Autumn Oregon Fair Isle Cardigan

Excited to show you this most woodland-y of allovers that I have been working on! These photos were taken on a chilly March day in that perfect transition of winter to spring. All trees are still barren but the promise of early leaf buds are there and while most ground life still needs to wake up, the odd woodland daffodil in a sunny spot amongst the tree roots reveals that spring is not far indeed. I felt right at home skipping along the muddy paths to admire moss patches, tree bark and birds singing amongst the branches in boots, woollen shawl and my dark tree patterned handknit cardigan.

The cardigan is knit in the round in stranded colourwork with a steek at the centre-, and sleeve openings. It features corrugated ribbing at the cuffs and hem and at the V neckline and button band. The sleeves are picked up from the armhole and knit top down, which, despite its advantages, is not my favourite and most intuitive way to knit fair isle sleeves.

Alice Starmore designed the cardigan in the 90’s after a visit to Oregon in spring, she later added an autumnal colouring for the same pattern following visits to the state in September and October. The pattern uses no less than 17 colours to bring that woodland vision to life! The spring colourway uses a selection of cool greens, dusty and vivid pinks and bright blues. The autumnal version uses a selection of moody dark blues and purples on the background and rich hues of yellows, orange, warm reds and greens for the abstract leaves and fir trees colourwork.

I’ve long wanted to make this cardigan, or pretty much any Starmore pattern really, but this cardigan specifically. The colours and woodland theme just speak to me on every level. There are multiple reasons why it took me so long to get to work on the design. There is a level of confidence, experience and skill that make take on a project like this easier. There is the time investment that goes into a project like hers, and the matter of timing that follows from that: it’s always/never the ‘right’ time. Then there is the fact that not all Alice Starmore patterns are easy to come by: many of her incredible books are out of print and she doesn’t sell single patterns. She does sell kits for her patterns which include the pattern and her (beautiful!) yarn. However that means you are tied completely to a fixed set of colour choices, which… ahem…I’m bad at. Plus, they are a huge monetary investment (for shipping to Europe even more so with the added costs since Brexit). For this design I had for years planned to get the kit at some point as the colours are just so perfect and beautiful, however the added cost since Brexit, which in part are unknown costs, made the gamble just too big and since I already had the pattern from an old Vogue magazine I decided to stick with that and buy yarn separately.

Since many of her patterns and books are out of print getting any of them can be quite an adventure and takes time… sometimes, a lot of time, and even then you can still be out of luck. The books that are out there often sell for a hefty price tag (if the seller knows what they have). So the patterns that I do have have been collected over a long period of time and many hours of scrolling and strolling through second hand stores. I guess it kind of went nicely in tandem with slowly gaining more experience, skills and confidence.

As with many projects, because of Starmore’s reputation and my admiration for her work, I had built up making this to be much bigger, more technically complicated than it actually was before I started it. In the end when I did start it turned out to be ‘just another’ colourwork allover like I’ve done many a times before, really no difference. Like many of these projects that I built up to be bigger in my head then they actually are, the process of making them turns out to be very similar to literally other project I’ve done before. I hope my brain makes a note of this somewhere next time I find myself dragging my feet with a project cause I’m too intimidated by the monster I created myself.

I used Shetland wool to replace the Hebridean 2 ply. I have used both in the past and they offer similar qualities as well as beautiful, rich, heathered yarn colours which suit this pattern perfectly. I used mostly Jamieson’s Spindrift with some Jamieson & Smith 2ply Jumper Weight. Since using different yarns I couldn’t pick the exact same colours as per pattern but I stuck pretty close to the colour theme of the original autumn Oregon. So there are little differences but I’d say the cardigan I ended up with, while different, is a close sister to the original. It’s sort of unusual for me to stick so close to the given colouring, I like the freedom to play around and make a good colour match for me. But the Autumn Oregon basically is my ideal colour palette already and with its moody and complex shades of blues, greens, purples, browns and beige and it’s warm ochres, reds and rusty oranges, it has all the colours I love and gravitate towards.

I picked this selection of the bat and almost went with it entirely except for one colour. I first had a more lavender purple amongst the lot (in accordance with the pattern) but I really didn’t like how is looked and gelled with the other colours and it kept pulling me out of it so I frogged it and replaced it with the warmer plum purple hue which fits much better I think.

Another reason why I wanted to use Shetland yarn is that it meant I could replace colours with partial and full balls I still had in my stash. A nice way to use up stash yarn for sure, but the main reason why I did it was to suppress the cost for this project somewhat. This cardigan uses many balls of yarn of many different colours, much more than any of the allovers I made so far, and honestly comes with quite the price tag. Obviously using stash yarn doesn’t mean the project actually costs less (I’ve had to pay for that yarn at some point in the past) but it did make the project a lot more accessible to me and reduced my present day expenses for the project by half, which was enough for me to finally take the plunge.

Using stash mixed with new yarn also meant that I was almost inevitably going to mix up different colour baths. Now when you are new to knitting, lesson #1 in terms of yarn choices is to absolutely not mix up different colour baths, and with good reason (one of my early jumpers turned out noticeably colour blocked, because one skein came from a slightly lighter bath). However I’ve long wanted to experiment with breaking this rule for fair isle allovers. Wondering if the smaller colour bands might let me get away with bending rules I otherwise wouldn’t dream of. Spurred on by the heavy costs of this project I decided that the time to experiment was now.

Since I’m now at the end of the experiment I can tell you how it went and you don’t have to wait months and whispers sweet soothing words to your work in hopes of not ruining it with your dye lot mixing foolishness. When my additional yarn came in I compared them to the balls of the same colourways I already owned. I mixed it and threw it in a big pile with the old stash yarn to see if I could pick them out by eye. Then I compared them side by side and all but one (the light sage green where I could see a slight difference) passed that test too. The difference on the one colour was so small I didn’t think it would be picked up over the stretch of different colourwork bands.

I think fair isle allovers, especially with many colours (as opposed to only 2 or 3) are ideal projects to mix different dye baths in. Even if there are noticeable differences between different dye lots it will be obscured and broken up by difference colourwork bands and invisible in the overall impression of the finished garment. For this reason it might also work in some colourwork yoke designs. All in all I think it worked out brilliantly in this Oregon cardigan and given it’s success here I will surely play around with it more in the future and keep it in mind when planning projects.

This is not an approach I would recommend as a main colour for a single colour garment or even the main part of a yoke body. I also won’t recommend doing it just with just any odd yarn, for example I don’t think hand dyed artisan yarn is suitable for this approach. However, yarns with reliable colours and dye lots are good for this. A few yarns that fit that description from the top of my mind are most Shetland yarns, Ístex and Rauma. It just so happens that I have a lot of partially used balls from those, so I will be using them in a similar way in the future!

The yarn mixing success party is tempered a bit though by the fact that the suggested yarn quantities for this design are absolutely ludicrous. Properly bonkers in a way that I haven’t experienced before with any colourwork nor other type of knitting projects. I get that designers like to be on the safe side with giving yarn quantities so knitters don’t come to sit without, however that carefulness reaches new limits when you let knitters buy almost half the amount more than they actually need. There are colours where I barely used a fifth of the stated yarn quantities, more where I didn’t even use half of it, then some where I barely used over half of the given yarn quantity. Of almost all colours I have multiple balls left, most between 2-3, some almost 2, some between 1.5 and 2. There is none where I have less than one ball of yarn left. This…seems excessive?

This sort of thing also opens up questions about accessibility, especially for the larger sizes. Obviously as I’ve shown you can somewhat mitigate some of the cost by mixing dye lots, and given that I ended up with lots of leftover balls the whole experiment seems mildly ironic now. You could go even further with this and use less colours and mix different types of yarn, but lets just say that when a project already has a considerable price tag it does not help when the designer so dramatically overshoots the yarn quantities. I know this is also an issue with designers who use pricy hand dyed yarn that often comes in skeins of 100 grams and knitters have to break into a 100 gram skein to only use a fraction of it. Given that both the Hebridean and the Shetland come in balls of 25 grams that isn’t even a consideration. Obviously I use Shetland yarn so much that I will find a use for all of these skeins and colours, especially now I broke the ban on mixing dye lots, but it will be something I keep an eye out for in future Starmore designs.

I don’t know how this is in the kit supplied pattern but for the vogue pattern there is no chart for the corrugated ribbing, and the colour changes are not stacked evenly but staggered. I learned I’m definitely a visual inclined person when it comes to these things and I just couldn’t keep it correct. Let’s say the ribbing was so nice I ribbed it trice. In the end (and I should have done this right away) I drew the chart for the ribbing in pencil. I used these pretty red toned darker brown wooden buttons that I think compliments the autumnal colours in the ribbing and colourwork nicely.

After I finished the body, the last stretch of knitting the sleeves and finishing the cardigan was difficult and I struggled with keeping my focus on it. I enjoyed knitting the rest of the cardigan but my mind just wasn’t with it at the final stretch of it. I struggled with a lot of crafts and things in that period and just wasn’t feeling fantastic about anything I was working on. It happens and I doubt it would have been different if I had been working on something else. In fact with my knitting, despite since finishing and starting other projects, I only recently feel I’ve somewhat climbed out of a general bog of meh-ness. This is just how it goes sometimes, and the good thing is that it hasn’t affected my feelings about the finished cardigan. I was unsure how that would pan out but I’ve loved it since I sewed on the last button and put it on for the first time and broke into a smile while looking at myself in the mirror.

The cardigan is perfect and among my favourite things I have ever knit. The autumnal and woodland theme suit me and my interests well and it’s essentially a celebration of my favourite season so it’s perhaps not a surprise that I love it. The colour palette is possibly my perfect personal colour story with it’s rich autumnal shades and moody dark tones and the beautiful Shetland yarn is the perfect vehicle to tell this story with. I’m so glad that I finally went for this cardigan, and in the process found out that it really is not unlike any other allover I have knitted.

I’m sure this won’t be my last Alice Starmore pattern. Apart from the slightly bonkers overcautious yarn quantities I didn’t ran into any oddities or unclear bits in the pattern and I love pretty much all her stranded colourwork designs as well as her work inspired by Aran and traditional fishermen’s sweaters. The cardigan shape and fit suit me and my style well. The fit is almost spot on the same as my Chestnut cardigan which is one of my favourite sweaters, the difference being the inset sleeves vs the drop shoulder sleeves on the Oregon. I’m positive that this cardigan, like the chestnut, will have it’s fair share of forest ramblings, indoor craft sessions and late evening story telling nights and what not, next season. I cannot wait to see it!

During this walk, we met many fallen and uprooted trees. The last leg of winter was marked by formidable storms, especially in February when we had 3 storms within the span of a week that wrecked havoc in the entire country, not just amongst the trees in the forest. It has been quite humbling to see in the following weeks just how much damage was dealt in that period and what a strong force the trees had to deal with. Big and strong trees with deep root system were felled by wind or toppled each other. I met one fallen tree that had such a big root system that some of its roots could have been young trees themselves. I looked like a small goblin standing next to it! It is sad and humbling to see all this devastation caused by this, though I much prefer seeing their end happen like this than when they are felled by humans. In this forest the fallen trees are allowed to stay around and slowly go back to the earth while staying part of nature and fulfilling new roles as homes for insects and mushrooms, the trees that fell in the cities aren’t offered that same grace.

I hope you are all well, thanks for visiting and see you next time! xxx

12 thoughts on “Autumn Oregon Fair Isle Cardigan

  1. Hello Nelson,
    oh how long have I waitet for pictures of this beautiful cardigan 🙂 !!!
    I knew that you finished it a while ago , but did not had the courage to ask for pictures of the garment. It was worth waiting , this is so amazing and ,if I may say this, it is sooo you !!! The colours and the forest themed pattern suits you so well and to me, it`’s like a statement of your love to trees, animals and nature.
    Thank you so much for showing this to us <3
    all the best

      1. Thank you again 😊
        Oh, I love what you do and I’m glad for your Inspiration. I only can repeat myself and I hope you are not bored by my comments

  2. Schitterend vest inderdaad prachtig bosachtige herfsttinten. Goed gelukt het experiment van de combi van garen soorten en ook het verfbad proberen. Staat ook prachtig en zul je zeker met de volgende herfst maar ook nu nog veel plezier van hebben. Mooi beschreven. Sfeervolle foto’s goed passend bij het project. Groet Margot

  3. Hi Nisse,
    this cardigan has become an absolute beauty, and as Caroline says, it is totally you.

    And what a wonderful idea to use Shetland yarn for the Oregan! I too have had this cardigan on my bucket list for ages, but I hated the high cost. And I too have large quantities of leftovers from Shetland Yarn, Ullgarn, Lopi etc. Since I also have the old Vogue magazine you are referring to, I certainly will have a go at it now. Did you post your colour substitutes on Ravelry?

    A bummer, these high shipment costs from the UK, btw. I recently ordered something, only about 25 pounds, but not only was the shipment high, but also the tax and customs. All in all I had to pay more than twice as much. Plus, because of the customs, it took 6 weeks to get to me. While it was in the Netherlands on day 5!

    Keep safe!

    1. Hi Arianne, thanks!

      I haven’t yet uploaded the colour substitutes on rav, but I will do so somewhere in the coming days! Awesome that you’re considering making it too!

      Yes, that’s what I feared already. So sad, I’ve been avoiding ordering from the UK ever since 😞 And I can totally relate to the frustration of knowing your order is so close and still having to wait so long!

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