New intel! The other morning, after my post about the Love, Actually cardigan went live, I got an email from Brooke alerting me that Churchmouse had coincidentally featured a scarf in their newsletter that morning with the same sort of “stockinette cable,” as I called it — although this one is a braid. I love it when stuff like that happens. So if you want to know more about that type of cable, or try it out in scarf form, check out their Reversible Cable Scarf. (photo above, top) And then I also got an email from hawkeyed reader Cindy who happened to know that the cardigan was originally designed by Nicole Farhi for her F/W 2002 collection. The closure is different and no pockets, so I’m guessing they made those changes for the RTW version, but that is definitely The Sweater! (And there were some outstanding cowls in that show as well.)
There was also a lot of meat in the comments on Wednesday’s Hot Tip: Resist the twist post, so go check that out if you haven’t seen it!
“Artforms using textiles have existed for millennia but have not always been held in such high esteem in the art world. The artificial divide that exists between fine art and textiles (or applied/decorative arts, or craft) is a gendered issue. …” (via)
IN SHOP NEWS: We’ve got Bury Me and Knitting Necessities totes back in stock. The Holiday “Hank” Field Bagmiiiight last the weekend, but I wouldn’t wait if that’s on your wish list. And this morning at 9am CT is the next Town Bag update. Each week we still have more people vying for them than there are bags available, but this is our biggest batch yet and we’re getting closer to equilibrium as all the people who’ve bought in previous updates are no longer competing. So my fingers are crossed for everyone, but they will go in a heartbeat. We’re managing to squeeze in one more update before it’s officially too late for Christmas, which will be next Weds, so make sure you note the update details on the product listing! And we’ll also have more solid canvas Field Bags ready next week — y’all keep wiping us out!
If you missed the gift guide, now would also be a good time to peek at that.
Happy Friday everybody — I hope you have a wonderful weekend.
Does it mean anything, do you think, that the rate at which I bookmark sock patterns has seen a noticeable increase lately? I don’t think I feel any more inclined to knit a pair, but I’m all heart eyes for these:
TOP: Near and Far by Hanna Lisa Haferkamp — I honestly don’t know which is more mesmerizing: the cable or the color
When I was first knitting — almost entirely in the round, mind you — I had a lot of trouble with my yarn kinking up on me between my work and the ball. Some yarns were worse than others, and I remember running across a discussion on Twitter (this would have been 2012) wherein Clara Parkes was talking about it potentially being a problem of too much twist in the yarn, and/or that it can be an issue with yarns that are Z plied vs S plied … or maybe it was vice versa. I don’t remember! I have no doubt that was accurate information, but it didn’t lead me to a solution. One day I went to the nearest yarn store (which no longer exists) and asked the owner about it, as I was having a LOT of trouble with it and my yarn of that moment. She suggested I try knitting from the other end of the skein, which made no difference.
It was only in the past couple of years that it really sunk in that when I was knitting around and around and around in a circle, I was adding twist to the yarn in the process. So it’s only natural that it would have to be unspun once in awhile to get the kinks out — like the phone cords of yesteryear. But I also realized I have a habit of turning my work the same direction for every next row when working flat, which means I’m effectively doing the same thing whether I’m knitting flat or in the round. It was a hard habit to break, but I’ve gradually trained myself to turn the work one direction and then back the other, and I rarely have kinky yarn anymore.* The mnemonic that eventually worked is that I turn the work clockwise when turning to the right side (right/right, get it?), then counterclockwise to go back to the wrong side. Problem mostly solved!
*To be clear, this yarn I’m currently knitting with has no twist issues whatsoever. I forced it to kink for the sake of this photo!
Sunday afternoon, while forced to exercise indoors (rather than be out on the greenway where I belong!) I was also forced (or so I’ll claim) to rewatch “Love, Actually” while I did it. The high point is definitely the moment just past the 46-minute mark when a shawl-collar cable cardigan joins the ensemble cast. Worn by Aurelia, the Portuguese maid in my favorite of the storylines, it’s a deceptively simple little sweater. Chunky. Heather grey. Little patch pockets on the front. A single toggle closure. And it’s pure stockinette, including the shawl collar itself, except for the presence of some … cables. I don’t know if there’s a proper name for this sort of cable, but in my head I call them stockinette cables, which is an oxymoron but still feels accurate to me. You’re just knitting stockinette and suddenly decide to cross a large number of stitches — like 8 or more. There are no purl stitches to set them off or anything, they’re just like waves in the stockinette. On this sweater, there’s one running up each side of the front and back, and up the center of each sleeve.
To emulate it, you could use Lion Brand’s free Autumn Afternoons cardigan pattern, which has all the basic traits including the integral stockinette shawl collar. The key difference is that this collar has a facing, so it winds up being a double thickness. To make the collar more like Aurelia’s, you could omit the facing stitches (clearly described by the schematic) and either slip the edge stitches or work an I-cord edge.
Apart from that and some 1×1 ribbing at the hem and cuffs, all you’d need to add is the pockets, the toggle closure, and the cables. For the latter, you’d want to swatch and see what such a big cable would do to the gauge, and adjust your stitch count to compensate. Since the sweater is worked flat in pieces, it would be quite simple to experiment with one of the fronts to get those details sorted out!
The recommended yarn for the pattern is listed as aran weight, but it’s knitted on US 10.5 needles at 3.5 stitches per inch. Sound familiar? Lopi would be a beautiful choice, although I’ve never attempted to cable with it. (Even “stockinette cables”!) I’d try something like Harrisville’s Turbine. Which I just realized I also recommended in the last Knit the Look! Clearly I have this yarn on the brain — might need to get it onto the needles.
I’m thrilled at all of the enthusiasm over the upcoming Fringe and Friends Steekalong featuring Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Sólbein cardigan — kicking off January 1st. Several questions have been raised about color and yarn choices, which obviously need to be decided before casting on, so I’m doing a couple of advance Q&A’s with Mary Jane this month, starting today with those concerns. (We’ll talk about steek method alternatives next.)
To recap, Sólbein is designed for Léttlopi Icelandic wool yarn which is both unique and affordable — I’ve written about the yarn before here. In this case, it’s also knitted at a larger gauge (which works due to magic discussed below), the result being a sweater that knits up quickly, is somewhat less warm than if you knitted the same yarn at a more typical gauge, and is even less expensive, using less of an already affordable yarn. If you’re unsure about the lopi fabric, I highly recommend buying a few balls to swatch with, especially given the price point — knit a swatch, soak your swatch and get to know what the fabric is really like. If then it is not for you, we talk about the challenges and options for substituting yarns below. And you can use your leftover Léttlopi to make some Giving Mitts.
So with that, here’s Mary Jane — and if you have other yarn questions not answered here, please ask them below!
. . .
First, let’s talk about picking colors for Sólbein. I did the big roundup of palette suggestions that were mostly based on your model of using light/medium/dark shades of a single color. Can you talk about the effect that has, and why you chose it over a more contrasty or colorful approach?
When I designed the sweater it was based on the prompt “lines.” I love a simple prompt. I started thinking about radiating lines and eventually about light streaming through my windows on a winter’s day, and sunbeams. I wanted an ethereal kind of shimmer. I design on the needle and knitted the light one first. To get the effect I saw in my mind’s eye, I chose a group of three colors that were fairly close in value, with the white acting as a bold color … if that makes sense.
When thinking about a second colorway, charcoal seemed a great choice for the main body color, so different from the first version. Choosing such a dark dark allowed different spacing between the values, but still in the same sequence: darkest for the body, middle for the ribbing and lightest for sunbeams. The medium color also become beams, when they progress into the darkest color.
So that was just my personal thinking about a knitted way to describe lines and my interpretation of lines being light. I’ve seen some really cute bright versions of Sólbein though — some even in candy colors, still arranged in a value sequence — and they are super cute!
Léttlopi is not like any other yarn I’ve ever used, and I find it impossible to describe to anyone — it’s so incredibly light and has such a halo that the fabric is more like a puff of wool-infused air or something. You’ve compounded that by knitting on a larger-than-usual needle: It’s aran-gauge yarn (or heavy worsted) knitted here on chunky needles, but the resulting fabric is not loose stockinette because of the way the lopi fleece blooms to fill the would-be gaps. I’d never seen that done before your Stopover pattern (and I wound up trying it with my little black raglan sweater). Is that a trick you’d seen before with Léttlopi?
I love Léttlopi. I love the fuzz and the loft and the lightness of it. And the shine — it glimmers. We traveled to Iceland in the ’70s and my mom got a lopapeysa which I’ve always always loved. It was so thick, but still so light in weight, and that’s the thing for me — lopi produces a warm but lightweight garment. So the memory of the utility of that sweater has never left me.
I came to knit Léttlopi at a loose gauge because I was in a hurry. I always wore my favorite storebought lopapeysa I got a few years ago, and a friend pointed out that I had it on in every picture and I needed to be wearing my own designs. Realizing that I had a week before my next trip, I consulted my stash and thought … why not? I didn’t have regular lopi, only had Léttlopi, and I figured I could use a bigger needle for a faster knit. I also wanted a warm sweater that wouldn’t weigh a lot because of airline weight restrictions, and that could take a beating being squished and compacted in a suitcase. I did a little swatching and I kept pushing the needle size, seeing how big I could get away with. Léttlopi is magical; once washed, the loft of it fills in the gaps of the loose gauge.
All of those lopi traits and gauge trickery are what makes it difficult to suggest yarn substitutions. A typical aran-weight yarn would not do well being knitted at such a large gauge, and especially with colorwork involved. Substituting here would require using a chunky yarn, which would result in a heavier, denser sweater. It might be more or less warm than the lopi, depending, but it would not be the same light-as-air sweater. On top of which, not all yarns are suited to either colorwork or steeking. It needs to be a woolly wool with some grip. (Nothing super smooth, slippery or superwash.) Which doesn’t leave a lot of options! Do you think it would work with any of the lighter, more roving-y wools like Turbine and Puffin and Quarry? What’s your best suggestion?
Hmmm … yes. You can substitute, but I can’t think of any yarn that will produce a sweater that is as light in weight as Léttlopi. But not everyone needs a sweater to cram in a suitcase, or that weighs next to nothing. So swatch! Swatching is fun. It’s like an experiment — like you are a knitting scientist or a knitting explorer charting new territory! Test out a potential yarn and decide if you like the knitted result. Wash the swatch to see what happens. See how much larger you can make it with blocking. Léttlopi has a lot of leeway — when it’s wet you can make it grow if you want it to grow, or just pat it into place if you don’t want it to.
But you want answers! I’ve used Puffin when I’m swatching for design and I want a yarn where I can rip things out without much harm… so I know the gauge will work and it will be pretty. But it will be different, it will be more solid and weigh more. Quarry is kind of like roving, so it will probably work, and be fairly light. It won’t have the glossy sparkle that Lettlopi has, but it could be nice. So yeah. Everything will be a trade off, but that’s fine, and can be an adventure of discovery!
Among those not averse to using lopi wool, several people have also asked whether the unspun Plötulopi would work? And I’m wondering the opposite — any reason someone couldn’t use the bulky-gauge Alafoss Lopi? In which case you’d be knitting it at standard gauge, for a more typical Icelandic outerwear sort of garment, am I right?
I think Plötulopi stranded double will work, in fact I’ve seen it done on Instagram. I wouldn’t use a single strand because I don’t believe the edge will be strong enough to support a button band. Standard Lopi will be fine, and it will make a more traditional lopapeysa. It will be heavier and warmer and can function as a jacket. It could be fantastic now that I think about it. Not for my international flights maybe, but as outwear it would be great.
Obviously, whatever one is considering potentially substituting, as you’ve noted, it would be exceptionally important to knit a big swatch, make sure it’s suitable for the colorwork and gauge, and also potentially cut the swatch to confirm the steek will hold. How do you advise swatching for this sweater, in any case?
Well, ideally, you swatch the way your garment will be knit, so in the round, with the needles you’ll be using … so a hat-sized swatch. I’d practice both plain stockinette and do some of the colorwork lines. Really get a feel for the fabric you are making. I hear some groans … . If you really really don’t want to do that, you could also knit flat, utilizing a Shetland technique called “brak an eek”, or break and join. On a circular needle you knit flat, joining yarn on the right edge, and breaking it on the left edge, sliding the stitches back to the right, and repeating. You knot the broken yarns after a couple of rows. Keep in mind if you’re new to this, it might take a bit of practice, and you also won’t be able to reuse the yarn. In either case it’s a bonus if you want to try out your steeking method on the swatch, great preparation!
Interesting — I just leave a long loop across the back of the swatch for each row, and cut the loops at the end.
The other option for anyone wanting to substitute yarn but not wanting to go the bulky route would be to knit aran-weight yarn at aran gauge and to do their own gauge math. Any caveats for anyone thinking of going that route? (Other than “don’t ask Mary Jane to do your math!”)
I say go for it if you want to. Since it’s knitted top-down, you can easily knit it to the length you want. A friend of mine has had great success knitting Sólbein at a 4.5 stitch gauge. She’s had to fiddle with things and ripped a bunch out but her finished sweater is divine.
I always feel like a bit of an oddball this time of year when everyone’s talking about their holiday gift knitting — and I’m blogging about what patterns you might choose — while I’m just not really a gift knitter. In my defense, we’re not a gifty family. Even in years when we’re together for Hannukah or Christmas (we have contingencies that are variously observant of both) we either don’t do gifts or we draw names and only have one person to find something for. And Bob and I established a tradition long ago of either buying something we both want/need for our home or taking a little trip or … nothing.
But even if we were a fervent gift-giving clan, I don’t think I’d be gift knitting. The pressure! I do sometimes knit for other people — like the hats I knitted my sister’s whole family for spring break, or the vest currently on my needles for my husband, above — but we’ve talked before about the fact that I’m what’s known as a “selfish knitter,” and I don’t apologize for it. For one thing, I’m attempting to make most of my own clothes, so my rate of production has mattered. For another, what motivates me to knit is wanting to possess the finished thing. Knitting something for someone without knowing if they even want it is hugely demotivating for me. And the minute I tell someone I’ll knit whatever for them, I no longer want to do it; once it becomes an obligation, the thrill is gone. I’ve happily and successfully knitted things for others, or given things away after the fact; and I’ve knitted things for other people that are languishing in a drawer somewhere. So I know both the joys and the disappointments. But it’s mostly just not what knitting is about, for me. I’m reluctant to use the buzzword “self-care,” but knitting is a thing I do for myself, on all the levels. I’ve had this idea for years that I could start a tradition of knitting one thing each year, one recipient, and cycle through my loved ones. Maybe I’ll try to think of Bob’s vest as the first of those! (To be clear, I have no regrets or complaints about this vest: I can’t wait to see it on him.)
As always, I ask these questions because I love nothing more than how different we all are, and love hearing all the differing perspectives and experiences. So that’s my Q for You today: Are you a gift knitter? And if so, what are you knitting?
Having discussed pattern ideas for quick gift knits (hats, fingerless mitts and cowls), let’s talk about the people you’re not knitting for! Not to mention your own wish list. We’ve got gifts for everyone and every budget at Fringe Supply Co., and I thought it might be helpful to break it down by price range, starting with the stocking stuffers above.
I haven’t made a proper Wish List PDF this year, but you could print out this guide and check off your wishes, then leave it lying around for your loved ones to find!