How to Knit Bernie’s Mittens and More

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It started with a simple sweater. After Harry Styles wore a color-block patchwork cardigan for a “Today” show rehearsal last February, knitters went into a kind of frenzy trying to reverse engineer the pattern.

So many TikTok and YouTube users shared their process using the hashtag #harrystylescardigan — racking up tens of millions of views — that the creator of the original cardigan, Jonathan Anderson of the brand JW Anderson, released an official pattern and tutorial video.

In the end, the original sweater was acquired by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, praised by the institution as a “cultural phenomenon that speaks to the power of creativity and social media in bringing people together in times of extreme adversity.”

Knitters and crocheters have always been a resourceful (and community-minded) bunch. But the reverse-engineer-knitting craze unfolding on social media owes much to the current moment.

“I wrote the pattern to knit a pair for myself, sort of as a joke, but decided to post it as I love the community that Ravelry has created for sharing ideas and excitement about knitting/crocheting around the world,” Ms. Harlan wrote in an email. “It has been great fun to see all the comments from folks who are excited to be able to knit a pair for themselves!” (The authentic Sanders mittens were made by Jen Ellis, a Vermont schoolteacher, who repurposed wool sweaters and then lined the mittens with fleece made from recycled plastic bottles.)

“I really wanted to show our appreciation so we are sharing the pattern with everyone,” Mr. Anderson said through a spokesperson, in an email correspondence after the pattern’s release. “I liked the idea of something that felt authentic and almost homemade, like you or your grandmother could have made it, but at the same time, it feels quite deconstructed, quite punk.”

Ms. Herring, 62, has worked with Mr. Anderson and the knitwear team at JW Anderson for several years but did not design the original cardigan worn by Mr. Styles. After she agreed to write the hand-knit pattern, the original cardigan was delivered for her to examine.

“The pattern is perfect for a beginner,” she said in a phone interview. “You’re starting with your basic stitches and then moving onto seed stitch and then color work.”

Ms. Shaffer is also seeing intense interest in her “Knives Out”-inspired pattern.

She started the pattern in a Google Doc after seeing the film in December 2019, but started working on it in earnest after being furloughed during the spring. Working out the pattern in a public document allowed other knitters to follow along as she worked out how to form the sweater’s unique cables.

Ms. Shaffer’s progress on the sweater has slowed, in part because she started a new job at The Philadelphia Inquirer, but she said that hasn’t stopped other knitters from completing their own sweaters by following her pattern.

“I made the pattern for free because I want as many people to be able to access knitting for themselves and find the same comfort in it that I have over the years,” Ms. Shaffer said.

There are endless ways to customize a piece of knitwear, which is part of the appeal for many makers. Both Ms. Herring and Ms. Shaffer said they have heard from other crafters who are putting their own spin on the patterns by changing the weight or color of the yarn used.

With so many first-time knitters starting during the pandemic, though, Ms. Herring said she worries about the sustainability of the materials being used. Many first-time crafters choose a cheaper synthetic yarn, but Ms. Herring suggests choosing a natural fiber yarn that will last longer instead.

Knitting or crocheting a garment is far from the quickest way to have a finished product. Manufactured knitwear abounds, but hand-making a cardigan, hat or scarf is a slow and meditative process (and has been for thousands of years). Slowing down and watching a project grow stitch by stitch — however imperfectly — is the deeply satisfying part.

“Knitting is confidence building,” Ms. Herring said. “Starting with two sticks and a bit of string or a crochet hook, you can create something beautiful.”

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