It is finished ... and more importantly I love it.
It has taken me a year - only last week I had a reminder from Facebook with a picture of the yarn dyeing in the pan. At that stage I just loved the colour of the meadowsweet. Then I had the idea that I would see what others colours I could obtain by using additives and overdyeing. So I dyed a trial set of colours and then from that I had the thought of doing a Shetland Yoked jumper. I adjusted the colours slightly.
Then I had to work out how much of each yoke colour I needed. From reading several yoked patterns I made a decision and dyed the colours, these can be seen on the blog post of 3 May 2016.
The next problem was the actual yoked jumper pattern. I wanted to knit the main parts using my knitting machine and then work the yoke stitches by hand. This is the way many yoked jumpers were knitted in Shetland in the past. I decided I would pick up the stitches for the yoke rather than graft a completed yoke to the jumper. So this gave me a number of challenges - matching the machine stitch size and hand knitting needle size and also having a number of stitches from the knitting machine that would marry up with the number of stitches required for the yoke pattern repeat. As it turned out I drafted my own pattern for the shapes needed and used a traditional pattern for the yoke with some variations. All these challenges meant I definitely needed to knit a trial jumper. More with pictures on blogpost of 10 Jan 16.
Once the trial jumper was complete, it fitted well. The yoke 'sat' well and all in all it couldn't have gone any better. I got lots of compliments when I wore it and tried to stop myself saying - 'it's only a practice'! Machine knitters - or is it knitters in general- seem to find it hard to accept praise for what they do. Even though I know how difficult it is to achieve what you set out to achieve by machine knitting! It is a complicated activity but when you get it right the results can be stunning. It is a pity there are still knitting machines lurking in lofts and under beds because people perceived the skill too difficult and gave up. So I was then at the stage of having the dyed yarn and the assurance that the pattern I had devised would fit me and be suitable for the task.
So time to start the meadowsweet jumper. Although the yarn was different from the trial jumper, having knitted tension squares I was convinced the minor differences were not substantial and hence the number of yoke stitches could be the same. Headache one over.
My plan was to knit the back, front and sleeves before we went on holiday to the Hebrides in June, then during the holiday I would knit the yoke. Well I achieved the first aim and took the knitted and steamed pieces with me. These were joined just at the start of each sleeve back and front. However, the thought that I could knit the yoke when I was away was wrong - too much to see and do. I did pick up the stitches for the yoked and get the stitches sitting right. The centre front and back needed a motif centred there, I needed the correct number of stitches on the needle and the transition to the yoke needed to be the best I could make it.
Knitting the yoke was very enjoyable, changing the colours and seeing the pattern build up I was really pleased with my choice of colours. I tried the jumper on and the fit over the shoulders was good, all was looking promising.
The yoke colours
The one thing I wanted to change from the brown practice jumper was the neck. I felt it should be higher and so decided to increase the depth of the rib. This led to another problem- getting the jumper over my head. This meant I investigated a number of rib cast-offs and decided upon a very stretchy one which worked well.
So then there was the blocking of the yoke. I did this with a combination of cold water spray, a silk organza pressing cloth and a steam iron. I then put the jumper on my body duplicate ensuring that the damp wool was not touching the fabric of the body duplicate. The jumper dried for 24 hours, first outside on a warm summer's day breeze, then overnight.
Jumper drying on the body duplicate
Now it was time to join the body and sleeve seams. My first preference is to use my normal sewing machine on a small stretch stitch, but I do join the welts by hand starting in the middle of the welt and parking enough wool to use in each direction.
Using the length of wool left from the cast off never gives such a good neat result. This can be completed so that the join is virtually invisible.
Welt joined by hand
Ends need weaving in and my aim is to have the inside as neat as the outside. Splitting the ends into their remaining plies doubles or trebles the work but is worth it in my view.
So it was finished, but I was not happy with the hand knitting above the yoke. The stitches were too loose and did not suit my perfectionist streak. So I took it back to the top of the yoke and the following five attempts were made to give a better finish:
1. Double thickness yarn – too thick
2. Knitting two yarns separately as in fair isle – this matched the thickness of the fair isle but was untidy
3. Use a smaller needle size – big improvement but still not perfect
4. Use a smaller needles size and recalculate the decreases so that they are 3 tog over a centre stitch and so much neater.
So at the fifth attempt I had the jumper I wished for. This latter ‘messing around’ could have been avoided if I had done trials before hand. It all seemed to work so well with the brown jumper. This was because the brown disguised the decreases compared to the meadowsweet colour and there were far fewer decreases as I left a wider neck.
Yet another case of perfect planning gives the best outcome! Or ‘fail to plan means plan to fail’. This is the polite version of it….