Vintage Holiday Sweater

I have a confession to make.

I really do enjoy holiday sweaters.  Not the Kmart variety with tinsel and applique candy canes, but the handknit styles with reindeer and pine trees.

Many years ago, as  twenty-something knitter, I received my copy of the Winter Vogue Knitting c. 1985 in the mail and lightning struck!   This sweater HAD to be mine:


As a starving newlywed, I could afford only acrylic yarn but didn’t let that stop me. I promptly made it up in red and cream working the intarsia as it should be done, and going the extra mile by decorating the trees with red sequins. Alas, upon wearing that beauty  the next holiday season, it fell apart beyond any repair after washing (intarsia ends cut way too short and woven in badly; what can I say-lesson learned).

Ten years passed by with me no longer a newlywed (but still starving) and wishing every holiday season that I had that  sweater to wear.  One day in 1995,  I came upon some beautiful black Ballybrae wool yarn, nine skeins worth at a thrift shop for $.50 each, which was plenty for one of the colors needed for  that coveted sweater. What a find and what an omen! At that price I could afford to pay full boat for the other color needed, and did at my LYS with some Patons Classic Wool. Even though it was the middle of summer, I was completely inspired to have that coveted sweater finished by the following holiday season.

This time I decided not to take any chances and did the larger blocks of color first, only then duplicate stitching the details. A  tiny skein of  real angora that had been marinating in my stash became the perfect snowy accents. With my much-improved knitting skills and the better quality yarn, that beauty was once again mine.


This is still my standard holiday sweater.  I know,  I know;  the shape is a bit dated 12 years later  (22 years from the original publication)  and that red is awfully bright.  If I were to see it hanging on the rack in a store now, I’d wonder what the heck they were thinking.  Even so, I reach for this when we are heading to Tahoe to play in the snow or just for  a windy, cold evening walk in the neighborhood.

But still…I am considering knitting it yet again in colors that are slightly less contrasting (Charcoal and Cranberry?), maybe leaving off the angora and possibly racheting the shoulders down a few notches. Or not.

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7 Comments on “Vintage Holiday Sweater”

  1. Kathleen Says:

    Love it! Your gray and red sweater makes it looks like the reindeer are flying in the night sky. The magazine picture makes it look like the deer are frolicking in the snow. A great sweater is one that you wear…so this one is truly great. What about a charcoal and green sweater?

  2. phoenix Says:

    Other than the shoulder pads that would do Joan Collins proud, I must say I quite like that sweater. Charcoal and cranberry sounds great. I’m boring so I would do a light heather grey and varieagated blues or purples. I think I have those sunglasses too, though these days they are safely buried in a drawer.

  3. Linda D Says:

    Dated or not, I am madly in love with that sweater EXACTLY as it is. It’s beautiful!

  4. Lisa Says:

    I have that exact issue myself. I have always wanted to make the sweater as well. I had thought about midnight blue and white, but I like the red and black. Perhaps I will get inspired now and make one myself.

  5. Beth Says:

    LOVE IT! I’d love to find a pattern like that. I don’t care for the dept store versions myself. 🙂

  6. charisa Says:

    I vote for leaving in the angora touch.

  7. A comment on an old post – I remember that sweater with the leaping reindeer on it, your holiday sweater. I wanted to make it. LOL It was in green and cream/white? I was 19 and had no income. Acrylic was not an option – mum would not buy it for me and I wouldn’t wear it.
    So sorry about your mum.

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