I was seventeen years old in 1999 when Air Canada dropped me into the sweltering humidity of a small Ontario university town where I would study architecture… in preparation for becoming a hand-knitting pattern designer, of course. I was pretty certain I was grown up, and knew everything I needed to about the world. This is, of course, hilarious looking back.
Chantal was 20, super cool and oh so worldly, having worked and traveled around Europe the year prior. A long-legged blonde, she wore a yellow rain coat and jumped in puddles with a contagious crazy-eyed exuberance. So I followed her around like a puppy, overawed, and we became friends. Over our university years, we shared a dim room in Rome, a walk-up in Montreal, a lovely two-bedroom in Toronto, a hot little townhouse next to the tracks in Cambridge Ontario, and had many wacky adventures. Though we haven’t lived in the same city for over a decade, we still talk every month or two.
When I was getting married in 2014, Chantal landed in Edinburgh, and took over my unrealistic project to design and sew three bridesmaid dresses (WTF did I think I was doing?!). She calmly consoled me when, 72 hours before the wedding, I concluded amid floods of pregnancy-hormone-fueled tears that NO, the wedding dress I was attempting to construct WOULD NOT work. Luckily 2 hours of shopping later the tears were dry and I had a dress I loved.
That was 5 years ago! Since then I’ve wanted to make her something special, a gift that would show at least a fraction of the love and work and time that she’s put in over the years. This sweater was the result. Full disclosure? I made this for her in May 2018 when she visited Scotland, and it’s practically an entire year later and I only just shipped it last week…
This sweater is a Strange Brew yoke. I followed the bottom-up sock weight instructions, thought I made body and sleeves on the knitting machine to save time. After yoke join, I had 344 sts on the needles. I diverged slightly from the Strange Brew recipe by working raglan decreases (at the points where sleeve sts and body sts joined) 3 times, decreasing the stitch count to 320. Then I set up the 8-st pattern repeat.
As this was a ‘knit’ rather than a ‘design’ I felt free to pick from my rather large palette of 4-ply yarns. The body is Tukuwool Fingering, which is this LOVELY Finnish yarn, available in a great palette. I hoped this sweater would be be a hard-wearing heirloom (it’ll probably be another decade before I make Chantal another sweater). I selected contrast colours from within my extensive collection of shetland and shetland-style 4ply yarns, and they all work nicely together.
I used several yarns and colourways:
- Tukuwool Fingering in: 14 Joku (MC), 15 Murai, 8 Taate
- Jamieson & Smith 2 ply Jumper Weight in: FC55, 43, 28, 122, 71, FC6
- Uradale Yarns Organic Native Shetland Jumperweight in: Tormentil Heath (literally the best golden EVER)
- JC Rennie’s Supersoft Lambswool 4 Ply in: Shamrock Shake 1298, and Scarlet 1754
I had this idea of 2-toned motifs, that worked against 2-toned bands of background colour. I staggered the changes, so that the foreground motif colours change on a different round than the background changes. This worked pretty well, the only part of the pattern that didn’t really read as clearly as I liked was the two colours of light pink in the middle; they’re too similar to read as two different tones, and the background colour ought to have changed out a round earlier. But this was a level of imperfection I could accept in a ‘strange brew’ sweater knit. I accept that I’m never going to get it 100% perfect, and trying to do so would prevent me from getting to FINISHED.
At chart completion, the stitch count was 240 sts. My aim was to get to a neckline stitch count of 128 sts. Right after the chart was finished, I first I worked a single round in MC, then a decrease round [k3, k2tog] around to 192 sts.
Next I found centre back, and worked some short-row back of neck shaping. I used the short-row instructions from the Icefall pattern, following instructions for the XL size, as it had the stitch count nearest to my total at that point. After short-rows, I knit another couple of rounds, then a final decrease round; [k1, k2tog] around, to 128 sts. Lastly I worked a narrow band of 2×2 ribbing and blocked it all aggressively! Beauty eh?
Overall, I worked about +/- 52 yoke rounds, then the ribbing. That’s pretty close to what the Strange Brew recipe pattern calls for for a SM (37” bust) size.
So tell us, have you knit a friend a sweater? Or a hat? What do you love about gift knitting?