Staghead Cardigan

Our month-long celebration of Norah Gaughan's design career has been an absolute pleasure to watch. I've loved seeing all the beautiful projects that knitters have created using Norah's designs and stitch patterns, and thought I'd share one of the most beloved handknits in my own closet.

A few years ago I had the pleasure of working as Norah's photographer for the Knitted Cable Sourcebook, a collaboration that gave me a beautiful window into her creative process inventing original cabled fabrics and stitch patterns. During that time she introduced me to the concept of freeform drawing with cables. Considering line weight, directionality, angles, and background textures (as an illustrator does) to create complex pictorials. 



Soon after, she showed me the cable "drawing" she was working on for an upcoming design publication: a knitted Staghead over a bed of cables and texture. In that moment — and it wasn't the first time she's done this for me — Norah completely expanded my idea of how to think about cables as an expressive tool. It was one of those wonderful moments when you feel like you see knitting for the first time again. Totally magical.

To say I was floored by the Staghead was an understatement — it took my breath away. I couldn't get it off my mind and practically begged her to share the chart with me so I could swatch it and experience the Stag on my own needles. She graciously obliged, and I grabbed some chunky yarn and got to work swatching and dreaming up how I might incorporate this chart into a wearable work of art.



Since I had received an advance preview version of the Stag chart prior to public release, I didn't have a pattern to work, but knew I wanted something cozy and oversized. Something lodge-friendly. I took a cue from the beaded rib and rope cables already present in the Staghead and used those motifs throughout the rest of the garment. To guarantee a successful fit, I knit all the sweater pieces to match the exact measurements of another favorite sweater in my closet.

I worked in chunky Quarry to get a dramatic size and effect. Quarry is a 3-ply mock-twist yarn meaning, although it appears as a "Singles" yarn, it is composed of three individual (unspun) plies, giving it special aptitude for texture and cables despite its soft, woolen-spun construction. It also made for relatively quick knitting — watching the Staghead appear before my eyes as I worked through the chart was one of those knitting experiences that has you savoring every sitting.



While there isn't a pattern available for my cardigan as shown here, Norah's Staghead motif was published in 2016 as a pullover pattern in Making Magazine 02 (it's also available as an individual PDF download), so be sure to look there if you're having a that "Must. Knit. Stag!" reaction that I did when I first saw it. 

Of all the many hand knits I've known, loved and worn to pieces, the Staghead sweater reigns supreme as the best conversation starter with random strangers — knitters and non. I love telling people that this cabled beast is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Norah's genius mind.



Thank you Norah for continuing to push the boundaries of what we can do with our knitting, and inspiring us all along the way!


  • I am now totally committed to (try to) create something similar. Would love to see this as a pattern. I am wondering how many skeins of Quarry you used for you cardigan? Thanks

    Nathalie Dublin on

  • Shut. The. Front. Door. This is stunning. I am stunned. Wow. Just Wow.

    Anne Miller on

  • Brilliant.

    j on

  • This cardigan is stunning! Do you plan on creating this as a BT pattern? If not, is there some guidance on the basic cardigan pattern you used so we could try to replicate it? Thank you in advance for any help you can offer!

    Julie on

  • When will this pattern for the cardigan become available? I would love to purchase a copy of it.

    Liz Popwell on

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