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The Heather Hoodie Vest: Designing a Keeper

Sep 29, 2009

In the Fall issue of Knitscene, Debbie O'Neill brings us the uber-cute Heather Hoodie Vest. This project has quickly gained popularity and I wanted to pick Debbie's brain about WHY. She walks us through her design process, and I think the overall gist of the story is that this design was kismetthe right design for a moment in time when people want affordable, wearable, and for us knitters, sweater-y! projects. This design has the same appeal as the Central Park Hoodie: casual styling; comfy; wooly; ageless; with just enough unique texture to keep the eye (and hands) interested. But I'll let Debbie talk now.


I love cables. Last winter it seemed I was seeing chunky vests and short-sleeved sweaters everywhere. Combining cables with these little sweaters seemed like a fun idea for a handknitting design. I really wanted to do something stylish, but simple. I think many newer knitters are intimidated by both the prospect of knitting sweaters and of working cables. Neither is difficult once you find a project you love because you are motivated to see it through to the end.


I started off with a couple of sketches. I am not an artist by any stretch of the imagination, but sketches are still useful for capturing the essence of what I have bouncing around in my head. I tend to do two kinds of sketches to convey my ideas—a schematic sketch that breaks down the elements of the project, and a fashion sketch showing the garment in action.


I liked the idea of little cap sleeves that were created simply by trimming the armhole of a drop-shouldered construction, and an oversized hood that sits almost like a cowl when down. I hit the pile of stitch dictionaries to try to find just the right cable—I wanted something fairly large to stand on its own, but not too complex  I knew that I wanted to use a bulky yarn for the project. I stopped by a few of the local yarn shops and rummaged around in my stash for something that matched what I was seeing in my head.  I settled on Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky.


The Lamb’s Pride Bulky is a bit of an unconventional choice for cables. Usually, to really make a cable pop, you would use a smooth, plied yarn. However, I love the way the slight fuzziness and the heathered colors of this singles mohair blend soften the appearance of the cables, but still show the pattern. And Lamb’s Pride is a yarn that most people can find easily, and it is affordable—important considerations for making a project accessible to everyone.


With a swatch and sketches in hand, it was time to approach Knitscene with the project idea. The editors accepted my design, and my yarn choice! The final sweater was exactly what I had envisioned. As happy as I was with the sample sweater, I never expected the project to be received so eagerly. I am thrilled! I think one of the best parts of desiging is seeing all of your finished projects and works-in-progress's out in the world.


I wish I could say exactly why the Heather Hoodie Vest is so popular—I’d be sure that every design I did hit on those elements! Maybe you all could tell me what you like best about it. I do think it has to do with the fact that it is a quick, but still interesting, knit and is a style that appeals to many ages and body types. It is a simple, wearable sweater. So, now I need to find the time to knit one for myself!


More of Debbie’s work can be found at



Featured Product

Central Park Hoodie Knitting Pattern

Availability: In Stock
Price: $5.50


This best-selling hoodie pattern from Heather Lodinsky now offers expanded sizes. Tahnki's Donegal Tweed wool singles yarn delivers beautiful cable structure and insulation from the cold.


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Mesange wrote
on Oct 17, 2009 10:54 PM

Thank you for the great design, Debbie!

I've enjoyed this project so much. As a new knitter, I've been discouraged by all my previous sweater attempts. Either gauge was way off on the live garment, the pattern was too complicated to comprehend, or once I spent months finishing it the garment just didn't look good on me. When I saw your pattern in Knit Scene (my favorite knitting magazine!), I thought, "Hey! I could totally make this!" It has all my favorite elements-- a hood to keep the coastal California fog off my hair, short sleeves so it's not too warm in this Mediterranean climate, and big needles with big yarn so it doesn't take too long to make. I live in sweatshirts, and this is like a dressed-up sweatshirt that's warm enough to keep out the winter chill. I only have the button band left to knit, and I'm already sure I'm going to live in this vest in the coming seasons. Keep up the great design work! :-)

S. Rousseau

Soquel, CA