Unst Cardigan

I don’t think any summer has affected my knitting as much as the last one. We broke through a couple of heat records and it was the driest summer of my life time. It went on for months. It reflected in my crafting; knitting went slow and at times I didn’t knit at all. Documenting my knits came to an almost complete standstill. I posted a couple of WIP photo’s on my Instagram, but if you only follow me on here, you’d be forgiven to think that I had sworn off the needles altogether…

Never fear. Eventually the summer did end, and the heat did relent and I started to believe that there would indeed be a time in which I would want to wear knits again (can you tell we had a stupidly hot summer?). With the return of autumn, my knitting has flourished again and in turn I also started thinking about documenting my makes again and well here we are.

I thought I’d start with my Unst cardigan, as this has been finished for a long time. I knitted the bulk of this at the start of the year and finished the knitting in april. Yeah, I know that’s been a while. I though I’d get it photographed and posted in the same month, but then spring decided to skip this year an we were catapulted in a scorchingly hot summer -if I just keep mentioning this the weather might get the hint and we’ll get a normal summer next year, right?-. Anyway, after it became clear that it would be a while before I could go out to photographed this project, let alone wear it, I really dragged my feet with all the finishing bits, i.e. sewing on buttons and weaving in ends. Normally I make myself do this right away, but what is the point when it’s so hot that the only thing I want near my body is a bag of ice, right? So those last finishing touches only got done towards the end of the summer.

Unst was published in a collection of patterns called Shetland by Marie Wallin at the end of last year. It was in collaboration with Jamieson’s of Shetland, and it was Marie’s first (and so far only) pattern collection where she ventured away from her more familiar Rowan yarn waters. The entire collection consists of stranded colourwork garments and accessory designs inspired by Shetlands rich fair isle tradition, to which Marie has added her own particular flair. The collection was photographed in Shetland which provides a stunning background to the colourful designs. Naturally/Predictably, when it was published I promptly added the entire book to my Ravelry queue.

The garment designs are a mix of different types of constructions. The Unst cardigan and some  of the others are knitted flat and in pieces, there are a few that are knitted in the round and there is one cardigan that has a steek. Marie notes that some of the designs knitted flat could be knitted in the round and steeked, however there are no instructions for that so if you want to go that route you are on your own. In the back of the book there is a general “how to steek” instruction which focusses on the practicality of steeking. I really like seeing Marie broadening her horizons since she went on her own as an indie designer. I admire her for including designs in the round and dipping her toes in steeked designs after a lifetime where knitting flat was more of less the default way of doing things. I know there are pro’s and cons to both knitting in the round and knitting flat and I know that there will be always knitters who will prefer one way over the other. I belong to the group of knitters that will always prefer knitting colourwork in the round with a steek over knitting flat (had you noticed?). All that is to say that I’m applauding her for making the effort to offer more of a mix of constructions.

I hadn’t intended to start knitting from this book right away when I got it, but I had just finished a big project, my needles where free and I hadn’t decided on something new yet, except that I wanted it to be a cardigan. Then this book landed in my mailbox and it just sort of happened, okay! Unst was my favourite design right away and I thought it’d be a great design to play around with colours for a bit and see how a multi colour all-over would suit my knitting and garment taste (spoiler alert: I’ve since started and almost finished a new one).  

Unst is knit flat in pieces though, and if you want to knit it in the round, like I did, you’re going to have to do a bit of work yourself. I put in 5 steek stitches for the centre opening, 5 for each arm hole and 5 for the neck opening. You could also steek the shoulder caps if you want, but I didn’t do this for Unst. I just knitted back and fort, but I tried shoulder steeks for two later garments. You might also want to change the pattern placing or centre the patterns or do a mock seam at the sides – all of which I didn’t do. I can understand the attraction of mock seams, but I thought it was unnecessary.

I had recently knit Windermere, another design by Marie Wallin. Although the pattern was designed for Rowan yarns, I had knit it in Jamieson’s of Shetland just like Unst, so I used Windermere as my gauge swatch. The gauge was spot on – or so I thought. It appears that my gauge is a maybe a smidge tighter when I knit with more than two colours, so the cardigan has a little less ease than intended, judging on the photos on the model. Mine is still definitely wearable though and I don’t mind the difference.

Speaking of colours – there’s quite a few colours to pick for this pattern. There’s eleven colours in the original pattern, and I picked twelve. Why? I like playing with colours. I started off with replacing the two ‘main colours’ -insofar as the colours of the hem and button band can be considered main colours- with two of my favourite shades of Jamieson’s: Rosewood and Cosmos. I let these two set the mood for the cardigan and began replacing the other suggested colours with colours to fit, beginning with replacing the original pinkish shades which were not really my colours from the get-go.  I ended up with a palette that I thought had a great, muted tone, but missed a contrast. That’s why I added a skein of white Eesit to give some of the bands a bit more punch. I didn’t really have a planned placing for this colour and sort of added it here and there whenever the mood struck.  All in all, I couldn’t be happier with the resulting colour scheme! It feels very me and fits very well into my wardrobe. I got quite some messages about the colours on instagram en ravelry already, and inquires about which colourways I used. This weekend I’ll add all the colours I’ve used to my Ravelry project page here, so you can have a look at what I did.

Just a heads up about the buttonholes: The ribbing is done in corrugated ribbing and the buttonholes are made with yo’s and k2tog’s, which usually works fine for me. The corrugated ribbing though is a bit tighter than normal ribbing so you might want to keep that in mind when making he buttonholes. Mine are definitely a bit smaller than usual, though it works for the buttons I picked out. Next time, I might change something here to give the buttons a more easy pass.  

The fit of this cardigan very much resembles a well worn fair isle retail-wear cardigan that I own. The style of that cardigan always reminded me a bit of vintage all-over cardigans, it’s a bit fitted and on the shorter side and I wear it a lot with the buttons undone over dresses. It’s old now though, I’ve worn it a lot and it shows. The colours have faded it a bit and I’ve long lost at least one of the buttons. The fibre mix was of course never wool, as women’s retail clothing and for some reason (I know the reason) seldom is, but a mix of cotton, viscose and polyester. The reason I’m mentioning this is that this is one of my favourite and most worn clothing items and for the longest time I’ve had my heart set on making a similar, but improved version myself, to wear along side the old one. With better fibre content and colours that are more “my colours” I feel like I’ve now done so and I will admit that doing this, and making my first multi colour all-over feels a bit like a milestone and I am a wee bit proud.

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this cardigan and my first all over. The process wasn’t half as daunting as I had talked myself into believing. It was great fun seeing all the colours come together and seeing it take shape in front of my eyes. This is definitely not the end of my colour juggling days and there will be more in my future. The Shetland collection is one of my favourite books that was published last year, and possibly one of my favourite collections ever. This will not even be the last thing I make from this collection.

See you soon,

4 thoughts on “Unst Cardigan

  1. Your cardigan is just beautiful and I like your notes on how to knit MW's patterns in the round. I am planning to knit Vanessa next year and it's knitted flat, something I am not looking forward to. So maybe I will try to knit it in the round, I think it's just that I am thinking it will be difficult but maybe it isn't. So your notes really help.

  2. Thank you Aranka! Vanessa is such a beautiful pattern! Glad my notes are of use, if you need any help when working on it, don't hesitate to pm me. Overall I think the steeking is a lot less daunting when knitting than it seems before you cast on.

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