Off the needles: Breton Sweater


Among all my clothes, the one’s I like the most and use most frequently are the simple, no-fuss, comfortable garments – classic pieces with a low-key, everyday elegance. They might not have the impact of statement pieces but they are true work horses; you throw them on and are ready to go.

The Breton sweater is a true fashion icon, officially created by French law 1858 to be worn as a uniform by the French navy seamen in Brittany. The original sweater contained exactly twenty-one blue stripes, one for each of Napoleon’s victories. Fifty years later, Coco Chanel, after a visit to the french coast, brought the stripes into fashion with an updated Breton shirt for her nautical collection in 1917. The Breton sweater has since then stayed a stylish wardrobe staple for both men and women.


French seamen and Coco Chanel.

And so, off course, the pattern of my knitted sweater is Breton. The pattern is designed by Jared Flood of Brooklyn Tweed that describes it as “an homage to the classic Breton shirt”. It even has twenty-one stripes (go Napoleon!). The fit is slightly fitted with a special shoulder construction, much like commercially bought sweaters. It has rolled hems and neckline. I very much recommend this pattern, it is clearly written and it is clear that a lot of attention have been put into details and fit.

I wanted the sweater to be lightweight and wearable most part of the year and so I chose a fingering weight shetland yarn from BC Garn. I decided on a golden yellow colour to make a softer, alternative version of the graphic blue stripes. Seeing the end result, I couldn’t be more happy with my choice of colour! The yarn is not as soft as superfine merino, but I would still see it as a soft yarn and I often wear this sweater with only a sleeveless top underneath. Though I’m not super sensitive to scratchy yarn, I actually kind of like the wooly feeling of Shetland and fibers of similar characteristics.

I will definitely make another sweater from this pattern, maybe with a Fair isle pattern? Or maybe a Swedish or Estonian inspired pattern? Or maybe as a cardigan? I see several possibilities with this pattern. Next time I would make it one size larger though, more like it looks in the pattern picture, as this shirt sometimes feels a bit short (but its ok since I always wear high waisted pants).

I actually finished this sweater in November last year and I have worn it a lot, but been too lazy to photograph it. Northern Scandinavia is dark during this time of year and I haven’t been inspired to take out my camera and shoot some pictures of this sweater until now. This weekend the sun came out after several weeks of absence and filled my living room with daylight. Seeing layers of dirt on the windows when the light hits the glass feels like the first sign of spring! (So I let them stay dirty..)


2 thoughts on “Off the needles: Breton Sweater

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