The speed at which Sólbein Cardigans are flying off the knitting needles in the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is truly jaw-dropping. For those who are half done (or already on a second one!), these tips and tricks may come too late! But for anyone who (like me) has yet to cast on, I hope they’ll prove helpful. And they apply to more than just Sólbein:
1. Floats out. Marlene @mnberghout posted about her floats being too tight and how she intended to solve it on a second go, which is one of my favorite tricks I’ve never tried! Let’s see if I can describe this any better than I drew it: Hold your knitting exactly the opposite of how you usually hold in-the-round work. So with it wrong side (float side) out instead of right side out. And with the needle tips away from you instead of toward you, so you’re looking at the right side of the work but in the rear inside of the tube of knitting. Does that make sense? Held that way, your floats have to reach around the longer outer curve of the work, rather than across the shorter inside stretch. And if you still prefer to work with it held the regular way, right side out, try keeping your stitches spread to their natural width on the right needle, which makes it much harder to create a too-short float in the first place.
2. Block that yoke. Several people have expressed concern about their gauge while knitting their yoke, and/or opted not to do a gauge swatch and just cast on. In either case (or if you just want to make sure your colorwork tension is good before proceeding), why not stop and block your yoke? Just put the stitches on waste yarn and block the work like you would a finished object. Once it’s dry, you can measure your real-time stitch and row count and make sure you’re on track for your intended size.
3. Steek first, sleeve later. Every time I see a pic of a finished body, pre-sleeves, I have an overwhelming urge to cut that steek! If you feel the same way, there’s no reason not to go ahead and do that first. Although if you’re one who doesn’t love sleeves, the anticipation or prize of getting to cut the steek when you’ve done them might help?
I also have one gentle reminder or request to make, and this is truly universal. It’s natural to want to slide your pattern into your knitting photos, and a common practice. Please remember that publishing a photo with visible instructions or charts is the equivalent of giving away the designer’s work, and be cognizant of that when taking photos.
For anyone who hasn’t seen the feed and the incredible array of cardigans coming together on the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed, you really should go look.
Holy moly, you guys, the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed is a sight to behold! It is, as Mary Berry would say, “cram jam full” of stunning Sólbein cardigans in progress along with a handful of other steekables, and surprisingly few people taking many liberties with patterns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! I think on this one so many of us are just concentrating on getting the color choices right, gathering steam for our first steek — and there are actually quite a lot of people knitting their first sweater ever! All of which I applaud applaud applaud! I couldn’t be more thrilled. And cannot believe how fast some of you can knit! There are already sweaters at or nearing completion, while I haven’t even cast on yet. If you’re still on the fence, please understand you can jump in anytime!
Meanwhile, here’s the first of the standout projects that I want to feature here on the blog, so this is our first addition to the on-the-fly panel for the KAL, and it happens to be the endlessly inspiring Kristine Vejar from Verb. She’s taking quite a few liberties, and wow I cannot wait to watch this unfold!
Yarn: A Verb for Keeping Warm Dawn. I chose this yarn because I love the fabric it makes, and also because I live in a more mild climate, which means I will get to use this sweater more than if it were knit out of Lopi.
Palette: Indigo Blue! I am inspired by this coat by Kapital. In the AVFKW dye studio, we indigo-dyed a range of shades. I will try to incorporate as many of them as possible into the sweater. I have drawn a few ideas for how to incorporate the different skeins of indigo-dyed yarn into Solbein. All of this said, I am prepared to knit and rip, knit and rip, until I get the color combination just right.
Master plan: Taking some large leaps here as I dive into the Fringe and Friends Solbein Steekalong! When interviewing yarns for this project, at the top of my list were Lettlopi and Stone Wool Corriedale. However, when I came across Dawn, I thought Ooooo, this could be really interesting. I have a zip-up hoodie I purchased in Iceland a couple years back, and I wear it on our coldest Bay Area days from about November to January. But, due to Dawn’s cotton content, I could wear Dawn year-round. That being said, there are a couple concerns at hand using Dawn. It is lighter-weight, which means a smaller gauge. And, how would it steek?
Now to tackle gauge. I went to my swatch library and pulled the swatch for Dawn. (I use YO to record my needle size into the swatch). The fabric I like best is 17 stitches and 23 rows over 4”. It has substance not too tight and not too loose. And I believe I can make the pattern work at this gauge.
The pattern calls for 14 sts over 4″. The size I would knit if I were getting gauge would be 39 1/2” (though that is a touch too big). So to compensate for my tighter gauge, I am knitting size 46 1/2″.
By my calculations, the resulting finished size will be approx: 38″ chest circumference 12″ sleeve circumference
I am planning to leave off the buttons / buttonholes, cuff and hem treatment. I would like to knit my “buttonband” running parallel to the sweater, rather than horizontal (which I need to research because I am not sure how to do this).
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I feel like I might need to hire one of you to distract her when she’s finished, if you know what I mean! But I also feel that way about sooooo many of the other sweaters on the feed. I’m not sure I’ll be able to resist casting one on in my own size …
FINALLY! I know it’s been hard for a lot of you to wait to start knitting (and some just couldn’t stand not to cast on), so I’m extra happy kickoff day for the Fringe and Friends Steekalong has finally arrived. There is no firm end date. The feed will have my focused attention through Feb 17th, but feel free to knit at your own pace. Ultimately, this is not about deadlines or prizes (although see below) — it’s about challenging yourself, having fun, and making a sweater!
Normally, kickoff day is when I introduce you to the panel of knitters who’ll be featured here on the blog throughout the kal, but I’m doing things a little differently this year — or rather, taking a sort of hybrid approach from past FAFKALs. As of today, the “panel” consists of just me and Mary Jane, and I’ll be looking for standout contributors to the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed, assembling a sort of panel on the fly.
For the next three or four weeks, I’ll pick projects that are of particular interest, and post a q&a with one of them roughly once a week. (Maybe exactly once a week, maybe less — we’ll see how it takes shape!) And then for any of those panelists that finish in a timely fashion (i.e. by end of Feb or so), I’ll also do an FO interview here just like I’ve done with panelists in the past, so everyone can see how those projects turned out.
So if you’d like to see yourself and your project featured here, the way to do that is to post about your plans on the feed! Photo quality always counts, but so does having an interesting approach or story or plan of whatever sort. Are you making some clever mods to the pattern, inventing your own, doing something interesting with your yarn choice? Setting some other sort of goal or challenging yourself in an inspiring way? Tell us about it! And you could wind up on the panel of featured knitters, which will also come with a gift from Fringe Supply Co.
YOU COULD WIN PRIZES!
Apart from the chance to be added to the panel and featured here, there will be random prizes everyone has a shot at. On February 17th, I will draw 5 knitters from all of the qualifying posts on the #fringeandfriendssteekalong feed and those 5 knitters will each win a Field Bag of their choice!
Master plan: As we’ve just gone through a December that hovered in the 50s, 60s, even some 70s, and I’m unable to wear all of the sweaters already in my closet, I had to face the fact that I would not be making this gorgeous sweater for myself — so for who then? Partly because of my color concept (below), I started thinking about all of my beautiful little nieces I’ve never knitted for, and realized if I were to knit this at worsted gauge, it would come out kid-sized, and they could pass it around depending who it winds up fitting. So that’s what I’m doing! (And I’ll also finally be taking this opportunity to cut open my purple lopi sweater.)
Yarn: Obviously when you’re knitting for kids, you think a little harder about the yarn. I want a nice wool that will cooperate with a steek (so nothing too gooey soft) but that will be acceptable to the littles (so not too woolly). So I think I’m going with Germantown. I know from swatching with it for the Anna Vest that it is quite flexible about gauge, and since I may be mixing yarns for the colorwork, in order to the get the tonal gradation I want, that feels important. I’ve ordered some at the last minute, and will swatch and see the moment it arrives!
Palette: I’ve mentioned that I’ve really been craving yellow lately, and ever since reading about Mary Jane’s initial inspiration for the yoke — the flickering of sunlight — I’ve been wanting to see this sweater in a nice bright yellow with paler yellow and off-white colorwork. The reason I say I may be mixing yarns is that Germantown offers what I think (from online photos) will be just the sort of saturated, cheerful yellow I want for the main color, and a natural for the lightest, but not a nice soft buttery yellow in between. The skein pictured above has been in my stash for several years — it’s an older offering from my friends Camellia Fiber Co. , an aran-weight Merino that was naturally dyed with marigold petals, by my friend Rebekka. I’ve been saving it, not knowing for what, and I know the girls would love this story — plus that will give a little extra softness to the neckband. So I’m going to see if I can make it work with the Germantown. If not, I may try my hand at dyeing my own middle contrast color! The girls might rather it were purple or pink, but I’m pretty committed to the yellow idea.
Plan: I think I’m going to put a zipper in this one. Either that, or knit the button band before I cut the steek. Both are things I’ve seen in real Icelandic Lopapeysas.
Yarn: I’m using Léttlopi because I have it and because I love it!
Palette: I think it will be 3 colors of red because I have enough of them in my stash. Two of the colors are really close … I’m going to swatch first. I have a favorite discontinued red I might use if I can find it, otherwise it’s going to be kind of a fade effect, which could be nice!
The colors kind of remind me of melted candle wax. Might not be a great visual for some but I find it kind of intriguing.
Here’s the thing about knitting: A finished object is a destination, and a pattern for that object is a map describing one route for getting there. You always have the option of choosing your own route! In the case of the Sólbein Cardigan — the featured pattern for the upcoming Fringe and Friends Steekalong — the route described in the pattern includes a sewing-machine reinforced steek with a full tutorial for how to do it (partially glimpsed above). There have been many people wondering if that method is a requirement, and it absolutely is not.
I’ve put the following few questions to Mary Jane Mucklestone about the Sólbein steek and what alternatives are available, so you A) are not scared off if you don’t have a sewing machine and B) can consider your options even if you do! We’ll dig a little deeper once the knitalong is in full swing, but I wanted you to have this information before you cast on—
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The Sólbein pattern includes instructions for the sewing machine method of reinforcing the steek before cutting. Is there any particular reason why you wrote it for that method — is it your personal favorite?
I chose the sewing machine method because it’s what you see most often in Iceland. A line or two of machine stitches nails down all the strands without creating any additional bulk, another reason I chose it. I actually love to reinforce with crochet, a slip stitch catching 1/2 of two adjacent stitches. It’s really pretty and it helps the cut ends fold under. It does cause additional bulk, so for Sólbein I might use a finer yarn, maybe fingering weight. I’d choose a color to blend with the selection you’ve made, anything super different could possibly show through to the front. Personally I’d use whatever I had lying around that matched, which would be Shetland wool or sock yarn.
For those who don’t have a sewing machine, what are some of the other steeking methods they might research? And is any/every method an option here, or is there anything about Sólbein that would rule any of them out?
You can do the crocheted steek like I mentioned above, or hand stitching with sewing thread is also an option, I find I have to be really careful to make it pretty, but it works. I know it’s hard fitting a sewing machine into your knitting bag!
Does Léttlopi really even need any reinforcement for the steek, or could a brave soul just go for it?
I think because we’re knitting at such a loose gauge it’s a good idea to reinforce the steek. If we used a tight gauge and more stitches for the steek, just leaving it and doing nothing could possibly be an option.
Having asked that, and having read the pattern, I will confess I’m actually slightly nervous (by which I mean excited!) about there not being more of a “bridge” of stitches to cut through. As written, one is literally cutting straight up the gutter between two columns of stitches. Would you counsel against anyone who might feel tempted to throw a couple of extra stitches in between?
Well in Iceland they’ll often just have a single purl stitch as a steek. So I was being cautious using two. I’ll admit it makes me a little nervous too, but like you, at the same time thrilled. It’s nice because there is really no bulk, just enough left to be a tidy little selvage. I wear my Sólbein a lot and nothing bad has happened to it. All those Icelandic knitters can’t be wrong! But that’s not to say you can’t add more stitches if it helps you feel safer and more comfortable.
I had the good fortune of being at Tolt this weekend, where I got to spend some time at the Istex Léttlopi wall along with Andrea Rangel, picking out possible color pairings for Sólbein and the Steekalong. (That sounds like a band name!) As I mentioned in the announcement, Mary Jane designed this cardigan to be knitted in tonal shades of a single color (light, medium and dark), and lopi comes in lots of great colors, but pairing them up is not so easy a thing to do if you’re ordering online. So I hope you’ll find these suggestions helpful. (Thanks so much for my friends at Tolt for letting me do this in the middle of their anniversary madhouse!) These are, of course, on top of the two colorways already pictured in the pattern, both of which are gorgeous.
Some of the combos above are perfectly tonal (such as the pumpkin pie and chocolate combos, 2 and 3); others rely on a pale grey for the lightest shade where no pale version of the color in question exists, and you could also use the (off) white the same way, as we did for the purple combo, 7. Combos 9 and 11 represent the idea of a light/dark neutral motif on a colored field, which would be a different look but possibly quite pleasing.
PLEASE NOTE that I have not actually swatched these so I can’t vouch for how they would hold up — I definitely recommend buying a ball of each and swatching to see — but I think these are all fairly safe bets.
I’m using the Istex color designations here, which are numbers. Sometimes you also see them with name names, but the official color numbers seem like the safest way to label them here since that’s what’s on the ball band:
1. 1700 + 9419 + 0005
2. 1419 + 1704 + 9427
3. 0085 + 0053* + 0052
4. 0086 + 0085 + 0058
5. 0054 + 1700 + 1701
6. 0054 + 1417 + 1416
7. 0051 + 1702 + 1414
8. 0054 + 1406 + 1407
9. 0086 + 0085 + 9418
10. 0054 + 1419 + 9431
11. 0054 + 0057 + 1703
Andrea reminded me I’ve been talking about wanting and black and navy sweater forever, so I think I’m probably doing that top combo myself! (Especially since I have a sweater’s worth of the heathered black leftover from my little quick black raglan.)
*I didn’t get that one into my list, but I’m 95% sure that’s the right color number.
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I also just got an email from Berroco, the yarn company that distributes Istex Lopi yarns in the US and Canada, and they offered up a prize of a sweater quantity of Léttlopi to one of you, dear readers. (Open to knitters with a shipping address in the US or Canada.) To enter, leave a comment below saying which three colors you’re thinking of using for your Sólbein, and I’ll pick a winner at random from all comments received by 5pm CST tomorrow, Nov 8. I’ll update this post with the winner’s name at that time, so check back Thursday evening to see if you won!
UPDATE: Chosen at random, the winner is Jo who posted “Although your color combos are amazing, my choice would be 0052 for the body with 0056 and 1701 as the accents. Thanks for the opportunity!” Congratulations, Jo! Please email me <email@example.com> for instructions on how to collect your prize. Thanks to everyone who entered, and I’m so excited to see all y’all’s sweaters come January!
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MORE TO COME
There have been questions since Monday about yarn substitutions and alternative steeking methods (as opposed to the sewing machine approach) and we will cover all of that along the way, I promise! But the short answer to the latter is no, you do not have to use the sewing machine approach.
Last year when I was teasing you all about the next Fringe and Friends Knitalong (“fafkal” as they’ve come to be known), I no doubt planted the seed in some of your minds that it would be about steeking. Which was true at the time! But it got pushed back a year, for various reasons (making way for the Logalong), so I’m just that much more excited to let you in on the secret today, which is that yes, next up will be the Fringe and Friends Steekalong! My partner in crime this time will be my pal Mary Jane Mucklestone, a colorwork legend in our own time, and the featured pattern will be her exquisite Sólbein Cardigan, which I’ve been dying to knit since first laying eyes on it on the dock at Squam last year. It’s among the most beautiful uses of colorwork I’ve ever seen, with that fluttery featheriness that comes from the tonal stranding, plus I’m so excited to knit my first steeked garment along with all of you and Mary Jane.
For anyone new to the term, steeking is cutting your knitting. Most people prefer to do colorwork only in the round, but that would rule out anything that’s not a tube. So for instance, to get a cardigan you knit a seamless pullover with a couple of extra stitches up the front where the opening should be. And when the pullover is done, you cut straight up through those stitches to create the opening, then add your button band or other edging. I KNOW! I’ve only ever done it on a swatch, but it’s going to be thrilling.
NOTES ON THE SWEATER AND YARN
Sólbein is one of Mary Jane’s brilliant instances of knitting Léttlopi at a looser than traditional gauge — lopi being a yarn with an unparalleled character and halo that magically fluffs to fill — which means it knits up quickly and creates a fabric that is light as air and also not quite as warm as a typical Icelandic lopapeysa. You can read more about lopi yarn here, but it comes in an incredible array of colors (find it online at Tolt, Fancy Tiger and others, if your local doesn’t stock it) and is quite affordable.
What makes the Sólbein colorwork so effective is the use of tonal colors, so to preserve that you want to choose light, medium and dark shades all in the same family. If you decide to go with three totally different colors, you’ll get a completely different effect, which could be differently stunning. Have some fun with the swatching for this!
If you are thinking of substituting yarn, take that into account about the gauge — most aran-weight yarns will not knit up so nicely (especially with colorwork) on larger needles, so you would want to substitute a bulky yarn, and make sure you’re using one suitable for steeking. It needs to be yarn with grip, definitely not anything slippery smooth or superwash.
Technically, you may knit any steeked garment you like for the kal, and we’ll also talk about how to add a steek to a pullover to make it a cardigan. But I hope you’ll knit the gorgeous Sólbein with us! Just look at the excitement on Mary Jane’s face!
OK, she always look like that. ;)
Like the last one, I’ve decided to save this to enjoy during selfish-knitting season, after the holidays, which means you have from now until the end of the year to dream, swatch, and think about any modifications you might make. And we’ll cast on January 1st.
That’s also when I’ll announce the rest of the panel, but obviously MJM is on it!
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
To knit along simply use the hashtag on Instagram or wherever you post: #fringeandfriendssteekalong. By all means, please share your swatching and planning between now and then, but try to refrain from casting on until the official start date. And meanwhile, make sure you’re following @mjmucklestone on Instagram!