Across the Pond Sweater

This past spring, I had the pleasure of test-knitting Alicia Plummer’s Community Cardigan (I wrote a post about my cardigan). Though the weather has been a little too warm for me to wear it, I have been drawn to the way each stitch caused me to slow down and enjoy the pattern I was working. Itching to work a similar pattern, I picked up In Stillness and thought: What if I worked the stitch pattern across the entire sweater?

The concept seemed simple enough, In Stillness doesn’t have waist shaping the way that many of Plummer’s sweaters do so I wouldn’t really need to worry about the textured stitches getting wonky. Once imagined, the next logical steps seemed to be choosing the yarn and then swatching for gauge.

With a small stash, you’d think I would know everything in it by heart. Or that I would have at least been able to acknowledge that I didn’t have a sweater’s worth of worsted weight yarn in there. Still, I recalled a few leftover skeins of Blue Sky Fibers Skyland from last year’s capelet KAL and was determined to make it work (this entailed buying a few more skeins, color was consistent across different dye lots!).

As predicted, it was easy to maintain the pattern across the entirety of the sweater. Other than the texture mod, my only other pattern modification was to increase two stitches on the back following sleeve separation and to skip the other waist increases. In the end, the sweater still fit as predicted by the schematic and I’m thrilled with the result. Still a little too hot to wear, but come winter I think this is going to be another wardrobe staple.

The interesting thing about suddenly taking so many pictures of oneself after a year of avoiding the camera (I didn’t really take pictures of myself while pregnant in an interest of keeping it off social media and in an attempt to maintain a healthy body image), is that it’s forced me to really look at myself again. Honestly, you don’t really realize how vain you are until you’re postpartum and you’re glaring down a pair of jeans that you want to fit again. True, all my pre-pregnancy clothes fit again now, but it’s amazing to go from thinking you had a healthy mindset around your body to realize that you had a healthy mindset as long as your body didn’t change.

Over the last several months, I’ve learned to appreciate each tired face (our kiddo’s got a cold and isn’t sleeping well) a little bit more. This is parenthood. It’s not always beautiful or perfect, sometimes I’m covered in spit-up and sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I have time to knit and sometimes I go a week without picking up my needles. It’s a dance that’s constantly changing, and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Community Cardi

Young woman standing in front of a mirror wearing blue pants and a pink tank top under a grey cardigan.

It’s been a long time since I’ve made anything for myself in the realm of a garment. The reason for this has been twofold: 1) I didn’t want to make something that wouldn’t fit right and 2) I wanted to give myself the space to be patient with my ever-changing body.

Pregnancy is a crazy experience, the closest I can get to describing how you see yourself through the process would be to equate it to walking through a room filled with funhouse mirrors. Even as you accept what’s happening, you’re onto the next mirror which also brings dramatic changes. Then, just when you think it’s all over, you’re out the other side and you don’t really remember what the original mirror actually looked like. Sure, you can compare yourself to photos of what you used to look like, but you still have to come to terms with what you look like now — and even that continues to dramatically change over the next several weeks. I was back in my pre-pregnancy jeans by week 3, but my body still looked weird to me. They say 9 months in 9 months out, but as someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia all my life, I’m not sure exactly how long it will be until I feel as though I’ve truly stepped out of the funhouse.

At first, I thought my first knit sweater would be Puntilla due to its shapelessness. The hypothesis was that the forgiving design would give me time to adjust to my body and that it would fit as my body changes over the years. Then I rediscovered In Stillness and started daydreaming about how elegant it would look paired with one of my work outfits.

As this post is not called “Puntilla” or “In Stillness”, it’s safe to assume that those sweaters are still on my knit list. I have yarn set aside for both: Puntilla will be worked up in two colors of Wonderland Yarns and In Stillness will be worked up in Blue Sky Fibers. In fact, I was debating which sweater to cast on first (the yarn came in at the same time) when Alicia Plummer put out a test call for her Community Cardigan.

Community Cardi was inspired by exactly what the name suggests – the knitting community. The short version of the story is that Alicia was going to release a cardigan version of Justin’s Flannel, and discovered her design was too close to another that was recently released. Over the next few weeks, Alicia solicited opinions and feedback from her Instagram followers and the result is this sweater! Community Cardi is exactly the sweater I needed, something to be lived in day in and day out without fear of baby fluid. The pictures screamed knit me in a superwash and wear me every day, it was all I could do not to beg to be included in the test.

Real talk: the stitch pattern is so meditative I was actually bummed when it was over. I’ve already offered to make a matching cardigan for my husband and am thinking of attempting to make one in child size for our daughter. Usually when I work a pattern I need time before my brain can handle knitting it again. Like Justin’s Flannel, I see myself reaching for this pattern again and again. Surely one can have one of every color in their closet?

I did make some modifications to the pattern to ensure its everyday use: I ditched the pockets and buttons. I’m not a huge fan of buttoning my cardigans and didn’t want the (slight) additional bulk that the pockets would add. In hindsight, the pockets would have been fine, but I’m happy with the final sweater!

Young woman standing in front of a mirror wearing jeans and a blue tank top under a grey cardigan.

Rainforest Mini Gale

A size 2T poncho knit in a heathered dark teal.

Confession time: While I understand that creating a project holding yarn double, triple or quadruple is not economical, I can’t help but love the squishiness of the fabric that is created using the technique. So as I opened my stash hatbox and saw 7 skeins of Knit Picks Stroll, yarn that was originally intended to make myself a sweater, I couldn’t help but wonder at how soft the dense fabric would be if I held enough strands to work the yarn at an Aran weight.

One of the major downsides of holding yarn multiple is that you’re dividing the amount of yardage you have to work with. For example, if I have a skein of yarn with 420 yards and I opt to use it double-stranded in a project, I really only have 210 yards of that yarn to work with. This means that instead of having 1617 yards of Stroll to work with, I would only have about 400 if I were to hold enough ends (4 total) to bump the weight up to Aran. Not a huge problem when you factor in all the little people in my life that I’ve been knitting for lately (although I’ll be honest and say there was a moment where my husband was hoping to get a shawl). After swatching, I decided to make a Mini Gale and got ready to cast on.

Though I admit that many of my projects lately have been larger ones, Mini Gale few off my needles in a matter of days. The pattern was the perfect combination of interestingly mindless and fast, it felt really good to finish it. Other than holding the yarn quadruple, no modifications were made to the pattern (unusual for me I know!).

As I mentioned, holding multiple strands of yarn together is not the most economical way to produce a knit fabric. That being said, it’s a really fun way to use up yarn in your stash because you’re no longer limited to the original weight of the yarn. Holding yarn multiple is also a fun way to create a marled look! If you’ve never held yarn multiple before, I’ve put together a cheat sheet to help you get started (below). Otherwise, hold the yarn together as if it were a single strand and knit as usual.

Starting strandFingeringDK/SportWorstedBulkySuper Bulky
Lace2 strands4 strands8 strands16 strands32 strands
Fingeringx2 strands4 strands8 strands16 strands
DK/Sportxx2 strands4 strands8 strands
Worstedxxx2 strands4 strands
Bulkyxxxx2 strands
Note: These numbers are a rough approximation, make sure to swatch!

You can also combine different weights to achieve a thicker gauge. For example, you may opt to hold 2 strands of fingering weight with 1 strand of DK/Sport in order to achieve a Worsted weight yarn.

Despite having my eye set on specific projects for the skeins in my stash, my eyes are often looking at single skeins and wondering what other color combinations I could create by holding multiple strands together. Some designers even write patterns that encourage you to do this on purpose (ie: Marley, Simplest Baby Blanket)!

Garden Party Flax Light

Fingering weight superwash merino wool with nylon is a reliable base across yarn dyers. It’s a workhorse that you can reach for with confidence regardless of whether or not you’ve heard of a brand before because fingering weight superwash merino with nylon is predictable. Each skein will have more or less the same amount of stretch and bloom when you block it. Each skein will handle textured stitches in more or less the same way and each skein will provide you with a thin but warm garment. What I’m really saying here, is that buying a skein of fingering weight merino yarn is one of the safest things you can do.

Honestly, I think my local yarn store only had the one color of Mitchell’s Creations when my husband and I went in to buy yarn a few weeks ago (actually I don’t think I need to correct how I said that, he enjoys choosing colors!). As I poured over the self striping sock yarn, the Garden Party skeins called to him. It was the first skein he picked up and proudly brought over, know that he was contributing to our hunt for gender neutral baby sweater yarn.

I got back and forth with how easy it is to find gender neutral colors as I think our industry is slightly slanted to those with more feminine tastes. So while I wasn’t reaching for pinks and blues (or whites… I’ve never understood why so many people knit white for babies), I was at least looking for vibrant greens and oranges. When he presented his skein of Garden Party, my initial reaction was “are those really baby colors?”. Me, the same woman who knit a hot pink and black baby sweater for her punk friend. Before he even replied with his “I mean I’d like to receive this so my child could wear it” I realized that my own color biases had set in. Adding the skein to the red one I was carrying, I realized that he was right for the same reason I made the right choice to knit a hot pink and black sweater: the baby doesn’t care.

It’s the same reason so many families probably hold first birthday parties for their little ones who won’t remember who was their or what their cake tasted like. It’s a moment for the parent where they get to see everyone surround the little one that they’ve managed to raise for a whole year. Or in the case of this little sweater, a moment where the parent realizes that you’ve paid attention to who they are as people and want them to know they deserve to be warm.

While I want to say that this is my last flax light for a little bit, it’s such a quick little sweater to crank out and has so many modification options that I can really only say it’s my last one for the immediate future. I have a lace shawl that needs to be finished and a cardigan that needs to be started. I’m calling this one Garden Party Flax Light after the yarn’s color way, the “only” pattern modifications is the addition of Justin’s Flannel texturing (I really need to knit myself one of those so that I don’t steal my husband’s all winter!). Despite the colors being more muted than what I typically reach for, I think this little sweater came out really cute!

A handknit multicolored baby sweater with a waffle texture.

Mars’s Flannel

A mustard yellow sweater wet blocking in a white bathroom sink.
Justin’s Flannel Blocking

While this post doesn’t mark the first sweater I ever made my partner (See: writers block cardigan and Flax), it does mark the first time that I’ve ever used Julie Asselin’s yarn and the first time that Alicia Plummer designed a men’s sweater. Test knitting Justin’s Flannel was so much fun, that I can’t help but see it in every color.

For starters, Justin’s (Mars’s) Flannel is the perfect combination of mindless knitting with a little bit of texture thrown in to keep it interesting. When you combine that with the fact that it’s easy to read your stitches to see where you are in the pattern, this sweater makes for excellent TV, knit night, podcast listening, reading etc knitting. In fact, I had so much fun with it I manipulated the pattern to make a baby sweater for a friend out of fingering yarn (more on that later when it’s finished, also I have it on good authority that Alicia is working on a children’s version as well)!

The next thing I love about this sweater is that it’s actually unisex. While I love Plummer’s designs, I often skip knitting the waist shaping. Though large, Mars’s flannel is a sweater that I could grab and curl up in.

Naturally, even with all my warm and fuzzy feelings I couldn’t help but change a few small details of the sweater. If you like the way the sweater hangs on my partner, you would need to knit the body a total of 16 inches before the ribbing (that’s an extra three inches) and the sleeves 19 inches before adding the ribbing (an extra 1.5). There is also a LOT of positive ease in his sweater, thought it’s been a little while since he’s been measured it’s safe to say that it’s about 5 inches.

Five hanks of Julie Asselin's Nutured yarn in Miel (yellow)
Julie Asselin’s Nurtured in Miel

Speaking of curling up in something, I cannot stress enough how warm and cozy Nurtured by Julie Asselin is. The photo below of my partner shows him in 30 degree (F) weather without a coat. This is particularly noteworthy because he’s from New Zealand and usually has two – three additional layers on compared to what I have. I, as the photographer, am behind the scenes wearing my winter jacket loosely zipped. What a difference! The bloom of Nurtured is also beautiful, meaning that the yarn has an almost felted look to it until it is wet blocked.

One downside of Nurtured is that with the extra warmth comes extra weight. I tend to be someone who knits more with Fingering – DK weight yarns in the interest of my hands and wrists not being the limiting factor while I knit. It sometimes felt like I was knitting with cotton, the yarn doesn’t seem to have a lot of elasticity and the project was heavy. 100% worth it, but worth mentioning because I couldn’t spend a lot of consistent time working on the sweater because my hands needed breaks. Despite this, I would use it again (although I would probably use Nurtured Fine instead, light weight yarn biases and all). Also, doesn’t bother me, but this yarn isn’t machine washable.

All in all, highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern!

A man walking his hound in the woods wearing a yellow textured knit sweater.
Walking on the local snow mobile trail during melt season is the best time to grab a knit sweater.