Mia’s spring sweater

Continuing with my knitting journey, I discovered a new site, Yarnpond, a hub for connecting knitting and crochet designers with testers and tech editors. I thought the concept was imaginative and I’m always keen to explore innovative approaches to crafting so I decided to find a project to test on this portal.

My chosen piece is called Mia’s Spring Sweater and is designed by Helena @Helfreden. Ever a sucker for a challenge I chose this sweater which is made with stranded colourwork. Many moons ago I took on knitting projects in pretty much the same way as I did when I started sewing. I wanted to try every technique, I wanted to learn all there was to know about knitting. Back in the 1980s, I had a wonderful knitting book, now sadly lost in house moves along the way. The best way to describe this book would be as a sampler pattern collection. It was published by now-defunct Paton’s Beehive and it contained about a dozen patterns all with different techniques. The pieces I can remember included a plain stocking stitched crewneck in a beautiful pale yellow yarn; a piece with cables and bobbles which I see in my mind’s eye had a chunky knit and a white base and the cables and bobbles were done in autumnal greens and browns.

A rough representation of my colour scheme

Picture me as I’m writing – my eyes are closed so that I can see this sweater in my mind’s eye. I was so pleased when I made it and loved it and wore it to pieces. Other items that I remember were lace mohair and a Shetland style cable knit top. I knitted several of the patterns but the design which I think of as “one that got away” was done in colourwork representing the Manhattan skyline. I remember saving myself for this jacket because it looked pretty daunting but unfortunately, I never got around to making it because as I said along the years I lost this booklet and despite the powers of the internet, I’ve never been able to find evidence of its existence. If by some magic, these descriptions ring any bells and you know of this pattern book, please, please, please tell me as I would re-knit any of those patterns today.

Back to today. The pattern comprises multi-coloured flower motifs on a background base. I tried to follow the recommended yarns as I’m not an expert at substituting yet and I wanted to choose a nice colour scheme. However, as I’m wont to do, I made the task difficult for myself with my choice of background. Malabrigo Rios is the recommended yarn, I didn’t want to make it the same as the sample so I spent ages trying to choose another colourway I liked. Eventually going with my favourite teal blue, sea green colour family this colourway is called Indecitas. Unfortunately, the base yarn I chose is really variegated and when I shared it with the designer, she pointed out it might be difficult to find contrast yarns, which in fact, it turned out was true. However, after a bit of hunting around, I chose what I hope will be a successful colour scheme using King Cole luxury Merino as my contrasts. 

I acquired some small circular knitting needles to do the neck on this top-down sweater as it makes it easier to knit the smaller opening.  This pattern gave me my first opportunity to practice short rows since doing them on my sock attempt a little while ago.  I used the ‘wrap and turn’ method (thanks YouTube) to create some shaping in the back which will make the neck fit better.

The extra ‘short rows’ at the centre back neck make it all sit better

Once again I’ve used stitch markers to mark the individual repeats of the pattern. This is something I’ve only discovered since I restarted knitting last year but they are so helpful and it’s so satisfying when you get to the end of each section and you have the right number of stitches left. When using stitch markers over a large pattern repeat, if you make an error you only have to repeat the last section rather than having to rip out the entire row.

Can you see what it is yet?

When I got to the start of the flower I got excited once again, forgetting my increases. I’m always tempted to try and ‘fix’ it without unravelling, but I think in reality you can’t afford to. I think I’d just end up with more problems and not saving any time either.

The design overall uses 3 contrast colours in addition to the background to form a pattern and as you are knitting you end up with different yarns at the back of the work. When you have large spaces between different colours, you end up with a loop of yarn behind the work. I learned a method on YouTube to weave in the ‘non-working’ yarns as I went. This makes the back of the work neater.

This involves picking up and wrapping the unused yarn around the ‘working’ yarn to make sure that it is held in rather than hanging loose.

As I worked my way through the pattern I got a frisson of excitement and nervousness hoping to get it right and then there’s a moment when the pattern starts to emerge and you can see that, yes this is going the way it’s supposed to. I was still uncertain about my choice of colours as while knitting there were points when the base yarn and the ‘contrast’ looked almost identical. Then as I saw my leaves and flowers emerging from the woven fabric – it was such a satisfying feeling.

The finished yoke

I had a very generous timeframe for this sweater – four months in all. Most tests I have done so far give you about three weeks to complete the garment. So I put this down for a few weeks to complete other projects. In the interim, travel restrictions were easing and we decided that we had stayed at home long enough and that we were going to go away for an extended holiday. This meant that I ended up finishing the sweater en route on a road trip around Spain. Travel is back!

I finished the body in the main colour design which was very straightforward, just stocking stitch with a rib section to finish. The sleeves were another set of colourwork. combining the same colours for a leaf motif and some checkered sections.

I finished my sweater with a day to spare and although not able to block it, I think it turned out brilliantly. We were wild camping in a beautiful canyon and my sweater came in handy for the slightly chilly sunrise that we watched near our camper. I managed to complete the sweater as per the pattern with no problems, the instructions are clear and the measurements worked out well apart from some tightness in the sleeves, but I do have full biceps. As a personal choice, I may make the sleeves longer as well as I prefer a full-length sleeve to the 3/4 that this turned out.

Is colourwork knitting something you’ve done or would like to attempt?

Thanks for dropping by,

About Elaine Batiste

I'm a teacher, a lifelong learner, a traveller, a maker, an adventurer and a 'want to do more' kind of gal.

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