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I’m a knit designer. I knit what I like to wear. However, every once in a while, I see someone else’s design that fills a void I did not know I had. Sometimes that sweater pops up as a seven-dollar pattern on Ravelry, and sometimes that sweater can only be bought for $4,000.

So it was with my most recent infatuation: a sweater worn by actor Eddie Redmayne for the Prada Fall campaign.


The Sweater

I first saw “the sweater” in August as I was leafing through the New York Times Sunday supplement. I wasn’t sure at first if I liked it: the colors were a bit clownish, the whole look a bit manic for the tweedy Mr. Redmayne. But I was fascinated, and I began to search for it everywhere. I bought the September issue of Vogue. I watched Prada promotional videos for glimpses of that distinctive pattern peeking from under suit coats. There were vest versions, alternate colorways, a simplified one in stripes available on Farfetch for about five minutes. But it was the colors in the women’s runway version that had me hooked. Indeed the whole runway show fascinated me with its garment deconstruction and its cultural bricolage. I was smitten. The sweater was more than a pretty thing to knit: it resonated with my designer instincts. It had a context in Miuccia Prada’s runway collection. It had MEANING.

One day, I put on my best black everything and marched down to the Prada outpost in Boston to see if I could find out anything more about it.


The staff couldn’t have been nicer, if a bit confused by my visit. No one knew the sweater I was so excited about. Peter, the manager, suggested that it might be a piece that hadn’t made it into production. New York would get one, if anyone did, but his Boston customer was much more interested in “the best white shirt you can buy” than such a sweater. If Boston was confused, New York was even more so. I just wanted to know if it existed beyond the runway. How much would it cost? Where was it made? About to give up, I found new hope when a friend of my husband’s said that he knew the costume designer for a popular Netflix drama whose star had a contract with Prada. “She knows everyone there, maybe she can get your questions answered.”

I held my breath.

The Swatches

While I waited, I set about trying to understand the sweater in the best way I know how: I knit swatches.

I peered at the stitches in the photos, tracing how I thought the yarn traveled from one stitch to the next. When I thought I understood how it was made, it was a drop everything and knit moment, so I used the skein on my desk: Nurtured from Julie Asselin Yarns.


I began my experiment with units of 12 stitches. What I learned from this swatch was that I was right about my structure and about my math. While the original sweater had an eight stitch repeat, the units worked in any even number really, all that mattered was gauge and how big I wanted them to be. For my next swatch I added color, changing only after a full row of units to see how they interacted, and also because I was still shy of going full intarsia. I also played with the math, trying out an eight stitch repeat in Cormo Sport from Sincere Sheep.


This swatch best illustrates how the shells connect to each other: I see them as stripes, built as little back and forth scribbles of short rows that start small and grow by one stitch at every turn. I begin the stripe at the right edge of the fabric, working the first shell back and forth over eight stitches. The top row of the shell continues across into the next shell to the left, making the first stitches in the bottom row. I work that shell, and then move on again to the left. Once I’ve completed the row, I knit on the wrong side of the fabric all the way back. I begin the next stripe with half of a shell, then proceed as before. In the intarsia version, the color of the last unit gets used for that knit row on the wrong side, which is where the contrast color purl bumps in the original sweater come from. With this Cormo swatch, I refined the set up stripe, working only two sets of short rows to avoid distortion in the transition from the ribbing. The scallops distort the fabric without this, and you can see in the original sweater that the knitter took care to do this.

The Intarsia

Once I had solved the construction puzzle, I felt ready to tackle the intarsia variable. I consistently counted nine colors in every version I’d seen. I dug out all of my skeins of Jamieson’s Double Knitting, and played with combinations for a bit before I chose these colors to work together.


The first thing I did was to knit a single unit, unravel it, and then measure the length. This way, I could break off the correct amount and be free of the yarn basket. I worked a garter stitch border and the transition rows in my “background” color, then chose my colors at the beginning of each row of units. As the swatch grew, it became more intuitive to place my colors, balancing for tone as much as hue. I squinted at it a lot and I also used this as an opportunity to try knitting backwards, a neat trick. I’m not sure it saved me any time, but it was fun, and I got pretty good at it by the end. (You can find YouTube videos to show you the way if you’re interested.)


What about all the ends? (I can hear you muttering.)

Thanks to social media, I had seen the back of one of the actual Prada sweaters. So here’s one of the sweater’s secrets: the ends are knotted and cut short. I was disappointed for only a moment before I remembered the time I asked Kaffe Fassett if I could look at the back of his vest. He had flipped the hem, like the good sport that he is, unashamed of all the knots and dangling ends there. He rationalized it in this way: “If you knot it, it’s not going anywhere, you can get on with your knitting, and all people ever see is the front.” I took the back of this lovely fabric as further permission to just tie a knot and get on with it. And so that is why the back of my swatch looks like this.


So what am I going to do with this? At the moment, I am dreaming of a Rhinebeck sweater, a grand opus worked over the next eight months out of my beautiful Jamieson’s stash. I’d be thrilled to run into anyone there who follows the same path. In the meantime, I’m waiting to hear if the powers at Prada will answer my questions. I’d love to see the original sketch, and know how the technical aspect played into the design. Did the sweater come from a swatch? Did the sketch suggest a patchwork and the knitter took the idea and came up with this? Who is the knitter who made this sweater happen? Can I send her a fan letter? I want to tell her that she inspired me, and as a fellow designer I bet she would be thrilled to know.

Wrap yourself in fabulous design!
We are thrilled to offer the Nesting Wrap, by Bristol Ivy and Julia Farwell-Clay's Eddy Wrap.


About The Author

As a blogger, writer, teacher, lecturer, designer, and catalyst in the knitting world, Julia Farwell-Clay has for the past ten years dug herself ever deeper into the world of textile traditions and personal decoration. She is the designer of all of the patterns in Modern Daily Knitting Field Guide No. 7: Ease, and  has been published as both a writer and a designer in Knitty, Interweave Knits, PomPom Quarterly, and Twist Collective, among others.


  • I stared and stared at that stitch pattern and just couldn’t make sense of it. So cool, Julia. Sherlock Holmes has nothing on you.

    • Agreed….. I can look at this time & again & still I want to look again but I really want to feel it.

  • This journey has been so exciting to watch. You, and a few others I follow on Instagram, and how you have so lovingly taken this on have been super inspiring to me. Thank you. I am challenged to take my knitting imagination up a notch.

    • What is her twitter name? I want more! Oh, Julia Farwell-Clay….

      • @farwellclay

  • Brava, Julia! I’m in awe of your investigative skills and knitting talent. (I’ve yet to decide whether I actually like the Prada version …)

  • You are brilliant beyond all reason and also I kind of want that one-color version as a scarf or a hat. (If I tried to knit even the one-color version as a sweater I’m pretty sure I’d be doing it for the next twenty years. Although I bet the stripy version would look super cute on my daughter…. and she’s much smaller.)

  • Well done!

  • Amazing! I’m pretty sure that’s the fiercest bit of knitting code breaking ever. Also,I’m totally going to start tying a knot and getting on with it. If it’s okay with Kaffe (and with Prada) then it’s okay with me.

  • This is one of the best detective stories I’ve read in ages! Utterly captivating, and I can’t wait to see where you take this now that you’ve unraveled (ha) the secret of the pattern!

    • I third that – utterly captivating sums it up perfectly. Julia, since you are a professional designer who sells patterns, I am curious. I know from friends who design sewing patterns that copyright lines for design can be murky and confusing. Would you be comfortable releasing this stitch design as part of a pattern as long as you did not copy the sweater design itself, or do you feel that the stitch design belongs to Prada? What are your personal feelings about where the lines for copyright should be drawn?

      • This is a great question, Debbi, and I was hoping someone would ask. Long answer ahead, but here’s my thesis: Stitch patterns are most of the time just stitch patterns. As many times a 2 over 2 cable has been used, it’s all fair in yarn and knitting. There are such things as stitch patterns that have something approaching copyright, such as just about everything in Norah Gaughan’s new book of cables, and a few other exceptional things knitters have worked out over the years. I’ve always felt that the Oak Leaf cable first worked out (to the best of my knowledge) around 1996 by Julie Weisenberger for Knitter’s Magazine Great American Afghan, should always bear her name when designers put it into their hat patterns. But most of knitting is fair game, existing in the common knowledge for all of us to be inspired by, to use, and even ::cough:: to sell. After all, designers are mindful and often explicit about their borrowing from Barbara Walker’s contribution to the stitch lexicon, as she herself was in her Treasuries, always giving credit to knitters who submitted to her collection. I too think credit should be given where it is possible, but constant refashioning from our collective knowledge is what keeps tradition going. It is a necessary and vital part of the craft.

        In this case, the modular scallop is hazy in its origin. It might be attributable to Madeline Langan and her felted Stained Glass Bag from the early 00’s, but it might be earlier. However, the technique has grown wings and become so many things since then, it is almost its own genre, much like entrelac.

        In the case of “The Prada Sweater”, I myself am attempting to find out the origin story of the design. I have a request in through a few channels, and I will certainly let knitters know if I get an answer. In the meantime, here is my best guess. There is a class of knitter whose livelihood is to generate swatches on spec, that is, they put together stitch patterns or fair isle charts, and they bundle them for sale to interested fashion houses through an agent. The Agent, representing her swatch designer clients, takes the whole batch for the fashion house to paw through, and the fashion house – let’s call it Prada – chooses one or more and they pay for the right to use that swatch in their collection. It might get used, it might not. It might have been different in the original purchased swatch from the multi colored version you see on the runway. There’s a fair bit of alchemy evident here with “The Prada Sweater”, and my guess is that many cooks contributed to this fascinating dish. I can speculate a lot more here, but the pith of it is that the swatch designer has most likely borrowed from the collective lexicon themselves.

        And the collective can borrow it back.

        I think reproducing the sweater itself stitch for stitch – collar, pocket and all – then selling the pattern with one’s name attached is unlikely to evoke any reaction from the fashion industry. Goodness knows they’ve done it to friends of mine, and intellectual property in fashion is a murky business. But poaching or copying this sweater for profit (and the exchange of money is the key here) would be what I would interpret as “bad form” on the part of that copyist.

        However: the modular scallop already exists: I used a version of it for my own cardigan design, the Burton Hills Jacket just last year. For other examples see Aranami by Olga Buraya-Kefelian or the Seashell Scrap Yarn Blanket by Charan Sachar. The scallop in The Prada Sweater seems new and different because the sweater adds the intarsia variable. It really got our attention, but it’s still just the modular scallop. Now that there seems to be interest in the technique, I think that teaching it in a class, or to applying that scallop to mittens or a hat then selling THAT as a pattern is a different thing, and in my opinion, fair game.

        I will admit that I’m planing to knit a version of The Prada Sweater, but it will be different. It will be longer, of an entirely different palette. And here’s the critical factor as I understand it: I won’t be selling the pattern for that sweater.

    • I was wondering how to express my thoughts on this article and you nailed it with ‘utterly captivating’.
      Hopefully Prada reply……..

  • Pure genius!! Bravo!

  • I love knitting articles like this! They’re like Cook’s Illustrated articles only for knitting. They make me think and inspire me to do things I didn’t think I could do. Keep ’em coming! And great job JFC!

  • Let me know if you want someone to travel this journey with you. I would LOVE to make this. Kaffe Fassett is my hero and I could so play with all those colors. Amazing!!

    • This detective adventure has added so much to my knitting journey. ..

  • Julia, you are a marvel, your enthusiasm for knitting and design are unparalleled and it is catching.

  • A++++++

  • As an esteemed friend says, I BOW DOWN. This was a thrill to read!

  • And Prada had the good sense to choose an experienced knitwear model
    In case link doesn’t work lookup the Rowan patterns Brooklyn ( on Rav) and Google for Saucers and Redmayne.

  • Hooray! Respect for knots in knitting, and not just from Julia, which would already be a mighty checkmark in favor, but Kaffe himself. I’ve never understood the resistance to knotting ends on the wrong side, and have done it somewhat abashedly for years. Now I will do so proudly!

    • I find this to be the most freeing piece of information of the day. I hate weaving in, and I resist making some colorwork items for that reason. I think I just changed my mind!

  • Fascinating. I cut out that ad from the NYT and have looked and looked at it. this article is so interesting, I will re-read it over and over to understand better and also because I am obsessed with the colors, design, and technique.

  • Totally love this!!

  • I also saw the sweater in the ad, and hunted down ads in NYTimes, Vogue and FT. But that was the end of the story for me. I was impressed and facinated by your story. Well done and thank you!

  • Nice article.

  • I don’t know if I could knit my knitting…seems so sacrilegious. What am I talking about…I am the girl who in Catholic high school used cig ashes instead of going to mass.

  • Thank you, Julia. I was obsessed with it, too, and also figured out short rows were one of the secrets. I preferred the colors of the women’s vest I saw in the NYT to those in Eddie R’s – and yours are nice as well.
    This stitch pattern seems a good way to use my stash of no longer produced Rowan LDK…

  • Fantastic, Julia! And remember that the great Hazel Find all also knots on the back.

    • Darn that Autocorrect: I know you meant Hazel Tindall

  • I love stories of (minor fun) obsessions like this! Reassuring to know I’m not the only one who goes down rabbit holes! Thank you for sharing…and I hope to see photos of the work in progress!

  • Ain’t nothin’ to it but to do it! Get in there, girl. You’re amazing. This whole Prada sweater story has me in such fits of delight!

    Love you geniuses!

  • Beyond fabulous! Thank you for the knitterly sleuthing. When I saw this sweater in Vogue (I was standing in line at the pharmacy) I gasped loudly. People turned and stared, looking for an emergency, so I quickly said, “I’m fine, it’s ok, it’s just this sweater, it’s, I, um, wow.” I was quickly reminded I was not among knitters. Grateful to know I’m not alone.

  • I didn’t read all the comments so please excuse if this has been suggested. I think this would be a suitable project for this pattern:

  • What a fascinating story! Thank you! I hope to read what Prada has to say about the design…even if it’s “no comment.”

  • Also, I have been and continue to be fascinated by the scallop shape. I considered using a modular scallop design to evoke multiple fossil shells for a shawl this summer. (Which I is how I often find them on the beach—piled higgledey-piggledey for eons.) I ended up using Nicola Susen’s “Seashell” design instead, for one great big scallop fossil shell shawl!

  • I love this, i’m glad to see i’m not the only one who scrutinizes what they see on the runway!

  • Bravo!

  • Thank you, Julia, for a great Saturday morning read on your creative process. I’ve tried to read all the comments to avoid duplication. I may have missed one that posted this link to another similar sweater.
    I wish I had seen the original in the NewYorkTImes. Must pay closer attention.

  • Oh my goodness! I think I saw you in the sweater on Saturday at Rhinebeck! (I said how much I loved it by the coffee stand near the back barns. I was in nothing nearly as memorable.) It is exquisite, and it looks like you changed the construction a bit. I’m so excited to re-find this post so I can go play with this stitch pattern too!

    • But of course I remember! I only got a few comments about my sweater on Saturday (it had so much glorious “competition”) so of course I remember your compliment! Thank you so much, it made my day. My own sweater is dk weight, and worked over more stitches than the document sweater. I also made mine buttoned front instead of zippered, and refined the collar to a 3 part Cowichan-style construction, instead of the sewn on one from the runway.

  • I have been intrigued with this art piece! I’d love to give it a whirl!
    My swatches have frustrated me! But I’m not giving up!
    Lovely to see yours and I’m inspired to try again.
    Best wishes
    Marilyn Gianadda.

  • Brilliant, as a knitwear designer myself I’ve often found myself obsessed with a stitch I’ve seen and not rested til I’ve been able to knit it. Loved your story , keep up the good work.

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