Thought I’d finally come around and blog about that sweater that I’ve been talking about for months now. What an epic project Windermere turned out to be! It took a long time to knit, mostly because I knitted it during one of the most intense years of my life, made mods, and took pauses to work on other things in-between, but still it was one humdinger of a project! It being an all-over fair isle design, with a boxy oversized shape and needle size 3, meant a lot of meters to knit. I finished her in August, but it was way to warm to warm to go outside and take pictures of a woollen sweater (oh knitter woes!) and after that, test knitting feather and fern and with all the craziness that is the rest of my life, I actually kind of forgot that I still needed to blog her (for shame!). Anyway I got my act together and here she finally is in all her glorious woollyness!
I know that I have been working on this project for a while, so I may be repeating some things here, but I thought it would be best to make this post as complete as possible. So Windermere is from Marie Wallin’s collection Lakeland, the second collection she published after going independent from Rowan. Windermere immediately caught my eye, and I knew I wanted to knit it right away, but you know how it goes with life, and a sizeable queue of other must make knits.
The yarn is Jamiesons of Shetland’s Spindrift. It’s a fingering wool. The main colour is Pine Forest, while the white contrast is Eesit. The pattern calls for Rowan Fine Tweed, which is now discontinued. I think they discontinued it just around the time I decided to make this pattern. While I liked Fine Tweed, the colour range was very small (especially compared to a brand like Jamiesons) and I already had a colour vision, so I was off to look for an alternative. Because I used a different yarn my gauge was a bit smaller than the pattern calls for. Given the massive amount of ease in the pattern, and the boxy shape, that didn’t bother me too much. In fact I had been thinking of going down a size anyway. So all in all, while my version is still oversized and boxy, it is less so than in the original.
I really enjoyed working with Jamiesons Spindrift. While it was my first time working with Spindrift I have used their compatriots Jamieson and Smith loads of times and their jumperweight is comparable. A lot of people used them interchangeably in the same project. The colour range is, like with J&S, enormous and should make any knitter’s, but especially a colourwork knitter’s heart skip a beat. Unlike J&S, Spindrift comes with a host of dainty names, including the Eesit and Pine Forest that I use.
I started this sweater in the beginning of 2016 as written per pattern with a flat sweater construction. I didn’t think I would mind so much stranded purling, but I soon found out that I absolutely did mind, especially if there is a much easier way: knitting in the round with steeks. While I have quite some experience with steeking, it’s a very particular kind of experience; cardigan steeks i.e. cutting into a sweater to turn it into a cardigan. I never steeked armholes or necklines. I was throwing myself in deep on the first try, and to be honest I fudged quite a bit on the spot, so you might come up with better solutions if you plan ahead a bit more, but this is what worked for me.
Of course, there are lots of sweaters in the round without steeks but they have a different shape than this one, so without mucking about the shape, steeks are required to turn this into a knitted-in-the-round sweater. You find these type of steeks in nordic ski sweaters for example. I’ve come across them less often on Ravelry. I think big design houses and yarn brands like Rowan and Garnstudio omit the steeking and just write patterns for these type of design with a flat construction, presumably because their audience is more familiar with such a construction. On Ravelry one of the first designs I’ve come across that uses this construction with steeks for armholes and neck is Tortoise and Hare by Kate Davies. More recent designs that use this construction are Brooklyn Tweed’s Ashland and Dianna Walla’s Ebba design. If you never worked a design with this construction before you might find it helpful to read through a pattern of a design that uses it so you know what to expect when converting a flat design to knitting in the round with steeks. Dianna Walla also has a helpful tutorial on “how to reinforce & cut armhole steeks” which I studied methodically before actually cutting in my sweater.
Now onto what I actually did steeks-wise for this sweater: First I omitted the seam line stitches, when casting on, because you are knitting it in the round and therefore don’t need the extra stitches for seaming. I think I omitted 2 seam stitches per side seam. For the steeks I added 5 stitches per steek, so arms and neckline. As with my previous steeks, I used a sewing machine for reinforcement. I had to re-sew one of the the steeks when I discovered I’d missed one or two ends of yarn, but after that it worked like a charm. Once you pick up the stitches for the armholes it’s pretty smooth sailing. Don’t forget to knit the chart back to front though, as the original is knitted from the cuff upwards, whereas you’ll be knitting from the top down. I just knitted the short rows back and forth. It’s a really short bit and I was too focussed on getting to the finish line to figure out a different way. I had to get used to the short row instructions as they were written in a way that I’m not familiar with, but they worked out just fine. After I finished the shoulder shaping, and cast off the body, I cut open the neck steek and then picked up stitches for the neckband.
To summarize my experience of knitting: even though I feel like this one took me ages to knit up, I really enjoyed knitting on this project from start to finish. I expected to get tired of it towards the end, but that didn’t happen. Instead of shying away from intense fair isle designs it actually made me hungry for more, though in hindsight, does that really surprise me? In fact I’ve already planned out my next big stranded colourwork project! (After I finish up a few smaller projects…)