FO: Synthe

Back in the summer, the folks at Brooklyn Tweed asked if I’d be interesting in preview knitting one of their patterns for a fall collection. I don’t have a lot of time but it was August and the pattern wouldn’t launch until today so I could pick it up and put it back down. Plus, they didn’t mind if I wasn’t finished, they just wanted people to knit the pattern and give feedback so that people could see how they felt about it. Added bonus, I could try Brooklyn Tweed Shelter yarn at a discount if I wanted to use if for my project. So I said sure and today I’m going to talk about the Synthe sweater.


I wanted to try Shelter yarn because I’ve heard so many people rave about it. Here’s the thing about Shelter, I think you’ll either love it or it isn’t the yarn for you – that’s how all my friends describe it and I get it now. It is very sheepy and wooly, a little scratchy in the ball (and there are a few bits of twigs here and there) and it softens up a bit when you block it. BUT if you’re like me and you love yarn for the feel of it, this isn’t the yarn for you. I wouldn’t want to make Jellybean a sweater with this because her belly is pretty bald and it just wouldn’t be cozy enough. But I like it a lot as a layering piece for warmth. It’s light but still very warm and it knit it up beautifully. Would I knit with Shelter again? Probably not, but I’m glad I gave it a shot with this pattern.


Synthe is a top down, circular yoke sweater that is a really easy knit. It was easy to pick up or put down whenever I needed to and I knew I wouldn’t get lost. The pattern is easy to memorize and repeat and you can make it as long or short as you want. This hits me just at the hip and I decided to knit it with short sleeves (you can also do a 3/4 sleeve) because Maryland doesn’t require me to wear a sweater this warm with full sleeves all the time.


I like how it has a slightly a-line shape to it with increases you add about every twenty rows (I added mine at shorter intervals). Since I don’t wear vests, this is a great piece to throw over a long sleeve tee or a dress for added warmth. Although I didn’t love working with the yarn, I do love the color (I picked Long Johns) and the way the texture looks with this pullover. I definitely think I’d make this pattern again, just probably in a softer yarn.

30 Replies to “FO: Synthe”

  1. I appreciate your honesty regarding the yarn. The first sweater I ever knit (last year) was with Shelter and I’d never wear it close to the skin. But I live in Northern Ohio and it gets cold here. I will say, it held up beautifully to my ripping out stitches (I started over after I got the armholes) and after I washed and blocked it, it looked a lot better. I love the detail in the sweater you knit. Beautiful.

    1. Veddy interesting. I have some Shelter that I have been hoarding for a scarf (!) with some knit-and-purl textured pattern to it. Your review tells me “no” for a scarf, but your photo tells me “yes” for texture definition. I like the amount of texture that I see, not super crisply defined but just enough to add a look of sheepy coziness. So…hat? Thank you so much for such an excellent review.

  2. This is exactly the type of review that I needed! I do love the sweater and your tips on increasing is food for thought to me as an adventurous but cautious knitter.

    1. This is sooo cute… exactly what I’m looking for right now.

      I’ve only been aware of you for a few months, but you’ve become a huge inspiration. Love your style!

  3. I just ordered some Shelter for hats and a tea cozy, and I hear you—-it’s an unusual yarn, and their site description doesn’t really do it justice. I am annoyed that I’ll have to be picking hay (and the odd sharp bit of something) out of it at this price, but the colors are beautiful. Also, we’re in Vermont, and I feel like this is the wool answer to “what will be warmer than fleece.” It’s not silky, but not terribly scratchy, and it has a loft to it that makes it feel springy and light. Like, for a hat that won’t slide off my head (alpaca, i’m looking at you) or a cozy that keeps my coffee truly hot, this yarn is just right. definitely not a scarf, though…

  4. Dana, you’re hardier than I am. I’m just a few miles north of you, and I happy to wear the wooliest sweaters. The sweater looks cute on you!

  5. Hi Dana – I totally agree with you about Shelter. I knit 2 sweaters for my kids going to college in New England with it. Helpful tip – wash it in some cheap hair conditioner (I got that tip from reading comments in Ravelry for Icelandic wool – another potential itch fest fabric). That helps to soften it. And for some reason, my kids report that it softens as you wear it too. Best for layering (as you said) but it sure is warm.

  6. I really appreciate you being frank about your experience with Shelter. I’m always dithering…I love working with supersoft merinos but I crave the lofty warmth of woolier wools.

    The color suits you really well!

  7. I had a similar experience with Shelter, and a more negative experience with Loft, their fingering weight yarn. I found both to be really delicate with breaks, which seems excessive for yarn that isn’t the most budget friendly. The sweater looks gorgeous and the color is lovely. Thanks for the honest review!

  8. Thanks so much for this as-always helpful review, Dana. I love the Synthe design, and it’s interesting to see that the Shelter yarn drapes so well, even though you say it’s a fairly “rugged” yarn. Did you use the size 9 needles recommended on the website for this pattern? Here in the Pacific Northwest I need lots of layers in our cold-and-wet winters.

  9. I really like this! I have been considering what to do for another sweater project, and I have only finished knitting one sweater so far, so I’m looking for a relatively easy pattern. Also it looks very flattering on you, and I am of similar shape and size. Thanks so much for this review, and for all of your reviews – they are so helpful to less-experienced knitters like me.

  10. I love your honest review and agree with you completely about the yarn. I have made three sweaters with Shelter and will use up what I have but prefer other yarns that are much more enjoyable as you knit. The sweater is you made is beautiful. You are too cute!

  11. You look great in the pattern and color. You have a shape like mine, cause I am “older” I went first. I will buy this pattern. I admire how fruitful your Knitting is, thank you.

  12. verrry useful review! have you tried soaking the sweater with a little white vinegar to soften the yarn? i’ve used that and the hair conditioner/creme rinse suggested above and found they both helped.
    one raveler made it long-sleeved; i’m thinking i could do that in a washable, warm yarn for our interminable winter–add some color to my stay-at-home wardrobe…thx!

  13. Thanks for your honesty (as everyone’s been saying!) I’ve worked with two BT yarns – Loft and Arbor and I won’t be using either again. I think the main issue is price point. The yarn is fine (if fragile, in the case of Loft) but I only spend that kind of money on yarn I love, both to look at, and to feel. Also, given that I live in Canada, it costs a fortune here.

  14. Thank you for the review. It is a very nice looking sweater in and of itself but on you it glows!

  15. I bought so much Shelter a few years ago to use for a free pattern. The yarn is not very comfortable to work with, and it doesn’t make for a pleasant experience in any tedious colorwork endeavors. I do love the overall look, but I wish I knew about how scratchy and drying it would be to work with before I bought a project’s worth of yarn! Dana, I hope your post saves someone else the headache! Beautiful sweater regardless 🙂

  16. I ALWAYS check out what you’re doing because you highlight so many interesting patterns. I’m getting quite a collection of PDFs based on your efforts, Dana. Thanks.

  17. I love the sweater and it looks so good on you! Great color too.

    I have to say, I love, love Shelter. I bought it when it first was offered, and made the BT Romney Kerchief. Yes, it wraps around my neck, and I’ve had no problems with it. Jellybean probably would not like it.

    Shelter is still my favorite BT yarn. It is lofty and light but so warm to wear. I love the hand and drape, and it adapts so well to a variety of gauges. I will say that with these rustic farm yarns, when you block and later wash, be sure to push all off the yarn under the surface of the water and leave it in the basin to soak for 15-20 minutes or more to be sure it gets thoroughly wet. It gets softer with every soaking.

    Clara Parkes has a good review on her blog, Knitter’s Review, and she notes the rustic qualities and that some don’t like them.

    I’m a process knitter, and I’ll never win any speed contests for stitch count or items knit, lol. I think that’s maybe a reason I like Shelter…it helps me knit the way I like to. (I do love a soft merino or cashmere blend too!).

  18. I haven’t used this yarn, but it sounds a bit like Noro. I enjoy Noro because of their amazing colors, but not sure I’d deal with the roughness if it weren’t for its redeeming qualities. I love your FO though! 🙂

  19. This color and shape look gorgeous on you! I love the visual texture of Shelter and Loft – I’ve been following Jared Flood’s work since Brooklyn Tweed was a blog, and not yet a yarn company. You’re reminding me that I have a Brooklyn Tweed sweater to put back in the rotation now that sweater weather is here.

  20. I totally agree with your assessment of the differences between the different yarns, Dana. I spun a lot of Shetland fleece from a friend’s sheep (Emily&Anna!), and it is in no way skin soft, but, it is friendly to the hands, increasingly softer and very very warm. Well, why not? I have a sheep on my back!
    And, Kamala! Joe! Knit a celebration!

  21. Love your sweater and your review. I grew up in Buffalo, NY and have worn itchy wool sweaters since before I could walk. Lopi and Lettlopi are too itchy for me to wear other than as a top layer coat substitute. In contrast I find Shelter dreamy soft and I love how lightweight yet warm it is. I prefer sheepy, earthy, minimally processed yarns and find the twigs in a yarn quite charming. Shelter is one of my most favorite yarns to knit with and wear. I really like that there are so many good quality yarn choices so that I can have Shelter and you can have so many great yarns that you enjoy. Chacun a son gout! Thanks for your blog and your great and honest writing.

  22. Hi! I’m so glad to read a review of Shelter- I feel the same way about the yarn. I love the colors and the bits of nature don’t really bother me but it is some scratchy yarn lol I made a sweater for me, totally missed on the sizing – it was huge! So I pulled it all out – took a full week, it is really sticky! and am making a sweater for my husband
    I also made a little vest for a baby – I figured it would never be worn next to the skin and the color was so pretty
    I have made a Carbeth for my daughter – using BT Quarry – very similar, just the bulky version -she loves it, wears it all the time – I will have to ask if she wears something under it, I would assume so?
    Love an honest review – thank you
    Now to go check out that pattern – very cute!

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