million times better than the ones you fancied in the online clothing store, because I work in one of their outlet stores. The look OK on the hanger but they are not nearly as flattering when worn as they come up quite baggy. This household is now doubly inspired to get making their own sweeks/swants with Grandpa’s old sweaters, etc. I am thinking maybe one could do something similar with old sweatshirts/long-sleeved tees …

  23. hehehe FUN ^,^

    YES, After reading Stephen West’s website, I decided to CUT off the sleeves of my granddaughter’s sweater I knitted. He gave me the permission to c u t them.

    OKAY. Not the entire sleeve but the cuffs. I had made the sleeves much too long.
    It was Sad. Disappointing.
    Rather than cry, I cut off the ends and cuffs and sewed a hem. Then crocheted darling little scallops around the edges = perfect length + perfect cuffs.

    Adorable + used now!!!

    Yes, let’s call it FIBER ART or FiBER HEART = x-x-x-x-x teri

    PS. thanX for sharing your happiness::::it’s contagious =)

  24. Love them! I can’t quite see myself making a pair for my size 20 bum but I’m trying to persuade my DD she’d like a set.

  25. When I saw Steve in them I hadn’t realized they were repurposed jumpers! You look great and I think they must be quite toasty too in the winter months. Congrats on the jump too. I thought exactly what you said you felt “Very Happy” seeing you in midair!

  26. I love theses! and I understand 100% that there is negativity towards the swants! I shared them out amongst my facebook page and there was one lady that out right said ‘these are just wrong’ I had to stand some ground and say that obviously there not for everyones taste just like you have!
    It is however some new and wonderfully creative to share and I hope in the future someone may find a sweater I’ve knitted and creates something just as individual and creative as these!
    You’ve done a great job, wondering if any future pair will be seen on here!
    :D xx

  27. Love your sweeks! I adore Stephen’s designs,and will finally take the plunge and knit a boneyard shawl when my Xmas knits are done.followed your link to see the coveted £90 leggings(don’t know what that is in US$ besides steep!),and they reminded me of Elizabeth Zimmermann’ s hand knit leggings from her book “The Opinionated Knitter”.I’ve always wanted to knit a pair,but now you all have me dreaming of fair isle ones…maybe someday….;)

    1. I wondered what the Euro to US dollar conversion was too; $121. 05 (Yikes) Upcycling a thrift store sweater for 4.00 is so do-able! Did anyone else notice how slender and non-round the model is? Not like so many of us – that have “fuller” body parts to try and cover.

  28. Absolutely love the pic of you in the throws of a perfect jump, the height you’ve accomplished is significant in oh so many ways-you’ve worked so hard-be very proud! The complete madness of the swants just makes me happy,I couldn’t pull them off myself but I keep pushing them on all whom I think could-they think I’m mad…once again they just make me happy, great pics, thanks!🐏

  29. I love these, and think the strong negative feeling about Stephen’s is more to do with the colour/ pattern combo, and the rather ‘codpiece’ look, which is rather ‘in your face’! Congratulations on the jumping, it took my dad rather more than three years to be able to jump after his stroke. You have made amazing strides!

  30. Gorgeous ! Not only are they are 100% green, they come with a big smile and look fabulous. Very very nice Kate, you look rather cute in those!!! Cheers, Bron

  31. Jumper jumping for joy! What else could it be called? (‘Sweeking leaping?’ maybe…. )
    I’ve loved swants as soon as I saw them! My friend and I will absolutely be making some: she is a master 2nd-hand store shopper, I can provide the reconstruction-construction part. Together, we can make each other laugh and be joyous. Why not?
    I wasn’t going to add another “I love this post, too!” reply (mostly a bit shy and thought my hands not quite up to it), but as I sat here in Seattle with your teapot-cozy keeping my tea warm on my table, right on the front page of the New York paper I read was an article about Scotland! (The sale of Ailsa Craig.) Must.Write.Comment.To.Scotland! I figured I was being told. Sometimes the world isn’t as big and far apart as we think.

    My body isn’t up to jumping these days, but it gives me a wacky vicarious joy to see someone else do it.

    So from this often gray and damp place that also has connections with all things Nordic (including part of my tangled-shrubbery family tree), I say HOORAY! BE JOYOUS! And thank you thank you for sharing it with us!! It has made my day!

  32. They are Jolly! (I have been waiting to find a good use of that word). I might just give it a go! Danish, I have watched over and over, A Royal Affair. SOOOO good.

  33. Made. My. Day. Thank you! Wear them with a good old giggle in the throat. Seriously, you are sooo clever! And so not only for your latest exploit.

  34. They look cute. I do like your version over Stephen’s but he has talent for art and just crazy to pull off anything.

    I do have issues with this only cause some parts of the world people need clothes but I guess if you have fun with it gowith it. Love Bruce!!!

  35. Great photos. I did wonder that they may be itchy, but then my pear shape would look awful in swants anyway! I love Borgen, always end up a week behind with it, and have to do straightforward knitting so I can read the subtitles. It is fun hearing the words that are similar to Scots and Northern English though, in all the Scandinavian drama. I am from Newcastle originally, lived in Edinburgh since 1980. To hear things like ‘Gan ‘yem’, bairn and braw, and even once something very like ‘can I come in’, makes me feel like I sort of understand a little of the language!

  36. Congratulations on your recovery. You look great!
    Wish my legs were slim enough to fit into jumper sleeves….sweeks look temptingly cozy!

  37. Hooray! My girls want these for Christmas. I have the thrift store sweaters in my sewing room and I think I can do it now! Thanks!

  38. These photos and accompanying commentary are hysterical, Kate! That was a whole lot of jumper for one petite you! And as much as the thought of a “Swonsie” disturbs, the sight of you jumping for joy in your finished Sweeks delights. I’m still smiling. Thanks for sharing the process!

  39. Your happiness is infectious! I hope Swants or Sweeks bring as much happiness to every wearer as they do for you! You’ve certainly put a smile on my face. :)

  40. Fabulously cozy and comfy looking sweeks! You go for it! That is a truly happy picture of you jumping — I’ve been reading for several years and just wanted to say that your vim and vigor always inspire me.

  41. Oh the jump photo is fantastic – before I even read the text my first thought is oh joy that is fantastic to see you jumping! best wishes to you this Christmas.

  42. How utterly wonderful and thanks you for allowing me to share in your world. “A jumper” in so many senses of the word!
    Thank you.

  43. I’d wear them :D Bruce has a definite “what on earth are you up to now?” look on his face in the first photo. It’s a look that Jess (our black lab) often has, especially when I’m washing and thwacking handspun yarn.

  44. Unbelivable result of re-use an old sweater.. You look fantastic in them ! And congrats to the jump !
    I think they look warm and good and neat !

  45. Lol! That had be guffawing at my desk, nearly caused a short circuit by spraying tea over the keyboard.

    Practically, swants or sweeks look very generous in the crotch department. I imagine they are very flexible. I wonder want they would be like to cycle in?

  46. Thanks for the best way to brighten up Monday morning I’ve read in a long time! Hilarious – and very clever.
    Funny, I think I speak fluent Danish too. Only when I watch the screen though: no sewing for me either on Saturday nights.

  47. I must be allowed to say, that your sweeks – and the way you wear them – makes me want to make a pair for myself… much more than the pictures I saw of Stephen West wearing his ;o)
    However… I think I might just knit them rather than spend a lot of time looking for a sweater to repurpose.

    And the hopping… Must feel great.

  48. Forgot to add that this reminds me of Little Edie Beale from Grey Gardens film and her quirky way of donning her wardrobe with upside down skirts and sweaters as head turbans etc.

  49. They´re awesome! I love them! I wish I could sew to make myself ones too. Or I would love to knit them if there was also a pattern. You and Steven W. are the most creative people I have seen.

  50. They’re so, so fabulous, congratulations on your sweeks and your jumping (in equal measure). I’m rather obsessed with woollen leggings too, it’ll take a much bigger jumper for me, but I think that I really need to follow suit.

  51. ah those photos are totally joyous and I love them – thanks for making me smile (and laugh till I cried on Friday’s Skype) – R seems very keen to have his own pair… ;)

  52. >Although, having watched many such programmes, I harbour the weird delusion that Danish is a language I speak fluently, I still find that Borgen requires a concentration incompatible with swantsing, so I took a wee break.
    Heh, me too! Especially when they suddenly switch into English. I usually multi-task whilst watching TV and keep forgetting that I have to keep looking at the screen to know what’s going on.

  53. Crazy but such good fun! Your dog’s face is a picture!
    I haven’t started watching Borgen yet but looking forward to it. I get used to the subtitles but then panic when I leave the room to make a cuppa with the volume turned up and then realise I can’t make head nor tail of what they’re saying!

  54. I like one commenter’s invention of the verb ‘to sweek’, seemingly meaning ‘to swan around joyfully in one’s handmade woolen leggings’. Sweek away – they look fun and fantastic!

    Someone else asked about how they’d be to cycle in: it depends on your legs and saddle and cycling position, but I’d be worried about wear around the crotch, even if the seams were in comfortable places (what’s comfortable for walking isn’t necessarily comfortable for cycling in). My jeans and cotton trousers all wear through first at the inside top of the thighs so I haven’t dared to cycle in anything that might need darning.

    Borgen is next in my list of TV series I want to watch but I need to finish watching The Killing (the original version) first. I’m terrible at keeping up with TV programmes.

  55. I am so going to make a pair of these because a) I live in a freezing house, and b) because so many people are horrified at the idea of them! (I am also a person with delusions of my ability to speak Danish, it used to be Swedish but them Wallander finished…)

  56. Brilliant Kate! I too watch and wait and then lose out at the last second. Call in and say hello to my son in Milngavie he is a GP in a medical practice there.

  57. Cheers m’dear for making me chuckle. What a hoot..and yet you still manage to look great. Loving Bruce’s face too (and secretly wishing on a day like today I could be curled up beside him in front of that wood burner). Keep on jumping!

  58. I saw leggings knitted with Koigu yarn in a shop in northern Minnesota and was quite bemused by them. Your sweeks win- hands down,- so to speak. Frabjous Joy.

  59. Okay, these are absolutely fabulous! And the Swonsie is a great idea – thanks for sharing those photos. I’m going to have to keep my eyes open for an appropriate sweater to try this. You look amazing.

  60. What’s there not to LOVE ??? I would actually call them ‘ Swickers ‘ as knickers are more the style I recognise. Great sewing Kate… and jumping too ! You’re looking really happy these days… and I notice, well… other changes in your new life… such as the hair style slightly different (which I love, a youthful looking change) and I look forward to seeing more of your new home ! It is curious to me, what that lower-elevation room might be, with the chimney coming out of it. I am absolutely dying to see your studio. Soon I hope. :) xx

  61. Kate I have a feeling that you can pull off any look you try. these sweeks (or whatever you want to call them) are sweet.
    love the happy happy hippity hopping. these are perfect for the cold winter that is approaching so quickly this year. yesterday I woke to ice on the bay and this morning 4″ of snow on the walk – I may be in dire need of some sweeks ; ).

  62. you are fully adorable and i love the sweeks! the photos of you jumping and parading around in the yarn are fabulous! well done, as usual.
    (also- i LOVE the rug(s) in your living room. gorgeous and fun.)

  63. I’ve just about stopped laughing at the looking like an arse bit – I read it out to Malcolm and he laughed too!! But of course the best bit is seeing you jump!! I also enjoyed seeing your room – as I am very nosey. Hope you didn’t cause too much consternation in Milngavie …….

  64. You are quite mad, you know, in the most wonderful way. I do think this is the best post I have ever read. On any blog ever!

  65. Thank you so much for these pictures. I love them! And I laughed hard, which was very needed. Will have to keep an eye out for my own swants opportunity.

  66. Love this – you look great! It’s been so cold here that I’ve been thinking about doing this with some of my old sweaters. Glad I’ll be in great company!

  67. Love the picture of you with the swonsie!! and the one jumping!!! Congratulations on jumping… what a beautiful picture!!! those sweeks must be really cozy and warm. Bruce beautiful!

  68. Love this post, the hoto of you with all that jumper tucked around you gave me a real smile, and you look so happy. Congrats on the jumping and thanks for the not about the Burra Bears have googled them and they are gorgeous. Brilliant post -:)

  69. Just love them. I had a good laugh at your photos, especially number four :) And the look on Bruce’s face says it all. Oh and good jumping.

  70. I’ve been making swants for my little boys for years! I find the arms of a felted men’s jumper, cut off along the shoulder seam, the very thing for an 18m old chappy. And fortunately my husband is skilled in the art of felting his jumpers…

  71. Love the jumping photo!! I like these a lot on you although as someone else said they put me in mind of items that I wore as a kid that had saggy crotches (thick tights, long johns…it’s quite cold where I live)…so none for me. Great work though! :)

  72. Hi we used to make these in the seventies and eighties but we took apart the front and back and sewed them like a pants pattern the arms are still the legs but the bottom of the jumper becomes the waist you lay the legging pattern on the jumper front or back with the waist on the ribbing (you run rows of thin elastic through the ribbing or make a casing with the ribbing when they are finished ) and mark the pattern with chalk then sew to stop it running and then cut to shape and repeat for the other side and sew together as you would leggings or trousers. There will be no seam on the outer leg or sides and they are very comfortable. You can join the legs where ever you like but use a flat seam we would do some groovy stitching like a raised chain stich in a colour that complemented the look. You can even get a thinner jumper and smock it into great shapes to make it fit. We were right into wearable art and refashioning (and our parents had lived though the depression so nothing was ever thrown out it always could be make into something else). The BEST thing about this post — the sight of you jumping!!!! Well done!

    1. I forgot to explain that you take the arms off first – so unpick all the seams till you have four pieces and then lay them out as if they are material and lay your pattern on them this gives a great fit. Have fun creating new garments from old. On another note you can’t imagine how happy it makes me to see another generation doing all these creative things after watching the awful consumerism of the last few decades, it’s wonderful. Humans are such creative beings when given the chance and to wear something you have created is a great expression of who we are. That’s why I love your blog so much it’s inspiring us to keep creating.

  73. Hilarious! These have to be some of the funniest pictures I’ve seen in a long time. I especially like the last one of you jumping, how joyous you must feel to be able to do that! Good for you!! I have admired you for a long time as a knitwear designer as this is something I am interested in doing. Your designs are beautiful and very inspiring. Thank you for that.

  74. It’s neither here nor there what I, or anybody else, thinks about them, but I can tell you one thing…. I haven’t laughed so much in ages! The best thing is to see you jumping again. That, and the look on Bruce’s face, it’s like “See, SEE! This is what I have to put up with, now do you believe me”! Poor wee love!

  75. It is a mighty fine jump! You do look amazing!

    But the swonsie?!? Hilarious stuff Kate! I really would like to know what Bruce is thinking

  76. What wonderful sweeks! They look to be much better fitting than Stephen West’s version with less bulk around the thighs. I would definitely wear them. The picture of you jumping for joy makes me joyful too. You have worked so hard for the gains you have made, and have let your creativity continue to flower all the while. Thank you for sharing your struggles and progress–and sweeks!– with us.

  77. LMAO off your photos, especially Bruce’s face!!! Great pair of sweeks (auto-correct kept changing it to ‘sweets’ ) and fab that you managed a jump. They’d look great with walking boots. I covet the Toast pants too but am waiting for their sale ;-)

  78. I over these Sweeks on you! So much better than the as wants I have seen on other … Ahem… Less covered up individuals. I love your leap of joy! Keep leaping and jumping!

  79. I was feeling really glum today and your sweeks post made me laugh out loud – well done on the jump too – life is good!

  80. FANTASTIC! But I think they should be called, mmm, swousers, or jumpousers for the UK market don’t you think? Now I’ve written it down, the jumpousers is probably more appropriate in recognition of the fabulous JUMP! wooohooo!

  81. Hiya Bruce, I see what is going on even in your living room. So! The next time that Nutty Mom tries to make you leave Glove outside, just flip it up to your head. It will sit there nicely looking for all the world like another ear. I can guarantee you that Nutty Mom will never notice. Then Glove will remain safe with you until your next romp. Try it and have fun!

  82. Happy New Year Kate! I’m a month behind in reading your blog so just saw this entry. I love the picture of you jumping but really enjoyed the one of almost all of you in the sweater! Thought you might like to know, if you don’t already, that the Toast leggings are reduced in price.

leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

About Kate Davies

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