Wren Yoke Jumper

Hi makers, how are we all? Incredibly, we made it through November and are now in the last month of the year! November was such a wild and overwhelming month to be online with the US elections and their aftermath, and the following bombardment of commercialised and often problematic holidays after, so I’ve not been around as much on the blog. However, we had the first few frost days and winter really seems to be knocking on the door so I thought I would give autumn a last loving embrace for this year by posting about the most overtly autumnal celebratory project I knit this year.

This is the Wren jumper, a Fair Isle yoke designed by Marie Wallin. It’s a variation on the traditional Star-and-Tree yoke design from Shetland. I made one of such yoke cardigans a few years ago and it’s one of my all time favourite and most worn pieces of knitwear. The Wren omits the trees and lets the stars be the central design focus. The two smaller colourwork borders below the main border offer some extra opportunity to play around with colour.

On a happy aside, this design is written to be knit in the round! I’ve knit quite a few of Marie Wallin’s allover colourwork designs which are almost all written to be knit flat, which I then modify to be knit in the round. It was nice to not have to do that extra work. For a stranded yoke jumper it makes little sense to not knit it in the round anyway in my opinion, but the construction still shows up in patterns.

This used to be a paid-for pattern, but earlier this year (I think because of Covid-19, but I’m not sure) Marie made the pattern free. So if you have been on the fence about buying one of her books or aren’t in a position to buy patterns at the moment, this might be a nice design to try and see if the designs and writing style of Marie suit you.

The yarn I used for this jumper is Holst Samarkand, a 75% wool and 25% silk that I bought when it was discontinued a while back. They have a new yarn line, Tides, which seems to be a direct successor to the Samarkand line and as far as I can tell it’s a really close match.

Both yarns have an incredible quality to affordability ratio and come (or came) in quite a big range of colours. The main colour is called Marmalade, which is a muted orange brown colour that reminds me of fallen oak leaves and hazelnut shells. All in all, a very suitable palette for early Autumn!

The yarn has a rustic and woolly look, but because of the silk percentage it is smoother and softer than a woollen yarn. This might make it a good option for those that like the look of wool yarns but have a low tolerance for wool on bare skin. I just used it single, but you could just hold it double or triple to increase your yarn weight options. Because it is a smoother and less sticky yarn I think my decreases are a bit more noticeable, but not enough to bother me.

One thing to note is that while the yarn has many qualities, elasticity and springiness are not among them. If you hold a piece of yarn between your fingers it has no stretch or spring, an effect which is slightly mitigated when knit up, because of the nature of knitted fabric, but even then its stretch is limited. The silk in this base has less elasticity than wool, which affects the yarn as a whole. It’s not a problem, but it’s definitely something you’ll want to keep in mind if you are choosing this yarn for a project. What the yarn lacks in stretch, it makes up for it with its drape, which is excellent. The yarn has a bit of a tweedy quality to it as well with the silk nepps, which gives some more interest and texture to an otherwise solid coloured yarn.

This, like my Tundra jumper, is another project were I limited myself to use only stash yarn and leftovers. I mentioned that the yarn I used for the main colour came from a clearance sale when the Holst Samarkand was discontinued. The contrasts I used were all scraps and leftovers from other projects. While in the Tundra pattern this challenge lead me to improvise with more colours than the pattern called for, in Wren I ended up using less colours than the original! The pattern uses 9 colours (8 contrast, 1 main) mine uses 6 colours (5 contrast, 1 main), simply because those were the scrap balls I could scramble together.

The off white, blue and rosewood are the leftovers from a Stephen West Mystery knit along shawl quite some years ago (I just checked and it was 2013! Eeeeek!). The charcoal black and yellow are leftovers from someone else’s project that I was gifted. I weighed all the contrast balls before I started planning my colours in the yoke, so I could keep my quantities in mind while pairing motives and colours. This revealed a few things that put some limitations on my colour planning and made it a bit trickier.

First, I was one contrast colour short for the 3rd and biggest colourwork band. This was solved by bringing back the main colour back in the yoke as a contrast colour.
Second problem was that I had precious little of the off white colour which I really wanted to use as the background colour to the star motif band. This was “solved” by simply risking it and by not using the off white in any other motives. This was the right call as in the end I made it with less than one gram left!
Third, I had a really small amount of the blue colour (the smallest amount of all the colours). I initially wanted to use it as the band colour for the second band (instead of the stars) and still think that might have looked better but because I needed to have enough left for the bigger star motif I used it as contrast for the small start in the second band.
A final note on the colours in the yoke is that the rosewood and the muted orange main colour had a similar colour value and, especially from a distance, looked almost the same. Because of that I was limited in where I could use the rosewood and ended up using it only sparsely.

My main reason for using fewer colours in this yoke was because I was making an effort to use up more scraps and leftover and using less colours meant repeating more colours and thus using up more of what I had. Additionally, I was quite happy with this colour selection, to me it felt quite cohesive and I didn’t feel the end result would suffer from missing a few extra colour splashes here and there.

I modified the neckline of this jumper. The neckline on the original is quite wide and low, which doesn’t have my preference. I don’t find a wide neckline super practical for layering. So the pattern has you starting the neck ribbing right after the stranded yoke portion, but I knit on for a bit longer in plain stockinette with the main colour instead, continuing to decrease as I went. I ended up with a neckline of 112 stitches, after which I knit the neck ribbing, which I also slightly lengthened. I am happy with the narrower neckline I ended up with, for me it’s the perfect width for this kind of jumper.

The jumper is described as fitted in the pattern. What that means exactly will vary for everyone though, and I think I would sooner call it semi-fitted. After looking at the schematics, I decided I wanted mine to have slightly more positive ease as I wanted to make the most of the drape qualities of the yarn. I cast on for one size bigger than my bust and then slowly decreased to the size I would have picked for my bust. So my jumper, while not super noticeable, has a slight a-line shape. I’m happy with the fit I ended up with, I makes for an easy wearable jumper I think.

Another change I made is make the body portion before the yoke a bit longer. I’m not sure how noticeable it is in the pattern photos (I didn’t see it at first) but the body is quite short. I saw some comments on Ravelry of knitters lengthening the sweater, but decided to see for myself once I finished that portion of the body (before attaching the sleeves). In the end I knit a few centimetres extra.

There’s a big difference in fabric between my project and the sample knit. Holst is a light fingering weight yarn, with an emphasis on light, in contrast to the Baa Ram Ewe used in the sample, which is on the heavier side of the fingering spectrum. In terms of fibre content there is a world of difference too. So as a result the fabric of the pattern’s original looks much firmer and tighter knit than mine which is more airier and lighter. Personally I think it suits the jumper just as well.

The finished jumper reads a bit seventies to me. Partly because the Shetland style yoke cardigans and jumpers were really popular in the 60’s and 70’s, but also because this type of orangy brown just screams that era to me as it was such a defining colour of that time. That said, it equally fits an autumnal palette. During our walk while taking the photos of this jumper I kept spotting leaves that were basically exact matches to my jumper. As you can see I blended in quite well in my surroundings. All I need is to make myself a crown of leaves, improve my banjo skills, find a chestnut spinning wheel and convince the other forest dwellers to let me take permanent residence there as the autumn queen/witch/weirdo. Possibly next year though, as these pictures were taken about two weeks ago and autumn is fast losing its grip and making place for winter.

Stranded yoke designs appear a lot in my wardrobe, but some of them, particularly the lighter ones knit in fingering weight (as opposed to my collection of Icelandic Lopapeysa), are showing wear and tear. Nothing I cannot patch or mend yet, but I’m getting to a point where almost all of them have had or are in need of some maintenance. For over a year I’ve been vaguely planning to knit a new yoke to add in to the mix, but as I’ve no shortage of things I want to knit it just hadn’t happened – until now.

Well, I’m off to make a leaf crown! Thanks for reading and see you all later!

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