This month we are excited to talk you through one of our new autumn winter 2023 pieces: the Cashmere Wool Captain’s Funnel Neck Sweater. We love that this piece tells a tale and is in a new yarn that pays homage to the past whilst having a unique hand feel that is quite different to anything else you see today, with the design aiming to combine some ruggedness with elegance and comfort.Two tone yarn and the slub wool technique gives the sweater a uniquely textural and masculine look and feel
Through thick and thin
The piece is inspired by funnel neck sweaters worn by naval captains back in the early 20th century. Being out at sea, the captains needed clothes that provided them with adequate warmth and that were robust enough to protect them from the harsh conditions at sea that came hand in hand with their profession.
As such they wore these thick, chunky sweaters all day everyday. Many of those sweaters had a higher neckline that would come half way up their neck, but it is not a full rollneck. The sweater became a solid and enduring companion alongside everything that the naval captains did and saw. We were inspired by the notion that this piece would age with the captain and accompany him through thick and thin during his tough career, the sweater developing physical attributes that signify the captain's own scuffs and scrapes over the years, as well as his hard-earned tenure. Over time, the sweaters would develop the tangible aspects of a well-worn garment, the bobbles and the snags, bearing the marks of the captain's life which undoubtedly developed significant sentimental value too. This idea of a garment with character and personality, one that has seen a lot, is something that we were keen to emulate.
Slub wool cashmere blend – a unique yarn
To emulate the idea of a well-worn piece with a story to tell, as mentioned above, and to recreate the bobbled texture, we looked at using several different materials and ended up with a relatively new and unusual yarn called slub wool, but blended with cashmere to give the overall knitted fabric a luxurious hand feel. Slub wool is a superfine lambswool that has been spun in such a way that it creates an uneven surface texture. In addition, it’s a robust and strong yarn that gives the sweater a masculine character, a dense, hefty, substantial hand feel that we really wanted to exhibit with the captain’s funnel neck.
Of course, as with everything we create, it was vital that the hand-feel of this sweater was also soft to the touch, in keeping with the rest of our knitwear. We wanted to recreate the character and texture of the original sweaters, but not at the expense of one's enjoyment while wearing the piece. The sweater could not be scratchy or uncomfortable – an aspect that is fundamental to the Colhay’s philosophy - that all of our garments are soft, comfortable and feel luxurious to wear. With this in mind, we decided to blend the slub wool with cashmere which adds softness and opulence.
This sweater comes in two colourways: navy and charcoal. But if you look closely at the knitted fabric, you’ll see that the navy is actually a blend of two slightly different but similar tones of blue and navy and the charcoal is a blend of a light grey, white and dark grey. We have chosen to combine colours (crucially from the same palette) to create a melange effect, which we feel adds another layer of texture and character to the piece, together with the effect of the slub wool.
Though on a first look, the colour combinations may appear simple, it in fact took a lot of time and effort to develop them - we have swatches of rejected colourways piled high in our offices as testament to this! We work very closely with the yarn spinners we use, Todd and Duncan, to come up with just the right blends. It’s a united effort involving lots of back and forth before we make a final decision on what blend we use. In this instance, the navy shade is a Colhay’s exclusive that you won’t find anywhere else.
Design of the captain’s funnel neck sweater
Moving on from the design of the yarn to the design of the sweater.
The original design wouldn’t have been a perfect fit as we know it today. The sweaters tended to be bigger, to allow ease of movement, and would have increased in size slightly with wear over the years. Back then the fitted look wasn’t popular in the way that it is today especially when it comes to standard issue sweaters for the navy. For this reason, our version of the captain’s funnel is also knitted slightly boxier in terms of fit than the rest of our collection. The shoulders too are slightly wider than other styles, as a nod to the original naval captain’s sweaters.
Funnel necks in general are not often seen on the market today - more common by far is the roll neck. At Colhay’s we enjoy pushing the boundaries a little and making design choices that are slightly different to the norm. We’ve taken the funnel neck and made it a little sleeker than the original. Often a funnel neck can be very wide and straight, leaving empty space where cold air can easily get in. Not only that, we think this straight wide funnel neck design would give the sweater too much of an anachronistic look stylistically.
With this sweater, the funnel tapers up the neck and stops just under the chin - crucially avoiding any unnecessary irritation for the wearer. This tapered design gives a sleeker look and offers something that’s slightly different but, with a face-framing effect, is equally as flattering as the frequently seen roll neck.
In fact, some of you may prefer the single layer funnel neck over the roll neck which has a double layer and can feel restrictive. Plus you have the flexibility to flip it down if you feel too hot or prefer the way a shorter funnel neck looks.
Thanks to the flattering design and classic colourways, this piece is particularly easy to style. It lends itself well to casual occasions and is a piece most suited for weekend wear over the autumn and winter months. The charcoal shade works well with darker shades of denim or darker chinos, while the navy works very well with lighter denim. In terms of outer wear, something chunkier, like your trusty wax cotton jacket or a leather jacket for example, would work well, complementing the more masculine feel of the sweater.
As with all of our knitwear, proper care is highly recommended. The slub wool doesn’t require different care than any other high quality wool and so you should either hand wash or dry clean only. During the summer months, have the sweater washed, thoroughly dried and keep in a sealed bag.
View the Cashmere Wool Captain’s Funnel Neck Sweater here.