Best fisherman sweater patterns

Best fisherman sweater patterns

Back in November 2012, I wrote a little about my quest for the perfect fisherman-cabled sweater, or Aran sweater, and how that desire was one of the key reasons I learned how to knit in the first place. Aran sweater patterns were the first thing I searched Ravelry for, fantasized about, all of that. Two years after that post, I knitted my Amanda cardigan (along with so many of you) and I’m very happy to have it. But has that fulfilled my dream of a fisherman pullover? For obvious reasons, not. In the few years since I’ve been looking, several great patterns have come along, and there’s also that amazing cache of vintage booklets I was given awhile back. (Which I just realized includes the vintage Bernat pattern shown at #5 in my original quest post! How did that escape my notice at the time?)

You know I have a billion cable sweaters favorited at Ravelry at this point, several of which fall into my narrowly defined fisherman-cable set, but so many more I run across are out of print or otherwise inaccessible, or simply not quite right. The only thing that’s really going to scratch this itch is a true classic. Harrogate and Samantha, for example, are both terrific sweaters — either of which, in fact, would look less linebacker-ish on me than the ones pictured above — but without the allover texture, they just don’t give me the feeling. Woolwich is dreamy, but lost in an older Rowan publication I don’t have the good fortune to own. This free Lion Brand pattern is also good, but the drop shoulders combined with all the cabling would look horrendous on me. And so on. So the hunt continues, but for now these are the best candidates I’ve found:

TOP: Marsellus by Whitney Hayward is brand new and perfectly classic, with columns of braids flanking a panel of honeycomb, and the critical folded neck band.

MIDDLE: Grit by Kim Hargreaves and Honeycomb Aran by Patons are closest to the iconic Steve McQueen sweater — the key difference between them being Grit is set-in sleeves and Honeycomb is raglan. I slightly prefer the raglan, which is also a free pattern, and downloadable, while Grit is trapped in a book. (Then again, either one is so similar to the Amanda cardigan and the LL Bean sweater already in my closet that knitting either one anytime soon seems a little silly.)

BOTTOM: Stonecutter by Michele Wang is less classic, more contemporary. Plus I have tried on the sample and it is guilty of having the linebacker effect on me. But I want so desperately to knit those cables I might be able to convince myself I don’t care.

In the end (and despite the lack of charts) that vintage Bernat one may win out.

58 thoughts on “Best fisherman sweater patterns

  1. I love them all but that Stonecutter is just gorgeous. Not sure what gives you the “linebacker” look, but that sweet cable detail at the hip will draw the eye away from your shoulders for sure. Go for it!

      • Hmmmm, I can see that, I guess. and if you use a lighter weight yarn, it isnt the same sweater… maybe you need to design your own, with fancy cables splitting apart at the upper arm, so you have plain stockinette or honeycomb at the shoulder itself?

  2. That’s funny…..that #5 is the sweater that I’m in the process of reknitting into something else….it was styled in a very typical 70-ish style; the sleeves were huge. I like an oversized man’s fit for a fisherman, but this one—–eeep! I can’t believe I actually wore it.

      • I should say: I was looking at the *pics* last night, while working on this post. I just pulled the pattern off the shelf. There are four sizes in the pattern (women’s to men’s), but the only difference is the cast-on count and neck shaping. The raglan shaping instructions are identical for all four sizes — so they all have the same armhole depth and correspondingly huge sleeves.

  3. With all the work that would go into a detailed aran, I’d pick Stonecutter. It is different enough to look like a designer sweater but still classic. It is not your typical aran you can find on the rack.

    • Does it? It certainly droops off the shoulders of the model (and the neck is way too big) but the Ravelry listing says it’s set-in. I’d like to think that’s true!

  4. We all have things we don’t like about our shape but most people never even notice them. Don’t worry about your shoulders, they look fine. Pick something to knit that looks fun or interesting to knit.

  5. Absolutely love Stonecutter. I’ve never seen anything like it…no copies in stores, catalogs, etc. I’d be willing…and might…lose an extra 10 lbs. to be able to wear it gorgeously.

  6. I share your interest, issues and quest. I’m currently working my second “Shearer” by Kirsten Kapur (both for men but still looking to avoid the linebacker look). I’ve used the cable design but ditched the drop shoulders/added a 2×2 ribbed band at the bottom, cuffs and collar that seem to flow directly into then out of the cable motifs. I’ve imagined this would work wonders for Stonecutter – that centre cable is to die for but that swooping cable detail at the bottom would take away from the strictly vertical lines I am looking for to keep the overall impression from being too bulky.

    Also looking to control bulk I’d probably omit one of the smaller cables running alongside it to bring the linebacker potential of the shoulders down a notch and maybe add a small cable either side of the one running down the sleeves to make up for their absence on the sweater body.

    A crisp shoulder line that does not allow a line of cables to droop down the arm is really important I think.

    Also, have you considered Beatnik by Nora Gaughan from Knitty? The complicated cables in that one are confined to the centre of the sweater front and back leaving some breathing room around the sides that really minimizes bulkiness. If I made it again I’d try it in a traditional wool yarn, omit the shaping and make a size with a bit of positive ease.

    Thanks for this post – its spurred me on to finish up my Shearer II!

  7. I suggest you design your own Aran Sweater. That way you can choose your favourite elements and tell your own story. It is quite easy.

  8. I love the way aran sweaters look and I know it’s just knits and purls and some seams but I get serious anxiety looking at some of those braids and cables.

    • Try a hat first! The Stonecutter charts are truly daunting (and completely stunning), but for most of them the motif is a very simple repeat and the charts are only a few rows big. And remember: we only knit one row at a time!

  9. I have a St. Brigid by Alice Starmore in the works (for over a year now…it requires that I pay close attention so it doesn’t work when I’m watching tv!) Fortunately these are classic sweaters, so when I finally get it done it won’t be out of style!

  10. My dream fisherman’s sweater is from Norse Strikkedesign, which is sadly out of print, and I took a surreptitious photocopy (bad I know!!) of it when I took the out of the library once. The Ravelry page doesn’t have the photo from the book, but it is stunning.
    There is a terribly small photo of it in the kits section of the Nordic Fibre Arts website.
    I downloaded Stonecutter and was ready to start it, but I chickened out and started Hawser (also from Brooklyn Tweed) instead, because I just didn’t know how I would find the ability to concentrate on Stonecutter’s charts with small children around.

  11. I have yet to learn how to knit cables… they scare me! Any tips on getting started, or sweater patterns that will ease me into it?

  12. I’m waiting for someone not whitney hayward to knit marsellus lol it’s so beautiful and she makes it look so easy!!

  13. These are all gorgeous. Like you I’ve been dreaming of an Aran sweater for the past two years and finally started one this winter. I have the Honeycomb Aran on my needles. It is painfully slow to knit but such a beauty. Well it did not help that I made a mistake on a cable and had to unknit about 5 inches, then messed up the raglan decreases and had to start over. That was the back. With a bit more attention, the front is slowly reaching the raglan decreases stage. To note for all those interested: there is a tiny mistake on the B chart, very easy to spot (line 6). I chose a beautiful creamy white yarn, of course. I just hope I won’t end up looking like the Michelin man.

      • I did not dare try any of these techniques, so I did patiently knit backwards, stitch by stitch. It took me a couple of days but it was worth it. I’ve been carefully checking my central cable since after each RS row. It is everything but mindless knitting, for sure.

  14. What about Elizabeth Zimmermann’s aran sweater? I believe in the book Opinionated Knitter, she gives a run down of them. And also gives all the traditional charts. Then you could change it to have the fit you desire. :) I want a fisherman sweater too. One of the first things that I wanted to knit…alas, i just used my natural cream wool that I was going to use to knit a Reine cardigan. I think i’d prefer a gray one though.

  15. I prefer the simplest ones, and don’t feel comfortable with all over texture. Stonecutter is magnificent … but not for me (I would love to knit it for the challenge though !) For these reason, I love Marsellus and Harrogate (it may be one of my first “fave” on Ravelry), but to me the perfect Aran sweater is Backbay, from the BT Fall 14 collection. I want to knit it exactly as it is, with that same color and that same fit, but would replace the bobbles with a mirrored cable or something else.
    Jared Flood designed another Aran sweater which I also find great, and a bit more textured, it’s called Gelsomina, from the BT Fall 13 collection.

  16. Many years ago, I charted and knit my own fisherman sweater. Loved wearing it and now have no idea what has happened to it. Doubt it would fit now anyway. Would love to make another. I love Stonecutter by Michele Wang but am afraid of the bulk. No longer the svelt 20 somethings. Now I think something like Backbay would look better on me. Also love Hawser (–not sure how the drop shoulders would look – my shoulders are not very square) and the Stillhouse Vest.
    So many patterns and ideas. So little time.

  17. Wow – The clanarans is a great place to figure out what motifs you like, although I can’t help missing the Katie Jones touch as I look at them. Thanks for the Stonecutter reminder. I was set on Shakespeare in Love – now back in a quandry . . .

  18. STONECUTTER!! Ah the sweater of my dreams. I have the sweaters worth of yarn to make it in my stash and only a few inches of sleeve on my husband’s sweater and a pair of mittens stand between me and that beauty. Any chance there will be a fisherman’s sweater knitalong coming up soon? :D

    As for the linebacker issue; I find that ironically one cable can be less than flattering, but like with your Amanda cardigan if the sleeve is all over cable/texture it tends to negate the problem.

  19. I too just realized I have the same Bernat pattern book, which was gifted to me years ago! That sweater did not stand out to me at the time (mediocre photos?), but whiskey and women’s version shows the main cable panel in its fully glory. Yep, that one is now in my queue.

  20. I am going to say nothing better for me than a traditional Gansey (or Gansey inspired). I love the traditional UK patterns, region specific. However, not many big cables in Ganseys, lots of seed stitch. My favourite is the one from Scarborough, I dream of knitting one in a boxy style.

    Some original examples below…

    And a lovely modern version from Brooklyn Tweed.

  21. I love your Amanda, however, I need it knit in a size 42 with 1 -1/2 inch ease and I have no idea how to make it larger. My favorite sweater is a fisherman sweater and I agree with your concerns knitting
    the perfect one. I, too, do not need the bulk, has to have raglan sleeves and I want a more
    conservative cabled fisherman. So I will be following you to see what you come up with!! The
    thrill is in the hunt….

  22. Love Stonecutter!!! I’ve always been a fan of Alice Starmore’s, but want to cast on ASAP for Michelle Wang’s beautiful design!

  23. Have you thought at Demi, by Kim Hargreaves, I think? In Rowan’s Vintage Knits. I have loved that for about 10 years now… really should get on an knit the darn thing, then.

  24. Have you seen Harvey Station? It is a free pattern, but I don’t think it’s on Ravelry. Maybe Briggs & Little? It’s shown in their “Heritage”. I think it’s knit top down, too. One day…

  25. Pingback: Make Your Own Basics: The fisherman sweater | Fringe Association

  26. Glenna C’s ShireAran is one of the best balanced fisherman/cabled sweaters out there besides Na Craga, IMHO. I’ve knitted it twice.

    Hv you seen Brooklyn Tweeds Radmere? Great cabled cardigan. Working 2 right now

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