Ashland jumper

Hey friends, in my ongoing mission to catch up with my summer (and now also autumn) makes on all my platforms, I thought I’d show you one of the sweaters I finished over the summer. The photos were taken on a dreary, rainy autumn day and, as you might be able to tell, but I’m going to roll with them anyway cause this sweater has been waiting too long already. So here we are with Ashland from Julie Hoover, originally published in Brooklyn Tweed Fall 2015.

I jumped right into knitting my Ashland jumper after I knitted Unst. Just when I said that -maybe- I should stay away from doing colourwork all-overs for a bit. Of course I can’t help myself and instantly picked this jumper as my next project. What can I say; I love colourwork and I wear it all the time, so apart from maybe making a problem of this myself  -I am very good at that- knitting more colourwork is not actually a problem. Ashland is not an all-over like Unst or Windermere was, it is a lot less involved, and perhaps a more relaxed take on the fair isle allover. There is still a lot of stranded knitting though, uh well…all over, so I feel that it counts.

The pattern recommends switching needle size between bands of colourwork and plain knitting and when I first read that I nearly fell of the couch…that is a lot of switching between needle sizes! My first thought was ´bollocks to that´. But because we all need some confirmation from our knit posse on important decisions once in a while, I did a poll in my instagram stories explaining the situation at hand with the question: what would you do?  When the poll had just been up for an hour an overwhelming majority had voted for switching needles, which made me doubt my own judgement to be honest. A day later though the tables had turned and a clear majority thought that life was too short for this. I still wonder how many people would actually follow these instructions. Especially knitting the sleeves on DPN’s would be a particular pain in the neck to switch needles every row, wouldn’t it? I mean I know gauge is important, and everything, but so is joy in knitting, right?

I used Rowan Valley tweed as the main yarn (the colourway is Wold’s Poppy). It is a new-ish yarn from Rowan, a 100% wool tweed yarn, that I think was meant to replace the 100% wool tweed yarn that they did away with a year or two ago when they culled a large chunk of their yarn range. I don’t think they are very similar though: the previous was a traditionally spun, soft, single ply, thick-and-thin tweed whereas this tweed feels much more sturdier, is plied and has lost the thick-and-thin effect. It feels lofty and more hard wearing than it’s predecessor. Maybe it has lost some of the fluffyness/ nubbyness and tufts that you expect from a classic tweed. Another difference is that the Valley tweed comes in 50 grams skeins with a generous 207m yardage. In theory this makes the yarn more economical, but the bountiful portion size can be an issue when you are planning to do colourwork. Finally, while I was knitting with it I did wonder whether there was still some oil from spinning on it, not as much as in some of the cones I’ve knitted with but I did think there was still something there. Could be just the batch I had though. Personally I don’t really mind, and it washes of easily with a soak, but I thought I’d mention it in case it’s a deal breaker for you.

I really loved working with this yarn. Surprisingly much even, as I was a bit on the fence about the plying when I saw some of the close up photos of the yarn online. But now I’m sold. It is a lofty yarn, softer than similar weight yarns such as Shetland wool, but it still feels hard wearing. I think it knits up beautifully, and because of the plying the stitch definition is much more even than from a classic single ply tweed.  What’s not ideal for colourwork is that the colour palette is a bit limited though, especially when (again) compared to Shetland wool. Rowan did add a few more colourways in September, including a much needed light colourway, with the release of the A/W collection. So it’s already better now than back in the summer when I knitted this project, and who knows perhaps they will expand the range more in the future.

After I picked the main colour for the sweater I picked two ancient Lang yarns tweeds from the deep stash for contrast colours. I initially bought these years ago to make a hat with that I planned to gift to someone, but that ended up not working out at all. The Lang yarn is a single ply tweed and much more similar to the old discontinued Rowan tweed than to the valley tweed, so I wasn’t sure whether it would work out when combined. I think when I just started knitting the idea that you have to stick to the same yarn in one project was drilled into me to the point that I maybe am a bit too conservative in this aspect. I think designers like Stephen West are turning that around these days and it’s inspired me to try to to this more as well, albeit in my own way. At the same time it’s a good way to use up some of the odds and ends in my stash, and make use of what I have. I decided to go with two neutral colours to complement the vibrant main colour.

Now, want to hear that joke about the knitter who knitted an entire sweater body and sleeve and then discovered she knitted one of the repeated colourwork bands entirely wrong? Yeah, ha ha, that was me. I found out when I had a bad fever and I just kept staring from the chart to my knitting trying to figure out what was off. To be honest, apart from just being a bit baffled that it happened and I only found out when I practically finished the sweater, I don’t mind it at all. I don’t think most people notice, and I think it looks pretty cool. If you are curious it is the second band from below, the extended bits of colourwork should be alternated while mine just mirror each other. Anyway it’s a design feature now!

I did intentionally narrowed the neckline a bit. The neckline in the original version is quite wide and a bit similar to a boat neckline, which isn’t really my thing. The pattern has since been reworked for a different new yarn that came out, but this was after I had already started my project with the first version of the pattern so I can’t say if the new version of the pattern makes a difference for the neckline. To make the neckline a bit narrower I bound off less stitches and I think I also decreased less but I can’t remember exactly.

Okay, now for some uncomfortable talk. Around the time I was knitting this, some not so nice things about the pattern’s company were emerging. Some of their old employees have started to speak out, although they don’t feel like they can talk entirely open about it. These are people that I admire and the things that they said and hinted towards have left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Additionally, this summer A Verb for Keeping Warm has spoken out about the a couple of things with regards to one of their yarn concepts being stolen by the same company that published this pattern. The concept-theft was to the letter, even down to the very farm where AVFW sourced their yarn. It resulted in AVFW having to end their yarn line. Furthermore, one of this company’s other new yarns has a name that I feel culturally appropriates a place that has nothing to do with the yarn. Neither the fibre content, way of spinning, yarn weight or place of origin of the yarn have any relation to said place. I have little patience for cultural appropriation, and feel particularly miffed about the reply they gave to the people that called them out for it. I guess the relatively short period in which I became aware of this amplified my feelings about these separate issues and my combined thoughts about it. I’m also aware that I hold this company to a high standard, higher perhaps than some other brands, because they have been the darlings of the indie yarn world for a long while. I’m not really sure where I want to go with all of this, I’m still trying to make up my mind about it and where I want to go with this company in the future. They work with a lot of independent designers and amplify their work, which I think is an excellent thing. I also think they do some other very good things, particularly their diversity in representation of their models, their pattern quality is mostly to a very high standard and their appeal to modern knitters is undeniable. I think they have attracted a new audience to knitting over the years of their existence. I also think that in principle, the values they proclaim are admirable and are similar to my own. It’s just a bit sad to see that in practise, it doesn’t always work out the way they preach. I haven’t made up my mind yet, and tbh I also don’t know if this is the hill I want to die on now, given all else that is going on in the world at the moment. Thoughts?

If you are still with me after that last bit of rambling I’ll just end by saying this was a lovely project to knit on. The pattern was well written and I like the finished sweater. The colours really speak to me and fit well into my wardrobe. I also like that this is a pattern written with steeks in mind: my love of steeks in colourwork is well documented, so this pattern was a nice break from me having to do the work of calculating them into a pattern. I’d also say that this is a nice and easy introduction into knitting all overs. The pattern bands are easy to memorize, there is only one row that has you work three colours, while all the others are two colours, there is a lot of plain knitting in-between, and for those who find adding steeks a bit daunting this pattern has already done so for you. It’s a more relaxed take on the allover, and might let you test the waters before committing to a more complicated and more time consuming colourwork allover.

Speak soon!

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