Skip to content

Every now and again, a sweater shows up in a television show or an advertisement or an Instagram feed that manages to capture everyone’s interest at the same time.

We had the Chris Evans’s Knives Out sweater, the Banshees of Innisherin pointy-collared red sweater, the Eddie Redmayne Prada sweater, plus all the Outlander things (there are roughly 32,344 of them). It goes on. I used to laugh at it a little, how the knitting zeitgeist-gentsia sometimes all feasts on the same meal at the same time.

Until suddenly I got sweater-bit myself. I was re-watching a 2017 episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and got fixated on a sweater worn by a background extra. I backed the Tivo up a few times, took a few screenshots with my iPhone and then spent about five days trying to reconstruct it. 

I figured out how to do the zig zags by grafting my loose chart onto someone else’s plain sweater pattern. (And struggled with whether to “improve” it by getting the body and sleeves to match up. Spoiler: nuh uh.)   I even bought the yarn and cast on. But I never finished it; it was the figuring out that was the fun part. I was just gonna have a poorly knitted sweater If I actually followed through with it. So its various pieces and parts sit abandoned in a Fringe Supply Co. Porter Bin, jammed into a Whatever Drawer somewhere in my house.

I suspected the same fate might await my latest obsession: an intarsia cowboy sweater by BODE worn by (spectacular) musician Orville Peck in a photo. At first, I thought I might just buy the danged thing, but a little googling revealed that it cost anywhere between $700 and $1,000 so, uh, that was a no (for me, anyway; Orville Peck probably has wads of cash). But I did know that I could chart it—having hammered out the details of the aborted Maisel project) and knit it if I wanted, having wrestled a complicated intarsia project in the past.

I’ll admit up front that I was uncomfortable copying someone else’s work (this is a HUGE issue for me and the knitting community is CHOCK FULL of it, much to my chagrin), so I put the whole idea on the back burner for a bit while I tried to reconcile my quite-resolute ethics with my also quite-fervent desire for this danged cowboy sweater.

Then (whew, this story has everything! Backstory, plot twists, even a cameo from Fringe Supply!) I remembered that a few years ago, Mary Maxim made available an entire trove of their vintage patterns from olden times and yippie-kiy-yi-yay, look what they had!

It’s not exactly the same as the Orville Peck sweater (an ethical plus!) but it’s close enough vibe-wise (a sartorial plus!) that I could at least revive the cowboy sweater dream. And again, based on my abandoned Maisel sweater experience, I knew I could “Frankenstein” the pullover sweater I wanted, using the Mary Maxim cardigan as a jumping-off point. 

Well. Turns out that as soon as I figured out it was do-able, I actually lost interest in the doing of it. I was relating this tale to my great friend @loreemconnellfulle and she very offhandedly said “oh, I’ll make it for you,” a sentence that I suspect she is now wishing she had kept in thought form rather than the more out loud format she chose. Because y’all: she is making this sweater for me.

She’s grafting the Mary Maxim bucking bronco onto a paid-for sort-of sweater blank (reminder: it’s hard to find a plain sweater pattern, as I have stomped my foot about before) and JUST GET A LOOK at her chart!

A bit of the landscape—a cactus-y thing, a mesa, other southwestern geegaws—from the inspiration sweater has made its way onto the chart, but it’s the Mary Maxim pattern that makes up the lion’s share of it.

She’s got the back done and is just settling in for the front (I know the yarn has been purchased anyway); I’ll be back seeing her this weekend for a tamale-making party (she knows how to make a lot of things, and she does all of them well) but my REAL agenda is to sneak upstairs into her sunlit sewing studio and get a gander at my Dream Sweater. And I have learned a valuable Life Lesson: if you want your dreams to come true, just ask someone to do all the work for you.

I just might sneak my Mrs. Maisel supplies in and leave them in her studio and see what happens.

About The Author

DG Strong took up knitting in 2014. He lives in Nashville with his sister, her rat terrier and a hound dog named Opal. He has a blog of drawings and faintly ridiculous rambling called The Psychopedia—there are worse ways to spend your afternoon.


  • I LOVE this story, DG! Thank you! And thank you for the whole musing on working out making something v actually making something. I, too, find myself in this quandary. But, I couldn’t have bought the Mary Maxim pattern any faster! Now, if I can actually get around to making it for my husband . . .

  • Yippie-kiy-yi-yay, indeed!
    Hope we get to see that cowboy before he rides off into the sunset.

    • Thank you so much for using a public domain source, not stealing the design! Let’s hope your example encourages other knitters to do likewise.

      About delegating — that’s an art in itself!

      • The Mary Maxim pattern isn’t public domain. $2.99 – but I paid for it!

  • For plain patterns – Ann Budd’s ‘Knitters Handy Book of Patterns’ – just saying

    • I have this book if anyone wants it.

  • Must the white, male, cowboy myth live on in the knitting world???

    • Rachel, I think you and many might enjoy this myth-buster:

    • Orville Peck’s power is drawn directly from a subversion of the traditional “cowboy myth”, reassembling it into something new and novel. Peck’s persona eschews the notion that we all have to fit within the bland, rigid confines of both genre stereotype and gender norms. The personal music that gives queer representation in a space that is historically notorious for being openly hostile to the queer community, while embracing an open vulnerability that sidesteps the the toxic masculine notion that to do so is a weakness.

      A gay knitter talking about a sweater based on one worn by an inspiring gay cowboy musician seems like something I want in MY knitting world.

      • I love (and learned from) Chris’s response to this comment.

        And I need to remind Ann that my graduation present for one of her lads was a Mary Maxim bowling-themed sweater (found on eBay, not knit by me). My finest hour!

        I do apologize for perpetuating the white, male, bowler myth in the knitting world.

  • My current inspiration is “Jules” in red on the Alex Mills webpage.
    I admit I’ve never gone as far as planning an image of a sweater. Now I am inspired.

  • DG. This is one of your best stories yet! Look at that pattern! I love it!

  • Many, many years ago my son, who was about 6 at the time, kept asking me to knit him a sweater with the Toronto Blue Jays logo on it. This was long before Ravelry and the internet was in its infancy so I searched high and low in the few yarn stores in the area, made several trips to the library and found nothing. Eventually I found a magazine that had instructions for weaving a new seat and back for a lawn chair with the logo charted. I adapted it for a plain sweater pattern that I already had, knit my little fingers to the bone and finished it in record time. He was so excited to wear it to school the next day! When I picked him up, he wasn’t wearing the sweater. When I asked where it was, he said, “In my backpack, it’s too hot”. And he never wore it again. Luckily, his younger brother wore it and it’s still packed away. Maybe my new granddaughter will want to wear it someday…

  • I wish you were my neighbor so we could hang out. You are very entertaining. Can hardly wait to see the finished buckeroo sweater.

  • OMG! I have also been trying to figure out how to create a version a of a “western themed” sweater. The Mary Maxim pattern is a great start—maybe just the horse, cowgirl of color, . Thanks for an inspiring article.

  • This was a very informative story. Forty years ago, I made the cowboy sweater for my son and nephew, who were toddlers at the time. What fun it would be to make them again. Thanks for cluing us in to the availability of the Mary Maxim patterns.

  • Lucky!
    All hail friends and creativity.

  • I am envious and wish I had a fairy like yours to share her talents, so awesome.

  • I greatly enjoyed reading this, thank you DG!

  • We all want modeled pictures when your sweater is completed

  • Was enthralled by this story (and DG’s writing, as always), but especially appreciated the link to his start with MDK in 2017. I had no idea that amongst his many obvious talents he is also a truly amazing knitter! Love it! Here’s to you, DG

  • Yea-haw! Can’t wait to see the follow up post

  • Many years ago, a fellow knitter and I admitted to one another that we often enjoyed researching patterns, yarns, etc., than we did actually doing the knitting (although we DID love that, too!). I often realize I still do that today, which probably explains why my yarn stash is SO huge.

    • I enjoy doing this too, but just with patterns. They don’t cost much! I don’t do it with yarn, because the investment makes me feel guilty if I don’t use it.

      I also love planning quilts/quilt fabric more than actual quilting…

  • What a wonderful essay, DG! Can’t wait to see your picture of the completed sweater.
    I know it’s a lot to ask, but if the tamale making party has extras could someone think of me?

  • Thanks for reminding me of the treasure trove of vintage patterns found on Mary Maxim’s website. It is amazing how many of those patterns would be great to make today! I can’t wait to see your sweater.

  • You are SO much fun. This is a great article – we will of course need a photo of you in that marvelous sweater once its completed!

  • I still use the “Vintage” Mary Maxim patterns I bought new over 50 years ago as inspiration for everything from baby gifts to Christmas stockings.

  • How awesome that the vintage patterns are finding use again! I love those old intarsia patterns – they are a great jumping off point for all kinds of lovely projects 🙂

  • I once saw a sweater with a map of the world on display in a yarn shop. The pattern was in a Vogue knitting magazine made of cotton. I made it in wool, and my daughter and I both wore it, she until it was too small and I for many years. Her 7th grade Social Studies teacher especially liked it! I happened to be wearing it on the day the Olympic torch was brought to our office!

  • Wow what a great story and you have a wonderful friend. Daring to make some sweaters I crave and going to look at that Mary Maxim pattern

  • Thank you DG! You gave me my ‘laugh out loud’ moment for this rainy winter day! I so enjoy reading about the things you ruminate on. Happy Holidays to all at MDK!

  • The BODE shop on the Lower East Side is the coolest place in NYC.

  • Well DG. You’ve done it! You’ve brought to the forefront in your off-hand way, copy right infringements. A pet peeve of mine too. Why do knitters, or sewists etc, copy patterns? To save a few bucks? Designers earn their living by selling their patterns …. i.e. put food on the table. When someone asks me which pattern I used, hoping I will share it, I happily send them the ravelry link. Admittedly I have lost a ‘friend’ (not) or two. And I’m not even touching on the artistic or creative theft part of it. Good on you.
    PS I prefer Mary Maxim’s Bucking Bronco version of the sweater anyway, and the accompanying southwest accoutrements. Would love to see the finished product:)

  • Years an years ago my mom knit a Mary Maxim sweater jacket for dad. Her first ever knitting project! Dad was a farmer at the time so she knit a big beautiful steer. Dad loved it. I can all these years later see him wearing it. She knit a second one of old cars. Our grandma helped her with both. The 2nd jacket they had to graph a chart for the cars. I have inherited both jackets. Oh she also lined the jackets.

  • You so crack me up!! Please never stop writing. Never. Ever. Thanks a bunch from Chicago:-)

  • This is so exciting! I hope that you will soon receive the sweater and enjoy wearing it. I’d love to see the finished product, too.

  • I like to sometimes check Ravelry after I see a great hand knit in a movie or a show. I just want to know if someone made it. I don’t usually want to knit it. We just watched the very knit-centric episode of the Gilmore Girls. Some really great and truly awful ones in that episode!

  • I’m now 70 years old and I remember when sweaters like that were available to be made. There is another one that I would love to make with a Jackalope on it but I despise intarsia and you just gave me a priceless idea. Enjoy your sweater ! It’s one of a kind

  • Any chance a basic HOW TO INTARSIA Field Guide is in the works?

    • That’s Field Guide No. 16: Painterly! Easy intarsia designs from Kaffe Fassett.

  • I absolutely love the pattern designed on graph paper. No computer! Now that’s designing in the tried and true for my generation. Am 68 and I’m learning knitting on YT. Each year my mind slows down but I’m hopeful.

    No item made yet as I’m waiting for my health to improve. If no health issues escalate I hope to start soon. My husband wants socks so I guess that’s the top of the list for me. He is my 24/7 primary caregiver even tho I have a respite caregiver for him to thru insurance.

  • What a Wonderful blast from the Past! I used to visit Mary Maxim with my mom and the mom next door on their annual fall trip to load up with yarn to knit all winter. [I live in Michigan] They both made so many lovely intarsia sweaters for all of our families!

  • This may not help you but for those of us with a different shape…

    Ysolda has a wonderful sweater called blank canvas. Check it out.

  • Hahaha. I used to buy those Mary Maxim kits. Not that cowboy one but plenty of others. Blast from the past. My kids each had several.

  • I haven’t tried intarsia yet. I don’t know if I ever will. I also have not tried double knitting or steeking or a few other things. But I’m comfortable with what I knit and enjoy rhe process.

  • I’m new here. So, forgive me, if this is something you already do, but have you considered creating kits based on your ideas, since you like the figuring out but not the completing?

Come Shop With Us

My Cart0
There are no products in the cart!
Continue shopping