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Thanks to a certain runway sweater from last fall’s Prada show, I’ve been completely smitten with knitting little shells. As you may have guessed from the arrival of the Eddy Wrap Pattern, I’ve been inserting the idea into just about every kind of garment you could imagine: cowls, vests, sweaters—voluminous and fitted.

We Happy Few

As I knitted through my own cardigan version of the idea, I have been surveying the internet for fellow travelers in the Prada Odyssey, as evidence of a shared mania.

First among them was Anna Maltz, fondly known for—among other things—her Sweater Spotter account on Instagram.

Soon after the sweater landed in glossy magazines, Anna corralled Prada experimenters with the Instagram hashtag #knittersaredoingitforthemselves. I had a chance to speak with Anna in person during my summer trip to London for Pomfest, a celebration of Pom Pom Quarterly’s fifth anniversary.

Anna was quick to connect the interest the sweater ignited to a history of the do-it-yourself response to haute couture. In the age of ready-to-wear and fast fashion, fashionable clothing is something we can take for granted, but not too long ago, it was a popular practice to draw inspiration from photographs for making one’s own garments. I look forward to more thoughts from Anna on this subject.

Elsewhere at Pomfest this summer, Olga Buraya-Kefelian explained to a crowded lecture hall about how she learned to knit by looking at photos and figuring it out. Her earliest projects were wild leaps of faith based on photos she admired. Patterns were rare to find in Soviet Belarus, and even when available they served just as a jumping off point. As a result, it was—and still is—a standard practice among Eastern European knitters to go their own way. True to Olga’s experience, I found many examples of Prada attempts among Russian-speaking knitters on the web.

This example from Vika Knits was among my favorites. I am pretty sure she nailed it.

Olga also helped me out more directly, as we chatted on Facebook about the sweater and the mania it inspired. As the designer of Aranami, a popular and beautiful shawl based on a version of short row shells, Olga is very familiar with the concept.

Olga directed me to interpretations of the Prada sweater that I hadn’t yet seen, like this magnificent pullover from a talented Ukrainian knitter, Ljubov. In the project notes on her Ravelry page, Ljubov points to a counterpane pattern from 1860 as a candidate for what she thinks may be the earliest example of the stitch.

The original Prada is clearly directed at the more color-confident, so I appreciate how Ljubov chose a palette that may better suit the intended wearer. Her tailoring is so precise, the shawl collar a master stroke, and she tells me that she wove in every one of her ends. I am in awe.

A Moody Blue Version

My most thorough of Prada conversations was the exchange I had with Natasja Hornby whose moody and mellow colored pullover graced the front page of Ravelry on the 20th of July, leading to a frenzy of almost 2,500 favorites for her project and innumerable requests for a pattern.

Natasja credits my article here on MDK with giving her the courage to try the Prada shell motif for herself, first applying it to a slouchy hat, and then to the full-court press of a tailored garment. The results are both stunners, and also beautifully photographed. Natasja has designer superpowers and a wonderful eye.

I had watched Natasja’s process on Instagram (she also wove in all of her ends) and finally wrote to her near the end of her knitting to find out how much we shared in our parallel pursuit. Like me, Natasja hesitates about publishing a straight-up sweater pattern for the design, but feels something may still come of her playing around with the technique.

Knitting it was addictive, Natasja says. “I guess you’re familiar with the just one more (row, pattern, stripe) syndrome? Well, the scallops evoked that in full force.” Pushing her own boundaries a little, making a piece that was extravagant in design, color and construction, reminded her about how exciting knitting can be.

Natasja says that she will continue to make wardrobe staples in practical colors to wear everyday, but the adventure, challenge, and entertainment of the Prada sweater made her feel happy and empowered. What better reason is there to knit a sweater? So without further ado, I have my own sweater to share.

An Interpretation of My Own

If you’ve checked in on my Instagram account since the original Eddy sweater article, you’ll know that I have been knitting steadily away on it, posting my progress piece by piece since March.

I sewed on the last button just a few days ago, and had my husband take a picture for this article.

You can see how it fits: oversized like a jacket, maybe a little wide in the shoulders, but easy enough then to pass along to either of my guys.

I love the Harrisville flyWHEEL sportweight colors, and the gentle wildness of it.

Like Natasja, I feel that making the attempt had many lessons, the best of which is that I had the power and the perseverance to tackle such an ambitious knit. And I don’t think I’m done with the shells quite yet; maybe a vest will come next.

I hope that this project inspires more knitters to stretch a little, whether it be to follow our Prada Odyssey path, or to reach for something else just outside of their comfort zones. I’d love to hear in the comments about knitting projects (past, present, or future) that excited you more than they scared you and what you learned from them.

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.

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  • Absolutely gorgeous. Whoever ends up wearing this will be admired by all who see it.

  • This is amazing!! Do I dare try this? Maybe!!

  • Beautiful!

  • will have to watch some of the tutorials, and cross my fingers

  • It’s beautiful, Julia!

  • This was the best rabbit hole to fall into for the past one hour plus! 🙂 So much inspiration!

    • PS…….I LOVE my Eddy Wrap. It’s such a happy wrap to wear!

      • Patternlease it beautiful

  • Oh how I love to read this kind of writing about knitting! Your jacket is a win, no question about it. I hope you wear it more than share it. 😉

    Nothing about knitting scares me, it is only yarn. One of the [many] things I love about knitting is it doesn’t have the kinds of consequences the rest of my life does. I can make a bad choice or try to do something tricky that comes out all wrong, and really, it’s still just yarn. I’ve been playing with two color brioche to see if I can get my brain to truly visualize how the stitch comes together. I’m not quite there yet….

  • I think I may have to try this technique on a hat. It just looks like so much fun!

  • Julia, your cardigan is beyond gorgeous, and I enjoyed our conversations about this knitting adventure so much. Thank you for your support! And for all you knitters out there (freely quoting mr. Dumas); go, and seek hazardous adventures!

  • What a gorgeous sweater and what an inspiring odyssey! In the early days of Ravelry, I stumbled onto the “Knitting Russian Style” group, which was full of similar projects: re-creations of elaborate ready-to-wear outfits. It was a fascinating rabbit-hole of inventivity and resourcefulness. I think that in the U.S. we take even our pasttimes so seriously that, in our search for “doing it right”, we forget that we are capable of “doing it our way”. Thank you for the beautiful reminder!

  • Love this. I will have to try some shells when other things get done and play around with them.

  • I think I would like to be best friends with someone who wears this sweater. Because as odd as it might seem if I keep staring at someone else’s sweater, it could only look a tiny bit MORE odd if I keep trying to stare at my own sweater.

  • Oh, how Ilove to read about knitting in posts like this – our brains definitely get stretched! I’m about to start the scallop section on the Eddy wrap – can’t wait! I might even try a hat next. Thanks for being such an intrepid designer … and all the fun links!

  • So many gorgeous scallops – I read this and felt my knitting courage expand! Thank you!

  • Dear Universe
    I NEED this in Noro.


  • Hi Julia, thanks for such a fascinating text. I adore the Prada jumper and every attempt to recreate/reinterpret the pattern/stitch. And you’ve talked to some incredible knitters. But I can’t help but feel there’s a voice missing, and that’s Prada’s. on the basis that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, not to mention the age-old tradition of using haute couture as a springboard for domestic knitting and dress-making, can’t we find out who designed the original model at Prada? I’m sure they’d be thrilled to see your article and all the related knits. And what, indeed, was their initial inspiration source? Isn’t it time to close the circle, so to speak, and let them add their voice to the conversation? I’m so intrigued and, for me, it’s the missing piece of the jigsaw puzzle!

    • hey Helen: I did reach out to the Prada folks through what I hoped were reliable channels, but they never replied. If you look at the first article, linked at the top of this one, and my long response to another question about writing a knitting pattern, you can read about that attempt and my understanding about couture knitwear. I agree. I would love to hear how the soup got made, but the chef won’t speak to the restaurant critic.

  • I love all these, and admire the Eastern European inventiveness in particular. (Or maybe their projects are really examples of EZ’s “unventing!”) For those who want a way to try out the shells without constructing a shaped garment, Gail Tanquary designed something she calls a “Fan Shawl” for Classic Elite Yarns. I haven’t tried it yet, but it’s in my Rav queue!

  • I love the pattern . A long time ago my grand mam knitted a lot of sweaters with it for all their grand sons. Mine was yellow and Brown. When I close my eyes I still can see it and pleasure tô weare it. Now I knitted a big one with 12 coulores for myself.

  • Where is the pattern for this great sweater I would like to be able to make it

  • Since i cant find the written pattern, i would like to know if each shell was knitted separately and then joined together to make the sweater.

    • there are patterns (and I’m working on a sweater, it’s a challenge to make many sizes) if you check my designer page on Ravelry, and I wrote about how to knit it here:

      • Started knitting the cardigan but I am stuck when I reached the arm hole section. my scallops is 14 stitches and I want to cut 11 for arm whole. my question is what and how to knit those extra 3 its. please help me with my own e mail address. I will be very oblige. thanks a million.

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