Last week, when I said that this knitted sweater would be next on the blog, it felt a little bit weird – and kind of wrong – because the weekend had been particularly hot, and I’d got tan lines on my thighs from our cycle ride. Summer was here, it seemed. So it felt like a hugely weather disappropriate choice of garment to put up next. But you know what? It doesn’t seem so weird now, because in true British style it’s been bloody freezing this week. I’ve been layering up in the house with T-shirts, sweaters and my dressing gown. It’s that cold. I just don’t know what is up with the weather right now 🤷🏻♀️
But at least – slowly, surely – summer is approaching, even if there are still days that I’m snuggled up in my fleecy hooded blanket like it’s mid-December 🥶 Speaking of that blanket, it’s one of MANY things that I need to photograph for the blog – which I’m thinking I can now do given the British government have said we can go outside as much as we like 🤔 The only spanner in the works is that I can’t get public transport to my usual East London photo spot… so it’s looking like the husbeast is gonna be braving the central London roads in the car to get me there 👀 😂 Plus, I need to get that blanket photographed pronto because it’s a proper heat-fest to wear and if it’s warm outside, I may just die after about 30 seconds of wearing it.
But anyway… back to my weather inappropriate/appropriate (delete as applicable according to the weather where you are) knitted sweater.
I know I’m like way late to the party with this one, but I’ve got another one of my 2019 Make Nine ticked off with this bad boy 😂 Better late than never…
This Malabrigo Caracol yarn stole my heart when we visited Philadelphia in 2018, from a little store called Yarnphoria. The lady who ran the store was so nice, so helpful, and she even had a little doggo in there too! Yarn shop + doggo = best possible combo. The Caracol yarn reminded me of a stained glass window, with the black thread running through it. I bought some of the Diana colourway for me, and the Cameleon colourway for the husbeast. When we were in NYC a few months back (y’know, when travel was still a thing) the husbeast bought himself another colourway of this same yarn… so I now have two more sweaters to knit before the weather turns chilly again!
Pattern-wise for my yarn, I knew that I wanted a simple, stocking stitch sweater with a roll neck. Something slightly oversized, that would keep me cosy when the weather got chilly. Even though a plain stocking stitch sweater isn’t the most exciting of things to handknit, I felt that it best allowed the colours and thick-thin texture of the yarn to shine. I’m all about the cables and extras (usually), but they would have just got lost among the busyness of the yarn here. So for this project, vanilla was the way forward. I never thought I’d say that.
As I always do, I delved into Ravelry to see what patterns they had that fitted my criteria. There were several options, but in the end, I settled on a free pattern (woohoo for freebies!) from Rowan – a Vogue Knitting Live Sweater and Snood combo.
Obvs I wasn’t going to include that intarsia ‘VK’ logo, and the separate snood wasn’t going to be made either – instead, I was just going to add on a ribbed tube for a neck, long enough to be folded over double. The rolled hem also wasn’t my thing – but it seemed to appear on the majority of patterns I looked at for whatever reason 🤷🏻♀️ – so the plan was to start with an inch or so of ribbing on the hem and sleeves.
The hanks of this Caracol yarn are hand-dyed, and as such, they have no dye lot. This was my first experience of using hand-dyed yarn, and I didn’t realise at the time I bought it that: (a) it was hand-dyed, or (b) the colours in each hank could vary considerably because of this. I just bought eight random hanks – I know now that I should have instead looked at all the hanks they had and picked ones that had a similar colour balance… but hey. I know now, and that’s the main thing!
Thankfully, most of the hanks were largely similar, with a mix of yellow, pink, purple, and green. Some hanks had spatterings of vibrant reds, greens, and blues. A couple of hanks didn’t have any green or blue, and instead were a mash of the warmer colours – red, purple, pink and orange. I set these ones aside for the sleeves and used the rest of the similar-ish hanks on the body.
I actually did a little swatch for this sweater (because I’d completely gone off track from their recommended yarn) and found my gauge was slightly off – the recommended tension was 10 stitches and 12 rows, and I had the right number of stitches, but 10 rows instead of 12 to 4 inches. I had sized down from the recommended 10mm needle size to 9mm to get the number of stitches correct, but this didn’t seem to help the row situation. Maybe I should have stuck with the 10mm 🤷🏻♀️ It’s close enough, so whatever. I don’t think the final sweater was impacted in any way.
I wasn’t really sure how to approach the differences in colour in the skeins – I started doing some online research, and there were a few suggestions for working with hand-dyed yarns:
- Alternate a couple of hanks, changing every round
- Alternate three hanks in the same manner, if they are all pretty different
- Don’t do anything, just roll with whatever happens
The last option seemed the most appealing (and the least effort), but then I started seeing horror stories of projects where people had taken this approach:
Eesh. I did NOT want that happening to me.
So, I went with alternating a couple of skeins, to avoid ending up with something that looked like the picture above.
This proved to not be the right approach, however – the colours ended up looking stripy. I got a large patch of light colours striping with dark colours, and I didn’t like the way the colours of each row looked next to each other. My gorgeous looking hanks were producing fabric that looked like colour vomit. Eeeesh. NOT what I wanted. In one place, some bright red and green ended up next to each other on a series of rows, making it look like a Christmas jumper. Nope. No way. I wasn’t having my beautiful (and expensive) yarn turned into some hideous sweater. I ripped back, licked my wounds and reconsidered my options.
I put out a cry for help and advice on the ‘gram, to which lots of you lovely folk offered pretty much consistent advice: don’t bother alternating skeins, and instead start the new hank on the same part of the rainbow as where the last one finished, to avoid obvious changes. This was something I hadn’t thought of, and is the approach I went with.
And you guys… IT WORKED.
The rainbow wasn’t always exactly the same on each hank – some colours had longer bits compared to others, or were not there at all – but I matched it as best I could. It wasn’t until I got right to the top of the back, where the main body narrows, that I ended up with a larger-than-I-liked patch of green, and although you can loosely see where the colour shifts from the different hanks it’s pretty damn hard to pinpoint the exact spot that the changeover took place 👀
Before ripping back because of the colour-vomit issue, I had started out with a size medium at the hips, reducing to a size small in the body – but when I had made some progress I realised that actually, it was WAY too big. On the second attempt, I decided that I’d make the XS. I was making the decision totally blind, though, because helpfully there were no measurements – body OR finished ones – on the pattern. Anywhere. I mean, WTF? I know it was a free pattern and all, but come on guys. Sizing is like the one job you have as a pattern designer, and you’ve sacked it off.
When I started again, I ended up with this lovely pooled rainbow on the bottom rib, which sadly didn’t transfer to the main body of the jumper ☹️ I always think it’s a bit of a gamble buying yarns like this – I’m never sure how they will turn out as knitted fabric, and it hardly ever seems to correspond to how they look in their wound hanks 🤷🏻♀️
The body of the sweater knitted up pretty quickly, given how big it is – though that’s mainly due to the chunkiness of the yarn and the thick needles. I knitted the first ten rows in 2 x 2 rib rather than the rolled edge instructed in the pattern.
After steaming through the front and back, completing the sleeves (again with an inch of rib at the cuff) and declaring myself on the home straight with just the roll neck and the seaming to go, I realised that one sleeve was WAY different to the other, and also quite different to the main body of the sweater. It became apparent that I had one skein which had a LOT of dark blues, purples and red – a colour that didn’t really appear in any of the other skeins. Hmm.
It didn’t look good. I examined what I had leftover of the other skeins, to see if I could construct a matching sleeve from them… and I reckoned I could. I had to dip back into that one rogue red skein for the very top part of the sleeve, but you can see the main bodies of the sleeves are now vaguely similar 🙌🏻 That leftover skein still sits in my yarn stash… I’m thinking it might become a hat one day.
With all the pieces now complete (after I don’t know how many rip backs and restarts 😑) I picked up the stitches around the neckline for my roll neck. I worked in a 2 x 2 rib for as long as I thought I needed (I wanted the neck to fold down on itself in a double layer) and cast off. I realise now that I should have done a super-stretchy cast-off, because the edge doesn’t have that much give in it. Not enough give to match the circumference of where I cast on for the neck, so it doesn’t quite fold down perfectly, but it’ll do.
You’re instructed to work all pieces flat for this sweater – but I’m firmly a member of the in-the-round fan club so I cast on for the body as one piece, divided front and back when I got to the armpits and worked the remainder of each separately. I did the same with the sleeves – cast on in the round and just continued up to the same point before working the rows back and forth for the shoulder. I already had loads of ends to weave in from where I’d chopped and changed hanks, so I didn’t want to have to spend hours seaming the thing up as well 😩 If I could be really fussy about the whole thing, I’d have rather knitted the whole thing top-down without any shoulder seaming – pieced knitting is not my favourite construction anyway, but in this yarn it’s particularly bulky, especially around the armscye.
I’m happy with the finished sweater though, and it’s reflective of what I had in my mind when I started out. I don’t know how this jumper is going to cope with washing… it’s heavy enough dry, let alone when it’s soaked with water. I have visions of it stretching out of shape when wet 😱 With just a couple of wears is it starting to show signs of pilling and fuzz, which I guess is what you get with soft yarns like this… and oh my days thread, dog hair and all other small floaty things stick to it like a bastard.
It is, however, super snuggly, so all is forgiven 🥰
I’ve already chosen the pattern for the husbeast’s yarn, so I’ll be cracking on with that next – but it might be a bit of a sweaty choice for a summer project 🤔 My yarn stash is nowhere NEAR the volume of my fabric stash, but I’d like to try and use it up – some of the contents I’ve had for an embarrassing amount of years and it’s high time I either did something with it or passed it on to someone that will use it. Thankfully, my tastes in yarn don’t appear to have changed, and I still like everything I have, so there’s no excuse really. It certainly isn’t fulfilling its life goals by sitting in a plastic tub under the bed in our spare room, that’s for sure, so I’m hoping to enable it to become something over the next year or so. I have no idea what to do with all my leftover yarn from previous projects though – there isn’t enough for a garment, so… what? A crochet blanket that consumes leftovers as they come? Donate them to someone? Hit me up with your suggestions!
Hope you’re all keeping safe and lockdown isn’t driving you crazy 💜
Until next week ✌🏻
Next week on the blog – not something I can really use right now, but we made a money belt to take to craft fairs we hold stalls at! 🛍 Subscribe below to have the post drop straight into your inbox 🙌🏻