A Scrappy Tundra Lopapeysa

Hello everyone! It’s been a rainy week at the Treehouse. Covid numbers are still rising and everything on every news channel still makes me want to scream, but I’ve also been greeted by lots of birds on the balcony, got muddy boots on autumnal forest walks, cast on new knitting projects (!!!!) that I’m excited about, hung twinkle lights in our living room to mark the clocks going back and brighten the darkening days, and as I’m typing this I have a purring cat sleeping against me. So there is a little sliver of light and softness and joy, and it’s what I’m holding on to for the coming months. Wishing these small moments for you too for however long we’ll be in this.

On that wave, I thought I would show you a favourite make of this year that hadn’t made it onto the blog yet. Photographed on one of those aforementioned rainy autumnal walks in which my boots got very muddy. Yes, it rained during taking these snaps but that’s ok – this wool handled it like a champ and I mostly didn’t even notice. I’m getting ahead of myself, lets dive into it:

You may remember me posting about knitting this jumper either on here or on instagram. The jumper was indeed finished quite a bit ago. It’s got the odd honour of having some very peculiar memories attached to it. It was the project I was knitting on on our last big weekend outing pre-covid-19 in Europe days. Those train-knitting and ice rink photos seem like many a world away and I suppose it makes for a bit of a bittersweet momento to look back at. Having this finished jumper to prance around with on a rainy autumn day more than half a year later also could be some form of knitter’s hope and resilience in sad times.(although mostly it shows how mundane things just continue to happen in fucked up times)

The pattern is the Tundra jumper from Weichien Chan aka The Petite Knitter (not to be confused with a designer who uses a similar online moniker who is known for her fat phobic remarks. Weichien frequently gets flack about it, because people regularly confuse the two even though their designs are nothing alike.)

Tundra is a quintessentially Icelandic yoke jumper, both in terms of its construction (in-the-round, bottom up) as in the round colourwork yoke. So of course from the moment I knew Weichien was working on a pattern for one, I knew I was going to knit it. Weichien lives on an island in Nunavut’s Arctic Archipelago and takes a lot of inspiration in terms of colour and patterning from her arctic surroundings. When you go to her website or instagram page and see her photos from life in polar surroundings you can really see how that visually translates in her patterns. I think Tundra was her first sweater design, but since it’s publication more have followed and to me she is now one of the most prolific designers of this style.

I used Istex lett lopi, which probably did not surprise you as it’s my favourite non-fingering weight yarn and I’ll gladly grab any opportunity to work with it. After years of knitting I have many sweaters knit in it and they stood the test of time (and the frequent wear included!) beautifully. Truly, if you are not sensitive to coarser, rustic and woolly wool I cannot recommend it enough. A cool thing that happens when you have a couple of go-to yarns that you use frequently is that you intuitively know what you want from it in terms of gauge and needle size.

I put some extra constraints on this projects in terms of yarn and colour choice as I made it a goal to only use yarn I already had in my stash. For the colourwork yoke I only used scraps and small leftover balls to knit it. For the main colour I picked out a beautiful dark green brownish heather aptly called Moor. Alas I didn’t have the amount of yarn the pattern stated the body needed. Having knit quite a few lopapeysa though, the amount stated seemed a bit over the top. That said, I wasn’t short by a bit… Think 4 balls short of the recommended amount – eek! Since I didn’t have anything else in my stash that did meet the correct yarn quantities and I didn’t want to buy an entirely new sweater worth of yarn I decided to risk it and use the Moor colour anyway.

Because I had a main colour yarn shortage, I added contrast ribbing on the body and sleeve cuffs. Just to make the chances of me making it to the end with the lesser yarn quantity a bit higher. I went with a really dark grey that I had left from an old lopapeysa project.

For the yoke colourwork I limited myself to smaller leftover balls as I think it’s good to sometimes make more of a concentrated effort to use them. Because of this I also decided to use more colours in the yoke, as I wasn’t sure my scraps would make it otherwise. I spend quite a bit of time puzzling colour combos and have quite a few snaps from that period of different selections of colour combos I was trialling. I ended up with a selection of 5 colours (as opposed to the three used in the pattern) one of which was the green main colour, one the dark grey ribbing (which I also used in the yoke) one oatmeal colour, one dark beige and one heather bloom pink.

The fun thing about going this route is that every scrap tells a tale. The oatmeal colour is a leftover from the very first lopapeysa I ever knit (and still wear!). It’s from the Var cardigan I knit back in 2012. The darker beige is a scrap ball from a Riddari I hacked into a cardigan (and sadly consider my least successful Icelandic knit). The dark grey I used for the contrasting rib is a leftover ball from my beloved red Grettir sweater. Finally the soft pink is a remnant from my Northern lights Telja sweater, which I then also used in my Phoenix Feathers Fern& Feather sweater and now used in a third lopapeysa! Surprisingly I still have some small bits left of all of these, granted some of these are really small, but who knows what use I find for them and in what future projects they continue to find use in and further spin their story.

To make sure I did not run out of any of the colours I regularly weighed both my project and the amount left of my contrast colours. This was useful particularly while knitting and planning out the yoke and decide which colours to use for each motif. After the first two/three bands I was certain I was going to run out of colours and had to adjust my colour plan a bit. However doing that (and the heavier decreasing further on the yoke) ensured that I actually have some odd bits left of all the contrast colours. A final note on the colourwork yoke is that there are quite a number of 3 colour rows, though if that puts you off you could also just do them with two colours. I don’t think the colourwork will lose any of it’s effect.

Oddly I also have almost an entire ball left of the main colour. Given that I was four balls short of the stated amount it is safe to say that the suggested yarn quantity (at least for my size) is fairly generous. My stitch gauge was also spot on, my row gauge was a bit smaller (so I knit more rows to get the correct length) so that shouldn’t be the four balls difference. I haven’t seen others remark upon this so it’s possibly the work of yarn gnomes and the knitters’ witches. Having almost one ball left means that I hadn’t need to add contrasting colours to the ribbing, but I don’t mind as it’s a feature I like on Icelandic yoke sweaters and might have added anyway.

I’m pleased with how this little stash & scrap yarn exercise turned out and glad that I was able to make it with the yarn and leftovers I picked out from the start. I think setting some strict limitations made me approach it in a different way and handling quantity limitations with more creativity than I otherwise would. I’m super passionate about all the materials I use in my making, but I also think it is rewarding and important to find a use for your leftovers and scraps…even the really tiny ones. I think people usually think of super stripy colourful projects when they think of scrap projects but a colourwork yoke like this is a good alternative!

The yoke itself turned out very subtle, with its selection of neutrals and that one soft pink. It reminds me of winter’s last breath when it’s still freezing but the first signs of an approaching spring can be observed (which incidentally was also the time I cast on for this project, imagine that!). In terms of colour this yoke also made me break out of my usual ways. I’d normally be inclined to pair a selection of neutral colours such as these with a warm autumnal colour such as gold or rust, or with a pop colour like a darker jewel tone or something bright. However because of my self imposed limitations I had to work with what I had and put together some colours I wouldn’t usually put together like this. It was the only colour combo that I was attracted to of the selections that I made so I decided to go with it. I had my doubts during the knitting process, and had to bond with it a bit before making up my mind, but in the end I’m happy with it.

I’ve ended up with a toasty jumper to skip around in the woods with for, hopefully, many autumn and winter walks to come!

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