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While scrolling through a Ravelry thread for a knitalong that required participants to style their Finished Objects, I was a little sad to see that many people laid out their completed outfits rather than modeling them, which meant I couldn’t see the fit or drape of a knit—and there was a heavy reliance on jeans.

Now don’t get me wrong, jeans are amazing for many reasons, their flexibility being one of them. For many years I thought that nothing other than jeans went with many of the sweaters I knit. I went so far as to sew a denim skirt to give myself more options. Like many of you, I’m often drawn to the color of a yarn, and I’m not thinking about what I have that would go with it.

However, I’ve realized that it wasn’t so much that my sweaters didn’t go with my existing wardrobe but that I was clinging to some idea that knits need to have a simple backdrop when worn. I’m not entirely sure where I got this idea, and it turns out I was wrong about an overarching reliance on jeans.

A little poking around Instagram and talking with knitters helped me realize that there were so many great ways to style one’s knits. I like to think that the way we wear our knits is a way to honor them, and just like a great pair of glasses or a hat flatters a face, a great outfit can complement a knit.

SSK Sweater by Helga Isager and Salut Chéri beret by Sari Nordlund modeled by Tracy Young

Three areas that I think are helpful to consider when styling your knits are color, proportion, and the unexpected.

Most of us have a somewhat reliable color palette or just simply favorite colors. Among my own knits, I have a lot of purple/fuchsia and blue/green/teal. Why it took me so long to pair two knits together is still a mystery. I think I was afraid of turning into one giant knitted object, but my Glaswegian Cardigan by Amy Christoffers looks as though it were made to go with my Fair Isle Skirt by Mary Jane Mucklestone—even though they were knitted years apart, and the yarns for each design found their ways to my stash with no thoughts of coordinating them.

Proportion is an easy area to play with. How many of us have knit a cropped sweater? That swath of bare midriff may be welcome in the warmer months, but come winter? Not unless you live in a temperate climate. That doesn’t mean they need to be shelved.

Laura Sorbara, from my LYS Handknit, told me that proportion and color are two of the first things she thinks about when putting together a look. She styled her PetiteKnit Oslo Sweater with a pair of baggy pants featuring an orange front panel. Her Roku hat by Olga Buraya-Kefelian picks up the orange and also complements the dark teal Oslo.

Tracy Young, owner of Handknit, likes to wear oversized sweaters with flowy dresses. Pairing the look with unexpected shoe choices adds another bit of flair. 

Skirts and dresses make great playmates for your handknits. A black pencil skirt can be a simple yet stylish upgrade from jeans. One knitter I know wears a pencil skirt with her handknits to church, where jeans might not be appropriate. As MDK demonstrated this summer, knitting a skirt (Nell Ziroli’s Shakerag Skirt is in my queue) is also an option. Go ahead and do it in a neutral color, or take a chance with a color that complements your handknit collection.

In a recent search for my next knit, I came across Kate Atherley’s great styling of her Kiernan sweater (a free pattern!). The chic look has it all—cropped sweater, great layering, and a pop of pattern.

I can’t leave out Sonya Philip in a discussion of styling. Her looks demonstrate the possibilities of color and proportions and the unexpected so exuberantly. 

Designer Lily Kate France models her Beau-tie and Cadogan.

In speaking with members of a couple of knitting groups, I heard all about the possibilities of the shawl to  punch up the power of an otherwise staid coat. One woman told me one of her shawls has so many wild colors that it goes with everything. Another knitter has used a shawl as a belt, and the Sophie pattern came up in more than one conversation. Perfect as a complementary neckerchief or ascot, it’s also been seen worn as a headband.

Last but not least: socks. Birkenstocks and clogs are back (for many of us, they never left). Flaunt those handknit socks with your Birks or a clog. Not your vibe?  Match your socks to your handknit. Peeking over the top of a pair of boots, they can get a little attention and help pull a look together.

Junko Okamoto’s Papa styled with Lander pants the knitter sewed herself!

So, it seems that the only limit to styling our knits is our imagination.

Image credits: @lilykatemakes, @Lauralauraso (modeling Sorbet blouse by Mlle Fryd knitwear—pattern not available—in the picture at the very top), @handknit, @propertension, and @angelalynn114

About The Author

Open to learning how to do practically everything, Claudia teaches, writes, knits, and makes art in Hamilton, Ontario. Her textbook, Fashion Writing: A Primer, was published by Routledge in November 2022.


  • I always enjoy seeing how Stephen West styles his knits. He has amazing flair.

  • great to see all the fantastic ideas111

    • Thank you Claudia for this wonderfully interesting read!

  • Kristy Glass can’t be topped when it comes to styling hand knits.

    • Agreed. Her YouTube posts are so inspiring.

    • And don’t forget Kate Davies!

      • Hear, hear!

  • I love seeing familiar faces and places in your articles (and IG posts)! You have such flair when it comes to your outfits, as does Tracy. I’m feeling inspired to look at my knits differently now.

    • Styling is fun- and seeing a garment on an individual (a real person not a model) is important. You see how the garment fits and lays on a body as well as how it looks.

      My current knitting pattern issue is the ‘artsy’ photo, which though pretty gives no indication of the shape or size of the piece. This is done w shawls in particular. One photo needs to be of the piece/shawl flat w dimensions given. Even commercial sewing patterns give a schematic so you can see the lines and shape. It’s much more important for a knitted piece where you are creating the fabric and the garment simultaneously. I can-and do – always alter my sewn garment before cutting and often while sewing or when completed. Especially if you are ‘petite.’

      • or tall…a species of tree totally forgotten in the pattern and clothing forest.

      • I totally agree with Gail. Pictures of stunning sweaters styled on a model standing way off in the distance of a rolling field was quite common in books from Rowan in the 80’s. Very pretty if you were hoping to see the countryside, not so much for sweater coveting.

    • hiiiiiii!!!!

  • Lovely to see local content and some different styling options!

  • Loved this article! So refreshing to see different ways to style knitwear.

  • For more styling ideas, I like to browse my copies of “The Knitter” magazine — lots of shapes, materials, and innovations in their photoshoots.

  • Fashion is so fascinating. I used to not care about it –and honestly am still stuck in wearing my jeans almost always. But I am now trying, in my old age yet lol, to dress more imaginatively — evidenced by knitting for myself a Shakerag skirt in apple green Creative Linen and actually wearing it! I also enjoy reading fashion news just for fun, and found your article here to be refreshing and encouraging. Thanks!

    • I have a theory about a “no fly zone” in dressing. It’s one thing to be funky/creative/outlandish when you’re younger, but then there’s a “serious” zone somewhere between say 45 and 60-ish where people seem to be a little less wiling to take fashion/style risks. However, as we get older, there’s a sense that we can do whatever it is that pleases us again fashion-wise. This is just an idea I have, but I thought your comment supports this a bit.

  • Lately it’s corduroy pants with knits for me! I have 3 pairs and almost all of my sweaters coordinate well with at least one.

  • Bravo!

  • Thank you Claudia for this wonderfully interesting read!

  • Loved this piece! I do love creating fun outfits with my knits, though I admit since I retired a few years ago, I am not finding the impulse to put together creative ensembles easy to maintain. I will add that I have been known to create outfits which involve 3-5 handknits, including scarves, hats, fingerless mitts, vests, cardigans, pullovers, skirts, and/or socks.

  • My BFF wears Stephen West’s Speckle and Pop shawl as a long skirt! She wears a turtleneck, tights and knee high suede boots with it. Looks amazing! I live the pop of a colorful shawl worn over a plain black trench coat too.

  • What a fun article, thanks!

  • This was fabulous!

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