On the whole it was the colours that gave the price away; there was a vast difference between the subtle Joseph pink and a pastel pink from BHS or peach from M&S. But if you stick to some of the neutral shades much favoured this season, such as ecru, oatmeal and biscuit, it is easy to pick a winner without spending too much.
There are lots of different necklines: turtle, polo and especially the V-neck, ranging from a deep plunge (to wear with a vest or body underneath) to a mini V. There are pure cottons as well as cotton mixes - silk and linen are popular. Shapes range from traditional plain baggies to tunics that have splits up the sides. These come with either long or short sleeves. Lengths tend to be long or very long - perfect for hiding that extra winter weight.
Joseph has 'classic' jumpers, or variations on them, in pink, cream, natural ecru, black or white. Cotton or cotton/linen predominate. The average price is pounds 150. The very pale, pink, ribbed baggy seen here is long and heavy. The colour is good, as is the collar. You will either love or hate the open-seamed detail which gives it a deliberately unfinished look. Very expensive at pounds 169 - but looks it.
Its main theme for sweaters is the natural look. Along with the subdued colours there are more vibrant shades such as raspberry, rust and indigo. It has a fairly plain jumper in ecru with fine grey marble in 100 per cent cotton. Mid-length with side split and turtle neck, it was the softest jumper we saw - and would be even better a little longer. Price pounds 60. The pictured silk (80 per cent) and cotton-mix ecru V-neck (below) has an open seam down the front. It is a longer length, with long sleeves and side split, at pounds 56.
As well as the classic neutrals, Nicole Farhi is doing some colours this season. The long, heavy, striped jumper seen here is in natural/indigo with a small amount of white and grey detail. Price pounds 179. It is cosy and soft without being too unstructured and has good strong colours. We also looked at a linen-knit jumper in natural oatmeal with a very large weave in a plain tunic style. Priced at pounds 139, it is heavy and baggy, and the small size is practically as wide as it is long. The linen knit costs more than cotton and has a rougher, less regular texture. Could look like an expensive sack on the wrong person.
Mainly natural colours - shades of oatmeal, biscuit and ecru, with long or short sleeves. Prices range from pounds 20 to pounds 35. The chunky cream sweater pictured is good value. It is a heavyweight mix of ramie and cotton, long, with a split at each side, for pounds 22.99. The detailing makes it look far more expensive.
BHS has a large selection of baggies and is doing lots of pastels and bright colours, with prices from pounds 24.99. Some are a little fussy and typical chainstore fare, but there are a couple of goodies. Seen here is a long V- necked jumper in plain stitch with ribbed detail round the neck, of medium thickness and with long sleeves, at pounds 24.99. This jumper could compete with those in the mid-price range; the yellow is a fine summery shade - far classier than the pink. Another good choice is a long, lightweight summer cotton jumper with a small roll neck. With a diamond design on the front it looks extremely classy for pounds 24.99.
Jigsaw has lots of oversized cotton sweaters to go with its safari theme, in muted colours such as taupe, beige, cream and sludge green. The bound- edged but otherwise plain cotton jumper in cream shown here costs pounds 49, a competitive price for the quality.
There will be cropped Arans and long Arans and fine cables in pale and natural colours. A multi-cable, long-sleeved, turtle-necked jumper in ecru coloured cotton (seen here) is stretchy, curvy and long with a sloppy-joe turtle neck, for pounds 75. It looks like an Aran but wears like something that is much finer and softer.
Warehouse has a couple of cropped cotton baggies and some baggy cardigans. Of the shorties there is a heavy and thick olive green (or red) crop jumper with bobble patterning and round neck (pictured) at pounds 29.99. It is good and chunky, though the olive colour is a little wintery. A slightly longer jumper in apricot comes ribbed with a roll neck, dropped shoulders and long sleeves. Good value at pounds 27.99.