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The first thing I ever knit was a vest from a Perry Ellis knit kit. It was in the early eighties and my fashion taste was way beyond my family’s means. Thankfully, my mother could sew and knit. We recreated Ellis styles through Vogue Sewing and Vogue Knitting patterns. I loved the Perry Ellis looks. And the sweaters in particular represented what I now see I admire in good design—organic materials, the tweaking of traditional forms, wit, simple shapes and comfort.

Most handmade sweaters I have owned (mostly made by my mother) since the eighties are variations on Perry Ellis designs. My absolute favorite sweater is pullover with a single cable running up the center front. I have it in multiple colors and weights.

My mother and I recently spent a giddy morning at our local knitting shop (New York’s Knitty City), rummaging through old Vogue Knitting magazines with the many Perry Ellis patterns. We have been inspired to make some of his patterns we didn’t consider in the past.

The following illustrations are some of my beloved Perry Ellises past and present, and (hopefully) Perry Ellises Yet to Come.












Curious about patterns for these sweaters?

Ravelry has a small archive of vintage Perry Ellis designs, including this glimpse of the #11 Ribbon Motif Pullover from Vogue Knitting (Holiday 1986) and the Wit Cardigan from Vogue Knitting (Winter 1989/1990).

About The Author

Amy Routman is an architect and designer living and working in New York City.

The daughter of a consummate knitter and sewer, Amy has spent years looking at knitting pattern books and fashion magazines with her mother, and is excited to explore the art of knitting through her watercolor illustrations.

Follow Amy on Instagram to see her latest illustrations, art and design work.


  • Oh that cropped sleeved sweater with argyle is to die for. Pity the pattern still isn’t about! They really should reissue them as a special edition!

    • I am going to get the pattern from my mom and try and share it!

  • LOVE the 1980s Perry Ellis sweaters! I knit both the Zebra Sweater (from VK Fall/Winter 1983) and the Queen of Hearts Sweater (from Spring/Summer 1985).

  • I need to dig through my boxes do old VKs! Thanks for these locations!

  • I love those illustrations and they brought back fond memories of my Fashion Illustration course in college. Now, those sweaters – I made two of those and remember most of them. My Vogue Knitting magazine collection spans from the late 1940s to the current issue and I’ll never part with any of them. Perry Ellis has always been one of my favorites.

    • You have quite a library! So glad it brought back good memories!

  • I love the watercolors as much as the sweaters—actually, probably more.

    • Glad you enjoy them!

  • I wasn’t knitting in the Perry Ellis era…but I was sewing. The Vogue patterns I bought and made were expensive and complex…and some of my all time favorites! Thanks for the memories this morning.

    • Oh, I wish I still had those patterns!

  • Love the cabled darts and all the inset sleeves. Beautiful watercolors.

  • You guys! Where did you find Amy Routman? Her watercolors and lovely words cast a spell. Sooo delightful and inspiring.

    • MDK SPANS THE GLOBE FOR THE BEST OF EVERYTHING. Amy’s Instagram is a daily delight, and when I found out she was in New York, I thought I’d take a shot at finding out if she was interested in knitwear. And then, wow! Was she ever!

      • Would Amy do a line of notecards for mdk? I would love to include a sweater card with a sweater gift. Love her fresh style

        • What a lovely idea!

  • I love how this is a history of your Perry Ellis sweaters sweaters as well as a showcase of your beautiful artwork – the sweater series. Knitty City is my LYS too – it’s easy to pop in, intending to stay only for a few minutes, and end up staying for hours.

    • You may see me and my mother there! Delighted that you enjoyed the column!

  • I started knitting because of Perry Ellis. A very warm and gracious man. I still have, and wear, my first Ellis sweater! Raglan sleeve with a single cable up the sleeve, funnel neck knit in autumn red Tahki Tweed. I’ve never looked back! Knit what I love right out of the gate. (I even named a pet after him.)

    • That sweater sounds gorgeous! Adding it to my list!

    • So much to love in this comment. Delightful to hear of his niceness, the memory of the sweater right down to the specific yarn, and: was the pet Perry or Ellis?

  • I had a Perry Ellis suit with big padded shoulders in the 80’s. It was so gorgeous and out there. And oh those sweaters. Fabulous. Thanks for the reminder

    • And there was me, frittering away my 1980s figure on Tahari and Harvé Benard (who probably was not even a person)!

      • I was a Harve Benard gal, too. Bein’ a banker in the 80’s with Benard….

      • He really did exist! A very nice man I met at a sample sale in his showroom in the mid-80’s. Oh those power suits . . .

  • I absolutely LOVE these paintings of these designs…you’re very lucky that your mom is such a prolific knitter!!! How fun!

    • She is — and now after reading the comments she says she’s motivated to get going on her next one!

  • Love the watercolors and that you and your Mom love to knit and create together.

    • Thank you! She’s an inspiring lady!

  • Your mention of Vogue patterns brought to mind my senior year of high school, 1965. I made a Vogue pattern suit in my high school tailoring class…my teacher said it would be a challenge. I made it out of a lovely blue wool mohair fabric, expensive for me, which my mom helped me buy ( she was a single mom raising 3 kids ). It was a work of love and I actually won an award for it. My sewing teacher was a gem, her mantra being “you should be able to wear it inside out as well as right side out”. Over the years her words have served me well, many things sewn, knitted and needleworked….things made by hand and cherished! Love the Perry Ellis watercolors, beautiful!

    • What a lovely memory! My mother seems to live by that mantra, too!

  • This is one of my favorite posts here- just live that timeless good designs still can be worn and made!

    • Delighted that you liked it!

  • Loved the memory lane. My mother also made a couple of those sweaters for both if us in various fabrics and color schemes , so,I’d stripoed, etc. Altho she was the bookerper for one of his sample knit contractors, so I never got to see or keep the patterns. I still wear 2 of the long cardigans she made then.

  • I’m going to make the multi colored cable sweater using the front only into a fall and winter scarf

    • That is such a good idea! Just keep going with those cabletarsias!

  • Great watercolors representations of these sweaters! I have always loved Perry Ellis Designs. Who could forget Marc Jacobs for Perry Ellis “Bubble Sweater” I spent a weeks pay by the CE LaGran mohair!

  • I feel the need to knit a queen of hearts coming on. I didn’t knit when the pattern first came out but still have the issue. It’s a standout.

  • I knit a version of that single cable sweater myself, out of Takhi Donegal Tweed. Alas it was several decades (and sizes) ago so it was sent off to Goodwill. I hope it found a wool loving home in someone’s wardrobe.

    • I hope my vest has a good home, too. I just gave it away a few months ago!

  • What a blast from the past- I too made the ss1988 allover cable shortsleeved top! Mine was in a natural white cotton and as I was a beginner, had a few funky wonky bits but I loved that sweater and wore it proudly. No idea where that is now either.

  • Wit! That’s what Perry Ellis was all about. You’ve made me want to go through my 30-odd years old collection of VK to revisit. The little short-sleeved argyle is definitely in there somewhere…1985 or ‘86…
    Thank you!

    • My mother has the pattern and I will have to get it out and try and share it!

  • Oh the pullover with ruffles! Didn’t knit in the 80s but wore a sweater out that looked like that in grey angora. Would so dearly love to knit one now…any thoughts on where I might find that pattern?

  • What a wonderful experience it was revisiting these unique, beautiful designs. Thank you.

  • Ah, your lovely sketches are like a trip down Memory Lane…..I loved Perry Ellis! I tried to get my first “real” job out of college there, but alas, the design director directed me to get some experience first, lol. Perry Ellis’ beautiful designs inspired me to go on and become a knitwear designer anyway though!

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