Hello! Thank you for the taking the time out of your day to stop by and join me for my latest instalment of knit-chat.
It really feels like Autumn is upon us now, doesn’t it? I spent a lovely few days in Edinburgh last weekend, and whilst there went walking in the Pentlands. I know it’s clichéd, but I love the colours of Autumn and seeing the leaves, grasses and bracken change from bright green, to rusty orange, to golden brown fills me with inexplicable excitement and joy. It’s inexplicable because I detest the cold and the dark and obviously, the end of Summer heralds both these things. I guess as a self-confessed house cat, I like having the additional excuses of bad weather and long nights so I can spend more time inside, chain-drinking tea and crafting. Who’s with me?!
What’s off my needles…
Pattern: Fern and Feather by Jennifer Steingass
Yarn: Plötulopi by Ístex in Arctic Blue Heather, White, Ash Heather, Light Forest Heather and Clover Green Heather
Several months ago I was incredibly flattered when Jenn Steingass (AKA the queen of the modern colourwork yoke) asked me to test knit her latest design which was to be featured in the fourth issue of By Hand Serial. The test knit was top secret and it took all of my self-control not to post about it on Instagram because colourwork yoke progress shots are what I LIVE for. Anyway, the pattern was released a couple of weeks ago so I thought I would share a little about my experiences of knitting the pattern and using the Plötulopi, the most Icelandic of yarns.
I love knitting traditional Icelandic lopapeysur and have made several for my boyfriend and my dad, but up until this point I had held off knitting one for myself. This was mainly down to the fit. They can be pretty boxy and bulky, and in my experience, designers focus the majority of their attention on the yoke and don’t spend much time fine-tuning the overall shape of the garment. However, when Jenn sent through the pictures of the Fern and Feather design, I knew straight away that this was a different kettle of fish, and I simply couldn’t resist signing up as a test knitter.
Now before I launch into singing the praises of the pattern, I want to talk first about the yarn I used. Plötulopi roughly translates as ‘plate of wool’, sounds tasty, right?! The name refers to the way the yarn is wound into a flat plate, as opposed to a ball or skein, the reason being is that the yarn is unspun and so comes apart far more easily than your regular spun yarn. I had previously steered well clear of this yarn on account of being a rather heavy-handed crafter. I have a tighter-than-average tension, a tendency to bend any needles smaller than 4mm, and a history of accidentally snapping crochet hooks. All things considered, you can see why I felt that a delicate, unspun pencil roving might not be the yarn for me. However, after speaking to several work colleagues who raved about it, and as my year in Iceland drew to a close, I decided to give Plötulopi a go whilst it was still easy for me to get a hold of.
I have been told that Plötulopi has a higher percentage of lambswool than the other yarns produced by Ístex, and whether or not this is true, it certainly feels softer and has a lower scratch-factor. It took a little while to get used to knitting with it, I had to remember not to tug too hard when unwinding the yarn from the plate, and it was far better suited to the more fluid motion associated with the continental knitting style which I gradually switched over to whilst in Iceland. After washing I really began to see what the fuss was all about. In comparison to Léttlopi (the spun alternative), the swatch was so light, soft and airy. The fabric has a lovely halo and anyone who is a fan of heathered shades will definitely not be disappointed by the range of colours on offer.
Though the sample of the Fern and Feather sweater had been knitted in just two colours, I decided to make the most of the Plötulopi colour palette and create an ombre effect in the yoke section. It isn’t so obvious in my photographs, but I started with white which gradually faded through grey to green. I love the effect of the yarns blending in to one another and seeing as I have a lot of yarn in the contrasting colours left, I would love to jump on the fade bandwagon and knit a whole sweater in this style. Watch this space!
Now, let’s get on to the knitty gritty of the pattern itself. Like many of Jenn Steingass’ designs, the sweater is worked top down which, in my opinion, is good for two reasons. Firstly, you can easily try the sweater on as you go, and who doesn’t love having an early indicator that your sweater is not only going to fit, it’s going to look fabulous. Secondly, it makes for some killer flat lay shots as you work through the colourwork yoke, because, well, Instagram.
As I mentioned earlier, what drew me to this design was the subtle shaping and flattering fit. Jenn strategically inserts areas of short row shaping after the colourwork to push up the back, then adds waist decreases and hip increases to gently tailor the fit. I have always been a tad skeptical of waist shaping in sweater, at least when knitting for myself. I am proud member of the itty-bitty-titty-committee so sweaters with too much shaping can hang a bit oddly on me, and I generally steer towards straight fitting styles. However, the subtlety of the shaping in the Fern and Feather pattern means that, although not immediately obvious, it does make the garment more flattering and comfortable to wear.
In term of the pattern writing itself, everything about the instructions is crystal clear, well set out, and easy to follow. I also found it really quick to knit up, you never have to knit with more than two colours in one round, so the yoke section absolutely flies by. I think I knitted the colourwork up in just a couple of evenings, I honestly struggled to put it down! I really like how delicate the Fern and Feather design is, and unlike more traditional lopapeysa patterns, it isn’t going to run the risk of being mistaken for a Christmas jumper!
All in all, I give the Fern and Feather a big thumbs up for both knitting pleasure, and the look and fit of the finished garment. I definitely recommend you check out the product page on Ravelry too, it’s so lovely to see the design knit up in a whole host of different colour combinations, from striking neutrals to playful brights.
Pattern: Test knit for Wool and the Gang
Yarn: Billie Jean Yarn by Wool and the Gang in Raw Denim
Now this project is a little bit of a sore spot for me, so forgive me if I don’t spend too long chatting about it.
Have you ever agreed to a project knowing full well that, though you may meet the deadline, it will be a stressful, sleep-deprived and unpleasant journey in order to do so? Well, this is unfortunately exactly what happened with this sweater. Let’s just say, I won’t be trying to knit another worsted weight, seamed sweater in 5 days any time soon!
Now, I would hate for you to get the wrong impression, my negative feelings towards this project centre have NOTHING to do with the pattern, yarn or the company. As this pattern is yet to be released, I don’t want to give away too many details about it, but the yarn has a great story. As you may or may not have guessed from the name, Billie Jean Yarn is made from 100% up-cycled denim scraps. How cool is that?! Wool and the Gang teamed up with a Guatemalan-based family business The New Denim Project who transform pre-consumer waste into a gorgeous range of chemical-free, dye-free, sustainable yarns and fabrics.
I really love the thought of knitting with a yarn which is made from a material which would otherwise have been destined for landfill, and apart from a little bit of dye-transfer (which may or may not have resulted in a blue thumb print on the white living room door), Billie Jean is a delight to work with. Like other cotton yarns, it has a great stitch definition and drape, but it also has that distinctive dry feel of denim. The finished object was crisp to the touch and I’m sure the more it’s worn, the more it will soften up. If you want to learn a bit more about The New Denim Project, I definitely recommend you check out the yummy video they have on their homepage right now. Click here to take a look.
What’s on my needles…
Pattern: My Own
Yarn: Shiny Happy Cotton by Wool and the Gang in Nude Pink, Pink Lemonade, Space Black, Naked Blue, Spearmint and Jog Grey
I have made a good amount of progress on my crochet cotton pouf since my last post. There is something incredibly addictive about the combination of candy coloured stripes and a simple stitch! I must admit that my progress did slow down significantly once I had finished working the square section which forms the top of the pouf, and crocheted around all four edges to begin working in the round. I have 240 stitches on the go right now, so as you can imagine one round takes a rather long time! It has been sadly neglected this past week due to the all-consuming nature of the Wool and the Gang test knit, but now that that is done and dusted, I’m looking forward to giving this project a bit of love and attention in the following days.
Phew, that was a long post! Congratulations for making it to the end! I am heading off to Denmark in a few days and *obviously* I’ve already checked out what Aarhus has to offer in the way of yarn shops. Hopefully I will be able to share my findings with you in my next post!