Orkney’s Second Winter

Hey Makers,

I hope this last month of the year is treating you well. I’m enjoying these frosty days and witnessing the change of autumn to winter. Autumn held on long this year, and while most trees have now lost their leaves they held on exceptionally long (it even made the news here!). While most trees have barren branches these days, and some swapped their leaves for twinkle lights, my balcony tree has only now started to turn yellow and letting go of her leaves!

I thought this would be a good time to squeeze out a post and finish my unintentional series of catching up with the previous autumn/winter’s projects. I knit this Orkney cardigan in the autumn last year, and finished her just before the year’s end. I posted quite a few progress photos and updates on my instagram at the time but never followed up with the finished thing. Reasons for that are mostly the same as what happened with the Riddari sweater I made: in other words, my move and my cat’s illness drama that happened around the same time. So it is time to put my memory muscles to work to remember the details of this project and then I will be, dare I say it, up to date with all my big knitting projects!

Orkney had been in my queue for ages, ever since it was published in Rowan’s Autumn-Winter magazine back in 2012. Back then I thought the design was gorgeous but felt too intimidated to start knitting it. Even when I had substantially more colourwork under my belt and had confidently made my first allover I was still a bit daunted by it. After I finished both Windermere and Unst however, I really couldn’t come up with any excuses as to why not to cast it on. So I made the decision to, at last, go for it (imagine Etta James singing accompanying this post at your own leisure).

In regards to the colours for Orkney, I had a different approach than I had with  Unst where I overhauled the entire pattern palette. For this cardigan I used some of the same or similar colours that are also used in the pattern, and only changed those that weren’t speaking to me. Partly this was because I used stash yarn, originally bought for a different project and wanted to work with what I had as much as I could. Another reason is that felted tweed has a more limited colour palette so there are less colours to play around with to begin with.

I used 13 colours, as did the original design. However, I swapped some colours here and there in the patterning for various reasons. Sometimes it was because I preferred a different colour in that motif or I wanted to go for a different mood. Once I swapped a colour because I was afraid I would otherwise run out of one of the ribbing colours (it was a close call, but didn’t happen). Once it was because I was knitting in a darkened room while watching a film and found out that I used a wrong colour in one of the pattern bands – I like living on the edge with my colourwork! Since I liked how it looked (and to be honest, the colour I was supposed to use was very similar) I just finished the colourwork band like that.

This was the first time I used Rowan Felted tweed. I can hardly believe how many years of knitting it took me to get to this yarn, which most Rowan fans consider a true workhorse yarn. I am usually more drawn towards yarns with only one fibre or a mix of two fibres, whereas felted tweed mixes wool, alpaca, manufactured fibres/viscose. I do get it now though: this yarn is really nice stuff, it feels great and knits up beautifully. If you have a sensitive skin, you may well get a lot of enjoyment out of a yarn like this.

Downside of this yarn is that it has a smaller colour palette (although, for Rowan yarn line standards it is almost a big range), much smaller than other renowned colourwork yarn brands such as those from Shetland, Iceland and Norway. Felted tweed also has a more muted colour palette, so if your into colours with more of a bang you might struggle to get a nice selection here. I wouldn’t really call the colours super heathered, but the tweediness gives it a beautiful and more complex effect. I feel the overall colour range leans more towards pastel colours (there is one true red, where there are at least 5 different pink colours). Because of this, and because I limited myself to largely use what I already had, I had a harder time to get my colours to spark when used in combination and sometimes feel that the overall effect dulled and washed out the colours a bit. One of the interesting things about this pattern is that sleeves and body have different patterning and use different colour combinations. Instead of mirroring each other, they echo each other, which made playing around with colours even more interesting. It equally made it harder to go wild with colours cause the colours need to work together on a larger colour range and the overall effect needed to be cohesive.

I did like knitting with the yarn and I think some of the colours are really beautiful so I can see myself using this yarn again in the future. I have quite a lot of leftovers so I will use those at some point anyway. But largely because of the more limited palette, and colour focus I don’t think this will ever become a huge workhorse yarn for me.

The cardigan is worked flat in the pattern but as I usually do with colourwork garments that are worked flat, I converted it to be worked in the round. Orkney was no different, I put in steeks for the centre opening of the cardigan, the armholes and the sleeve caps. I put in 5 steek stitches per steek.

I went up an needle size and went with needle size 3.5 and 4 instead of the recommended 3 and 3.5 needles.  Additionally I went up a size from the regular size I wear. I extensively read the project notes on Ravelry and almost all of them either mention that they increased their size because they were cautioned for it or people saying they wished they did. In any case, with such a strong consensus that the cardigan was a bit snug in its sizing, I followed suit. After Unst I wanted to make an allover with more added ease for a different fit, so I’m happy with my decisions to achieve this.

One of the things I often do with Rowan and Marie Wallin patterns is to make a paper copy of the chart which I then colour in pencil as I go along for a smoother knitting experience. I do this with any colourwork pattern that has black and white charts and recommend doing this if knitting from symbol charts bothers you. If these charts are the reason you never knitted a Rowan pattern for example, this is a small “trick” that will perhaps make it a lot more accessible for you.

I added a ribbed button band, because I prefer that look. I thought it a shame to break up the fair isle patterning with buttonholes and buttons. I went back and forth a bit whether to do it in corrugated ribbing, like the neckband, sleeve and hem ribbing. In the end I wend with a single colour rib band, again after comparing some projects on Ravelry.

One of the good things about posting about a project after you’ve finished it for a good few months is that I have a more complete insight of how this cardigan works in my actual life. A year onward, I can more easily identify some of the aspects that I would do differently were I to make this cardigan again. So, one of the things I would change is the neckline shape. I didn’t noticed this in the pattern photo, because it’s worn open at the top, but it is more open than I anticipated and also more square. Anyway it is not a huge problem, but it doesn’t combine as well with with some of the stuff in my wardrobe so in a redo I’d change that for a round neckline. I would probably also lengthen the garment a smidge. The current length is neither cropped nor normal/regular length but sits somewhere in between that. Don’t get me wrong, these are relatively small things that irk me a bit at times, but I’ve been wearing it a ton nonetheless.

So, there we are. All the knits that had been waiting in the wings are blogged, ravelled and out on instagram. On the one hand it feels a bit weird to no longer have this list of knits that I still needed to post about in the back of my mind any more, but I’m mostly relieved to have them done. I’m not super hung up on instantly putting my makes online or only counting them ‘done’ after I have -ha, as I amply have proven over the past year- but it is nice to share them with you all (I mean, otherwise what is the point of me having this blog?) and I know some of you had been wondering about the WIPs on my instagram, so here they are.

Pattern: Orkney
Designer: Marie Wallin
Source: Rowan Magazine 52
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed
Enjoy the fairy light season!

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