Buying Guides

Knitwear Buying Guide Hero


Buying the Best Knitwear for You at John Lewis

In cooler months, knitwear layers add warmth, texture and style to an outfit. This guide helps you to choose the right fabric and knitwear design, from timeless fine-gauge roll necks to cosy chunky-knit sweaters. Don’t forget ponchos, cardigans and perfectly paired knitwear accessories to beat the chill.


Materials range from easy-care synthetics, lighter linen or cotton blend knits to luxurious, long-lasting cashmere that’s a true investment piece for your wardrobe. Pure wool knitwear is also a more premium option. Look for blends with cashmere, lambswool or merino wool adding warmth and softness.

Cashmere Image
  • High-quality fibres for ultra-softness
  • Luxurious and smooth feel
  • Deep and rich colours
  • Made from goat’s hair
  • For long-lasting investment pieces
  • Sometimes blended with wool
  • Sourced from trusted suppliers
  • Our own-brand cashmere is sustainable and traceable

    Women's Cashmere

    Men's Cashmere
Yak wool Image
Alpaca Wool Image
  • Luxurious, fine and light
  • Warm like wool and soft like cashmere
  • Usually blended with wool and synthetic fibres
Yak Wool Image
  • Fine and soft sheep’s wool
  • Ideal for layering
  • Retains heat with a high warmth-to-weight ratio
  • Breathable and cooling properties as well as warming
  • Naturally odour-resistant
  • Own-brand merino wool is from cruelty-free non-mulesed sources
  • Sometimes blended with cashmere or yak wool

    Men's Merino Knitwear
Lambswool Image
  • Extra fine
  • Naturally warm and soft against the skin
  • Smooth and elastic
  • Made from the first fleece of a sheep
  • Sometimes blended with synthetic fibres

    Men's Lambswool Knitwear
Cotton Image
  • Natural fibre
  • Hard-wearing, lightweight and breathable
  • Great for transitional seasons
  • Organic cotton is naturally grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides
  • Sometimes blended with synthetic fibres for knitwear

    Women's Cotton Knitwear

    Men's Cotton Knitwear
Linen Image
Synthetic Image


A cashmere piece is an investment that you should treasure and keep for years. John Lewis own-brand cashmere comes from the region stretching from northern China into Mongolia where conditions are just right for the special type of goats from which our cashmere fibre is collected. The cold climate and hearty lifestyle of the animals produce the longest, finest, softest fibres: some of the best cashmere in the world.

A single cashmere jumper requires the fibre of about four goats, whereas one sheep produces enough fibre to make five wool jumpers.

As a responsible retailer, we have a long-standing relationship with our carefully selected suppliers and are committed to ensuring high standards of animal welfare. We’re proud to work with the suppliers to ensure the herders have the right support to ensure these unique animals continue to thrive. We care about the environment too, and are working hard to create a more sustainable system for cashmere production. Our teams take the time to craft our products, and every detail is carefully considered. So you can rest easy in the knowledge you’re buying a quality piece, with a considered, conscious supply chain behind it. That’s what we call an investment item.


Better Cotton Initiative

By buying certain cotton products from John Lewis, you're supporting more sustainable cotton farming through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).

BCI is a not-for-profit organisation which exists to make global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in, and better for the sector's future. BCI works with partners around the world such as WWF, Solidaridad and Cotton Connect to train farmers to produce cotton more sustainably.

Better Cotton is sourced via a principle of 'mass balance' and is not physically traceable to the end products. However, BCI farmers benefit from the demand for Better Cotton in equivalent volumes to those we source.


Knitwear patterns create texture and depth to an outfit, as well as cosiness with the most popular designs enduring for centuries. The pattern affects the warmth of your knitwear as does the gauge or size of the stitch from fine and medium to heavyweight or chunky knits.

Ribbed Knit Image

Ribbed Knit

  • Cosy knit popular for jumpers and cardigans
  • Alternate textured ridges on both sides of the knitwear
  • Gives each piece a bit of stretch and elasticity
Cable Knit Image

Cable Knit

  • Traditional cosy knit for jumpers and cardigans
  • Classic and timeless cable-style crossing pattern like fisherman’s rope
  • Thick and warm knit
Fine Gauge Image

Fine Gauge Knit

  • Tighter stitch
  • Streamlined and flattering
  • Easy to layer
  • Versatile and easily styled from day to night
Chunky Knit Image

Chunky Knit

  • Wider, looser stitch
  • Creates shape
  • Sense of cosiness
  • More casual and easy to layer over a dress or shirt


High neck knitwear is cosy and snug for winter and in a finer knit and fabric can be a stylish layer throughout the year. Contrasting trims on popular V-necks and classic round necks ensure the knitwear is made to last.

Round Neck Image

Round and crew neck

Usually sits fairly high on the neck with a curved design. Crew necks are closer fitting
V Neck Image


Popular and flattering with a V-shaped cut. Easy to layer over a shirt or blouse
Roll Neck Image

Roll or polo neck

A fitted high neckline usually worn folded down and also called a turtleneck
Zip Neck Image

Zip neck

Sporty, but stylish with the advantage of being easily layerable
Funnel Neck Image

Funnel neck

A looser, more relaxed high neckline that stands up
Boat Neck Image

Boat neck

Usually slightly lower than a round neck, just below the collarbone and with a wide, elegant opening



Knitwear accessories have you covered from head to toe. Go traditional with a Fair Isle pattern. Keep it contemporary with a woollen pom-pom beanie or a warm chunky knit hat in a bold colour.

Cashmere gloves and wrist-warmers are a luxurious way to handle the cold. Opt for the right fabric for socks to keep toes toasty, and finish an outfit with a knitted scarf, from a wide choice of patterns and colours.


Storing and maintaining your knitwear

If you take good care for your knitwear it can last  you a lifetime. Keep knitwear cool and dry. To maintain the shape of the knitwear, it's better to fold knitwear rather than hanging it up. If you need to hang up jumpers and cardigans, use smooth cedar wood hangers without any nicks. This type of wood is a natural moth repellent.

To deter moths in a drawer or on a wardrobe shelf, use cedar wood mothballs or nuggets and lavender-scented sachets and drawer fresheners. Tuck them into a pocket or fold and replace every three to six months. In summer months, store knitwear clean and preferably in boxes with secure lids or in zip-lock clothes bags.

Washing and drying your knitwear

Depending on the fabric, knitwear can be dry cleaned or washed by hand in warm water - but go gentle. Always check the care label for each piece. Do not use strong detergents for knitwear and avoid soaking for too long and tumble drying. Gently press rather than wringing the knitwear. Dry your knitwear flat to maintain its shape.

Our own-brand cashmere is usually hand wash only in cold water, keeping the knitwear in the water for just a few minutes at most.

For knitwear labels that allow machine washing, use your machine’s wool or hand wash cycle. Place knitwear in a mesh bag for protection. Better still, don’t wash it with items that can snag knitwear such as jeans or tops with zips. Keep the temperature and spin cycle speed low.

Clothes care