I’ve finally managed to get some pictures of my mermaid Humboldt sweater! I finished knitting it months ago, but it was far too warm to wear it for some modelled pictures. I took the sweater up to Edinburgh, where I was competing with my quidditch team in Highlander Cup VII (we won by the way) and managed to get some pictures.
All in all, I spent over a year working on this project. I consider that to be time very well spent. I was able to transform two garments that weren’t getting any love into a new sweater that I hope will bring me joy for many years to come.
When I first learnt to knit ten years ago, I was definitely more of an ‘item’ knitter than a ‘process’ knitter. I was desperate to finish projects, sometimes staying up all night to get them done. As the years have gone on, I’ve become aware of how important it is to plan a project. To swatch, to measure, to research yarn. As I’ve spent time on these preparatory stages, I’ve started to enjoy them for their own sake. I feel confident that all the work will pay dividends. And there is pleasure to be taken from the planning itself- from being meticulous, from experimenting and thinking deeply about what I am creating.
Fortunately, this fits in perfectly with my burgeoning anti-consumerist values. Just because you’re a maker doesn’t make you immune from the pernicious influence of fast fashion. It’s easy to feel like you need to churn out a certain number of projects each month, or that you need to compulsively buy yarn or fabric for your stash. I don’t want to become a Smaug enviously guarding a big pile of fibre. I want a carefully curated wardrobe full of items that I enjoy making and wearing.
This is probably the most alterations I have made to a pattern:
- Very different gauge
- Worked pattern with less ease than recommended
- Held yarn triple to incorporate ombre effect
- Provisional cast-on and tubular cast-off used throughout
- Altered neckline
I also did so much ripping that I have probably knit this sweater 1.5 times:
- Unravelled a load of the body because I wasn’t happy with the ombre
- Unravelled most of a sleeve to incorporate all of my remaining turquoise yarn
- Unravelled the neckline twice to get it to look the way I wanted
I’m glad that I am much more at peace with ripping and re-knitting these days. Again, it is part of the process.
Humboldt by Anna Maltz
3 skeins Malabrigo sock
4 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze*
2 balls Rowan Kidsilk Haze Glamour*
I have nearly one ball of the lightest blue Kidsilk and a couple of small balls of the sock yarn remaining
*I held the Rowan yarn double, which is why I used so much
Original cost of materials
Sock yarn: £39
Kidsilk: £50-60 (six balls @8.95 = £53.70 but I can’t remember what I actually paid)
Cost of additional materials
Two balls of KidSilk haze @ 8.95 each = £17.90
Previous posts in this series
For some reason, I’ve been more prone to shopping over the past month or so. I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve been a bit stressed out and feel the need to buy myself presents to give myself the illusion that life is worth living. When I received a Kate Davies newsletter saying that her dyed shades of buachaille were on sale, I knew that my credit card was likely to take a hit. I love to support small female-led businesses when I can.
I ended up buying a kit to make the Oran do Chaora cardigan.
I got the blue colourway, which is called between weathers. I love the way Kate’s work is inspired by the natural world around her. Luckily the pattern was included because I thought that it was included in Inspired by Islay, of which I have a copy, but I was wrong.
When I was clicking through Ravelry looking for inspiration pictures, I remembered the Sinister Catdigan that I’ve had saved in my favourites for a while. I just love the way the kitties look.
I’d seen that someone had knitted a plain Oran do Chaora. My initial (mean) thought was that it was silly since the cables are the main feature of the pattern. But then I started to wonder whether I could incorporate a colourwork yoke into the cardigan. I wear a lot of blue and have a RTW navy blue cardi that I wear a lot already. I feel like a cute cat cardigan could add a lot to my life.
I dug through my stash to see what I could use for the contrast colours and I’m thinking about the leftovers from my She Loves Wool sweater.
I like the way the colours look together, but I am a little apprehensive about using two such different yarns in the same garment. Buachaille is a relatively rustic and sheepy yarn (for me), while sugar baby alpaca is super soft and feels a bit more processed. There is also a slight difference in my gauge. However, I am drawn to the idea of using the yarn that I already have rather than buying something new.
I think I’m going to steam ahead regardless. Oran do Chaora is knit from the bottom up, so I can always unravel and re-knit the yoke if I find that the alpaca really doesn’t work. I haven’t quite decided yet whether to buy the sinister catdigan pattern. I’m pretty sure that I could recreate the yoke without needing to purchase the pattern, but I also feel that the designer has created something very cool and unique and should be remunerated for that. I prefer the cardigan style of ODC so the fair isle will most likely be the only design element I use from the other pattern.
As always, I’d forgotten how boring it is to knit flat stocking stitch- though not quite as bad as the long stretch of ribbing. As usual, I used a tubular cast on (Ysolda method) because I love the way it looks. I’m sure no one else will ever notice this little detail, but it’s still worth the extra time to me. As I also often do, I forgot that you’re meant to knit the ribbing on a slightly smaller needle. That’s something that I don’t think makes a big enough difference to re-do, so I will be leaving it.
Yarn: Buachaille by Kate Davies
Pattern: Oran do Chaora x The Sinister Catdigan
Without tempting fate, this should be my last WiP Wednesday about this project. I did quite a lot more work on this sweater after my most recent post about it, which I think is worthy of some blog space.
Finishing the sleeves was quite straightforward and I joined the sleeves and body for the yoke. It was quite fun to work the marlisle pattern again, which was just as well because the first few rounds of the yoke feel incredibly long after the relative speed of the sleeves.
Checking the finished projects on Ravelry, I saw that there was a lot of variability in the necklines. Some knitters (including me) write quite detailed notes on their projects, while others don’t add anything. It was hard to tell how my project was going to turn out. I added a lifeline before working the neck shaping and I’m glad that I did.
A few rows into the neck shaping as written, it became obvious that the pattern is for a boat neck. Boat is one of my least favourite necklines- I just don’t think it suits me. I ripped back to my lifeline before going on holiday.
In the end I decided to tackle changing the neckline in two ways. I added more increases (every other row rather than once every three rows) along the raglan seams in the body on both the front and back. Since I have quite broad shoulders, I don’t like excess fabric to accentuate that part of my body. I also changed the short-row shaping on the front neckline.
I had to do some more ripping when I accidentally knit the additional raglan decreases before I had calculated the changes to the neckline shaping. I used a combination of eyeballing and maths to work out how I wanted it to look. I think I’ve mentioned before that one of my pet peeves is having a t-shirt showing when I am wearing a sweater. I just think it looks messy. So my aim was a close neck that should cover the layer beneath.
I took some pictures of the notebook pages where I did my quick maths. Kate Davies wrote a recent blog post about knitting and creativity. It discusses the idea that knitting is ‘relaxing’ at the expense of allowing knitting to be creative, engaging and absorbing. This relates to the idea that ‘women’s work’ is something straightforward and mindless, or even frivolous.
Even when following a pattern, knitting can involve a lot of processes that are not remotely relaxing. Undoing work can be frustrating. Figuring out how to change a design is a highly creative problem-solving endeavour, bringing to bear all the knowledge one gains through years of practice. It is an engineering project. Part of the reason I write all of these WiP posts is to give an impression of the work that goes on behind the scenes. When you say, “I made it,” most people have no idea of what that actually means.
In the end, I didn’t have quite enough of the light blue kidsilk to finish the sweater, so I had to buy one more ball. Somehow I hadn’t noticed that the balls are £8.95 each last time I went to John Lewis! I will have most of a ball left over.
The neck ribbing is virtually done now, so the final stage will be the finishing. I am using I-cord edging throughout, which I hope will give a very clean finish. It’s currently a bit warm for a sweater, but knowing English weather I imagine I will find an opportunity to get some pics once this garment is ready to wear.
Previous posts in this series
This sweater has been in my WiP basket for several months now. Shortly after my last blog post (and taking this photo), I ran out of turquoise yarn.
I was also a bit uncertain about how to do the ombre on the sleeves. All in all, I was not feeling so inspired by this project, but fortunately that gave me the impetus to finish my She Loves Wool sweater that had been similarly languishing.
Looking at this photo with fresh eyes, I felt that it probably was time to start changing colours soon. I think it will make sense visually to have the colour change over my elbow.
Another complicating factor was the yarn. I had hoped that I had salvaged enough from my Bay sweater for this whole project but, alas, that was not the case. Even worse, I wasn’t sure which colourways of Kidsilk Haze I was working with.
I’m sure Stitch’n’Bitch, my bible in my early years as a knitter, recommends that you never throw ball bands away and thus avoid these problems. I know I followed that advice for quite some time, but old ball bands are a super annoying thing to have lying around the house. I’ve discarded them all in various house moves.
What would make sense in the modern world would be to record this information on Ravelry. Now-me generally does that (I would like to be more fastidious about including all info, including dye lots), but unfortunately the Monique of 2013 did not. I have the colour recorded as ‘blue-green.’ I was fairly sure that the colour was ‘peacock’ but when I checked the Rowan website, there are two other shades that fit the bill. I had hoped to buy the extra yarn on eBay, but in the end I made the pilgrimage to John Lewis, praying that they had the right colours in stock. I took my swatch with me to compare.
Not an exact match, but perhaps it is unreasonable to expect the colours to be a super close match when you buy extra yarn over six years later.
I wasn’t sure whether I would have enough of the lighter colour either, but I decided not to buy more at this stage. What I will do to try and circumvent that problem is make the section with the sequins longer than originally planned. I also wanted to use up the Kidsilk Haze Glamour.
I spent quite a bit of time knitting over the May bank holiday weekend. I was coming off an incredibly stressful week, and I needed the time to myself.
I finished the second sleeve and realised it made more sense to use up all of the turquoise yarn in the sleeves. Hopefully this will mean I have enough of the pale blue to finish the yoke without having to purchase any additional yarn.
I tried my best to make the sleeves match by weighing the yarn as I went along. Unfortunately I only have digital food scales that measure to the closest gram. Not especially helpful with mohair, which is incredibly light. Hopefully a local drug dealer will donate a more precise scale to one of the charity shops I frequent.
I have now ripped the first sleeve back to the turquoise area to insert the remaining yarn. The sleeves are lovely and quick to work so should be on to the yoke soon.
I really really hope I am going to come out with a sweater that I am happy with. I have put a lot of work into recycling two old garments into this piece so I will be quite heartbroken if I don’t like the way it turns out. That being said, I am having a cropped sweater moment so it should slide seamlessly into my wardrobe as long as all goes to plan.
Previous posts in this series
I get quite a lot of wear out of my League sweater. I like to throw it on with jeans for work when I’m doing paperwork in the office. It’s great to wear under my raincoat in winter (and autumn and spring, let’s be real). The wool means that it’s nice and warm on chilly days, but I don’t overheat too much on the tube because it’s breathable.
However, I’ve never been thrilled with the fit. The length and shape of the sweater can make me look a bit boxy. I realised (18 months after finishing it) that I might be able to improve the fit by simply shortening the sweater- it’s kind of A-line and the pattern encourages blocking the hell out of the bottom ribbing so that it doesn’t cinch in.
The ribbing measures 4.5cm and I planned to shorten by 10cm, starting the new ribbing around 20cm below point of white.
I already wrote a post about my work on this sweater. I got held up for a while because I was worried I had made the front too short. I left it on the naughty step for a few months while I worked on my She Loves Wool sweater.
Unpick one side seam below the waist
Pick up all stitches on a needle at the level you want the ribbing to start. Use separate needles for the front and back
Unpick the other side seam
Cut off the bottom part of the sweater
You might want to do this step for the front and the back at the same time so that you can skein, wash and ball both sections of yarn at the same time (I didn’t do this).
If your harvested yarn is very kinky, you may want to skein, wash and hang it up to make your knitting more even. See this blog post for more details about this step.
Attach the yarn you harvested and knit the ribbing
Remember to count your stitches! Many patterns have some decreases after the ribbing so be sure your numbers match those in the pattern before you start knitting.
Tubular cast off
After trying my sweater on once I’d shortened the front, I realised I wanted a split hem and to have the back a little longer. I had forgotten how fine the yarn and needles were for this project and the front running had taken a long time. So I used a different method for the back.
Insert a long needle a couple of inches above the ribbing. Cut the sweater below the needle. Unravel down towards the ribbing until the sweater is your desired length. Pick up the stitches on another long needle.
Count the stitches on each needle and ensure you have exactly the same number. Adjust if needed.
Attach the two sections using Kitchener stitch.
I blocked at this stage because the grafting was a little uneven.
Re-do the side seams
Block, if desired
Overall I am happier with my sweater now than I was before. However, I am a bit worried that the front is too short and the back is too long. I will wear a few more times before making my final decision, but this may not be my final post about altering this sweater.
I’ve finally finished my She Loves Wool jumper and, mercifully, I am pretty happy with the result.
From my experience with this sweater, I will be a lot more reserved about choosing patterns where there is no documentary evidence of the making process online. I think I was quite lucky. The few projects linked to the pattern on Ravelry indicate that others have found making this sweater a frustrating process. This kit is a luxury product- it is very expensive- so I would have expected a little more to make the experience as pleasant as possible for the user.
I think also being a fairly experienced knitter was a big help. The fact that I put so much time into planning this sweater meant that I was able to think critically about possible issues such as the fit and sleeve length, which circumvented what could have been very painful problems. There are hundreds of hours of knitting in this project so the idea of ripping back was unbearable.
Needle: 3.5mm circular; 3.25 for the neckline ribbing
Getting to try the sweater on for the first time was a huge relief. I’d pinned it together a few times during the making process to assess fit, but you can never be sure how something will look until it is all sewn up.
For some reason I’ve been hesitant about criticising Wool and the Gang- perhaps because I slightly know the founders. However, I strongly feel that this pattern was not designed for hand-knitters. Even the most basic fact of knitting fair isle flat is not typical. I can’t find any evidence to suggest that anyone test-knitted this pattern and you can tell.
My gripes are mainly small things, such as the way the decreases are done on the raglan seams that means they are a little untidy when sewn up.
I really wasn’t happy with how the raglan seams looked so I played around with ways to make them neater.
Annoyingly you can see the stitches against the other colour. I think it looks better but I’ve left the ends loose so I have the option of undoing it.
Perhaps I have been spoiled by knitting a lot of projects from Brooklyn Tweed, where every detail of the design is painstakingly thought out. I also feel the sizing is quite off. I know that WatG patterns tend to have a very relaxed fit but still. I managed to get a good fit due to careful swatching and knitting maths.
I sewed up the whole sweater and then picked up the neckline stitches in the round. I think this is a superior method to knitting flat and then seaming the neckline.
I picked up way fewer stitches than indicated in the pattern. I ended up with 120. I basically just picked up one neckline stitch per stitch on the front, back and sleeves. Since I wanted a tight neckline, it worked for me. I also made a folded neckband for a more professional finish.
As a note, I ended up using up nearly all of the black yarn (and I’m fairly sure I ordered an extra ball). I did omit the contrast hem and cuffs (knitting them in black rather than white), which increased the yardage a bit. However I am a little surprised I got through it all because I made my sleeves and body quite a bit shorter than indicated in the pattern.
I had more than two balls of white left.