Big Jumpers

I really appreciated all your wonderful comments on my post about my grandparents; reading your comforting words made me feel less alone with my sadness and it was really moving to hear about some of your grandparents and memories. Thank you.

The other thing that has been a huge comfort in the last fortnight has been working on my new Big Jumper. It is a Keith Moon sweater from the knitting tome du jour – YOKES by my friend Kate Davies and it is my new favourite thing. The pattern is extremely clear to follow and very easy to knit. The miles of stocking stitch knitted in the round are full of time to think and the beauteous crispy Léttlopi with its wild halo is simultaneously soft and robust in the hands. The hours I spent over the past few weeks with cat and knitting in my lap thinking quietly to myself have offered a much needed and consoling break from everything and this sweater is imbued with the sensation of quietly being with myself.


I wanted to knit this sweater from the very first time I saw pictures of it while working on the schematic. What I wanted to emphasise in my drawing was its softness, its gentle curves and its pleasing cushiony neckline and hems.


Kate’s design reminded me at once of being a teenager and of wearing big jumpers and experiencing a sensuous, introspective feeling. I don’t know if you’ll get what I mean but I’m talking about the feeling of wool simultaneously skimming and protecting the body, of being wrapped up warmly and of seeking sanctuary within a big woolly jumper.

I remembered this exact feeling when I was going through old family photos and found this old gem.


I think I am about 15 here in DMs and ripped jeans with the last remnants of a perm. I am triumphantly holding up my windlass and celebrating the opening and closing of many gates on a long flight of locks.

But that jumper.

I remember it so well; it was a huge man-jumper in a dark bottle green yarn, many sizes too big for me with zero shaping and I felt completely safe in it. Burying my hands halfway up those massive sleeves so that just my fingers poked out was a favourite trick. It was knitted in rib and it draped in a way that made me feel casually shapely. All the fun things of teenage life – stamping around the suburbs, eating fish’n chips out of a newspaper and flirting – could be easily accomplished within this wondrous garment.

I feel the same way about my Keith Moon sweater and although I walk rather than stamp around my town, prefer beer out of a tankard to fish’n chips out of a newspaper and only flirt with Mark these days, the fundamentals haven’t changed and I still just feel like the same old me. I can still be found near canals wearing big jumpers and I still love the sensation of being toasty in a jumper yet cooled by a welcome breeze sifting in through the loops.

KEITH_MOON_by the lock

Like all good Big Jumpers there is nothing flimsy here to catch or snag and nothing that can be easily destroyed by physical exertion or sweat. To the contrary, this is a profoundly enabling garment: sturdy and honest and appropriate for gardening or mountain-climbing. But with its thoughtful finishing details and elegant shape it can also be worn on a chilly Sunday morning for playing beside the Kennet & Avon with a partner who knows that personal knitting achievements must be documented with an air of ceremony and respect. Thank you Mark for taking such nice photos and for understanding that THE KNITTING IS IMPORTANT.


This extended reflection on the personal significance and history of Big Jumpers is one side effect of having worked a pattern from YOKES; you just cannot read this book without being inspired to consider ALL SWEATERS within a broader context. For though there are books on the history of fashion and the social history of clothes and of knitting patterns, nobody connects the personal with the political and the practical with the intellectual in quite the same vibrant and engaging way as Kate. Knitting KEITH MOON and reading YOKES has been a massive inspiring boon. From its practical and encouraging discussion of fit to its lively essays on the role of the YOKE in modern fashion, YOKES inspires you to think BIG about your sweaters, and to seamlessly skip back and forth between the practicalities of the garment on your needles and the larger discourse on fashion and history of which it is part.

I have more to say about YOKES but just now I am thinking about how my KEITH MOON sweater is connected to a lifelong enjoyment of being swathed in Big Jumpers; to dialogues about feminism and fashion, and how clothes can be both restrictive and freeing; to the rich history of YOKED SWEATERS; to the music of the Who after whose drummer the design is named; to the greys and yellows of my neighbourhood which inspired my yarn choices and to an idea of comfort through the dark little weeks that have recently passed. All clothes are connected to narratives and reference points, but I love how clearly YOKES emphasises this point and encourages sweaters to be conceived, appreciated and worn in relation to them.


I am so grateful for the enabling, empowering, brightening, inspiring focus that YOKES and KEITH MOON have provided lately and I love my new Big Jumper. Thank you Kate!

Project Specs:

Pattern: Keith Moon by Kate Davies from YOKES
Yarn: Léttlopi in ash heather (0054) mustard (9264) and sun yellow (1411) purchased from Meadow Yarn
Needles: 4.5mm Addi Turbos
Ravelled: here

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