How fashions change.  I am amazed by how a simple item is re-invented over and over by a tweak here, a tuck there, then hey presto it’s a must-have of the modern wardrobe.  Take cardigans.

We’ve all worn a cardigan at some time in our lives, if only when at school.  It might have been shop-bought or if you were lucky, or unlucky, depends on where you stood in your family group, hand-knitted and handed-down.  Made unique by choice of buttons, a straight or picot edge or just by the tension of your mum’s knitting techniques, a cardigan was a cardigan and served its purpose – kept you warm with long sleeves and a button or zip up front.  If your mum liked the knitting pattern, you could have one in every colour.

A cardigan could be sophisticated if made in a soft mohair, elegant in a fine linen, and glitzy in a sequinned cotton blend.  The long cardigan was a coveted item in my teenage years, but not with a belt, thank you.  My favourite was a pillar box red long cardigan, with no sleeves.  The bolero, I thought, was a waste of time when I wore one as a child bridesmaid.  It was fluffy, didn’t keep any part of me warm and tiny loose strands made me sneeze.  When I spotted a bolero masquerading as a shrug not long ago, I couldn’t see the benefit of an over-wide scarf with sleeves, let alone feel it.

Cardigans vary in style – fitted or loose; fabric – natural or synthetic; occasion – lacy, chunky, decorative, functional.  When the main aspects of the article are being varied every which way – short sleeves, long sleeves, wide sleeves, no sleeves, standard length, long, short, waterfall, with a belt, with a collar – they suit different shapes and sizes and change with the fashions.

Same with skirts – mini, midi and maxi, different fabrics for different occasions.  But different hem lengths in one skirt?  I like the handkerchief hemline, it’s symmetrical in its way.  Last year I bought a skirt with the side hems longer than the front and back hems.  If I’d made it myself, I’d have ditched it. Now any error might just catch on.  Who knows, that might just have been the case with that style.  And maybe someone forgot to sew up all the seams on a dress and that became the currently fashionable maxi dress with a split hem.

It’s the same with trousers – styles and fabrics galore, many different lengths from shorts to palazzo pants sweeping the floor as you go, but trousers with no knees?

Blouses or tops, same as with cardigans, are just a front and a back, with sleeves and collars of all lengths and styles, or optional altogether.  Not much else you can do to vary a simple top.  And yet, a top can have sleeves with the shoulders removed.  Cold shoulder tops, I get it, they’re OK for a summer top, and definitely on trend last summer but I saw someone wearing a cardigan with sleeves but no shoulders, a cold shoulder cardigan, I suppose.  I can’t get my head around that one.

I’m not old or old-fashioned.  I don’t tut as I pass a teenager in ripped jeans or skin-tight leggings.  I cringe if I see a cropped top in early spring but only because I wear a vest until the end of May (you know it makes sense).  It’s just a fascination with what will be the next fashion.  A cardigan with sleeves but no elbows?  Jeans with legs but no bottom?  A scarf with ends but no middle? A sun hat with no crown?  If any of these do catch on, you heard it here first.

However, I have taken to the neck warmer.  It’s a scarf but without the length.  It basically keeps your neck warm, which is the minimum you’d be looking for in a scarf, right?  I have what I call ‘decorative scarves’ but as a knitter I like that I have the option to knit wide and short rather than narrow and long. I’ve not compared stitches and rows to find out which is the quickest to knit up.  It’s as short as it’s long, I suppose.

Anyway, here’s one I did make earlier and it did what it said on the tin in breezy Scotland.

Thanks to (December 2010) for the free pattern and inspiration.