The swoncho trend has been building steadily on Ravelry for some time, but Caitlin Hunter set it into overdrive when she published her pattern for the Ninilchik Swoncho. Did she coin the term? I’m not sure, but really truly, I can’t imagine anything better.
A swoncho? I’m sorry, isn’t it obvious? It’s a sweater-poncho hybrid – roomy and easy like a poncho with a couple of sleeve holes. It also happens to be the embodiment of comfort. Need an extra layer over your pajamas? Put on your swoncho. Need something to cut the chill in the area while you run some errands? Your swoncho will make you look effortlessly distinctive while you take care of business.It straddles the line between outerwear and sweater, making it incredibly versatile (especially in transitional weather like what we’re experiencing right now).
Not only that, they are so satisfying to knit. You’re making a garment without concern about fit. Typically, it’s ok if it fits with a ton of ease (wear it like you’re an Olsen twin). This carefree approach is a delight for everyone from newbie to expert knitters. Also, it’s a great way to add design elements like colorwork or cables to your piece, again without concern about how these elements will factor into the structure of your garment.
I’m a recent convert to all of the swoncho fun, having knit up Lana Jois’s Marblehead Poncho and Espace Tricot’s Mayu last spring. These pieces are effortless and Mayu is particularly elegant. They also happen to give people serious sweater envy when I wear them out and about.
After talking to our favorite local designer (the talented Stacey Gerbman) about Caitlin Hunter (in which I was pretty noncommittal about my respect for her work) I went home and thought to myself “What the hell was I thinking? Caitlin Hunter’s work is pretty f****** awesome!” Hunter’s work has exploded in recent months for her unconventional color work, and her swoncho is the epitome of cool. Hunter’s swoncho is knit up in a DK weight yarn (with a gauge of 20 stitches/4”), and there are some amazing examples on Ravelry. Given this gauge, we can be flexible as we think of yarn possibilities: Arbor, Kenzie, Herriot, Sueno Worsted, Woolstok, Shepherd’s Wool, or Rios would all be excellent choices.
Hammering home this swoncho look, one of my lovely members of my Tuesday knitting class was wearing an awesome sweater that appeared boxy, with a drop sleeve, but the sides were completely open. This swoncho sighting made me want to find something to knit JUST like it – and I found it: Martin Storey’s Madison pullover. While I don’t remember the details of Wendy’s dramatically chic sweater, it’s close enough to Storey’s design. I love this design, with its classic cables. Written for a worsted weight yarn, consider all of the yarns mentioned above for Ninilchik. Storey’s swoncho is knitted from side to side (rather than bottom up or top down) so row gauge is important. If your row gauge is off, consider modifying the location of the neck so the swoncho doesn’t get too wide!
Thea Colman has another swoncho project for us – her Pike Stout Poncho – and she uses her trademark classic cables for this warm and cozy shell. Colman mentions that her design was made to fit a smaller frame, noting that she is petite. I love this point of reference, as many of our petite knitters sometimes take a look out Mayu (for example) and worry about it overwhelming them. Knit with a worsted weight yarn at a gauge of 16 stitches/4”, consider knitting this up in something like Shelter, Kathmandu, Katia’s Cotton Merino or even Blue Sky Extra!
I have two swonchos already, is it unreasonable to think that I should have a few more?