I had a realization about yarn and seamless sweaters while knitting this gorgeous thing: The more a knitting project feels like playing with Play-Doh, the more fun I find it. The joy in being able to mold and remold a thing until it’s exactly what I want …
Let’s recap: When I first set out to knit this sweater — which began from Courtney Kelley’s St. Brendan pattern — it was going to be my least improvisational act of knitting. I loved the black-and-tan sample sweater so much that my plan was simply to copy it, straight from the pattern. Same yarn, same colors, same bottom-up construction. I was knitting on US9s instead of suggested 8s, to match gauge; I planned to make the size 45 lower body and decrease to the size 38 counts by the time I joined the sleeves; I used my favorite tubular cast-on; and I knew I was going to shrink and shape the neckhole when I got there. Minor stuff.
Instead, I knitted the body and yoke as intended except with phantom sleeves, had (my own) fit issues with the yoke depth, and severed the yoke from the body, at which point I also realized it might suit me better without the colowork on the lower body and sleeves. I put the yoke back on the needles and reknitted the body and sleeves downward to my own fit specifications, omitting the colorwork. Then for the upper few rows of the yoke and neck, I did the following:
– Modified the last three rows of Chart E — the one that takes us from the colorwork to the neckband — since I no longer had a CC1 (tan) to transition to, and instead was transitioning back to my MC (black). I basically created a grey diamond but with a decrease in Row 4, so it’s more of a diamond-blob than a true diamond. Or a sawtooth — let’s go with that. This additional decrease round brought the stitch count from 108 to 81 sts, and I made it 80 on the following round.
– On Row 6, I worked a set of short rows (with 6 turns) to raise the back neck a bit, which created the wedge of black you see between the colorwork and the neckband in the back. I also worked my last pass around that short-row round as my bind-off round, closing the short-row gaps as I encountered them. So Row 6 was the last row, the short rows and the bind-off all in the same round. (For the short rows, I placed the first 4 turns at the equivalent of each “raglan” position, then the last 2 in the back, slightly closer together than the raglans. I have no idea if that’s how anyone who actually knew what they were doing would do it!) It’s a pretty slight drop between the back and front neck, but just enough to make a difference. If I were to do it again, I’d put a set of short rows just below the colorwork yoke.
– And I then picked up 72 stitches (at a rate of 7 out of 8) and worked a folded neckband. This sweater, with this yarn and my changes, feels very vintage ski-sweater to me, and I wanted to play that up by giving it a sort of retro neckline — high and round and with the folded ribbing. It’s already stretched out a bit (as neckbands will do, which is why I insist on working them from picked-up stitches, and even then try to make them smaller than I ultimately want them, knowing they’ll grow) and I’m tempted to pull it out and pick up 68 sts instead.
I’m head over heels in love with this sweater. Visually, the most obvious changes I made are that it’s 3 colors instead of 4, and there’s no colorwork on the lower half of it, which definitely makes it a very different sweater from the original. But for me the more meaningful change is in the fit. If you look at the left sleeve cap in the two photos below, you can see the difference in the yoke depth. The pattern has only 4 or 5 rounds of MC knitting between the underarm (sleeve join) round and the start of the colorwork. I wound up putting more like 18 or 20 rounds in there — bringing the total yoke depth to 9″, which is much more comfortable for me. No longer being beholden to the stitch counts for the lower colorwork charts, I was also able to simply knit to all of my own desired measurements (most notably a 42″ bust measurement for 8-ish inches of ease).
Now can we talk about the yarn for a minute? This is the new Arranmore and I would like six or seven sweaters in it, please! It reminds me a lot of the first yarn I ever fell in love with — the discontinued Kathmandu Bulky — but in aran weight. I adore it. Between the yarn and how good a circular-yoke sweater feels sitting on my shoulders, I would love nothing more than to wear this sweater every single day.
I’m calling it my Tennessee Lopapeysa, since I can get away with wearing it as outerwear here, the way Icelanders wear their lopi sweaters — although this winter, it’s not even that. Our upper-60s January has given way to mid-70s February, so I’m afraid I may not get to wear it until next year. Maybe it will be my Rhinebeck sweater! Finished well in advance.
*Given the frogging and extra skeins purchased and there being no way to know what percentage of the sweater’s finished weight is the MC yarn, I’m guessing at how many skeins of black actually got used, but then I also used less than a skein each of the ivory and grey. So this is a rough estimate that probably slightly overstates the true cost.
PREVIOUSLY in FOs: Striped pullover