Skeleton Cable Knit Sweater

I'm not even quite sure how to start this post except to say that this was a labor of love. Before I even cast on the first stitch I spent weeks researching stitches, doing test swatches, and creating diagrams. I then spent months knitting, re-doing, and knitting again every inch of this sweater. I loved every minute of it, and am incredibly proud to present my newest creation. 

Pattern: stitch pattern my own on Yarspiration Patons Boxy Cabled Crew Knit Sweater
Yarn: Uptown Worsted in White
Cost: $35

To back up a bit, one of the reasons I love knitting is the ability to manipulate your "fabric" in a way that you can't with sewing. You can "draw" designs right into your textile with cables, ribs, bobbles, and color in a way that I find fascinating. 

In this vein, sometime last year, I became enamored with this snap of the back of what I think is an Alexander McQueen sweater. I never quite found more info about that particular sweater, but I did explore several similar ones from his collection. I loved the way the knitting looked like a skeleton, especially the spine and rib cage. 

I became obsessed. What cables look like vertebrae? How do I form the shape of the ribs? And what other rich patterns and textures could add interest? After researching and trying various techniques, I put my thoughts down in Excel - I am very visual so making a knitting chart was much more helpful than written instructions. I used a basic Yarspiration Patons Boxy Cabled Crew Knit Sweater pattern as the basis and just laid my ideas on top until it worked. 

Of course, it didn't all work out right away. Even with careful planning I worried that my first cast one would be too big. I re-knit smaller (adjusting the details) only to realize that the original size would actually work best. I also realized that I hadn't planned for the body to be long enough (I knit bottom up) so I re-did that as well. Each of these involved frogging my knitting, re-adjusting my stitch chart, and trying again. 

Unline other projects, I also found how exceedingly complex I'd made my stitch pattern. Sometimes I'd nail the tricky bobbles and slanted cable on the sides only to find that I had forgotten to do my center vertebrae cable and have to re-do the whole row or several rows. There was a lot to keep track of! I love knitting though and don't really mind re-doing, especially because I knit without a deadline and am usually in front of the TV.

So what went into this pattern? I knit the front and back separately, starting at the bottom with a basic 2x2 knit rib. The rib then continues up the side and starts to form little branches with baubles on the end. It is bordered by a slanted cable which I had seen pictures of before but couldn't find instructions and had to re-engineer myself. Meanwhile, the center starts to form some vertebrae which eventually branch out into the ribs on the chest. The neckline is finished with ribbing and baubles.

The back is mimics the front without the rib case. You'll notice how the vertebrae gets smaller as it goes up the back. 

The sleeves were also fun to design and are meant to look like the humerus, ulnas, and radius bones. Unfortunately, this is where my base pattern broke down. Somehow the pattern called for sleeve caps that were narrower than the armscye. Usually they are bigger and eased into the armscye. It did NOT work for me and required I re-knit the sleeve cap about four times before I got something that worked. It shouldn't have been so hard given that it's a drop sleeve, but the pattern was really terrible in that area. 

Of course, the final project doesn't look exactly like a skeleton, but I hope you'll see the inspiration for the various stitches. It was marvelously complex and fun to knit and I'm actually a little sad it's over as it was so much fun to watch it come together. If you are interested in peeking into my notebook, you can see my full stitch pattern in PDF or Excel. It's not as well documented as paid pattern, but if you have questions you can always send me an email. Mostly cables are marked with / or \ for the director of the cable and baubles are marked with X.

The whole sweater is knit up in Uptown Worsted, an acrylic yarn that sells for about $7 a skein at my local yarn shop. You may think I'm crazy to put all this effort into an acrylic sweater but I actually really like the weight and feel of this yarn, and it seems like the right medium for experimentation. I like how it holds its structure for cables and feels sturdy yet not as heavy as cotton and not as itchy as some wools. I also made my knit poncho in it last year and a dog sweater at Christmas.

I started this project in the spring and finished it up in December, which may be the best timing for finishing a sweater I've ever had. That said, it never seems quite cold enough to wear in the Bay Area, though I have found a few cold occasions. White sweaters aren't the most practical but I sure do love the look. Not to figure out my next knitting adventure because my fingers are starting to itch. 


  1. That's some amazing work! And it looks like a designer piece - just gorgeous!

  2. wow I would have given up mid-way through the project with all that rework! It looks amazing and what a puzzle to figure out. It looks like a high end designer item.


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